Advisory Group

Ann BardachAnn Bardach
Journalist, Non-Fiction Author

Ann Bardach is an American journalist and non-fiction author. Bardach is best known for her work on Cuba and Miami and was called “the go-to journalist on all things Cuban and Miami,” by the Columbia Journalism Review having interviewed people such as Fidel Castro, Juanita Castro, Luis Posada Carriles, E. Howard Hunt, Orlando Bosch, and Felix Rodriguez.

Bardach’s books include Without Fidel: A Death Foretold in Miami, Havana and Washington, cited as the authoritative book about Cuba under Raúl Castro and one of The Miami Herald’s Ten Best Books of 2009. “Without Fidel,” wrote Tom Wolfe, “is news between hard covers by a relentless reporter who writes like a dream.” Her best known book previous to Without Fidel was Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana and her journalism has been anthologized in KILLED: Journalism Too Hot To Print and Mexico in Mind. Bardach was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair for ten years and has written for The New York TimesPOLITICOThe GuardianThe Washington PostThe AtlanticThe Daily BeastThe Financial TimesThe New Republic, and The Los Angeles Times. She has guested on many U.S. television programs including 60 MinutesTodayGood Morning AmericaDateline NBCCNNThe O’Reilly Factor, and Charlie Rose, and she is frequently heard on NPR and BBC. Bardach started the Global Buzz column for Newsweek International and the Interrogation column for Slate.

In 1995, Bardach won the PEN USA Award for Journalism for her reporting on Mexican politics, and was a finalist in 1994 for her coverage of women in Islamic countries. Her book Cuba Confidential was a finalist for the New York Public Library Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism and the PEN USA Award for Best Non-fiction, and named one of Ten Best Books of 2002 by The Los Angeles Times. Bardach was a finalist for the 2005 PEN USA award for Journalism for her story on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ties with the tabloid press, published in Los Angeles Magazine.

Bardach started the international journalism class at University of California, Santa Barbara (USCB) and is on the board of PEN USA and UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center for Film, Television and New Media and is a Resident Scholar at UCSB’s Orfalea Center. She is also the editor of The Prison Letters of Fidel Castro as well as Cuba: A Travelers Literary Companion and she serves on the Brookings Institution’s Cuba Study Project.

In the mid 1990s, she began her research into Vivekananda, the formidable Indian sage, making her way through nine volumes of his writings. In 2011-12, she published two pieces about Vivekananda – in the Sunday New York Times and in the Sunday magazine of The Wall Street Journal. The immense response to the articles convinced her it was time to embark on the first popular biography of this towering, but largely forgotten, figure.


Lou Cannon
Journalist, Historian

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Lou Cannon is an award-winning journalist and historian. He attended the University of Nevada in Reno and San Francisco State College. He worked for The Washington Post as a White House correspondent, columnist, and the Los Angeles bureau chief. During the Reagan presidency, Cannon was the senior White House correspondent and produced a weekly syndicated column. He was honored by the American Political Science Association in 1969 for “distinguished reporting of public affairs.” In 1984, he received the White House Correspondents Association’s coveted Aldo Beckman Award for overall excellence in presidential coverage. He was a contributing editor and CEO of the acclaimed California Journal (1970 to 2005). In 1986, Cannon won the Merriman Smith award for excellence in presidential news coverage and in 1988 won the first Gerald R. Ford Prize for distinguished reporting on the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan presidencies.

In 1995, Cannon was appointed Raznick Distinguished Lecturer in the history department of the University of California at Santa Barbara. In 1996, he was Freedom Forum Journalist in Residence at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. Cannon has written five books about Reagan including the critically acclaimed President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime, Reagan’s Disciple. With his son, Carl M. Cannon, he recently authored George W. Bush’s Troubled Quest for a Presidential Legacy. Cannon lectures on the presidency, the media, California politics, and police issues. He has written for Smithsonian Magazine and The National Review and contributed countless op-ed pieces to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. He also writes a monthly column, Cannon Perspective, for the online State Net Capitol Journal. He also contributed to The New York Times online blog on President Barack Obama’s first 100 days.


Susan Gulbransen
Columnist, Book Reviewer, Writing Teacher

Susan GulbransenSusan Gulbransen has served and been an officer on several local boards, among them CALM (Child Abuse Listening and Mediation), Santa Barbara Foundation, Montecito Educational Foundation, Santa Barbara Public Education Foundation, and University of California, Santa Barbara History Associates Board. Ms. Gulbransen co-founded the restoration project for the Granada Theatre, which re-opened in 2008, and served as President of the Board for six years. She also co-founded the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival, which ran for eight years. Most recently she served as President of the KDB/FM radio board, part of the Santa Barbara Foundation, and participated in the sale of the station in part to KCRW.

After 21 years writing book reviews and a weekly literary column for the Santa Barbara News-Press, when it was owned by The New York Times Company, Ms. Gulbransen now freelances and teaches writing at the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Currently her column “Beyond Books” appears in the electronic newspaper Noozhawk, and she continues to publish poems and short stories in small publications. In 2004, Ms. Gulbransen was named Woman of the Year and in 2003 received the News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award.


Jerry Isenberg
Film Producer, Executive, Professor

Jerry IsenbergArmed with an MBA as a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School, Jerry Isenberg began his film industry career in 1964 at Columbia Pictures rising to become Assistant to the President, Abe Schneider. In 1968, he joined ABC-TV as Executive in Charge of Production, supervising production of the first three years of the prestigious Movie-of-the-Week. He left the network to become an executive producer for Metromedia Producers Corporation where he produced the feature film Let The Good Times Roll, the television series The Super, and the TV movies It’s Good to be Alive: The Roy Campanella Story, Go Ask Alice, The Great American Tragedy, Betrayal, Where Have All The People Gone, and Message To My Daughter, among others.

In 1973, he formed his own production entity, The Jozak Company. From 1973 to 1982, Jozak produced, at risk, the TV movies, It Couldn’t Happen To A Nicer Guy, Winner Take All, Katherine, James Dean, Portrait Of A Friend, Having Babies, The Gift, The Secret Life of John Chapman, and Secrets, plus many others including the award-winning The Defection of Simas Kudirka and the pilot to the series Fame under associations with Paramount TV and MGM TV.

In 1982, Isenberg joined forces with businessman Richard Cohen to form I&C Productions which produced the TV movies When She Says No, The Three Wishes Of Billy Grier, and When Dreams Come True. A separate arm formed for feature films, Jozak-Decade Productions, produced Forbidden, the noted movie for Home Box Office starring Jacqueline Bisset and Jurgen Prochnow, and the feature film The Clan Of The Cave Bear for PSO and Warner Bros. which starred Darryl Hannah.

One of the most active producers in Hollywood, Isenberg formed Phoenix Entertainment Group, Inc. with Gerald W. Abrams in July 1985 to provide a broader base for creativity, production, and distribution, serving as Chairman of the Board, as well as being the Executive responsible for several major projects. In its short four-year existence, Phoenix produced nearly 40 movies and mini-series.

In January 1994, Isenberg joined the faculty of the USC School of Cinema-Television as a full professor and Executive Director of Electronic Media Programs. As such, in addition to teaching, he is responsible for the development and expansion of the television and interactive course work and facilities at the film school.

Isenberg is currently Chairman of the Caucus For Producers, Writers & Directors, and on the boards of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the National Closed Captioning Institute.


Joe Medjuck
Film Producer, Journalist, Professor

Joe Medjuck was born in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. He received his BA in Honors English from McGill University and his MA and PhD from the University of Toronto, where he taught for 12 years and founded the Cinema Studies Program at Innis College.

While teaching at U of T, Medjuck also worked as a journalist for the film magazine Take One, The Canadian Forum, The London Times Literary Supplement, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and TV Ontario.

His producing credits include the films Stripes, Heavy Metal, Ghostbusters, Legal Eagles, Twins, Beethoven, Kindergarten Cop, Dave, Junior, Commandments, Father’s Day, Private Parts, Space Jam, Six Days/Seven Nights, Road Trip, Old School, Eurotrip, Disturbia, Chloe, Up in the Air, No Strings Attached, Hitchcock, and Draft Day.

In television, his producing credits include the cartoon shows The Real Ghostbusters, Beethoven, and Mummies Alive as well as the Emmy nominated HBO film The Late Shift. Medjuck was one of the founders of The Criterion Collection.


Diana Raab
Memoirist, Poet, Psychologist

Diana_Raab_nonfictionDiana Raab, PhD, is an award-winning memoirist, blogger, transpersonal psychologist, workshop facilitator, thought provoker, and award-winning author of eight books and over 500 articles and published poems. Her passion and expertise concerns writing for healing, transformation, and empowerment.

Dr. Raab has her BS in Health Administration and Journalism. She began her professional career as a registered nurse in Montreal, Canada, and soon transitioned to Director of Nursing of a chronic care hospital. While remaining home to raise her three children, she worked for 25 years as a freelance medical writer.

In 2001, as a life-long learner, she enrolled in Spalding University’s Low-Residency MFA in Writing Program. Ten years later, she returned for her PhD in Transpersonal Psychology at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (a.k.a. Sofia University). Her doctoral research examined the healing and transformative aspects of memoir writing. She also blogs regularly for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post (Baby Boomer Blog), and BrainSpeak.

Dr. Raab was born in Brooklyn, NY, and has lived in Montreal and Florida. She has been living in Santa Barbara since 2006 and plans to retire here. She and her husband, Simon, are local philanthropists with an interest in literary and scientific projects and enterprises.

Dr. Raab serves on a number of boards including Poets & Writers, WriteGirl, and The Center for Autobiographical Studies. She is also a trustee for the University of California, Santa Barbara and sponsors the annual Writer-in-Residence series. She is on the Advisory Board for AUSB’s developing MFA in Writing Program and sponsors the forthcoming Diana & Simon Raab Writers Series that will feature readings and workshops by an esteemed writer during each MFA residency.


Victoria Riskin
Writer, Television Producer

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Victoria (Vicki) Riskin was a writer and producer for television with credits that include The Last Best Year, The Member of the Wedding, My Antonia, A Town Torn Apart, and World War II: When Lions Roared. She is past President of the Writers Guild of America West, the union representing 8,500 screen and television writers. She was a Trustee and Chair of the Writers and Producers Pension and Health Fund and founding Chair of Hollywood Health and Society. She received the Chairman’s Award by the Caucus of Writers, Producers and Directors for her leadership role in the Creative Community’s fight against media concentration; the Justice Rose Bird Person of Courage Award by Death Penalty Focus; the Horace Mann Alumna of the Year Award by Antioch University Los Angeles; and the Human Rights-Defender of the First Amendment Award by the ACLU of Southern California. In January 2009, she received the Writers Guild of America West prestigious Valentine Davies Award in recognition of contributions to the entertainment industry and community at large, which have brought dignity and honor to writers everywhere.

Ms. Riskin was a founding member of Human Rights Watch/California and currently serves as its Co-Chair in Los Angeles and Chair of the Santa Barbara Committee of Human Rights Watch. She sits on the International Board of Human Rights Watch and is chair of the Hellman-Hammett Committee that oversees the distribution of funds from the estate of Lillian Hellman to writers persecuted around the world. She serves on the Board of Directors of KCRW, the NPR station recently established in Santa Barbara, and is Co-Chair of the Santa Barbara Advisory Board for the station. She was named California Woman of the Year from Santa Barbara in 2012 by Assemblyman Das Williams. She has a BA in Humanities from USC, a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, and a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California. She had a private practice as a psychologist before becoming a screenwriter and producer of movies-for-television.


Jerry Roberts
Journalist, Author, Commentator

Jerry Roberts

Jerry Roberts is an author, broadcast commentator, and journalism teacher who has lectured at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, among other colleges. A 1970 graduate of Harvard College, he joined The San Francisco Chronicle and spent 25 years at the paper. He served as a city hall and statehouse reporter, special projects writer, Political Editor, Editorial Page Editor, and City Editor before he was named Managing Editor. During his tenure, the paper won many state and national awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Explanatory Journalism in 1999.

Mr. Roberts was the Santa Barbara News-Press Executive Editor (2002- 2006), leading the paper during a period of dramatic change. While at the News-Press, the paper was cited for General Excellence three times by the California Newspaper Publishers Association. His fight for journalistic ethics at the paper is chronicled in the documentary film Citizen McCaw. His biography of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Never Let Them See You Cry, was published in 1994 by HarperCollins West.

Mr. Roberts has received PEN’s First Amendment Award, a national Ethics in Journalism Award from the Society for Professional Journalists, and the Payne Award for journalistic ethics from the University of Oregon School of Journalism. He now serves on the University of California Santa Barbara Press Council overseeing The Daily Nexus student newspaper. Mr. Roberts co-founded www.calbuzz.com, which The Washington Post judged the state’s best non-partisan website covering California politics.


Ralph Thomas
Film Director, Screenwriter

Ralph L. Thomas (born September 8, 1939) is a Brazilian-born Canadian film director and screenwriter. He was born in São Luís, Maranhão, to Canadian Baptist missionary parents and grew up there and in Canada. He attended the University of Toronto for two years and began to write for the entertainment pages of The Toronto Star in 1963.

He directed his first film in 1977 for CBC Television, a made-for-TV movie called Tyler. He continued to make movies for television for a few years before he got his big break directing the feature film Ticket to Heaven. The film won Best Motion Picture at the Genie Awards, and Thomas was nominated for Best Director. His follow-up film, The Terry Fox Story, also won the Genie Award for Best Motion Picture. Thomas continued to direct feature and television films until 1996.