Robert Sky Allen
I came to National Louis University as a licensed psychotherapist with many years of experience working in non-profit and social service organizations. Over the years, I have conducted research on such diverse topics as women in the military, teenage pregnancy, and aggression.
What attracted me to National Louis University's doctoral program in Community Psychology was the emphasis on real world concerns as opposed to laboratory experiments of questionable relevance. Rather than assessing individual problems, the program tends to view threats to individuals in the social environment, or in a lack of fit between individuals and their environment. The program advocates for social change rather than individual change alone. It focuses on health rather than illness. It seeks to adopt a preventive orientation, which is to say that it tries to stop problems before they start rather than waiting for them to become serious and debilitating. And it is committed to the notion that nothing is more practical than rigorous, well-conceived research directed at social problems.
Since entering the program, I have been conducting research on the efficacy of a novel approach to substance abuse treatment with the objective of preventing attrition, which is caused when clients disengage prematurely from treatment. While attrition is a vexing challenge for all mental health disciplines, it is especially problematic for substance abuse treatment as it is not unusual for as many as a quarter of those who enter therapy to withdraw before completing treatment. Hopefully my research will help create a model for encouraging clients to remain in substance abuse treatment long enough to complete therapeutic recommendations.
After receiving my degree, I plan to continue providing substance abuse treatment in a community mental health agency. While I do not need a doctorate to work in the field, my expectations are that a degree from National Louis University will facilitate new ideas and strategies for research and action to benefit people and their communities, advance theory and social action, and increase collaboration with other researchers, practitioners, and community members.
Myra Dutko, M.A.
Myra Dutko is an adjunct psychology professor at National Louis University where she teaches introductory courses in psychology which include sections in biopsychology, memory, sense and perception, research methods, personality and psychological disorders. In addition she teaches lifespan development and abnormal psychology courses. Dutko has also supported the curriculum design and retention activities for the National Louis’ Harrison Fellows program.
As a graduate student at National Louis University, Dutko worked as a research assistant for Dr. Geraldine Becker and Dr. Jose DiVincenzo on an international study that investigated how culture affects individuals’ perceptions of their possibilities for corporate ladder advancement and second, whether gender is an additional factor in the nature and expression of these career aspirations. In addition, as a research assistant, she also worked for Dr. Gale Stam in her work on the linguistic relativity in second language acquisition. The research examined how a second language learners’ pattern of thinking for speaking in both first language and second language changes linguistically and gesturally.
Dutko’s research interest lies in the study of social justice activism—why people choose to participate in social justice movements. In studying the Occupy movement and its success in drawing people from all cultural, social and economic backgrounds, Dutko hopes to provide a rich, descriptive understanding of the factors and the processes that inspire people to become involved.
“I believe that the goals of community psychology are numerous; however one of the most important is empowerment for populations that have not been able to participate in a general discourse regarding access to political, social and economic resources. I believe the further study of social justice movements and activism will contribute to those goals.”
The community psychology program at NLU offers outstanding professors who are passionate teachers as well as experts in the community psychology field. More importantly they are people who measure their own success by the success of their students. Dissertation writing and Ph.D level work can be a daunting undertaking, having the right people offering guidance is crucial to the process.
Deveda E. Francois
Having spent 17 years working in the international travel and tourism industry along with friends teaching me to speak some conversational Arabic, I began to see the world as my classroom. In the mid 90’s, I went from working in the private to the public sector. There, I became much more interested in expanding my knowledge about macro systems, building cross-cultural relationships, and thinking globally for local impact. I founded a non-profit organization in 1997. This is when I came to appreciate the value in understanding policies, and the significance of collective voices from community members, grass roots and grass top organizations. A quote that resonates with me is, “If you don’t put it into policy then you’re just having conversation.”
My research interest is in Micro-aggressions (Coined by Pierce, 1970) and Public Policy. I have become fascinated with investigating micro-aggressions masked within public policy and identifying implicit biases. My concentration is to examine the dynamics around public policies crafted in the interest of marginalized communities. My further interest lies in building my capacity to articulate findings as a way to elevate my advocacy with supporting empirical data in tow. I am policy focused and shall become the “Practicing Theorist” that I often joked and dreamt about.
Why National Louis University?
As an NLU alum, I knew the reputation of NLU for adult learners. Here practice truly meets theory, if not to marry, at least to challenge. Periodically, I would check the NLU website to see what was offered in terms of Continuing Ed for lifelong learners. I was beginning to feel stagnant; yet, I had amassed a lot of information about international and local communities but did not know what to do with it at this stage of my life. I had successfully worked on crafting legislation nationally and locally. Then I found the NLU website description of the Community Psychology Doctoral program seemed to speak directly to me. The discipline seemed to have what I crave….solution driven INNOVATION. Nevertheless, the NLU admissions interview got me. One of the professors had an activist background. I sought an institution where the curriculum encouraged academic research in places and spaces that embraced the application of the activist spirit and where I could also learn to shape my research-based arguments to support my theory or lived experience. Since enrolled, I am already learning how to deliver my argument whether on the local street or the world stage. As some of us who have spent time in the Activist world would say, “Learn to speak from the outhouse to the White House.” I also knew that NLU would offer a cross cultural, inter-generational setting for a high spirited, mission driven and seasoned professional. Besides, I thought it pretty courageous for the young founding professors to take on adult learners. That in itself was innovative to me as we can be, “some hard nuts to crack”. I have looked at numerous Ph.D. programs and none have compared to the NLU Cohort model where the “practicing theorist” also becomes the academic expert.
Agnieszka A. Hanni
My passion for understanding cognition in aging was fueled as an undergraduate at Elmhurst College (IL) when I was fortunate enough to work on several research projects exploring cognition in aging with Drs. Helga and Tony Noice. After earning a B.A. in Psychology, I spent 2 years in a lifespan developmental program at West Virginia University (WVU), where I served as graduate research assistant participating in various projects as well as presenting the work at the professional conferences and symposia (Gerontological Society of America, Association for Gerontology in Higher Education). At WVU I also taught Introduction to Psychology as well as Social Psychology courses. Additionally, I became a member of several professional organizations (APA Div. 20 Adult Development and Aging and Div. 27 Society for Community Research and Action; and American Society on Aging). I decided to transfer to National Louis University as I was looking for a program that would enable me to have a direct impact on the population of older adults. I was drawn to NLU’s Community Psychology PhD program because I was interested in the interdisciplinary perspective and focus on applying the research efforts to specific needs of individuals at various community levels. I was also interested in the possibility of being able to complete a doctoral degree while maintaining a full-time position within higher education – a benefit that is unique to being a student at NLU.
Since entry into the program I have been focusing my research interests on cognitive health, cognitive interventions, developmental trajectories, as well as activity theory and neuroplasticity as they apply to the aging population. I have also been exploring the environmental factors, such as the type of activities that older adults without dementia engage in, and the effects of that engagement on the older adults’ general health and wellbeing. I plan to use the knowledge and skills I gain from the program to pursue opportunities within academia. I am interested in teaching as well as continuing to conduct research on cognitive health of older adults.
Caly’s psychology career started at Illinois Wesleyan University where she ran neurofeedback on people with addictions. Her love of the brain led her towards a BA in Psychology. During her time at Wesleyan, Caly was also involved in active research looking at employment opportunities for people with Autism. After undergrad, she pursued a Master’s in Clinical-Counseling (with a specialization in Health Psychology) from the Chicago School of Psychology. She spent several years counseling kids, teens, adults, and older adults in a community mental health setting. Some of her favorite responsibilities were her art therapy group, in-school counseling with teens, and conceptualizing art shows for client work. Caly has also worked on grassroots projects that use art as a catalyst for change. Caly was drawn to National Louis because she heard wonderful things about the professors and was eager to take a community perspective. Although she loved individual work, she felt pulled towards “larger scale” work in the community.
Since her acceptance at NLU, Caly has been keeping busy researching graffiti writers from a community psychology perspective. In the future, she hopes to bring understanding to populations often misunderstood. She also hopes to continue research on creativity and using art in community building. She would love to work in the school system and write (books, poetry, or blogs). Her other interests include chronic illness, communities in workplaces, online communities, and diversity issues. When she is not in school, you can find her: drawing, blogging, checking out live music, and searching for gluten free food.
After entering the mental health field in 1990, and working directly with patients until 1996, I decided that moving into administrative work would allow me to have a broader impact on patient care. I saw that the needs were much greater than individual services could address, and developing effective programs and policies could impact people across the board. Administration work within the substance use disorders field until 2009 demonstrated to me the need to address the issues presented by organizational systems overall. After 2009, consulting work reinforced the idea that change across systems is the way to address issues at the individual level, but also highlighted how individuals can create their own environments. My ongoing evolution at work led me to find the NLU Community Psych PhD program. Ultimately, the focus on the interaction between the individual and the environment provides a different lens from which to continue understanding how to be a resource for the Latino community.
My current research interest follows the evolution of my career. After completing a BA in Psychology and starting graduate school, I reconnected with my heritage through work within Community Based Organizations (CBOs). Realizing how CBOs work within communities impacts communities, and that the relationship can be reciprocal, I am interested in finding factors that define effective community engagement for service oriented CBOs. This way CBOs remain responsive to communities and CBOs can harness the power of communities.
Why National Louis University?
Upon investigating the cohort model at National Louis University’s Doctorate in Community Psychology program and the structure of the program, I was convinced it was for me. My career and my life have been non-traditional, and finding this non-traditional program which mirrored my values seemed like a perfect fit. I plan to continue working within Community Based Participatory Research values and principles as they apply to relationships beyond the researcher/community relationship.
New Communities Program Director for Claretian Associates in South Chicago.
Claretian Associates is a community development organization that provides affordable housing and related human services to low and moderate income persons. The New Communities program partners with community stakeholders to improve the quality of life in South Chicago. Jackie has an extensive history in the performing arts, arts education and administration in addition to contributing her arts education experiences in two books, Teachers Doing Research and Renaissance in the Classroom. Jackie provided and coordinated professional development programs for teachers through the Chicago Board of Education, Bureau of Cultural. She also served as an arts consultant and teaching artist for Chicago Arts Partnership in Education in which she has served over 100 Chicago Public Schools. She has a BA degree in Communication and Theater, Masters Degree in Public Policy. She is currently studying Community Psychology to enhance her work in community development. She chose National Louis University for the quality of its academic programs and faculty in addition to making the student feel like the center focus.
Hermann J. Schneider
I have been a life long entrepreneur with a history of establishing sustainable businesses, including two manufacturing firms and a restaurant company with multiple locations throughout the Midwest. My formal education includes an AS in Mechanical Engineering from Harper Jr. College, a BA in Management from National-Louis University and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. In addition, I am certified as a Six Sigma Black Belt and have been a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) since 1994. Special honors include: my induction into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame in 2009 and being awarded the Regional Minority Manufacturing Firm of the Year by the Minority Business Development Agency. My mission is to raise awareness around the critical issues that small, minority and diverse businesses face. Research Interests: Minority Business Set-Asides and Supplier Diversity programs were initiated to level the playing field while creating jobs and wealth in the community. My research is examining Minority Business Certification and how it impacts Minority Business Enterprises in Illinois.
Why National Louis University?
As a National Louis University alumnus, I immediately included NLU in my search for a Doctoral Program. With a need to balance a career with my educational goals, I continue to feel NLU’s cohort style provides the best solution for me. Once again, NLU is providing me with an insightful and challenging classroom environment. The diverse student body, coupled with professors, who are truly committed to our success, is the recipe for a positive outcome. From the first term, the program has provided me with tools, which are allowing me to realize my dreams of teaching, mentoring and activism.
Norma L. Seledon
Norma Seledon is a Mexican immigrant and has been a resident of Chicago for over 40 years. She has over 25 years of professional commitment to community and grassroots development around issues of women’s leadership, sexual orientation, education attainment by underrepresented groups, domestic violence, sexual assault, substance abuse, cultural sensitivity, discrimination and environmental health. She has held administrative positions in various community-based organizations and has served on numerous non-profit boards and government advisory committees. She is presently employed by the Grants Department of Chicago Public Schools and also works with community based groups around topics of minority access to higher education, domestic violence prevention, anti-racism, homophobia, organizational conflict resolution and program and board development. She holds a BS from Loyola University and an MA from Northeastern University.
Having worked with various small and medium grassroots organizations Norma has understood that grassroots organizations more than ever face limited resources. She believes that as organizations in their quests for sustainability often overlook the richness of internal human capital. Staff, Volunteers and Community members are often untapped resources of leadership. Norma is interested in examining the relationship between personal capital of stakeholders and organizational stability and long term well-being. Long term she is interested in researching organizational comprehensive asset-based wellness models.
Why Community Psychology at National Louis University?
“Community Psychology takes my direct service, advocacy and activism skills and experiences to another level. The program provides me with the training to be more strategic in my efforts to work with community to create and maintain change that improves quality of life. National Louis University’s values align perfectly with mine. The opportunity to learn as part of a cohort not only synergizes my education but enables me to contribute to and draw from a community of like-minded professionals with similar goals. NLU professors respect my contributions as well as support my professional evolution and nurture and guide my research interests.”
Christina Smith, LCSW
Ms. Smith has more than twenty years of professional experience in the private and public human service field and in most recent years as an organizational consultant, providing executive, and management coaching, program development and evaluation and training, to community based organizations as well as state and local governmental agencies. For more than fifteen years organizing within Chicago’s LGBT community where she served as Co-founder and Board President of Affinity Community Services. I also served on local community boards committed to social change and advocacy related to race, gender, class and sexual orientation.
Throughout my career, I consistently held the belief that while understanding the clinical needs of individuals and families is essential, equally as important are the systems and communities with which they have to interface and rely upon for support and responsiveness. One of my primary areas of research interest is examining the set of factors that explain how community based organizations think about science and make decisions about whether and how to use science to appropriately explain and enhance their work.
Why National Louis University?
National Louis University’s Doctorate in Community Psychology provides an excellent opportunity for me to bridge practitioner and science knowledge base. The doctoral program merges course work and the dissertation process through a cohort model giving students support throughout the process. NLU’s program is unique in that it allows students to remain connected to employment to support their sustainability and to maintain connection to current best practices across multiple disciplines.
Ms. Amber Williams experiences has ranged from working in community based nonprofits, international teaching, mental health research and health disparities research. Ms. Williams completed her undergraduate studies from Clark Atlanta University (CAU) earning a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish minor. After matriculating from CAU, she was granted the Postbaccaulaureate Intramural Research Technical Assistant Fellowship (IRTA) by the National Institute of Mental Health where she conducted various research projects that focused on children who had mood and anxiety disorders utilizing Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) techniques. This experience prompted Amber to learn more about mental health but from a public health perspective. She completed a M.H.S in Mental Health and Certificate in Health Disparities and Inequality from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her graduate experience ignited an interest in systemic change. After graduate studies, Amber wanted to apply what she learned to make a difference in her hometown by working as the Program Developer for Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency (C-HCCAA), the second oldest Community Action Agency in the country. Serving low-income families has given her the opportunity to help develop programs and submit successful grants to obtain funding for various programming to aid low-income families in transitioning to self- sufficiency. Post C-HCCAA, Ms. Williams decided to improve her Spanish and gain international experience. She taught English in Spain as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certified Language and Culture Assistant. After her experience in Spain, she wanted to learn more about community based organizations and their infrastructure thus she is graduating in June 2013 with Master of Science in Public Service Management from DePaul University. Currently, Ms. Williams works as the Community Outreach Coordinator for Illinois Citizens for Better Care, advocating on behalf of long-term care residents. She also is a member of University of Illinois at Chicago’s Medicaid Integrated Care Evaluation Team, evaluating the implementation of the program from perspectives of stakeholders. One of Ms. Williams’ long-term goals is to start a community based nonprofit organization that serves youth with disabilities.
Ms. Williams’ research interests include education reform and disability rights to inform policy. In addition, she is interested in understanding the trajectory of community engagement within emerging adults with disabilities.
Ms. Williams was attracted NLU’s Community psychology PhD because of its applied framework and theoretical orientation of social ecological. She chose to attend NLU, because she wanted a program that would enhance her skills in working in a community based nonprofit and provide training to influence policy. Amber likes the cohort model because she enjoys learning from others with diverse perspectives. The structure of the program incorporates thesis and dissertation within classroom assignments, which makes graduation requirements manageable. In addition, she can remain employed; which allows her to apply what she has learned in the classroom in a practical setting.