The John F. Kennedy University Holistic Research Center’s Annual Symposium brings together the JFKU community to celebrate the scholarship of HRC research fellows while learning about their exciting projects. We will receive updates from the fellows on their work and be treated to a special keynote address by Suzzette Celeste Johnson, MSW, MPA, who will discuss Contra Costa County’s 15-year Life Course Initiative to eradicate health outcome disparities between black and white families.

Join us to get a glimpse at what community-based, holistic research is all about, to learn about issues pertinent to your community, and be inspired by our presenters’ unique approaches to them. 

Light breakfast and snacks will be served.

There will be an option to join online via ZOOM from 10-11am.

Date and Time

  • Friday, July 12, 2019
  • 9:30AM - 12:00PM
Add To Calendar


  • Pleasant Hill
    100 Ellinwood Way, Pleasant Hill, CA, USA
  • Room N171
View Map

Schedule of Events

9:30 – 10am: Light breakfast served

10-11am: Keynote speaker (online ZOOM option)

11am-12pm: Open format for research fellow table presentations and discussion

Suzzette Celeste Johnson to Discuss the Life Course Initiative

For 15 years Contra Costa County has engaged in the Life Course Initiative to eradicate the health outcome disparities between black and white families. This evidenced-based program is in its sunset phase and Suzzette Celeste Johnson, one of the lead administrators, will join us to share about what has changed as a result of this program, and what still needs to change.

Suzzette Celeste Johnson, MSW, MPA, is currently a Public Health Program Manager in Contra Costa Health Services, Public Health, Family, Maternal & Child Health Programs. Her career encompasses more than 20 years of planning, administrating, implementing and teaching best practices for informed interventions in public health, mental health, criminal justice, and education. She is an experienced facilitator, speaker, educator, and workshop/seminar leader.

Ms. Johnson’s professional and personal mission is to achieve social and health equity through developing transformational leadership approaches, fostering collaborations and coalitions, changing organizational practices, and educating providers and policy makers.  She has a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Administration. She has been a Centers for Spiritual Living licensed practitioner since 1997.

Table Topics

Self-Reflective Research Among Older Hispanic Women

Join Nancy Pedersen to learn about her use of a self-reflective research methodology to explore the experience of empowerment and powerlessness in the life stories of Hispanic women over 60.
Nancy Pedersen, a licensed psychotherapist, is the program director of Citywide Clinical Consultation Services at the Institute on Aging San Francisco.

Expressive Arts Therapy and Human Trafficking Survivors

Learn about the intersection of research, trauma, and expressive arts therapy with Lauren Gogarty. Lauren will discuss her work as a clinical director for the Harambee Arts Nepal, an expressive arts therapy program for survivors of human trafficking in Kathmandu.
Lauren Gogarty, MFT is adjunct faculty in the College of Psychology and the Academic Certificate in Trauma Studies at John F. Kennedy University (JFKU). Her private practice works with a range of clients - from survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking in the US, to a general practice working with the LGBTQ community.

Body, Beauty, and Perception

Explore that difficult intersection of body, beauty, and perception. As a body positive therapist, facilitator, and educator, Leyla Eraslan will share approaches to deconstructing and decolonizing our concepts of beauty and worth to reconnect with our bodies and ourselves.
Leyla Eraslan is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Clinical Counselor working with Axis Mundi Center for Mental Health in Oakland. They are a graduate of the Expressive Arts Therapy program at John F. Kennedy University, where they are now an adjunct professor.

Self-Reflexive Community Research and Holistic Mental Health

Zvi Bellin Learn about a self-reflexive and community oriented research methodology that Dr. Zvi Bellin co-created with other JFKU community members to explore holistic mental health within the lives of individuals and the collective.
Dr. Zvi Bellin, a licensed psychotherapist, is a core member of the Holistic Counseling Psychology faculty at JFKU, and directs the Holistic Research Center.

Longterm Recovery in Veterans

Join Noelle Morra to discuss the effort and resources available to veterans in the hope that lives will be improved for those who have honorably served our country. From her own research, Noelle will share how by improving various aspects of prolonged exposure therapy, focusing on cardiovascular health, and improving on basic life skills in PTSD patients, veterans can significantly increase the quality of longterm recovery.
Noelle Morra, MA is the VALOR Center Coordinator at JFK University, US Air Force Veteran and Alumni of JFK University's Holistic Counseling Psychology Program.

Workplace Wellness

Explore new research into wellness and mental health practices in the workplace, and see how Jacob Ross and his colleagues are rethinking the economic value of happiness. Using data from the Greater Good Science Center and firsthand accounts of internal practices, Jacob is working to redefine what it means to create a healthy work environment.
Jacob Ross is an honors student at UC Berkeley and research assistant at the Greater Good Science Center with a background in early childhood education and curriculum development.