The Sophia Institute Board of Directors
We are proud to have such a dedicated group of people on our Board of Directors who exhibit mindfulness, wisdom, and contemplative practice within their service to our mission.
Ellen Dressler Moryl served as the first director of the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs from 1978 through 1983. During that period of time, she designed and launched a number of the OCA’s on-going projects including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival (which marked its 37th anniversary last Spring) and the City Gallery at the Dock Street Theatre. She was also a catalytic force in developing the Charleston Black Arts Festival (1979, 1981 and 1983) in cooperation with the Charleston chapter of the LINKS, Inc. and the Gibbes Museum of Art. In 1984, the Black Arts Festival evolved into the annual MOJA African-American and Caribbean Arts Festival, which celebrated its 33rd festival year in 2016.
From 1984 through 1992, she lived and worked in Portland, Oregon, serving as executive director of Artquake, Portland’s annual arts festival and also as director of communications at Oregon Public Broadcasting, a statewide network of public radio and public television stations. In 1992, Mrs. Moryl returned to Charleston to serve as development director for the arts for the City of Charleston and in 1993, she resumed directing the City of Charleston office of Cultural Affairs. In 2003, the OCA, under her direction, received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Award in the government agency category.
A native of Portland, Oregon, Ellen M. Moryl received her undergraduate training in music at Portland State University with further study in early music performance at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. Her performance credits include the Portland Youth Philharmonic, principal cellist with Portland Opera Orchestra, and the Portland (now Oregon) Symphony Orchestra. She was formerly assistant principal cellist with the Charleston Symphony. Mrs. Moryl currently performs with several chamber music ensembles in the Charleston area including the Ensemble of St. Clare at Mepkin Abbey, which she helped to organize in 2001.
Mrs. Moryl’s community service activities have included serving on the Board of Directors for the Trident Urban League, the Charleston Rotary Club (she served as program chair for three consecutive years) and the Charleston Advisory Board for SCETV. She has served on the boards of several local arts organizations including the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Symphony Youth Orchestra and Advisor to the Taylor Festival Choir, among others. In addition, she was the founding president of the South Carolina Arts Alliance in 1981 and now
serves as Board Member Emeritus of that group. Mrs. Moryl coordinates instrumental music for congregation KKBE, is coordinator of the St. Stephens String Quartet and the Ensemble of St. Clare at Mepkin Abbey. She is also Artistic Director Emeritus of the Spotlight Chamber Music Concerts for the Piccolo Spoleto Festival.
Board of Directors
Lynn Karegeannes is a native of South Carolina. She completed her undergraduate degree in art history at Rice University and then her Master’s in art history at the University of Texas in Austin. After working in arts education, she switched gears and completed her second Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. She worked in the New York Public Library system before returning to the Southeast with her husband to raise their children in Asheville, North Carolina. Lynn devotes her time to professional and volunteer work with organizations centered on issues relevant to women and the arts. She currently works as an artist, and as an expressive arts and labyrinth facilitator through her business, Full Life Arts.
Board of Directors/ Vocal Artist
Virginia Schenck, known by the stage name VA, is an accomplished international vocal artist and jazz performer, utilizing straight-ahead, spoken word, and free improvisation. She is an imaginative vocalist with a broad stylistic reach. VA can soothe her audience with a beautiful ballad, invigorate them with a re-imagined standard and challenge them with a powerful blast of free improvisation. Yet all of these aspects exist within one singular and unique voice.
VA often spices up her performances with world music influences from her own vocal exploration and CircleSinging, which she studied under the renowned Bobby McFerrin. VA’s work with McFerrin came full circle when she performed with him in 2018 at Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center.
In 2020, VA released her critically acclaimed fourth album Battle Cry to use the power of music to generate change. Receiving global airplay and heralded by critics as “a powerful salvo,” “creativity on parade,” and “explosive jazz vocal magic,” the message of the album is not only of resistance, but also of peace, unity, and hope. Meant to draw people into conversation, “this album neither heals nor takes up arms in defiance. Rather, VA offers up her selections as a foundation for reflections,” says Stephen Smoliar of the Rehearsal Studio.
As a social activist, VA strongly believes in using her voice for change. Her grandmother, a suffragette in Philadelphia, was pregnant with her mother while campaigning for women’s voting rights in the 1920s. Almost a century later, moved by the need for human and civil rights action, VA was prompted to further her commitment to speaking, singing, and advocating. “Now more than ever, we need to have boots on the ground and continue to lift our voices in the air,” says VA.
In 2019, VA was honored to perform at Atlanta’s first Day of Religious Pluralism marking the 51st anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a continued mission to deepen Atlantans’ understanding of one another, and to promote a safe, respectful, and inclusive city.
VA has proudly shared the stage with other trailblazers, including author and activist Marianne Williamson, Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, nation Humanities Medalist, and New York Times bestselling author Krista Tippett, Franciscan priest of the New Mexico Province and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation Richard Rohr, and Anglo-Irish poet and author David Whyte. VA also appeared in The Gift, a play with totally improvised, music, in New York, New Jersey, and Seattle. In addition, she performed with aerial dancers at The Robert Mondavi Center/UC-Davis in Calif., Chartres Cathedral in France, St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, the Kripalu Yoga and Retreat Center in Stockbridge, Mass., and private concerts in Rome, Italy.
In 2018, VA co-led a pilgrimage to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture with Rev. Kimberly Jackson, an ordained LGBTQ+ Episcopal priest and Georgia Senator, and Dr. Catherine Meeks, executive director for the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing. She was invited to sing “Strange Fruit,” the protest song immortalized by Billie Holiday, in a memorial service for Georgia’s lynching victims at the Center for Racial Healing at the Atlanta University Center Consortium (AUCC), comprised of historic Black colleges and universities Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College.
When not performing, VA conducts soul-inspiring Singing Journey Retreats to explore the world of improvisation and the voice as a spiritual tool. A believer in the power of place, VA has taken singers to the middle of Times Square in New York City to both listen and sing together in the chaos to explore the world of improvisation. Leaning into Gullah and Irish influences, her pilgrimages have taken groups to places like Ireland to explore the voices, sounds, and sacred sites of that country; and to Charleston, SC to be influenced and informed by the music and surroundings of one of America’s first ports and the rich heritage of the Gullah coast. In the same vein, she also has taken groups on journeys to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico to “sing our bones alive” in the painted desert, open sky, and vast inspiration of iconic visual artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s world.
VA started singing jazz gigs while in school at Florida State University’s School of Music. While her degree is in Music Therapy, she also studied piano, voice, and dance in classical, modern, and jazz. VA has worked as a board-certified music therapist primarily in the fields of psychology and addiction. She was a pioneer in the early applications of music therapy-assisted childbirth and hospice care. VA drew inspiration from CircleSinging with McFerrin when she created SoulSong Circle using vocal improvisation in therapeutic work which was published in the International Dictionary of Music Therapy in 2013. Now, VA has evolved her experiences in the specialty and is also called upon for speaking engagements and continuing education leadership opportunities to use her wealth of knowledge to further the mission of music and arts in healing.
She launched her professional music therapy career in Macon, Ga,. and while working in Macon, she met drummer Jaimoe Johnson of the legendary Allman Brothers Band. Her love of jazz was further enriched through their longtime friendship.
Preceding VA’s Battle Cry CD, her debut CD, VA (2012), generated serious buzz with jazz fans immediately receiving global airplay with 2012 NEA Jazz Master, Sheila Jordan, exclaiming “Wonderful CD…Wonderful singer!” Her CDs, Interior Notions (2015) and Aminata Moseka: An Abbey Lincoln Tribute (2017) have followed similar suit.
As an arts advocate and a believer in the healing power of music, VA was thrilled to join the board of ArtsATL in 2020 to support and serve the arts community in her hometown of Atlanta, Ga.
J. Goosby Smith serves as the University’s inaugural vice president for community belonging and chief diversity officer. Guided by God's call to unite God's people, Smith approaches her specialty areas of human diversity, inclusion, and belonging with intellectual rigor, methodological soundness, patience, a healing spirit, a love for humanity, and a good-natured sense of humor.
Before rejoining Pepperdine, where she had previously served as a faculty member in Seaver College’s Business Administration Division, as a member of the Seaver College Diversity Council, and as inaugural faculty co-chair of the university diversity council with Edna Powel, and as an adjunct member of the Graziadio faculty, Smith served as a faculty member, assistant provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and director of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. She also taught at California State University, Channel Islands and Butler University.
A nationally sought-after public speaker, educator, and consultant, Smith has worked with a wide range of organizations, such as the Cleveland Clinic, KeyBank, the United States Navy ROTC, and the US Department of Agriculture. She is an active member of Greater St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where she formerly served as a steward, Young People's Division director, and as a virtual education teacher. She is a member of Mensa America, Jack and Jill of America, and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, having previously served as inaugural faculty advisor and later graduate advisor for Pepperdine’s Tau Lambda chapter.
Smith earned a BS in computer science from Spelman College and an MBA and PhD in organizational behavior from Case Western Reserve University. In spring of 2022, she expects to complete her MDiv from the Interdenominational Theological Center.
Board of Directors / Teaching Faculty
Henk Brandt is the author of Sleeping with Sophia, a collection of poems, and The Heart of a Pilgrim, a spiritual memoir. Henk is part of a new breed of speakers and consultants who are working to bring soul into the workplace and heart into the way we conduct ourselves in the world. Henk’s innovative fusion of Western empiricism and Eastern wisdom offers a new vision for embodying dynamic growth at every level. As a mindfulness-based counselor, Henk has developed a non-pathological system that empowers practitioners to transmute painful experiences into expressions of natural growth. According to Henk, mindfulness provides a proven process for overcoming adversity by moving beyond the victim-perpetrator dyad. In this way, permanent solutions are achieved, instead of temporary ones. He emphasizes that the obstacle is the path: “People need to learn how to minister to themselves by changing how they use their minds so that over time they actually rewire the way their brains function. Mindfulness-Based Counseling enables people to find the light inside the dark, to dwell on the frontier of unknowing and to engage in mature intimate relationships that are consciously committed to mutual growth.”
A Time for Awakening: Mindfulness Training and Heart Callings
Board of Directors
Cam Busch is Founder and President Emeritus, Tennessee Art Therapy Association; Licensed, registered, and Board Certified Art Therapist; Recently retired Board Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist; exhibiting artist and photographer of 40 years; Distinguished Fellow, Global Alliance for Arts and Health; National consultant with the SAHCS (Society for the Arts in Healthcare Consulting Services) and owner of Art Therapy Consults and Studio in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Currently Minister of Transition at Jubilee! Community in Asheville, NC, Laura previously served congregations in Rochester, NY, Takoma Park, MD and Mills River, NC. She’s been a hospice and a trauma chaplain, worked in transitional homes for people coming out of prison and off the streets, directed a small retreat center, and done nonprofit grant and communications work. She has served on boards for inner-city ministries, grassroots climate action, Guilford College Alumni, and affordable housing. She is mother to a young adult son, and enjoys hiking in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains with her four-legged sidekick, Zoey.
Board of Directors / Teaching Faculty
Carolyn Rivers is Founder and Director of The Sophia Institute. As a teacher, visionary, and spiritual mentor, her work centers on personal, interpersonal and societal transformation that fosters the emergence of Feminine, cultivating wisdom and mindfulness, for a more just, sustainable, flourishing world. Carolyn has worked professionally with many of the transpersonal leaders of our time, who are now on the faculty and National Advisory Board of the Sophia Institute. Carolyn is taking a stand for educating women to be change agents in creating a more conscious and compassionate world.
Carolyn Rivers' remarks at the 2017 annual luncheon