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WISR’s Distinctive Students . . .

Many of WISR’s students are in leadership positions where they positively influence the lives of large numbers of people.  Most are working to connect their local efforts with large-scale and long-term social changes. Studies at WISR are designed to enhance and build on student’s professional work, community involvements and volunteer activities.  The following examples illustrate the range of students’ backgrounds and involvements.

Doctoral Students in Higher Education and Social Change*

*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.

Amber Gray is a dance therapist with 10 years experience working with torture and trauma survivors in the US and Haiti, and 20 years working internationally. Amber practices somatic psychology, and balances theory with experiential learning, integrating somatic psychology and dance movement therapy into the restorative process. Previously, she was a Director of Program for Survivors of Organized Violence and Torture, Port au Prince, Haiti and also the Clinical Director of the Rocky Mountain Survivor Center (RMSC) in Denver. RMSC is a nonprofit agency which provides mental health support and services for survivors of political torture and war trauma. She has an MPH and an MA, and is a Registered Dance Therapist (DTR) as well as a Board Eligible Nationally Certified Counselor (BENCC). As a result of her work with traumatized children, she has given presentations to other professionals, nationally and internationally. One of her PhD projects was published in a professional journal in Argentina: “El Cuerpo Roto” (The Broken Body), co-authored with Eric Harper, in Psicoanalisis y El Hospital (Psychoanalysis and the Hospital). Another one of her PhD projects was an article in the American Journal of Dance Therapy on “Healing the Relational Wounds of Torture: Dance Movement Therapy with an Adult Survivor.” Her WISR dissertation is an action-research pilot project to develop a training model and training materials to provide support for international humanitarian aid workers in such areas as the Sudan and Darfur, who are at great risk for burnout and traumatization.

Vlad Huber is Chilean, and makes his home in Chile, pursuing his PhD studies at WISR from afar. His studies at WSR are aimed to create a very innovative school–an Integrated Nursery, Day Care Center and School that will be based on multicultural ideals that are currently not a part of Chilean society or the societies of most other countries around the world. One of these principles is the integration of indigenous cultures and races from the American continent, including the Mapuche, Aymara, Rapa Nui, Selknam, and Ona peoples, as well as other peoples from our continental and island lands of Chile as the philosophical and practical basis for the teaching in the planned school. This will provide integration of originary peoples among themselves, as well as with the people of mixed and European descent who live in Chile. Until now, these cultural groups have remained separate in several aspects of their daily lives. The Nursery and the Day Care Center will accept three-month¬-old babies to four-year-old children in order for their mothers to have the time and space to carry on with their work or academic activities. The concepts will be mostly based on the culture and world-view of the indigenous people of Chile and the rest of the continent, in conjunction with the European culture present in the country. The School will accept children from kindergarten through high school and will feature the same concepts and practices as the Day Care Center, adapting them to the age of the students at each level. Education will be personalized, paying attention to the learning needs of each student, so that each child will have his or her own learning pace, with the guidance of teachers who will promote the integration of children of different ages with different personal histories. This diversity of knowledge and communication will prepare them well for the academic, working and social worlds. Furthermore, the buildings and campus design will follow the principles of sustainable architecture and environmentally conscious design techniques in the field of architecture. Children will therefore have the daily experience of learning and caring about the environment.

Juanita Johnson is retired and pursing PhD studies at WISR that revolve around her primary interest of Cuban Women and Music.

Kathy Kain has been practicing and teaching bodywork and trauma recovery skills for nearly 30 years. She teaches in Europe, Australia, Canada, and throughout the U.S., and maintains a private practice in Albany, California. She is a senior trainer in the Somatic Experiencing training program and is currently Director of Training and Education for the Foundation for Human Enrichment. Kathy is also an adjunct faculty member of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute and was a senior trainer for 12 years in the Somatic Psychotherapy training program based in Sydney Australia, where she developed the Touch Training for Psychotherapists that she now teaches in the U.S. She co-authored the book Ortho-Bionomy; A Practical Manual (North Atlantic Books). Kathy earned her MA at WISR in the 1990s. Her WISR PhD studies focus on the training work that she does throughout the US, and in other countries, for psychotherapists and body workers, on such matters as the practical and ethical issues involved in the use of touch in these professions.

Larry Loebig

Larry Loebig was born in Brooklyn New York and studied theater and broadcasting. He later worked with the New Games Foundation and The Black Scholar Journal. He founded his own businesses and eventually was awarded special recognition from the US House of Representatives and the California State Senate for his efforts developing innovative virtual collaboration and the social and community contributions of California.com and The Socially Responsible Internet Company. He is a Master Coach [ www.mastercoach.com ], Certified Mediator and Master Trainer with Guerrilla Marketing International. Larry is also a member of WISR’s core faculty, where he is using his very valuable expertise in coaching and in developing online collaboration. He has played an instrumental role in the founding and development of Wisrville.

Roger Mason is Manager of the Kaiser Permanente Health Education Center located in the Fremont, Union City, and Hayward medical facilities. Previously, he was Program Director for Tissue Transplant Education for the University of California at San Francisco Tissue Bank. He has served as educational liaison between two tissue banks to promote tissue donation for 19 Bay Area hospitals. His ultimate goals include doing more college teaching and organizational consultation. Academically, he is building on his interdisciplinary experience at the University of Chicago, and seven years of postgraduate studies in the fields of sociology, philosophy, psychology and theology. He is nearing completion of his program at WISR which has included studies of American Shakers, institutional altruism, and generational differences in contemporary U.S. society.

Eric Mauer does substitute teaching in pre-K and child care classrooms on a regular basis in the San Francisco Public Schools child care program. His PhD dissertation is on early childhood education. His strong interests include working with young children; poetry; and working with very poor and homeless persons as well as with people with disabilities. He is also concerned with landlord-tenant and constitutional law; progressive politics; writing; the sociology and politics of schooling and of psychiatry, psychotherapy, and mental health; and finding ways to work for greater social justice and a more humane world.

Agnes Morton working for change with her Overtown community

Agnes Morton is a veteran Community Health Nurse, Health Educator and Health Consultant. She holds a Master’s in Nursing from University of California, San Francisco, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley. She was a Lecturer at San Francisco State University’s School of Ethnic Studies for 16 years where she taught two courses, “Health, Medicine and Nutrition in the Black Community”, and “ Black Issues in Gerontology.” Retired from the San Francisco Department of Public Health since 1998, Agnes relocated from San Francisco to her hometown, Miami, Florida where she is active in the movement for social change and improved health outcomes for Overtown, the historically black, disenfranchised community where she was born. Since returning to Miami, she has become active in a number of partnerships dedicated to improving the quality of life for Overtown residents, and her PhD studies have revolved around her action-research involvements in Overtown. She has participated in the development of the “Overtown Cookbook,” a high school service-learning collaborative project, that has become a national model for community-based participatory research in the public health arena. Agnes is active in the Power U Center for Social Change, a grassroots community organization founded in 1999 to address social change and social justice issues in Overtown. She was a principal organizer of Power U’s first “Overtown Health and Justice Fair,” in March of 2008, that addressed the unmet health and social justice needs of underserved residents in Overtown. Her current work is focused upon the social determinants of health, health disparities, health literacy, health promotion and disease prevention in Overtown and other black diaspora communities; and grassroots organizing for social change. Her dissertation is on “Community Organizing for Social Change and Improved Health Outcomes in Miami’s Overtown Community”.

Michael Ratner runs an independent news distribution agency, serving media outlets since 1979. He specializes in niche news outreach covering the wide GREEN ECO media spectrum [ http://www.Greenpresswire.com ]. Michael runs a small virtual PR agency and lives most of the year in Shanghai, China with his wife Yanju and two young daughters Elsa (4) and Elyn (2). His research at WISR centers on starting a “Self Liberation” movement by awakening consciousness

Monika Scott received her MA in Psychology toward the MFT license from WISR, and has now completed doing her 3,000 hours of supervised practice for the license. Her MA thesis focused on the issues and unmet needs of foster youth as they “age out of the system.” For her PhD studies at WISR, she continues to work on that important, needed area of concern, and is also studying gerontology.

Shyaam Shabaka with youth at EcoVillage Farm

Shyaam Shabaka, MPH, founder and CEO of Eco-Village farm [ www.ecovillagefarm.org ] in Richmond, California, has developed an urban farm as a model of sustainability and social activism aimed at educating and involving disenfranchised youth and other low-income citizens in addressing both local and larger societal problems. His PhD studies are focused on his many years’ of creative involvement as a public health professional in addressing such areas as violence prevention and health disparities and health promotion in disenfranchised communities of color. Indeed, in he was named the 2010 State of California Community Champion by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Shyaam is former Supervisor of Health Planning, Education, and Promotion for the City of Berkeley’s Office of Community Services. He holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley. He founded Global Vision 20/20, a nonprofit organization helping to empower low-income people in the Americas, Africa, and other developing parts of the world, through self-help programs in health, education, economic development, and sustainable agriculture. He has been developing a program with the International Children’s Resource Institute to use traditional healers in Africa to help educate people about HIV and AIDS prevention.

For decades, Jake Sloan has been a leader in promoting equal employment opportunities in construction in Oakland and neighboring communities. In his PhD studies at WISR, Jake is studying the history of the civil rights movement in the area of employment opportunities, and is compiling oral histories which draw on the wisdom of people engaged in this struggle during the past 50 years. Recently, Jake articulated his goals and his study plan, by stating, in part: “I want to get a good education that will allow me to understand how the world got to where it is and how it currently operates/functions, so that I can map a strategy to help make the world better for the African American community, for the wider society, for my family and for myself. The result will be that five years from now, I will be an activist scholar, writer and teacher. The overall purpose of my proposed approach, then, is to analyze each period of my study plan for general and specific lessons learned, to be used as building blocks to develop strategies for the present and the future for community and human capacity building, with the view that a stronger African American society will make for a stronger society at large. Once the program is completed, I will work as an activist scholar, writer and teacher, in collaboration with WISR, San Francisco State University and my own non profit organization, the African American development Institute (AADI). To that end, I propose to research and write papers on the periods 1940-1961; the 60s and 70s; the 80s and 90s; 2000 to 2010. “

Andrea Turner is Program Director for Senior Volunteer Services, City of Oakland. She is Co-Director of the Vukani Mawethu South African choir. She is former President of the Board of “A Safe Place” (which is a shelter for battered women), and serves on the Board of East Bay Peace Action. Her PhD dissertation studies the involvement of elders in cultural and social change movements. As part of her ongoing involvement in many facets of community arts, she has developed and organized art exhibits to display works created by elders and youth on topics of peace and justice.

Master’s and Bachelor’s Students

Nasira Abdul-Aleem (R) and Vera Labat, WISR faculty (L)

Nasira Sabria Abdul-Aleem is nearing the completion of her Master’s at WISR. Here’s what Nasira wants to tell about herself: “In 1952, a Socialist/atheist mom and a dancer/folksinger/agnostic dad began molding my life to their ideals. In rejection of their beliefs, I became a Quaker after 5 years of folk-school education, and ultimately a Muslim at age 18. On the path of wife and mother, I soon learned that, when a man won’t ‘provide,’ I have to. So, I got a degree in English from UCB, and am loving learning about counseling-psychology at WISR. I want to change the prisons from the inside out –by meeting the challenge of reaching those who are afraid of relationships–both the oppressed and the oppressors–even if it is by removing the power from the hands of the oppressor based on their failure to ‘provide.’”

Mark Snaer is a WISR Master’s student in Human Services and Community Development (program name has recently been changed to Leadership and Social Justice) who lives in Sacramento. He has a long history of working in positions of major responsibility in private non-profit social service agencies and in public agencies there, and his experience spans work with youth as well as with elders. His experiences and observations of some of the important challenges facing social service agencies led him to create and evaluate as a pilot project, a Sacramento-based Community Action Think Tank. He recruited and involved a few Sacramento residents and professionals who committed to discussing and inquiring into the challenges with and needs for developing greater community involvement among community residents. The pursuit and evaluation of this effort has been part of his MA studies at WISR. Born and raised in Oakland, California, Mark left the Bay Area to attend California State University at Sacramento where he earned a baccalaureate degree in Psychology. Mark began his professional career working with severely emotionally disturbed youth in foster care. From there, he moved on to work in employment development on a project to standardize program assessments across various program operators in the greater Sacramento region. This experience led to an opportunity for Mark to become an analyst developing youth employment programs in the Sacramento region. Subsequently, Mark worked for the Sacramento’s Meals on Wheels program where he was responsible for program marketing, volunteer recruitment and fundraising. Mark is also a self-taught, accomplished amateur photographer.

Rev. Jeanelyse Doran Adams is nearing the completion of her Bachelor’s at WISR, and is Director of Congregational Services for the Pacific Central District of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Jeanelyse is responsible for consulting with the thirty-eight UU congregations in the District, youth and young adult ministries, and for providing support for religious educators. Jeanelyse was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister in 2010 by the Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Starr King School for the Ministry, of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California. She took a leave of absence from her Bachelor’s studies at WISR while working on and completing her Master’s of Divinity degree.

William Poehner

William Poehner is a recent graduate of WISR’s Bachelor’s program.  He is a personal growth facilitator/trainer who has a passion for sharing Nonviolent Communication [ http://wpoehner.com/ ]. He grew up in a bilingual (Spanish/English) family, living his early childhood in a working class neighborhood in Cali, Colombia. He migrated to New York City as a young child, and then moved to the metropolitan area of Los Angeles, where he became familiar with the struggles of disadvantaged adolescents in compacted neighborhoods. William and his colleagues help prisoners develop a deeper personal awareness of their own life, while providing skills needed for living peacefully with themselves, their co-inmates and the society to which they will return. The goal is to develop a population of aware prisoners who are involved in development of a peaceful paradigm for living within the prison. The vision is also to see this same paradigm transferred upon their release into a more peaceful, humane world for all of us.

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