Updated: Feb 20, 2022
The energy Dr. Darren Bernal brings to teaching is special. Whether in a swirl of extroverts or among brilliant students who can sometimes compete to make the edgiest or most bombastic claims possible, Darren listens. And then he affirms opinions he may not share. Before offering his own powerfully compelling view on the matter at hand with a mic-drop gravitas that builds consensus where divergent arguments had been.
It happens all the time with Darren--who is known on his home campus at UNC Asheville as one of most powerful and generous intellects in any department--that former students praise him for being an ally to everyone but a pushover to nobody:
Dr. Bernal commands respect without ever trying. He fosters an air of trust in his students and models a deep integrity that people feel almost immediately with him. Some of us on The Catalyst talked about his aura. That his commitment to all of us and to our well being totally transcended what any of us ever found from a professor before. Sereena, Catalyst '17
A Mindful Spirit
Jamaican from his heart out, Darren has lived, taught and traveled all over the world. From Europe to India and southeast Asia, his life has featured growth and adventure at every turn. Fostered toward academia by the example of his his learned and global parents, Darren's fascination with Psychology began at an early age. And the questions he was drawn to then are not so different from the ones that animate him now: How do people connect? What are the the stories we tell ourselves that are burdens to our wellness? How can intentionality and mindfulness become practices that make life better?
Darren on The Catalyst
Darren teaches two of The Catalyst's signature classes. In London and Paris, he leads our Mindfulness and Wellness course. From a Buddhist monastery to the banks of the Seine River in Paris, generations of Catalyst alumni have relished this amazing learning experience:
Dr. Bernal taught us Yoga in London's Hyde Park. And then our class engaged in consideration of Art Therapy by incorporating museums in our learning day. Today I run my own wellness business in my home town. Not a single day passes that I don't think of what Dr. Bernal taught me and modeled for me in London and Paris. Aija, Catalst 18
In Berlin and Prague, Darren's students have similarly celebrated his course on Sexuality and Gender. Taught together with other faculty on The Catalyst, this course is often cited as a total life-changer for its alumni. This is in no small part because of the sensitivity Darren brings as a clinician to the highly-personal and charged topics the course explores.
The interaction between Dr. Bernal and our class on even the most personal elements of our Sexuality course was so thoughtful, sensitive and trust-based in ever case. I think some of us in this class had never given voice to what we found ourselves openly and passionately talking about in Berlin in his class. You can't get to discussions like we did unless the professor holds that sacred and safe space for the students.
Darren on Life
His Catalyst colleagues go to Darren when we are abroad for help with our own efforts to manage the stress and strain of a fast-moving projects like The Catalyst. His reliable calmness and chill have steadied many storms for us, just as he has helped his students improve markedly in their own efficacy as managers of their mental wellness. Sometimes our needs are more basic though. Where is the best vegetarian or vegan food in any of our cities? Darren knows. Where is the best place to practice Yoga outside in our cities? Darren knows. And where is the best place to secure a pub table with great viewing angles to watch his beloved Liverpool in a football match?
That last one: Darren might not tell you. Why?
Mindfulness and my love of LFC football don't really intersect. This game is a different energy and a different passion. The game is always beautiful but how I feel as the match unfolds very often is not. Calm in other pursuits I am. But in this way of being a fan, I am not calm.