Executive Leadership

Board of Trustees

Headshot of Susan Shaw
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Susan Shaw

A family therapist of 35 years, Susan Shaw has been teaching and training therapists in family therapy and Narrative Practice for many years. In 1995 she co-founded Narrative Training Associates, a non-profit group dedicated to organizing in the professional community for social justice. Her work has been instrumental in developing the North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP) where she serves as Executive Director. Susan directed the development and organizing of the Graton Day Labor Center (Centro Laboral de Graton) from 2003 - 2008, and has served on its board since 2002. She was the recipient of the Activist of the Year Award from Community Action Partnership in 2007.

Headshot of Eleanor Criswell
Vice-Chair of the Board of Trustees
Eleanor Criswell

Emeritus Professor of Psychology and former Chair of the Psychology Department, Sonoma State University, Eleanor Criswell was also the founding director of the Humanistic Psychology Institute (now Saybrook University) and is currently a Distinguished Consulting Faculty member for Saybrook University. A core faculty member of Meridian University, Eleanor is the editor of Somatics Magazine and Director of the Novato Institute for Somatic Research and Training.

Eleanor’s books include Biofeedback and Somatics: Toward Personal Evolution; How Yoga Works: An Introduction to Somatic Yoga, and she is editor of Cram’s Introduction to Surface Electromyography. Criswell is a past president of Division 32 — Society of Humanistic Psychology of the American Psychological Association, and as well is past president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology Association, the Biofeedback Society of California, and the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is president of the Somatics Society. A licensed psychologist, certified biofeedback practitioner, and somatic educator, Eleanor’s somatics discipline is Hanna Somatics. She has taught yoga since 1967 and is the creator of Somatic Yoga and Equine Hanna Somatics.

Headshot of Larry Robinson
Larry Robinson

Larry Robinson is a retired Marriage and Family Therapist whose specialty was ecopsychology; he maintained a private practice in Sebastopol, California from 1986 to 2006. He served on the Sebastopol City Council from 1998 to 2010, including two terms as Mayor of Sebastopol. During this same time he served as Chair of the Sonoma County Mayors and Councilmembers Association and as a Director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority.

In years past, Larry worked as a staffing consultant to a number of major corporations in Silicon Valley. As well, he served as the Administrator of the Tomales Institute of Psychotherapy (a CA State Approved MA program in Counseling Psychology), and Headmaster of Renaissance School, in Palo Alto, California.

Larry currently serves as President of the board of the Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy and is a board member of the Climate Protection Campaign. A ceramic artist and poet, Larry has also produced numerous poetry events including the past 13 seasons of Rumi's Caravan.

Headshot of Rebecca Evert
Rebecca Evert

Rebecca Evert has been a Registered Health Information Administrator for over 25 years, primarily in health care settings (as professionals, RHIAs are responsible for health information systems that meet all legal, ethical, medical and accreditation requirements). Rebecca was Director of Health Information at numerous facilities and most recently a health information system consultant for the St. Joseph Health System. As part of her community-oriented work, Rebecca serves on the advisory boards of Hospice of Petaluma, Memorial Hospice and North County Hospice, and is a member of their joint Performance Improvement Committee.

Rebecca is a founding member of Mnemonic Productions, now in its fouth ninth year, which produces about 10 events each year that focus on women as creators, keepers, and contributors to culture - both historical and current. She also participates in local Climate Protection Campaign activities. Other community pursuits Rebecca enjoys and hosts are oral tradition poetry salons and a semi-monthly dream work group.

Headshot of Chris Simmons
Chris Simmons

Chris Simmons, Ph.D. has spent over 25 years in the public sector and serves as a law enforcement executive in the San Francisco Bay Area. Chris received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Sonoma State University and a Master’s and Doctorate from Meridian University. His research has focused on criminal psychopathy and sociopathy, forensic psychology and investigation, and the psychology of the shadow. With his background also rooted in organizational leadership and development, Chris has facilitated and taught governmental administrators on collective shadow and groupthink processes that can affect management decision-making. He has extensive experience interviewing hundreds of violent offenders and those whose disidentified shadows have led to criminal behavior.

Headshot of Ed Biery
Ed Biery

Ed Biery received his Bachelor’s and his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of California, Davis. He also received his Master’s and Doctorate from Meridian University. Ed’s interests relate to the practical interface of neurobiology with clinical practice in imaginal psychology, to help clients better understand what is going on in their bodies as well as their psyches, primarily through the exploration of image and the expression of affect.

Meridian’s Chief Academic Officer Melissa Schwartz also serves on the University’s Board of Trustees.

Administrative and Academic Leadership

Headshot of Jean Houston
Jean Houston

The Chancellor of Meridian University, Dr. Houston is a visionary researcher who has authored nearly 30 books and worked intensively in over 40 cultures, lectured in over 100 countries, and worked with major organizations such as UNICEF and NASA. Dr. Houston has developed a worldwide network of leaders including Joseph Campbell, Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Jonas Salk, US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, giving her unique insight into the human potential. Dr. Houston's book, A Passion for the Possible, was an expansive compliment to her inspiring PBS special of the same name. Dr. Houston has served on the faculties of Columbia University, Hunter College, Marymount College, The New School for Social Research, and the University of California. She holds doctoral degrees in both psychology and religion. Since 2002, Dr. Houston has been working with the United Nations Development Program, training leaders in developing cultures throughout the world in the field of Social Artistry.

Headshot of Aftab Omer
Aftab Omer

Aftab Omer, Ph.D. is the president of Meridian University which offers degree and professional programs globally, emphasizing the power of transformative learning.

He is a sociologist, psychologist, developmentalist, and futurist. Raised in Pakistan, India, Hawaii, and Turkey, he was educated at the universities of M.I.T, Harvard and Brandeis. His publications have addressed the topics of transformative learning, dialogic capability, developmental power, cultural leadership, civil society, generative entrepreneurship, and the power of imagination.

Aftab’s advising work focuses on team development and on leveraging the creative potentials of conflict, diversity, and complexity. Formerly the president of the Council for Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychologies, he is a Fellow of the International Futures Forum and the World Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Headshot of Melissa Schwartz
Chief Academic Officer
Melissa Schwartz

Melissa Schwartz, Ph.D. is the Chief Academic Officer at Meridian University where she guides integrally-oriented programs in Education, Business, and Psychology. The Director of Meridian’s Center for Transformative Learning, Melissa is dually licensed as both a psychologist and as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). She serves as a reviewer for the American Psychological Association’s Journal, Psychology of Women Quarterly, and the California Psychological Association’s Office of Professional Development. As well, she serves as a Subject Matter Expert for California’s Board of Behavioral Sciences in the continual development of the state’s MFT licensure examination. Melissa’s research interests are in the areas of adult development, the psychology of women, integral transformative assessment, and the role of culture in transformative learning.

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