Rhode Island’s loudest jewelry company, Alex and Ani, was recently featured in an intriguing newspaper article.
No, we’re not talking about the March 28 New York Times mini-profile in which founder/CEO Carolyn Rafaelian said her products are imbued with energy, thanks to consulting with “physicists all over the world”; that the company’s bangles “hold vibration of pure energy, healing love”; and that, before hitting stores, “every product has been blessed by my priests…by my shaman friends, protected from radio frequency, from radioactivity.”
We’re talking about the April 3 Providence Journal piece reporting A&A is closing their boutique on Weybosset Street in Providence to make way for “about 15 Alex and Ani University employees who will move into that location from the jewelry company’s Cranston headquarters.”
Alex and Ani University — not to be confused with Alex and Ani and/or Rafaelian’s stabs at winemaking (Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard), coffee shops (Teas and Javas), a media and advertising studio (Seven Swords Media), and entertainment management (Alex and Ani Entertainment, which represents Colour of London, the soft-rock duo billed as the “voice of Alex and Ani”) — is the branch of the company that “offers workshops, Learning Journeys & Courses birthed to awaken, nurture, and inspire human development through self-understanding and systems thinking.”
AAU’s website features course offerings (“LEAD 310 AS3™- Approach Sensitive Systematic Storytelling,” “ORG 110 CORE PLUS™ Positivity Training”), testimonials (“It’s retail therapy at its finest,” a student gushes about the class RET 110 Rethinking Retail™); and signed copies of AAU Chief Education Consultant Dennis Rebelo’s “Story Manifesto,” a sheet dotted with phrases like “To story is human” and “Honor your calling & act on it with purpose” which is “Priced to ignite a spark daily” at $99.99. Delivering a speech in Las Vegas earlier this year, Rebelo introduced himself as the “second CEO . . . the Chief Education Officer” of Alex and Ani. AAU’s insignia features the phrase: “(+)THINKING™.”
But is Alex and Ani University really a university?
In a word, “No.”
Page four of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education’s regulations for proprietary schools clearly reads: “No school may use the word ‘college’ or ‘university’ in its title.” When we inquired with RI Office of Higher Education interim director, Clark Greene, he responded, “Based upon discussions that the office has had with the company, its use of the name ‘University’ only applies to their internal employee training operation and not to the courses that they will offer to the public within RI.” Hypothetically, any future use of the word “university” for external purposes would run afoul of regulations, he added.
This perhaps explains why, as AAU edges ever closer to opening its doors to the general public — Rebelo offers no dates, only saying, “It’s coming” — AAU has spun off Alex and Ani Institute, which is short for the “Alex and Ani Evolutionary Leadership Institute,” Rebelo says. At Alexandaniinstitute.com, you’ll find descriptions of upcoming three-day, $3,785 retreats in Sausalito, California and North Adams, Massachusetts. “Story Like You Mean It™, a Path of Life™ narrative retreat, will give you the opportunity to reflect, story, and create,” the site says. “Through this self-reflection, you will begin to understand the connectedness of your seemingly disconnected story. Learn how to articulate your personal plot line to the world and create your life’s next chapter — story your dream™.”