Activism As a Spiritual Practice:

A Latinx-led leadership event

Online Group Relations Learning Event


The Conference

Activism as a Spiritual Practice is a three-day co-curricular online experiential learning laboratory in the Group Relations tradition. It is a continuation of three prior on site conferences hosted by CSU Dominguez Hills, whose very campus birth was the result of the Watts Rebellion that drew attention to this underserved community. This conference builds upon traditional here and now methodology and learning to inform a new application event related to the conference theme, Activism as a Spiritual Practice. As in the past, this conference will be followed by opportunities for participants to share and reflect upon their application of conference learning.



We have a problem. Many problems. Important and urgent problems that individually and collectively threaten our livelihood, our national identity, our lives. And as important as it is to take a both/and approach to these issues, our collective survival demands that we also attend to the way we work as groups.


Science alone cannot change our global warming problem, as its roots are selfishness, apathy and greed. Policies alone cannot end misogyny, racism or racial injustice, as their roots are exploitation, advantage and dehumanization. Laws and vaccines will not end the COVID 19 pandemic, as the obstacles are mistrust, rigid beliefs and disregard for others.


As members of a larger Latinx community, we experience leadership as both insiders and outsiders, holding a dynamic space between racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious and spiritual groups, bringing perspectives and voices that are at once needed and often overlooked or held in contempt.

400 years Timeline

This timeline follows the history of African Americans, women, Native Americans, and working people. It was composed through the research of students in the 400 Years of Inequality class at The New School, taught by Mindy Fullilove, in Spring and Fall of 2017.  The images and text are drawn from multiple sources and have been composed here by the timeline designers for public education purposes.

While workshopping the timeline through multiple design stages, we observed that great progress in the fight against inequality has been achieved by coalitions.  We hope you see the same history when you and members of your team review it, and we offer this downloadable pdf for you to share and use as a free educational tool. 

A message from the director

If activism without spirituality (i.e., love) is just an angry mob, and love without action (i.e., activism) is meaningless, consider Lilla Watson’s consultation:


“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”


The incomplete timeline above speaks to our national history of struggle between colonization and social justice. It speaks to activism as a spiritual practice and angry mobs. It points to an evolution towards intersectionality and simultaneity and

inter-related liberation.


As we are active participants of our evolving story, we invite you to this online group relations conference to explore the complex issues that confound and appear to divide us as a country: racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, to name a few that have been exacerbated in the context of a pandemic. This conference will incorporate traditional elements of group relations work, as well as innovative events that are intended to lead to concrete application steps. As the title suggests, we assert that spirituality is the core force that manifests its meaning in activism or social application towards

mutual liberation.



Rev. Jaime J. Romo, Ed.D.


Director and Consultant

Hospice Chaplain, Kaiser Permanente | Trauma Incident Reduction Facilitator, Private Practice | Past  President, Child Friendly Faith Project | Member, Grex | Certified Consultant, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems 

Yaro Fong-Olivares, M.S.


Director in Training and Consultant

Director, Corporate Education, Bentley University | Organizational Development consultant with a focus on racial justice, equity, and inclusion | President, Executive Committee, New York Center |Member, Center for the Study of Groups and Social Systems |Consultant-in-training, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems.

David Luna, JD


Associate Director and Consultant

Owner, Luna Consulting & Coaching | Member, National Lawyers Guild | Member, Circle of Stillness Sangha | Co-Creator, Group Relations International | Member and Conference Director, Washington-Baltimore Center for the Study of Group Relations | Certified Consultant, AKRI | Past-President, National Association of Latino Healthcare Executives

Tom Butler, M.Div.


Associate Director for Conference Administration

Member, certified consultant, and mentor | AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems | Founding member and Past President, Chicago Center for The Study of Groups and Organizations | Past Board member of AKRI.

Limor Vink, B.A.


Associate Administrator

M.A. Student, Clinical Psychology | Member, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems | Member, Grex - West Coast Affiliate of the A.K. Rice Institute

Jack Lampl, B.A.


Associate Director for Conference Technology

Jack Lampl, B.A - Organizational Consultant | Credentialed Mediator | Visual Artist | Past President and Fellow A K. Rice Institute | Associate Director 2017-2019 A. K. Rice International Group Relations Conference | Lead consultant for multiyear training and application work with the College of Pastoral Education and Psychotherapy | Past President Threshold Foundation | Founder of Subjective Technologies Inc. a too early stage virtual reality startup | Grex member | Co-Creator GRI

Diana Castañeda, MA, LCPC (she/her/ella)


Director of Youth and Crisis Services, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago | Fellow, Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis | Member, Chicago Center for the Study of Groups and Organizations

Joshua DeSilva, Psy.D., CGP (he/him)


Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice | Member, Virginia Latino Advisory Board | Clinical Member and Certified Group Psychotherapist, American Group Psychotherapy Association | Member and Consultant in Training, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems | Member, Diversity Committee, Virginia Academy of Clinical Psychologists

Lt Col Rod Smith, PhD  (he/him)


Assistant Professor, United States Air Force Academy  |   Lead Instructor for Air Force Officer Commanding Leadership Education  |  Co-Creator Group Relations International  |  Member, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems  |   Member, Adaptive Leadership Network 

Julia G. Katawazi, MA (she/her/ella)


Associate Professional Clinical Counselor | Research Health Science Specialist, VA La Jolla | Counselor Education and Supervision PhD candidate, Oregon State University.

Annysa Polanco, MSW



Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Penguin Random House | Diversity Professional/Advanced Practitioner Candidate (CCDP/AP), Cornell University | Trained Facilitator on Race, Power, Privilege, Cultures Connecting | Member, AK Rice Institute for the Study of Social Systems


What is Group Relations?

Group Relations methodology is the study of complex social systems, and it emerged in the 1940s following WWII specifically to try and understand what happened and why, to better understanding how societies and organizations function and how to best solve social problems.  Group Relations (GR) conferences are designed to foster leadership development while working creatively and adaptively in complex social systems.  Towards that end, we don’t use a traditional conference format – lectures, formal didactics, etc. 


Instead, a GR conference is an experiential learning method where members explore boundaries, authority, role and task in the context of small, large and self-organizing groups in the “here and now” of experience across a three-day weekend event.  Ultimately, this allows conference participants to see how large systems work and most importantly teaches competencies and skills in how to organize collectively toward whatever goal(s) are set.   This conference invites a national and international community membership.


Scheduled Events

April 16, 2021 

1:30 - 6:30pm PST

April 17, 2021 

9:00 - 6:00pm PST

April 18, 2021 

11:30 - 6:00pm PST

April 24, 2021 

9-11 a.m. PST (Application review)

Conference Details

This conference models and fosters Latinx leadership development, and provides participants access to a transformative experiential Latinx led learning environment designed to promote individual, interpersonal and social transformation.

Joining activities

These events are at the start of each day of the conference for members to acknowledge what they are carrying or bringing to the conference and to orient themselves to the opportunity for exploration, learning and application that a group relations workshop offers.

Small Study Group


The Small Study Group is usually composed of 8-12 members and 1 consultant. The task of the Small Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as the group develops in the here and now.

The Large Study Group


The Large Study Group is composed of all conference members and has 2-3 consultants. The task of the Large Study Group is to study the exercise of authority and leadership in a group context as the group develops in the here and now.

Activism as Spiritual Practice (ASP) Event

For consultants to welcome conference members and to provide an overview statement to orient them to the intentions and design of the event.  Also, to make administrative announcements.

ASP Plenary

For members and staff to review learning related to the workshop theme, Activism as a Spiritual Practice, as it emerged during the event and formally end in-conference ASP relationships.

Review Group/ Application Group (RAG)

For members to reflect “there-and-then” on the experiences and learning(s) that are emerging in the conference as they relate to leadership, boundaries, authority, role and task and to apply learning(s) to their ongoing lives in systems, organizations, and groups.

Conference Plenary

For members and staff to review learning related to the conference theme, Activism as a Spiritual Practice, as it emerged over the conference weekend and formally end in-conference relationships.



This conference is designed as an integrated experience with each event building on the one previous. Participants should plan to attend all events.

Continuing Education

Pending approval, this conference is offering 13 continuing education credits/clock hours for psychologists (all levels), social workers and mental health counselors.

Fee Reduction

A limited number of reduced-fee registrations will be available. Please contact the conference Associate Director for Administration, Tom Butler, at tb267607@gmail.com for details before you register.

Withdrawl Policy

Fees can only be refunded (less $50 administration charge) if a written notice of cancellation (email is fine) is received before by 6 PM Eastern on April 9th, 2021.


Staff will not report the behavior of any individual member to anyone outside the conference.

Conference FAQs


Feedback from past events

"What a radical, challenging, inspiring and TRANSFORMATIVE experience this conference was.  I am grateful for the opportunity to learn."

Kim Cabigon /CSUDH Undergraduate Student

"Thank you for presenting us with such an exciting, interesting, insightful event.  Had tons of fun :)"

Aaron Street /CSUDH Graduate Student (MA Clinical Psychology)


Support for our 4th Annual Group Relations Conference “Leadership and Creative Expression”!

Gifts of all amounts to our Group Relations Experiential Learning Fund are appreciated and will support CSUDH as a center for group relations innovation and community education.

Your commitment means a great deal to our students, faculty and staff dedicated to this effort.


Sponsored by


Supported by the A.K. Rice Institute as an Incubator Initiative in the development, exploration, or application of Group Relations




We'd love to hear from you


Contact Adminstrator

For more information, please contact

the conference Associate Director for Administration, Tom Butler, at


Event Fees

Full conference - $250 
Discounts available, send request to: tb267607@gmail.com

(Please contact the administrator before registering to obtain a discount code.)

Event Registration