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SEMINAR AND OPEN HOUSE, Saturday, August 25th

August 21, 2018 by  



followed by Open House

Saturday, August 25


 John Bilorusky, PhD, WISR President and Core Faculty Member

 ~John Bilorusky will present for discussion, strategies to use at WISR to assess student learning, to promote further student learning and provide evidence to external groups, such as an accrediting agency — of the substance, value and multi-dimensionality of student learning at WISR.

This seminar will help students and faculty to collaborate in conducting learning assessments in each course and throughout a student’s studies, and even beyond, in their endeavors as alumni.

~Dr. Bilorusky, will present a theoretical framework for assessing learning, developed out of 40+ years’ of experience in “learning the WISR way.” The presentation and subsequent discussion will include reflections on the strengths and limitations of specific well-defined indicators on the one hand, and textured, complex stories and exemplars of student learning, on the other hand. MFT Students: Attendance at the All School Gathering counts as attendance at an MFT seminar.

~The seminar will also allow significant time to discuss the format and structure of WISR’s new, online courses — some of which are already “live” at:  https://sites.google.com/wisr.edu/lms/home   In order to access, you must each time first sign into your wisr.edu email account!



 Refreshments Provided

 Saturday, August 25th, noon to 4pm

 ~Prospective Students and others interested in learning more about WISR are invited to attend!

 ~We will have updates on plans for online learning with WISR’s pursuit for accreditation.

 ~Alumni, current students, faculty & board are invited to “check in” in person, by Zoom or phone, to share anecdotes and stories about their WISR experience.

~~Contact admin@wisr.edu or john.bilorusky@wisr.edu if you want to attend via zoom or telephone and provide a phone # in case of technical difficulties.

JUNE 30 9:30 to 1:30 pm. WISR All School Gathering: WISR in the 21st Century

April 30, 2018 by  

6/30 WISR in the 21st Century:
Using Online Methods in the Pursuit of Accreditation with Librarian Cynthia Roberson and Learning Technologist Mark Wilson


All School Gathering (ASG)
Working on WISR’s
Strategic Plan

9:30am – 1:30 pm
All School Gathering (ASG)
Working on WISR’s Strategic Plan

TSaturday, June 30th 
10 am to 1 pm
Cynthia Roberson, MLIS, WISR Librarian and WISR Learning Technologist, Mark Wilson, Facilitators.

This seminar will be devoted to demonstrating for WISR students and faculty (as well as Board and active alumni): 1) how to access library resources online–for use in courses as well as individual student research projects; 2) copyright and fair use regulations we must comply with while using library resources, physical and digital; 3) Google Suite for Education for collaboration and communication, Google Drive for storage (resources, meeting minutes and course content, alike), the newly required participation in online forums, and Google Sites for eportfolios, courses, blogs, and much more.

MFT Students: Attendance at the AllSchool Gathering counts as attendance at an MFT seminar. 

Please RSVP by e-mail to
john.bilorusky@wisr.edu to participate by videoconference or phone and provide a phone # in case of technical difficulties.

Log on: https://zoom.us/j/435216380
Or call 646-876-9923, 669-900-6833  or 408-740- 3766; Meeting ID: 435 216 380

$30,000 Matching Funds Opportunity! Donate to WISR in 2017 and in 2018

November 19, 2017 by  

Matching Funds Opportunity!!!:

Completely unexpectedly and extremely generously, an anonymous donor from the WISR community came forward with an offer based on unexpected monies that have come their way.  They will match up to $30,000 of the donations WISR receives over the next 13 months–$5,000 for December, and $25,000 for 2018.  We have matched the $5,000 as of the end of December, and have received an additional $5,000 toward the $25,000 match for 2018.  With another $20,000 in donations in 2018, we will receive the total $30,000 offered under this matching funds opportunity.

Some of you have already given, and others may not be able to give, and we are suggesting that those of you who cannot donate, try to contact individuals or groups whom you know who may be able to donate.  The monies donated can substantially strengthen our ability to successfully pursue accreditation.

Academic Advisory Committee

July 14, 2017 by  

Role of Academic Advisory Committee

As WISR moves toward long-term sustainability, we have formed an Advisory Committee to help us critically assess and creatively formulate where we are, and where we might next head, to build on our 40+ year history as an extremely innovative and vibrant academic institution.  We have chosen people who have extensive experience as leaders in traditional academic institutions, and who also share our commitments to social justice, community involvement, multiculturalism and transformative, personalized learning. The role of the Advisory Committee is primarily one of helping us think of ways to continue to develop our strong academic programs, and further improve them—in ways that will be both true to our mission and values, and also compelling to, and valued by, many leaders in conventional academia. In part, the Advisory Committee members will serve as external reviewers to help us to evaluate our graduate programs, and their insights and wisdom will be helpful and valuable to inform our efforts in the coming months and years.

CARA JUDEA ALHADEFF, PhD.  Ph.D., summa cum laude. European Graduate School (EGS), Europäishe Universität Für Interdisziplinäre Studien, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy, Art, and Critical Thought, 2012. MA in Media Philosophy, European Graduate School (EGS), Europäishe Universität Für Interdisziplinäre Studien, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, 2009. BA, summa cum laude, Pennsylvania State University, Bachelor of Philosophy degree in Corporeal Politics, 1995. Dr. Cara Judea Alhadeff is a scholar/activist/artist/mother whose work engages feminist embodied theory. Since 1991, she has taught Social Ecology courses, while lecturing and collaborating on Sephardic Jewish cultural diversity. Her book, Viscous Expectations: Justice, Vulnerability, The Ob-scene (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2014), demonstrates art as social practice by exploring the vulnerability of the body as a strategy for collaborative justice. In addition to Alhadeff’s cross-cultural climate justice book, Zazu Dreams: Between the Scarab and the Dung Beetle, A Cautionary Fable for the Anthropocene Era (Eifrig Publishing, 2017), her current Petroleum-Parenting, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Convenience-Culture: How Marketing Fear and “Fake-Science” Shape Our Cultural Norms, co-authored with Dr. Stephanie Seneff (Skyhorse Publishing, 2018), explores the intersections of environmental racism, racial hygiene, global corporatocracy, and the misogynist pharma-addictive health industry. She has published interdisciplinary essays in eco-literacy, philosophy, art, gender, and ethnic studies’ journals and anthologies, and has been interviewed throughout Europe, Asia, and the US (including Pacifica Radio and Alternative Radio). The subject of several documentaries for international public television, her performative photographs have been publicly defended by Freedom of Speech organizations (Electronic Freedom Foundation, artsave/People for the American Way, and the ACLU), and are in numerous collections including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jewish Museum in Berlin, Museum of Modern Art in Salzburg, Austria, and Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction. Executive Director of Jews Of The Earth (JOTE) and former professor of Performance & Pedagogy at UC Santa Cruz and Critical Philosophy at The Global Center for Advanced Studies (GCAS), Alhadeff lives and parents a zero-waste lifestyle. (www.carajudea.com/  www.zazudreams.com)

JOHN BEAR, PhD is widely regarded  as one of the foremost experts on nontraditional higher education and distance learning. His guidebooks on the topic, first published in 1974, have sold more than 300,000 copies worldwide. He is an actively involved critic of diploma mills. He has helped develop and market various distance and online programs, including ten years with the MBA of the Edinburgh Business School, which became the largest MBA in the United States and in the world. He received his BA in Psychology (1959) and his M.J. in  Journalism (1960) from the University of California at Berkeley; his PhD in Communications (1966) is from Michigan State.   He is the author of 35 books with major publishers (Random House, McGraw-Hill, etc.)—on higher education, computers, travel, US history, cooking, publishing and consumerism.  He is especially well known in the higher education community for his numerous guides to nontraditional higher education and distance learning. He was the Head of New Business Development for the Financial Times division of Pearson PLC, which is the world’s largest educational publisher. Years ago, he was a tenured Associate Professor  of Journalism at the University of Iowa and head of the Senior Honors Program there. He has appeared as an on-screen expert on Good Morning America (4 times), CBS 60 Minutes, The Today Show, AM Canada, and many others. Now in his 80’s, he continues to write, research, give interviews, and expert witness testimony in higher education matters.

J.HERMAN BLAKE, PhD.  BA, Sociology, New York University, 1960. MA, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1965. PhD, Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, 1974. Dr. Blake’s current position is Inaugural Executive Director, Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission. In this capacity, he serves as Principal Administrator/Officer of a Congressionally mandated cultural and linguistic heritage region along the Atlantic Coast of four states, from Wilmington, NC to St. Augustine, FL.  This 12,000 square mile area is home to one of America’s most unique cultures shaped by enslaved Africans brought to the southeastern United States.  Gullah Geechee people are their direct descendants who have created a unique culture embodied in their cuisine, music, crafts, oral traditions, language and spirituality.  He was:  1) Founding Provost, Oakes College at University of California, Santa Cruz, California. 2) President, Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi. 3) Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education, Indiana University Purdue University  Indianapolis. 4) Director of African American Studies,Iowa State University. 5) Inaugural Humanities Scholar in Residence , Medical University of South Carolina.  He is the author of many scholarly articles and reports, as well as the book, Revolutionary Suicide, New York:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1973 (with Huey P. Newton).  He has served on many academic and community boards, including the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 1979-1984.

ROBERT BREM, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor. Advanced Doctoral Work: Public Administration and Organization Theory, Arizona State University (1994 to 1998); Master of Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University, 1989; Bachelor of Science, Political Science, Arizona State University, 1985. Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor. Robert J. Brem is a futurist and organizational consultant; and he is a professor of politics, public administration, and psychology.  Robert Brem is a National Board Certified and Arizona Licensed Professional Counselor and holds a certificate in non-profit organizational management. He is a professional teacher, and consigliere (engaged in organizational consulting, community organizing, “mentoring” [life coach & clinical supervisor)], and counseling) since 1989.  Robert has taught at eight institutions of higher learning in Arizona and California. He has been on the faculty at College of Alameda since 2004 (in psychology and political science); and on the faculty at CSU-East Bay (since 2007) teaching in the Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) program (and in the department of political science).  He is also an Associate of the Center for Future Consciousness working in consulting in Alternative Futures Policy Analysis and Conscious Evolution in the public and social (non-profit) sectors. He was Chair of the College of Alameda curriculum committee and the co-chair of the Peralta District “Green” curriculum committee and on the Steering Committee for the Sustainable Peralta Initiative (from 2005 to 2016).  As well, he is the lead curriculum developer and a Co-Coordinator of the Community Change and Urban Leadership Initiative – an initiative in the areas of community development, urban leadership, and civic engagement, public service, law, and violence prevention (2005 to present).

ERNEST BROWN, PhD. Dr. Brown is a psychologist working in school-based programs at Richmond Area Multi-Services (RAMS) in San Francisco–specializing in adolescent substance abuse recovery, mindfulness meditation and TaiChi Ch’uan. He holds the following academic degrees: California Institute of Integral Studies (PhD, East/West Psychology 1996); University of San Francisco (MA, MFT 1989); University of Michigan (BSE, Industrial Operations and Operations Research 1971). His Board service has included: New College of California, San Francisco Zen Center, San Francisco Buddhist Church, American Go Association, San Francisco Go Club.

TORRY DICKINSON, PhD. WISR Core Faculty Emeritus. BA, Sociology, Livingston College, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 1975. MA, Sociology, SUNY-Binghamton, 1977. Graduate Certificate in Women and Public Policy, Rockefeller Institute for Public Affairs, SUNY-Albany, 1983. PhD, SUNY-Binghamton, Sociology 1983. Torry has recently rejoined WISR’s core faculty after having spent about 10 years as a WISR core faculty member in the 1980s and 90s. Torry is Professor Emeritus at Kansas State University (Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Sociology/Nonviolence Studies). She has authored, co-authored, and edited a number of books, including: Transformations: Feminist Pathways to Global Change; Democracy Works;Community and the World; Fast Forward: Work, Gender and Protest in a Changing World; and CommonWealth. In the past, she has taught or done research at a number of universities in California–in addition to WISR, at the University of California at Berkeley (School of Education, National Center for Research on Vocational Education), the University of California at Santa Cruz (Sociology, cross-listed with Women’s Studies), and San Jose State University in San Jose and at the former Salinas Campus (Sociology cross-listed with Women’s Studies). Torry has been a Revson Fellow in Women and Public Policy (1983)and an American Fellow (Susan B. Anthony Award) with the American Association of University Women (1980).

STEVE FLETCHER, PhD. Dr. Fletcher is a WISR alumnus with a PhD (Higher Education and Social Change), 2012. MA, Excelsior College, New York, 2007. State of California Teacher’s Credential, 1976. BA, Sonoma State, Expressive Arts, 1975. Served at Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, Guizhou University (Associate Professor), Lanzhou University (Associate Professor), University of South-Eastern Norway (Educational Consultant). He has lived and worked in seven countries in North America, Africa and Asia. He is the author of several software programs, has published four books, edited others, and created six CD’s and published a number of papers. He has created several educational models and programs including Nine Way English, DUEM (Deep Understanding and Emotional Memorization), HILL (Holistic Integrated Language Learning), TOE (a multiple intelligence model). Currently serving as an advisor / consultant to WISR and to the University of South-Eastern Norway and serving as the Grant County ARES Emergency Coordinator and is busy researching and writing several books. He currently lives with his wife, Liu Haiping in Eastern Oregon.

DAVID A. HOUGH, PhD. BA, Linguistics, University of Oregon, 1972. MA, Linguistics, University of Oregon, 1973. PhD, Higher Education and Social Change, Western Institute for Social Research, 2001. Dr. Hough has dedicated his academic career to research, teaching and activism in support of linguistic and cultural human rights for indigenous and minority peoples. He has worked extensively in Asia and the Pacific to develop dictionaries and learning materials based on indigenous knowledge systems.  From 2000-2003 he was Chief Scientific Researcher for the Kosrae State Department of Education in Micronesia, a project sponsored by the Japan Ministry of Education. From 2007-2008 he served as Chief Technical Advisor to the Nepal Ministry of Education and Sports, where he oversaw a multilingual education project to enable the more than 130 minority groups in that country to be educated in their mother tongues. He has also worked in Far East Russia with the indigenous Naanai and Udeghe communities, as well as in Japan on issues of Ainu and Uchinaa (Okinawan) linguistic and human rights. From 2013-2017 Dr. Hough served as Senior Advisor for Bilingual Education for the Public School System of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. In 2017 he received and official commendation from the Ambassador of Japan to the Marshall Islands for helping to build goodwill and understanding between the two countries. He is author of numerous books and is currently editing a collection of his papers for publication in a book on indigenous education.

JOYCE E. KING, PhD.  (PhD, Sociology of Education, BA Sociology, Stanford University) holds the Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership at Georgia State University (GSU). She has served as Provost (Spelman College), Associate Provost (Medgar Evers College, CUNY), Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Diversity Programs (University of New Orleans,) Director of Teacher Education (Santa Clara University) and Head of the Ethnic Studies Department (Mills College). She is affiliated faculty in the GSU Department of African American Studies, the Women’s and Gender Studies Institute, the Partnership for Urban Health Research and the Urban Institute. Her publications in the Harvard Educational Review, the Journal of Negro Education, Qualitative Studies in Education, the Journal of African American History focus on a transformative role for culture in curriculum, urban teacher effectiveness, morally engaged, community-mediated inquiry and Black education research and policy. She is an editorial board member for the Urban Education journal, co-edited the Review of Education Research and authored or edited seven books, including Heritage Knowledge in the Curriculum (with E. Swartz). She is past president of the American Educational Research Association and a recipient of the Stanford School of Education Alumni Excellence Award.

PATRICIA A. MITCHELL, PhD. PhD, Catholic University of America is emeritus professor of leadership studies at the University of San Francisco, where she taught graduate courses in leadership, ethics, management and communication. During her 42 years of service at the university, she served as chair of the Teacher Education Department; chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and program coordinator of the doctoral program in Organization and Leadership. Though retired from full-time teaching, Dr. Mitchell continues to serve as chair of students’ dissertation committees. Dr. Mitchell is also an accomplished writer and has published in the areas of organizational management and leadership, women’s issues, curriculum development, reading and language arts. Her most acclaimed book, Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Careers, has become a best seller for the publisher.  A second edition of her book, Cracking the Wall Twenty Years Later:  Women in Higher Education Leadership was released summer 2013 by the College and University Personnel Association in Human Resources (CUPA-hr).  Another book, which she edited entitled, Collaboration and Peak Performance was released in August 2013, as well. Two books were released in 2016:  Lessons in Leadership: Tips for an Emerging P-20 Leader in the 21st Century and African American Males in Higher Education Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities. An upcoming book is due for release spring 2019, Ethical Decision Making: Cases in Organization and Leadership.

BARBARA LEITNER POMERANTZ, MA. BA, English/Minors: Psychology and Fine Arts, University of California, Davis, 1972. Standard Secondary Teaching Credential, University of California, Davis, 1973. MA, Human Resources Organization Development, University of San Francisco, 1998. Administrative Services Professional Tier II Credential, Chapman University College, 2009. She has 42 years of experience in education, comprising more than 25 years as a classroom instructor, grades 7-12; 2 years as a high school assistant principal, and 10 years as an administrator at the California Department of Education, involving programs and services for at-risk and at-promise students. She coordinated diverse educational programs for middle and high school students including English Language Development, Advancement Via Individual Determination-College Readiness Program (AVID-CRP), Peer Counseling; Program Quality Review; and U.C. Davis Early Academic Outreach Program activities. She served on a Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Leadership Team for high school accreditation in the areas of school curriculum, culture, and student support services.

JACQUELINE SHINEFIELD, RN, LMFT, EdD.  Dr. Jacqueline Shinefield is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in individual, couples and family therapy. She has over 25 years of experience and maintains a private practice in New York City after relocating from San Francisco. Dr. Shinefield is an interactive, systemic therapist who received her doctorate in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco. She serves as a Clinical Supervisor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. Her previously held positions include Adjunct Faculty at Mercy College in the Marriage and Family Therapy program, Clinical Supervisor at Pace University and MFT Clinical Supervisor at the University of San Francisco where she specialized in school-based family therapy. Dr. Shinefield currently serves on the Board of Directors as Chair for the Western Institute of Social Research/Center for Child and Family Development, as Education and Networking Director for the Association of New York Marriage and Family Therapy, as Development Chair and Clinical Fellow for the Oxford Symposium, and Board Member for the Institute for School-Based Family Counseling.

MARCEL SORIANO, PhD. Professor Emeritus in the Division of Special Education and Counseling at California State University, Los Angeles.  Dr. Soriano received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Educational Psychology from the University of California, Riverside and a Ph.D. Doctorate in Clinical Family Psychology from United States International University (now Alliant/CSPP).  Dr. Soriano is an active member and has received awards from the American Psychological Association and the American Counseling Association. He has over 30 years’ experience teaching, conducting research and publishing in the areas of child and family development, special needs children and their families and on school reform.  His most recent publication is School-Based Family Counseling:  Transforming Family-School Relationships (2013) co-edited with Dr. Brian Gerrard.  Dr. Soriano has extensive experience in Public Education.  He holds several licenses and has been a practicing School Counselor, School Principal, Assistant Superintendent and is now an active Licensed Psychologist in private practice.  Most recently, he has specialized in serving children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Dr. Soriano is a certified bilingual Spanish, bicultural educator (BCLAD).  Among other leadership posts, Dr. Soriano served on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing’s Accreditation Teams.  As such, he has experience in the review and accreditation of programs in School Administration and Leadership, School Counseling and Psychology Programs, as well as school reform initiatives.

MONA VAUGHN SCOTT, PhD. BA College of Pacific. MA, Religion, University of Pacific. MA, Sociology, Stanford University, 1976. PhD, Sociology, Stanford University, 1977. During her career, Dr. Scott has taught at George Washington University and University of San Francisco, where she helped to set up their Ethnic Studies curriculum. She has been and a consultant and researcher at the UCSF Dental School, where she also served on the Minority Admissions Committee. She has researched and written on racism and urban schools and minority retention.  She has received many honors, including from the Mayor of Berkeley and Alameda County Women Hall of Fame. She is listed in Who’s Who Among African Americans. For more than 30 years she has been Director of the Berkeley Black Repertory Theater and Group. As the theater group’s executive director, Dr. Scott has mentored actors, developed after-school programs for youth, facilitated self-esteem-building workshops and used performance to reach out to people in communities affected by substance abuse and violence.

In Memoriam:

HARRY BUTLER, PhD, LCSW.  AA College Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati, 1963. BS, Psychology, University of Cincinnati, 1964. MSW, Social Work, University of Louisville, 1966. PhD, Social Work, Washington University (St. Louis), 1971. Dean of Social Work, San Diego State University, 1975-78. Dr. Butler was the first Dean of the newly formed College of Health and Human Services in 1978, San Diego State University. He was the author of many published articles on social science research methods, social work practice and education. He spent three decades in private practice as Licensed Clinical Social Worker in San Diego, until his retirement. Dr. Butler passed away in December 2019. His contributions to WISR went beyond his service as a member of WISR’s advisory committee. In 1971-73, he collaborated with John Bilorusky (who co-founded WISR in 1975) in developing a successful Individual Learning Program in the College of Community Services at the University of Cincinnati. In many ways that program served as a model for WISR, when WISR was founded in 1975.


Readings in Support of Faculty Development

March 3, 2015 by  

At WISR, faculty meet monthly to discuss institutional development efforts, and to discuss ways to further develop and refine WISR’s curriculum and the faculty practice of the learner-centered methods, both online and at a distance and also on site, that are central to WISR’s mission.  To support continued faculty development–through reading, reflection and dialogue, WISR faculty are able to access currently featured readings on this page, as well as an archive of relevant readings on learner-centered education, the use of technology to support online and digital learning, current events and issues in higher education, and the role of higher education in social change, among other topics of importance to WISR faculty in continuing their development. WISR is greatly indebted to our beloved faculty member, the late Michael McAvoy, for beginning this valuable list of resources several years ago.

Featured Readings and Resources

Read on daily basis articles on current events and issues in higher education:

Inside Higher Education:  https://www.insidehighered.com/

They also have articles and other special newsletters, such as this weekly newsletter (and articles) on digital learning in higher education: https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning


Jack, Anthony Abraham.  The Privileged Poor: How Elite College are Failing Disadvantaged Students. Harvard University Press, 2019.

Aspiring Adults Adrift:  Tentative Transitions of College Graduates.  Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. University of Chicago, 2014


DEAC Accreditation Handbook: https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/2018-DEAC-Accreditation-Handbook.pdf

Copyright Law for Librarians and Educators:  https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Copyright_Law_for_Librarians_and_Educators_chap_8_Crews_2012.pdf

National Standards for Quality Online Teaching:  https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/national-standards-for-quality-online-teaching-v2_iNACOL.pdf

New Models for Educational Materials:   https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/New-Models-for-Educational-Materials-Booklet-JKv5.pdf

The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment:  https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/NGDLE_2015.pdf

Five Steps to Evaluate and Select an LMS:  https://www.wisr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/The_xAPI_and_the_LMS_-What_Does_the_Future_Hold_Foreman.pdf


“Self-determined learning or heutagogy is fast gaining interest from educators around the world interested in an evidence-based approach to learning. Grounded as it is on brain research and extensive research into how people learn self-determined learning is particularly popular among those interested in innovative approaches to learning. This edited book is the perfect primer on self-determined learning or heutagogy. It consists of an introductory chapter explaining the main concepts and principles of this exciting approach to educational practice. This is followed by 16 chapters describing the experience of practitioners in using the approach. These experiences come from a wide variety of interests including school education, higher education, workplace learning, consulting, lifelong learning, training, and community education. Full of links to resources, curated sites,and discussion forums, this is a valuable ‘how to’ book for the interested practitioner and theoretician alike.”



Shabani, K. (2010). Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development: Instructional implications and teachers’ professional development (p. 238). English Language Teaching. Vol 3, No. 4.  [  https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1081990.pdf ]

Dreyfus, S. (2004). The five stage model of adult skill acquisition (pp. 177-181). Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, Vol. 24, No. 3. [ http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0270467604264992  ]

Dreyfus, H. & Dreyfus, S. (2016). From socrates to expert systems:  The limits of calculative rationality. In H. L. Dreyfus & (Ed.) M. A. Wrathall. Skillful coping: Essays on the phenomenology of everyday perception and action. (pp. 25-46). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [also available online as original 1985 paper: http://www.psych.utoronto.ca/users/reingold/courses/ai/cache/Socrates.html ]

Benner, P. (1984).  From Novice to expert: Excellence and power in clinical nursing practice. Reading, MA:  Addison Wesley [excerpt of pp. 13-34 available online: http://web.sonoma.edu/users/v/vandevee/312/benner

Archives of Readings and Resources

Faculty Development

March 3, 2015 by  


At WISR, faculty are expected to be engaged in evaluating and improving their competencies–as teachers, scholars and professionals–and of equal importance, faculty are an integral part of the WISR learning community, and we continually ask our faculty how we can support and contribute to their development–supporting their progress toward their professional, academic and community leadership goals,  and addressing their learning needs and their desires to improve their teaching.  Read more:  WHAT WISR NEEDS AND WHAT CAN WISR GIVE TO WISR FACULTY


Purpose of Plan:

In the past WISR faculty have engaged in regular, informal collaboration and dialogue with one another, and have often supported one another in their professional, academic and personal development.  Now that WISR is seeking accreditation, we are required to be more conscious about the process of faculty development—helping each faculty member to create a written plan for their development over the next year, and then evaluating at the end of the year what has happened, and the appropriate steps for the next year.  The accreditation process will provide a good stimulus and occasion for to make our faculty development efforts more conscious, intentional and effective.

Perspective on Faculty Development:

Our personalized, learner-centered approach to working with students is a natural and effective approach to take in our faculty development efforts.  This means that faculty, as learners, are the focus of an effort to enable them to engage professionally, academically and personally meaningful transformative learning.  And, by adopting an approach that is similar to our approach with students, it will provide faculty with further insights about WISR’s approach to teaching—because they, as faculty, will be learners.  And, they will be valued and respected as learners, as our students are, and they will be asked to reflect on and document their learning activities, processes and outcomes in ways that are similar to what we try facilitate with, and expect of, our students.

Steps Involved with the Annual Faculty Development Plan:

Near the beginning of each fiscal year (near July 1—but around June through August), each faculty member will meet with the President, and with any other colleagues (inside or outside of WISR) they choose to ask to help with their development, and develop a DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE COMING YEAR.  That plan will have features similar to the plan we now ask students to develop when they enroll at WISR.  (see below).  This plan will include consideration of the faculty member’s professional, academic and personal purposes and goals, as well as an assessment of the faculty member’s strengths, limitations and current challenges to be addressed.  The plan will consider how the faculty member’s goals relate to some of the meta-competencies that we aim to develop at WISR among our learners, and an initial articulation of likely activities to be pursued, which, as is the case with our learners, may very likely change and become more informatively defined over time.

AT THE END OF THEY YEAR (around June of each year), THE FACULTY MEMBER WILL ENGAGE IN SELF-ASSESSMENT AND DOCUMENTATION OF THEIR LEARNING ACTIVITIES/PROCESSES DURING THE PREVIOUS YEAR.  The format for writing this self-assessment and providing documentation will be similar to the post-course syllabus form that WISR students fill out at the end of a course of study.

The following three documents are to be placed in each faculty member’s file—for EACH FISCAL YEAR, along with any relevant documentation that the faculty member can add to their file (portfolio) at WISR.

  3. FACULTY MEMBER’S END OF YEAR SELF-ASSESSMENT (similar to student’s descriptions and assessment of their learning and accomplishments during a course of study at WISR).


  • Certificates or other documentation of continuing education courses taken and completed, including date(s) of each activity, and topic(s) addressed.
  • A log of WISR-sponsored professional development activities in which they have participated (brief description of each activity and date held). [Include date(s) of each activity and topic(s) addressed.]
  • List of any relevant professional or community leadership activities during the year, along with the dates of each activity and the topics addressed by each activity—including membership in professional organizations, participation in professional or community conferences and events, jobs and volunteer work outside of WISR, for example.
  • List of relevant self-directed learning activities, and participation in WISR’s institutional functioning and development.
  • Copies of articles, Papers or Books written, and published or presented a professional conferences.
  • Clippings from newspapers and professional newsletters, for example, describing the faculty member’s participation in and contributions to their profession and community.
  • Evaluations or letters from colleagues, co-workers, students and others who know about the faculty member’s performance as a WISR faculty member, as a professional in their field, or as an engaged citizen or community leader.


For the initial plan for the year:

Each faculty member will write a preliminary educational plan, with the support and mentoring from WISR’s President or another senior member of WISR’s faculty, and if they wish in collaboration with other colleagues.  The development and pursuit of the plan are part of the faculty member’s participation in the WISR learning community, and it is very much expected that plan may change, perhaps a lot, through the faculty member’s engagement with her or his learning and development through the year. This plan will articulate short and long-term goals, or possible directions important to the faculty member, including questions and dilemmas about the best direction(s) to take, with which the faculty member might be wrestling.  This plan will include the faculty member’s initial ideas about how their learning activities can build bridges to the next important things they do at WISR, and in their professional, academic and community involvements.  For example, they can explore various career and learning options and seek out continuing education and other activities to build bridges for themselves to further their professional and community involvements, and develop further the competencies needed to be an engaged, expert and contributing member of the WISR faculty.  They will be encouraged to take advantage of the knowledge and networking connections of WISR faculty, alumni, students, Board members, and friends of WISR, as well as continuing education opportunities at WISR faculty meetings and other events at WISR. They can do scholarly and professional action-research, become more deeply engaged in the literature in their fields of interest, and interview people and seek out community involvements—and, in all of these endeavors remaining mindful of how these efforts may be laying the foundation and creating the pathways to the goals and directions that have laid out for themselves.

The plan should also include the faculty member’s inventory of her or his strengths and limitations, interests and values, as well as their assessment of needs, challenges and opportunities at WISR, and in the profession and the world in which she or he wishes to make a difference.  Also, the faculty member is expected to discuss this plan in relation to the his or her plans to develop further as a contributing member of WISR’s faculty, and in the areas of WISR’s core meta-competencies, and in relation to WISR’s graduation requirements.  [These meta-competencies are:  Thinking and Communication; Becoming Conscious, Intentional, and Improvising Learners; Community Leadership and Collaboration—Practical Skills and Talents; Experience, Competence, Talent and Knowledge in One’s Chose Area(s) of Specialization; Participatory Action-Inquiry and Qualitative Research; Justice, Sustainability and Social Change; Multicultural Perspective.]


WISR’s History, Mission and the “Bigger Picture”–Past, Present and Future

February 8, 2015 by  

 WISR was founded in 1975 by four educators, including WISR’s current President, Dr. John Bilorusky. In founding WISR, all were engaged in considerable inquiry, reflection and discussion–among themselves and others–about the state of American higher education, and its limitations. WISR was founded in part as an attempt to improve on both conventional and alternative higher education as they had evolved into the 1970s.  At that time, in the aftermath of the sixties, many educators and students were debating the merits of the university’s role in the community and in social change, the “relevance” of the curriculum, and generally, the values served by higher education.  WISR was founded partly as our modest but concerted response to some inadequacies in conventional education—for example, the absence of emphasis on personalized education, multiculturality and social change.  It was founded partly in response to the limitations of alternative programs of the seventies, which oftentimes were too preoccupied with simply “looking different” from the conventional.  Since then, many conventional institutions have adopted reforms which have incorporated in only a partial way some of the agendas from the sixties (e.g., field studies programs, women’s studies, ethnic studies).  Most current reforms are guided by the economics of marketing academic programs to appeal to a growing population of mature adults who are interested in returning for further academic study and professional certification (e.g., to obtain degrees and licensing).  Most alternative institutions of the sixties and seventies have failed to survive.

is one of the very few alternative, multicultural and social change-oriented institutions of higher learning that have survived for what is now nearly half a century.  WISR’s Board, faculty, staff and alumni have continued to hold WISR to these initial commitments—to create and sustain a multiethnic academic institution for people concerned with community improvement, social change and educational innovation; to provide individualized degree programs for working adults; and to continue to refine and enhance the teaching-learning methods that work best for our students, while keeping our basic philosophy, values and our sense of purpose intact.  Hence, our motto, “Multicultural is WISeR.”

Indeed, WISR was founded as a modest but very conscious and pointed attempt to develop and sustain a needed Center and a Model for Experimentation in Higher Education, focusing on the pursuit of a few key ingredients, in combination with one another, and seldom found among existing academic institutions. Those key ingredients are: personalized, learner-centered education, multiculturalism in a multicultural learning community, a pervasive commitment to action-oriented inquiry, combining theory and practice, and professional study that is mindful of personal growth and values, along with strong community-involvement, and a conscious and non-doctrinaire concern with social change and social justice.

In 1975, and still today, there are not many places where faculty can come together with one another, and join with students, in trying out new, promising approaches to higher learning.  Over the years, WISR has realized one portion of its mission—to provide a creative and supportive learning environment for faculty development and student learning—a place where faculty can collaborate and consciously experiment in further developing their own skills in learner-centered, multicultural and socially responsible approaches to higher education.  To a lesser extent has WISR yet achieved the visibility to be a model for others, but that remains a purpose and agenda for WISR’s future.

For more than 45 years, WISR faculty have continued to inquire into, reflect on and discuss the state of American higher education and the bigger picture of the society in which we live, and their hopes for the future. WISR faculty have these discussions as a matter of everyday practice with one another, with WISR students and alumni, and with the WISR Board of Trustees.

Our efforts to experiment in the creation of a worthwhile alternative model for higher education have been especially mindful of the importance of improving professional education in fields related to education, counseling psychology, community services and leadership, while making this education also available to people with grassroots community involvements. In this pursuit, we have been willing to develop, try out and carefully evaluate distinctive methods, while also building on the best of long-standing traditions—such as the intensity of inquiry, mentoring, and collegial discourse in the Oxford model, as well as the practical professionalism of land grant colleges and the grassroots orientation of continuing education/community education movements.

The following discussion paper, written by WISR President, John Bilorusky, is a result of some of our latest thinking at WISR, and an outgrowth of our continuing reflection, inquiry and dialogue at WISR about WISR’s mission and role in American Higher Education today.

WISR President, Dr. John Bilorusky (left) and WISR MFT alumnus, Lydell Willis (right)

WISR President, Dr. John Bilorusky (left) and WISR MFT alumnus, Lydell Willis (right)

“Thinking about WISR’s Curriculum and Mission in relation to the “Bigger Picture” of American Higher Education and Today’s Society—Historically, and with Regard to Today’s Society and Professions, and to Hopes and Possibilities for the Future” 

Article written by John Bilorusky, PhD, WISR President (April 2015) . . .

As a PhD student in the field of higher education in the late 60s and early 70s, I learned that  very seldom are faculty, administrators, accreditation agency staff, or public policy-makers aware of the forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the form and content of college curriculum.  The renown historian of American higher education, Laurence Veysey, wrote in great detail and with thoroughly examined evidence how American higher education, from the 1700s to the mid-twentieth century, had come to be a sometime awkward combination of the themes of mental discipline, liberal culture, the ideal of the Land Grant College, and the German University.  So, for example, our current structure of academic departments reflects, on the one hand, the tradition of the ideals of the Land Grant colleges, with practical areas of study and schools (e.g., business, agriculture, engineering, education, and computer science), and on the other hand, the academic departments aspiring to the research ideals of the German university (physics, biology, psychology, sociology, French literature, music theory).  Certainly, there is some cross-fertilization among these departments, but the very structure of most curricula discourages the kind of wide-ranging and imaginative interdisciplinary collaboration that is characteristic of cutting-edge inquiry in the sciences today.  For example, Richard Hazen in his book, Gen-e-sis, describes the realities of research today into the origins of life on earth as a series of inquiry without disciplinary boundaries, with astronomers, geologists, biologists, and others engage in studies, debate and collaboration that creates geo-astro-biologists—people whose inquiries are guided by the purposes, curiosities, passions and interests rather than by their original fields of study or allegiances to specific disciplines.

In other words, some of the most significant learning and inquiry happens outside of the boundaries of institutional structures within academia, and outside the conceptual frames of the courses offered by those institutions.  Arguably, the most creative areas of study can be referred to (using a term once used by the State of California agency approving degree programs) as “non-traditional, emerging fields.”  In this sense, WISR’s field of “higher education and social change” is such an area of study, as is our major in “Community Leadership and Justice.”

WISR faculty member, Dr. Torry Dickinson, has aptly noted that Higher education at the Western Institute for Social Research also builds on the democratic tradition of informal community education and research that was funded by the Smith-Lever Act of 1914. The Cooperative Extension Service at land-grant universities, and at tribal colleges, supported communities that engaged in democratic discussions, research, program development, and social-change initiatives. The community-based internationally-renown educator Paulo Freire continued this tradition of participatory practice in the last half of the 20th century. Working with circles of learners, Freire helped to transform Brazil and the world with community-based democratic education. Later, he connected with organizations like the Highlander Folk School, which has facilitated democratic learning and social change since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Western Institute for Social Research is a credit-granting, degree-granting undergraduate and graduate school that utilizes individualized, collaborative and community-defined participatory research to prepare students for professional work and community engagement.

Furthermore, WISR provides one of a number of sustained critiques and reformulations of the relationships between what have come to be called disciplines. Through its and others’ sustained analysis of the academic limitations that come from the separation of disciplines, WISR has emerged at the forefront of interdisciplinary analysis as it relates to understanding 21st century professional education and social change, and to promoting community-based and global change. Learning at WISR addresses the limitations of generating and applying knowledge through specialized disciplines, conceptual divisions that are relatively new in human history, and are no more than 150 years old. In the past, knowledge was examined and developed as part of one integrated whole. The creation of the US university brought the institutionalization of separate academic specialties or departments. Influenced by colonialist ideas of the world, these micro-disciplines became grouped in three clusters which few scholarly organizations have successfully  interrelated at the level of curriculum: the so-called humanities (including history), the social sciences, and the natural sciences. In the 1960s and 1970s, new holistic academic and community scholarship called for the creation of knowledge that came from all areas of inquiry. With the move toward the integration of what had been seen as disciplines, the latest wave of academic growth has brought interdisciplinary programs and schools like the Western Institute for Social Research.

The Western Institute for Social Research joins, follows and helps lead other interdisciplinary, and uni-disciplinary, scholars and academic organizations in promising endeavors to reunite the disciplines as part of a stronger, more rigorous and creative type of academic inquiry, especially as it relates to community-based and global social change. Related works of scholarship include Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of 19th Century Paradigms by Immanuel Wallerstein (2001) and Open the Social Sciences: Report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences (1996). Both books call for the integrated development of knowledge from what has become known as the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences. At WISR, students learn how to do research and generate knowledge in an interdisciplinary or uni-disciplinary way, that is, in a unified way.

None of this is to deny the existence or importance of existing professions and fields of study.  People can pursue interdisciplinary study outside the boundaries of these fields and still make contributions to these conventionally defined professions and disciplines.  Just as the geo-astro-biologists alluded to by Richard Hazen, in his book, Gen-e-sis, may contribute to our understanding of geology, astronomy and/or biology, WISR students often contribute to such fields as community health, adult education, counseling psychology, social work and community services, and others.  More commonly, the contributions of our students are aimed at specific, important problems and questions (parallel to Hazen’s guiding concern with learning about research problem of “what was involved in the origins of life on earth?”).  WISR students may contribute to addressing such problems as that of foster youth aging out of the system, the predicament of cultures whose native language is at risk of becoming extinct, the unmet needs of people from disenfranchised communities for counseling or mental health services, how to nurture collaboration among somatic and verbal therapists both of whom are striving to find more effective approaches to trauma therapy, or how to empower and transform communities suffering the injustice of health disparities, to mention just a few very different and very important challenges.

One main point here is that academic curricula may be improved in they are guided by the learning of some basic, foundational “meta-competencies” that include and also transcend the more limited conventional definitions of mainstream professional competencies. This is similar to the well-acknowledged points made by Thomas S. Kuhn in his modern classic, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, that science progresses when a new paradigm (or new theory embraced by the scientific community) is formulated to go beyond the limitations of the existing paradigm and its narrow-sighted assumptions about inquiry and knowledge, while still incorporating the valuable insights and ideas of the limited, conventional paradigm.

At WISR, we currently formulate these meta-competencies to include: capabilities to think, reason and imagine, to communicate well and in one’s own voice, to pursue thorough-going and highly inquisitive  action-oriented research, to develop skills of leadership that are mindful of the immediate problems and the “bigger picture,” to have an awareness of the multicultural, as well as ecological and sustainable, implications and perspectives needed for effective and just actions, and to be self-directing learners able to envision and build bridges to endeavors that may create a better future rather than unthinkingly conforming to existing options. 

Such a curriculum will have some structure and some required content—aimed partly to nurture the development of these meta-competencies and aimed partly to engage students in studying the content and methods relevant to their broad areas of interest and their more particular, chosen professional interests and specializations.  This curriculum will be informed to some extent by the historical themes noted by Lawrence Veysey, but because WISR’s curriculum is looking to create a better future, a better tomorrow, it will not neatly conform to the content of existing professions and disciplines, anymore than the current study of the origins of life on earth conforms to the curricula of specific departments of biology, astronomy and geology.  

WISR will draw on knowledge from existing fields and professions, but will also educate students to go beyond the boundaries of those fields—in ways not unlike Thomas Kuhn’s (see his book:  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) analysis of how scientific revolutions involve asking questions, studying problems and looking for data not acknowledged or legitimized by the practitioners of “normal science.” And, as a necessary part of this process of study, WISR faculty will mentor and guide students to see, and pursue, their potential as people who can share instructive stories and write important ideas in their own voice, as builders of knowledge, and as creators of innovative action and programs for a new tomorrow.

WISR Collage

Before concluding with a few important observations about higher learning today in the US, I would like to reiterate briefly some of the valuable insights of that especially important book on the history of American higher education that I read as a graduate student:  The Emergence of the American University by Laurence Veysey.

Veysey suggests that higher education (at least in the middle of the 20th century) in the US was a (sometimes, or even often, awkward) amalgam of four themes:

The theme of “mental discipline” (the rigid learning by rote found in many private, fundamentalist, church-affiliated colleges).

The theme of “liberal culture” (the liberal arts tradition of many elite private colleges that embraced enlightenment philosophy of the 17th/18th century)

The theme of “utilitarianism” as embodied in the Land Grant colleges.

The theme of research and development of knowledge is specialized fields of study as embodied in the German university of the 19th century industrial revolution.

I suppose if we were to update Veysey’s work we have to say something about the emphasis on technology and information systems of the post-industrial society and certification for employment in the so-called “meritocracy” of the late 20th century and the 21st century.  This emphasis is seen in many colleges and universities, but especially in for-profit online universities that enroll large masses of students.

Each of Veysey’s four themes had some valuable qualities as well as some significant problems, especially when practiced or implemented to an extreme.  Mental discipline is not a completely bad thing, but taken to any extreme and without a concern for “meaning” (as emphasized sometimes in enlightened study in the liberal arts, in practical pursuits or in the development of new knowledge) it’s pretty hollow.  Liberal culture can  lead to expanding one’s horizons and the profoundly valuable learning using the humanities and arts to become more fully “human,” as alluded to by those who today note the over-emphasis on narrow career education, but it also can be elitist or just “for show” and hollow, as well.  Utilitarianism can be a very good thing–but practiced without a sense of meaning, without a sense of developing new knowledge or the personal meaning sometimes discovered through the liberal arts/culture–it can be narrow. Indeed, utilitarianism, as embodied in the mid-nineteenth century Morrill Act that created the by the Land Grant colleges, can even  be damaging–just as the practical use of technology can destroy the environment, or the practical use of social work strategies can sometimes disempower the people supposedly served.  The development of new knowledge can be a good thing, but the specialization that was functional for a while, at least during a portion of the industrial revolution, has shown itself to be especially limiting when it thwarts interdisciplinary study and insights into the bigger picture of the topics under study–whether we are inquiring about the origins of life on earth, the origins of the universe, global warming, or the causes of violence in our society.  None of these important topics are best understood using the organizational arrangements of today’s academic institutions, e.g., the traditional department structure of universities) who are still, in many ways, mimicking the 19th century German university.

Certainly, the emphasis on technology and on the knowledge industry of the post-industrial era is an important topic not to be ignored, and one that can result in powerful impact for better, or for worse, in the society–but again, without an awareness of the MEANING AND “BIGGER PICTURE” implications of the new information technology and the widening income disparities in our society, there is a tendency to worship the new information technology as though it is a new religion–not unlike the way in which the industrial era put “old school” science and technology on a pedestal, resulting in critiques in books like C.P. Snow’s Two Cultures.

This over-emphasis on certification for employment uses colleges and universities to legitimize the false and misleading ideology that our society is based on a fair-minded, level-playing field meritocracy rather than a runaway controlling, oligarchy.  Certification is not at all about “education”–it uses the guise of education to suggest that the certification awarded by “educational” institutions leads to a fair and rational basis for awarding financial benefits to the 99+% in the society. “Education” that prepares people to assume jobs, even high-paying jobs, without preparing them to lead critically-minded, inquisitive lives as active citizens, leads to a class of disempowered, poorly informed, disposable indentured servants, many of whom are drowning in student loan debt.  This is not just a problem for the individuals seeking education, career development and employment, it becomes a problem for all of us.
Arguably, the most competent professionals are those who are also leading happy and personally fulfilling lives.  Unhappy, overworked, disengaged, alienated people do not perform their work responsibilities as well those who find meaning, both in their jobs and outside of their work. Furthermore, unhappy, disengaged people are often less engaged in their civic responsibilities, or they make the decisions as citizens that all of us are prone to make when we are desperately looking for a way out of our predicament.

Of Veysey’s four themes, “liberal culture” is the theme least co-opted and least corrupted by the more recent themes of information technology and certification.  However, the cheerleaders for these more recent trends focusing on technology and certification sometimes attempt to discredit, or at least disregard, the value of “liberal culture.”  Returning to an emphasis on liberal culture, primarily, is not a viable option, either. All too seldom does someone step forward and remind us that certification and slavish, uncritical devotion to information technology has little to do with truly practical problem-solving, or truly insightful development of new knowledge, and indeed, they often don’t even require the mental discipline advocated by the most  zealous early religious teachers.  However, they do give the illusion of being practical, disciplined, and concerned with “new” knowledge, and so they have formed convenient partnerships with those who are most committed to those three of the four themes noted by Veysey.

The recent writing of Henry Giroux provides some excellent insights into the predicaments in which we find ourselves—in our society and in the unfulfilled potential of American education to contribute to individual and social transformation. Giroux notes:  “This is evident not only in the rejection of science, evidence and reason as the foundation of an informed community, but also in the embrace of fundamentalist positions that pander to ignorance as a basis for shutting down dissent, mobilizing supporters and retooling American education as a business, a training site to initiate the young into a world where the corporate, financial and military elite decide their needs, desires and future.”  [The New Extremism and Politics of Distraction in the Age of Austerity, Tuesday, 22 January 2013 10:32 By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed ]  He goes on to say:  “At stake here is not merely a call for reform, but a revolutionary ideal that enables people to hold power, participate in the process of governing and create genuine publics capable of translating private troubles and issues into public problems. . . . In this case, it is not enough to demand that people be provided with the right to participate in the experience of governing, but also educated in every aspect of what it means to live in a democracy. At the very least, this suggests an education that enables a working knowledge of citizen-based skills and the development of those capacities that encourage individuals to be self-reflective, develop a passion for public values and be willing to develop and defend those public spaces that lift ideas into the worldly space of the public realm. . . .”

As we at WISR continue to refine and improve our curriculum based on 40+ years’ experience in helping students to develop themselves further for creative and productive practice as socially responsible professionals, WISR’s curriculum can build on the best aspects of the themes found in the history of American higher education. In addition, we must also be visionary in ways that support WISR’s mission of the past 40 years, and in ways that provide hope that a creative synthesis can be achieved among themes, if they are practiced critically and judicially, with balance and wisdom.

At WISR, we are committed to engaging in learning processes with our students that will enable them to become effective, expert professionals, and who are effective as professionals because they are also engaged citizens and community leaders, able to live personally meaningful and fulfilling lives.  This means developing professionals who have a vision for both using the knowledge of their professions, while also going beyond the limitations and blind spots of their professions, to work for a better tomorrow for everyone.

40th Anniversary w-out 2015


WISR’s 6th Annual Conference, October 30, 2014 to November 1, 2014

September 23, 2014 by  

My Story, Your Story, WISR’s 39-Year Story of Personalized Education and Social Change Continues

WISR’s 6th Annual Conference, 2014

Click here for the Schedule and Registration Form

Click here for Registration form only

Click here for a longer version with Registration and Bios of Presenters

Thursday, October 30, 3:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Friday, October 31, 9:00 am to 8:30 pm
Saturday, November 1, 9:00 am to 7:30 pm
~Please register by Friday, October 24th if possible, although last minute registration accepted—contact WISR President, John Bilorusky, PhD: johnb@wisr.edu to register~
We will feature the work of some of WISR’s Students on each day of the conference.

a panel on Education and Social Change Panel on Friday (on WISR’s Educating for a Change Think Tank and  our monthly Film Series on Issues for Social Change);
on Saturday: a panel on how the Narrative is used for personal transformation, healing,  and social change (how story telling is used in counseling, medicine, action-inquiry, and other disciplines) by WISR Faculty members;
and a presentation by WISR’s President and discussion of WISR’s exciting plans to move toward accreditation.
For information on our 5th Annual Conference, which was held in February 2014 (delayed from 2013 due to our move to our new location last September), go to: https://www.wisr.edu/inquiry-and-social-change/multimedia/wisr-archives/wisrs-5th-annual-conference-feb-2014/

California Required Disclosures

January 13, 2013 by  

Quite appropriately, the State of California requires that the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR), and all unaccredited, State Approved schools, colleges and universities, disclose to prospective students possible limitations students may subsequently encounter in using their State Approved, but unaccredited degrees. We have discussed the uses and limitations of WISR degrees at great length in here and also in other sections of our website and online catalogue, in particular, please consult the section, “Learning About WISR.”We repeat some of the highlights of the points mentioned elsewhere in this section on “Tuition and Fees” because it is important for prospective students to be aware of the most important limitations they may encounter in using a WISR degree.

40th Anniversary w-out 2015


May 1, 2021 Update, WISR has received from the State an eight month extension of its State approval based on WISR’s having shown “strong progress” toward accreditation, and if WISR continues to make strong progress toward accreditation, may be considered for further extensions through June 30, 2022, as provided for by State law. The criteria outlined in the State law are as follows:

“All requests for extensions must be made in writing, to the Bureau’s

Education Administrator. The Bureau will consider those requests from

institutions that demonstrate they are making strong progress toward

obtaining accreditation, per CEC 94885.1(d)(1). Institutions must include

the following in their request:

– An amended accreditation plan adequately identifying why preaccreditation, accreditation candidacy, or accreditation outlined in the

original plan submitted to the Bureau was not achieved

– Active steps the institution is taking to comply with the requirements of

CEC 94885.1

– Documentation from an accrediting agency demonstrating the

institution’s likely ability to meet the requirements of CEC 94885.1”

The original law is as follows:

§71775.5. Pre-enrollment Disclosure; Notice to Prospective Degree Program Students; Institutions with Existing Approvals to Operate.

(a), An approved unaccredited institution enrolling a student in a degree program shall, prior to execution of an enrollment agreement, provide the student with the following notice, which shall be in at least 12-point type in the same font as the enrollment agreement:
Notice to Prospective Degree Program Students

Pre-enrollment Disclosure; Notice to Prospective Degree Program

This institution is approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education to offer degree programs. To continue to offer degree programs, this institution must meet the following requirements:

  • Become institutionally accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, with the scope of the accreditation covering at least one degree program.
  • Achieve accreditation candidacy or pre-accreditation, as defined in regulations, by July 1, 2017, and full accreditation by July 1, 2020.

If this institution stops pursuing accreditation, the following will happen:

  • The institution must stop all enrollment in its degree programs, and
  • Provide a teach-out to finish the educational program or provide a refund.

An institution that fails to comply with accreditation requirements by the required dates shall have its approval to offer degree programs automatically suspended.

(b) The student and an institutional representative shall initial and date the notice prior to executing an enrollment agreement. An initialed copy of the notice shall be given to the student and the original shall be retained in the enrolled student’s records.

(c) The notice shall also be posted immediately adjacent to wherever an institution’s degree granting programs are described and shall include, at a minimum, the following locations:

(1) The institution’s catalog.

(2) The institution’s website.

(3) The institution’s degree program brochures.

(d) This section shall remain in effect until July 1, 2021, and as of that date is repealed.

NOTE: Authority cited: Sections 94803, 94877, 94885 and 94885.1, Education Code. Reference:

Sections 94885, 94885.1, 94897, 94900, 94900.5, 94909, 94927.5 and 94932 Education Code.


What does this mean for WISR and for WISR students?

Prior to this new law and regulation, WISR had already decided to pursue national accreditation (see below)

With all accreditation efforts, there can never be a guarantee that an institution will be successful.  The information here is to provide updates on the concerted efforts and steps that we at WISR are taking to achieve national accreditation by 2020, and hopefully a bit before then. For legal and ethical reasons, we cannot promise that we will obtain accreditation, but we will be transparent in disclosing our progress—to the State of California as required by law, and to students, prospective students and interested members of the general public, as well, because such disclosures to the State must be made public.

WISR Board, faculty, alumni and students are strongly committed to obtaining accreditation, and will keep students, prospective students and the State informed of our progress (see update below). If WISR does not obtain accreditation by July 2020, WISR will apply for a two-year extension from the State (as allowed for be an amendment to the original law), and if for any reason, WISR fails to get accreditation on a timetable acceptable to the State (July 2020 or later if there is an extension), WISR faculty will do a teach out with all WISR students, and those students will be able to receive an academic degree that is fully approved by the State of California.

In compliance with Assembly Bill 2296, Chapter 585, Statutes of 2012, effective January 1, 2013, WISR discloses the following:
WISR offers unaccredited MS and Doctoral degrees—that is, WISR is not accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE).

WISR’s degree programs are approved by the State Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education [ “Approved” means, “approval to operate” which means compliance with state standards as set forth in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (California Education Code, Title 3,  Division 10, Part 59, Chapter 8)].  More information may be obtained from the Bureau’s website:  www.bppe.ca.gov

Graduates of WISR’s MS in Psychology program that is designed to meet the State’s academic requirements for the MFT and LPCC licenses, respectively, are eligible to sit for those licensure exams in California after meeting the other requirements (most notably, sufficient hours of supervised internship).  WISR makes no claims that students may sit for licensing exams in other states.  Students and prospective students interested in licensing in other states should contact those states for definitive information.  Oftentimes, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT) will be able to help its student members of that association learn how to obtain information from other states.

Students and prospective students should know that a degree program that is unaccredited or from an unaccredited institution is not recognized for some employment positions, including, but not limited to, positions with the State of California.Students enrolled in unaccredited institutions are not eligible for federal financial aid programs.Further information regarding required disclaimers is below . . WISR Collage

1.TRANSFER OF CREDIT TO, AND USE OF DEGREES IN, ACCREDITED INSTITUTIONS:Generally speaking, it is wise not to expect to transfer credit at the graduate level (MS or Doctoral) between two institutions, because most graduate programs want students to do all of their graduate degree program work at that institution.  Acceptance of the MS you earn at WISR is at the complete discretion of the institution to which you may seek to transfer. If the credits or degree that you earn at this institution are not accepted at the institution to which you seek to transfer, you may be required to repeat some or all of your coursework at that institution. For this reason you should make certain that your attendance at this institution will meet your educational goals. This may include contacting an institution to which you may seek to transfer after attending WISR to determine if your credits or degree will transfer.
NOTICE CONCERNING TRANSFERABILITY OF CREDITS AND CREDENTIALS EARNED AT OUR INSTITUTION. The transferability of credits you earn at the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR) is at the complete discretion of an institution to which you may seek to transfer. Acceptance of the degree or academic credits you earn in the educational program is also at the complete discretion of the institution to which you may seek to transfer. If the credits or degree that you earn at this institution are not accepted at the institution to which you seek to transfer, you may be required to repeat some or all of your coursework at that institution. For this reason you should make certain that your attendance at this institution will meet your educational goals. This may include contacting an institution to which you may seek to transfer after attending WISR to determine if your credits or degree will transfer.

2. USES AND LIMITATIONS OF WISR’S UNACCREDITED DEGREES TO OBTAIN EMPLOYMENT AND LICENSURE:Only one of WISR’s degree programs is specifically designed to lead to employment in a specific career—the MS in Psychology that meets the State’s academic requirements for the Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) license, and more recently the LPCC license, as well, is designed to help students move toward eventual licensing and careers and employment as licensed MFTs (and for some as LPCCs as well). The significant and typical successes of our MFT program alumni in accomplishing these particular employment and licensing goals is described in our “School Performance Fact Sheet for the MFT Program” which is on our website and available as a hard copy, upon request.
Although the success of WISR alumni in professional advancement and employment is very impressive and well documented, the success of any one student in using their degree from WISR to obtain a particular job definitely CANNOT BE GUARANTEED OR EVEN EXPECTED. Although WISR has been State Approved since 1977 [under current law, “Approved” means, “approval to operate” which means compliance with state standards as set forth in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (California Education Code, Title 3,  Division 10, Part 59, Chapter 8)], it is not regionally or nationally accredited, and indeed, very tiny institutions such as WISR are seldom, if ever, even evaluated by the regional accrediting agency, and the relevant national agencies do not evaluate institutions offering PhD programs. IT IS IMPORTANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT WISR’S DEGREES ARE UNACCREDITED, AND THEREFORE, WISR STUDENTS AND ALUMNI MAY SOMETIMES BE ELIMINATED FROM CONSIDERATION FOR SOME JOBS, AS WELL AS FOR LICENSURE AND CERTIFICATION IN MOST FIELDS IN OTHER STATES.
The actual experience of WISR students is that they are mostly satisfactorily employed in jobs and careers that they have desired, oftentimes with much greater success than they even hoped for prior to enrolling at WISR. Nevertheless, there are fairly common instances where students and alumni have found that they are eliminated from consideration for some jobs and promotions in public agencies (Federal, State, County, City) when for reasons of legality or bureaucratic convenience, the public agency stipulates that an accredited degree is required for a particular position. Seldom, if ever, have our alumni or students encountered difficulties, because of WISR’s unaccredited status, in obtaining jobs in non-profit and community-based agencies. Similarly, WISR students and alumni have in many cases been successful in obtaining foundation grants, being hired as consultants, and writing books and articles for publication. Although WISR alumni have sometimes been hired for faculty-time faculty positions in large, accredited institutions (e.g., San Francisco State, University of California, Morris Brown University), and many have obtained part-time positions in such institutions, it is well documented that many college and university hiring committees will not consider applicants holding unaccredited degrees.

3. WISR’S FINANCIAL INTEGRITY: WISR has never had a pending petition in bankruptcy, is not operating as a debtor in possession, has never filed a petition for bankruptcy, and has never had a petition in bankruptcy filed against it that resulted in reorganization under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code.

4. The State requires that we remind students that:  if a student obtains a loan to pay for an educational program, the student will have to repay the full amount of the loan plus interest, less the amount of any refund, and that, if the student receives federal student financial aid funds, the student is entitled to a refund of the moneys not paid from federal financial aid funds.

5. ACCESS TO WISR’S ANNUAL REPORTS TO THE STATE: State of California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) is making the annual reports of all approved* [*under current State law,  Approved” means, “approval to operate” which means compliance with state standards as set forth in the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (California Education Code, Title 3,  Division 10, Part 59, Chapter )] institutions, including WISR, available on the State’s website at:  https://www.dca.ca.gov/webapps/bppe/annual_report.php

6. WISR’s 2018 Annual Report to State Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education can be accessed here.


Any questions a student may have regarding this catalog that have not been satisfactorily answered by the institution may be directed to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education at  1747 N. Market Blvd., Suite 225, Sacramento, CA 95834,  or P.O. Box 980818, West Sacramento, CA  95798-0818 www.bppe.ca.gov Telephone (888) 370-7589 or by fax (916) 263-1897

A student or any member of the public may file a complaint about this institution with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education by calling (888)370-7589 or by completing a complaint form, which can be obtained on the bureau’s internet Web site www.bppe.ca.gov






Doctor of Education (EdD)*: Graduation Requirements (details)

August 28, 2010 by  

Doctor of Education

A student is required at entry to hold a Master’s degree and to be a mature adult with a history of community involvement or successful professional practice. A minimum of three (3) years of study (60 semester units) is required of students for the degree.   Pre-dissertation projects must constitute at least 45 of the required 60 semester units. [Previously enrolled PhD students must complete at least 42 semester units of pre-dissertation projects, on their way to the 54 semester unit PhD.]

*Effective June 1, 2013, WISR admits all new doctoral students to an EdD program, while previously enrolled doctoral students complete their PhDs–we made the decision to switch the PhD program to an EdD program to enable us to explore the possibility of seeking national accreditation with an agency approved to accredit professional doctoral degrees.

In practice, several exceptional WISR students have completed their doctoral studies in two and one-half very intense years, and most take three or four years beyond the MA, and quite a few choose a longer period of time and more gradual pace. Faculty assess the quality of the student’s learning, the quality of the student’s written product and other demonstrated accomplishments, and the quantity of the student’s efforts in relation to what would be expected of students in more conventional doctoral level classes. Typically, students earn at least three or four units for each project, and about twelve to fifteen units for the dissertation.

A doctoral student must complete a range of projects, culminating in papers comparable in quality (not necessarily in form or content) to papers expected for doctoral seminars at more traditional institutions. In practice, about ten such projects, and readings involved in developing the required annotated bibliographies,in addition to the dissertation, are necessary to demonstrate:

• breadth of expertise in one’s major field(s) of emphasis;
• ability to use theory and practice creatively, and to create theories and action strategies;
• ability to integrate WISR’s two core areas–
Action Research Methods and Theories of Social Analysis and Change–into one’s thinking and action; and
• completion of a dissertation project that shows significant intellectual and practical creativity in an area of personal interest and potential importance to others.

Further, each doctoral student is required to plan and conduct at least one seminar session on a subject which reflects a major interest of theirs, and to demonstrate how it relates to theories and practices in the broad, interdisciplinary field of higher education and social change.

Doctoral students are strongly encouraged to attend seminars, WISR’s annual conference, and the semi-annual All School Gatherings, whenever possible.  Those outside the Bay Area are expected to visit at least one time each year for two or three days.  Doctoral students at WISR learn about theories and strategies pertaining to higher education and social change, and about research methodology, especially qualitative methods and participatory action-research. Through seminars, readings, and individual discussions with faculty advisers, doctoral students are expected to learn about theories and research methods, and to use and critique some of these theories in their papers and in the dissertation.

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