Alumni Interview with Rafaela Graça Scheiffer

Mar Häusler • 13 March 2019
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Dear Community, this month meet Rafa!

An active Alumni who finished the MSc in Holistic Science in 2017, stayed closely connected to the college and has an amazing project she is developing in Portugal.

She is making a call out for mentors and advisors to connect with and assist her in bringing this to life! Read more about her journey and connect to her inner calling and cause...


Name : Rafaela Graça Scheiffer

Location : Lisbon, Portugal


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Q: What course(s) did you attend at Schumacher College, which years have you been involved and how closely connected are you to the college now?

I attended the MSc Holistic Science in 2016-2017 and as Fritjof Capra could not teach that year, I have taken his short course in 2018 entitled "Mind, Matter and Life: An Unified Systemic View". As I was living around the area until last December, I remained involved with the College and had the opportunity of befriending two other cohorts of students, attending more Earth Talks, volunteering and even taking visitors on tours around the College. 


Q: Looking back, how did your time at the college most influence your life?

The whole thing is much clearer now. Schumacher attracted me for its "community of learning" aspect as well as the offer of an alternative degree in Science. I tasted mainstream science during my training as a biologist and have been disencouraged to pursue inquiries that put in jeopardy basic scientific assumptions - such as the scientist's attitude of neutrality, objectivity and linear, mechanic thinking. By studying Holistic Science I connected to the qualitative side of reality, largely ignored by mainstream science. I started being in my body and being more fully a human being. As students we did that by developing relationships with rivers, trees and the wider ecosystem; diving deeper into shamanism and finding our personal ways of "belonging together" with Nature. We were cooking, gardening and cleaning for our community. My time at the college proved me it was possible to do science in a much more organic, human way. That is what I have chosen to pursue.


Q: What has been your biggest take away from your time at Schumacher College?

The learning that whatever the question, love is the answer. It might sounds "mambo jumbo" as Satish often jokes, however it was my love of knowledge that has taken me to Schumacher when I decided that a scientific career was not for me. In 2013, I saw people developing serious mental illness and putting up with toxic relationships with their supervisors only to touch their boundaries and drop their PhD. They felt like "brains with legs" and nothing more. Today I understand that the intellect exists to serve the heart; we have got plenty of human problems to solve but what is the point in accumulating books and theses that will never be read and used? What is the point in ignoring our feelings, senses and intuition that if integrated could transform the crises we created? Personally we all have a choice to make. Mine is to take part in an action-oriented science that is deeply human and spreads love. I still figuring out what this really means...and I am looking for people in this same journey. 


Q: To what extent did your time at Schumacher inform and/or facilitate your choice of work?

Well, I described previously some of my discomforts as a science student. I only left Schumacher recently, but something I realised quickly is that the network of Schumies that have been to the College is very powerful. I have been learning to ask for help. My experience led me to the decision that I will not work for organisations that put profit over people and planet. For this reason, I have fewer possibilities but an "extra push" to follow Satish's advice and create my own good work. I did not think this way before Schumacher. 


Q: What have you done since leaving the college.. and what are you doing now? What has led you to this point?

I finished the course in September 2017. I used the last trimester to take some rest in Dartington after writing an intense dissertation on climate change. I also attended events that showed me the key role of water for the climate. I bumped into Portugal's massive problem with forest fires and low water levels in their reservoirs while visiting family. Like magic, I was invited to work for a water charity in Dartington in 2018 - suddenly, connections between the carbon and water cycles became evident through the work of inspiring practitioners I got to know personally. I have been writing some articles on Ecology and (Eco)systems thinking - recently joining events in Brazil and Portugal as a speaker. While getting adapted to Portugal, experimenting with freelance work and connecting to the Portuguese, I plant here my intention of regenerating Portuguese ecosystems affected by the fires by planting water and restoring health through the restoration of local water cycles. I really want to make this great style. 


Q: How are you living your livelihood “right livelihood”? Expressing yourself in the world?

I first have been reducing my personal belongings such as clothes, books (painful but necessary) and electronic gadgets. I am learning how to live with much less money - for a while, my biggest investments have been on travelling. Since I left Schumacher, I have been living more or less like a nomad. I don't change beds every night but my stay in a single house is restricted to only a few months. Having less for me means more freedom - and mental space to care about relationships. I have been tracking down everything I eat and wear; buying local and befriending farmers; doing more with my own hands...and meditating. Having better conversations. I have been observing more, too.


Something to share with the wider community of your life… 

I have a call for action: I am looking for Schumies to mentor, advise, connect and assist me with fundraising, planning of the regeneration project, and also communicating my ideas in a simple and elegant way. If you can help, please drop me a message at


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