PNDC for Educators: University

Using This Information Packet: This packet includes (1) an overview of the training; (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 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.

Training & Context Overview
Biographical Information
Partial Client List
Comments from Educators in University Settings

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Training Context & Overview

Introduction from Landing Page: A core ideal of the University has long been to enhance the life of the mind through diversity of opinion, shared through civil discourse. Currently, a university’s survival is dependent on grant money for research, and professors seeking tenure are under pressure to publish in order to help secure their position. In many cases, the cost is a decrease in the level of direct engagement with students. Also, competition between individuals and departments for resources has taxed the civility among educators; lack of civility in classrooms has become an issue as well. A key to keeping the vitality of a university is to place value on developing highly effective methods of communication that can be used among colleagues and in classroom settings.

More . . . Making needed changes requires re-thinking some old concepts. For example, a process of criticism and defense of ideas has been common in university settings. Yet current research indicates that this process is most likely to produce defensive reactions that shut down the brain’s complex problem-solving mechanisms. This creates needless conflict for professors, instructors, staff, administrators, and students. In essence, such traditional methods of communication systemically create and accelerate conflict, rather than maximizing the creative-thinking process.

Sharon’s training programs focus, first, on understanding the physiology of defensiveness. She offers a new paradigm for communication that enhances open, direct dialogue by reducing or, often, eliminating defensive responses. Using these skills allows people to hold diverse opinions and speak very directly and honestly, even passionately, without engaging in power struggle.

These skills can be invaluable in today’s diverse university environments, with the multitude of demands placed on educators. Using the skills can create an environment — for colleagues and students alike — that nurtures the kind of impassioned, mind-stretching conversations that enliven the heart of the university.

Biographical Information

Sharon Strand Ellison is an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of eliminataing defensivenss and an award-winning speaker. She was a Scholar in Residence at Saint John's University while writing her book, Taking the War Out of Our Words. She and her daugher, Ami Atkinson, produced the audiobook, Taking Power Struggle Out of Parenting, winner of a  Benjamin Franklin Award. Sharon was a nominee for the Leadership for a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Advocacy Institute. She has been providing training for college and university instructors, professors, administrative staff, students, departments, department heads, deans, chancellors and vice-chancellors for over 30 years.

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.

Partial Client List

  • Oregon State University
  • Portland State University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • California State University, Pomona
  • California State University, Riverside
  • California State University, Chico
  • UC Davis, Medical School, Sacramento
  • UCSF Medical School
  • Clemson University
  • University of Miami
  • St. John’s University
  • College of St. Benedict
  • University of Oregon
  • Wake Forest University

Many of the universities Sharon has worked with have invited her to be a keynote speaker at faculty meetings, conferences, and other events including the UCSF Medical School, the Langely Porter Psychiatric Institute, the Pediatric Interns Conference, and Diversity Pipeline for women of color in health sciences. She has also been a speaker at Women Leaders 2006: A Symposium for Women in University Settings and the National Association For Women In Education. In addition, she has presented at the national 4 C’s conference. 

Sharon has given keynotes and presentations at univerity-sponsored conferences for organizations outside the university setting, such as the Global Women’s Health Initiative, leadership development for selected women scientists working with women’s health issues in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe, which was sponsored by UCSF Medical School. Her book is being used as a classroom text at various universities, including Cornell University.

In the vital area of cultural competence, training programs have been provided for organizations such as Hewlett Packard, Harassment, Discrimination and Diversity training (in conjunction with HP attorneys); Nordstrom Nationwide Regional Diversity Managers; and the UC Berkeley Staff Diversity Facilitator Network. Sharon often works with a team of outstanding consultants, including university professors as well as professionals working in the field of diversity and cultural competence.

See More Complete Client List

Comments from Educators in University Settings

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.

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's workshops took the campus and community by storm. I can easily say that in my five years here no speaker we have had, even others with international reputations, has galvanized our community as effectively as she did. My colleagues in the Association of Faculty and Administrators were excited by the presentations.

Women faculty and administrators at the Babcock School of Business and Management were so impressed with Sharon's knowledge that they have asked their dean to invite her back to conduct a workshop for administrators, faculty and students. A year after her visit, people are still actively discussing and practicing these non-defensive communication skills. I find Sharon Ellison's professional expertise and personal insight to be quite remarkable. She is truly a woman of courage and vision.

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

I think Sharon has developed a program that is nothing short of revolutionary. 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, CA

As a facilitator of what typically are challenging topics (sexual assault, date rape, stalking, relationship violence), I was paying close attention to your facilitation. I deeply appreciate your authenticity and continual sharing and self-observation of your own process and rhythms. I learned so much from watching your style and listening to you. Thank you for the energy, caring and sensitivity with which you facilitated — throughout the two days.

—Nancy Chu, Title IX Compliance Officer, UC Berkeley

Sharon is one of the very few “white” teachers whom I’ve seen succeed in attracting a significant number of “non-white” learners. Over and over again, I’ve seen her facilitate sensitive communications about difference in race, religion, class status, etc. and leave people feeling connected instead of alienated, and
enlightened instead of embattled.

—Emily Zimmerman, Instructor, Korean Studies, San Francisco State University, CA

For centuries, Aristotle's model for communication has been taught in Western culture as the art of winning arguments. Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication replaces this traditional model with one that gives each person the ability to communicate effectively without engaging in power struggle.

—Dr. Martin Jacobi, Dean, English Department, Clemson University, (These comments were also included in Dr. Jacobi's introduction of Sharon at the National 4 C's Conference in Phoenix, AZ, with regard to the impact this process might have on how communication is taught in rhetoric classes.)

The important truths in what Sharon Ellison presents startled me. And I was impressed with her humility, kindness and commitment to making the world a better place.

—Jane Griswold, Employee Development and Training, UC Berkeley

Thank you for the wonderful two-day workshop you facilitated at UC Berkeley for the Staff Diversity Facilitator Network. Like you, deep down inside, I have felt for as long as I can remember that there must be a better way for human beings to relate to one another and to resolve their conflicts. I believe you have found the key. You touched my Spirit and I knew this was the right way for me. 

—Carmen C. McKines, Informal Discrimination Complaint Resolution Officer, UC Berkeley

As Executive Director of the UCSF Center for Gender Equity, I invited Sharon to speak at a leadership conference for women of color students in the health sciences which was also attended by some of the university medical school deans. The conference was designed to increase the pool of women in career
academic paths in the UC Health Science system with a particular emphasis on women from underrepresented backgrounds. As always, Sharon’s presentation was engaging, participatory and highly valuable. She was able to communicate effectively across lines of culture and received the highest ratings from the attendees. Comments included:

“I believe everyone would benefit from hearing Sharon’s message and practicing her techniques.” 

“As a woman of color, I thought this was outstanding. She brought me to tears!”

"Amazing information! Very powerful. The best and most practical workshop of the conference.” 

“I think this was the best talk I have been to in my entire medical career.”

 Amy Levine, Director, Gender Equity Center, University of California Medical School, San Francisco, CA

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

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

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. 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

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Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

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"For centuries, Aristotle's model for communication has been taught in Western culture as the art of winning arguments. Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication replaces this traditional model with one that gives each person the ability to communicate effectively without engaging in power struggle."

—Dr. Martin Jacobi, Dean, English Department, Clemson University





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