Pandora Holmes: Spotlight on Pacifica Admissions

Pandora Holmes is the Executive Advisor of Admissions for the Master of Counseling Psychology with Emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy, Professional Clinical Counseling, and Depth Psychology. I’m delighted to find out more about her work as an admissions advisor.

Angela: When did you first come to Pacifica and what drew you here? Was your background previous to this also in admissions?

Pandora: I came to Pacifica in 2019. Previously, I worked in admissions for vocational schools. I was a director at the Angeles Institute for several years. Also I was a director of admissions at American Career College, another vocational school. A friend of mine who already had a Master’s degree in psychology had been telling me that she was going to enroll in Pacifica’s Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies program, and she encouraged me to apply for a position here. Pacifica was unique and different from any institution I’d ever worked for. When I interviewed, the campus really caught my eye because the mountains and ocean were so surreal and beautiful. Walking on the grounds of Pacifica, I thought, This is home. This is somewhere I can be successful and grow.

Angela: Just so we can get a fuller picture of you, what do you enjoy doing outside of Pacifica? What’s the perfect Saturday or Sunday for you?

Pandora: I have a Harley Davidson motorcycle and I also have a boat. We go out with family and friends, look at the waves, and enjoy the ocean. I really enjoy my four grandsons. I spend a lot of time with them. I’m family oriented. I come from a powerful background. My father is retired FBI, my step mother is the mayor of Carson, CA, where I grew up. I’m from an educated family; pretty much everyone has a legal background. I did go to school for criminal justice, but it wasn’t my calling. So I went into vocational nursing and vocational schools because I wanted to give back and help. I worked with a lot of young men who were without their fathers, dealing with poverty. I did a lot of volunteer in Watts at the YMCA, for those kids getting out of juvenile hall or prison, to let them know there is a light on the other end of the tunnel and that people care. If they at least had a high school degree, I could help get them off the streets. A lot of times I went home with tears in my eyes from these students’ stories and how hard they were fighting to stay in school. So I’ve been in admissions for over 25 years. It’s my passion. I’m giving back to the community.

Angela: Walk me through what happens when you begin speaking with a prospective learner?

Pandora: I represent the M.A. Counseling Program, which is the largest program Pacifica offers. We have four tracks, with thirty-five person cohorts. When someone is interested in that program, the first thing I do is get to know them, ask their longtime goals, what kind of licensure they are pursuing. They’ll tell me if they’re interested in private practice or not. Many of our students don’t have a psychology background, and if that’s so, I’ll ask why they’re contemplating a career change. Some people have been in their jobs for 15-20 years and maybe did not have the opportunity to pursue this degree up until now. We move forward from there.

Ninety-five percent of people have already started the application process by the time we talk. I’m the first eye on the application before it goes to the committee, so I provide feedback if something needs to be in compliance. People sometimes forget to put things down like volunteer work to show the merit of who they are as an individual. So I do give tips on our requirements.

Angela: What is the most enjoyable part of your job at Pacifica?

Pandora: Watching people get excited about Pacifica, and helping them through the journey of the admissions process. My goal is to make sure I’m selecting the right student for our program. Student retention is what’s important for me, not just how many students enter the program. I want to make sure students have the time for the program and understand how the program works. I make sure they understand how the program is designed. When they complete the program, it’s the same joy as I had when my vocational students graduated. Knowing I was part of them making that decision, helping them toward their dreams.

Angela: Diversity is extremely important at Pacifica. Obviously Pacifica’s degrees have a wide range of career options, far beyond that of a traditional therapist.  But is there something you’d like to express to potential enrollees who are thinking of applying but do not yet see themselves represented in the world as the standard image of a “psychologist” or a “therapist”?

Pandora: The counseling program has a high level of diversity. The admissions advisors and coordinators are extremely diverse. It’s the first question I’m often asked, and I say, “We’re getting there.” The field of psychology really needs diversity, and I tell them that too.

Angela: What is the best way for perspective learners to contact you, and what else would you like them to know?

Pandora: You can call me by phone and email. I like to talk though (805-881-1637), I don’t need appointments, just call me anytime from 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. PST. I love what I do! This has been a calling for me for many years and I’m very happy to be at Pacifica.

Executive Admissions Advisor

Pandora Holmes



Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.