Massage Therapy Faculty Bios

See the Campus Directory for a full listing of Massage Therapy Faculty and Staff.

Alan Nunes

Alan Nunes, AAS, LMT, NCBTMB

Program Director

Alan came into massage therapy in 2003 after a long period of employment driving trucks for UPS and traveling on the side as a musician. It was at National Holistic Institute in Emeryville, CA that he decided to enroll as a student and begin a career that brought happiness, enlightenment, freedom and stability to his life.

During his education, Alan was fascinated by the tangible effects of massage therapy and its ability to allow clients to rediscover balance or come into a place of peace. This sparked a desire within to constantly learn and do more for others and thus the journey began, eventually leading him to COCC in 2008.

Alan’s studies and passions over the years incorporate methods such as: Zen Shiatsu, Thai Massage, Jin Shin, Aromatherapy, Craniosacral, and techniques that affect the energetic body. He loves blending these approaches with Western styles of massage such as Swedish, Deep Tissue and Myofascial Release. His work over the years include: NHI’s prestigious Teaching Assistant Program, a 6 month massage internship in a mental hospital with those affected by severe schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, spa, clinical, private practice and instructional work throughout Oregon and California. He has also traveled the country, spoken at national conferences and served on committees for the AMTA and ABMP.

Alan is honored to serve as the current Program Director for The COCC Massage Therapy Program in beautiful Bend, Oregon and is dedicated to providing passionate instruction and an academic experience that is both engaging and diverse during a student’s path to success. He enjoys spending time with his family, the outdoors and creating art.

Amber Clark

Amber Clark, LMT

Meet our Adjunct Instructor Amber Clark, originally from upstate NY, she has traveled from East coast to West coast and many places in between following her passion of exploration and life experience. She choose to pursue the journey in Massage Therapy in Portland OR, where she lived for 7 years before moving to Bend in 2008. She has spent the last 9 years devoted to teaching at Central Oregon Community College. She recently sold her private practice, Action Dynamix Massage, to pursue teaching continuing education in therapeutic Cupping to Health Care professionals throughout the Northwest.

With over 14 years of experience in the field Amber's range of modalities include Myofascial release, structural alignment, Sports, and NMT. Her main focus in bodywork is geared toward working with amateur and professional athletes, and educating clients on the benefits of recovery and self-care. She is dedicated to the growth and education of her students and finds inspiration in their accomplishments. Shes an avid volunteer in the community and is always in search of creative ways to get people involved. When shes not busy working hard she is often seen with a smile on her face; hitting the trails on her Mt bike, skiing with her dog, and exploring the wilderness. 

Rodney Cross

Rodney Cross, DC

Meet our Adjunct Instructor of Kinesiology, Dr. Rodney Cross. A native Oregonian and practicing chiropractor in central Oregon for the past 29 years. He is a diplomate of the American Academy of Pain Management and a MENSA. In January of 2016 he will celebrate 30 years of marriage to his wife Lynn. He and Lynn have 3 grown boys. Currently they rescue and care for many animals including dogs, cats, chickens, and parrots. Besides his clinical practice teaching has become a passion to him. He has been teaching in higher education for the past 10 years. His hobbies include gardening, fermenting things like sauerkraut, ginger beer and pickles.


Jesse Abraham

Jesse Abraham, LMT

I’ve known from an early age that I wanted to go into a profession that would allow me to be of assistance to others. Toying with the idea of becoming a veterinarian all through my early childhood to wanting to go into social work as a teenager, I finally decided on massage therapy in my early twenties. Once in school, I realized that massage therapy was the best decision I could have made. From kinesiology and pathology, to hands-on application, it was clear that my soul was truly being fed by my studies and the work I would soon be able to offer.

As a recently certified and licensed massage therapist having graduated from Bend’s own Central Oregon Community College’s massage program, I possess the freshness and eagerness that is so often needed when working with a myriad of people, personalities, body types, and ailments. However, I don’t plan to ever lose this fresh outlook or drive!

I am a member of Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. I completed my 1 year massage certificate with honors from COCC’s president Shirley Metcalf and a 3.97 GPA, and plan to finish my associates of applied science (AAS) through the school’s massage program. My massage can best be summed up as “East meets West”. I love to meld cupping, reflexology, and Thai table massage with deep tissue, Swedish relaxation, and sports massage -- just to name a few. Ultimately, I would like to work with those from all walks of life that have PTSD, having survived through various traumas and abuse, as well as assisting with end-of-life/hospice using hands-on, body and energy massage work. I think that introducing positive and healthy touch to people in times of recovery and/or suffering is essential to living out the rest of one’s life to the fullest.

On my days off, I like to go on long walks by the Deschutes with my partner and our 3 dogs, make art, hang out in the kitchen, or go listen to live music and dance. I truly consider it a good day if I can fit in all four!

Alli Jorgensen

Alli Jorgensen, LMT, CPT, BA Sociology

Alli has had a private massage practice in Bend since being licensed in 2006.  Employing a variety of modalities - Swedish, deep tissue, cupping, gua sha, and Watsu​​ - she welcomes the challenge of more therapeutic-based work.  She also comes to us with an extensive background in fitness and personal training and loves the combination of these two careers.  She enjoys educating massage clients on the benefits of exercise and self-care, and vice-versa, her training clients on the benefits of massage.  In her fourth year at COCC she's always excited for the day when the "light bulb" turns on for her students and everything comes together.

Emma Maaranen

Emma Maaranen, LMT

Meet our newest instructor who will be teaching Neuromuscular Treatments at COCC! Emma Maaranen is a clinical massage and movement therapist who over the past fifteen years has worked with athletes from weekend warrior climbers and marathoners to professional ballerinas and Olympic figure skaters helping them stay healthy through training cycles, sleuthing repetitive pain patterns, and fully recover from serious sports and orthopedic injuries in conjunction with their medical teams.

As a therapist, Emma blends clinical modalities including NMT, Myofascial Release and Myoskeletal Alignment with Dynamic Movement Repatterning to address immediate soft tissue dysfunction and address underlying structural and postural habits to avoid future injury. Emma believes learning is a collaborative adventure and readily admits she learns as much from her students as they learn from her. She is an anatomy geek but is not all books and study! She does her best to exercise all eight bikes in her stable and torments her friends with cooking experiments (and miss-experiments).

 Stephanie Manriquez

Stephanie Manriquez, BS LMT 

Stephanie Manriquez came to massage therapy late in life after a career as a cake-decorating technician, diaper service business owner, and a single parent of 6 children.  

As a licensed massage therapist and the prior Program Director of the Licensed Massage Therapy program at COCC, she graduated from the COCC LMT program in 1999. She was also a faculty member and taught several classes for the LMT program.

Stephanie has volunteered on the NCBTMB ethics committee and CE Approved Provider committee. She served on the AMTA School Summit committee and currently teaches the online business class for the LMT program at COCC in addition to teaching the Ethics for LMTs and Ethics and Professional Conduct online classes for COCC Continuing Education.

Stephanie has had a massage therapy license in Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii. She earned a BS in Business & Psychology from Eastern Oregon University and an Associate of Massage Therapy from COCC.

Stephanie Has served eight years on the Oregon Board of Massage Therapists and currently serves as a public member on the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers.

She is excited to share her life experiences with others and enjoys gardening, camping, and family gatherings with her 13 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Kelly P

Kelly Palacek, LMT, BA English
AA Liberal Arts Psychology
Reiki Level 2 Practioner

Kelly studied at East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, OR.  Having been a Reiki practitioner since 2008, she believes just as much in metaphysical causations to ailments as environmental and situational contributing factors to symptoms.  Therefore, her belief in healing and approach to bodywork represents the duality of Eastern and Western philosophies.

Kelly immediately started her own business as soon as she was licensed in 2014. She began performing massage out of a tiny studio in Portland, and now rents part of a yoga facility for weekly clients in the Bend area. She has given informative talks to assisted living communities for the elderly, for people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and for pregnancy groups, on how beneficial massage can be for them, as well as relevant contraindications. Kelly has performed massage at events, yoga classes, and businesses locally, and sat on employer panels for local massage schools. 

As a massage department supervisor at a multi-disciplinary clinic, Kelly conducted interviews for LMT's. A company created a position for her as an HR Assistant to the LMT department, simultaneously seeing the need for a department head as well as the ability to be an organized leader. In this role, she was instrumental in cultivating a course with the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy for our massage personnel in which they now obtain contact continuing education credits for our training.

Beau Vandendolder

Beau Vandendolder

Beau Vandendolder is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist with nearly ten years of clinical experience. He has advanced training in various acupuncture and herbal traditions including Japanese Meridian Therapy, classical Neijing studies and techniques, Classical Chinese herbal medicine, western herbal medicine, shiatsu, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Tuina. He is an AmSAT certified Alexander Technique teacher, Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga instructor, and an ordained Zen Buddhist minister.

Tabitha Ward

Tabitha Ward, LMT

Meet our instructor Tabitha Ward! Tabitha has been an active massage therapist since 2003 and an instructor in COCC's LMT program since 2010. She specializes in Prenatal, Swedish and Deep Tissue massage. Her love for pregnancy spills over into other areas of her life as a birth doula, childbirth educator, and newborn photographer.

Kasey Wheeler

Kasey Wheeler, LMT

Kasey has thoroughly enjoyed her massage practice for the past twelve years serving our beautiful community. She graduated from Central Oregon Community College in December 2005. Kasey found her training as a competitive gymnast in her youth to be a natural transition to Thai Massage, her specialty. She also offers Swedish, relaxation and Deep Tissue Massage. She has traveled twice to Thailand to study in the North and South. Kasey has a compassionate and empathetic spirit that allows her to connect easily and openly with her clients. She believes massage therapy is a key component for promoting a long and healthy life. When she is not working you will ind her out in nature, hiking, skiing, or sitting by the river with her dogs and husband. Possessing boundless energy, in addition to her private practice at Desert Lotus Wellness Center, she worked at a local physical therapy clinic for 10 years. She teaches Thai Massage in the massage therapy program at COCC. Her clients have been known to say that she has "magic hands" and her massages are a gift. Make an appointment with her today and enjoy a nurturing and healing treatment.

Elyse Williams

Elyse J. Williams, MS, CNS, RH (AHG)

Clinical Herbalist, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Reflexologist, Reiki Master/Teacher Elyse brings nearly two decades of experience studying and practicing herbal medicine. Her early fascination with plant medicine led to over eight years of self-study with native people in rural Alaska, Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize and Peru, and prompted her to pursue a Master of Science degree in Herbal Medicine at the Maryland University of Integrative Health.

As her Washington, DC practice grew, Elyse connected the need for healthy functioning digestion to properly utilize herbal medicine, and became a Certified Nutrition Specialist through the National Board of Certified Nutritionists. Not long after, she saw the need to engage her clients emotional and energetic imbalances in order to promote the physical healing they were seeking. This led to further study and certification at the Baltimore School of Reflexology, training in essential oil therapeutics and Aromatherapy, Mahatma Reiki Master/Teacher training and becoming a certified instructor of SynergyDance, based on Randolf Stones Polarity Therapy methods.

Since moving to Bend in 2010, Elyse has continued to expand her personal practice with new powerful tools, including HeartMath-based energy work and chakra clearing/trauma release. Elyse serves as an instructor at Central Oregon Community College where she teaches Aromatherapy I & II, and Reflexology classes. She also teaches professional/community continuing ed courses, including an Elemental Herbal Medicine series, Healing with Essential Oils series, and Reflexology for Everyone through COCC's Community Learning Program. Elyse is a Registered Herbalist (RH) through the American Herbalists Guild (AHG).