Sofia University (California)

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Sofia University
Former names
California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology; Institute of Transpersonal Psychology
Motto Transformative Transpersonal Education Since 1975
Type For-profit college
Established 1975
President Dr. Barry Ryan
Provost Dr. John Lemmon
Location Palo Alto, California, United States
37°25′51″N 122°06′33″W / 37.43075°N 122.10930°W / 37.43075; -122.10930
Accreditation WASC accredited since 1988

Sofia University, is a private university founded as the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology by Robert Frager and James Fadiman in 1975.[1][2][3][4] The university is located in Palo Alto, California, United States. As of May 31, 2018, the president is Dr. Barry Ryan.[5] The institution teaches psychology with a spiritual and/or religious orientation.[6]


California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (1975-1986)[edit]

The institution was originally known as the California Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, one of several transpersonally-oriented institutions formed in the 1970's.[7][8] The founders, Robert Frager and James Fadiman, wanted to offer the perspectives of east/west psychology alongside personal, therapeutic and spiritual disciplines, all within a community context.[1]

By the mid-eighties the school was located in Menlo Park and offered graduate degrees in Transpersonal psychology and similar subjects.[9]

Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (1986-2012)[edit]

In 1986 the there was a minor change of name and the institution emerged as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology.[1] By 1989 the Institute offered residential master's and doctoral programs and external master's and certificate programs, and oversaw the activities of a Transpersonal Counseling Center. It also hosted the Spiritual Emergence Network.[1]

In 2002 it was reported that 410 students were enrolled in the fall semester at the institute. This included students enrolled in the institute's online program. At this time the institute offered programs in psychology and counseling with an emphasis on both traditional and non-traditional psychological and spiritual models of instruction.[10] In 2011 Neal King was appointed as President of the institute.[11][12]

Academic profiles that were engaged with research for the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology includes William Braud, who served as research director, as well as co-director of the Institute's William James Center for Consciousness Studies,[13] and Kari Hennigan, who conducted studies in ecopsychology.[14]

Sofia University (2012–present)[edit]

In 2012 there was a new change of name, and also a change of academic profile. The Board of Trustees decided that the new official name of the institution was to be Sofia University.[15][4] The re-branding came with a transition from institute to university, and the institution now offered both undergraduate and graduate programs. Academic programs became structured according to three main orientations: the Graduate School of Transpersonal Studies, the Graduate School of Clinical & Spiritual Psychology and the School of Undergraduate Studies.[11] In 2013 the school had 526 full-time-equivalent students.[11]

Neal King resigned as President in 2013, after a period of disagreement surrounding the budget. King was replaced by an interim president, Frank Ellsworth, who held the post until July the following year. His successor, Liz Li, was appointed president in 2014, and became the first female president of the institution.[16][12] Dr. Peter Bemski became president in January, 2018.

Academic program[edit]

The university comprises four schools - the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, the School of Technology and Engineering, the School of Business, and the School of Transformative Education.[17]

The school has broadened to include studies in computer science, including artificial intelligence, human computer interaction, big data and software design; applying transpersonal principles to real-world disciplines.[12]

As of 2015 the university was reaccredited for an additional seven years by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.[18][19]


a.^ New York Times' correction as of August 17, 2012, states that the original article (Otterman, 2012), in some editions, misidentified Sofia University/Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto (California) with the Institute for Transpersonal Studies in Santa Cruz (California).[20]


  1. ^ a b c d Judy, Dwight H. & Schmitt, Robert. "Graduate programs: The institute of transpersonal psychology". The Humanistic Psychologist, Volume 17, 1989, Issue 3, Pages 294-297
  2. ^ Friedmann & Hartelius (Editors). (2015) "The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Transpersonal Psychology". John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
  3. ^ PR Newswire Staff. Men's Wearhouse Founder George Zimmer to Receive Honorary Doctorate From the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. PR Newswire [New York] 08 May 2003: 1.
  4. ^ a b Sato, K. Sofia University Announces Inauguration of First President, Neal King Ph.D. Palo Alto, CA (PRWEB) September 18, 2012
  5. ^ "Leadership and Board of Trustees". Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  6. ^ Otterman, Sharon. "Merging Spirituality and Clinical Psychology at Columbia". New York Times, Aug. 9, 2012
  7. ^ Chinen, Allan B. "The Emergence of Transpersonal Psychiatry", in Scotton, Bruce W., Chinen, Allan B. and Battista, John R., Eds. (1996) Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology. New York: Basic Books.
  8. ^ Taylor, Eugene (1992) "Transpersonal Psychology: Its Several Virtues". The Humanistic Psychologist, Vol. 20, Nos. 2 and 3, pp. 285-300
  9. ^ Valle, Ronald S. & Harari, Carmi. "Current developments in...Transpersonal Psychology". The Humanistic Psychologist 11, Vol. 13, NO. 1, Winter 1985
  10. ^ Press release: "Institute of Transpersonal Psychology Becomes Sofia University. New Name Brings Broader Mission, Expanded Campus and New Programs". Palo Alto, CA (PRWEB), published online July 16, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c Kenrick, Chris. Questions follow surprise resignation of Sofia University head. Palo Alto Online, uploaded Dec 18, 2013
  12. ^ a b c Kadvany, Elena. With new president and programs, Sofia University enters new era. Palo Alto Online/Palo Alto Weekly. Uploaded: Sat, Apr 25, 2015
  13. ^ Radin, Dean; Rae, Colleen; Hyman, Ray. "Is There a Sixth Sense?" Psychology Today, July 1, 2000
  14. ^ Schreiber, K. "Outside In: Get Her to the Green". Psychology Today, published March 15, 2011
  15. ^ Institute of Transpersonal Psychology Becomes Sofia University. Palo Alto, CA (PRWEB) JULY 16, 2012
  16. ^ Kenrick, Chris. "Enrollment shortfall, poor planning sparked Sofia crisis, new president says". Palo Alto Online, Uploaded: Mon, January 20, 2014
  17. ^ "Sofia University » One University – 4 Schools of Learning". Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  18. ^ "Accreditation – Sofia University". Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  19. ^ WASC Team Report. "Report to Sofia University of the Special Visit Site Team", December 16, 2016
  20. ^ New York Times staff. Corrections. New York Times, Published online August 17, 2012.

External links[edit]