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meet the ananda university team

Our Team

New Horizons team members consist of core staff, faculty, guest speakers, mentors and administration. All are dedicated and experienced professionals committed to creating a rich, dynamic living and learning environment for New Horizon Gap Year participants. All members of our core faculty have strong backgrounds in consciousness-based education, advanced degrees, and/or extensive experience in a number of academic disciplines.

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Nayaswami Nischala


Nayaswami Nischala is co-founder of Ananda College of Living Wisdom and the New Horizons Gap Year.  She and her husband Nakula lived at Ananda’s remote Meditation Retreat for 18 years, started the college here in 2003, and for many years served as Directors of both the Meditation Retreat and the college.  She has been a minister and Lightbearer with Ananda Sangha for 25 years, and a practitioner of Yogananda’s Kriya Yoga for over 36 years.  Nischala enjoys working with people of all ages and walks of life.  She took her Nayaswami monastic vows in 2009.  She directs the college curriculum and online programs. For Ananda College she has led spiritual tours to Northern and Southern India, Italy, France, England, Peru, and Egypt.  Nischala is also author of Reflections on Living 30 Years in a Spiritual Community, and the Amazon bestseller, The Four Stages of Yoga (Crystal Clarity, Publishers, 2018).

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Namdevi Nagahara


Namdevi is a longtime follower of Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings and Kriya Yoga meditator. She lives now at Ananda Village but has also served in other Ananda communities including Delhi, India. She was formerly an occupational therapist graduating from San Jose State University specializing in neurological rehabilitation and hand therapy.  Her passion for the Healing arts includes her service in Ananda’s Healing Prayer Ministry. She was an administrator with Ananda Financial Services for many years. She enjoys working with students regarding finances and scholarships, and helping them navigate the college’s online learning platforms, educational resources, travel abroad and more.


Nefretete Rasheed, PhD


Nefretete is a graduate of New York University.  She has a rich and varied background in the arts, education, and creative arts therapy.  She has received poetry and theater awards from the Princess Grace Foundation, NJ State Council on the Arts, DC Arts and Humanities, and the National Academy of American Poets.  A guest lecturer for Rutgers University, NY State University and others, she was also a Geraldine Dodge Foundation poet, and instituted a number of innovative arts and education programs for many cultural organizations including The New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, The New Jersey Performing Arts Center, New York Council on the Arts and the Westchester Arts Council.

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Byasa Steinmetz


David (Byasa) Steinmetz is an expert in the Yuga Cycles of Time and is co-author of The Yugas, Keys to Understanding our Hidden Past, Emerging Present and Future Enlightenment. He has been on the faculty of Ananda College since the beginning, and has been a Kriya Yogi for over four decades. His background as a scientist and astronomer and his knowledge of history and ancient cultures offers students a rare opportunity to learn about the cosmos. He is also the founder of Ananda College’s Library of Higher Consciousness.

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Rebecca Davis, PhD


Rebecca has taught writing to college students since 1998, most recently as a senior lecturer at Antioch University Seattle. She is also a workshop presenter who delights in helping others give birth to creative projects and sharing writing techniques designed to help people develop intuition and manifest their most joyful lives. A long-time meditator, she lives at the Ananda Community in Seattle. She holds a PhD in Literature and Critical Theory from the University of Washington and an MFA in Fiction from Purdue University. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, scholarly journals, and newspapers; visit to read samples of her work.

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Jenny Kellogg, PhD


Jenny holds a PhD in Modern Languages and Literatures from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium and a BA in Classical Philology from Beloit College.  She has worked in academia and non-profits in a variety of administrative and leadership roles, including ten years at Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies.  Since 2005, Jenny has developed and led many service-learning programs for college students in Greece. Jenny is a Kriyaban and a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda since 2013.  She teaches the courses “Comparative Mythology of Greece, India, and Egypt,” “Finding Your Dharma,” and leads travel-study tours to Greece for Ananda College.  Besides teaching, Jenny is both an astrologer and spiritual coach, helping her clients navigate change, find meaning in their lives, and reconnect to their authentic selves.  She specializes in trauma-informed astrology, combining the Compassionate Inquiry approach of Dr. Gabor Mate with modern astrological techniques and ancient wisdom traditions.  She is also a literary translator from the Modern Greek and enjoys volunteer work within Greece’s refuge crisis.


Kathleen Benson


Kathleen Benson holds a Master of Arts degree in Family Systems Counseling from the Leadership Institute of Seattle and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College, Prescott, Arizona.  She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California and specializes in Trauma and Spiritual Transformation. Kathleen started the Peace and Harmony Counseling Center and the Peace and Harmony Institute that successfully serves clients throughout the state of California. Kathleen and her husband Gerry are long-time devotees of Paramahansa Yogananda and founders of the first independent Education for Life School in Sacramento, California. Kathleen embraces a mind/body approach to healing and enjoys teaching the correlation between thoughts, stress and health.  Kathleen loves to spend time in nature and keep herself anchored towards the goal of knowing God more deeply, every moment, in Body, Mind and Soul.  Kathleen also likes to have fun and is known for her enthusiasm towards life and the upliftment of the human spirit.

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Anandi Gray


Carol is a licensed clinical and mental health counselor and has taught psychology, yoga, and meditation for more than 20 years.  She taught Raja Yoga in the Philosophy Department at Southern Oregon University and Substance Abuse Counseling in the Psychology Graduate Program.  Anandi has a gift for clarifying the teachings of yoga and making them practical.  She currently lives at the Ananda Meditation Retreat where she continues to teach Yoga, Meditation, and Yoga Psychology.

Nalini Chaska


Nalini grew up in the Ananda spiritual community and attended school here. She enjoys helping others become better communicators for greater success and happiness. For many years she has been a professional mediator, and instructor of non-violent communication, serving in the legal and court systems and also as an active member of a Board of mediators whose goal is to help people communicate more effectively.

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Rama Cryer

Assistant Instructor

Born and raised in the Ananda spiritual community, Rama has studied the Yuga Cycles of Time since he was 16.  He graduated from the Ananda High School and earned his degree in Theater Arts from Chico State University and the University College Cork in Cork, Ireland. He has studied the Yuga Cycles in Egypt, Peru, and New Zealand.  He is also an artist, builder, wilderness hiker and nature lover.

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Hannah McDonnel

Assistant Instructor

Hannah studied Sustainability at the University of Minnesota at Morris and identifies as Indigenous, a member of the Ojibwe community from Minnesota.  She has also studied Integral Nutrition and Healing and served as a coach, helping to educate others. After college she managed a sustainable, zero-waste health cafe in downtown Minneapolis.

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Satyaki Kraig Brockschmidt

Board Member

Kraig (Satyaki) Brockschmidt has served on the Board of Directors for Ananda College since the college started. He is a father and husband and currently lives at Ananda Village. He has served in engineering capacities at Microsoft since the company’s early years, and is the author of Mystical Microsoft: A Journey of Transformation in the Halls of High Technology, The Harmonium Handbook and Solving Stress: The Power to Remain Cool and Calm Amidst Chaos. He is a gifted singer and performs with the Ananda Choir.

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Nayaswami Nakula

Board Member

Nayaswami Nakula is the original co-founder of Ananda College of Living Wisdom and for many years served as the college’s Financial Director.  He is a Nayaswami, Lightbearer and Minister with Ananda Sangha and has been part of the Ananda Community for nearly 50 years, arriving as a young adult in 1970, creating a 12-cow organic dairy and other small businesses, and later establishing a thriving company that provides traditional and natural construction for commercial and residential spaces.  He studied architecture at the University of Illinois and mentored with Meridian Construction in Washington, DC.  He was project manager for the Temple of Light of all Religions and for the Moksha Mandir, both sacred temples at Ananda Village.

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Amit Goswami, Ph.D.

Theoretical Quantum Physicist
Advisory Board / Faculty

Amit Goswami, Ph. D.  was a  professor in the theoretical physics department of the University of Oregon in Eugene.  He is a pioneer of the new paradigm of science called “science within consciousness.”  Goswami is the author of the highly successful textbook Quantum Mechanics that is used in Universities throughout the world. His two volume textbook for nonscientists, The Physicist’s View of Nature traces the decline and rediscovery of the concept of God within science.

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Mataji Vanamali Devi

Advisory Board / Faculty

One of India’s leading female mystics, Vanamali Devi lives in her small ashram overlooking the Ganges River in Rishikesh, India. She is an expert in Hinduism, yoga, and Sanatan Dharma, the eternal religion. A close spiritual friend of Swami Kriyananda, she has served on Ananda College’s advisory board for over a decade, and is author of many books, including The Song of God and other in-depth books on all the major Hindu deities. After Swami Kriyananda’s death in 2013, when Nakula, Nischala and Rama purchased land across the street from Ananda, Mataji suggested it be named “Karuna Sagara”, which is Sanskrit for “Ocean of Compassion”.

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Chitra Sudhakaran

Guest Faculty

Chitra is guest faculty in the area of Inspirational Arts. She was born in Kerala, South India and received an outstanding artist award from the President of India when she was a young girl. She is an alumni of Ananda College, and now lives in Dubai, UAE, where she works as an artist and teacher with The Louvre.

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Leiya Mahoney

Guest Musician / Artist

Leiya is a New Horizons guest musician, performer and artist. Leiya is a gifted singer, musician, kirtan leader, and healer. After college, Leiya traveled throughout the west as lead-singer for her own band. She was born and raised at Ananda Village and graduated from Ananda High School. She graduated from Mills College in the Bay Area with a degree in Healing Arts and Music. Leiya is also a certified Birth Dhula and Massage Therapist. She is co-owner of The Sun Room Healing Arts in downtown Nevada City.