PNDC for Educators: Community College

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (2) short biographies for Sharon Strand Ellison and her daughter, Ami Atkinson Combs, who are the primary master teachers of the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™ process developed by Sharon; (3) a partial client list; and (4) comments from educators in community college and university settings.

The overview starts with the introduction from the landing page and then continues with more information. You can start with "More . . ." if you've already read the introduction. You can also return to the landing page to access additional information about workshops, training topics, conferences, and coaching.

Training & Context Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments From Educators: Community College and University

See more about Training Options on the Menu Bar under Topics

Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: Community colleges offer a range of exceedingly valuable educational programs that address community needs. Along with offering higher education courses tailored to various professions, most also offer training programs for professionals in various fields within the community. They also offer opportunity for students who want to transfer to a four-year college or university. In addition, community colleges provide many specialized programs, such as those for people who are re-entering the workforce. This kind of creative approach to higher education is a hallmark of community colleges. At the same time, issues such as competition for funding in lean economic times, working with and meeting the needs of diverse populations on campus and in the community, and fostering civil classroom and campus environments can cause undue stress.

More . . . In Sharon’s keynotes, breakout sessions, and workshops, people in community colleges will learn how we have used the “rules of war” as the basis for how we talk to each other. This creates needless conflict for instructors, staff, administrators, and students because in this model of communication people use defensiveness as their instant “self-protective” mechanism, which leads to power struggles where there is no real winner.

Participants will gain knowledge about the physiology of defensiveness and then learn how to use non-defensive communication skills that diffuse power struggle and facilitate genuine dialogue. Participants will learn how to (a) ask questions that get at the heart of an issues quickly, and/or open the conversation to deeper, underlying issues, (b) give honest feedback so that the other person(s) feels respected and is more likely to listen, (c) state opinions with integrity, even passion as a way to challenge students while building greater depth of understanding, and (d) set boundaries that prompt others to take accountability, as well as to become more competent.  

These skills are essential tools in creating a learning environment that is built on openness, curiosity, and respect, enhancing the ability of educators and students alike in the effort to honor diversity and maximize potential.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison, M.S., Executive Director of the Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication (IPNDC), is an internationally recognized communication consultant, an award-winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Sharon with her daughter, Ami Atkinson produced the award-winning audiobook, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. Sharon is a pioneer in developing methods for eliminating defensiveness so people can communicate with constructive power. She was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute.

Sharon also speaks at conferences and provides training programs for professionals in more than a dozen fields. Her clients include Kaiser Permanente; Nordstom, Regional Diversity Managers; Wells Fargo; the United States Department of Justice, Stanford University, The smithsonian, and the Centre for Dispute Resolution, London, England.

Ami Atkinson Combs, Director of IPNDC, is a graduate of Mills College and co-author of the audiobook Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting. As Sharon’s daughter, she has been an active participant in the years of discussion as Sharon envisoned and refined the PNDC Communication model. Ami has done psychosocial research at Stanford Medical School, been on the Newborn and Parent Advisory Board at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital, and worked with severely emotionally disturbed children.

Ami’s innate understanding of systemic patterns in communication is alsp a cornerstone of her work with organizations, helping individual teams as well as the organization as a whole to strengthen their communication internally and with their client base. She offers coaching and trainings for educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations, and community organizations. Her clients include: General Dynamics, CA; Lockheed-Martin, CA; CCG Systems, VA; Habitat for Humanity, CA; the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Toronto, Canada; The Wisconsin Council of Churches; Chemeketa College, Early Childhood Education; Lane Community College, Early Childhood Education Conference, National Conference; Eugene, OR.

Sharon and Ami are dedicated long been dedicated to social change and shares the belief of millions that our human survival depends on the skill we develop in creating a social evolution process that honors and protects our resources, as well as our capacity to live peacefully in a diverse global community. Sharon and Ami are dedicated to creating leadership with integrity and building strength of community in every environment.

Partial Client List

Keynot speeches have been provided for:

  • The Association of Women in Community Colleges (AAWCC)
  • Oregon Community College Presidents’ and Board’s Secretaries, annual conference
  • Oregon Community College Adult Education Conferences
  • Lane Community College, Eugene, OR, Martin Luther King Day “I Have a Dream” Conference
  • The Child Development Careers Conference involving 51 California community colleges working with CalWorks to provide training in early childhood education for people on public assistance

Sharon was a speaker at a Statewide Community College Student Leadership Conference.

Between Sharon and Ami training has been provided forcommunity college instructors, administrators, and boards for more than 30 years. Clients include:

  • Portland Community College
  • Lane Community College
  • Mount Hood Community College
  • Central Oregon Community College
  • Southwest Oregon Community College
  • Clackamas Community College
  • Oregon Coast Community College
  • Linn Benton Community College
  • Evergreen Valley College
  • Contra Costa Community College
  • Merced Community College
  • San Francisco City College
  • North Seattle Community College, WA
  • Metropolitan Community College, Kansas City, MO

Training has also been provided for local and statewide Community College offices, such as Peralta Colleges District Office, Oakland, CA; and the State Office of Community College Services, Salem, OR.

See More Complete Client List

Comments From Educators: Community College and University

Thank you for providing one of the most gratifying experiences that I have had in my teaching career. The information you provided was spectacular; your sensitivity was beautiful to witness.

Rose Salk, Associate Professor, Sociology Department, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN

Ms. Ellison has conducted workshops at San Francisco City College for administrators, faculty, counselors, clerical and custodial workers, and security staff. Each person became an active participant letting down his/her defenses, asking questions, doing role-plays. I have never seen such a positive response from such a diverse group of people.

I witnessed an administrator, known for being incredibly defensive and "on the attack," open up in a safe environment and learn the skills very quickly. My secretary felt free to raise numerous situations that she faces with angry or frustrated students and role-play them, learning alternatives to withdrawing or counterattacking. A security guard role-played a dangerous situation with street gangs on school property, learning to transform power struggles into effective dialogues. A faculty member described how a group of students were manipulating the classroom. Sharon role-played the situation showing how to clarify the issues and set clear limits. And perhaps, most importantly, everyone learned how to communicate with each other, whether we were colleague, supervisor or subordinate. It built a sense of community throughout the college.

Jennifer Biehn, Dean of Student Services, City College of San Francisco, CA

Miami University was thrilled with Sharon Ellison's work with us. I have been sponsoring faculty development workshops for the last 15 years and have not seen a similar longevity of response for any prior speaker. I found Sharon Ellison's presentation to be qualitatively different in the depth of impact it had on our faculty. Also, I often find that the impact is greatest immediately after a workshop and, as people's memory fades, the impact also fades. In this case, faculty have continued to ask for additional copies of her material and to discuss and practice the skills she taught.

Sharon was originally invited to speak at the Middletown Campus for a small group of faculty last year. As word spread, it was opened up at the last minute and about half of our faculty came and were so intrigued, we invited her back to keynote our August faculty conference for two of Miami University's campuses. The program took place a week before classes started and was not mandatory. The faculty from one campus had to drive 25 miles to attend and we had a 90% turnout of the entire faculty from both campuses. It is unheard of to have such attendance. I have to say it was magical. What she presented was exactly what we needed.

People are tired of the war metaphor and are searching for something better. Sharon provided something that has given people a new way to think about how they communicate with each other and students. I think in the aftermath of the 9/ll attack, the need for these skills and the depth of their importance is even more profound.

Gary Wheeler, Associate Executive Director, Miami University, Middletown

Sharon Ellison clearly, systematically, and effectively presented her "Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication" model to the 35 students in my evening Peace and Conflict Studies class. Using a well-paced method of lecturing, questioning, discussing, incorporating student comments, role-playing, and using humor and personal anecdote, she held the interest of the students and gained their support. One young man, in fact, about 2/3 of the way through the class spontaneously volunteered that he had learned more about effective communication in 60 minutes than he had previously in his lifetime. Sharon's presentation was thought-provoking, useful, and inspirational.

Gerome Garger, Director of the Peace Studies Program, English and Social Science Departments, Lane Community College

Sharon Ellison presented a series of workshops on 'Powerful Non-Defensive Communication" skills for professional women through the Women's Studies Program at Wake Forest University. Her workshops took the campus and community by storm. My colleagues in the Association of Faculty and Administrators were excited by the content and methodology of Sharon's presentations. One faculty member told me that learning these skills has revolutionized her interactions with her department head. Other professors found the skills Sharon teaches to be applicable to both their pedagogical practices and their dynamics with students outside the classroom. I have found that using these skills helps me to work effectively with resistant students in particular, as a means of breaking down defensiveness on both sides. Her presentations continue to be discussed and her skills actively practiced, a year later.

As Coordinator of Women's Studies at Wake Forest, I can easily say that in my five years in this position no speaker we have had, including others with international reputations, has galvanized our community as effectively as Sharon Ellison did. I feel fortunate to have worked closely with Sharon Ellison, whose professional expertise and personal insight I find quite remarkable. She is truly a woman of courage and vision, and I recommend her to you wholeheartedly.

Dr. Mary De Shazer, Coordinator of Women's Studies, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC

The non-defensive communication techniques that Sharon Ellison teaches are truly an innovative contribution to the world. Lecturing in an Independent Living Program, an educational program for foster parents, foster youth, and social workers, she opened up the possibility for accurate and non-defensive communication to take place. She related exceptionally well to all participants: gay foster parents, traditional foster parents, family care providers, grandparents, single parents, social workers, foster youth and probation youth. In turn, they responded exceptionally well to her as an individual and to the supportive environment she established. By directing participants through intrinsic challenges, scenarios and questions, the groundbreaking workshops left those that attended with a wealth of experience in communication.

Jean Barry, Director, Foster Care Program, Merced College, Merced, CA

Sharon Ellison's presentation in our Career Development class on Powerful Non-Defensive Communication was overwhelmingly received by all of our SAGE Scholars! Not only was I engrossed, but I saw every student sitting on the edge of his/her seat. The student participation was astounding and it was the only time I saw students stay up to an hour after class to have a chance to have a few words with a speaker! Sharon is a powerful speaker with a lot to say. She gets her message across with grace, humor and dedication. If the people in Washington read Sharon's book and worked with her a while, our country would be a much better place to live.

Marjorie Weingrow, Director, SAGE Scholars Program, UC Berkeley

I think Sharon has developed a program that is nothing short of revolutionary. I see that many of the outcomes of critical thinking will be met if students are taught "Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication." Sharon's model is built on a peace paradigm for communication that stresses respect, clarity and honesty. The surprise is that the peace model is much more powerful and effective than the war model. Energy is spent on developing openness and clarity rather than defending, attacking, and persuading. 

Kostas Bagakis, Philosophy and Peace Studies, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA

Sharon Ellison not only teaches non-defensive communication, she lives it. In the two presentations she has done for us, Sharon masterfully explains and models the art of non-defensive communication for her audiences. Attendees are energized by this new perspective recognizing an immediate application to their interpersonal relations at work and at home. They also crave more. At the request of faculty and staff, we have invited Sharon back and plan future workshops for more intensive work on the specific elements of the non-defensive communication process.

Sharon strives to adapt her message to the specific needs of each audience and facilitates her workshops in an open and thought-provoking manner, encouraging participants to question the process and its potential effectiveness. It is particularly impressive to watch Sharon use this revolutionary communication approach to engage with audience members for the purpose of truly understanding and addressing their questions. Sharon's workshops exemplify instructional integrity. The consistency and integration of the content, her presentation style, and her personal commitment to what she teaches, illustrate and reinforce for participants the power of the non-defensive communication process.

Martha Stevens, Coordinator, Humanities and Fine Arts, Miami University

The Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication • Contact Us
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

Back to Top

Quick Links:

Newsletter Sign-Up

Books, CD's & Downloads

Calendar of Events

Training Options

Stories, Tips & More

Hear CD Excerpts

Video - YouTube

Read Articles

Hear Interviews

Contact Sharon to Schedule An Event


"Ms. Ellison has conducted workshops at San Francisco City College for administrators, faculty, counselors, clerical and custodial workers, and security staff. Each person became an active participant letting down his/her defenses, asking questions, doing role-plays. I have never seen such a positive response from such a diverse group of people … It built a sense of community throughout the college."

—Jennifer Biehn, Dean of Student Services, City College of San Francisco, CA



Calendar Site Map Contact Us