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James Van Auken, Ph.D. is a 2019 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Van Auken at his Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Jon Wergin, Committee Member, Dr. Lize Booysen, Committee Chair, Dr. Ron Cacioppe (not shown), Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Lize (A.E.) Booysen, DBL, Committee Chair
  • Jon Wergin, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Ron Cacioppe, Ph.D., Committee Member


mindfulness, mindful leadership, leadership, contemporary leadership demands, narrative inquiry, thematic analysis

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The aim of this study was to explore and understand the relationship between mindfulness practices and actual leadership practices. This qualitative study utilized narrative inquiry with phenomenological interviewing techniques to explore selective leaders who use mindfulness practices, and see how they used mindfulness in their leadership practice. Sixteen in-depth interviews were conducted and thematic analysis was utilized. Eleven themes were identified with multiple sub- and sub-sub-themes, including: “Personal, Internal Mindfulness Practice,” “Being Mindful Toward Self,” “Being Present with Others,” “Being Present with a Group,” “Mindful Shift of Focus/Attention,” “Emotional Intelligence,” “Buffering of Reactivity,” “Resilience and Recovery,” “Alignment,” “Improved Job Performance,” and “Mindful Leadership.” The participants described the ability to move into the present moment, gain discernment, choose a needed action, even if the best choice of action was not acting at all, and then remerge back to the present moment. Mindful leadership was found to be the ability to see oneself, others, the situation(s), the complexities and emotions at all levels (intra- and interpersonally), and then to step back, integrate it all, and with a humanistic approach—lead. A significant implication for leadership that this study may offer is that the simple practices of mindfulness can potentially ripple out through one’s life in ways that take shape as some of the best practices across multiple leadership theories and models. Practical applications were found on both an individual leader-level, such as with developing a humanistic approach; and an organizational leader-level, such as the value of mindful leadership training and coaching. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, and Ohiolink ETD Center,


James Van Auken, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-3024-9993

As the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Atlantic University, James Van Auken has the privilege to work for a university that is steeped in history and culture. As a leader, he is intricately intertwined with the university faculty, administrative staff, and students. Within this role as academic officer, James provides overall leadership and management regarding accreditation, post-secondary education matters, as well as long-term planning for the university. While maintaining the highest level of knowledge of academic affairs for the university, James is also an integral part of the Association for Research and Enlightenment where he serves as a member of the President and CEO’s senior staff.

James is a faculty member at Atlantic University, Christopher Newport University, and the Cayce/Reilly School of Massage where he teaches courses on leadership and mindfulness. In addition to his administrative and teaching roles, James was the coordinator of a team of faculty who together created the curriculum of what would become the Mindful Leadership graduate program. He continues to serve as Chair of the Mindful Leadership committee, as well as other university focused academic committees.

James received his doctoral degree from Antioch University where he conducted research on leaders who practice mindfulness. As part of this research, James interviewed leaders across multiple industries to hear and understand the stories and lived experiences of those who are practicing mindfulness as part of their leadership. With the conclusion of this research, James will share his findings through articles and lectures. James has also studied Religious Studies at American Public University (BA), Business Administration at Saint Leo University (MBA), and Leadership and Change at Antioch University (MA).