Falk College welcomes new faculty and staff

Syracuse University’s Falk College is pleased to welcome four new staff members who have joined Falk College in the past academic year: Stephen Bonomo, Director of Information Technology; Deborah Golia, Director of Admissions; Kailyn Jennings, Sport Management Internship Placement Coordinator; Danielle Jones, Social Work Internship Placement Coordinator; Donna Sparkes, Budget Associate, and; Emily Williams, Human Development and Family Science Internship Placement Coordinator.

In addition, Falk College is pleased to announce the appointment of six new faculty members, Lastenia-Francis, Catherine García, Esteli JimenezKevin McNeill, Joey Merrin, and Fei Pei.

Lastenia Francis portrait

Lastenia Francis

Assistant Teaching Professor (Online), Department of Marriage and Family Therapy

Lastenia Francis (she/her/hers) joins the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics as an Assistant Teaching Professor (Online) in fall 2021. She will teach courses on family systems theories and practice.

Francis is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a certified trauma therapist. She has been practicing since 2014 with an attention to helping minority populations. Francis has provided clinical services in an outpatient clinic in the South Bronx working with low-income communities and communities of color, an intensive preventative program, at the Veterans Affairs as a Readjustment Counselor, and built a private practice that focuses on building strong families in communities of color. Francis previously taught at Mercy College in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program and continues to act as a mentor to developing Marriage and Family Therapists as an American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Approved Supervisor.

Francis continues to have an insatiable appetite for helping people of color maximize their potential in how they relate to themselves, their spouse, and their family and demonstrates that in her research interest. Dr. Francis was drawn to academia through her passion for training more social justice clinicians to help strengthen families especially those in minority and underserved communities. Her dissertation research focused on the reintegration experiences of Black veterans and their families.

Francis is the Founder of Meaningful E-Motion Private Practice, Assistant Editor of the American Family Therapy Academy (AFTA) blog, and a member of the AAMFT and the AFTA.

Francis Earned a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University in 2021, a M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mercy College in 2015, and a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Stonybrook University in 2013.
Catherine Garcia portrait

Catherine García

Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science/Aging Studies Institute

Catherine García (she/her/hers) joins the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics as an Assistant Professor in fall 2021. At Syracuse University she will teach classes in Midlife Development and Gerontology.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, García was an Assistant Professor of Sociology and core faculty member of the Minority Health Disparities Initiative (MHDI) at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln where she taught quantitative methods and served as a faculty mentor for the MHDI Summer Research Program.

García’s research focuses on Latina/o/x aging and health in the United States and Puerto Rico, applying multidisciplinary approaches to understand how the interaction of biological, environmental, and social factors influence the disease process among older Latina/o/x adults. Her research work has led to 15 peer-reviewed publications and two book chapters, including multiple manuscripts in The Gerontologist and The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Her research has been supported by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including an R36 Aging Research Dissertation Award to Increase Diversity from 2018-2020 and an R01 Research Supplement to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research from 2021-2023. Her research has led to several awards, including the Emerging Scholars and Professional Organization (ESPO) Interdisciplinary Paper Award, the ESPO Poster Award, and the Minority Issues in Gerontology Poster Award from the Gerontological Society of America.

Currently, she serves as a steering committee member for the Network for Data-Intensive Research on Aging (NDIRA) at the University of Minnesota and is a committee member of the Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel (MIGAP) of the Gerontological Society of America. In addition, she will serve on the editorial board for the Journal of Health and Social Behavior beginning in January 2022.

She earned a Ph.D. in Gerontology in 2020 from the University of Southern California, an M.S. in Sociology from Florida State University in 2014, and a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Human Complex Systems from the University of California – Los Angeles (with college and departmental honors) in 2010.

Estelí Jimenez-Soto portrait

Estelí Jimenez-Soto

Assistant Professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies

Estelí Jimenez-Soto (she/hers) joins the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics as a tenure-track assistant professor of food studies in fall 2021. At Syracuse University, she will teach classes in Agriculture and the Environment, including Agroecology, and Climate Change and the Food System. She joins the Syracuse Cluster Initiative in Energy and Environment.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Jimenez-Soto was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California Santa Cruz in the Department of Community Studies from 2020-2021, and in the Department of Environmental Studies from 2019-2020, where she taught principles of sustainable agriculture and worked on socioeconomic barriers and opportunities to adopt sustainable practices in strawberry production.

Her research uses interdisciplinary engagements, bridging the fields of agroecology and political ecology to examine environmental problems at the nexus of food, agriculture and the environment in both the U.S. and Latin American contexts. She has published in journals including Ecology and Evolution, Bioscience, and Journal of Peasant Studies and her work has been highlighted in publications such as The Economist.

Her research has been supported by UC-MEXUS, El Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia (CONACyT), the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) and P.E.O International. In 2020 she was a recipient of a Peter Ashton Award by Biotropica, a Gentry Student Award by the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation in 2017, and a Mildred Mathias Award for best dissertation proposal by the UC-MEXUS in 2015.

She is an active member of the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the American Association of Geographers (AAG), the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), New World Agriculture and Ecology Group (NWAEG) and The Alliance for Women in Agroecology (AMA-AWA).

Jimenez-Soto earned her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a M.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2018 and 2014 respectively; and an B.S. with honors in Agroecology in 2012 from Universidad Autonoma Chapingo in Mexico. She is originally from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, México.

Kevin McNeill Portrait

Kevin McNeill

Assistant Teaching Professor, Department of Sport Management

Kevin McNeill has been a member of the Department of Sport Management since 2019 in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics and will serve as assistant teaching professor beginning in the fall 2021. At Syracuse University, McNeill will teach classes in Sport Technology and Technologies in Game Day Operations.

McNeill previously served as an Internship Placement Coordinator in Sport Management and provided advising for undergraduate students in academics and career exploration. He assisted students through the senior Capstone process and taught classes in Professional Development in Sport Management.

Previously, McNeill worked at Le Moyne College as Associate Athletic Director in the Department of Athletics for 12 years as well as served Syracuse University Athletics as the Marketing Coordinator from 2004 to 2007.

While at Le Moyne, McNeill oversaw the marketing and communications for the Division II athletic program. In that role, he led programming in brand development, revenue generation, digital media, video production, corporate sponsorship, and game day management. In addition to serving on the athletic department leadership team, he co-chaired the College’s strategic plan marketing committee, participated in the College’s integrated marketing committee, and instructed in the Madden School of Business.

Serving as the Marketing Coordinator at Syracuse University Athletics, McNeill supported the department’s broad-based marketing initiatives with a focus on game day promotions, marketing campaigns, ticket sales, advertising, and graphic design.

McNeill earned a Master of Science, Sports Administration and Master of Business Administration from Ohio University in 2004 and a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration from Le Moyne College in 2002.

Joey Merrin

Joey Merrin

Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science

Gabriel “Joey” Merrin (he/him/his) joins the Department of Human Development and Family Science in the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics in fall 2021. At Syracuse University, Merrin will teach courses in Child and Adolescent Development and Advanced Statistical Methods.

Merrin was most recently an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at Texas Tech University from 2019-2021 and taught graduate-level statistic courses where he focused on reproducible research, programmatic programming, and transparent designs using open science frameworks and guidelines. Before Texas Tech University, he held two post-doctoral fellowships, one in the Department of Psychology at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and the other in the Department of Health Management and Informatics at the University of Central Florida.

Trained as a developmental psychologist and applied methodologist, Merrin’s research seeks to clarify developmental processes through which adolescents’ experiences with their families, peers, teachers, and communities influence development of problem behaviors and experiences with identity-based harassment and victimization throughout adolescence and in the transition to young adulthood. He is particularly interested in the development of these behaviors among various minoritized and oppressed groups. His work focuses on translating and mobilizing knowledge to inform intervention and prevention efforts to improve the school experience for young people by using applied research designs, leveraging practical implications, and intentional school and community engagement.

His research has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institute of Health, and most recently, Merrin and his colleagues at Boston University launched a three-year National Institute of Justice funded study to examine bias-based harassment among adolescents to identify risk and protective factors across multiple levels of the social ecology.

Merrin was recently awarded the 2020-2021 New Faculty Award at Texas Tech University and selected into the Society of Prevention Research Early Career Prevention Scientists Training Program. Merrin currently serves on the editorial board for Prevention Science and Psychology of Violence.

Merrin earned a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology in 2017, an Ed.M. in Human Resource Development in 2011, and a B.A. in Sociology in 2009, all from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Fei Pei portrait

Fei Pei

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Fei Pei (she/her/hers) joins the School of Social Work in the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics as a tenure-track assistant professor of social work in fall 2021. At Syracuse University, Fei will teach Social Welfare Policy and Services.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Fei was a Ph.D. candidate at the Ohio State University College of Social Work where she also served as a graduate instructor and research assistant, teaching research methods, lifespan development, and social welfare.

The overarching goal of Fei’s research is to promote healthy development among vulnerable children, including maltreated and immigrant youths by identifying neighborhood disparities. In particular, her research focuses on community health and child development. She published over 20 peer-reviewed papers in rigorous academic journals including Child Abuse & Neglect, Children and Youth Services Review, Family & Community Health, Journal of Community Psychology, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, and Trauma, Violence & Abuse.

Fei was trained in all aspects of grant-funded and investigator-initiated research projects, ranging from university-funded projects to federal-funded studies (e.g., NIH funded and UNICEF funded projects). Her research has been acknowledged and funded by various institutions and scholarships such as the 2021 Merriss Cornell Distinguished Researcher Award, 2019 Kempe Interdisciplinary Summer Research Institute, 2018 International Peace Scholarship, Seed Funding for 2016 Clinton Global Initiative University, and 2015 New Brunswick Chancellor’s Scholarship.

Fei actively participated in professional and community services. She was a volunteered social worker for the local agency, Asian American Community Services in Columbus, OH and the president of the College of Social Work’s Doctoral Student Organization. She also serves as an ad hoc peer reviewer for multiple academic journals.

Fei earned a Ph.D. in 2021 from The Ohio State University, College of Social Work, a MSW in 2016 from Rutgers University – New Brunswick, and a LL.B. and a B.S. (double degree) in 2014 from Shanghai University and East China Normal University.