Board of Directors
Born outside of Boston, Susan spent her formative years in Asia with occasional forays into places of extreme suffering like The Walled City of Hong Kong and the streets of Bombay. These experiences made deep impressions on her Enneagram Type 1, ideological heart. By the time she entered Occidental College to study sociology, Susan’s resolve to somehow make a contribution to the world was embedded in who she was becoming. This determination percolated while she raised three boys and began to study the Enneagram, a process that took her deeply into herself and a life changing trauma suffered in her own childhood when her mother took her own life.
In 2009, Susan emerged hopeful and certified, full of ideals, and with just enough self-belief to accept the challenging invitation to teach the Enneagram to 100 inmates in a little prison outside of Houston, Texas. This decision changed the trajectory of her personal and professional life, forever. With a burgeoning career that moved her from HR to teaching this fascinating system to “any and every one brave enough to admit to having a personality,” Susan delights in the unknown yet vast unfolding of the Enneagram Prison Project. A project with a mission that is now growing her, and the lives of anyone it seems to touch.
In July 2015, Rick left his corporate career behind him to become the Executive Director of EPP; a leap of faith that reflects his profound belief in this project’s vision. A Stanford grad and former Vice President of Information Services and Human Resources, Rick ran his own successful database consulting firm for 15 years where he taught himself everything from business acumen to technical expertise and virtually everything in between.
Rick, who has been known for years as “Fun Daddy” to all the children in his life is the “Steady Seven” partner to EPP Founder, Susan Olesek. He makes miracles happen with his off-the-charts innovation and ingenuity, and can find just about anything on the Internet – usually for free. Rick began cultivating the sober sides of Type 7 when he spent time volunteering with Mother Theresa in India right out of college while working with the dying. In Helen Palmer’s own words, our E.D. is “A peach in God’s orchard,” with which most anyone would heartily concur.
With his newfound involvement in EPP, Eric’s goal is to leverage his decades of experience in growing enterprises to support the ability of the project to touch as many lives as possible. Eric is a native Californian who splits his time between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a Social Type 5, Eric has long had a strong affinity for models as an essential tool to understand just about everything he observes. In fact, the core of his professional career over the past 20+ years has centered around leading financial planning teams and creating financial models for high-tech businesses.
Eric was responsible for programming the US economy model for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. It’s not surprising that he found himself immediately attracted to the Enneagram as a powerful human personality model. Over the years, Eric attended workshops that applied this profound tool to parenting and couples study. He has been eagerly serving on Type 5 panels whenever invited to. When he heard about the work being done by EPP, the potential seemed obvious. But the true power and possibilities of EPP revealed themselves when he attended his first EPP class session “on the inside.” From that time, onward, there were no doubts that, “…this is exceptional and uniquely impactful work for everyone involved with the project.” says Eric.
Half British and half Swiss, Tara moved from her hometown of London to Northern California in 2009. She was introduced to the Enneagram shortly thereafter through Young President’s Organization (YPO). “My monthly forum meeting was made so much more powerful when Susan Olesek became the group’s facilitator,” says Tara. Learning the Enneagram in much more depth through Susan’s wisdom, provided Tara with meaningful insight into both her own patterns as a social Seven and those of the people she loved most, her family, who quickly embraced the Enneagram also.
With the realization of how the Enneagram had changed her life and her relationships, Tara was interested in going deeper in her understanding. She began the Enneagram Association in the Narrative Tradition (EANT) training program in 2016 along with three soon-to-be EPP Ambassadors which only strengthened her commitment to learn this system more deeply. At the same time Tara was invited to witness the incredible work the Enneagram Prison Project has been doing and has been shadowing classes in Santa Clara county jail and San Quentin ever since. Her passion to help others with the Enneagram has taken on a huge meaning in her life, along with a desire to be an advocate for criminal justice reform, now that she has gained perspective from the inside. Tara says, “I am honored to be part of EPP’s board and am moved every day by the transformation and growth in self-awareness I see with their work with the incarcerated.”
Lance and his wife Diane have a son who spent ten years in prison from the age of 17 until he was 27. This couple gained firsthand experience about the toll prisons and incarceration can take on a human being, but also on the lives of those with a loved one who is behind bars. Lance saw EPP Founder Susan Olesek speak about EPP for the first time at the International Enneagram Association (IEA) Conference in Long Beach in 2012. Sitting in the front row, he was immediately struck by the beauty and importance of EPP’s mission. Usually publicly stoic, Lance sat and cried throughout the presentation.
Educated at Kenyon College, Miami University (BS Finance), and Harvard University (MBA), Lance is at once a businessman and an entrepreneur, who spent the major portion of his working career acquiring, growing and selling a company providing sanitation services to the food processing industry across the United States. He has also been involved in a significant number of startups and small business acquisitions. He remains an investor in, board member of, and/or advisor to a number of these companies. A life-long advocate of education, Lance is also currently on the board of five education-oriented organizations, including Miami University’s highly rated Entrepreneurship Program.
An Enneagram Type 3, Lance first encountered the Enneagram when he brought it into his company in 2009. He immediately embraced “the work” in his personal life as well, becoming a Certified Enneagram Teacher/Trainer in the Narrative Tradition through the Conscious Living Center. The sale of his business in 2013 coincided with Susan and Rick’s vision to grow EPP into a worldwide organization. After a conversation at the IEA conference in Denver that year, Lance and Diane provided the first significant external financial support for EPP and they have been loyal champions of EPP’s mission ever since.
Board of Advisors
Within moments of meeting, Susan Olesek and James Flaherty began formulating a partnership between their two organizations. James Flaherty, MCC, is the founder of New Ventures West and co-founder of Integral Leadership LLC. Over the next several months, the two laid the foundation for interested, certified New Ventures West coaches to volunteer their time as a coach, to support EPP graduates, those once incarcerated but newly released, as they embark on the fragile work of reentry. New Ventures West coaches are now actively coaching formerly incarcerated EPP students!
James is also the author of Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others, which is widely recognized as a seminal text in the field of coach education and is used internationally in universities and coach training institutions. James developed New Ventures West’s approach to coaching by integrating recent discoveries in linguistics, developmental psychology, twentieth-century philosophy, and biology into the practical and customized methodology known as Integral Coaching®. He designed the Professional Coaching Course and dozens of other programs, and over the past two decades he has led coaching and leadership courses involving thousands of people throughout North America, South Africa, Asia and Europe. He was educated at the University of California and is currently writing a second book entitled Coaching Now. Says James, “I am delighted coaches from New Ventures West are dedicating themselves to the personal and professional success of the skillful committed Ambassadors from EPP. Their partnership promises to bring huge long-term benefits to everyone involved – how marvelous that we have found each other!”
Russ Hudson is one of the principal scholars and innovative thinkers in the Enneagram system’s development worldwide.
Says, Russ, “In our earliest days of teaching the Enneagram, Don Riso and I became aware of something that we had not anticipated: that the work we were doing was reaching prison populations and having a positive effect. We received letters from incarcerated people sharing their realizations with us, and we were always deeply moved by these testimonies. We felt renewed in our conviction that with the right information and the right holding environment, that people with very difficult histories could turn their lives around. We felt that a concerted effort from individuals in the Enneagram community could perhaps make a big difference in the lives of the incarcerated, but we were not the ones to start such a major initiative…”
Russ is executive director of Enneagram Personality Types, Inc. and co-founder and president of The Enneagram Institute, a training and certifying school dedicated to the work of human liberation and transformation through the teachings of the Enneagram. He has been teaching its Enneagram Professional Training Programs since 1991 and is a founding director and former vice-president of the International Enneagram Association (IEA). He is also co-author of The Wisdom Of The Enneagram, Personality Types (Revised Edition), Understanding the Enneagram (Revised Edition), Discovering Your Personality Type (Revised Edition), and The Power Of The Enneagram (audio tape). He also assisted Author Don Riso to write Enneagram Transformations. Russ holds a degree in East Asian Studies from Columbia University in New York.
Says Russ, “For those of you already involved, thank you! And for those of you thinking about it, I am sure there is a place for you in the greater work of transformation that the Enneagram is part of, and to which those of us in EPP are dedicated.”
Shalini Verma is a high energy leader at Google… bringing the latest artificial intelligence/machine learning products to life through a global deployment team. Named to Crain Magazine’s Tech 50 Top Technology Talent, her passion is to inspire leaders to transform themselves and the world whether in non-profit or for profit organizations. From the proven to the provocative, she has spent many years discovering and developing tools through cross pollination, collaboration and experimentation. These tools help remove physical and mental pain, foster creativity and innovation, develop decision making and leadership skills and bring peace of mind.
In her spare time, Shalini designs and develops programs for parents & children with anxiety, exploring the intersection of technology and mindfulness, utilizing machine learning, virtual reality and bio/neurofeedback. She has a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and a Masters in Business from Harvard, but she is most humbled and awe-inspired by the continuous education she receives from her two boys and her journey within.
“The Enneagram has had a profound effect on my life by incisively getting to the why behind my thoughts, feelings and behaviors. I have realized that a lot of what triggered me was a projection of my own fears and insecurities, and the same applied to others. This has only fostered empathy. I went to San Quentin prison for an event with EPP and was moved by the experience. I was surprised by how much I found in common with those of the same personality as me, how only circumstance separated our paths, and how this reflection allowed me to deepen my self-awareness. I was inspired, wanting to get more involved as well as share the experience with others. EPP offers a unique opportunity to positively change ourselves, our workplaces and our communities through mindfulness, compassion and social justice.”
– Shalini Verma
Countless EPP students have sighed their relief and elation when introduced to Gabor Maté’s compassionate explanation of addiction: “It’s a problem, but not the problem, addiction is a person’s attempt to solve a problem that started in childhood. The real questions is not why the addiction, but rather, Why they pain?”
A renowned speaker and bestselling author, Dr. Gabor Maté is highly sought after for his expertise on addiction, stress, early childhood attachment and developmental trauma. Following decades in family practice and palliative care, for 14 years, Dr. Maté worked in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside—notorious as perhaps North America’s most concentrated area of drug use– with patients suffering from hard-core drug addiction, mental illness and HIV, including at Vancouver’s Supervised Injection Site.
Based on this experience and on his extensive knowledge of the scientific literature, Gabor developed the groundbreaking view of addiction not as a behavior choice or inherited brain disease, but as a complex psychological and physiological response to childhood trauma and emotional loss. This perspective is outlined in his award-winning bestseller, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction; His other books, published in 20 languages, include When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection; Scattered : How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It and Hold on to Your Kids, Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers co-authored with Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. Dr. Maté is the co-founder of Compassion For Addiction, a new nonprofit that focuses on a trauma-informed understanding of addiction and paradigm-shifting approaches in recovery.
Jill Woodman is an avid proponent of the human potential and a compassionate lover of children. Jill graduated from UC San Diego with a major in human development and a heart to guide kids to reach for their highest possibilities. Knowing that a more consciously connected world requires us to be emotionally engaged with every “little person,” Jill’s college days were informed by the disparity she experienced between nannying for her professors and volunteering in homeless shelters for children. Jill witnessed kids whose parents were working the streets just to survive, unwittingly leaving their children feeling disconnected from their caretakers and from themselves, and practically on a direct path to prison. Seeing first hand how shattered beginnings severely affect children really impacted Jill and in 2015 she and her husband, Nick became philanthropic partners to Safe and Sound (Formerly San Francisco Abuse Center). Jill is continually compelled to “wholing” our world, by addressing the complex and overwhelming issues that affect children, like child abuse and human trafficking, head on.
After being introduced to the Enneagram at a class for couples led by Susan Olesek, Jill resonated with Enneagram Type Nine and connected the dots inside of herself in a way that left her intrigued and excited. Over time, Jill says, “Knowing my Enneagram Type took away judgment and blame. It made me a kinder person and changed the dynamic between me and my partner.” EPP invited Jill to come to jail where she witnessing a class of men “doing the work,” leaving her completely inspired. Jill says:
“Every single one of those men was in a place where they weren’t supported when they were small. They didn’t have the means in their childhood to guide them to make the right decisions. And yet, the men I witnessed in the EPP class were so willing to explore their emotional sides and learn new things about themselves. I went in there and I saw how I was able to have really intimate, thoughtful conversations with each of the men. There was so much hope because when they were learning about themselves I could tell that they liked themselves better – just like I did when I learned the Enneagram. That feeling of HOPE was infectious. I knew during that visit to jail that those men would be in a never-ending cycle, but that EPP was doing something profound to support them in breaking it.
The real and tangible way in which the Enneagram is taught inside this project – taking complex psychological concepts out of the theoretical and into the practical – is what makes me so want to be a part. Not only do I feel like EPP helps transform the student’s sense of self, I feel it changes the culture within the prison. This project offers a lifeline to people who can finally see that they do have a path and that they can continue walking it on the outside. Actually, when they get out, the graduates of EPP have a whole community of people looking to them as to how to make the same hard changes they were able to do inside of themselves and against all odds.” – Jill Woodman
Today, Jill lives in Woodside, California with her husband Nick, who is the Founder of GoPro, and together they are devoted to raising their three young children.
Jennifer Weber is the Founder of Cornerstone Consulting in Seattle WA, where she specializes in working with innovative non-profit leaders to create fundraising strategy and inspire transformational philanthropy. Working in fundraising for 20 years, Jennifer believes philanthropy is rooted in values and can be a powerful catalyst for social change.
Jennifer was introduced to the Enneagram 10 years ago by Susan Olesek and has been a champion for EPP’s work from the beginning. Jennifer has gone inside San Quentin prison and Redwood City Jail to participate in the EPP program, engaging in deep conversation with the men and woman on the inside and building bridges of understanding, healing and compassion. “My ongoing connection with the men and women in the EPP program is one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. The mutual sharing and open-heartedness is breath taking. I see more honesty, courage, and transformation from the EPP students and ambassadors, than from most people on the outside.”
As a Type One, Jennifer envisions a world where everyone has a path to healing and wholeness and can realize their highest self. She sees the EPP as a powerful tool for all of us, but especially for those in prison who have endured unimaginable pain. “When people are released from prison with insight, awareness, hope for the future, and the tools to thrive on the outside, everyone benefits. Their children, family, friends, co-workers, employers and neighbors. As a society, we are better off because these courageous people have done their deep inner work and can now bring their gifts fully into the community. “
Jennifer is passionate about EPP’s commitment to affect change on two fronts: in the lives of people who are incarcerated and also within the prison system itself. “As a non-profit fundraiser, I have seen first hand how financial resources can be unleashed to fuel lasting and positive social change. The diverse community of people who stand with EPP and advance this work are helping to solve one of the most important and complex societal issues of our time. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this.”
NEELAM WADHWANI was raised in a small town in Western India, Neelam spent her formative years studying in a convent, where the nuns emphasized that learning happens in the mind and the soul. Her family spent summers with a close family friend, a warden of one of the two jails in India. Here, at a very young age, she saw suffering and sorrow and noticed the absence of rehabilitation and redemption.
As a student of philosophy and influenced by two great teachers, Neelam recognized that the relationship of a student and a teacher is interchangeable, teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin. She carries this sentiment everywhere and looks for opportunities to learn from all who she encounters.
At the age of 23, Neelam immigrated to the US where she found a job with county corrections. With degrees in Philosophy and Psychology as well as being an educator, Neelam soon realized, what had started as a career had now become a journey. In corrections, she found a world of human beings who were often forgotten and ignored by society. In corrections, she also found some of the kindest and most caring individuals who selflessly supported the forgotten and provided services day in and day out.
As the Inmate Rehabilitation Program Manager, Neelam emphasized not only educating the incarcerated through innovative, cutting edge programs but also understood the importance of effecting long term change by instituting systems for successful reentry and rehabilitation. She worked relentlessly towards engaging the community and understanding the court system to maximize the benefits for the inmates. Her vision was to improve the lives of the incarcerated by influencing the law enforcement staff, to embody the true spirit of corrections and embrace rehabilitation as an important and valuable part of corrections.
After 28 years of service, Neelam recently retired from corrections but continues her quest to improve justice system policies. An Enneagram Type Nine, EPP welcomes this gentle human who is at once a pillar of strength and a gentle, peaceful force.
Dr. Schwartz graduated from John’s Hopkins University with a doctorate degree in psychology and mental health. He worked in the Department of Psychology at John’s Hopkins and co-taught at the university. He later joined the staff of the Master’s and Johnson Institute where he served as the Director of Workshops, Director of Research, Developer and Director of the Masters and Johnson Trauma and Compulsivity Institute, and as the Executive Director for 16 years. Dr. Schwartz has published research articles, textbook chapters, and has edited three books, as well as has worked with violent sexual criminals in prison. Dr. Schwartz has extensively studied intimacy and early attachment disorders as related to addictive disorders and relational disorders in adult life. He lectures widely throughout the United States and Europe to thousands of psychotherapists and treats patients daily at Harmony Place Monterey and the Marriage and Therapy Institute, located in Monterey, CA.
From the get-go, “Dr. D.” was a champion of EPP and an avid spokesperson for our mission. A clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford Medical School, Dr. Daniels was a leading developer of the Enneagram system of nine personality styles. In private practice for over 40 years, he taught the Enneagram system at Stanford, in the community, and internationally for 22 years and co-authored the bestseller, The Essential Enneagram.
In 1988, together with Helen Palmer (author, professor), Dr. Daniels co-founded Enneagram Studies in the Narrative Tradition (ESNT) and The Enneagram Professional Training Program (EPTP). Dr. Daniels was one of the co-founders of the International Enneagram Association (IEA) and instrumental in organizing the first International Enneagram Conference at Stanford Univesity in 1994.
In May of 2017, Dr. Daniels passed away, but left a legacy of love, hope, and compassionate understanding of what it means to be human. We were honored to learn from and grow alongside this special soul.
With deep appreciation for former EPP Board Member, Suzanne Dion who created this film in honor of Dr. Daniels.