Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service (CSDS) Staff

Pictured from left to right: Patrick B. Reyes, Alexander Levering Kern, Shaya Gregory Poku

Alexander Levering Kern
Executive Director
Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service
a.kern@neu.edu ǀ 617.373.4931
 

Alex brings to Northeastern 18 years of experience in higher education, interfaith leadership, and nonprofit work in the US and abroad. Before joining Northeastern in August 2012, Alex served as Executive Director of Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries (CMM), the greater Boston area's oldest interfaith social justice network, and as Protestant Christian   Chaplain at Brandeis University, where he directed the US government-funded Brandeis University Interfaith Leadership Development (BUILD) Fellows program.  Working at the nexus of campus, community, and congregational life, Alex has offered leadership in interfaith and intercultural dialogue and advocacy around issues of poverty and homelessness, youth and domestic violence, immigrant rights, climate action and genocide prevention. At CMM and Brandeis, he founded the Interfaith Youth Initiative (IFYI), an internationally recognized peacemaking and leadership program for students and younger religious leaders. He is especially concerned to cultivate deeper spiritual practice, ethical reflection, civic engagement, and global citizenship skills among rising generations.

 As an educator, Alex has served as adjunct faculty, speaker, or panelist at Harvard, Brandeis, Pendle Hill, Andover Newton Theological School, Hebrew College, the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), and as a consultant at the Harvard Pluralism Project and Merrimack College Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations. A widely published writer, he edited the anthology Becoming Fire: Spiritual Writing from Rising Generations. His essays, articles and poems have appeared in Georgetown Review, the Boston Theological Institute Bulletin, The Wick (Harvard Divinity School), Spare Change News, and in books on a wide range of topics, including interfaith relations, African American theology, Quakerism, and contemplative and Franciscan spirituality.

A member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Alex is the product of Quaker education at Sidwell Friends School and Guilford College (BA in Religious Studies, History, and African-American Studies).  Pursuing his interests in ecumenical and interfaith studies, Alex received his Masters of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School and a graduate certificate in Boston Theological Institute, focusing on global issues and restorative justice. 

A native of Washington, DC, Alex has traveled, studied, and worked in post-earthquake Haiti, post-apartheid Southern Africa, Cold War Europe, the Middle East, Hiroshima, Japan, Brazil, and the mountains of Honduras. In 2009, he traveled to Nigeria with a US State Department-funded delegation training young civil society leaders to address interethnic and interreligious conflict.  His community work has been covered by the Boston Globe, Washington Post, and other media. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife Rebecca Grunko, who teaches ESL in the public schools, and their two young children, Elias and Ruthanna.

 

Shaya Gregory Poku

Program Director, Social Justice Resource Center (SJRC)

Program Manager, Global Learning, Service and Social Action Initiatives, Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service (CSDS)

s.poku@neu.edu ǀ 617.373.8510

Contact for: Intercultural, civic engagement, and social action programming or reserving space in the Social Justice Resource Center.

Shaya is devoted to the things that make for peace and reconciliation. A certified mediator through the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, she brings seven years of domestic and international program leadership to Northeastern. Social Justice is the common thread in her work experiences, which have primarily been in the non-profit sector. She is excited to make the transition to working in higher education, and to encourage critical thinking and global citizenship among the next generation.

Shaya has engaged in post-conflict reconstruction work for the last four years. She just returned to the USA after being based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. There, she served as the Deputy Project Manager of a project that supported the reintegration of ex-militants, inclusive decision-making processes and community-level reconciliation in the Niger Delta. Prior to Nigeria, she served as the Africa Program Associate of Search for Common Ground, where she supported their innovative conflict transformation programming in 17 post-conflict and fragile states in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To learn more about intergroup tensions and security challenges, Shaya has also made professional and academic trips in India, Liberia and South Africa where she spent five months learning about restorative justice and their Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Her global experiences have taught her that systemic inequalities, like armed conflict, can crush human potential. So, she has devoted herself to advancing the rights of historically marginalized and underserved groups.

She initiated efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of child marriages and human trafficking with the Office of Women’s Advocacy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). She trained adolescent girls challenged by inter-religious violence in Plateau State, Nigeria on how to be positive agents of transformation in their communities. She also spent two years managing a Boston-based girl’s empowerment NGO, where she built life skills for middle-school girls.

Shaya understands that peacebuilding has spiritual dimensions as well and has sought to galvanize religiously-motivated peace-making. She currently serves as an appointed member of the Peace Discernment Steering Committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which is contemplating the denomination’s witness in the context of dynamic contemporary realities.

She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Intercultural Relations with a concentration in Intercultural Conflict Management from Lesley University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations from Agnes Scott College. This gives her a strong understanding of the international arena: both from the ontology of state-based political and economic systems, and psychosocial and cultural dynamics that are also prominent considerations in peacebuilding.

When she is not appreciating the joys of travel, Shaya relishes mentoring, reading, keeping up with current affairs, visiting museums and sites of historical interest, and decorating. The proud California native delights in being a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, godmother and friend. 

Patrick B. Reyes, Ph.D. (ABD), M.Div., M.A.

Program Manager, Spirituality, Education and Dialogue Initiatives

Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service

p.reyes@neu.edu ǀ 617.373.2421

Contact for: Spirituality and interfaith programming and reserving the Sacred Space or Reflection Room

Deeply committed to issues of social justice and religious education in a diverse world, Patrick brings experience in transformative community work, inspired by the notion that theologians and educators can develop a capacity for intercultural cooperation, competency and social action.

Patrick holds a passion for emancipatory interreligious education, connecting students to the issues, work and values about which they themselves are passionate. Patrick also brings to the Center for Spirituality, Dialogue and Service experience as an interreligious and interfaith community builder.

Prior to coming to Northeastern, Patrick worked with the Massachusetts Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, as an associate organizer and community builder. He also offers experience as a Diversity Awareness trainer for schools and organizations, as well as over a decade of local interfaith and social organizing.

Patrick brings to Northeastern years of using compassion and spiritual based practices for healing, especially in communities of conflict and violence. He is the founder of two spirituality based groups that focused on both fostering community and decolonizing religious and spiritual traditions.  

As a former Director of Communications for an international company in the private sector, he brings added global communication experience, demonstrating the necessity of interreligious, inter/intra-faith, cross-cultural and transdisciplinary competency for global leadership.

Patrick is particularly familiar with the challenges of interfaith living, as he is proud to be a member of a multi-religious family. His participation in interfaith contexts of the Catholic and Jewish traditions profoundly informs his practice as a scholar, educator and administrator at the Center.

Informed by his home community of Salinas, California, Patrick has published research focusing on the intersection of popular religiosity and social action, addressing both interpersonal and communal conflict, and focusing on compassion based methods of justice and healing. His work can be found in the Encyclopedia of Christian Education, Claremont Journal of Religion, Journal of Feminist Theology and Cross Currents (forthcoming 2014).

Patrick has also presented his research at the regional and national levels of the American Academy of Religion and Religious Education Association, as well as a variety of local institutions. His current research looks at the intersection of decolonial theory and interreligious pedagogy and practice. 

Patrick holds a Master of Divinity from Boston University, School of Theology. He has a Master of Arts from Claremont School of Theology, specializing in religious education and decolonial theory. He is currently a Doctoral Candidate in practical theology at Claremont School of Theology, specializing in religious education. His research interests include constructing a Latin@ practical theology and searching for the sacred in the midst and aftermath of trauma and violence.

In his free time, Patrick enjoys returning home to Salinas, California, listening to live jazz, writing and reading fiction and is a marathon runner.