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Meet Our Professors


Neffetiti Austin (History)

nef_austin2.jpgNeffetiti Austin began teaching U.S. History within the Los Angeles Community College district in 2001. In addition to U.S. History, she has taught African American Studies, including Literature, Political Science, Sociology, Race and Ethnicity and Women's History. Ms. Austin has taught at several colleges - L.A. Valley College, L.A. City College, Glendale Community College and Pasadena City College.

She has set foot on three continents and is the published author of two romance novels, Eternity and Abandon (Kensington Publishing Corporation) and numerous articles in the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper.

A graduate of UCLA with a Bachelor's degree in History (honors), she also possesses a Master's degree in Afro-American Studies, with specializations in U.S. History and Women's Studies. Ms. Austin holds memberships in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Pen Center, Write Sister's and Jenesse Center, Inc.'s Angels, to name a few.


Holly Bailey-Hofmann (Language Arts)


Originally from the Philadelphia area, Holly studied English at De Sales University in Pennsylvania, St. Mary's College of Maryland (B.A. English) and the University of Cincinnati (M.A. English.) She  recently earned her doctorate in Education at UCLA.


After moving to Southern California in 2001, Holly worked for some years as a professional trainer. She teaches (or have taught) grammar (Eng 94 and Eng 21), writing (English 28, English 101), Critical Thinking (Eng 103), Introduction to Literature (Eng 102) Creative Writing (Eng 127), Science Writing (English 185), two upper-level literature classes, World Lit I (English 203) and World Lit II (English 204), and English 420, Research Methods for the Bachelor’s of Science degree in Dental Hygiene.


In 2012, Holly coauthored The West Guide with two colleagues. Their goal was to create an affordable composition textbook that makes actual sense and uses real world examples. The book was created to be used at every level in the composition sequence (English 101, 102, 103) so that students who take more than one English class save money by only buying the book once.


On campus, Holly is the president of Academic Senate, a faculty governance body that makes decisions on academic policies that affect students.


In her on-campus and online classroom, Holly uses learner-centered pedagogies (teaching methods) because research shows that students in learner-centered classrooms retain the knowledge longer. 


Holly enjoys traveling and studying languages.


Marcus Butler (Computer Science)

marcus-butler.jpgMr. Butler is an Assistant Professor at West Los Angeles College and also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Computer Science Division.

He has been teaching Cisco and Microsoft technology courses at West for over 13 years. In addition, he brings to the classroom 18 years of corporate experience involving many aspects of the computer industry including; technical procurement, computer support, software development, technical sales, and management. Mr. Butler believes that his corporate background helps him bring a real-world perspective to the classroom.

In 1996, he was responsible for starting the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) training program at West. This two year program prepares students to work with Microsoft operating systems and server-based applications. Approximately four years later he started the Cisco Networking Academy to help students develop skills related to supporting Cisco networking hardware. The Cisco Academy at West is a one year training program that prepares students to earn their Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification. Mr. Butler feels that students who complete both programs have a complete understanding of the networking environment as well as excellent career opportunities.

Mr. Butler has stated many times that his primary goal is to make high-tech, advanced computer training affordable to the community. As a product of the California community college system himself, this is one way he gives back to the system which helped him launch his own college education. Mr. Butler earned his Associate of Science degree from Compton College in 1974. He transferred to California State University Dominquez Hills and graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1979 in chemistry and computer science. In 1989 he went on to earn his Master of Science degree in software engineering.


Carrie Canales (Psychology)


canales4.jpgDr. Carrie Canales is originally from Texas and moved to beautiful Southern California for graduate school.  She has a Bachelor's Degree from Southern Methodist University, a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University, a Master's Degree in Social Psychology from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Southern California.  Before becoming a full-time professor, she was a social worker with foster children and at-risk youth here in Los Angeles. She is an avid runner, loves to travel, and likes all kinds of sports.


Kurt Festinger (Music)

kurt-festinger.jpgKurt Festinger has been teaching music for thirty-eight years, and at the college level for 28 years. He is an active reedman on the Los Angeles freelance music scene, specializing in tenor and alto sax, clarinet, and flute. His greatest area of expertise is jazz and jazz improvisation. He has led the jazz ensemble at West Los Angeles College for 25 years and two jazz ensembles at El Camino College for seven years. He also teaches saxophone, clarinet, and improvisation privately.


Dr. Meric Keskinel (Economics)

meric-keskinel.jpgAfter receiving his BA from the University of Istanbul, Dr. Meric Keskinel came to the US after completing his MA at Northeastern University and graduating from Claremont Graduate University with his Ph.D in 2002. His primary focus throughout his studies was on International Finance. He has taught at Claremont McKenna College, Loyola Marymount University, and Cal State Fullerton among others before coming to West LA College. Dr. Keskinel is passionate about teaching and making economics an accessible subject to everyone. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his family.


Sholeh Khorooshi (Political Science)

sholeh-khorooshi.jpgProfessor Khorooshi received a BA in Political Science from the University of Florida and a MA in Communication Arts from New York Institute of Technology. She also received a MA in Political Science from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Professor Khorooshi has been teaching Political Science courses for the last 11 years.


George Joseph Lujan (Philosophy)

lujan.jpgGeorge Joseph Lujan earned a B.A. at Occidental College and his M.A. at the University of Southern California. He attended USC on a National Science Foundation Fellowship, addressing himself to the role of error in developing and expanding knowledge in general and scientific knowledge. He has a wide range of interests in philosophy, as well as in the sciences and humanities. In philosophy he has devoted special attention to the fields of logic, metaphysics, philosophy of science, political philosophy and ethics.

Personally and professionally, he has worked for three newspapers and owned two, and has been a member of the city council for the City of South El Monte, including having been the mayor of that city. He has worked as a reporter, editor and publisher because he has always thought that people should know what goes on around them and should have the most accurate information on which to base their personal, professional and community-wide decisions. Having tried diligently to present the very best information that he could obtain to the public at large, he has come to realize both the power of and limits to the reach of argument and evidence. He has sought political office because he thinks, and still does, that there is a common good to which he could contribute and to which all civic-minded individuals should aspire, not only for themselves but also to the various communities to which they belong. In this way, his interests in politics and political philosophy have converged, with each one informing and having been informed by the other. He has also worked in the private sector as a consultant to a number of businesses and business organizations because he believes and continues to believe that businesses can be and ought to be partners and good neighbors to the communities of which they are a part. As a journalist, business consultant and politician, and having become knowledgeable with regard to the individual and business needs and geology of his community, he was called upon to testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials in 2002. He believes that each of us should leave every situation in which we find ourselves better than we first found it.

He teaches philosophy because he loves the field in which he works and enjoys engaging in the ongoing conversation of humankind that Alfred North Whitehead called "the adventure of ideas". Moreover, his ideal for any good philosophy course is to get students to mentally and methodically adopt a careful and critical mindset, and develop the sort of research skills that are constitutive of a philosophical attitude and approach. He is constantly exploring ways to better explain and present the views of the great philosophers and the contexts that shaped and informed their views; and he relishes both engaging his colleagues, and identifying and applying new educational techniques and technologies. As an instructor, therefore, he has taught various philosophy courses in a variety of settings. At these schools he has taught regular semester weekday, evening and weekend courses, short-term weekend courses, abbreviated summer and winter session weekday and evening courses, on-line courses and multi-modal, hybrid courses for several years. In addition to teaching various philosophy courses on a number of college campuses to college students of many different ages and backgrounds, he has taught a number of special courses to other interested parties through various community outreach programs, such as teaching logic to elementary and high school teaching assistants who needed to expeditiously complete their A.A. degrees due to new employment requirements, and teaching introduction to philosophy courses to high school students under special circumstances and in both public and private facilities. He notes all of these to let you know how seriously he takes teaching as a kind of applied epistemology and the means used as an exercise in applied logic.

Because one of his courses may be the only academic philosophy course a student may take, he sees it as incumbent on himself to ensure that the class will be memorable, beneficial and productive. It should be memorable in that at least some of the great individuals, issues and ideas covered will be interesting enough to stick with you, or come back to you should the need or occasion arise. It should be beneficial in that the process of acquiring the information and developing such insights should allow you to be in a better position to learn from and contribute toward such situations as you may encounter in later life and through various careers. Because computer competence/information literacy are, in addition to numeracy and literacy simpliciter, required at the University of California or California State University campuses, he has also developed a number of key Internet resources, including an Internet-keyed reading list for his introductory, ethics and logic classes, and a list of some of the best philosophy sites on the Internet. It should be productive in that the knowledge gained and skills acquired are broadly transferable academically and professionally. Knowledge of philosophy, as a pillar of the humanities, contributes to the basic background information essential to understanding western culture, history, and many of the developments in science, politics and the arts. Moreover, always willing to share what he takes to be what Richard Rorty once called the ongoing conversation of humankind, he tries always to involve students of quite diverse backgrounds to participate in that conversation. More to the point, he tries to tailor his classroom material to people of diverse economic, ethnic and religious backgrounds because he can and does present such material in diverse ways and from many different angles. As a carry-over from his journalism experience he supposes, he cites current events, popular culture and recent history, tying such examples to assigned readings, specific philosophers and philosophical problems. By contextualizing his material within the range of extant student experience, he invites all of you to do the same with old experiences and new material. Moreover, he invites you to appreciate your own niches and the diversity of others, realizing that the proliferation of ideas and methods, and their careful application and evaluation, ultimately enriches us all.


Syreeta Lyons-Burns (English)

lburns.jpgSyreeta Lyons-Burns earned her B.A. in English from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, and her M.A. in English from Clark-Atlanta University. Originally from a small town in southwestern Louisiana, she has taught at several colleges within the L.A. Community College District before moving to Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and five-year-old son. She now teaches English full-time at Miles College in Birmingham, and she is currently preparing to return to school to earn her PhD.

Syreeta is a Christian who enjoys exercising, traveling, and cooking vegetarian recipes. As an online instructor, she is always trying to find new ways to make online instruction as hands-on as classroom instruction.


Dr. Vanita Nicholas (Business, Law)

vanita-nicholas.jpgDr. Nicholas is currently a Professor in the Paralegal Program at West Los Angeles College and is Chair of the Business Division which includes programs in Accounting, Business, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Law, Management, Marketing, Paralegal Studies (ABA Approved), and Real Estate. She served as the Director of the Program for Accelerated College Education (PACE) at West Los Angeles College for three years and has assisted the Disciplinarian at Santa Monica College in Student Judicial Affairs. Dr. Nicholas has taught Paralegal classes for over 25 years in the community college system and held a variety of positions including Law Department Chairperson at Los Angeles City College where she taught for 20 years.

She holds a Juris Doctor Law degree from Texas Southern University School of Law and a BA in Spanish from Fisk University. She is married and has three children; one is a senior at Stanford University, one a professional dancer and college freshman, and the other a student of culinary arts and an employee at FOX Studios. Her favorite pastime is international travel. She has visited such places as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Jamaica, Japan and South Africa.


John Provost (Humanities)

john-provost.jpgInstructor Provost was slow to warm up to academia and took advantage of an offer to work overseas when he was 18. His brother got him a job working as a Life Support Technician for deep-sea divers. He spent the next four years working on North Sea oil rigs and spending his shore time traveling around Europe. Not exactly college, but a wonderful education nevertheless.

He attended and graduated from San Francisco State University and then went to the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco for four years of graduate studies and graduated with a Masters degree in Philosophy and Religion. The Institute had a wonderful program in which students studied the subject not just academically but experientially as well. Classes in Buddhism were taught by Buddhist monks, a class in Taoism was taught by a practicing Taoist, etc. "Being able to study under people who did not simply know all about their faith or philosophy intellectually, but actually lived it as well, was a real privilege. These were a rich four years, an intellectual feast."

Instructor Provost's background in teaching includes six years in special education, mostly with autistic adults, two years with high school students and he has been at Foothill College since 1998 in Los Altos Hills, where he still teach online classes on World Religions and Ethics. He has been teaching Critical Thinking, Introduction to Philosophy, Western Civilization, History of Religion, Moral Issues and Eastern Philosophy at Monterey Peninsula College since 2005.

"I enjoyed both of my earlier teaching experiences, but I love college teaching more because it is a position which demands that I keep up on a number of subjects that interest me and I get to read a lot in order to do so. My great interest philosophically is in the field of Integral Philosophy, a philosophy that claims to embrace more truth than any philosophy that has come before. I also have a great interest in the contemplative spiritualities found in the world’s religions, especially Buddhism and Christianity."


Dr. Joshua Stern (Education, Learning Skills)

josh-stern.jpgDr. Joshua Stern teaches for the WLAC Education and Learning Skills departments. Joshua is also an instructional development specialist providing WLAC faculty and staff with training in computer skills and educational technologies, including online distance learning tools and pedagogy. As well, he manages the WLAC online courses Website and online student helpdesk.

Since his graduation from U.C Berkeley with a B.A. in anthropology in 1992, Dr. Stern has taught English language and culture to students from around the world. He has also successfully trained hundreds of teachers to do the same. Dr. Stern has had the good fortune to have led courses domestically in Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as abroad in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Hungary.

In 2001 he received his M.A. in international and comparative education from UCLA. In 2005 he completed his Ph.D. in education at UCLA, focusing on educational technologies, specifically online distance learning course design, program development and instructor training. As a graduate student Dr. Stern worked as an academic counselor, helping UCLA undergraduate students achieve their educational and career goals.

Dr. Stern has dedicated both his academic and professional career to the field of online learning. "I consider myself a strong advocate of learning technologies and innovation in education. Yet, while I see clearly the potential for learning via the Web, I am also keenly aware of the many pitfalls presented by this emerging medium." Dr. Stern believes that for online education to thrive, both students and instructors need to be self-motivated, independent workers who possess a reasonable level of comfort with computers and the Internet. However, "given these prerequisites, online learning can, indeed, be a beautiful thing."


Alice Taylor (Art)

tayloravatar.jpgProfessor Alice Taylor was born in Roswell, New Mexico. Her mother, also a Roswell native, always insisted that the whole alien-aircraft thing was a misunderstanding. She received her AB from Bryn Mawr College and her MA and PhD from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts (known--to those jealous of its location across Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art--as the ‘Tute).

Professor Taylor’s dissertation on Armenian Medieval Manuscript Illumination lead to teaching gigs at UCLA and the University of Chicago, and she has curated two exhibitions on Armenian manuscripts for the Getty Museum. Having spent two years in the USSR doing dissertation research, she still returns to do research in Armenia and Russia (most recently for a 2003-2004 sabbatical). She has expanded her areas of expertise by participating in National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars (1994: Roman Art; 2005: Islamic Culture).

After teaching part-time at Harvard University, West, Orange Coast and LA Pierce Colleges, Professor Taylor got a full-time job at West in 1996. She teaches Art History and Humanities online, having gotten hooked by her first online class in the summer of 2005.


Dr. Beraki Woldehaimanot (Geology)

beraki.pngDr. Beraki Woldehaimanot received training from three different continents, all with their unique geological setting: under graduate in Ethiopia, post graduate in India, and PhD in Germany. All his university degrees are in Geology.

He brings in valuable experience from the mining industry: he has worked for four years as a geologist/geophysicist in search for gold and base metals and carried out seismic surveys for dam foundation studies.

Dr. Woldehaimanot has over ten years of experience as a geology professor and researcher at an overseas university (Eritrea, East Africa). Since 2007 he taught geology, oceanography and environmental science classes at various colleges and universities in southern California.

He loves field trips. His interests include tectonics and earthquakes.

Dr. Woldehaimanot’s teaching philosophy is centered on student success. He wants his students to develop skills of critical thinking. He wants them to be able to know the “why” and “how” aspects of the processes taking place in our planet Earth.

He is always excited to teach and help students who have passion for or want to develop love with nature – in geology! He cordially invites you to his class and hopes that you will gain some geological knowledge from his course and also complete the class successfully!


Martin Zurla (Theater)

martin-zurla.jpgInstructor Zurla was born in New Jersey in 1944. After finishing high school, He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City where he studied painting under the well-known abstract artist, George Ortman. He graduated with a Certificate of Fine Art.

Instructor Zurla then attended William Paterson College. But, with only one year under his belt and as time and place would have it, he was drafted in the Army. That was in 1966 when the Vietnam War was getting hotter and hotter.

After serving in the United States Army for two years, one of which was spent in Vietnam, Instructor Zurla returned to William Paterson College and completed his BA and Teaching Certification. He then attended New York University where he studied in their MFA Theater program.

While continuing to paint and sculpt, Instructor Zurla founded two theatre companies in New York City. The first was the Title Theatre and, after several years, he established the Raft Theatre on Theatre Row. He stayed as Artistic Director for twelve years. During that time he wrote, directed and produced over two hundred theatrical plays. He also designed theatrical sets for numerous Off Broadway productions.

His stage play, Old Friends, won the Forest A. Roberts Playwrights Award; February, the Present, won the Stanley Drama Award. Two other plays of his won the Colorado University Playwrights Competition for two consecutive years. Plus numerous other theatrical awards, Instructor Zurla was twice awarded the prestigious Theatre of Renewal Award for: "Resplendent contribution to the development of American Theatre." His collection of one-act plays, Aftermath: The Vietnam Experience, was recently published by Open Passages.

Instructor Zurla has also been a professional screenwriter for the past ten years. Some of his writing credits include: Dog Watch, Barbour/Langley Productions with NU Image, Ground Zero, Castle Rock Entertainment, Raw Deal (First Draft), Dino DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group and King Kong Lives (First Draft), Dino DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group. Instructor Zurla still paints, draws, writes and teaches.

Instructors may not be available by email before the start of the semester. Inquiries may be directed to the Dean of Distance Learning & Instructional Technology, Eric Ichon at: