We’ve been there! The Haven at College team understands the struggles of college students, especially in these uncertain times. Call us today and we’ll help you find the best program to fit your needs.
Sharon Weber and Holly Sherman
Haven Co-Founders Holly Sherman and Sharon Weber got sober together in 2005 at a West LA Sober Living where they forged both a lifelong friendship and a shared dedication to helping others find recovery. As a result of their experience working with younger residents in the sober living community, they discovered their industry niche and in 2012, founded The Haven at College, in collaboration with University of Southern California.
Sharon’s previous consumer products and brand strategy career with Fortune 500 companies like Nestle, Unilever, Kellogg’s and Warner Lambert provided the ideal background to formulate the Haven’s brand position and strategic direction while Holly was able to leverage her training as an attorney and her work with nonprofits dedicated to assisting at-risk youth to support the Haven mission. They both are at home on university campuses after receiving multiple degrees in higher ed----Sharon with a B.A. in Liberal Studies from University of the Pacific and an MBA from California State University, Sacramento, and Holly with a B.A. from Vassar College and law degrees from The London School of Economics and The University of Texas.
When they are not at The Haven working with students, parents or the University Administrators they serve, Holly enjoys surfing, ocean swimming and “wet-sand cycling” at the shoreline. Sharon is an avid golfer and hiker and is passionate about spending quality time with family and friends. Both Holly and Sharon enjoy traveling and have attended recovery meetings in cities around the world including New York, London, Sydney, Prague and Amsterdam.
Sumenjeet Virdee, Psy.D.
Chief Executive Officer
CEO Sumenjeet Virdee, PsyD, brings over two decades of clinical training in Mood, Thoughts, Substance Abuse and Trauma to the Haven at College and a depth and breadth of experience working with adolescents, adults, and families in trauma, problematic habits and extreme events of mood and thought. She believes wellness should be practiced with an integrative approach and is mindful of approaches outside of usual talk therapy. Dr. Virdee’s industry experience includes stints at PCH and Evolve Treatment Centers, community programs, behavioral health organizations and several non-profits. With a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology, M.A. degrees in Clinical Psychology, Marriage & Family Therapy and Counseling Psychology and certifications and training in a number of areas including Domestic Violence, EMDR, ACT, Seeking Safety in TF-CBT and Somatic Experiencing, Sumen is well equipped to lead the Haven into the post-COVID era. She believes, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” The Haven at College is in good hands under Dr. Virdee’s leadership!
Lauren Palazuelos, Psy.D.
Dr. Lauren Palazuelos is passionate about helping others to succeed and be the very best version of themselves. She believes that when students are given the appropriate support and resources in a nurturing environment, the possibility to achieve their full potential is within their reach. After founding a non-profit at 16 to empower college aged Latina women, Lauren earned an M.A. and Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology with a focus on trauma. She has worked in a variety of settings with diverse populations including at-risk youth and young adults and is on track to receive an M.S. in Clinical Psychopharmacology in January, 2022. Lauren’s vision for the Haven is to provide students with an opportunity to nurture themselves while we help them create a foundation from which they can grow. She loves what she does, works from her heart and believes that being genuine at all times is the best way one can be.
Randy Mekdara, M.A., APCC
Clinician and Case Manager
Randy’s passion for the Haven’s mission comes from growing up in a culture where discussing mental health was seen as taboo and learning first hand how important it is to have a support group to rely on when things get difficult. As a Clinician and Case Manager at The Haven he wants to be able to be that support for Haven students who may be going through difficult times. Randy earned an M.A. in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University and a B.A. in Psychology from University of California, Riverside. He has experience working as a Mental Health Counselor at First Lutheran School and as a Community Guidance Counselor Assistant at LA City College. Outside of work, Randy is an avid rock climber and enjoys time with his lovable Husky.
Marina Braff, M.S., LMFT
Marina brings a wealth of mental health experience to The Haven across community agencies, schools and in her own private practice. Her passion lies in helping individuals recognize patterns, learn tools that can help to correct those that aren't serving their values, and identify their strengths so they are able to build on them. Marina specializes in working with teen girls and young adults who are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders and life transitions and has completed training in CBI-SA, MAP, Attachment Theory and trauma-informed care. With a Masters of Counseling Psychology from Cal Lutheran University, she is an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology where she works with rising MFT's and teaches Counseling Skills and Techniques. When Marina isn't working, you can find her trying out a new local coffee shop, spending time with her friends and family, including her adorable puppy, gardening or out on a run.
Nursel Hussain, MSW
As a member of the Muslim and South Asian communities, Nursel Hussain has seen first hand how people with unmet mental health needs suffer in silence. It is her passion to help overcome the stigma surrounding mental health that led her to the Haven at College. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Fine Arts from American University, a Masters in Social Work from USC and has previously worked with clients experiencing a wide variety of disorders ranging from major depressive disorders to substance use disorders. Nursel is a "third culture kid" and in her free time loves to spend time outdoors or tapping into her creativity through painting and drawing.
Dr. Michelle Palmer, Psy.D.
Dr. Michelle Palmer is devoted to the process of change. She especially enjoys facilitating group sessions at The Haven at College and witnessing how students are able to help each other make positive changes in their lives. As a licensed psychologist through the California Board of Psychology for over a decade, Dr. Palmer brings breadth and depth of experience working in a variety of settings including people with co-morbid medical and mental health issues. She strives to be assertive and direct in her client interactions and embraces conflict as part of the process of change.
Bryan Froderman, B.A., M.A. Candidate
Clinician and Practicum Intern
Bryan brings a personal passion for helping young adults empower themselves and navigate their personal journeys while in college. Bryan received a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in 2018 and returned to LMU a year later to pursue an M.A. in Counseling that he will receive in 2022. His experience facilitating and leading groups working with LMU’s collegiate recovery program, Lions for Recovery, inspired his passion for the Haven’s mission. In his free time, Bryan loves to cycle, read and cook.
Ellie Franks, B.A.
Student Care Coordinator
Ellie is a graduate student in clinical psychology and a woman in long term recovery. As a student who struggled with substance use while in college, she is passionate about The Haven’s mission to provide treatment support to college students while they are pursuing their academic dreams. As Student Care Coordinator, Ellie works directly with students in the Haven’s Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) Education and Haven Intensive Outpatient Programs. She earned a B.A. in Economics and Business from The University of Colorado and is on track to graduate with an M.A. in Counseling from Loyola Marymount University in 2023.
Alex, a Philadelphia native and LA transplant, was trained as an actor in the University of Miami’s conservatory and transitioned to a career behind the camera as a producer and director for the past decade. Today, Alex is the Co-founder & Executive Director of Of Substance, an innovative non-profit revolutionizing addiction and mental health treatment, education, and support, using premium entertaining short films as a tool for deeper healing, growth, and transformation.
After surviving his own battles with addiction, Alex recognized the power of story as a tool in his recovery and found an exciting way to use his filmmaking experience to help others on their paths of overcoming struggles of shame & isolation. The biggest thing he learned on his journey is that his issue was far less about using substances than it was about WHY he used substances; It was about shame, isolation, a fear of not belonging, and a fear of not being good enough.
Alex and his co-founder Brian Gallagher built Of Substance to help us all recognize that we’re not alone in these feelings and to positively transform people's relationships with themselves, others, and their beliefs in what's possible.
George Stoddard, B.A.
Director of Community and University Engagement
George Stoddard has been with The Haven at College since 2015 when he helped launch the Haven Recovery Residence in Isla Vista, serving University of California Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College students. George has worked on a number of Haven campuses helping University Administrators design and attain their goals around treatment and support access for students with mental health challenges. In his role as Director of Community and University Engagement, George is passionate about connecting with students in recovery and helping them find inclusive community support both on campus and online. In his free time, George can be found on the golf course and spending time with family and friends.
Creative Director and Social Media Manager
As Creative Director & Social Media Manager Cortney is excited to utilize her passion for creativity and design to support Haven students on campus and online. She has worked as an artist, writer, photographer, editor and graphic designer for the past decade and is able to learn something new from every project she takes on. She is currently completing her B.A. degree in Communications and loves working with such an innovative company and inspiring team of people.