Founding Board Members
President, Principal Founder
Dennis McKenna has conducted research in ethnopharmacology for over 40 years. He is a founding board member of the Heffter Research Institute, and was a key investigator on the Hoasca Project, the first biomedical investigation of ayahuasca. He is the younger brother of Terence McKenna. From 2000 to 2017, he taught courses on Ethnopharmacology and Plants in Human affairs as an adjunct Assistant Professor in the Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota. He emigrated to Canada in the spring of 2019 together with his wife Sheila, and now resides in Abbotsford.
Since 2019, he has been working with colleagues to manifest a long-term dream: the McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy, a non-profit organization founded in the spirit of the ancient Mystery Schools and dedicated to the study of plant medicines, consciousness, intelligence in nature, preservation of indigenous knowledge and a re-visioning of humanity's relationship with Nature. Dr. McKenna is author or co-author of 6 books and over 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals.
Christina's life's work reflects her respect for the wisdom of the ancestors, new sustainable innovations, and the basic needs of the people, in their space, in their time; her work has always been focused on fostering a more harmonic existence with the earth, with others, and with oneself. In Vilcabamba, Ecuador known as the "Valley of Longevity" she established the Cultural Community Center with the efforts of the local people, including the provincial and regional government. This included working with its Youth Eco-Club organizing workshops, projects for their town, and publishing a local newspaper. With a grant from the Ministry of Culture, she organized Festivals for Sustainability, local artisan fairs and establishment of its Association. Christina also produced a book of stories told by over 100 elders who were interviewed by local volunteer high school students and published by the University of Loja. In northern Ecuador, she spearheaded innovative waste management projects in a remote town in Cotacachi, involving the schools, organizations, volunteers, and local and regional governments. In the Sacred Valley of Peru, she initiated awareness campaigns for conscious living with the Municipality, which included public forums, a TV program, and mini-programs on the regional radio station. Since 2013, Christina has supported Dennis' Ayahuasca conferences, then gained much more insight into the world of plant medicine as the Ecuadorian representative for the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC).
Donna N. Burns
Director of the Board
Donna is a public policy veteran committed to seeing a healthy planet with happy people grow together. She has 40 years’ experience as a Washington DC AV-rated attorney (practicing under the name Donna N. Lampert), serving as a public interest advocate, a federal government official, a policy expert and a thriving law firm founder/managing partner. She’s been a tireless and prolific voice for the public’s interest in fairness, openness and access to diverse communications media, working extensively on issues such as telecom and media consolidation, diversity and open internet. From 2019-2021, she was a founding Board member and Officer of NY Small Farma Ltd, a Hudson Valley, NY 501(c)(3) dedicated to a socially just, environmentally regenerative and economically inclusive cannabis industry and successfully helped shape the NY cannabis law to be the best in the U.S. Donna has been a lifelong gardener and nature lover and a devoted practicing student of plant and herbal medicine for many decades. Throughout, she has been committed to bringing the feminine skills of compassion, community and collaboration to our daily work and spreading the seeds of appreciation and awe for our plant allies.
John Stanek has been a life-long student of philosophy, spirituality, and expansion of consciousness. Growing up a ‘child of the sixties’ John was drawn to study philosophy in his college days, particularly the writings of Carlos Castenada which sparked a fascination with a Separate Reality and the power of plant teachers to assist in guiding the way to healing at the soul level. During his 40 year professional life, as a financial and operating executive John helped build businesses in marketing communications and portfolio businesses in private equity. He currently serves as an advisor to CEO’s and management teams. In 2017, he left corporate life to more fully explore spirituality, the realm of plant teachers, and the burgeoning field of psychedelic medicine. Excursions to the mountains and jungles of Peru, to Asia, and the Himalayas of Tibet and Nepal have been transformative life experiences. John joined the board of McKenna Academy of Natural Philosophy in 2020 and serves as Treasurer. John is a native of and currently resides in Chicago.