Indigenous scholar Dr. Yuria Celidwen is College of the Atlantic's 51st commencement keynote spea...Indigenous scholar Dr. Yuria Celidwen is College of the Atlantic's 51st commencement keynote speaker.Dr. Yuria Celidwen is a native of Indigenous Nahua and Maya descent from the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. A researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and a senior fellow at the Othering and Belonging Institute, her research is at the intersection of Indigenous studies, cultural psychology, and contemplative science. She is interested in transdisciplinary approaches to embodying the experience of self-transcendence and enhancing prosocial behavior (ethics, compassion, kindness, reverence, and a sense of awe, sacredness, and love). Celidwen’s work at the Othering & Belonging Institute of UC Berkeley engages bridging and belonging work to reclaim spaces for Indigenous Peoples and the planet.

“As an Indigenous woman and as a scholar, I have taken the quest to reclaim our Indigenous voices as holders of sophisticated systems of contemplative insight,” Celidwen says. “I am committed to the reclamation, revitalization, and transmission of our Indigenous wisdom for social and environmental justice.”

Celidwen teaches Indigenous epistemologies and spirituality, and her work pioneered the Indigenous contemplative experience within contemplative studies. In addition, she leads workshops on prosocial practices from an Indigenous perspective. She emphasizes cultivating a sense of reverence and ecological belonging, raising awareness of social and environmental justice and community-engaged practices, revitalizing Indigenous languages, traditional medicine, clean energy, and Indigenous-led conservation.

“The 2024 graduating class came together to put Dr. Celidwen’s name on the top of our list of possible speakers, and I couldn’t be happier with their enthusiasm and with Yuria’s acceptance of our invitation,” said COA President Dr. Darron Collins ’92. “Dr. Celidwen’s intellectual career and personal experiences will give us great insight into the world of Indigenous ways of understanding how our world works—something we need to confront the local and global challenges we all face.”

For the past two decades, Celidwen has worked at the United Nations to support international humanitarian efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. Her specific concentration is the advancement of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and the rights of Nature.

Celedwin will receive an honorary Master of Philosophy degree in human ecology at the ceremony.

The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, takes place on Saturday, June 8, at 2 p.m. under a large tent on the school’s North Lawn.