Thursday, August 23

Pre-conference activities

1pm to 2pm: Lunch* with Cynthia Lawrence, PhD,
WISR Faculty Emeritus
2pm to 3:30pm: The 99% Learns About the Koch Brothers. We will watch the film, Koch Brothers Exposed and discuss implications for education and social justice in the U.S.

3:30 to 4:30pm: Open Space Discussion About Collaborative Learning.** WISR faculty members Torry Dickinson, PhD and Marilyn Jackson, PhD, and Arthur Warmoth, WISR MA Student, Facilitators. Suggested topics to discuss include how to develop learning communities at WISR that combine online with face to face interaction; think tanks, study groups, and next year’s seminars.

5pm to 5:30pm: Registration/Break

5:30 to 6:15pm: Light Supper *


6:15 to 8pm: This will be a two part presentation facilitated by Larry Loebig, WISR PhD candidate and Director of WISR’s Mediators Beyond Borders chapter.

Moving toward 100% Sunny Sabbini, MFT, WISR Community Learner and Vice President of WISR’s MBB chapter will kick off the weekend conference with a dynamic and interactive session. Bring your passion, creativity, curiosity, and open mind. In this session, we will individually and collectively embody, explore, and expand the multiple perspectives and positions within the 99% as well as the 1%. Through the trying on of multiple points of view, we will play with and start to integrate the many splits and conflicts within the system. Expect to leave with more clarity on personal actions you can take to contribute to this new form that is trying to emerge.

About Sunny Sabbini: Sunny Sabbini, MA, MFT, is a Collaboration Consultant and founder of Conflict to Collaboration, a systems coaching and consulting firm working with mission-driven organizations in the Bay Area. Sunny uses her training and experience in organization development, community counseling, and mediation to reduce conflicts and trouble spots, and harness them to strengthen and develop the health and effectiveness of the whole system. She also has a private practice providing coaching, therapy, and mediation to couples and families in recovery and is Family Program Coordinator and Therapist at Bayside Marin recovery center.

The I, You and the We. Dr. Peter Erlenwein will present short reflections on peace work and the mainstream thinking from an integral psychology perspective.

About Peter Erlenwein: He is a sociopsychologist and integral psychotherapist from Germany who has studied intercultural studies in India and Africa and collaborated with laureates of the Alternative Nobel Prize in Germany (Munich). His Wilber-based integral approach combines deep analysis (C.G. Jung) with body-mind work and ritual dance and movement improvisations and is focused on spiritual transformation work in conflict situations. Since 2011 he has been living with his family in San Francisco, where, 30years ago, he did his PhD research work on the Civil Right movement, titled “Politics and Identity.”

Friday, August 24th

9am to 9:30 am: Participants convene, socialize and register, snacks available.

9:30 am to 11:30 am: “Economic Democracy: Challenges and Alternatives in Moving  Toward a 99% Solution.” Art Warmoth, PhD, WISR Faculty and Board Member.

Economic Democracy: What do citizens need to know about economic systems in order to  pursue answers to the questions raised by the 99%/Occupy movement? The presentation will be a series of basic propositions and an a follow-up discussion. The conversation will include invitations to participants to share their projects that address 99% issues and to consider joining a follow-up learning community. Among the options that might be considered are WISR pilot projects and community action think tanks, complementary currencies, plans for action in Sonoma County, and the use of online learning in combination with face to face dialogue and action.

About Art Warmoth: Art has been a friend of WISR’s for many years, and in the past year he has intensified his role at WISR by joining WISR’s faculty and Board of Trustees. His current interests in working with WISR students cover many topics related to social change, among them: the Economic Literacy of Citizenship, Social Entrepreneurialism, The Postindustrial (Postmodern) Economy, Community Economic Survival Strategies, A Sustainable Economic Recovery, and inquires into The Epistemological Foundations of Community and Society. Art has been involved in humanistic psychology since 1959, when he went to Brandeis University to pursue doctoral studies with Abraham H. Maslow. Over the years, he has used his nationally recognized expertise in humanistic psychology to address local and national economic issues, to health care reform, to politics, and ecology. He joined the Psychology faculty at Sonoma State University in 1969, and he has continued to teach there, sometimes serving as Chair of the Department of Psychology. In 2005, he received “The Community-Based Learning Founders Award,” which is given annually to a faculty member for career achievements and contributions in linking Sonoma State University with the local community through teaching, scholarship, and service. He has also been involved in community service, including serving on the boards of The Family Connection (a transition services agency for volunteers mentoring homeless families), the Latino Commission for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services of Sonoma County, and the Latino Democratic Club. For more information about Dr. Warmoth go to:

11:30 am to 12:30 pm: Lunch Break and Socializing

12:30 pm to 2:30 pm: “Elder Activists Working for a 99% solution—for a more just and society for future generations.”

12:30 to 1:30 pm: WISR PhD student, Agnes Morton, Organizing for Sustainable Social  Change and Improved Health Outcomes in Miami’s Overtown Community. Agnes is a Community Health Nurse/ Health Educator/ Community Activist, and upon “retirement,” she relocated from San Francisco to Miami, Florida (her birthplace) in 2005, to participate in the fight for social change and social justice in Overtown , an historically Black community threatened by gentrification and possible displacement of its current population. The Overtown community has been one the most neglected and underserved communities in Miami, experiencing some of the poorest health outcomes and other distressed social indicators for many years. Agnes has worked closely with the Overtown community, the Historic Overtown Public Health (H.O.P.E.) Collaborative, Power U Center for Social Change, Overtown Alliance and other creative partners through grass roots organizing and collective action to empower residents, and improve quality of life for revitalization and transformation of Overtown into a more healthy place to live, work, play and grow. She has previously presented on this topic, and will provide an update on this Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) project.

About Agnes Morton: 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.” She has been retired from the San Francisco Department of Public Health since 1998, and since then 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”.

1:30 pm to 2:30 pm:  WISR PhD student, Jake Sloan, will discuss emerging insights from his intense, in depth historical analysis in the quest for social and economic justice during the period from 1940 to the present.  Jake Sloan tells us: “Beginning in early 1961, I took part in what would become an important part of the move towards equal employment and promotions policies at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, the Bay Area and beyond. Since then, I have always been involved in some effort to further the cause of social and economic justice.  I am at WISR for two reasons: 1) I believe in what the institution is doing and I want to be part of it and 2) I want to study what has happened over the years since 1961, as well as the two decades preceding it, and identify a path for going forward as part of my dissertation. The combined effort would, I think, prepare me to work with WISR in pushing the envelope for change in this world of the 1% v the 99%. To prepare, I have begun researching and writing papers on the periods 1940-1961; the 60s and 70s; the 80s and 90s; 2000 to 2010. For each period, I am . . .

  • Writing my recollections of the period and what I was reading, thinking and doing in the areas of equal opportunity, affirmative action and social justice/change with a focus on the building trades and the construction industry, but also with a view to the wider society;
  • Developing a reading list of at least 4-5 books to capture the essence/context of each period;
  • Interviewing people with direct knowledge of and experience in the period.

Foundations for a Quiet Rebel is the first paper that has been completed as part of that process. To complete it I read more than 50 books, interviewed 15 people in 3 states and wrote my recollections of the period 1940-1961.

About Jake Sloan:  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. ”

2:30 to 3:00 pm: Break for snacks, relaxation and socializing.

3:00 to 5:00 pm: “Marriage and Family Therapists Working toward a 99% solution— graduating MFT students thinking outside the box.”

3:00 to 4:00 pm: Nasira Abdul-Aleem, who has just finished her MA in Psychology at WISR toward the State MFT license, will try out, and discuss, portions of a workshop she plans to use with clients averse to therapy who are at risk of returning to prison. Nasira states that “My session will be a presentation of a workshop I designed to introduce therapy to the client averse to therapy, with the intent of encouraging and inviting him/her to partake of it. My intent in presenting my workshop to this group of professional is to get their feedback on whether or not they think the workshop is effective towards that goal. My impetus for designing the workshop was to reach the prison recidivist with some therapeutic tools that should help solve the problem of recidivism. I saw a great need for this in response to my research for my thesis, which focused on why rehab fails this population, for the most part (the average rates of relapse and recidivism being 80% and 75%, respectively). My research showed that many of the rehab methodologies we inherited from Synanon, the grandfather of our present rehab system, are counterproductive. In response to this insidious situation and the serious problem it was causing rehab, I recommended in my Master’s thesis a complete change in rehab culture from the militaristic hierarchical one of “do what you are told” to a client-centered one of self-realization and self-efficacy by means of personal introspection and growth, i.e., therapeutic tools. I gave my workshop to my two supervisors at Options Recovery Services, the rehab where I have worked for five years, and they both wanted me to hone it more. I also presented it to a small group including a veteran and a political activist, both of whom loved it and recommended highly that I hit the road with it. I then contacted a man whose work is with kids and recidivists and he has agreed to see it. So, I want to get it road ready.”

About Nasira Abdul-Aleem: Nasira is the mother of four grown children. She has 12 grandchildren. She just finished her MA at WISR toward the MFT license and has been studying psychology for 10 years and working in the field for 8 years. Her theory of choice is narrative therapy, and she likes to find ways to build peaceful bridges between opposing parties like the Right and the Left and the religious and the secular. She wants to help dismantle the new Jim Crow taking place in our prisons and counter the degeneration of inner-city culture by making the therapeutic tools of self awareness and self efficacy accessible to laypeople.

4:00 to 5:00 pm: What can therapists learn from athletic coaches and what can athletic coaches learn from therapists—in promoting the development of low-income, disenfranchised youth.  This session will be led by Lydell Willis, who has just completed his MA in Psychology at WISR, toward the State MFT license, will discuss the implications of his Master’s thesis.  Lydell tells us, “This project was developed from my experiences working with at risk youth, athletic coaching, and my own personal involvement with athletics.  Based on these experiences I reflected on what  factors contributed to my development as a person and how I implemented those same factors in my current  coaching position.  While in my studies at WISR in the Masters of Psychology program, I observed that techniques that are the basis of marriage and family therapy are very similar to that of  successful coaches.  Therefore the goal of my thesis was to illustrate how athletic coaches and therapists can share ideas and techniqes for positive outcomes with the people they work with.”

About Lydell Willis: Lydell Willis is the Transitional Students and Families Specialist for the Oakland Unified School District. Lydell’s role in that program is to support the academic success of students who are homeless or who reside in out-of-home foster care placements. Lydell played football in college and now helps coach the Skyline High School football team in Oakland.

6:00 to 9:00 pm: Light Dinner, Snacks, Refreshments, Socializing and Music Jam at the home of John Bilorusky, WISR President, 15 minute drive from WISR. Car pools available from WISR after session ending around 5 pm, or call John’s home for directions: 510-601-8164.

Saturday, August 25th

9 am to 9:30 am: Participants convene, socialize and register, snacks available

9:30 am to 11:30 am: What is WISR? What has it been for you? This discussion will be  facilitated by Ronald Mah, LMFT, WISR faculty member, MA alumnus and current PhD student.

WISR seeks to be a different program for a different kind of educational experience,for a different kind of learner. What is WISR, and what has WISR been for you? Participating  students and alumni, as well as community learners and faculty are encouraged to describe how  they have used the WISR process to serve their learning needs, and to discuss how it differs from other academic processes, and what it offers for personal and professional growth. This discussion can of course also include people sharing their visions and hopes for WISR in the future, and how it can be extended to be part of a 99% solution. Some recently discussed ideas about WISR’s value include: WISR helps students articulate and focus on your passion; WISR is a more organic process in fitting students’ needs which enriches the product; WISR teaches a process for learning and getting to another place after finishing their degree; WISR is a thinking degree; thinking as a way to develop knowledge; WISR does more than teach information. It promotes problem solving.

About Ronald Mah: Ronald is a prolific writer for MFTs: on how to further develop their expertise, especially in areas of family and couples therapy, and in the domain of parenting and child and adolescent development. Ronald has had decades of experience in an active private practice as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, as well as a consultant for community agencies and frequent presenter at professional conferences. He is on the Board of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.

11:30 am to 12:30 pm: Lunch Break and Socializing

12:30 to 1:30 pm: A Personal Account of Discovering Cuba and What We Can Learn  from It—A Journey to Discover the Cuban Reality of Survival, Perseverance and Triumph.

WISR PhD student, Chris Peck, will discuss insights from his nearly completed dissertation research. Chris writes, “Cuba has been a very misunderstood and maligned nation by the U.S. and its surrogates since the 1959 revolution successfully toppled the Batista regime and brought to power Fidel Castro and now his brother, Raul. Cuba has been this shining light to many developing nations that have also encountered U.S. hegemony by learning how to survive and offer its resources to their struggles. Thus, I have always been intrigued by the contradictions that Cuba presents in terms of its society based upon egalitarian principles while adapting the Soviet communist model of state controls. I have approached this study by deliberately living with and befriending many Cubans, during a number of extended visits—in order to understand from their perspectives and not the government’s, of what it is like to survive and live under that society and what they think needs to change. I will summarize my observations and suggest how U.S.-Cuba relations can be different based upon my understandings of what many different Cuban people have told me.”

About Chris Peck:   Christopher Peck, a community activist and social worker for the last 44 years in the Bay Area including directing his own homeless agency, county child welfare social worker and working on issues important to the Chicano/Latino community including social justice, immigration, bilingual education and resource allocation.  He is an author of a book of political-haiku poetry and has lived in Mexico as well as extensively in Cuba.  Chris is completing his dissertation for the PhD at WISR.

1:30 to 2:30 pm: The Role of American Higher Education in Promoting and Impeding  Justice, Equality and the “Good Life” in our Society and the World—the Past, Present and Future. John Bilorusky, PhD, WISR President, Co-Founder and Faculty Member.

We will consider the history of American higher education, including the sometimes  contradictory themes, over the past 250 years, but especially in the past 50 years. In particular, we will reflect on the motivating forces and concerns underlying WISR’s founding in 1975, and the most recent developments of the past 10 years. We will think about higher education from the vantage point of the many significant challenges of today and tomorrow, including the accelerating economic disparities within our society, attacks on diversity and multiculturality, the growing power of large corporations and centers of wealth and influence, the “commodification of education,” the myth of the meritocracy, global warming, and the changing landscape of available jobs, careers and professions, among other dynamics. Finally, this session will pose  and frame some possible questions and topics for discussion regarding WISR’s possible roles in  the 99 % solution.

About John Bilorusky: John received his PhD in Higher Education from the University of California at Berkeley, with the intention of becoming a change agent in American higher education. He taught for one year at UC Berkeley (social science integrated studies), two years the University of Cincinnati (community services) and for two years at the alternative, University Without Walls-Berkeley. Then, in 1975, he collaborated with three others in founding WISR with the mission of addressing some of the failings of both conventional and alternative higher education, and with a belief that perhaps someday WISR might become a “center and model for experimentation” in American higher education.

2:30 to 3:00 pm: Break for snacks, relaxation and socializing.

3:00 to 5:00 pm:  Round Table Discussion of WISR Possible Roles in the 99% Solution

This discussion will build on all of the conferences preceding sessions, and in particular will  draw on some of the information and ideas presented in the previous session. In particular,  should we, now, 37 years after WISR’s founding, and in light of the serious challenges facing  our society and the world, more consciously consider and revisit WiSR’s origins and some of the more ambitious aspirations for WISR.

6:00 to 9:00 pm: Light Dinner, Snacks, Refreshments and Socializing at the home of John Bilorusky, WISR President, 15 minute drive from WISR. Car pools available from WISR after session ending around 5 pm, or call John’s home for directions: 510-601-8164.

During the Conference, WISR Students are asked to think about ways to learn collaboratively during the next year and to contact WISR staff or faculty with ideas for seminars, study groups, and other collaborative projects in which you would like to participate and help to organize, in order to help your learning process.

The conference and preconference are open and free, to all WISR students, alumni, faculty, Board, prospective students and friends of WISR from the community. Donations–a minimum of $10 per day or $25 to $30 for the whole conference will be greatly appreciated to help defer the costs associated with our providing food, snacks and refreshments during the conference.

WISR Students, Faculty and Friends who live in the Bay Area are asked to bring food dishes, salads, drinks or snacks if convenient.



Location: All sessions except for Friday and Saturday evening social events will be held at WISR, 3220 Sacramento Street, Berkeley, CA 94702. The location for Friday and Saturday evening social events will be announced at a later date.

For people out of the area, most conference sessions will be available for audio participation by phone conference—you may call a WISR conference line phone number and listen to the conference via speaker phone, and also make comments and actively participate because those in attendance and others calling in will be able to hear you on the conference line.  If you wish to participate in one or more sessions, please contact us prior to the conference, and let us know which sessions, and we will give you the phone number to call.


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