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Interview with Amy Ambrose

Amy Ambrose is the Director of International Relations at University of California Berkeley.  Amy is a native of Sacramento, California and earned an undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley and proceeded to acquire a graduate degree in Business from the University of Chicago.  She has been working with the Office of International Relations and enjoys developing partnerships with individuals and organizations all over the world.

Amy, thank you for agreeing to talk with us today.  To begin with, would you tell us about how you came to be working at UC Berkeley?

I was working for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology for several years before meeting my current colleagues at Berkeley. Given my background in international business and my academic degrees – one from Berkeley – it seemed a natural fit. Berkeley has always had a special place in my heart. It is great to be able to “give back” by working here.

Could you give us some information about your work with Cal?

I work in a very small team on campus, called International Relations. We are responsible for expanding the presence of Berkeley overseas through community building (Berkeley Clubs) and outreach to the press. These activities help to raise affinity for the campus, and enhance our other major activity of increasing international support for our faculty, students and infrastructure, in the form of gifts and grants.

What are the goals, objectives, and mission of your organization?

The University of California Berkeley is, I am proud to say, one of the world’s premier public universities and a wellspring of innovation. Based on a strong ethic of academic excellence and public service, our community of faculty, students and alumni make key contributions to the economic and social well-being of people around the world. In fact, as I interact with alumni around the world, I would say that the key unifying factor is our shared dedication to the betterment of others.

The Office of International Relations strives to support the mission of academic excellence and public service by unifying and expanding our communities around the world, and by ensuring meaningful supportive partnerships with individuals and organizations throughout the world.

What parallels and connections do you see between Shinnyo-en Foundation and your organization?

We share a commitment to peace-making in the active sense.

Shinnyo-en invites and inspires others to make an active difference in the world on a personal level and a public level. They translate esoteric peace doctrine into plain language and practice so that all make access and express their better selves.

It has long been said that faculty don’t come to Berkeley for the salary, the come for the community and the sense of public service. The fact that as an institution we have the highest number of Peace Corps alumni attests to this fact. Faculty successfully convey this commitment to the student body.

Can you tell us a little bit about the vision of UC Berkeley?

Our vision is one of access and excellence. That is, to provide the access or opportunity to the richness of our institution to all – to improve their lives whether through direct education, indirect benefits from scientific and intellectual discovery, and so forth. We are committed to ensuring that knowledge improves quality of life across the globe, and in turn brings about a more peaceful world.

What were your impressions of the Six Billion Paths to Peace event in San Francisco last year?

I was deeply impressed by the honorees’ achievements, and the insight of Shinnyo-en to include all types of individuals – from the world-renowned to the modest elementary school teacher. Very touching! I also enjoyed the spectrum of generations represented on stage. From Bishop Ito, hailing from the senior ranks to the very young singer Bianca. It is a work of peace to create meaningful dialogue across generations. We can envision active roles for ourselves throughout time, in various contexts, with the goal of serving others.

Now Amy, we’d like to learn a little about your interests outside of your professional work?  What is the best book you have read recently?

Gosh, the best book – hmmm, I read as much as possible when I have a quiet moment – fiction, books on finance, Buddhist scripture, you name it. The world offers us so much to ponder.

I would put two books in the “best of “ category right now – the whole Harry Potter series, and a very insightful classic entitled, “A Random Walk Down Wall Street.” Both are works of genius, but very different from each other. As an all-time favorite, I would vote for “Japanese Pilgrimage,” by Oliver Statler, which is about the Shingon pilgrimage on Shikoku Island, and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

When not working, how do you like to spend your free time?

More than reading….I spend a lot of time with my twin daughters and husband of 21 years! Mom stuff – volunteering at school and the softball team. I also have a daily yoga practice balanced with lap swimming. Finally, my husband and I are remodeling our 80+ year-old home. Our home is a lovely great dame, in need of a major face lift. Right now, we are studying the finer points stucco-ing exterior walls. Once that’s done, we will rewire the whole house and then rebuild the kitchen.

So, yoga is your passion?

Indeed, my passion. You know, I have yet to meet someone who does not appreciate yoga, after practicing it.

In principle, it is basically stretching, right? However this simple activity awakens the senses and spirit and refocuses my attention for the day. I practice what is called hot yoga, though I enjoy all forms. Hot yoga requires full attention to the poses – no room for outside thoughts. I also appreciate practicing in a group. It is very humbling and reassuring to see so many of us striving to live fuller, more conscious lives. – no matter what we look or sound like. No one looks too good after 90 minutes in a really hot room. But oh the smiles!

Secretly, I take a mental photo of people after their first lesson. There is a certain smile that tells me they reconnected with their higher self.

And in closing please share with our readers, what is your personal path to peace?

My personal path to peace is to consciously serve the world as best I can, with the talents I have been given. I have found a common challenge for us – human beings – is lack of self-confidence and spiritual support – not just from family, but from the community at large. I try to remain mindful of this in everything I do –to recognize the best intentions in others, and to encourage. It costs nothing to encourage, and to praise. Everyone wins!

Like in yoga, I set my intentions at the beginning of each day by reciting a short morning prayer. In the prayer I dedicate the day back to this great universal spirit which is reflected in those around me.