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Conversations with Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson (bottom center) with series co-hosts Chitra Golestani (top right) and Niki Daniels (top left)

Part 1

Why Bahá’í?

April 1, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

Video graphic featuring WI community members holding the letters
Rainn answers questions like "What is the Bahá’í Faith?" "How do you keep in touch with your Faith at home?" and "How do we know God exists?"

Part 2

More Bahá’í Questions

April 8, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

video cover graphic - photo of Rainn Wilson plus animated WI figures holding the letters
Rainn responds to the audience: "What's the Bahá’í 'Bible'?" "Are there any ceremonies, like Mass?" and more. And we ask the audience: "What do you usually do when you feel annoyed by the actions of others?"

Part 3

Tough Bahá’í Questions

April 15, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

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This audience asks some tough questions! Like "How does being a Bahá’í affect your relationships with coworkers..." and "In what ways does the Bahá’í Faith address political corruption and economic disparity in the U.S.?"

Part 4

"Power of Youth"

May 6, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

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Special guests Nika, Nura, Nava and Vadi Esmailizadeh, and Luke Pereira, joined Rainn Wilson and Chitra Golestani to share their experiences with the Bahá’í-inspired Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment movement.

Part 5

Unity: How do we NOT go back to Normal

June 10, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

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Special Guests for our June conversation were Drs. June and Richard Thomas, and Dave Grammer, LMFT/WI Adjunct Lecturer. See bios at the foot of the page. Watch the live stream embedded on the page. Share with your friends!

Part 6

How do we NOT go back to Normal (Part 2)

July 1, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

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Drs. June and Richard Thomas continue the conversation with Rainn about constructive resilience.

Part 7

Whites and Race Unity: A New Normal

August 5, 2020 AT 02:30 PM Pacific, 05:30 PM Eastern

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Dr. Randie Gottlieb (UnityWorks founder, educator, diversity trainer, author, poet) and Dave Grammer, LMFT, WI Adjunct Lecturer, join Rainn Wilson for conversations about White people and race unity.


See also UnityWorks Foundation website



Randie Gottlieb

Dr. Randie Gottlieb is the founder and CEO of UnityWorks. Dr. Gottlieb has worked as a classroom teacher at every level, a school principal, college administrator, university professor, curriculum developer and diversity trainer. Her work has taken her to over 30 countries, including 11 years in Puerto Rico, where she administered an international training center, taught cross-cultural communication workshops for people from around the world, produced Spanish-language community-service radio and television programs, and founded an elementary school. She is the author of over ten books and curriculum guides, including the award-winning Teaching Unity, and holds degrees in Education from Cal State, Boston University and Harvard.


June Manning Thomas

Born and raised in South Carolina, June Manning Thomas attended college at Michigan State University (MSU). She chose urban planning as a field in part because of her memories of finding relief from Jim Crow accommodations in big cities that she visited. She has taught at MSU, Cleveland State University, and University of Michigan (UM); published extensively; and eventually became the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Urban Planning, UM. See also:


Richard Thomas

Richard W. Thomas, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of History at Michigan State University, where he taught courses on the black urban experience, comparative black history, and U.S. race relations.  He has lectured on race relations and the black experience in England, Switzerland, Ireland, Australia, Israel, and South Africa.  His books include:  Life for Us is What We Make It:  Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945 (Indiana Univ. Press); Understanding Interracial Unity:  A Study of U. S. Race Relations (Sage Publications); and co-edited with Gwen Etter-Lewis, Lights of the Spirit:  Historical Portraits of Black Baha’is in North America, 1898-2000.  In 1993 he received the Gustavus Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in North America for his book, Understanding Interracial Unity. In 1995 he received the Wesley-Logan Prize by the American Historical Association and the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History for his book Life for Us is What We Make It.  The book by Joe Darden and Richard W. Thomas, Detroit:  Race Riots, Racial Conflicts, and Efforts to Bridge the Racial Divide (Michigan State Univ. Press, 2013), was named a Michigan Notable Book for 2013 and winner of a 2014 State History Award by the Historical Society of Michigan.  Recently he co-authored William H. Smith and Richard W. Thomas, Race Amity:  America’s Other Tradition, A Primer (2019). Thomas was one of the original twelve men who formed the Baha’i Men’s Gathering in 1987, and he is co-authoring a second edition of a book about that experience.  He is presently a member of the Ann Arbor Baha’i community.


Rainn Wilson

Rainn Wilson is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, producer and a member of the Bahá’í Faith. He is best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on the Emmy Award winning sitcom, The Office. What many people may not know is Rainn’s love for the Bahá’í Faith and humanitarian work.


Nicola Daniels, MSc

WI Registrar & Student Services Specialist

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica. My interest in music, theatre, and the literary arts led me to abandon my academic degrees and a career in the Forensic Sciences, to take up a position with the British Council Caribbean as Arts & Education Officer. I worked for several years as the British Council Manager in my homeland, performing at various times with the Jamaica Musical Theatre Company, the National Chorale, and the Carifolk Singers. A small book of my poetry—Weights and Measures—was published by the Calabash Foundation in 2005, and my poems have garnered awards and been honored by publication in several anthologies. I served (and learned) alongside Jamaica’s first national poet laureate, Professor Mervyn Morris, as a judge for the Cultural Development Commission’s annual poetry competition. In 2008 I migrated to the US to live with my husband, Julian, whom I met on Bahá’í pilgrimage in Israel. My first teaching experience was as a poetry tutor at the Phillip Sherlock Center for the Creative Arts. Later, I participated in one of the first Wilmette Institute Science & Religion courses, and have since served as faculty on that course, and several others. In March 2012, I gave a presentation on World Peace at a Peace Conference hosted by Lander University. This experience inspired me to create a board game called Heart to Heart, featuring short quotations on unifying spiritual themes from 10 of the world’s religions and cultures. The game led to a website, a video channel, firmer friendships, a lot of learning, and a good deal of fun! I have served as a member of the Wilmette Institute Board, and also worked part-time for the Institute as Marketing Coordinator and Course Creation Assistant. I get a thrill from using my creative and (mostly self-taught) computer skills to create instructional materials. In March (2019) I took up a position as the Institute’s first Registrar. I enjoy handbell ringing with the Emerald Bells (finally back together after Covid), and since 2021, making music in my home studio and blogging.See Faculty Bio


Dave Grammer, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Dave is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles California. He has experience working with adults, adolescents, individuals, families, and running groups. Dave has focused primarily on treating adolescents and family relationships. He has experience working in outpatient and residential treatment settings, and has worked with diverse populations and issues. Dave has been training capoeira, an afro brazilian martial art with music as an integral part, for the last ten years, and teaching for about half that time. There is power in movement and being in the body. Dave has worked to integrate martial arts, music, and movement into therapy throughout his career. Dave is married, with two children.See Faculty Bio


Chitra Golestani, PhD

WI Associate Director, Faculty, Institute for Humane Education

Dr. Chitra Golestani is currently Associate Director of the Wilmette Institute and an Adjunct Faculty at the Institute for Humane Education/Antioch University. She also works as an educational consultant, guest lecturer, qualitative researcher, and a co-founder of the Paulo Freire Institute (PFI) at UCLA - an organization committed to social justice education locally and globally. Her areas of interest, lectures and research include Human Rights, Social Justice and Global Citizenship Education, Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice, Youth Activism in Extended Education, Conscious Living and Social Action. She holds a PhD in Social Science and Comparative Education from UCLA and a Master’s in Education from University of California, Santa Barbara. Her areas of interest, lectures and research include Human Rights, Social Justice and Global Citizenship Education, Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice, Youth Activism in Extended Education, Conscious Living and Social Action. In September 2019, she began a new administrative position as Associate Director of the Wilmette Institute. Her work is inspired by her lived experience with persecution in the country of her birth, Iran, where members of the Bahá’í Faith are not allowed to practice, are prohibited from accessing higher education, and denied other civil rights. While still a young child, her family escaped this marginalization and fled to the US in search of religious freedom, equality between women and men and human rights. Currently, Dr. Golestani is engaged in numerous grass-roots programs aimed at raising human capacity, locally and globally, to work towards a more just, united, and sustainable planet. Listen to Chitra's interview on "A Bahá’í Perspective."See Faculty Bio

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