2016: A Year in Review

Dec 28, 2016 by University Communications

The year 2016 was a truly momentous one for California Southern University. It was one marked by growth, as well as remarkable student, alumni and faculty achievement.

A number of exciting new degree programs were launched with the calendar’s turn to 2016. The School of Nursing, led by its Dean, Judith McLeod, DNB, unveiled three degrees. The RN-to-BSN program is designed for registered nurses looking to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing—especially critical in light of the healthcare industry’s Magnet Recognition Program requiring that 80 percent of Magnet-status hospitals’ staff nurses hold a BSN degree or higher by the year 2020. Lastly, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program and ADN-to-MSN degree were introduced.

The CalSouthern School of Law also introduced new degree programs. The Master of Science in Dispute Resolution (MSDR) meets the growing need for mediators and arbitrators, given the trend of courts and private business moving toward alternative dispute resolution to avoid the costs and uncertainty associated with litigation. The Master of Laws (LLM) helps attorneys grow their practices through specialization in a variety of in-demand subject areas.

The School of Business expanded its program offerings, too, with a new MBA concentration: Strategic Leadership. It allows MBA students to hone invaluable skills in leadership strategies, management communications, human resources and conflict management, among others—all essential for effective leadership in 21st-century business organizations. A post-baccalaureate certificate in strategic leadership was also introduced. The School of Business also established a chapter of Sigma Beta Delta, an international honor society for graduates of business management and administration programs. The society is affiliated with the ACBSB; business schools in candidacy status with the ACBSB may open chapters.

Late in 2016, the CalSouthern School of Education was launched, under the guidance of its Dean, Dr. Elna van Heerden. The Master of Education (M.Ed) is now accepting enrollments, and offers concentrations in Counseling in Education, Curriculum and Instructional Design, and Organizational Leadership. Look for a doctoral program to be introduced in mid-2017.

Cal Southern Alumni Robi-LudwigAs always, CalSouthern’s annual commencement ceremony (see photos here) was a highlight of the academic year. Held again at the spectacular Irvine Barclay Theatre, the ceremony attracted a record 850-plus attendees, comprised of graduates and their family and friends, as well as CalSouthern faculty and staff. CalSouthern PsyD graduate Dr. Robi Ludwig (a nationally known psychotherapist, expert commentator and award-winning writer who has appeared on CNN, Today, ABC World News and 20/20) gave a stirring keynote address, in which she urged graduates to develop an “inner moxie,” and the courage to reject the status quo and speak for what they believe in, again and again.

The commencement ceremony is also the occasion where the university bestows three of its most prestigious awards. Dr. Christopher Walling, a 2016 PsyD graduate, was presented with the President’s Award for Doctoral Project Excellence. His project, titled Somatic Experiencing Praxis: Applications of Proprioception and Interoception in Psychotherapy, is a fascinating study of somatic experiencing, a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders.

California Southern University Commencement
Dr. Christopher Walling and Dr. Patrick McKiernan (Center)


The CalSouthern Faculty Mentor of the Year Award was given to Dr. Patrick McKiernan of the School of Behavioral Sciences. Dr. McKiernan is the perfect embodiment of everything the award stands for. He is a both a skilled and dedicated educator, as well as a gifted practitioner who has developed a national reputation for his work in addiction treatment and relapse prevention.

Dr-Gregory-Mabry The ceremony reached a high note with the presentation of the CalSouthern Difference Award to Dr. Gregory Mabry, a 2012 graduate of CalSouthern’s Doctor of Psychology program. A major in the U.S. Army and a 12-year combat veteran, Dr. Mabry is a Behavioral Science Officer and Deputy Chief for the Department of Behavioral Health, stationed at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. In this position, Dr. Mabry is responsible for the direct patient care of more than 30,000 soldiers and their families. He has been widely published in academic journals, and recently received a faculty nomination to teach at West Point. He has also been nominated by the military as an Army Astronaut Candidate to NASA. In addition, Dr. Mabry has been inducted into the National ROTC Hall of Fame, recognized as one of the best officers the Army has produced over the last 100 years. His heartfelt and charismatic acceptance speech brought the audience to its feet.


Dr-Stephen-DansigerOf course, 2016 saw far more student, alumni and faculty achievement than could ever be recognized at the graduation ceremony or in this article. Just a few examples include Behavioral Sciences mentor Dr. Jacquie Lewis (Working with Dreams and PTSD Nightmares: 14 Approaches for Psychotherapists and Counselors) and PsyD alumni Dr. Terry Martin (The Journey Home from Trauma: A Study of Complementary Treatment) and Dr. Stephen Dansiger (Clinical Dharma: A Path for Healers and Helpers), who each published books.

Others were recognized for their work and scholarship, including PsyD Learner Katheryn-WhittakerDeborah Vinall, who was awarded the Clinton E. Phillips Scholarship by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists in recognition of her academic achievement, dedication to her community and commitment to her profession. Dr. Benjamin Culhane (PsyD) was recognized by Outreach Concern, a school-based counseling service, for his “exceptional dedication and service in counseling,” while another PsyD graduate, Dr. Katheryn Whittaker, was elected president of the California division of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

Many students passed licensing exams, including MA graduates Mary Jacob Matthews and Demi Shugare, as well as PsyD alum Jeannie DeArmond. Law graduates Frank Daugherty and Rachel Stevens passed the California bar exam on their first attempts. Since 2014, CalSouthern has maintained a remarkable 67-percent pass rate for first-time takers—a rate that far exceeds the average for other law schools in CalSouthern’s category.

Rachel-Stevens CalSouthern Commencement
Rachel Stevens (JD, 2016) pictured at Commencement 2016 recently passed the California Bar Exam

On the topic of CalSouthern’s School of Law, Bernadette Agaton has been named its new Dean. Dean Agaton, who has served as the Law School’s Associate Dean for almost a decade, is universally respected in the CalSouthern community for her unwavering dedication to her students, and for her commitment to the school’s faculty and curriculum.

Just this fall, more exciting academic leadership news was announced. Dr. Steven Beazley was named CalSouthern’s new University President. Since 2014, Dr. Beazley has served on CalSouthern’s Board of Trustees and as a core faculty member, teaching master’s and doctoral courses in the university’s School of Behavioral Sciences. In addition, he has been a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, where he earned his Doctor of Psychology degree in 1998. Dr. Beazley also has worked as a psychotherapist. He has extensive executive leadership experience, perhaps most notably as the President and CEO of the Orange County Fair and Pacific Amphitheatre. He is a dynamic and innovative leader with a clear vision for CalSouthern’s future growth and success.

Capping off the year, CalSouthern moved into its new 46,000 square-foot world headquarters in Costa Mesa, California. Costa Mesa Mayor Stephen Mensinger joined Dr. Beazley, CalSouthern Founder Dr. Donald Hecht and other dignitaries for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 15.

Heading into the new year with new programs, new facilities and a new vision for the future, 2017 promises to be a monumental year for CalSouthern learners and alumni.

President Dr. Steven Beazley at California Southern University's new world headquarters






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