UP Conference Committee

The IEATA + OU Bee Team

Your Co-Chair Queen Bees:


  • Patricia M. Hernandez, PsyD
  • Director of Graduate Studies in Counseling
  • Professor of Professional Counseling
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Dr. Patricia Hernandez is the Director of Graduate Programs in Counseling, an Associate Professor of Professional Counseling, Lead Faculty member for Psychology, and Lead Faculty member for Counseling. Dr. Hernandez earned her Doctorate in Psychology, Clinical Psychology and Master of Arts, Clinical Psychology from The Arizona School of Professional Psychology. Dr. Hernandez is licensed as a Psychologist and Independent Substance Abuse Counselor in the State of Arizona. For over 12 years Dr. Hernandez has provided clinical supervision to associate, bachelor, master, and doctorate level students and associate level counselors. Prior to joining Ottawa University, Dr. Hernandez was employed as a substance abuse counselor in community behavioral health. Areas of interest include supervision and training, cultural concerns in counseling, and group work. Populations of interest include co-occurring, substance using, forensic, and severely mentally ill populations.

JT Blackboard

  • Dr. Jeff Thomas, PsyD, NCC
  • Training Director 
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Dr. Thomas is an award winning Assistant Professor of Counseling and Training Director at Ottawa University. He received his Doctor of Psychology Degree from the University of Northern Colorado and his undergraduate degree from the University of Denver. He practiced for over 12 years and is recognized internationally as an expert in the areas of youth firesetting and adult arson. Dr. Thomas has consulted with both the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the National Association of State Fire Marshals to help establish standards of care for mental health interventions with youth firesetters. Through his consulting company, Psychological Fire Rescue, he has worked with numerous fire service and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada regarding critical incident stress management and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr. Thomas has also worked in numerous healthcare settings including hospitals, a state hospital, group homes, and residential treatment centers. He has held positions with both the City of Goodyear and Phoenix Fire Departments. Dr. Thomas has also been involved in paramedic education and training for many years. He provides classes to paramedics and others to help them improve their ability to respond to psychological emergencies and provide a higher level of customer service. He is the co-author of Responding to Psychological Emergencies: A Field Guide.  In addition to Ottawa University, Dr. Thomas is and Adjunct Associate Professor of Human Systems Engineering at Arizona State University and a senior teaching fellow of the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.


  • Paula Artac, D.Min, ATR-BC, MA/AT, DTJ
  • Professor in Charge of Expressive Arts Therapy 
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Dr. Artac is a professional watercolor artist, board certified art therapist with the American Art Therapy Association, IEATA member, Ottawa University instructor, liturgical art designer, illuminator and author.  She holds the position of Professor in Charge of the Expressive Arts Therapy concentration within the Master of Arts in counseling graduate program at the Ottawa University, Phoenix campus, and teaches the Expressive Arts Therapy concentration courses.  She is a published author on the topic of art therapy and healing.

Paula is the founder of 2 Dots and A Line non-profit, creator of the Two Dots and a Line Personal Symbol Development art therapy process, and originator of the Art Spa concept which ran for 5 years at Granite Reef Senior Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Dr. Artac has been a regular presenter at numerous national and international art therapy and expressive arts conferences and workshops since 2000.  She has worked with Banner Thunderbird Hospital/MD Anderson, Ironwood Cancer & Research Center, and now with Barrow Neurological Outpatient Center and Treasure House to implement and facilitate expressive arts therapy groups.

Your Worker Bees:


  • Yousef AlAjarma, Ph.D, LMHC, REAT
  • Executive Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
  • International Expressive Arts Therapy Association

Yousef AlAjarma, Ph.D, LMHC, REAT is the Executive Co-Chair of the Board of the Executive Board of Directors for the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association. Dr. AlAjarma has been part of the IEATA Board of Directors since 2010.

He is also an Associate Professor in the Counseling Department at William James College.  Dr. AlAjarma earned his Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. Dr. AlAjarma is a registered Expressive Arts Therapist. His areas of professional interest include: the application of arts to teaching and to psychotherapy practice, resilience and trauma, family and couples therapy, and conflict transformation. In addition, he worked as an Expressive Arts Therapist and a Mental Health counselor with many trauma survivors in Palestine and has held positions with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, Les Médicins du Monde (Doctors of the World), the Palestinian Ministry of Education and many other Non-Government Organizations (NGO). For the last four years Dr. AlAjarma has been providing pro bono mental health counseling services to the Muslim and Arab community in the Boston Area while serving as the Executive Co-Chair of the Board of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association.


  • Janet Rasmussen, PhD
  • Executive Co-Chair of the Board of Directors
  • International Expressive Arts Therapy Association

Janet Rasmussen PhD is a licensed psychologist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She utilizes Expressive Arts, traditional talk therapy and meditation in her private practice. Her dissertation focused on using Expressive Arts to uncover and express suppressed emotions. Janet studied Person-Centered Expressive Arts with Natalie Rogers.  Janet also is a certified Primordial Sound Meditation instructor through the Chopra Center. She currently serves on the board of IEATA as the Executive Co-Chair.  Janet has presented and taught courses in the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong.

Vazquez IEATA Bio

  • Melinda Vazquez
  • Community Development Executive
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

MAPC– Ottawa University
BA Psychology– Arizona State University

Melinda Vazquez joined the IEATA + Ottawa Bee Team in April 2019. She earned her bachelor’s in Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University in Tempe Arizona and later earned an Masters in Professional Counseling from Ottawa University in Phoenix Arizona. By day, Melinda is a Community Development Executive for Ottawa University. She develops and nurtures relationships with feeder schools and corporate/community partnerships, providing support to the overall community and maintaining our corporate relations strategy.  Manages relationships established within the specific community to continue to develop these relationships toward building meaningful and enrollment partnerships.

In addition to her post-secondary experience, Vazquez is Title VI and Johnson O’ Malley President of Phoenix Union High School Native American Parent Education Committee. She is also a Board Member of Care Coalition.  Melinda is also a mother of three beautiful daughters and married to Alberto of 26 years. Melinda is excited to bring this community development background to the IEATA + Ottawa Bee Team, serving as their Mistress of Navigation for the 2020 UP: Unlimited Possibilities to Bee grEAT Conference!


  • Tamira Cross
  • Enrollment Advisor
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Tamira Cross is an Enrollment Advisor with Ottawa University. Her job is to assist students with ensuring that Ottawa is the right school for them. Though Cross works with all programs, the Counseling programs are her main focus. Tamira earned one Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Grand Canyon University and a second Masters in Secondary Education with Certification from the University of Michigan. Tamira taught middle school and high school history and psychology classes for 5 years. She taught in both inner city and rural communities before moving into higher education where she has worked for the past 12 years. Cross’ belief that every person has a right fit for school is what drives her career in education. In addition to her passion that if someone is willing to take the time to help them find it, Tamira believes everyone can and should continue learning and growing after high school, either in college, trade school, apprenticeship or by experiencing the world.

Stacie Blackbaord MUG

  • Stacie Chambers
  • Operations Manager
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Stacie Chambers is the Operations Manager at Ottawa University primarily overseeing facility and academic operations of the Phoenix Campus.  She has been with Ottawa University for two years. Stacie earned her Master of Arts in Guidance and Counseling with an emphasis in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from New Mexico Highlands University.  Stacie began her career in education as a high school Gifted Education & Psychology teacher and eventually transitioned into higher education working as an Academic Advisor for a community college. In addition to working in education, Stacie is also passionate about the game of softball and spends much of her free time providing individual and group softball lessons for children of all ages. 


  • Suzan Rhoades, M.Ed.
  • Bee Team Scribe & Webmaster
  • Ottawa University, Phoenix

Suzan Rhoades joined the IEATA + Ottawa Bee Team in April 2019. She earned her BA in Multicultural Education, with a minor in Mathematics, from Arizona State University in Tempe Arizona and later earned an MA in Technology Education from Northern Arizona University Online. By day, Rhoades is an Instructional Designer on the Ottawa University Instructional Design & Academic Technology Team. In addition, she teaches Educational Technology in the Educational Specialties Master of Education Program online for NAU. Suzan is excited to bring this technology-rich background to the IEATA + Ottawa Bee Team, serving as their Scribe & Webmaster for the 2020 UP: Unlimited Possibilities to Bee grEAT Conference!