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About the Researcher

The Mindful Leadership Study is the doctoral dissertation research project of Metta McGarvey, an advanced doctoral candidate working in adult development in the Human Development and Psychology Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her thesis research focuses on the development of emotion-related skills and capacities in the context of leadership development training programs, and in particular, mindfulness as a potential catalyst for adult emotional development.

Faculty Committee

Metta's research is being conducted under the supervision of three Harvard faculty members who serve on her dissertation committee:

Robert Kegan, William and Miriam Meehan Professor in Adult Learning and Professional Development, is Metta's advisor and the dissertation committee chairperson. Professor Kegan's research addresses the potential for ongoing psychological transformation in the adult years, in particular the "fit" between a person's current capacities and the demands placed upon him or her, and the implications for designing training/educational programs with optimal supports and challenges to catalyze further development. He is the author of In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life (1994, Harvard University Press), and with Lisa Laskow Lahey of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation (2000, Harvard University Press). Metta is currently the head Teaching Fellow for Professor Kegan's course "Adult Development" at Harvard. For more information about Dr. Kegan, please see: Kegan Faculty Profile.

Jerome Murphy, Harold Howe II Professor of Education, and Dean Emeritus, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the second dissertation committee member. Professor Murphy's current research focuses on the "unheroic" aspects of leadership - the inner and outer tools and strategies by which leaders work with the confusion, pain, and difficulties of leadership to enhance their effectiveness. His prior research focused on administrative practice, organizational leadership and management, program implementation and evaluation, and qualitative research methods. Professor Murphy served as Associate Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education from 1982 until 1991, then as Dean from 1992-2001. Metta is currently the Teaching Fellow for Professor Murphy's course "Leading and Managing Organizations." For more information about Dr. Murphy, please see: Murphy Faculty Profile.

Michael Nakkula, Research Associate, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the third dissertation committee member. Currently a full-time researcher, Dr. Nakkula has conducted several longitudinal studies primarily promoting development for at-risk youth in urban settings. He is the Co-founder and Director of Project IF: Inventing the Future (1993-present), a youth development and prevention collaborative project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Boston Public Schools, and Boston-Area subsidized housing. He is the author (with Sharon Ravitch) of Matters of Interpretation: Reciprocal Transformation in Therapeutic and Developmental Relationships with Youth (1994, Jossey Bass), and with Eric Toshalis of Understanding Youth: Adolescent Development for Educators (2006, Harvard Education Press). Metta was previously a Teaching Fellow for Professor Nakkula's course "Adolescent Development" prior to his full-time research appointment. Dr. Nakkula has recently accepted a faculty position with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, and will resume teaching there in January 2008. Please click: Nakkula Project If for an article about Dr. Nakkula's work.

Education & Research Experience


Harvard University Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education, Human Development & Psychology. Degree expected June 2009.

Harvard University Master of Theological Studies. Divinity School, 1999. Tibetan Buddhism & language.

University of Chicago Bachelor of Arts. Tutorial Studies, 1981 with honors. Psychology & Religions.

Oxford University Senior year semester abroad, 1980. Theravada Buddhism and Sanskrit.


Massachusetts General Hospital, 2004-2005. Research Assistant, Dept. of Psychiatric Neuroimaging. fMRI study of experienced meditators.

Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2001-2002. Research Assistant, Change Leadership Group. Subject-Object Interview data collection.

The Evaluation Center, 1999-2000. Research Assistant, Western Michigan University. Evaluation of charter schools in the state of Connecticut.


Peer Reviewed:
Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J.R., Greve, D.N., Treadway, M.T., McGarvey, M., Quinn, B.T., Dusek, J.A., Benson, H., Rauch, S.L., Moore, C.I., & Fischl, B. (2005). Meditation Experience is Associated with Increased Cortical Thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), pp. 1893-1897.

McGarvey, M.K. (2006). Mindfulness and emotional development in adult life: A theoretical framework for future research. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Qualifying Paper.

Brown, S., & McGarvey, M. (2005). Magnificent Migrants: Shorebirds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Wildlife Refuge Magazine.

Professional Experience


Prior to returning to graduate school, Metta worked primarily in the non-profit sector as a consultant, a board member, and in staff positions with organizations including: Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, The Mind & Life Institute, International Campaign for Tibet and Students for a Free Tibet, Cornell University Public Service Center, Nicaraguan Work Project, the Quest for Peace Campaign, and the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, MI. She also ran a campaign for U.S. Congress in Michigan's 11th Congressional District.


Metta has practiced mindfulness for 27 years, primarily through a vipassana meditation practice (for more information about vipassana meditation and the retreat centers where Metta practices, please see: Insight Meditation Society). She also holds undergraduate and masters degrees in Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist Studies respectively. She completed the practicum in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester in 2004, and has been teaching mindfulness and stress reduction since 2005.

Personal Interests

Outside of academic life Metta prioritizes family and outdoor activities. She has been married for 17 years, with two stepchildren (ages 23 & 20). She has assisted her biologist husband with his research in the Alaskan arctic wilderness during several summer field seasons. Back home in New England she enjoys biking, hiking, running, canoeing, and nordic skiing, and lives on Boston's South Shore where she enjoys swimming and sea kayaking on Cape Cod Bay.

Copyright © 2007 Metta McGarvey. All rights reserved. Site design by Claire Bennet.