Who We Are

Paula Barksdale
Educational Consulting
Paula@paulabarksdale.com

Paula brings years of varied and relevant experience to her role as a college advisor.  A graduate of Harvard, she was an alumni admissions interviewer for 15 years.  With an MBA from UCLA, she enjoyed a successful career as a corporate marketing executive and entrepreneur before deciding to make a career change.  As the first in her family to attend college, Paula had been the “go-to” person among her friends and family when they had questions about choosing and applying to schools.  She decided to turn her hobby into her career, and received her college counseling training and certification through the College Board Summer Institute.  “I absolutely love working with high school students.  Although they must ‘own’ this journey for themselves, I hope my expertise and life experiences can help them on their way.  Not surprisingly, we inevitably laugh quite a bit as we go…”

Paula’s ongoing professional development activities include membership in the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the Western Association for College Admissions Counseling (WACAC), and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA); annual training with the University of California and California State University systems; and visits to dozens of campuses each year.  A 16 year resident of Hermosa Beach, she is married and has two school-aged children.

Jennifer Beindorf
Admissions Interviews
Jennifer@paulabarksdale.com

Jennifer is a graduate of Smith College, with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and a minor in Latin American Studies. With an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business, University of Virginia, Jennifer has over seventeen years of domestic and international marketing and brand management expertise, working for a diverse group of companies. Jennifer has a long history working with high school, college students and young adults with college admissions, job searches and career development. Currently she is Co-Chair for Smith Admissions Committee for Los Angeles. In this role, she reviews applications and conducts local interviews with potential candidates on behalf of the college. In addition, Jennifer volunteers at local high school college fairs as a representative of Smith College and speaks with interested students about the undergraduate experience of attending Smith, an all-women’s college located in the “Five-College Valley” in western Massachusetts. 

Jennifer's career has taken her across the United States as well as Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Thailand.  She is an avid tennis player and was a top-ranked junior player in Florida as well as consistently ranked in the top 20 nationally in NCAA Division III.  While she continues to play tennis and golf occasionally on weekends, most of her free time is spent with her husband raising their two young children.  

Pam Davis
Educational Consulting
PamDavis@paulabarksdale.com

Pam has been doing college counseling at Vistamar School for four years, where she also teaches AP English Language and Composition. Previously, she taught Humanities and English for nine years at Brentwood School, where she also served as Co-chair of the English Department, Dean of Faculty, and director of the Senior Seminar Program, an interdisciplinary course combining philosophy, literature, history, comparative religion, and psychology. Pam graduated from Westlake School for Girls and received a BA in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University. She went on to earn her master's and doctorate degrees in English from Brown University, where she taught freshman composition and literature classes. Pam has worked with Ivy West Educational Services, teaching SAT preparation courses and developing new materials for the company. She recently authored a teacher's manual used by Sylvan Learning Centers on scoring the new SAT essay test.

After collaborating with Paula Barksdale over the years, Pam decided to join the practice to complement her ongoing work with Vistamar. She has just finished shepherding her daughter through the college admission and financial aid process, so brings a good sense of the parent perspective as well.

Ellen Kuppersmith
Educational Consulting
Ellen@paulabarksdale.com

Ellen is a Los Angeles native with 15 years of experience in education and college counseling. She worked for 12 years at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), a magnet school ranked #1 in Los Angeles by US News. Ellen graduated from the Harvard-Westlake School and has a B.A. in Classics from Tufts University where she worked as a producer for Tufts’ television soap opera, “On the Hill.” She loved having four seasons, and enjoyed sledding down the President’s Lawn during reading period. An experienced Tufts alumni interviewer, Ellen completed her College Counseling Certification through UCLA Extension in June 2015.

Ellen was initially hired at LACES to manage standardized testing, but ended up developing into a “how to pay for college” expert and working in all aspects of the College Center. She is committed to helping students throughout the application process, to find schools that are great fits, and creating a list of “first choices.”

Ellen is a member of National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the Western Association for College Admissions Counseling (WACAC), and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). She lives near Culver City with her husband and two dogs. She is passionate about reading, watching, and writing science fiction and fantasy. She met her husband at a comic book store, and they even had a superhero theme for their wedding. In her spare time, Ellen does aerial dance, and loves traveling, in the US and abroad. Being a classics major, her favorite part of the world is the Mediterranean.

Joan Binder Weiss
Educational Consulting
Joan@paulabarksdale.com

A graduate of Yale University and Columbia’s Graduate School of Business, Joan’s broad range of life experiences enhances her contributions to the college counseling process. Before entering the world of college admissions, Joan was a marketing executive for financial services companies. After that, she took a leap of faith in her own talent, and pursued a career in television writing. Fifteen years later, having worked on shows such as Gilmore Girls and White Collar, Joan segued to the job she has loved the most – working with students and families during the college application process. “Finally I’m in a helping profession, and I feel like I’m home.”

Joan received her college counseling training at UCLA. She has worked onsite at High Tech Los Angeles, one of the premier charter high schools in California. During her 4 years as an independent counselor, Joan has helped students pursue majors running the gamut from game design to English. But, she also delights in working with students who have no idea what they want to pursue, helping them kick off their journeys of self-exploration and self-expression.

Joan is a member of WACAC and a regular attendee at conferences sponsored by the UC and Cal State administrations. With a 16-year-old son who keeps her on her toes, Joan knows the territory intimately. She is thrilled to say she’s now part of the Paula Barksdale team and looks forward to meeting many of you in the years to come.

Pam Yarbrough
Educational Consulting
Pam@paulabarksdale.com

Pam brings a unique, and distinctly local, perspective to her college advising work. Having grown up in Manhattan Beach, Pam attended Robinson, Center and Mira Costa High School before graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in French. Her undergraduate degree included a full year of study at the University of Bordeaux. As with so many other liberal arts majors, she successfully segued into a career in advertising working as a senior copywriter with several national ad agencies before becoming a full-time mom. All three of Pam's children graduated from MCHS, and benefitted from Paula's guidance during their college application process. As a mom who has been through this journey with her own children, Pam can attest to the supportive and student-centered approach that Paula Barksdale College Advisory Services provides.

Pam completed and received her certificate from the UCLA College Counseling Program in the summer of 2010, and has been working with Paula ever since. She also worked part-time for the DaVinci Schools of Science and Design in 2011 as they worked to establish their college counseling programs. She is a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Western Association for College Admissions Counseling (WACAC), and the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA). She attends a wide variety of professional development activities, and visits a minimum of twelve campuses every year. She is married, continues to tour as a LACMA docent, and is the proud mom of three college graduates.

Ilene Levin
Executive Assistant
ilene@paulabarksdale.com

"Our children were helped immeasurably by Paula's services. We can say with some authority that: with Paula's amazing ability to listen to and understand our children's goals, desires, and fears; her help in suggesting educational institutions that matched their interests (some of which we had never heard of, much less been aware of their strengths); and her step-by-step plan and follow-up for showing them how they can achieve their goals, that Paula Barksdale is truly a college counselor with the ability to change your children's lives!"

- Parents of Kevin, Pomona College class of 2009
and Kayla, Whitman College class of 2011

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