The Ignite Institute
Ignite was founded in 2014 by Pacific School of Religion as a hub for innovative new programs connecting spirituality, leadership, and social changemaking.
In this time of upheaval, with so many social and economic inequalities,
the need for resilient and skilled leadership is essential.
The Ignite Institute offers innovative leadership training programs,
thought leadership, and events at the intersection
of spirituality, community building, and social change.
Trainings are facilitated by scholars, community organizers, activists, artists, and spiritual leaders. Our workshops and trainings are interactive, experiential, and co-created by those we serve.
Ignite is on the leading edge of identifying, developing, and supporting spiritual practices for social transformation.
Pacific School of Religion
For more than 150 years, Pacific School of Religion has been committed to the goal of social transformation. PSR students and faculty members have been leaders in many movements for social change, from organizing against Japanese internment camps, to participating in the civil rights movement. PSR founded the first center for the study of LGBTQ issues in religion at a seminary in 2000.
Derene began her professional career in Latin America with American Express. She is a successful international entrepreneur, comfortable in high growth, highly volatile environments, having co-founded a database marketing company in 4 countries in Latin America. For close to two decades, she was a Principal at Santiago Solutions Group, responsible for their Social Practice, linking for profit organizations with community opportunities. She has worked with a diverse set of organizations from Verizon and Johnson & Johnson to AARP, UNICEF, and Catholic Charities.
Derene has extensive experience helping nonprofits develop more sustainable financial models, devising social enterprises, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment strategies that result in increased earned income, engagement, and volunteer participation, particularly from multicultural communities. In 2008, in the midst of the great recession, Derene launched and managed the San Francisco worker owned cooperative for the nonprofit, Prospera, a social enterprise creating healthy, dignified jobs for low income Latinas.
Derene has taught at universities in the United States and in Latin America. She currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship for UC Berkeley Extension, the Silicon Valley Immersion Program at the University of San Francisco, and as a Mentor in the Global Social Benefits Institute at the Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.
Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart
Rev. Odette Lockwood-Stewart has led congregations and campus ministries for thirty-five years as an elder in the United Methodist Church. She has served as Senior Pastor of four United Methodist Congregations, and Chair of the Order of Elders in the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
She has given professional leadership at international, national, regional, and local levels of the denomination and ecumenical associations, including serving as Director of the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry and as President of the National Campus Ministry Association. She has directed ministry programs at University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Berkeley, San Diego State University and University of California, San Francisco. All of these programs had immersive learning components for graduate and undergraduate students.
Reverend Lockwood-Stewart has founded and re-vitalized ministries in health sciences, higher education, and community organizing as well as served as the founding director of PSR’s Contextual Learning program. She has also published devotions, sermons, curriculum, sermons, and poetry journal articles and papers in social religious history, which is the area of her academic interest as congregational and campus pastor.
Leslie Leasure is a writer, activist, and an ordained minister. Leslie is a Change Leader at Pacific School of Religion, charged with coordinating PSR's initiative to become part of the Ashoka Changemaker Campus Network. She is the curator of Into the Wilderness, an experimental spiritual practice-based community.
Prior to her work at Ignite, Leslie served several nonprofit organizations as a fundraising director and on the board of the Pat Graney Company. She has been active in advocacy for substance abuse treatment, LGBTQ equality, and prison reform.
Leslie holds an MFA from Indiana University and an MDiv from Pacific School of Religion. Her fiction has been published in Blithe House Quarterly, Del Sol Review, and in various anthologies. She is a member of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Oakland.
Mahsea Evans is an educator, artist, and ordained minister who has dynamically engaged the topics of religious pluralism and social change through writings, lectures, performances and workshops. He presently works as an Assistant Pastor St. Marks United Methodist Church in Sacramento, and has been a trainer for Ignite Institute for two years. He received both his Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. This former Changemaker Fellow combines his passion for imaginative theologies, community organizing, education, and creative arts in service to the cause of social transformation. Originally from Hartford, CT, Mahsea currently resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife, Dr. Kawami Evans, and daughter, Niara (9).