Marriage & Family Therapy

MFT graduate student Brandon Hollie’s research focuses on reducing violence in urban communities

Brandon Hollie PortraitGun violence is gaining priority attention from multiple disciplines and policy makers due to increasing numbers of mass shootings in the United States. Consequently, the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR), the professional association focused on understanding families through interdisciplinary research, theory, and practice, put out a call for proposals seeking scholarly articles and research in this area. Brandon Hollie G’21, a Falk student in the second-year of his Ph.D. program in marriage and family therapy, has an interest in decreasing violence in urban communities.

When his advisor, Dr. Rashmi Gangamma, suggested he write an article for an upcoming issue of the NCFR’s Report Family Focus issue on gun violence, he decided to focus on gun and gang violence in the Black community instead of mass shootings. “I felt that as family professionals, our lens is important in decreasing gun and gang violence in the Black community because it deserves special attention yet it is an area of research that has been neglected,” says Hollie.

Hollie’s ultimate goal is to be a chief diversity officer at a university. However, after graduation he plans on a career as a university professor, producing scholarly research while making strides to change policy regarding diversity, access to treatment, and institutional injustices.

The article, “Preventing Gun and Gang Violence in the Black Community: A Family Systems Perspective” will be published in the NCFR magazine this December and looks at gun and gang violence in the Black community from a Family Systems perspective. Typically, those who engage in gun and gang violence are labeled as deviant, but Hollie contends that we should not pathologize individuals, instead looking at the problem as systemic. The article examines key points that include gun violence as a symptom of past inter-generationally transmitted injustices; increased access to treatment in impoverished neighborhoods as a way to reduce violence, and strengthening the bond between individuals and their families’ could impact prevention and intervention of gun violence.

“I propose that as family professionals we can make changes in our policy to provide space for grief and losses, heal attachment wounds, and explore gun violence as symptom of unfair intergenerational injustices,” says Hollie.

Falk College expands graduate merit scholarships beginning Summer 2019

Falk College White and MacNaughton Hall Exterior

Graduate merit scholarships have been expanded for prospective students interested in matriculating into master’s degrees, either full- or part-time, offered in Falk College effective Summer 2019 (includes MAYmester Summer Session I, Summer Session II, Combined Summer Session). Incentives include no application fee, GRE waiver where applicable, and a 25 percent tuition discount incentive, which is applied after any other scholarships, scholarship credits, assistantships and remitted tuition credits are applied.

Eligible matriculated students include:

  • All Syracuse University alumni applying to master’s degree programs in Falk College (see list below), including members of the Class of 2019;
  • Children of current full-time Syracuse University employees (notarized supplemental forms required);
  • Any Advanced Standing MSW-enrolled student from any accredited BSW/BSSW program throughout the nation, and;
  • Current Falk master’s program students who are Syracuse University alumni; children of current full-time Syracuse University employees are also eligible.

Falk graduate programs include:

  • Food Studies, M.S.
  • Global Health, M.S.
  • Human Development & Family Science, M.A., M.S.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy, M.A.
  • Nutrition Science, M.A., M.S.
  • Public Health, M.S.
  • Social Work, Advanced Standing Program, M.S.W.
  • Social Work, M.S.W.
  • Social Work and Marriage and Family Therapy Dual Degree, M.A./M.S.W.
  • Sport Venue & Event Management, M.S.

Interested students should contact Falk Admissions, submit their application by February 15, and must formally matriculate. For more information, please contact the Falk College Office of Admissions at 315.443.5555 or email Award is subject to change.

Contact Admissions

Falk announces Graduate Merit Scholarships for Syracuse University students

Syracuse University Students at CommencementFalk College is pleased to announce the Falk College Merit Award Scholarship for current Syracuse University students interested in applying for a Falk College master’s degree.

Incentives include no application fee, GRE waiver where applicable, and a 25% tuition discount incentive, which is applied after any other scholarships, scholarship credits, assistantships, and remitted tuition credits are applied.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be a current Syracuse University student in good standing with an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher applying for part-time or full-time study in one of the following degree programs:

Interested students must contact Falk Admissions and submit their application by February 15. Successful applicants will be officially admitted by the academic department and must formally matriculate for a 2019-2020 term.

“Falk College graduate degree programs allow undergraduates of all majors to tailor and enhance their career opportunities,” says Falk College director of admissions, Felicia Otero. “For example, bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology pair especially well with a master’s degree in social work (MSW), marriage and family therapy (MFT), or the SWK-MFT dual program, as well as human development and family science, public health, and global health.

“Undergraduates studying business, management, advertising, and public relations can apply their skills directly to our sport venue and event management master’s program. Students with skills in these disciplines might also apply to public health, global health, and food studies master’s programs, alongside students with bachelor’s degrees in communication & rhetorical studies, English, advertising, and education,” Otero continues. “Undergraduates in biology and chemistry programs often pursue graduate study in nutrition science, as well as public health and global health programs at Falk.”

“Falk graduate degrees lead to a variety of careers and end-credentials,” says Deborah Golia, assistant director of admissions at Falk College. “You’ll find Falk alumni working as counselors, therapists, social workers, community advocates, community educators, public health specialists, nonprofit program directors, managers, nutritionists, dietitians, sustainability program educators, and in limitless other roles.”

“Falk College graduate degrees also lead to research professions and continued study in doctoral programs,” she adds.

Falk Admissions will host a Graduate Information Session on Friday, November 2 in Falk Complex, White Hall, Room 335 at 4:00 p.m. In addition to review of Falk graduate programs, interested students can learn more about Falk Graduate Scholarships. For more information, please contact the Falk College Office of Admissions at 315.443.5555 or email

Three Falk Students Receive Fellowship Honors from the AAMFT

From SU News, By Michele Barrett

Jennifer Coppola, Gift Nleko and Shaelise M. Tor, graduate students in Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy and School of Social Work, are recipients of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s (AAMFT) Research & Education Foundation Minority Fellowships. The AAMFT’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) includes a competitive review and selection process of doctoral and master’s students from across the country to support their growth and development as future practitioners in marriage and family therapy.

The AAMFT MFP fellowships include awards for doctoral students at the dissertation completion stage of their curriculum, which Coppola received. Nleko was awarded the Now is the Time MFP fellowship as a master’s student interested in service provision to the nation’s youth. Tor received the doctoral fellowship to support completion of her pre-dissertation core curriculum.

Funded by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the AAMFT Foundation has created the MFP to support the training of practitioners or practitioner/researchers in culturally competent mental health and substance abuse services, treatment, and prevention.

Jennifer Coppola, a doctoral candidate, has a background in human development from the University of Rochester. Trained on the Transgender Treatment Team at Falk College’s Couple and Family Therapy Center at Peck Hall, her current research investigates couple relational processes, including the impact of gender, sexual, and racial minority stress. Her dissertation focuses on attachment and fairness-related relational experiences of transgender women and their cisgender partners. She hopes to progress her research to include conceptualizing integrative therapeutic models that serve marginalized populations. Clinically, her work is dedicated to the transgender and LGBQ+ communities, and multistressed couples and families. She uses contextual and attachment theories, an affirmative intersectional lens, and emotionally-focused couples therapy (EFT).

Coppola presents her research work and model of couples therapy nationally and internationally. “I believe in utilizing a self-of-the-therapist approach to training. Cultural humility in clinical practice involves a lifelong commitment to reflection and disassembling power and privilege,” she says. Upon graduation, Jennifer plans to continue teaching in the MFT field, and extend her research. She also has a part-time private practice.

Gift Nleko, a native of Nigeria, was diagnosed with polio at age 3. Due to the civil war in Nigeria, she and her family sought political asylum in Houston, Texas, when she was 9. “My experiences as a disabled Nigerian-American refugee inspire my work with diverse, underrepresented and socially disadvantaged populations,” she says. Having graduated from Lamar University with a B.S. in psychology, she immediately enrolled in Falk College’s dual master’s program in social work and marriage family therapy. She has gained hands-on experience providing therapy at the Couple and Family Therapy Center, serving clients with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders at Family Counseling Services- Cortland, and co facilitating the Domestic Violence Group and Healthy Relationships workshop series at the YWCA of Syracuse & Onondaga County.

Gift currently interns at the Syracuse University Counseling Center, providing mental health and substance abuse services, while contributing to a diverse campus environment. Her past research as a McNair Scholar focused on the effect of father absence on adult daughter’s mate selection. She will continue exploring the correlation between father absence, mental health, substance abuse, trauma and relational attachment.

Shaelise M. Tor is a second-year doctoral student who completed an M.S. in marriage and family therapy at the University of Rochester. Her current research interests include participatory research with refugee and immigrant populations; the impact of race and cross-cultural relationships in family therapy and advocacy; families involved with multiple systems of care; and relational ethics and attachment injuries. She currently serves clients in an outpatient couple and family therapy center as well as in a satellite, community-based clinic utilizing a postmodern attachment and experiential approach that emphasizes resilience and the impact of power and oppression.

“I hope to increase access to culturally humble mental health care and decrease barriers to care by utilizing non-traditional modalities of therapy,” she says. Upon completion of her doctoral studies, it is her goal to be on the faculty at a university where she can conduct research, teach, and supervise future generations of therapists.

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) is the professional association for the field of marriage and family therapy, representing the professional interests of more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. The AAMFT Research & Education Foundation funds systemic and relational research, scholarship and education to support and enhance the practice of systemic and relational therapies to advance the health care continuum, and improve client outcomes.

Explore Falk Graduate Programs at November 2 Info Session

Campus pictureSyracuse University’s Falk College will host a Graduate Information Session on Friday, November 2 in Falk Complex, White Hall, Room 335 across from the Falk College Admissions Suite. Faculty, staff, and current students will welcome potential graduate students interested in helping professions in counseling, therapy, public policy, and advocacy; health professions such as public health, epidemiology, nutrition, and wellness; as well as careers in sport and sporting events management. The two-hour event will start at 4 p.m. and will include a brief overview presentation, a question and answer session, and time to meet with faculty and students. Light refreshments will be served.

Detailed information will be provided on graduate programs in human development and family science (MA, MS, PhD), food studies (MS), global health (MS), public health (MS), marriage and family therapy (MA, PhD), social work (MSW) as well as the dual degree program (MA/MSW) in marriage and family therapy and social work, nutrition science (MA, MS), and sport venue and event management (MS).

Details on Falk College Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) programs in addiction studies, child therapy, dietetic internship, global health, food studies, and trauma-informed practice will also be provided.

Admissions staff will be available at the information session to meet with students and provide information on academic programs, housing, and scholarships, including the new Falk College Scholarship Merit Award program for high achieving Syracuse University undergraduate students applying to a Falk College master’s degree program in 2019.

For more information about this event, and to register for it, contact Falk College Admissions at 315.443.5555, email, or visit the event webpage on the Falk College website.

Department of Marriage and Family Therapy Statement of Support

Welcome to the new semester. Last spring the SU community was involved in an incident that shocked us. At the time, some in the MFT Department met and issued a statement that we attempted to deliver to the wider community. Because we have not seen it in print, we wanted to make sure it was on our website. The statement is below.

In light of the recent horrific videos that showed members of the SU community making statements and performing acts that dehumanize others, we state that we strongly condemn this and other similar behaviors, and the culture that encourages it. These incidents so close to home have harmful impacts on our community. We support efforts to examine and dismantle systems that perpetuate these behaviors, including those within our own campus. In addition to institutional efforts, sometimes being able to talk about how these experiences impact us to someone who will listen and hear your experience, can help the healing process. The Department of Marriage and Family Therapy wants to remind students that we offer culturally sensitive and trauma informed services to the SU community. Our services through the Couple and Family Therapy Center are free, and are at Peck Hall, 601, E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY. To contact our services, please call 315 443 3023.

Congratulations Falk Faculty

Deborah Coolhart and Rashmi GangammaMarriage and Family Therapy faculty members Deborah Coolhart and Rashmi Gangamma were recently tenured and promoted to the rank of associate professor.

In the Fall of 2012, Coolhart was appointed assistant professor after serving as an adjunct instructor in the department since 2008. She has designed and taught graduate courses and supervised the clinical work of master’s students in the Couple and Family Therapy Center. Under her leadership, a Transgender Treatment Team was created and continues to provide services in the Central New York community. Gangamma also joined Falk College as assistant professor in 2012. her areas of research inquiry include family relationships and mental health of refugees resettled in the U.S., application of contextual therapy theory in clinical practice and research, and therapeutic processes in family systems therapy.

Trans Support Day benefits transgender community

Students at the 2018 Trans Support Day
Students at Trans Support Day April 12, 2018

More than 50 attended Trans Support Day on April 12, 2018, including individuals, couples, parents, and kids. Hosted by the Syracuse University Trans Team, the event included clothing and makeup giveaways, makeup tutorials, legal advice for ID changes. The clothing and makeup giveaways were made possible by generous donations to the Trans Team’s clothing and makeup drive.

The event also included a visit from a speech-language pathologist, Josie Zanfordino, a lecturer and clinical supervisor in the Speech Pathology Department at Ithaca College and the co-founder of the Transgender Voice and Communication Clinic.

The Syracuse University Trans Team is part of the Syracuse University Couple and Family Therapy Center, housed within the Falk College Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, located in Peck Hall, just north of main campus on E. Genesee Street. Students on the Trans Team receive specialized training to provide gender-affirmative therapy for transgender people and their families and assist in the readiness process for medical gender transition.

More information is available online for those who wish to learn more about the Couple and Family Therapy Center and the Trans Team.

SU Trans Team to host Trans Support Day April 12

Flier design for Trans Support DayThe Syracuse University Trans Team will host Trans Support Day to benefit the Syracuse-area transgender community on April 12, 2018 from 2 to 7:30 p.m. in Peck Hall, located at 601 E. Genesee Street just north of main campus.

The Trans Team is part of the Syracuse University Couple and Family Therapy Center, housed within the Falk College Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. Students on the Trans Team receive specialized training to provide gender-affirmative therapy for transgender people and their families and assist in the readiness process for medical gender transition.

The April 12 event will incorporate a clothing drive and makeup giveaways from 2 – 6:30 p.m., legal advice for ID changes and makeup instruction tutorials from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., and a visit from voice expert Josie Zanfordino from 5 – 6 p.m. The event will conclude with networking and refreshments from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The Trans Team will be collecting clothing and makeup donations for the drive from March 26 – April 5 at two drop off sites: Room 300 MacNaughton Hall in the Falk Complex, and Floor 3 of Peck Hall. To support the clothing drive, please donate lightly used clothing. such as shirts, sweaters, pants, leggings, shorts, rompers, and dresses; accessories like scarves, belts, shoes, bags, undergarments, hair accessories, jewelry, and sunglasses. Any size, age, and gender items are welcome. Larger sizes are in high demand.  For the makeup drive, please donate new and unopened makeup items, such as eyeliner, eye shadow, mascara, lipstick, foundation, and blush.

For more information, please contact Anne Metzger-Wormuth at (315) 443-3023 or

Shipman’s article provides insight on the experiences of transgender therapists

Peck Hall exterior
Peck Hall is home to the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy.

Daran Shipman, MA, LMFT, Clinic Supervisor in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy at Falk College, recently published an article in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy entitled, “Clinical and Supervisory Considerations for Transgender Therapists: Implications for Working with Clients.” The article provides insight on the experiences of transgender therapists and seeks to encourage more conversation around the need for acknowledging and understanding these perspectives.

Read the full article.