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The Borland-Manske Center at Concordia University Irvine

The Townsend Institute for Leadership & Counseling

Concordia University Irvine

Experience transformational education that operates at the crossroads of competence, character, and connection through the Townsend Institute’s life-changing counseling and leadership programs.

Students in front of Grimm Hall

About the Institute

The Townsend Institute at Concordia University Irvine offers fully accredited online graduate degrees, professional certificates, and bachelor's degrees in three content areas: Organizational Leadership, Executive Coaching and Consulting, and Counseling. Masterful psychologist and relationship expert Dr. John Townsend founded the Institute to address both the head and the heart, incorporating scriptural truths with current neuroscience. Discover how the Institute’s approach goes deeper than behavioral change and moves us to growth.

Dr. John Townsend Dr. Townsend and students in front of Grimm Hall

About our founder

Dr. John Townsend is a New York Times bestselling author, leadership consultant, psychologist and relationship expert. He has written 35 books, selling 10 million copies, including the bestselling Boundaries series and The Entitlement Cure, an ECPA 2015 Book of the Year finalist. For more than twenty years, Dr. Townsend has engaged with leaders, organizations and individuals around the globe, offering them life-changing solutions to their problems. He hosts his own online live video call-in program, “Dr. Townsend Live.” He is also co-host of the nationally-syndicated talk show “New Life Live” which is heard in 180 markets with 3 million listeners. He is the founder of the Townsend Institute at Concordia University Irvine, and is active and instrumental in its growth. Dr. Townsend holds a B.A. in Psychology from North Carolina State University, a Master’s in Theology from Dallas Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Biola University.

Jon Acuff - Bestselling Author
Sue Johnson, Ph.D. - Therapist, Research Professor
Miles McPherson - Senior Pastor, the Rock Church
Henry Cloud, Ph.D. - Bestselling Author
Gabe Lyons - Founder of Q
Donald Miller - Bestselling Author

About our Fellows

When you make a choice to invest in your future by continuing your education, you want to be sure your time is well spent. That’s where the Townsend Institute at Concordia University Irvine offers a distinct advantage. In addition to top-tier faculty, Dr. Townsend has assembled a world-class team of influencers, author-teachers and practitioners with broad platforms who are widely recognized. Enrolled students will connect to these top thinkers and practitioners in the monthly virtual symposia.

About our faculty

Trained on the Townsend model, our faculty is made up of practicing professionals who have real-world experience applying the very principles they teach at the Townsend Institute. Students will gain a deep understanding of human motivation and the dynamics of high performing teams and organizations.


Christmas Thomas, Margaret


Dr. Christmas Thomas joined Concordia University ten years ago where she is an Associate Dean and was a leader in starting the Townsend Institute and has been instrumental in program design and launching of the PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision.

Prior to Concordia she led National Counseling/Academic services for the world’s largest human services provider and consulted internationally in the areas of counseling, education and special education services. She has helped host several national conferences for counselors and educators, provided coaching consulting and presented on these topics across the United States and the United Kingdom.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Education and Leadership, Barry University
  • M.A., Counselor Education, University of Central Florida
  • B.A., Psychology, University of North Florida

Redinger, Aubrey


Aubrey Redinger is the Assistant Director of the Townsend Institute. Aubrey is a part of creating transformational education that is relational. The Townsend Institute was founded by New York Times best selling author, psychologist, speaker and consultant, Dr. John Townsend. As an employee of the Townsend Institute, Aubrey has received training directly from Dr. Townsend. Aubrey has served as a Wellness Champion and on the Mental Health Committee for Concordia University Irvine. Aubrey has spent over 15 years working in higher education in the realms of student leadership development, event planning, teaching, human resources, admissions, and advising.

Aubrey Redinger is a mental health clinician and educational administrator who is passionate about improving the human experience. As an Associate Professional Clinical Counselor and Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of CA, Aubrey works under the supervision of Rachel Benson, LCSW. Their practice sees a variety of clients, but especially focuses on perinatal mental health, helping moms stabilize in their motherhood experience. As a clinician and educator, Aubrey especially enjoys helping students understand the process of becoming licensed in their state.

Aubrey is a certified facilitator for both Working Genius and SYMBIS. Aubrey is currently pursuing a Perinatal Mental Health Certification through Postpartum Support International.

Aubrey is a member of CAMFT, CALPCC, and NACADA. For Concordia University Irvine Aubrey has served on the Mental Health Committee and as a Wellness Champion.

Degrees Earned

  • M.S., Counseling Psychology, California Baptist University
  • B.A., Psychology, California Baptist University

Donna, Washburn


Dr. Washburn is a 1998 graduate of Evangel University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She went on to receive her master’s degree in Social Work from Missouri State University in 1999 and her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from Regent University in 2015. Her professional experience includes working with the adolescent population in areas such as school social work and as a therapist for teens in residential treatment, providing clinical supervision and consultation for social workers and counselors. Her areas of interest and past research include issues of abuse and neglect with children, negative behavioral functioning of adolescents, clinical supervision and social advocacy in the mental health field. Dr. Washburn has worked in Christian Higher Education for 20 years and has enjoyed many roles including teaching, administration, research and supervision. She is passionate about leading the CUI Townsend Institute Counseling Program and assisting the next generation of counselors in reaching the hurting world with excellence in clinical practice.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision: Regent University
  • M.S.W. - Master's of Social Work: Missouri State University
  • B.S.W. - Bachelor's of Social Work: Evangel University
  • LCSW - Licensed Clinical Social Worker- Missouri

Ashlie Andrew


Dr. Andrew earned her Bachelors and Masters Degrees from California State University, Long Beach and her PhD from Regent University in Virginia. Her research interests include family communication, organizational communication and crisis management. She has taught at both private and public colleges and universities. Some of her past courses include Public Speaking, Workplace Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Small Group Communication, Organizational Communication, Journalism, and Interviewing. Dr. Andrew enjoys working at Concordia University because it allows her to combine her love of teaching and leadership with her Christian beliefs. Dr. Andrew resides in Northern California with her husband Brian and their daughter Brilie Kate.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Communication, Regent University
  • M.A., Communication Studies, California State University of Long Beach
  • B.A., Communication Studies, California State University of Long Beach

Fugitt, Gilbert


With more than 20 years of experience in higher education and ministry leadership experience, Gilbert has honed a sense of working with organizations to build health and high-performance. Gilbert has tremendous experience working with individuals and teams to create a strategic plan that will give measurable results and help you achieve success.

Prior to working with the Townsend Institute, Gilbert was the Associate Vice President and Dean of Students at Concordia University Irvine. While serving in that role, he gained extensive experience leading teams in working through stressful situations and building a healthy culture.

Gilbert brings a doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University that has given him a unique perspective to help clients find what motivates them to do their best work. He has worked with many individuals to create a plan for them to explore their unique path to see and overcome the barriers that are limiting their growth. He utilizes his experience in StrengthsFinder and Emotional Intelligence in working with individuals and teams.

As a faculty member and leadership and executive consultant, Gilbert works consistently with leaders and organizations to make significant changes that have a long-term impact. Gilbert’s goal is to create a culture of trust where people feel the freedom to achieve at the highest level.

Degrees Earned

  • Ed.D., Organizational Leadership, Pepperdine University
  • M.A., Psychology, Pepperdine University
  • B.A., Theology, Concordia University, Seward, NE

Stafford, Kaitlyn


Dr. Kaitlyn Stafford has various clinical experiences spanning from working with service members and veterans in inpatient treatment to providing counseling to those suffering from addiction in an outpatient setting. She has also managed intensive outpatient and outpatient addiction treatment programs for adolescents, women, adults, and clients with co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders. Since 2017, Dr. Stafford has owned and operated a private practice in Hawaii and remotely, where she specializes in treating complex trauma in adults. Additionally, she enjoys counseling service members, veterans, and their families and conducting group therapy.

Dr. Stafford is an EMDR certified clinician and provides EMDR and trauma therapy consulting. She is passionate about mentoring future and current clinicians to offer competent, trauma-informed care. Dr. Stafford is also committed to helping educate clinicians on the military culture and how to successfully and ethically navigate a telehealth practice. She also serves as a supervisor, consultant, and faculty member for a counselor training program in Ukraine. Her current research interests and endeavors include: the career and life satisfaction of military spouses who have advanced degrees, military culture, and trauma.

Dr. Stafford is proud of her South Louisiana roots and the art of cooking and eating that comes with them (gumbo, jambalaya, and shrimp and grits are regular favorites in the Stafford house). She enjoys yoga, hiking trails with her husband, son, and pup, and drinking a good cup of coffee on the lanai.

Thompson, Michelle


Michelle Thompson is the Director of the Executive Coaching and Consulting program in the Townsend Institute at Concordia University.  

As a Leadership and Growth Coach, credentialed as a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation, she brings a breadth of executive leadership experience in the non-profit and for-profit sector combined with almost two decades of involvement with the Townsend Growth Model.  

Degrees and Certifications

  • M.S., Organizational Development, Abilene Christian University
  • M.A., Children's and Family Ministry, Bethel Seminary
  • B.A., Elementary Education, Concordia University Chicago
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC), International Coaching Federation 
  • Certificate, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Abilene Christian University

Program Faculty

Shelley Coleman


Dr. Shelley Coleman is a Licensed Professional Counselor in West Virginia and holds specialty certifications in Emotionally Focused Therapy and Somatic Experiencing. She is an assistant professor for the Townsend Institute at Concordia University in Irvine, California. Dr. Coleman has been teaching at the Townsend Institute since 2017. She has taught most of the course in the program and is the SME for Foundations in Marriage and Family Counseling and Human Growth and Development. Dr. Coleman was introduced to Dr. Townsend’s model in 2011 during a yearlong training for counselors with Dr. Townsend in Indiana. She continues to integrate the Townsend Model into her work clinically as well as in the classroom.

As an Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor, Dr. Coleman provides couples and family counseling using Dr. Sue Johnson’s model of EFT and EFFT. This is widely considered the gold standard for couple and family counseling. As a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, she uses the work of Dr. Peter Levine for trauma healing work. Again, Dr. Levine’s work is considered a gold standard modality and works with the central nervous system to help the body renegotiate trauma and provide long lasting healing.

Dr. Coleman owns her own private practice, Valley Counseling and Consulting in Teays Valley, WV. Here she offers counseling and coaching with a variety of populations, both in- person and via telehealth. Her specialties include couple and family counseling, trauma healing, as well as depression, anxiety, and intimate partner violence recovery. Dr. Coleman also offers supervision in Emotionally Focused Therapy as a certified EFT Supervisor and consultation in Somatic Experiencing.

Degrees, Licenses, and Certifications Earned:

  • PhD Counselor Education and Supervision
  • National Certified Counselor
  • Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor (West Virginia)
  • Certified Emotionally Focused Therapist and Supervisor
  • Somatic Experiencing Practitioner

Lorraine Gordon


Dr. Lorraine Gordon earned her degree in Counselor Education and Supervision from Capella University. Dr. Gordon is a National Certified Counselor and is a mentor for the National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation, Mentor Program. She is a Disaster Mental Health Responder for the American Red Cross. Dr. Gordon’s professional experience spans Mental Health, Teaching, Counseling, and Healthcare. She has extensive experience working in community mental health, private practice, and within a teaching hospital in a variety of capacities. Dr. Gordon is an On-Demand Military & Family Life Counselor (MFLC) at Fort Dix. Her areas of interest include trauma, crisis management, online counseling learners transitioning into internship fieldwork, family, and Multicultural Counseling. Dr. Gordon served as Adjunct Faculty at Middlesex County College. Dr. Gordon’s ministry involves Family Life, Youth and Young Adults. She operates a Community Counseling office within her church. She serves on her church school Board and especially enjoys helping learners achieve their educational aspirations. Dr. Gordon resides in Central New Jersey with her husband, a retired Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, they are the parents of five adult children. For relaxation she enjoys hiking, speed walking, camping, traveling, and gardening. Dr. Gordon is committed to higher education and is a life-long learner, she is enthusiastic about integrating her counseling experience with academics.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D. Counselor Education and Supervision, Capella University
  • M.S. Human Services - Mental Health, Capella University

Angela Jackson


Dr. Angela Jackson is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor experienced working in clinical settings (youth and families) and as faculty with diverse populations. A graduate of Virginia Tech, she holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education with a concentration in Race and Social Policy. She specializes in building rapport with clients and clarifying the basis for their presenting issues. For example, what’s beneath the surface of client’s symptoms for anxiety, depression, faith conflict, or family of origin trauma? Dr. Jackson has gained a unique cultural awareness of the family dynamics and relationships particularly with the African American population. Therefore, she welcomes broader roles beyond therapist (educator, faith advocate, resource person) by providing culturally responsive treatment that includes tailoring her skill set with the clients’ unique needs. She makes herself available to clients including being present when collective societal issues such as systemic racism or marginalization are the presenting issues.

As core faculty of the Masters in Counseling Program in the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling, Dr. Jackson considers empowering students in the classroom and clarifying their “professional counseling identity” as no small task. With the high rewards of becoming a licensed professional counselor coupled with the awesome training of the Townsend character/competence model, students are set up for success.

Lastly, Dr. Jackson's passion for mental health and cultural competency is also evident as the owner of Culturally Competent Therapy as she has specialized in culturally responsive treatment with clients for over ten years.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D. Counselor Education, Virginia Tech
  • M.Ed. Community Counseling, Kent State
  • B.S. Industrial Management, University of Akron

Brenda Keck headshot


Brenda Keck, Ph.D., LMFT has been practicing as a therapist since 2008 and teaching since 2014. She grew up overseas (East Africa) and much of her work has been in the missionary community in the U.S., Asia, Africa and Europe. She is passionate about promoting resilience, health and healing in the emotional and spiritual lives of ministry leaders. Her specializations include: issues of cross-cultural living, Third Culture Kids, Trauma recovery, compassion fatigue/secondary traumatic stress, resilience and wellness. She also finds great joy in mentoring and teaching a new generation of counselors!

Brenda has been married to her husband (a pastor) since 1981 and enjoys time with her grown twin daughters, a son-in-law, and one crazy dog. She lives in the Pacific NW and spends part of the summers in Alaska with her husband where he runs a fishing lodge. Some things she enjoys outside of work include horseback riding, hiking, hot yoga, salmon fishing with her husband, and sharing a pot of English tea with good conversation.

Degrees Earned

  • PhD Counselor Education and Supervision, Regent University
  • MA Marriage and Family Therapy, Richmont Graduate University
  • Bachelor’s in Education, Guidance & Counseling, University of North Texas

Rachael McCormick headshot


Dr. Rachael McCormick is a 2007 graduate of Hardin-Simmons University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. She went on to receive her master’s degree in Family Psychology from Hardin-Simmons University in 2010 and her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from Regent University in 2019. Her professional experience includes working with children and adolescents in the schools, child protective services, and private practice. She has an extensive work history with those struggling with addictions including prevention, inpatient, and outpatient counseling. Dr. McCormick was formerly the COO of the Serenity Foundation, a non-profit substance use treatment foundation including multiple programs in prevention, detox, inpatient, outpatient, recovery support services and sober living. She has received additional trainings and certifications in multiple trauma approaches and play therapy. Her areas of interest and past research include integrating creativity, play therapy, and neurobiology in counseling with all clients of all ages. Dr. McCormick has presented at multiple national conferences on her work using sandtray therapy with adults. She specializes in supervising and training other counselors in this modality. Although she has transitioned into higher education, Dr. McCormick will always consider herself a clinician at heart which is why she still maintains a small private practice in Abilene, TX. She is passionate about supervising the next generation of counselors to foster their creativity and competence in clinical skills.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision: Regent University
  • M.A.- Master of Arts in Family Psychology: Hardin-Simmons University
  • B.B.S.- Bachelor of Behavioral Science in Psychology: Hardin-Simmons University
  • LPC- Licensed Professional Counselor: Texas
  • LCDC- Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor: Texas
  • NCC- National Certified Counselor
  • RPT- Registered Play Therapist

Christi Myers headshot


Christi Myers, Ph.D., LPC, LCDC, has worked in community mental health and education for over twenty years in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico, and the United States. Prior to Concordia, Dr. Myers directed multiple community mental health care initiatives dedicated to providing accessible bilingual counseling services to people of all ages and backgrounds. Dr. Myers also specializes in providing co-occurring psychological and substance use disorder (COPSD) treatment to individuals, couples, and families. Her research interests include cross-cultural counseling, resiliency, and post traumatic growth.

Dr. Myers and her husband, a Sergeant Major in the US Army, reside in Texas. She has a passion for trail ultrarunning and rescue dogs.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision, St. Mary's University
  • M.A., International Counseling Psychology, Alliant International University

Mark Newmeyer


Dr. Newmeyer is a licensed professional clinical counselor and supervisor in Ohio and Virginia with over twenty years of clinical and consulting experience in mental health services, addictions, and trauma. He is a professional member of the American Counseling Association, which recognized his achievements by honoring him in 2004 as an Emerging Leader. Dr. Newmeyer is an active member of ASGW and also serves on the Editorial Board for Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development. He enjoys running, including several marathons and recently a 50K.

Nancy Nguyen


I am a native of Southern California, specifically Orange County California. I am the daughter of two Vietnamese immigrants, my father arriving here after the fall of Saigon in 1975, while my mother is a Vietnamese boat person. I consider myself bicultural, being fluent in both English and Vietnamese and balancing my Vietnamese heritage with growing up in the United States. As an example of the bicultural influence, I grew up eating my spaghetti with chopsticks.

I graduated from CSU Fullerton with a B.S. in Human Services and a minor in Criminal Justice with Magna Cum Laude honors. I followed my undergraduate studies with an M.S. in Counseling at CSU Fullerton and earned my PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision at Pennsylvania State University.

My clinical experiences ranged from working with children and their families in school and community mental health clinics to a variety of individual needs of college students and adults, including depression, anxiety, trauma, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance abuse/dependence. I completed clinical work in different settings, including the Orange County (OC) HeadStart preschool program, Western Youth Services community mental health clinic, CEDAR clinic at Penn State University, OC HealthCare Agency Adult Mental Health services, and ChildNet Youth and family services. All included individual, family, and group counseling.

The aforementioned experiences have built on my training in evidenced-based practices, which encompass Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Integrative Complex Trauma Treatment, and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). As a practitioner, I specialize in working with the Vietnamese American population and have a passion for practitioner-based research and counseling services within this underserved population. I have also pioneered culturally responsive modifications to Parent-Child Interaction Therapy with Vietnamese American families while training other clinicians. In addition, I created a supervision group for a Vietnamese American group of interns, psychologists, and clinicians to provide ethnic specific services, program development, and peer mentoring.

While at Penn State, I was also part of an international collaboration called “Counseling without Borders” with Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey to provide a cultural exchange on counselor education. I was honored to come back to CSU Fullerton to teach courses in the Human Services and Counseling programs from which I graduated in 2012.

Using my experience, I built my practice from the ground-up in Orange County. My practice, which started in 2015, focuses on providing culturally responsive therapy to Asian Americans.

My future research includes a focus on children’s mental health, diversifying counselor education, and international aspects of counselor education. My passion is to focus research on improving access and outreach to underserved populations in counseling and underrepresented populations in counselor education, along with fostering curiosity and passion in my students on their research interests. This research includes my dissertation on Vietnamese American family’s perceptions of children’s mental health, how culture impacts utilization of mental health services using a case study approach with phenomenological aspects that incorporated participant narratives.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision - (CACREP- Accredited) - The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. 
  • M.S. in Counseling - (CACREP- Accredited) - California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA. 
  • B.S. in Human Services, Minor in Criminal Justice -  California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA. 
  • LMFT- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, California


Paylo Matthew


Matthew John Paylo, Ph.D./LPCC-S (OH), LPC (GA), is a professor of counseling at Concordia University Irvine. He has over 12 years of experience in counselor education and 20 years of clinical experience in various settings including community mental health centers, prisons, hospitals, adolescent residential treatment facilities, and college counseling centers. Matthew is passionate about implementing evidence-based interventions within therapeutic relationships that highlight empathy, unconditional positive regard, and genuineness. He has presented and published extensively in the areas of diagnosing and treating mental and emotional disorders. Matthew co-authored two books on assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental and emotional disorders. In addition, he has published numerous journal articles and book chapters on trauma, evidence-based treatments, offender treatments, adolescent counseling, social justice counseling, and the implementation of the DSM. Matthew has received a number of teaching and research awards including the Distinguished Professor of Teaching at Youngstown State University and the Research and Writing Award from the Ohio Counseling Association (OCA). In addition, Matthew completed two terms as a governor-appointed member of the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision - (CACREP- Accredited) - University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
  • M.A. in Community Counseling - (CACREP- Accredited) - Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA
  • B.S. in Business - Grove City College, Grove City, PA

Phifer, Joy Kelly


Dr. Joy Kelly Phifer holds a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counseling and Counselor Education from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). Her previous degrees include a Master of Science and Specialist in Education dual degree in Couple and Family Counseling, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, and a Bachelor of Arts in Dance Studies all from UNCG. Currently, she serves as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor (LCMHC) in the state of North Carolina, treating individuals, couples and families in an outpatient, private agency setting. Clinically, she maintains special training in Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) through the Carolina Center for EFT and trauma-specific training as a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional (CCTP) through the International Association of Trauma Professionals. In her clinical practice, she promotes the power of the counseling relationship, in that it has the unique potential to serve as a catalyst for individual insight, progressive change, and overall mental health wellness.

As a counselor educator, Dr. Phifer maintains a special passion for the classroom in providing experiential and transformative experiences for her students, where she enjoys teaching classes in counseling skills, career counseling, sexuality counseling, family violence, and more. Additionally, Dr. Phifer holds a strong passion for the clinical supervision process in helping developing counselors hone their clinical skills with a focus on providing high quality therapeutic services for clients. Her areas of research interest primarily relate to the prevention, treatment, and recovery experiences of victims and survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), alongside research implications in couple and family counseling practice - all of which reflect her spiritual calling to the field.

Dr. Phifer is passionate about the performing arts where she enjoys social dancing with her husband and attending live concerts. In her free time, Dr. Phifer enjoys traveling, watching movies full of suspense and drama, and spending time with close friends and family.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counseling and Counselor Education, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • M.S./Ed.S., Couple & Family Counseling, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
  • B.S., B.A., Business Administration, Dance Studies, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Phillips, Anita


Dr. Anita Phillips is a trauma therapist, life coach, and minister. Widely recognized as a thought leader at the intersection of mental health, faith, and culture, Dr. Anita holds a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from the Regent University School of Psychology & Counseling and completed a NIH funded post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Mental Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her expertise and research interests center on culturally competent theory development and the application of that work to understanding how diversity impacts the way that faith communities conceptualize mental health. As a professor, a clinical supervisor, and a mentor she challenges students to think critically –even skeptically-- about everything they learn in hopes that one of their fresh ideas might one day change the face of professional counseling.

From The Potter’s House to Lakewood Church and from Woman Evolve to the IF Conference, Dr. Anita’s dynamic voice has been heard on some of the largest Christian platforms in the country. As a media personality she has been trusted by the likes of Tamron Hall, The Talk, Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Red Table Talk, and the Today Show. Dr. Anita’s faith + mental health advocacy campaigns have reached hundreds of thousands and her podcast, In the Light with Dr. Anita, has more than two million downloads. She is also the author of the paradigm-shifting book, The Garden Within: Where the War with Your Emotions ends and Your Most Powerful Life Begins. In her downtime she adores time with her family and friends, a good pint of ice cream, and sitting by the ocean.

David M. Savinsky


A guiding theme for my life is that of relationship and two statements inform this interest. The first is from Irvin Yalom, who instructs, "It is the relationship that heals." I have experienced the positive aspects of being healed in my own relationships and seen the immense power of how relationship heals others through therapy and counseling. The second is by the educator Jon Kabat-Zinn, in his definition of mindfulness: "Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." Being in relationship with oneself and others requires a focused mind and focused awareness in both the realm of the self and the other. The challenge is to be nonjudgmental and authentic in those interactions.

I have worked in the field of counseling and therapy for the past 25 years, working in a myriad of settings. Since 2003, I have been in private practice in Virginia Beach, working as a psychotherapist with adolescents, adults, families, substance abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety and additional clinical symptomology.

The challenge of being authentic in treatment is no better represented than treating teenagers and families. In this work, I found my calling. I have been looking for ways patients can find peace, utilizing multiple types of treatment, including individual therapy, groups, and specific work with adolescents and families. My search for effective treatment led to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to treat teenagers, families, and adults. This approach has integrated well in how I understand relationships and how to develop peace by utilizing mindfulness-based approaches. I continue to utilize DBT, Prolonged Exposure (PE), and evidence-based treatment in my clinical work.

In my own life creating meaning is done through relationships with others and with my relationship with God. The conflict of being on a journey to understand, married with the frustration of the unknown future is captured all too well in Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. There is tension between the demand to "know" in those difficult moments and the humility of accepting what we cannot understand. This acceptance and humility is necessary to experience peace.

My involvement in teaching has expanded my worldview and my role in helping others. I have expanded interests in how therapy works from both the clinical and research domains. I have developed significant interest in how the counselor develops personally and professionally and have a strong interest in the supervision process. Students need good clinical training! I am passionate in helping them find their way to become competent counselors.

My position at the CUI Townsend Institute Counseling Program allows me to seek and expand on the many passions I have with clinical work and counselor supervision. In addition, it affords the chance to pursue research in finding answers to the myriad of questions that my clinical and supervisory work has generated.

Areas of Interest

  • Addiction in Adolescents and Families
  • Qualitative Research Methodology
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy
  • Evidence-based treatments
  • Mindfulness in Teaching and Supervision
  • Counselor Education and Counselor Development
  • Use of Technology in Teaching

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision: Regent University
  • M.A., Community/Clinical Psychology: Norfolk State University
  • B.A., Psychology & Sociology: Virginia Wesleyan College
  • LPC – Licensed Professional Counselor
  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
  • LSATP – Licensed Substance Abuse Treatment Practitioner
  • CSAC – Certified Substance Abuse Counselor
  • ACS – Approved Clinical Supervisor

Shelton, Deena


Dr. Deena Shelton is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in Texas and has a variety of experiences in clinical, educational, and nonprofit settings. Like many counselors, she feels a strong connection to her calling of helping others and feels equally passionate about training new counselors. She focused her counseling expertise in couples and families, career counseling, and supervising new counselors as they seek licensure.

Previously, Dr. Shelton has worked in university career services, administration and advising for online graduate counseling programs, and in coordination and executive management of nonprofit organizations. She has worked community services such as advocacy for children in foster care, federally funded education programs, and community-based crime prevention initiatives. Her research focuses include adoptive families, parenting, supervision in counselor education, and research methods. She is passionate about volunteering for her community and serves in volunteer groups and on local boards to help promote change in her community.

Dr. Shelton is passionate about teaching new counselors in practical and connective ways. In addition to helping educate students about the process of counseling, she strives to mentor them in their personal development and professional identity. As most counselor educators, she loves helping students understand how they can connect with clients to promote change. She also loves teaching students how topics like research, assessment, evaluation, and documentation fit into the role of a counselor and how they enhance a counselor’s ability to serve clients well. In addition to serving as a faculty member, Dr. Shelton is the Field Experience Coordinator, overseeing practicum and internship experiences for students.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D., Counselor Education and Supervision, Walden University
  • M.A., Community Counseling, Stephen F. Austin State University
  • B.S., Psychology, LeTourneau University

Sinardi, Catherine Collins


Dr. Sinardi holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from St. Cloud State University and a Master's degree in Counseling from California State University, Long Beach. She became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in 2006. In 2011, Dr. Sinardi completed her Doctor of Education degree in Organizational Leadership at the University of La Verne.

Professional Experience

Dr. Catherine Sinardi is Director of Healthcare Management, overseeing the following degree programs: Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Management (traditional and online) and Master of Healthcare Administration. She teaches a variety of courses in aforementioned programs, and is an instructor in the Townsend Institute’s Master of Arts in Counseling curriculum. Previously, she was Regional Director of Clinical Services at Children’s Institute and Director of Quality Assurance and Program Evaluation at Counseling4Kids, both in the greater Los Angeles area. She also worked in private practice as a licensed counselor and held various administrative positions at ChildNet Youth and Family Services in Long Beach.

Adjunct Faculty

Bjorndahl-Jay, Jill


Jill has a Ph.D. from Capella University in Organizational Management with an emphasis in Leadership. She has a M.S.M. from Notre Dame de Namur University with an emphasis in Project Management. Jill’s experience spans from 12 years in the collegiate classroom to working in the board room as a business executive for more than 20 years. A dynamic and seasoned entrepreneur with a track record in developing and implementing effective business processes, Jill has experience in managing and leading internal teams, creating win-win relationships with vendors and suppliers to improve cost-efficiency across the supply chain, and tracking adherence to organizational strategy, strategic objectives and action plans. Currently she is the chairman and CEO at NSI (Nutritional Services, Inc.) in San Carlos, CA.

Davis, Barry


Barry Davis is a Career and Executive Coach with Gift of Self Career Services. LLC. Holding a Master's degree in Clinical Psychology from Millersville University and a Pastoral Degree from Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School, he is designated as a Certified Master of Career Services by the National Career Development Association and is a licensed minister of the Gospel. An adjunct professor at Concordia and Huntington Universities and an active blogger (on both career and faith), he has written for the Social Media Examiner, NCDA and the Middle Atlantic Career Counseling Association’s newsletters. Davis’ presentation experience includes keynoting for MACCA, presenting to the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers, Maryland Career Development Association, Human Resource associations, Business Executives Networking Group, Lancaster Young Professionals, and various organizations, colleges and universities on diverse topics including The Blessings of Failure, Creating Luck, and Leading through Conflict. A certified AVA Analyst and Certified Talent Consultant for advanced assessment training with the Institute of Personality and Ability Testing, he also holds certification in Critical Incident Stress Debriefing from the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation. Over his 25+ year career, Barry has worked with thousands of people in diverse industries in dealing with the age-old question "What do I want to be when I grow up?", whether they are taking their first career steps or transitioning into a new field entirely. He has extensive experience in working with companies and individuals in the throes of employment and life transitions and continues to learn what all he wants to do! Barry is passionate about integrating Biblical truth in all he does, often noting that "all truth belongs to God." On a personal side, he is an inveterate reader, pushing books on anyone who comes within earshot (he has over 190 book reviews on Goodreads), and has completed over 30 full marathons.

Degrees Earned

  • M.S., Clinical Psychology, Millersville University of Pennsylvania
  • B.S., Bible/Pastoral Studies, Lancaster Bible College

Jon Kidwell


Jon Kidwell is a leadership development trainer and coach who works with executives, teams, and organizations so they are healthy and effective. He is the Founder/Leader of The Kidwell Team, a leadership development company on a mission to equip and empower leaders through training and coaching so they can lead at their best and get the results their people and the mission deserve.

For over 20 years, Jon served in leadership roles as an employee or Board member in private companies and nonprofits, large and small, ranging from a local focus to global impact. During that time, Jon was VP of Innovation and Operations for a large, multi-million dollar global nonprofit in Houston, TX working with companies such as Apple, Nike, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Pfizer, the University of Houston, and the YMCA of the USA.

In addition to Jon's leadership development business and professional background, he holds a teaching degree from Grand Valley State University and a Master's in Educational Leadership and Administration from Concordia University Texas. Jon has been married to Meghan for 12+ years, they have three wonderful children, and call Houston, Texas home.

Degrees Earned

  • B.A., Education, Grand Valley State University
  • M.A., Educational Leadership and Administration, Concordia University Texas

Frances Leonor


Frances Leonor is grateful to be on the adjunct teaching team at the Townsend Institute. She was born in the Philippines and moved to America 38 years ago. Frances is married with three adult daughters and nine children. Her desire is to live for and please God.

Her professional experience includes Bible, Math and Science at the Middle and High School levels as well as being a School Administrator/Principal at Highlands Christian Schools. Currently, she is an adjunct professor at Concordia University Irvine. Leonor also was the 2018 Concordia Graduate Commencement Speaker.

Degrees Earned

  • Ph.D. Educational Leadership, Columbia International University
  • M.S. Public Health, University of the Philippines
  • M.A. Education, Simpson University

Chad Minor


Chad M. Minor lives with his wife, Jamie, and two boys, William, and Jackson, in Canton, Ohio. Chad was selected as the 2019 Graduate School Alumnus of the Year at Malone University and was recognized in 2018 as a City of Canton Difference Maker by The Canton Repository. He was a Division 1 Student-Athlete at The University of Akron, majoring in Business Communication while playing basketball for the Zips. Chad serves on the Board of Directors at Urban Ark Canton, a food and clothing pantry that distributes to those in need in the downtown area. He is part of The One Center for Leadership which strives to multiply kingdom leaders through catalytic conferences, collaborative workspaces, and customized coaching. Chad is currently studying for a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Playter, Kellie


Kellie earned her Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from California State University, Long Beach, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. She has served on several nonprofit boards in her community, including the Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Ronald McDonald House Charities. She has been teaching college courses since 2008, teaching at California State University Long Beach, and Long Beach City College before finding her home at Concordia, where she can combine her love of teaching with her Christian beliefs. She has taught classes in leadership, communication studies, and business, but tends to focus on leadership, organizational behavior & communication, professional writing, and internship/professional development skills.

Robinson, Rukiya


My consulting journey began at Deloitte in 2003. My entrepreneurial journey began in 2009. Today, I am the founder of e2s Strategies, a Leadership Development and Organization Consulting Firm and the founder of e2s Coaching which is the coaching division of e2s Strategies. Founded in 2016. We create measurable differences in organizations by combining emotional intelligence and behavioral science to bring optimal human performance at the executive, leadership and team levels. "e2s" mean Equipped to Succeed. As the Chief Transformation Officer, I work with organizations in the public and private sector including municipalities, universities, C-Suite Executives, Learning and Development professionals, HR Executives, Small Business Owners, and Entrepreneurs. My consulting work includes customizing strategic interventions and transformation programs for organizations including organization development, culture development, as well as providing executive and leadership coaching, team development, advising and designing professional development programs.

An expert-level Organizational, Leadership & Business Consultant and professionally trained Executive Coach & Certified Emotional Intelligence Expert. This gives me the depth and breadth of experience to source the root of organizational and leadership challenges and create the appropriate strategic interventions. I received my Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Concordia University, Irvine, is certified to administer the EQi 2.0 Suite of Emotional Intelligence assessments, and is a Certified Executive Coach through The Townsend Institute for Leadership & Counseling at Concordia University, Irvine accredited by the International Coaching Federation. (ICF).

I serve as an adjunct professor at Concordia University, Irvine teaching students at the undergraduate and graduate level Organization Psychology, Organizational Leadership, Character Development, and Leadership Theory.

I have 3 adult children and a sweet little granddaughter. I enjoy being with my family, nature walks and trails, swimming, beaches, writing, reading, working out, watching business documentaries, eating pizza with my granddaughter and listening to her sing songs and tell stories. Her imagination is entertaining! I am originally from Arkansas and have resided in the Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX area for about 25 years.

I am a fervent believer of Mark 9:23, "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."

Tamara Sauer


Professor Tamara Sauer manages over 23,000 alumni of Concordia University Irvine and about 2,500 current parents as Director of Alumni & Family Relations. This involves planning events, designing effective communication materials, strategizing resources for career & mentor services, and anything else that supports the journey of an alumnus/a or current parent. An alum of Concordia University Irvine, Tamara still resides in Southern California with her husband and two sons. Tamara has work experience in a variety of industries including non-profit, food & beverage, corporate retail and marketing.


Townsend Institute Podcast


The Townsend Institute Podcast Series (TIPS) is a podcast geared toward providing past, current, and potential students, as well as the general public, with helpful “TIPs” for their personal and professional lives. Recorded in a conversational tone, but with some research support, listeners will gain insight into popular leadership, coaching and counseling topics. Podcast guests will share their research, experiences and stories.

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