Western Institute for Social Research

A Premier Academic Institute for Social Change
Since 1975

2930 Shattuck Avenue, Suite 300, Berkeley, CA 94705

(510) 655-2830 

Look for our page and group on Facebook, also WISRBerkeley on Twitter.

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November 14, 2020

Hello WISR Community,
Students, Faculty, Alumni, Board and Friends:

We’re writing this letter for financial help for WISR as we begin what we think will be a less than two-year homestretch for accreditation by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission ( Before telling you more, we’ll begin by saying that we, and others at WISR, greatly appreciate the collaborative efforts, financial and otherwise, that so many have put forth to get WISR this far.

We are proud to see how WISR has prospered, especially through this difficult pandemic.  As faculty emeritus, Cynthia continues to remind us, there is no other learning institution that encourages and supports its learners in the way WISR has done over the last 50 years.  And now we are close to accreditation, have increased seminar participation, reached around the world to connect learners, and as the cofounder and long-time faculty member and President at WISR, John has written up WISR’s action research approach for global use.  We are appropriately proud, and we have a chance to be even better.

Over the next several months, we do need about $15,000 in private donations to pay for DEAC to evaluate our online courses early in 2021. After we get past that hurdle, we expect just one more major hurdle—a hoped for site visit in late 2021 or perhaps early 2022.

We are building on many strengths and accomplishments—some of them going back to our founding in 1975 and the continuing efforts over the years coming from our faculty, students, and Board. We have sustained and further developed a very distinctive educational mission that also pursues multiculturalism, inclusiveness, social change and justice, and action-inquiry in support of learner-centered education.

Here are some highlights of our most recent efforts and accomplishments:

1) Our students continue to do outstanding learning and work, and our faculty continue to provide outstanding guidance, expertise, and support to our students. In our most recent annual evaluation of faculty by students, all of our students rated each faculty member’s quality of instruction 9 or 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

2) We have a core group of about a dozen faculty and administrative staff with long-term commitments to WISR who are either volunteering, providing instruction and/or administrative support for very modest salaries, or are actually donating money to WISR.

3) Our debt of $45,000 less than 5 years ago has long since been retired, and if we can pay for upcoming accreditation fees, we will retain sufficient cash reserves to meet accreditation criteria.

4) We have developed a couple of significant, new partnerships which immediately and over the long-term will move WISR forward and sustain WISR. First, over the summer, the Center for Child and Family Development, which after 35 years at the University of San Francisco has chosen WISR for its home base. The Center provides counseling services to low-income students and families in local schools, and concurrently trains MFT students from WISR and elsewhere in practica serving those students and their families. The Center has a large Federal grant which also brings much needed revenue to WISR, and most importantly, its mission resonates with WISR’s mission and provides greater visibility and credibility to WISR. In addition, a WISR Master’s student is a researcher at Microsoft in the field of artificial intelligence, and he is using his work at WISR to expand his vision of how students in schools can collaborate with AI--in ways that do more than help learners from marginalized communities learn technological skills, and that also involve those students in collaborating with AI—teaching AI as well as learning from and with AI. Consequently, WISR now also has an emerging partnership with Microsoft.

Finally, as a result of John’s collaboration with so many WISR faculty and learners over the years, he recently finally had the opportunity to write (with contributions from a few WISR coauthors), not one, but two, books on “transformative action-research” the WISR way. Both books will be published in early 2021 by Routledge Press (considered by many to be the foremost academic publisher of books in the social sciences and humanities, internationally. This will give valuable, added visibility to WISR.

So, despite the challenges of COVID-19, WISR has continued to move forward. We have become proficient at providing online learning, and doing so in the personalized WISR way, with the content of the learning reflecting WISR’s longstanding mission. Our seminars, individual mentoring sessions, and even administrative operations have continued uninterrupted and even with added momentum over the past seven months. Indeed, perhaps because of sheltering in place, many from the larger community have sought out and participated in seminars on such varied topics as Black Lives Matter, human dignity studies, addressing trauma during the pandemic, action-research, and a variety of MFT counseling topics. We have had more than three seminars with 30 or more participants.

There’s more that can be said, but again, even with these positive developments, we will not be able to pay the fees for the next step in accreditation without the support of those of you who are able to help us.

Please do what you can, and contribute either before January 1, or if you prefer, in the first month or two of 2021. Checks can be mailed to WISR at 2930 Shattuck, Suite 300, Berkeley, CA  94705.  Or, you can contribute by pay pal (giving to “friends and family” to avoid the PayPal fee for commercial services) by using our merchant ID of .  Or, you can email John to give him a credit card number over the phone by appointment at your convenience (

We hope you and your friends and loved ones are safe and healthy during COVID-19.

Best wishes,

John Bilorusky,
WISR President and Faculty Member

Cynthia Lawrence, WISR alumna,
Faculty Emerita and Board member

David Yamada, WISR alumnus,
Vice-Chair of the Board
Copyright © 2020 Western Institute for Social Research, All rights reserved.

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