Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) Team
Profile of CIIS Office of Diversity and Inclusion team
The ODI and MHSA work within a paradigm of shared leadership where partnership and reciprocity are encouraged and cultivated so that each of us may bring our unique voice to the conversation. We aim to embody and model the ideals of diversity and inclusion within our community, and to support our CIIS family through what is often challenging work, while maintaining an open and inviting heart. Please see our bios below to learn more about each one of us, and please do not hesitate to visit us in person.
"If we have the courage and tenacity of our forebears, who stood firmly like a rock against the lash of slavery, we shall find a way to do for our day what they did for theirs." - Mary McLeod Bethune
Denise Boston, Ph.D., RDT. was appointed as Dean of Diversity and Inclusion in 2016. Since 2009 she served as Core Faculty in the Expressive Arts Therapy Program, was coordinator of the Glide-EXA pre-practicum program, and served as lead investigator of a university-community partnership three-year study which focused on arts-based social and emotional programming with school-age children. Denise has been an artist, social activist, researcher, and educator for over 40 years in a variety of community and advocacy settings. In collaboration with community partners, she has implemented several prevention/intervention programs and her African-centered methodology has been beneficial in increasing resiliency and in preventing and/or decreasing participants' harmful behaviors. She has taught psychology courses at HBCU's, religiously affiliated colleges, public, and private institutions, as well as instructed and facilitated training workshops abroad at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea and Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China.
Denise's interests in diversity and inclusivity in higher education have been shaped by her personal experiences as an underrepresented scholar in academia, and her community work where she provided creative and culturally-based interventions (CBI) with variations and extended African and African-American families. She is a registered Drama Therapist and has presented nationally and internationally on a variety of topics including Narrative Therapy, Participatory Action Research, Expressive Arts, and NTU psychotherapy.
Denise, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, earned her BFA in theatre from the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts, MA in psychology and counseling from Goddard College, and received her PhD in counseling psychology from Walden University.
As an immigrant from Colombia, I have had a first-hand perspective of what it is like to be a minority in the United States. I have developed a passion for equity, as well as an awareness of the fact that there is always more for me to learn about my privileged identities. I have a deep respect for underrepresented groups; my experience as an ESL student, my professional background working with autistic youth, and my spiritual practice inform a sensitivity toward the struggles lived by racial minorities, those who come from low-income backgrounds, disabled people, and people of LGBTQ identities. Along with understanding and honoring our differences, I am simultaneously called to explore how unity moves through our diverse expressions, and how to gracefully hold the paradox of our shared spiritual essence with the diversity of the struggles that arise in our day-to-day lives. I am honored to be in a position such as this, where I take part in making a difference in people's empowerment through their education. Aside from my work with the ODI, I am currently working on my Bachelor's degree, writing songs, drawing and painting; all while enjoying my journey.
I am an autistic mestiza, activist scholar, educator and disability justice advocate born and raised in Colombia, South America. I am Adjunct Faculty in the School of Undergraduate Studies and a student nearing dissertation in the Anthropology and Social Change Program. I utilize activist ethnography as well as collaborative research methods whereby to invite a re-figuration of disability as a political and cultural experience as opposed to a clinical diagnosis. My current research explores the topics of neurodiversity, self-authorship and the politics of social space across neurodivergent grassroots communities in the Bay Area.
I am a lover of postmodern literature, especially French philosophy. I also love the works of Keats and Byron, and the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Angeles Mastretta. I am also a fan of surrealism and Dada and I love the works of Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keefe. I enjoy Colombian and Peruvian foods and love to visit galleries and museums as often as I can. If you want to surprise me with an iced soy matcha beverage on a warm summer day, you will make me very happy!
Rachel Bryant, M.A., MFT Intern, believes in the innate wisdom and intelligence of everyone to be their own healer. She became a clinician to bring culturally responsive services to her local community and has worked closely with consumers and indigenous practitioners to help redefine community mental health practices. Rachel brings more than 15-years of advocacy and social justice experience to her current role as the Mental Health Services Act Project Director.
I am a Bay Area Native and a true reflection of its multicultural heritage. My identity as a Mestiza and involvement in scholarship of International Studies, serve as the foundation of my understanding and rationality toward peoples of all kinds. I am currently working on my Masters degree in Counseling Psychology with an intention of joining the Community Mental Health program at CIIS.
I am a proud woman of the African Diaspora born in Berkeley, CA and raised Richmond, CA. I am currently a student in the Integral Counseling Psychology program and since my second semester at CIIS have served as a program assistant in the Mental Health Services Act Project. As a student leader with TRANSGRESS** and a member of the MHSA/ODI team, I bring a commitment to honoring the needs of my fellow colleagues and doing my best to resource them.
I have a passion for social justice and empowering all those around me. What brings me to work with the Mental Health Services Act Project and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is the amazing people on the team and the incomparable work we do in the community. MHSA and ODI continuously provide services and resources that benefit and advocate for those who need it most, and this is why I love working with this team.
Outside of school, my passions include being as creative as possible, whether that be through cooking or painting I love to create beautiful art. I will be doing my practicum at Berkeley High School's Mental Health Center and will graduate Spring 2017.
**TRANSGRESS is a support group for CIIS students, faculty, and staff who need a safe space for discussion and support around experiencing difference.
I'm an international student from Mexico at CIIS and an MA candidate in Counseling Psychology. I was attracted to CIIS because I like to question things, especially those things that we usually take for granted. This appetite for inquiry and curiosity brought me all the way to San Francisco and to the Community Mental Health Program, where I've found a place as a true learner. It was also my interest in the so-called "severe mental illness" that made me question social structures. Being a program assistant at the Mental Health Service Act Project office has provided me with the resources to facilitate structural healing and to look at the world through a different lens. I will be a Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Community Mental Health course, thought by Rachel Bryant. Through this means of participation and social involvement, I aim at getting into a place of leadership, from which I will be able to give back to people all that I've learned and that I've been given. I find the CMH program and my work at the MHSA office together with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion very nurturing, because I get to learn from real leaders and social justice advocates from the community who are a real source of inspiration for my ideal to make the world a better place.
I consider myself to be a romantic idealist, passionate about existentialism and the philosophy of life. I like getting engaged in everything I do and taking the most of it. I truly believe that one can learn from anything and anyone. The intersectionality between society and nature is where I found my spirituality. One thing I can't get enough of is chocolate and cheese.