After completing a B.A. in Psychology from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia in 2007, Ki Smith started her professional career working with children in psychiatric crisis at Albertina Kerr Centers' Sub Acute program in Portland, Oregon. At Kerr, Ki was trained extensively in Dr. Ross Greene's modality known as Collaborative Problem Solving (Think:Kids). From that time until the present, she has worked across three foreign countries and many disciplines, incorporating and teaching those skills to children and colleagues along the way. In 2016, prompted by the presidential election and seeing with new eyes the degree to which the country and world is and was at odds, she began actively studying NVC. She found it an elegant and clear modality to express many of the lessons and practices she had encountered over the course of her life, and knew from her very first lesson with trainer Kathy Marchant that this would become her life's work. She was later invited to co-teach at the Portland Insight Meditation Community with Dharma Teacher and NVC facilitator, Doyle Banks, and co-taught an 11-week course and ongoing practice group with him until 2019, when she left Portland to pursue her Master's degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.
In a workshop on her very first day at Naropa, Ki encountered an approach to ethics called the Right Use of Power™. In that opening retreat, Ki realized that power-consciousness was a critical missing piece to the puzzle of compassionate, skillful communication. Since her first encounters with NVC, in 2016, Ki had met many people whose lives were positively transformed by the practice, and yet many others who had stories of being harmed by those using NVC out of alignment with its core values: as a tool to get needs met without awareness/consideration of others needs and/or impacts of harm, nor consciousness of intersectional power dynamics and how they impact communication. Ki imagined that an integration of the Right Use of Power framework with the practice of NVC could support an approach in better alignment with Marshall Rosenberg’s vision of emotional liberation (“my needs and yours”), deepening personal empowerment and responsibility, and potentially reducing interpersonal harm. Holding this awareness and vision at the core of her approach, Ki now teaches an ever-evolving 12-week Power-Conscious NVC course entitled "Language for the Open-Hearted Warrior," informed by the integration of these two powerful tools. The course is named as it is because it seeks to draw out the warriorship of skillful action steeped in compassion and wisdom, supported by power-consciousness, collective wisdom, and collective care formed in Beloved Community.
Ki graduated with a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Naropa’s Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology Program in May of 2022. While earning her degree at Naropa, she engaged with their Restorative Community Institute, first as a student volunteer, then as a practicum student for Restorative Community, and finally serving as the Community Repair & Support Team (CReST) & Restorative Community Assistant (work-study), where she supported training and facilitation of restorative processes with members of the Naropa community. Ki is passionate about working in community with others to support transformational healing of interpersonal and systemic suffering.
Ki is grateful to have ongoing mentorship and support from others in this work as she walks the path of the compassionate and wise “Open-Hearted Warrior,” humbly knowing the journey is never complete.