Fielding Graduate University News

An Overture to Dementia’s Soulful Memories

Posted by Hilary Edwards on Wed, Jul 31, 2013

Forrest book cover resized 600Touch the Spirit - Connecting to the Inner World of Dementia

Fielding Graduate University alumna Deborah A. Forrest, PhD, (PSY '95) recently published a research-based book on dementia.

More than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and many of us don’t know how to react, let alone help, when this disease strikes our loved ones.

In Touch the Spirit, Deborah Forrest, PhD, peels away the stereotypes and assumptions in order to explore and explain how we, the families, can offer and provide means of comfort, and, most importantly, human and mental contact with our loved ones afflicted with dementia.

Through entertaining and enlightening stories of hope and success, Forrest reminds us how the most simple acts, such as poetry, art, animals, and music, can open a channel of connection with those lost to time and reconnect with their souls. In addition, Touch the Spirit covers the research and progress being made toward dementia prevention, because an informed person is a prepared person. We must understand what medicines are effective, and how spirituality can play a major role in providing relief and comfort to all concerned.

Touch the Spirit is also about the caregivers, the families, and Forrest offers informative ways to combat the inevitable stress we suffer, as well as means to improve our health and enrich our spirits. We can’t care for those who need us if we aren’t physically and mentally capable of being there for them.

Touch the Spirit is much more than a professional overview of dementia; it is about restoring humanity and uplifting the bond that exists between human beings. It is about life, family, and most of all…love.

Forrest header

Forrest holds degrees in nursing from St. Mary’s Hospital Nursing School, Knoxville, TN (RN); Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA (BSN); and The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (MSN) and degrees in clinical psychology from Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara, CA (MA & PhD). She has worked as a peri-operative educator and manager in several academic medical centers in the Southeast; a nursing director in a Texas psychiatric hospital; and a biomedical researcher and clinical affairs consultant to several Fortune 100 corporations.

In 1990, shortly after her return to graduate school for her doctorate in clinical psychology, Forrest began an association with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, PhD. That association led to her dissertation research project with Kubler-Ross’s final grief workshops before her retirement. Immediately following the completion of her doctoral degree program, Forrest completed a one year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Kentucky’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center & Sander’s Brown Center on Aging where she continued to expand her knowledge of gerontology and the diseases of aging. She has published extensively in professional and technical journals in various fields of medicine and health, and has taught and lectured in her fields of specialization – aging, dementia and spirituality, bereavement and bone marrow cancer. Since 1987 she has been repeatedly listed among the Who’s Who in Professional & Executive Women.

Forrest became a best-selling author with the publication of her book Symphony of Spirits: Encounters with the Spiritual Dimensions of Alzheimer’s (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). In 2002 she was invited by the Johnson & Johnson/Rosalyn Carter Institute Caregiver’s Program of Experts Panel to speak on the topic of “Faith and Spirituality.” As an author and speaker, Forrest continues to conducts lectures and presentations on aging, dementia and spirituality. Each presentation is designed to entertain, inspire and replenish the audience.

Touch the Spirit was just released this month and is available for domestic and international sales in paperback on, as an e-book on, and can also be found her website


Tags: clinical psychology, fielding graduate university, aging

Creativity: An Important Paradigm for Aging

Posted by Hilary Edwards on Fri, Dec 14, 2012

 MG 6640 resized 600Creativity in the lives of aging adults emphasizes their potentials rather than their challenges.

The National Center for Creative Aging explains: “Health and wellness can be achieved in many ways, including using creativity to work the mind and body. Research has shown that mental activity stimulated by arts activities can be especially beneficial to people with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Cases of cognitive disabilities increase with age, so as the population lives longer more people will be diagnosed. By bringing arts programs to people with cognitive disabilities, you can create more opportunities for people with cognitive loss and their caregivers.” (accessed December 14, 2012) 

Encouraging creativity in the lives of older adults strengthens morale, enhances physicaldescribe the image health, and enriches relationships.

Historically, older adults have functioned as the keepers of culture in society, and are responsible for passing on the history and values of a community to the next generation. Creativity in later life wraps this gift to children, grandchildren, and society in the form of beautiful artwork. The Sixth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging, hosted by Fielding Graduate University, is a highly interactive gathering of diverse leaders and community members interested in shaping a dynamic future for older adults throughout the world. The conference features the following workshops and presentations focused on creativity and aging: 

  • Say ‘Yes’ to Tango: A Conversation about Creative Aging by Lola Fraknoi

  • Save My Place: A Performance Piece on Dying by Dori Gillam

  • Nimble Minds, Nimble Bodies: Exploring How the Creative Arts Contribute to Lifelong Human Development, Health, and Quality of Life by Michael Patterson

  • The Art of Aging by Richard and Alice Matzkin

  • Visionaries Have Wrinkles: Serving the Generation Who Will Change the World by Karen Sands

  • The Courage to be Brilliant: How to Aging with Courage, Wisdom and Grace by Marta Monahan

 The Sixth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging features a keynote address by Wendy Lustbader, MSW, who will speak about “The Unexpected Pleasures of Growing Older"—the title of her latest book. She has also written and spoken about kindness and how to nurture a basic positive attitude towards whatever life brings as we get older.  Featured speaker Dr. Brian de Vries is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, a member of the leadership council for the American Society on Aging, and co-chair of the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network constituency group. Dr. de Vries will speak about his extensive work on aging experiences, including bereavement among gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender adults. Further highlighted speakers include one of the reigning pioneers of gerontology, James Birren, who will receive Fielding Graduate University’s Creative Longevity and Wisdom Award along with well-known spiritual leader Ram Dass, who will relay his experience in spiritual methods and practices via webinar.

There is still time to register at the early bird price! To learn more and to register, please visit 

The International Conference on Positive Aging aims to provide practitioners and policymakers with knowledge and tools to improve their support of older persons and increase the quality of life for all.

For more information:

Click here for the website: Sixth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging
Facebook - Keep up with the latest information about the conference, and access to a network of individuals who are interested and involved in the topic of positive aging
Click here for Facebook: The Fielding Positive Aging Conference
YouTube – View videos of speakers from previous conferences
Click here for YouTube:Channel for Positive Aging

**Photo by Peter Whitehouse

Tags: creativity, conference, aging

Alumna promotes importance of long-term care insurance for seniors

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Mon, Apr 30, 2012

Marion Somers, PhD (HOD ’88), aka Dr. Marion, is the spokesperson for the “3 in 4 Need More” campaign, which spreads the message that health insurance isn’t enough. About three in four of us will need some form of long-term care insurance or planning to cover longer-lasting illnesses and disabilities not covered by regular insurance or Medicare. 

 Dr. Marion travels in her souped-up, 50s-era Greyhound bus. “Long-term care needs can sneak up on us as quickly as the senior tsunami that is heading our way, which is why it’s so important for Americans to plan ahead.”

1 DrMarion BusTo help Americans plan ahead, Dr. Marion's bus will crisscross the country this summer to talk with seniors and caregivers. Her advice: it's never too soon to start planning for long-term care needs and costs. As part of the campaign, Dr. Marion, 3in4 Need More, and Emeritus are launching a nationwide "Bring Your Talent" contest. The search is for seniors or their caregivers in the U.S. who want to showcase their talent – from singing and dancing to juggling, acrobatics, and more! “Bring Your Talent” will help families alleviate the costs of long-term care by offering free stays at any Emeritus Senior Living Community, with a grand prize of free rent for one year.

You are invited to follow the tour on and


Tags: gerontology, adult learning, healthcare, aging

McCall joins Fielding Graduate University's core faculty

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Thu, Apr 19, 2012
Mary McCall

Mary E. McCall, PhD, joins the School of Human & Organizational Development as a core faculty member, having served previously as a research faculty member. McCall will continue her work in the area of methods and also add to the doctoral curriculum in adult development, social change, and the concentration in Aging, Culture, and Society. Fielding looks forward to her taking a leadership role for the university as it prepares to host for the third time the International Conference on Positive Aging

For over 20 years, McCall has been a professor and consultant in the areas of aging and social policy, communication, collaborative problem-solving, mediating conflict, and applied research methods. She holds a PhD in human development and aging and is a tenured full professor at Saint Mary's College of California. She has extensive experience in designing, implementing, collecting, and analyzing data for research that includes quantitative, qualitative, laboratory, community-based, and multi-method approaches to investigation.

McCall's research in aging focusses on cross-cultural comparisons of values in the formulation of social policies for older persons. She has worked in the area of service-enriched subsidized housing for low-income elders and families and has published in the area of community empowerment, social interaction and longevity, cultural differences in elder abuse, and empowerment of older persons. She has considerable experience designing and delivering diversity training to deal with issues of difference and community building in higher education (with students, faculty and staff). She is a certified trainer for the Campus of Difference workshop from the Anti-Defamation League and a certified Values Coach through Values Technology, Inc.


Tags: gerontology, aging

Fielding alumnus becomes chair-elect of CASAP

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Thu, Mar 22, 2012

At the winter meeting of the American Psychological Association (APA), Eric Willmarth , PhD, of Kentwood, MI, was voted chair-elect of the Coalition for Academic, Scientific, and Applied Research Psychology (CASAP). This group serves as a forum for issues coming before the APA Council of Representatives and helps to formulate positions on issues which further the interests of research in psychology.

Dr. Willmarth is a 1999 graduate of Fielding’s School of Psychology.                                                                                                                     

Congratulations, Eric.

Tags: APA, Organizational development, research, aging

Richard Leider to present "The Power of Purpose"

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Mon, Dec 19, 2011

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

7-9 pm

Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort – San Rafael Conference Room

633 East Cabrillo Boulevard, Santa Barbara, CA

Free and open to the public

Richard Leider is a respected life/work planning specialist and author of The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. The book serves as a jumping-off point for those who’d truly like to combine their “own unique gifts” with “the needs of the world” to carve out a vocational niche that’s both individualized and highly rewarding. According to Fielding founding president, Frederic M. Hudson, “The Power of Purpose teaches you to embrace the complex questions life is asking you. Find your ‘why’ and your ‘how’ will become clear.”

Leider is founder and chairman of The Inventure Group, a coaching and consulting firm in Minneapolis, MN. He works with national organizations such as Ameriprise, Ericsson, Habitat for Humanity, MetLife, and PricewaterhouseCoopers and is ranked by Forbes as one of the top five most respected executive coaches in the country. He teaches executive education at Duke Corporate Education and is a guest lecturer in the Harvard Business School’s general management program.

Two of Leider’s books, Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose are considered classics in the personal development field. Two other books have been referred to as breakthrough books on positive aging.

Tags: creativity, Transformational learning, Advising and Student Development, development, adult learning, aging

Positive Aging Conference Makes Major Contribution to the Field

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Tue, Dec 13, 2011

Fielding Graduate University delivered on its promise to bring together leading scholars and practitioners to look at new research and practice concerning how to bring meaning, value, and appreciation to the aging process. describe the image

On December 6-9, 2011, in Los Angeles, 170 participants at the Fifth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging gathered to learn and to be inspired by experts and colleagues. 

Among the media with interest in the conference outcomes was Lance Orozco of the NPR station KCLU. He chose to report on what experts say about why so many people are unprepared for the post-retirement period of their lives despite America’s population living longer and seniors being healthier than ever.        

Tags: conference, gerontology, development, adult learning, aging

Bateson Receives Fielding Award in Social Change & Positive Aging

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Thu, Dec 01, 2011


Bateson resized 600Writer and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson is slated to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Change and Positive Aging from Fielding Graduate University. The award will be presented during the Fifth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging. Co-sponsored by Fielding, the conference is being held December 6-9, 2011, at the California Endowment Center, 1000 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles. Bateson will deliver the keynote address, a dialogue about her latest book, Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom. The conference schedule is available at

Bateson has taught at Harvard, Northeastern, and George Mason Universities, and since 2006 has been a Visiting Scholar at the Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College. She travels extensively to lecture on her model of Active Wisdom, which covers community dialogue, the contributions and improvisations of engaged older adults, and the consciousness of the life cycle through which she explores intergenerational communication and ways of experiencing time. In her memoir With a Daughter’s Eye, Bateson discusses life with famous parents, Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.

The conference theme, “Innovation in Positive Aging,” invites an exploration of the ways in which people are creating new and more effective answers to the question What does it mean to age well? During dynamic, interactive sessions, presenters and participants will consider issues of community, wellness, creativity, and life transitions as they relate to the aging population – both those in the midst of the experience and professionals working in the field.

Tags: creativity, social justice, Transformational learning, conference, leadership, development, adult learning, healthcare, graduate education, aging

Program for '11 Positive Aging Conference Now Available

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Mon, Oct 24, 2011

Fielding Graduate University has finalized the program for the Fifth Annual International Conference on Positive Aging, December 6-9, 2011, it was announced today by the planning committee led by Katrina Rogers, Fielding’s newly appointed provost and senior vice president. The schedule of events being held in Los Angeles, CA, and the line-up of leading experts who will speak, lead workshops and seminars, and be panel discussants is available at

 Hotel information and registration forms - Early bird registration ends on November 15, 2011 – can be found at

Harry R. Moody will be the conference master of ceremonies. Moody is the director of academic affairs for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which is one of the conference sponsors.

Keynote speaker will be writer and cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson. She will speak about the contributions and improvisations of engaged older adults which she explores in her recent book Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom.

Innovation in Positive Aging, the theme of this year’s conference, is an opportunity to explore the ways in which people are creating new and more effective answers to one of the biggest challenges of our times: what does it mean to age well?  This small question has big implications for how we build community spaces, how we take care of our physical health, how we express ourselves through creative processes, and how we tackle life’s often complicated transitions.  In workshops and table presentations, conference participants take up new ideas to forward our understanding of these questions by tackling the conference themes of community, wellness, creativity, and life transitions.  Presentations range across these themes as well as across cultures as we consider how other societies are addressing the challenges and opportunities of aging. 

Tags: conference, aging

Psychology student accepts award for aging prisoners program

Posted by Sylvia Williams on Thu, Sep 29, 2011

Mary Harrison, a doctoral student in Fielding Graduate University’s clinical psychology program, will accept the first Dr. Mary Ann Quaranta Elder Justice Award for “True Grit,” a program she administers to serve the needs of elderly prisoners in Carson City, NV.

Housed at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center, True Grit addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the aging prison population. The program is staffed by volunteers, and no additional cost is passed on to taxpayers. The program began in 2004; over 265 prisoners have participated prior to their deaths or discharge.

Tags: social justice, diversity, clinical psychology, human rights, aging, criminal justice