Carol S. Pearson: My Biography


I am an author and educator in private practice, specializing in the applications of myth, archetypes, and narrative to contemporary life. I retired from academic leadership to focus on my scholarly work on archetypal narrative intelligence and the power of story, which entails writing, speaking, and educating through workshops, classes, and other means. My husband and best friend, David R. Merkowitz, is my business partner.

As I’m writing this, the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®)which identifies archetypes that individuals are living—has entered a new phase, being relaunched in an updated, improved form with its own website. This well-tested instrument grew out of a 12 archetype system I developed in pilot form in my book The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By, and in fully realized form in Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes To Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World.

Many of my subsequent publications and instruments apply this system in various fields of human endeavor. For more information about these and related publications, go to the Publications section of this website. At present, I am completing a book on narrative intelligence and the use and benefits of the PMAI® that is tentatively titled What Story Are You Living? Meaning, Mattering, and Making a Life. This project grew out of a workbook I wrote with Hugh Marr (co-creator of the PMAI®), which he is in the process of revising.

As a result of the trajectory of my academic career as a professor and administrator, I’ve become fascinated with leadership success in its system contexts, as well as by the alchemical process by which inner change leads to outer system transformation. My most recent publication, Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within, explores archetypal patterns in a Greek myth that was the basis of the most important mystery initiation rite in ancient Athens. Its plotline parallels current events in American politics, and also provides a map for how we could achieve greater gender parity and partnership along with a healthier relationship, more generally, with one another and the earth.

My Academic Career and Leadership Labs

I love to learn, which is likely why I have two doctorates. The first was a Ph.D. in English from Rice University in a department that stressed the myth/symbol school of literary criticism, where depth psychology work such as that of C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell was applied to literature, leading to my focus on the role of narrative intelligence in human success and fulfillment. The second, a Doctor of Ministry degree, had an interfaith focus, arising from the work of theologian Matthew Fox tracking patterns in mainstream and indigenous traditions with parallels in nature. My studies expanded my understanding of archetypal patterns in spirituality and dreams relevant to the needs and consciousness of our times. These degrees were supplemented by postgraduate trainings in depth psychology, psychological type, and active imagination and creativity, as well as many workshops and trainings in leadership and organizational dynamics and personal enrichment experiences in body awareness and dance.

I began to be recruited into leadership largely because my research on pattern recognition often revealed to me what needed to be accomplished in various settings; in turn, the positions I held provided hands-on experience that enriched my scholarly work. I first directed two Women’s Studies Programs, one at the University of Colorado Boulder and the other at the University of Maryland, College Park, and later the Transformational Leadership Certificate Program at the Georgetown University Center for Professional Development.

As an American Council on Education Fellow in Academic Administration, I was trained for higher level academic leadership. Subsequently, in collaboration with ACE’s Office on Women, I helped construct guidelines for how colleges and universities could better serve the needs of women administrators, faculty, and students, outlined in Educating the Majority: Women Challenge Tradition in Higher Education, which I co-edited with Donna L. Shavlik and Judith G. Touchton. The ACE Fellowship and the resulting collaboration led me to accept the role of Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean at Goucher College, a women’s college that I helped transition to coeducation.

The unexpected groundswell of interest in The Hero Within and subsequent works led to a coaching, speaking, and workshop practice, offered through various venues; the creation of the PMAI® and of an assessment instrument that identifies the active archetypes in organizational cultures (the IBM-Kenexa Cultural Insight™ survey); and the publication of The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes (co-authored with Margaret Mark), Mapping the Organizational Psyche: A Jungian Theory of Organizational Dynamics and Change (co-authored with John Corlett), and other books.

The development of this work led to my becoming a Professor of Leadership Studies in the School of Public Policy and Director of the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland. During my tenure there, the Academy was the incubator of the International Leadership Association (ILA). I was privileged to be a member of ILA’s Board of Directors and to lead a major Fetzer Institute project on Leadership for Transformation, which resulted in the publication of my edited volume of essays, The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-First Century). I left UMD to become Executive Vice President/Provost and then President of Pacifica Graduate Institute, which is the only free-standing, accredited graduate school devoted entirely to the study of depth psychology—a place where I could enter into discussions with faculty about the archetypes in our collective interactions, emerging shadow issues, and what our individual dreams were telling us about our work together. Currently, I am engaged in exploring archetypal patterns active in the United States, but am not yet sure how, or with whom, this will be shared.