CPP Alumni Feature: Alisa Bernard

February 2023

by Mya Brossoit

The College of Professional Programs is proud to recognize EWU School of Psychology Alumna, Alisa Bernard.

Alisa graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and currently works as the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for Thistle Farms, a nonprofit that helps women survivors of prostitution, trafficking, and addiction. She now uses her education daily, helping to inform policy changes.

Majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology gave me the insight to understand how individual behaviors can culminate to create cultural norms, and inversely, how culture can influence individual behaviors.

Alisa shares how studying Psychology gave her a deeper understanding of an individual’s motivations towards change and how she can use this knowledge on a daily basis. As Bernard works on shaping public policy impacting the community of women served at Thistle Farms, she recognizes the intended and unintended influence laws have on people and consistently uses her education to practice effective administration in her workplace.

Alisa highlights two outstanding faculty members during her time at EWU: Dr. Jillene Seiver and Dr. Kayleen Islam-Zwart. She expresses her gratitude towards Dr. Seiver’s leadership in critical thinking skills and generosity of support. Along with that, Dr. Islam-Zwart challenged Alisa’s mindset to comprehend both theoretical concepts and practical aspects of complex systems.  She states, “I was fortunate to have both their guidance in such a pivotal point in my own learning.”

Though Alisa’s time at Eastern was a season that marked her life, the journey was not always easy. After facing personal trauma, being a high school dropout, and teen runaway in her youth, Alisa bravely found a way out of exploitation, which required a lot of time and healing. This set of life-altering experiences shaped her trajectory towards a non-traditional path to school.  She now uses her experiences to help counsel others today that may be struggling with similar challenges.

I don’t think I realized at the time how much the process of going through the EWU program would contribute to that healing. My professors were a big part of that, giving me room to explore my interests which gave me confidence to engage even more fully in my career which now focuses on preventing the things that happened to me from happening to others.

Bernard advises current students to “be present for the process” and adventurous in their experiences. She suggests students explore external service opportunities, volunteering, and internships, which “will feed into your educational experiences and your educational experience will give your external experiences texture and nuance that will surprise you.” She also recommends getting to know your faculty, talking to them outside of class, and asking questions.

When reflecting back on her experience at EWU, her favorite thing was how flexible the program was.  She states that, “I loved that the program offerings were broad enough to allow me to really explore my interests but also gave me deep level content that made my coursework meaningful.”

Bernard notes the impact being a student at EWU had on her as a person and a professional:

My education gave me far more than just a degree, it gave me the space to learn what I am good at and happy doing, not just what others are telling me I should do or should be satisfied with and how I should do these things. Today, I work on federal and state level legislation for an organization I care about and with other organizations collaboratively to change things for the better.

As the College of Professional Programs, we honor Alisa for her inspiring courage and meaningful work to help others through advocacy and policy change!

Learn more:

Interested in a degree in Psychology at EWU? Check out the degree options here.

Want to learn more about Thistle Farms? Click here.