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Learning the WISR Way

Prospective Students may develop a better understanding of “Learning the WISR Way” by going to the web pages developed for the introductory orientation to WISR–required of all new WISR students, except for MFT/LPCC students, but recommended for them as well. The course outline is below and most of the course content may be accessed at


Introduction to Transformative Learning for Professional and Community Leadership

This is an introductory course, required of WISR students in all degree programs, except for the MS in Psychology (leading to the MFT and/or LPCC license), which is designed to enable students to progress more effectively toward the successful completion of the degree program at WISR, so that students can get the most from their WISR education—in pursuing their learning passions and career interests, in developing the core meta-competencies valued at WISR, in fulfilling the learning objectives for their chosen WISR degree program, and in building bridges for themselves to the next significant things they wish to do in their lives.

1. Students read and study the methods of “Learning the WISR way”–studying the theories and strategies of WISR’s approach to transformative learning for professional and community leadership, as well as learning from stories and specific examples drawn from the experiences of other WISR students.

2. Students are introduced to methods of note-taking and writing in their own voice, as well as the use of professional conventions in formal writing and strategies of effective online research. Students are also introduced to the use of WISR’s library, and how to access other libraries and online library databases, as well as the WISR Career Center.

3. Throughout the course meet regularly with your faculty advisor(s) to help you progress and get the most out of this course. In this course, students are to reflect on, discuss with their faculty mentor(s) and fellow students, and write about what they are learning throughout their studies in this course

4. The culminating, required papers are a reflective autobiographical essay, a preliminary educational plan and a self-assessment inventory of strengths, challenges, needs, and opportunities in the pursuit of their future goals and learning. In addition, EdD students are expected to write a brief essay where they put forth ideas and questions relating what they’ve learned in this course to the content of their planned EdD studies in higher education and social change.

About Course Credit:

4 semester units for BS students

3 semester units for MS students (exception: students in the MS in Psychology are not required to do this course for credit since the State MFT requirements already require 60+ units–however, they are encouraged to spend time doing most of what is expected in this course, because this preparation will enable them to get more out of their studies at WISR and most likely, to progress more effectively through the many required courses).

2 semester units for EdD students

WISR Collage
To learn more about WISR . . .
We invite those interested in learning more about WISR’s distinctive qualities to contact us—to arrange to visit a seminar and to set up a meeting to ask questions and to discuss whether or nor WISR’s programs may meet your learning and career needs. Prospective students are also encouraged to ask for a copy of the published article, “Multicultural, Community-Based Knowledge-Building: Lessons from a Tiny Institution Where Students and Faculty Sometimes Find Magic in the Challenge and Support of Collaborative Inquiry” about WISR written by WISR core faculty members, Dr. Cynthia Lawrence and Dr. John Bilorusky. The following is the abstract of that article:

The two authors of this article, longtime colleagues at the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR), analyze and tell a story of community-based knowledge-building at WISR in Berkeley, California. “WISR was created in 1975 to provide a very small, socially progressive, and multicultural learning environment in which community-involved adults could construct individualized BA, MA and Doctoral programs in close collaboration with faculty. In this article, we look at WISR’s history, keys to our success, how we measure our success, stories that illustrate some outcomes for our learners, and WISR’s intangible qualities, including the subtle ways in which WISR faculty challenge and support our learners. Quite importantly, learners at WISR often come to appreciate that they, and indeed, most everyone, is involved in knowledge-building, to a greater or lesser degree.

Our efforts at WISR are considered in relation to the ‘bigger picture’—the teaching and learning of inquiry and scientific methods, other alternative programs and the conventional higher education establishment. As individuals, WISR learners find their own voices, build bridges to their desired career paths and pursue their hopes for bettering their communities. As inquiring colleagues of others, they further contribute to knowledge-building—in immediate endeavors in their local and professional communities, while directly and indirectly conveying to others what they are learning as well as how they are learning. Amidst the nuances of such collaborative inquiry, there is a special magic. That magic is the focus of this article and at the heart of why WISR continues to thrive in the face of seemingly impossible challenges to a tiny, alternative institution with severely limited financial resources.” (The article appears in Community and the World: Participating in Social Change. Torry D. Dickinson (ed.), Nova Science Publishers, 2003, and the quoted abstract above is on page 63.)

Read more about . . . The Intangible Qualities of Learning the WISR Way