Faculty Profiles

Faculty Overview

WISR has deliberately sought faculty members whose range of ethnic backgrounds, academic disciplines, work experiences, and community involvements allow them to act as resource people for WISR’s adult, community-involved students in ways that go beyond intellectual specialization and unite academic with professional and community concerns.

WISR faculty generally have very broad, interdisciplinary social science expertise beyond their particular areas of specialization, which enables them to work with our varied student population. They have many years of teaching experience, both in traditional academic settings and at WISR. Many have been teaching at WISR for 10 years or more. There is a very low rate of faculty turnover at WISR, and indeed, faculty are enthusiastically committed to working at WISR in personalized ways with the diverse and talented population of mature adults who enroll at WISR.

WISR faculty also have a rich background of involvement with community organizations, other educational institutions, and consulting practice. This practical experience further enriches their contributions to student learning, given the strong practical community concerns of most of our students. Indeed, this is the case with our two faculty who are licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs).


Graduate Faculty Qualifications

WISR Graduate Faculty (whose names are highlighted in red) are those faculty with accredited doctoral degrees, and additional, relevant advanced academic and/or professional experience, who are lead instructors in courses for (and who can serve as faculty on Graduation Review Boards of) WISR doctoral students and Master’s students. Only those who are lead instructors of courses have the  responsibility and authority to make final evaluation and approval of courses assignments submitted by students. 

A graduate faculty member without a doctoral degree, or with an unaccredited doctoral degree, may be able to be a lead instructor in the MS in Psychology/MFT program, and in work with students in related fields in the MS in Education and Community Leadership program, if they have at least 15 years of experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT), over 10 of which must be in the State of California, and who also have proven expertise in educating therapists and other professionals in related fields, as evidenced in presentations at professional conferences, continuing education workshops, professional leadership and educational writings


JOHN BILORUSKY, Ph.D. BA cum laude, General Studies and Physics, University of Colorado, 1967. MA, Sociology of Education, University of California at Berkeley, 1968. PhD, Higher Education, UC Berkeley, 1972. John is President of WISR, was a co-founder of WISR in 1975, and has served full-time on WISR’s faculty ever since. In 1970-71, John taught senior thesis seminars in the Social Sciences Integrated Courses and Field Major, as a Teaching Associate at the University of California, Berkeley. From 1971-73, he was Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs and Senior Research Associate in the Institute for Research and Training in Higher Education, at the University of Cincinnati. There he taught the required action-research course in the College of Community Services, created and coordinated the College’s Individualized Learning Program, and served as an in-house organizational and evaluation consultant for faculty at the University. Then, from 1973-75, he was Director of Graduate Studies at University Without Walls-Berkeley. He is the author of published articles and papers on higher education and social change, adult learning, and practical, community-based and participatory research methods, including a co-authored book published by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, May 1970: The Campus Aftermath of Cambodia and Kent State (with Richard Peterson) and two books recently published by Routledge Press in 2021—Principles and Methods of Transformative Action Research, and Cases and Illustrations of Transformative Action Research. He has served as a consultant for community agencies in the area of participatory action-research, including directing a major study of needs and services for low-income elders for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, and using participatory research in collaboration with the Bay Area Black United Fund on three occasions for their African American Health Summits. In addition, he has done collaborative consultations with dozens of Bay Area groups over the years. He has conducted evaluations of colleges and educational innovations, for such institutions as De Pauw University (Indiana), Macalester College (Minnesota), Colorado College, New College of California, and Fresno State University. He has conducted feasibility studies for such groups as the California Housing Trust Fund and Cleveland State University’s Department of Human Services. John serves on the Advisory Board of the global network of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies ( https://www.humiliationstudies.org/ ).  john.bilorusky@wisr.edu   For more information, go to: www.johnbilorusky.academia.edu 

AVA DENISE PHILLIPS, M.S., LMFT. BS in Business Administration, Marketing, California State University Dominguez Hills. Masters in Counseling, Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, California State University Fullerton. She has been licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist by the state of California since 2001. She has served her locale in the community mental health field for over 27 years. She has worked for the County of San Bernardino Behavioral Health Department, the County of Riverside Behavioral Health Department and several community agencies that support family preservation and reunification. She has always believed that the only way to truly impact the lives of children is to support their families. In addition, she recalls fondly her experiences working with the chronically mentally challenged, commenting that they are “vulnerable with a quiet strength that is endearing.” She would say, however, that her most illuminating experience was working with the domestic violence population; a complete change in basic assumptions for her! Ava is grateful for the opportunity she has been given to mentor and supervise many MFT associates (formerly called interns) to licensure. It is important to her that they are respected, protected, and well trained. She is fully committed to contributing to having quality, competent and relevant licensed clinicians in the mental health field.

Ava humbly serves on the Board of the California Marriage and Family Association as the Chief Financial Officer. She also serves on the Executive Board of Parktree Community Health Center as the secretary and member of the compliance and finance committees. She has actively participated in numerous community outreach activities through her church for over 30 years, as well as having held several leadership positions within the church. She has been a member of the African American Parent Advisory Board within the Pomona Unified School District since 2017. Over many years she has attended numerous monthly collaborative meetings for mental health and community service agencies and participated in various sub-committees. Ava facilitates therapy and community connection services for people who have trouble accessing services on their own. She provides pro bono counseling for people in crisis and some not in crisis. She regularly answers the call to speak at community events on mental health issues.

She has been in private practice since 2017 and is enjoying the autonomy! Her purpose is to help people connect or reconnect to their own lives, as they wish to live them. She has found that helping people understand and manage their depression and anxiety can be the cure they never saw coming. She instills hope!! She utilizes whatever it takes to make that happen. However, her go to approaches are cognitive behavioral, client-centered and solution-focused therapies. She models transparency, emotional integrity, staying present and above all speaking your truth. When appropriate and therapeutic she will utilize Christian counseling to give clients a point of reference from which to heal. She is grateful to have had the privilege of collaborating with people of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic levels to change and improve their lives. Last, but first, Ava is the mother of three phenomenal children and one 11-month-old perfect granddaughter! She says her family grounds her and teaches her best lessons… ava.dee@wisr.edu 
Life Philosophy- “You must work for what you get, you must be accountable for your actions and reactions, your opinion is just that yours and yes, God does allow U-turns.” And, for further wisdom: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”–Maya Angelou

BRIAN GERRARD, Ph.D. Sociology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, PhD Counseling Psychology, University of Toronto. M.A. Counseling Psychology, University of British Columbia. Brian is WISR’s Chief Academic Officer, Co-Director of the EdD Program and Chair of the Institutional Research Board. Brian is Emeritus Associate Professor, Counseling Psychology Department, University of San Francisco. He holds teaching awards from two universities. He has extensive experience teaching a wide variety of Master’s and Doctoral level courses in counselor education. Brian developed USF’s masters MFT program and for 14 years served as MFT Coordinator. His orientation emphasizes an integration of family systems and problem-solving approaches. He is an experienced administrator and has been Chair of the Counseling Psychology Department three times. Currently, he is a member of the Board, WISR Center for Child and Family Development. The Center, co-founded by Brian, has for years managed the largest longest-running School-Based Family Counseling program of its type in the USA. Its Mission Possible Program has served more than 25,000 children and families in over 100 Bay area schools. Brian is also Chair of the Institute for School-Based Family Counseling. The Institute sponsors the International Journal for School-Based Family Counseling and the Oxford Symposium in School-Based Family Counseling. He is also Symposium Director for the Oxford Symposium in School-Based Family Counseling which is an international association with members in 22 countries and which meets at Brasenose College, Oxford University in even years and other international sites in alternate years. Brian is senior editor of the books, School-Based Family Counseling: an Interdisciplinary Practitioner’s Guide (Routledge, 2019), School-Based Family Counseling with Refugees and Immigrants (Routledge, 2022), and School-Based Family Counseling for Crisis and Disaster: Global Perspectives (in press, Routledge). He is co-author with Dr. Jacqueline Shinefield of Psychological Type Therapy: A Practitioner’s Guide to Strengthening Relationships (Routledge, 2022). Brian is Co-Facilitator of the Disastershock Global Response Team that developed 30 language translations of the book Disastershock: How to Cope with the Emotional Stress of a Major Disaster and made them available free globally during the Covid 19 pandemic. brian.gerrard@wisr.edu.

LINDA M. HARTLING, Ph.D. Clinical/Community Psychology, The Union Institute Graduate School, Cincinnati,Ohio, 1995. Master’s of Music., University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 1989.Bachelor’s of Music, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, 1978. Dr. Hartling is the Director of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS) and is part of the leadership team facilitating HumanDHS projects, including the World Dignity University initiative and Dignity Press. HumanDHS is a global transdisciplinary network of scholars, practitioners, and activists collaborating to end cycles of humiliation while encouraging practices that support the dignity of people and the planet. Dr. Hartling is the past Associate Director of the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute (JBMTI), part of the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Dr. Hartling holds a doctoral degree in clinical/community psychology and has published papers on Relational-Cultural Theory, workplace practices, resilience, substance abuse prevention, and the psychological and social impact of humiliation. She is co-editor of The Complexity of Connection: Writings from the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at the Stone Center (2004) and author of the Humiliation Inventory, the first scale to assess the internal experience of humiliation. Dr. Hartling is the recipient of the 2010 Research Award presented by the Association for Creativity in Counseling, American Counseling Association. She was recently honored with the 2015 Human DHS Lifetime Achievement Award, presented at the 26th Annual Workshop on Transforming Humiliation and Violent Conflict, at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City. lhartling@me.comlhartling@humiliationstudies.orglhartling@icloud.com  linda.hartling@wisr.edu

RONALD MAH, Ph.D., LMFT.  BA in Psychology and Social Sciences, University of California at Berkeley, 1975. MA in Psychology, Western Institute for Social Research, 1991. Teacher’s Credential Program, University of California at Berkeley, 1976. PhD in Higher Education and Social Change, Western Institute for Social Research, 2013. Ronald is Co-Director of WISR’s MFT Program. Ronald has had a private practice since 1994 as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He is a credentialed elementary and secondary teacher, and former owner-director of a preschool and daycare center. He does consulting and training for human service organizations, teaching courses and workshops for many community agencies and educational institutions around the California and the United States. He is a visible and active writer of books and articles in the field. His areas of special concern include child development, parenting and child-rearing, multicultural education, and teacher education. He previously served two terms on the Board of Directors of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), and in June 2021, he has been elected to another term on the CAMFT Board. He also has served on the Board of the California Kindergarten Association. Ronald completed his PhD at WISR, writing on multiple topics on couple’s therapy, and for a potential twenty book series, possibly e-books. For more information about Ronald’s many professional endeavors, go to www.ronaldmah.com     Ronald@RonaldMah.com    ronald.mah@wisr.edu 

ELENIE OPFFER, Ph.D., Communications, University of Colorado, Boulder. MA, Speech Communication, San Francisco State University. BA Cum Laude, Humanities, San Francisco State University.  Elenie joins WISR after serving as a communication professor at several universities including University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Regis University, Denver, and California State University, Stanislaus. She currently teaches full-time as an Organizational Communication Faculty member at California State University, Channel Islands. Her research, teaching, and service interests encompass social justice, social identity, and conflict transformation within various organizational and societal contexts. Some courses she has developed and taught on diverse identities include: intercultural communication, ethnicity and communication, diversity and communication, gender and communication, and sexuality and communication. Courses revolving around conflict transformation include: conflict and communication, group dialogue, mediation, and designing conflict interventions. Her organizational communication emphasis includes classes on organizational communication, leadership, and nonprofit management. She has also taught qualitative and action research methods. Elenie was the founding director of the Regis University Conflict and Dialogue Studies program, worked as a mediation and conflict resolution consultant, trainer, and intervenor for the Community Board Program, and currently serves on the Advisory Board of the National Peace Summit in Nigeria. She recently co-founded a US Chapter of the Centre for Sustainable Development and Education in Africa. Locally, she has been active in developing and delivering training for university LGBTQI Safe Zone programs, and serves as a fellow at the Intercultural Communication Institute’s summer program. Some of her publications include: Coming out in class: notes from the college classroom; The Rhetoric of Rocky Mountain Women; Talking trekking and transforming a male preserve; and A Systemic Approach to School Conflict Resolution. When she’s not working, you might find Elenie hiking, biking, or dancing till the break of dawn.   elenie.opffer@wisr.edu   elenie.opffer@gmail.com

SUDIA PALOMA MCCALEB, EdD in Multicultural and International Education, University of San Francisco, 1992 (Doctoral thesis focused on working with multi-cultural and multi-lingual families in the early literacy development of their children); Masters in Education, Bank Street College, New York City; BA in Anthropology and Romance Languages, University of Michigan. Sudia is Co-Director of WISR’s Doctoral Program and the MS program in Education and Community Leadership as well as the Student Services Coordinator. Dr. Paloma McCaleb was born into a family of educators. She began teaching Head Start programs and Columbia University laboratory schools in New York City. Upon moving to California, she assumed the Educational Directorship at University of California, Berkeley Early Childhood Centers through the ASUC (Associated Students, University of California). Subsequently, she directed her own small family pre- school/kindergarten. A Berkeley school funding initiative led her to become an arts specialist in Berkeley public schools. Later she became an educator and teacher of literacy development and second language development in Oakland and Sonoma County schools. She was a popular workshop presenter at CABE (California Association of Bilingual Educators) and NAME (National Association of Multicultural Education). She created the California State accredited primary and secondary bilingual (Spanish and Cantonese) Teacher Education and Masters programs in Critical Environmental & Global Literacy Programs at New College of California in San Francisco, where she directed and taught literacy and English Language development, multicultural education, participatory action research, environmental education) for 15 years. In 2008, she created and served as Executive Director of CCEGL (Center for Critical Environmental & Global Literacy) which focuses on building teacher and community consciousness around Environmental Challenges. This work has extended to communities and school educators in Guatemala, Mexico, Romania, Hungary, Cuba and El Salvador. At the present time her work focuses on building collaborative relationships between bay area educators (and beyond) and indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico and Sonsonate, El Salvador. sudiapaloma.mccaleb@wisr.edu sudiapaloma@gmail.com

STEVEN D. POMERANTZ, Ed.D. in Counseling Psychology, with a minor in Organizational Leadership, in 1992 from the University of San Francisco; MA in Sociology with a minor in Counseling, in 1978 from California State University, Chico; and BS in Psychology in 1969 from Pacific University in Oregon.  Dr. Pomerantz is Co-Director of WISR’s MFT Program. Steve’s experience includes 10 years as a manager/supervisor in county government and nonprofit agencies, and he was the youngest County department director in the state of California in 1976.  He also has 32 years as an external organizational consultant to over 60 organizations, and trainer in private practice conducting more than 2,000 seminars to over 30,000 participants; and concurrently 34 years teaching at the university level as adjunct faculty at USF; and 23 years as Field Consultant coordinating the Masters in Counseling with an emphasis in Marital and Family Therapy for the University of San Francisco, Sacramento Campus. He also found time during 17 of those years to have a small private practice serving more than 400 clients with marital and family problems as MFCC & LMFT first licensed in 1983 (license #18527).  Currently, Steve has been retired for the past few years and his MFT license is inactive as he plays golf 2 to 3 times per week.  He has agreed to come out of retirement to join the WISR faculty, and very much enjoys working with WISR students and faculty.  Steve has been writing a book on Leadership, which he hopes to soon complete, and plans to write two more books, one on the evolution of counseling theories, and the other on dealing with life’s challenges.   steven.pomerantz@wisr.edu   or to: drstevep2@gmail.com

CHRISTINE L. TIPPETT, MSW, LCSW, LMFT.  MSW, Social Work (Mental Health Concentration), California State University, Sacramento 1977.  BA, Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara 1974.  Christine has extensive experience teaching a wide variety of Master’s level courses in counselor education.  With the support of WISR’s current Chief Academic Officer, Brian Gerrard, she created and administered a private practice model of the Mission Possible Program in school-based family counseling, which operated for 16 years, served over 3000 youth and families, helped more than 70 graduate students obtain practicum experience, and earned the 2020 Award for Best Practice in School-Based Family Counseling from the Oxford Symposium of School Based Family Counseling.  In addition, she presented at the symposium several times, contributed a chapter to School Based Family Counseling: Transforming Family-School Relations [Chapter 48], by Gerrard and Soriano (2013), and to the International Journal for School-Based Family Counseling, Vol VII (2016).  She was thereby made a fellow of the Oxford Symposium of School-Based Family Counseling.

Her interest in community mental health has included work with a variety of vulnerable populations deserving respectful justice:

  • Youth needing coordinated care following passage of AB 3632 (now written into code as EC26), so that payment and responsibility for delivery of services flows through the department of primary duty (e.g., education, mental health, juvenile justice, care and custody)
  • Mental health clients in need regardless of ability to pay, following the passage of: Lanterman/Petris/Short Act, Mental Health Act, Prop. 63
  • Clients requesting information prior to making “informed decisions” regarding birth control both before and after Roe v Wade
  • Veterans in higher education responding to “Move Up” preparation for college courses and “About Face” advocacy for (re)instatement of VA benefits
  • Advocacy with colleagues, administrators and, (eventually) families who are expanding their nucleus through adoption.

In therapy practice and in clinical supervision, Christine uses a humanistic systems approach to inform her perspective with regard to the person in situation.  For more information, contact christine.tippett@wisr.edu

KAREN WALL, RN-BC, OFS, LMFT. Co-Director of the MFT Program and Coordinator of Student Services. AA, Pre-Medicine, New Mexico Military Institute, 1982; BS, Biology, Texas Tech University, 1985; MA (PD), Secondary Science Education with Teaching Credential, University of Hawaii-Manoa, 1987; BS, Nursing, York College of Pennsylvania, 1992; MA, Counseling Psychology/Marriage and Family Therapy, Argosy University-Inland Empire, 2011; EdD, Counseling Psychology, Argosy University-San Francisco Bay, 2015. In her dissertation, Karen surveyed practicing therapists about their views on the inclusion of religion and spirituality in their work with their clients based on how competent and confident they felt from their graduate training. Her survey revealed a need for more intensive coverage of these topics in the curriculum at the graduate level. She has developed a course which she hopes to pilot in the future and integrates elements of her research into her current teaching of MFT students. Her publications include a book chapter on the use of technology in behavioral health, specifically with veterans: “Chapter 7: Technology use in behavioral medicine health” and articles in the areas of social robotics: “Use of Robotic Animals in VA Long-Term Care: An Example of Person-Centered Care”; technology use in behavioral health: “The Interactive Mobile App Review Toolkit (IMART): A Clinical Practice-Oriented System”; “ An interprofessional framework for telebehavioral health competencies”; “Telebehavioral health, telemental health, e-therapy and e- health competencies: The need for an interprofessional framework”; psychopharmacology: “The Efficacy Of Prazosin To Treat Nightmares Related To Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”; and employee wellness and resiliency: “B.R.E.A.T.H.E. Staff Resilience Training”. Karen taught nursing at the University of Southern California as a clinical instructor for the undergraduate psychiatric nursing rotations. Karen is currently the Director for Global Education with Global Human Development, Inc, working with Stefan Deutsch developing a mental health mobile app to teach people about Self-Love. She is also a Consultant on the Advisory Board for the All of Us Research Program at the NIH.

She is active in her Catholic faith and is a Professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order, a lay religious fraternity. Karen is very passionate about animals and animal assisted therapy, especially with Veterans living with dementia and with PTSD. During her nursing practice as the Dementia Care Coordinator for the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Karen volunteered with Paws For Purple Hearts service dog training program at Menlo Park VA as a puppy sitter and worked with a facility dog for the Community Living Center, providing AAT for the older Veteran residents. Karen retired (her second-the first being from the Army) from the VA in June 2019, and now lives in Albuquerque, NM, where she enjoys her much-welcomed free time to do volunteer work with service dogs and animals with Paws and Stripes and Animal Humane of NM. She is a long-time volunteer with the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in UT and spends time there during the year helping care for the animals living there. Karen is a volunteer mental health and dementia expert with the Honor Flight of Northern New Mexico. Partly due to being a “military brat” and being in the military herself, Karen loves to travel and learn about every culture she can experience, including learning languages. She was raised in Hawai’i in a military family, and served 23 years in the US Army, in logistics and then as a psychiatric nurse, including a deployment to Saudi Arabia in 1991 during the Gulf War. Karen has a private practice as an LMFT and uses technology and online teletherapy in addition to traditional models to see her clients. For more information about some of Karen’s many professional endeavors, go to: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/karen-m-wall-albuquerque-nm/463400 karen.wall@wisr.edulogos68540@gmail.com karenlmft97283@gmail.com


As part of each prospective student’s interview of WISR community members, we encourage them to speak with at least one faculty member. Which faculty member(s) might you like to meet?  Call us at (510) 655-2830 (vm) or e-mail us at mail@wisr.edu. 

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