Barbara Schaetti’s childhood spanned the globe. Her Swiss father and American mother were both born in India and raised globally, and they raised Barbara and her sisters in the international life. Though she’s now settled in as a Whidbey Island resident, Barbara lived in ten countries on five continents by age 18 and made 12 international moves by the age of 22.
She describes the pleasure of learning that who she was had a name: “There was an ethnic identity associated with growing up globally. ‘Global Nomad’ and ‘Third Culture Kid’ are the terms used in the literature.” She was so compelled by the experience of finding her own cultural community that she founded an independent consultancy to serve the expatriate and repatriate community, helping people in geographic and cultural transitions. “Starting Transition Dynamics was a way for me to do my own integration by helping others do theirs. Now, I’ve shifted into teaching the teachers, and facilitating the facilitators.”
At the Whidbey Institute, Barbara is delighting in the experience of grounding in place. “My whole life has been about moving from place on the planet to place on the planet,” she said. “To be so grounded on these 100 acres is a revolutionary experience.” She is energized by the like-hearted people in the Institute circle, whom she described as, “sharing similar visions and passions of possibility.” She’s enthusiastic about the alignment of our mission with the organizational structures that we put in place, and excited about delving deeper in this work as we move out of our 40th year into the next phase of our development as an organization. She’s playing a key role in refining our organizational practices to better serve our purpose in a changing world.
Before joining the Whidbey Institute Board in fall 2013, and in addition to her work with Transition Dynamics, Barbara co-founded Personal Leadership (PL) Seminars and the PL Facilitator Community of Practice. She describes Personal Leadership as a practice that helps people move beyond automatic reactions in multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural settings to mindful, creative engagement and mutual collaboration. She finds that this work beautifully compliments her service on the Institute Board. “In the PL Community of Practice, we’ve been exploring how we do what we do in a way that aligns with our mission. The dynamic of [that work] is co-influential with what we’re exploring at the Institute.”
Barbara’s engagement with the board has been deeply satisfying, and she said she especially enjoys working with a multi-generational team. “I love the breadth that’s bringing,” she said, “and I love the passion, commitment, and range of expertise that’s present in both the Board and staff.”
In addition to her professional and volunteer commitments, Barbara is making space in her life for personal indulgences: she loves to swim in fresh water, read a good novel, dig in the garden, and partake in the complimentary pleasures of good conversation and sweet solitude. While she continues to enjoy global travel, she said she is taking some time to connect with her home. “I had 14 months without air travel before my recent trip to Switzerland—the longest stretch since I was born—and I’m curious to see how long the next stretch now will be!”
Barbara ended our rich conversation with a reference to Wendell Berry. “He talks about making common cause with place. Now, I’m making common cause with this small part of the planet, in the Maxwelton Valley.”