Marriage & Family Therapy  News

Falk College offers graduate program scholarships for 2020


Falk College White and MacNaughton Hall ExteriorAlumni admitted to any Falk College master’s program for 2020: All Syracuse University alumni are eligible for a scholarship equivalent to 25% of tuition for one of Falk College’s residential master’s degrees. In addition, GRE tests and application fees waived.

Admitted students to the MSW Advanced Standing program for 2020: All applicants admitted to the Advanced Standing program for 2020 are eligible for the 25% tuition discount scholarship. No application fees or GREs are required.

Scholarship is for residential programs, only.

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 2020;
  • 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.
  • Human Development & Family Science, M.A., M.S.
  • Marriage and Family Therapy, M.A.
  • Nutrition Science, M.A., M.S.
  • Public Health, M.P.H., M.S.P.H.
  • 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, 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

Strengthening mental health interventions for refugee families

Rashmi Gangamma
Rashmi Gangamma, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

Like others in the mental health profession, Rashmi Gangamma continues to ask herself, “How can we as family therapists promote social justice in our clinical work, in the therapy room?”

One critical area of need is improved training models and intervention methods to better serve the needs of resettled refugees, according to Gangamma, associate professor of marriage and family therapy in Falk College at Syracuse University. “Refugees are often uprooted as a direct consequence of injustice, are further marginalized and under-served as they re-build their lives in a foreign country. For instance, research suggests that post-migration factors such as language barriers, loss of status and community, social support, and racial discrimination exacerbates difficulties of resettlement.”

But there is limited research on how therapists can work with refugees. In her research, Gangamma has focused on family experiences in the resettlement process of refugees from different countries. “Each refugee group is different.” She hopes her research will fill the knowledge gap so therapists can be better equipped to meet the needs of resettled refugees.

“Bottom line for me is that there is a greater need for us to understand refugees’ experiences and to build culturally sensitive and responsive mental health interventions,” she says. “Specifically, for working with resettled refugees, mental health treatment must include the socio-political-cultural contexts of marginalization. For example, resettling in the United States may mean a shift in refugees’ social locations. They may suddenly find themselves in a minority due to their religion and ethnicity, and also in a lower socio-economic class. These changes in their social locations then play a role in how social and family relationships are navigated.”

Findings from these earlier studies pointed to a need for family therapists to expand existing theoretical frameworks that guide interventions. “Refugees occupy a unique transnational space—that is, they have lived in multiple countries, currently have families spread across multiple countries, and as a result are exposed to larger processes of oppression and marginalization across countries. This can influence how refugees experience their own identities, which can affect health and well-being.” This is articulated in a recent article co-authored with Daran Shipman, clinical supervisor in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

In addition to limited therapist training on these unique issues in working with refugees, language barriers can also present challenges in therapy settings. Interpreters who work with therapists are typically only trained on ethics and mental health terminology or for working in medical settings. However, advanced interpretation skills are necessary for therapy interventions to be most effective, particularly in sessions involving unpacking trauma experiences or when working in group therapy settings. Through funding from Central New York Community Foundation, Gangamma recently led a collaboration between the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy and community agencies in Syracuse and Utica in developing an interpreter-practitioner training module for people who work with resettled refugees. The overall aim of the module was to initiate collaborative relationships between spoken language interpreters and psychotherapists to ensure culturally responsive delivery of therapy services. Feedback received from workshop participants indicated an urgent need to conduct more of these collaborative initiatives.

Students contribute to the vibrant research community in Falk College through involvement in student- and faculty-led research projects, including Gangamma’s interpreter-practitioner training project. Giselle Ortiz G’19, alumna of the dual master’s degree program in social work and marriage and family therapy, was involved in planning the training modules as a student after taking Gangamma’s Migration and Mental Health course. Marriage and family therapy Ph.D. candidate Shaelise Tor is currently involved in the training modules. “The one word that continues to stand out to me is community. This training built community at multiple levels,” says Tor. “As a multidisciplinary team to create this training, we each brought our own areas of knowledge and experience. By consulting with different key informants, we were able to design the training with multiple disciplines in mind and with a deep respect for each person’s role. We understood early on that the therapist-interpreter collaboration represented a unique team. The workshop was an excellent opportunity to bring together community members with numerous agencies represented. There was a shared sense of purpose to better serve the refugee communities here in Syracuse. Many participants shed light on how much they wish they had this training before they entered into their roles and many voiced the need for continued training in this area.”

Gangamma believes research in refugee mental health is critical to help inform public policy, services, and programs. “One of my recent studies showed that family relationships play a central role in making meaning of suffering, and moving towards rebuilding lives. This can helpful to remember in practice and has clear implications for policy as many refugees are currently not resettled with their families,” she explains. She was recently part of a Research to Policy initiative where researchers travelled to Washington DC to meet congressional staffers and provided research-informed perspectives on impact of current policies on refugee and immigrant family well-being.

Together with fellow faculty members in Falk College, Gangamma explores these topics using an interdisciplinary approach. Gangamma recently worked with Ambika Krishnakumar in the Department of Human Development and Family Science to explore concepts of ethnic loyalty and identities in resettled refugees from the Middle East. Now, she works with Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies and Bhavneet Walia in the Department of Public Health to examine the relationship between home and community gardening, mental health, and socio-economic well-being, with particular focus on food security, in resettled refugee populations.

Through research and practice, Gangamma hopes to better equip mental health professionals to serve the unique needs of resettled refugees, inform public policies, and ultimately fill the gap in mental health services for resettled refugees.

Faculty research in the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy span other critical topics, such as trauma-informed practice, mental health training and service delivery for veterans and military families, and supporting transgender youth and their families in therapy, among many others, and is supported by the Falk Research Center.

Counseling support available for students at Peck Hall


Through Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy, culturally-sensitive, trauma-informed mental health services are available at no cost to students. In addition to the campus services available to support student health and wellness, Falk College’s Couple and Family Therapy Center, located at Peck Hall, 601 E. Genesee Street in Syracuse, offers day and evening appointments, with convenient free parking and located on the Centro bus route from the Syracuse University campus. For many individuals, being able to talk to someone who will listen and hear their experiences can help the healing process. To learn more about these confidential mental health services and other resources available, please call 315.443.3023.

Falk College’s Office of Student Services is another resource available for students seeking additional support. The Office is located in the Falk Complex, 300 MacNaughton Hall and can be reached at 315.443.3144.

Class of 2020 Falk Convocation and Syracuse University Commencement Ceremony update


Due to complex construction projects underway on campus, specifically the Stadium Project, various Commencement Weekend 2020 ceremonies will occur at alternative locations and at different times than in recent years. Specifically:

  • Commencement 2020 will take place Sunday, May 10, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. on the Shaw Quadrangle.
  • There are no changes to the Falk College Convocation ceremony, which will take place Saturday, May 9, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. in Manley Field House, as in previous years. Plans are already underway to celebrate the Class of 2020 during Falk’s Convocation with many special traditions, including each graduate being individually announced by name to walk across the stage. Tickets are not required. Parking is free. Family and friends who are unable to attend in person can watch the Convocation live online. Questions specific to Falk Convocation can be directed to Annette Hodgens
  • All pertinent details for Commencement Weekend 2020 will be made available on as they are announced.

The Stadium Project is one of several University projects underway as part of the Campus Framework, a visionary roadmap meant to guide future campus planning and development for the next 20 years. For more information about current projects, visit the Campus Framework website.

Learn more about Convocation & Commencement

Dean Murphy welcomes Falk students to campus

Dean Diane Murphy
Diane Lyden Murphy, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D.

Dear Falk Students,

Welcome back to campus, returning Falk students! Let’s give a very special welcome to the Class of 2023, as well as new transfer and graduate students. We are thrilled to have you join us. I hope you each enjoyed an adventurous and restful summer.

What a special time to be at Syracuse! There are plenty of exciting events planned on campus this semester, including a very special Orange Central homecoming and reunion on September 12-15, which will commemorate 150 years of Syracuse University history.

As we jump right into the Fall 2019 semester, I would like to remind you of some important information that will help you as you begin—or continue—your studies here at Falk College.

Falk College Student Services is your support system. Student Services counselors are here to provide you with private academic advising and help you meet your requirements and goals. In addition, they are your resource for private consultation related to student social and emotional concerns. If you have any concerns throughout your academic career, please contact Student Services or visit Suite 300 MacNaughton Hall in the Falk Complex.

I encourage you to connect with the staff at Falk Career Services, who can help you prepare for life after college through career exploration, internship and job searching, professional networking, and more. They are also located in Suite 300 MacNaughton Hall, or you can search for opportunities through Handshake, the University’s job search and professional events portal.

In addition, you can connect to spiritual life on campus at Hendricks Chapel, as well as health and counseling services now open in the Barnes Center at the Arch. Visit to keep up with Schine Student Center renovations and other important University updates.

The Student Lounge, located in Falk 216, is available to you anytime the Falk Complex is open. The lounge has a microwave, refrigerator, and vending machines for student use. Across the hall is the Falk Café on 2, open 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition to smoothies, make-your-own salads, and wraps, the Café has a grill for sandwiches, hamburgers, veggie burgers, and many other items. Just down the hall is Falk 229, the quiet student lounge.

There are several computer labs in the Falk Complex. Falk 113 is a PC lab, Falk 253 is a Mac lab. Both are available to students at any time. Falk 400 and 407 are PC labs that are also used as teaching classrooms. When class is not in session, they are open for student use. You may check their schedule of availability using the Orange Events website. You may also use the quick-print stations in Falk 216 and 229 for printing and email. These stations log out automatically after 15 minutes of use.

The Student Involvement Fair will be held Wednesday, September 4 on the Quad from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Rain location: Goldstein Auditorium in Schine Student Center). With more than 300 student organizations on campus, you are sure to find something that interests you. I highly encourage each of you to attend.

You can discover activities and events on campus by visiting the University’s new community calendar. You can also follow Falk College and other campus groups on social media.

Syracuse University email is the primary communication method at the University. Your professors and University offices will contact you with important information using your Syracuse University email address (ending in “”), not your personal email address. So, it is essential to read your University email at least once every day.

While I hope this list is helpful, there are many other resources available to you at Syracuse University. Please visit to review a more inclusive listing of valuable student resources to enhance your experience at Syracuse.

With that, I wish you the very best for the upcoming Fall 2019 semester. Once again, welcome to Falk College and the Syracuse University family.

Go Orange!

Diane Lyden Murphy, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D.
Falk College

Falk College welcomes new faculty and staff


Syracuse University’s Falk College is pleased to announce the appointment of new staff members who have joined Falk College in the past academic year, including Karen Goebel, office coordinator in the School of Social Work; Meredith Groman, administrative assistant and Jamie Rhoades, assistant teacher in the Bernice M. Wright Child Development Laboratory School; Kevin McNeill, internship placement coordinator in the Department of Sport Management; Megan Myers, assistant director of development in the Office of Advancement; Kathleen Nasto, office coordinator in the Department of Human Development and Family Science; Jessica Pitcher, career advisor and David Sly, associate director of career services in the Office of Student Services; Laura Sauta, administrative assistant and Megan Snow, internship placement coordinator in the Department of Public Health, and; Zachary Schuster, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and recruiting in the Office of Admissions.

It also welcomes five new faculty members, Justin Ehrlich, Chandice Haste-Jackson, Jeremy Losak, Stefanie Pilkay, and Xiafei Wang.

Justin Ehrlich Portrait

Justin Ehrlich

Assistant Professor, Department of Sport Management

Justin Ehrlich joins Syracuse University’s Falk College Department of Sport Management as a tenure-track assistant professor in Fall 2019, where he will teach in the area of sport analytics.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Ehrlich taught as an associate professor at Western Illinois University, School of Computer Sciences, since 2010 in Macomb, IL. There, he specialized in data visualization, visual analytics, sport data computation and analysis, machine learning, computer graphics, virtual reality, server-side development, languages and technology. He taught several courses such as Topics of Computer Science: Data Visualization, Operating Systems, Advanced Computer Graphics, Server-Side Development, and served as chair of the Council for Instructional Technology and chair of the IT Governance Executive Committee. He previously worked as an AViSSS (Animated Visual Supports for Social Skills) lead software developer for the University of Kansas and has held roles such as developer for Nomise Systems and lead developer for, both in Wichita, KS.

Ehrlich has published several papers in sport data visualization and analysis in Public Choice, Mathematical Social Sciences, Games, and the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sport. He has conducted many talks and live demonstrations on sport data computation, visualization, and analysis that incorporate use of Tableau (with VizQL), R, Python, and D3.

Ehrlich’s research has received support from the U.S. Department of Education, the U3E, and from Falk College. He was awarded the Moore Best Ph.D. Dissertation Award from the University of Kansas School of Engineering, the Provost’s Award for Academic Excellence in Teaching with Technology from Western Illinois University, and several awards from WIU’s College of Business and Technology.

Ehrlich earned a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Kansas in 2010. His dissertation was titled, “The Effect of Desktop Illumination Realism on Presence and Generalization in a Virtual Learning Environment.” He also holds a computer science M.S. earned in 2007 from Wichita State University, and an accounting and business administration B.B.A., earned in 2004 from Friends University in Wichita, KS.

Chandice Haste–Jacksond Portrait

Chandice Haste–Jackson

Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Science

Chandice Haste–Jackson is an associate teaching professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science beginning Fall 2019.

In addition to working as internship coordinator in Falk College since 2016, Haste-Jackson has served as adjunct faculty in the Department of Human Development and Family Science since 2005, teaching courses such as Intimate Relationships and Gender Roles, Family Development, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She has also taught as adjunct faculty for Onondaga Community College and the American Public University/American Military University System Department of Human Development and Family Science. She previously served in Syracuse University’s School of Education as director of the Liberty Partnerships Program and has held positions at the Chadwick Residence, Inc., the Dunbar Association, and Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc.

Haste-Jackson serves on the School Counselor Advisory Board for the Syracuse City School District and is a consultant for My Brother’s Keeper Syracuse initiative founded by President Obama.

Haste-Jackson has presented for the Society for Research on Adolescence in San Francisco, CA and the National Council on Family Relations in Orlando, FL. She has given presentations for the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement in Washington, DC, the New York State Education Department Empire State Youth Summit in Albany, NY, Ethiraj College and Women’s Christian College in Chennai, India, as well as for the National Diversity Council’s Upstate New York College Diversity Summit in Syracuse, NY, among others.

Haste-Jackson’s work in urban youth development, vulnerable families, cross-cultural family dynamics, and diversity education has received support from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, New York State Legislature-Joan Christensen, Onondaga County Department of Long-Term Care and Aging Services, Onondaga County Youth Bureau, Onondaga County Department of Health, Onondaga County Department of Social Services, United Way of Central New York, and Syracuse University.

Haste-Jackson earned a Ph.D. in child and family studies from Syracuse University in 2013. Her dissertation was titled, “Strengths and Risk Factors for Romantic Relationships: Perspectives of African American Women.” She also holds a M.S. in behavioral sciences with a concentration in psychology, earned from Cameron University in 1999, and a B.A. in cultural anthropology, earned from Syracuse University in 1996.

Jeremy Losak Portrait

Jeremy Losak

Assistant Professor, Department of Sport Management

Jeremy Losak joins Syracuse University’s Falk College Department of Sport Management as a tenure-track assistant professor in Fall 2019, where he will teach in the areas of sport management and sport analytics.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Losak was a graduate assistant in the John E. Walker Department of Economics at Clemson University. His teaching experience includes positions as teaching assistant for Sport Economics, teaching assistant and later head teaching assistant for Undergraduate Principles of Microeconomics and Principles of Macroeconomics, and teaching assistant for Managerial Economics. In the sports industry, he was a baseball analytics consultant for Wasserman Media Group, marketing analytics consultant for The Madison Square Garden Company, and analytics intern for the Auburn Doubledays.

Losak’s research focus is in sports economics, particularly sport labor markets and betting markets. He is published in Managerial Finance and in the Academy of Economics and Finance Journal. He has given several presentations at venues such as the 2019 Eastern Economic Association Conference in New York, NY; the 2018 Southern Economic Association in Washington, DC; the 2018 Missouri Valley Economic Association’s Sports Economics Session in Memphis, TN, and; the Center for Research in Sports Administration’s Sports, Data, and Journalism Conference at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

Losak is the recipient of a Junior Researcher Award for the 2018 Sports, Data, and Journalism Conference at the University of Zurich and the Distinguished Student Paper Award at the 2018 Missouri Valley Economic Association Conference. He is also the recipient of travel grants from the Institute for Humane Studies Hayek Fund and Clemson Graduate Travel Grant Service. He was named a 2016 Falk College Class Marshal and a Falk College Scholar while at Syracuse University.

Losak earned a Ph.D. in economics from Clemson University in 2019 where he was a Koch Fellow in the John E. Walker Department of Economics. He also earned a B.S. in sport management from Syracuse University’s Falk College in 2016.

Stefanie Pilkay Portrait

Stefanie Pilkay

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Stefanie Pilkay joins Syracuse University’s Falk College School of Social Work as a tenure-track assistant professor in Fall 2019.

Before joining Syracuse University, Pilkay served as an adjunct lecturer at both Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York, NY since 2018 and the University of Tennessee, College of Social Work in Knoxville, TN since 2015, teaching research methodology, trauma theory and practice, lifespan and neurophysiological development, and human behavior in the social environment. She was also a postdoctoral fellow at the Emory University School of Medicine, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics in Atlanta, GA since 2017. She has served as a court-appointed special advocate for Anderson County Tennessee Juvenile Court. In 2014, she was a forensic social worker for the Community Law Office, Knox County Public Defender’s Office. Specific to her research experience, Pilkay has served since 2018 as an early investigator trainee on “Developmental Origins of Health and Disease,” an international cross-discipline research study with collaborations between Canada and the U.S.

Pilkay’s research interests include trauma, early-life adversity, inter-generational transmission of adversity, adversity and trauma mechanisms for risk and resilience in human development. She is published in the Journal of Social Work Education, the Journal of Social Service Research, and has given several peer-reviewed presentations, most recently at the 64th Annual Program Meeting of the Council on Social Work Education in Orlando, FL, Connecting for Children’s Justice Conference in Murfreesboro, TN, the International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in Prague, Czech Republic, and the 73rd Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society of Biological Psychiatry in New York, NY. Pilkay’s work has been supported by the National Institute of Health/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the University of Tennessee Health and Science Center.

Pilkay earned a Ph.D. in social work with a minor in graduate statistics from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2017. She holds a M.S. in social work, an evidence-based interpersonal practice major with trauma treatment graduate certification, and a B.S. in social work with majors in honor’s social work and psychology, earned in 2014 and 2013, respectively, from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Xiafei Wang Portrait

Xiafei Wang

Assistant Professor, School of Social Work

Xiafei Wang joins Syracuse University’s Falk College School of Social Work as a tenure-track assistant professor in Fall 2019.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Wang served as a research assistant on “Evaluation of Chinese National Working Committee on Children and Women & the United Nations Children’s Fund Joint Child Friendly Spaces Project in China,” funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund: China since 2017, and on “Improving Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Health Outcomes: Integrative Family and Systems Treatment (I-Fast) Integrated Episode of Care Model” since 2014, funded by the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and Department of Developmental Disability.

Wang has published peer-reviewed articles in Social Work Research, Journal of Social Service Research, The Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, Children and Youth Services Review, Journal of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, PsyCh Journal, Community Mental Health Journal, Child Psychiatry and Human Development, Child Abuse & Neglect, and Social Work in Mental Health, as well as multiple book chapters.

Wang recently presented at the 32nd Annual San Diego International Conference on Child and Family Maltreatment in San Diego, CA, the Council of Social Work Education 64th Annual Program Meeting in Orlando, FL, National Association of County and City Health Officials 2018 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA, the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, ResilienceCon 2018 in Nashville, TN, and the Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., among other presentations.

Wang’s work has received support from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, Big Cities Health Coalition, Central Benefits Health Care Foundation, and the Ohio State University College of Social Work.

Wang earned a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 2019. Her dissertation was titled, “Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Trauma: A Mixed-Methods Study.” There, she also earned her M.S.W. in 2015. She earned a M.A. in social work and social policy from Peking University in 2012 and a L.L.M. from the Peking University Law School & The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Beijing, China and Lund, Sweden in 2011, where she was named valedictorian. She also earned a B.A. in social work from Peking University in 2009.

Welcome Class of 2023!


Otto with students moving in to a dormFalk College welcomes the Class of 2023 including 307 first-year and 20 transfer students who join 140 graduate students who are new as well. Welcome back to all Falk students who, this year, represent 40 states and 30 countries!

The entire welcome week schedule for new students can be found by visiting the Syracuse Welcome website.

Falk College honors faculty for excellence in research, service and teaching


Professors Rashmi Gangamma, Tracey Musarra Marchese, Yvonne Smith receive 2019 Falk College Faculty of the Year Awards

Faculty members from the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy and School of Social Work were honored for excellence in teaching, research and service with 2019 Falk College Faculty of the Year Awards on May 3. The honorees, who are nominated by their peers for outstanding performance and contributions to students, the Falk College, Syracuse University and beyond. They include:

Rashmi Gangamma Portrait Dr. Rashmi Gangamma, Associate Professor, Marriage and Family Therapy
Excellence in Research
Tracey Marchese portrait Professor Tracey Musarra Marchese, School of Social Work
Excellence in Service
Yvonne Smith portrait Dr. Yvonne Smith, School of Social Work
Excellence in Teaching

To read more about the teaching, research, service and scholarship activities of the honorees on the Falk College website, visit the Falk faculty web pages.

Free mental health services through MFT partnership


A partnership between Syracuse Community Connections (SCC) and Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) at Syracuse University is bringing free-of-charge, confidential mental health services to the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility. Children, teens, seniors, and families accessing other services at this site can now access counseling without costly insurance co-payments or traveling to an unfamiliar location.

“Many clients may wait long periods of time or are apprehensive about talking with someone skilled enough to listen and guide them through the rough waves in life. This partnership will change lives and homes,” says Merlin Merrain, MPH, SCC director of health services. The new mental health services are provided by Falk College graduate students supervised by American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT)-approved mental health professionals at the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility.

Appointments are available weekdays and evenings and can be made by calling (315) 671-5817 or (315) 671-5835.

Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc., also known as Syracuse Community Connections, has been a staple of the South and Southwest segment of the city since 1974. The agency includes a trusted, passionate group of individuals advocating tirelessly for better living, safer neighborhoods, healthier outcomes and equal opportunities for neighborhood residents. Critical services offered to the community include:

  • Culturally competent health services for persons living with HIV from ages 16 and up or who may be at high risk for contracting the virus or other sexually transmitted infections;
  • Maternal and paternal child care services, diaper bank and doula services;
  • Anti-gun violence and trauma response;
  • Alternative schooling;
  • Afterschool programming for young children and youth;
  • Senior programs, and;
  • Food pantry and food giveaways.

During Syracuse University’s Fall 2018 semester, Brandon Hollie G’21, a second-year Ph.D. student in marriage and family therapy, turned his research interest of decreasing violence in urban communities into action. His research, published recently by the National Council on Family Relations, examines gun violence as a symptom of past inter-generationally transmitted injustices focuses on preventing gun and gang violence in the Black community. Hollie began counseling clients at the Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility this fall and is already seeing an increase in participation.

“Increased access to treatment in impoverished neighborhoods is one way to reduce violence, and strengthening the bond between individuals and their families could impact prevention and intervention of gun violence,” says Hollie. “These sessions allow people to express themselves without judgement, and leave feeling empowered to make change in their lives and communities,” adds Hollie.

According to Tracey Reichert-Schimpff who directs the Couple and Family Therapy Clinic in Syracuse University’s Falk College and is a doctoral student in the MFT program, students are engaging clients in a location that is convenient and familiar, which may mean that more individuals and families will be willing to receive services. In turn, student therapists will gain a deeper understanding of the needs of those impacted by community violence. “Working at this site offers the opportunity to develop relationships with other programs that are part of the setting. This certainly enhances knowledge and increases sensitivity to and connection with the local community,” says Reichert-Schimpff.

Collaborations led by Falk College addressing neighborhood violence and trauma date back to 2008. During a class focused on the signs of alcohol abuse, Timothy “Noble” Jennings-Bey, director of the Trauma Response Team (TRT), connected street life to addiction. That is, why do young men engage in destructive criminal, violent behavior? He shared his theory with Falk public health professors Dessa Bergen-Cico and Sandra Lane. Their on-going collaboration has resulted in 11 journal articles, one book chapter, a video, and dozens of media interviews. In addition to Jennings-Bey, Bergen-Cico and Lane, partners now include Falk public health faculty David Larsen and Arthur Owora, Tracey Reichert Schimpff and Linda Stone Fish from Falk’s MFT Department, Robert A. Rubinstein, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and Robert Keefe, faculty member at the University at Buffalo. Community partners include Frank Fowler, former chief, Syracuse Police Department, and Helen Hudson, Syracuse Common Council president and founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence, among others.

“It is an exciting and hopeful time to have these unique opportunities to work with faculty, students and community members to collectively reduce the impact of trauma and address the root causes of violence in our community. The City of Syracuse has dedicated citizens who are taking bold and innovative steps to reshape how mental health needs are addressed. It is a wonderful synergy of bringing theory to practice whereby the lived experiences of community members are at the core of our work,” says Bergen-Cico.

In recent years, grant awards from the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York and the John Ben Snow Foundation have supported workshops to help social service professionals, educators, health care practitioners, juvenile justice workers, clergy, and mental health counselors learn how to identify and address signs of trauma.

Reichert-Schimpff notes the collaborations with the community have also increased the awareness and skills of students entering the mental health field. Each year, Jennings-Bey and the team from the Street Addictions Institute, along with Syracuse University faculty, educate MFT students around community violence and street addictions. Students hear directly from community members about how their lives have been impacted by policies and intergenerational injustice. Students also visit SCC to become familiar with available resources.

“We believe that offering trauma-informed practice in the neighborhoods of greatest violence will begin to address the most often ignored trauma, and may reduce the grief and rage that fuels the next act of violence,” says Falk Family Endowed Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy, Linda Stone Fish. “Our unique partnership with therapists and Trauma Response Team members who are trusted by the community make us ideal to address this need.”

In addition to the new mental health services provision at Syracuse Community Connections and the study and data collection specific to gun violence and gang activity as street addictions to address communities in trauma and public safety as a public health problem, on-going trauma-informed activities in Falk College also include:

  • a training program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and supported through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, to prepare military veterans to conduct trauma-related research with other veterans;
  • coursework and research on trauma informed mindfulness-based programs for veterans their families and others impacted by violence;
  • how veterans’ experiences of complex and morally fraught circumstances in military service in time of war affect emotional, mental, and spiritual health;
  • neurobiology of trauma;
  • collaborative training models for interpreters and practitioners of psychotherapy;
  • trauma resiliency in urban environments;
  • turbulent tenancy-evictions in Syracuse;
  • promoting school success among at-risk urban adolescents;
  • gender-based violence and substance abuse among female adolescents;
  • coursework and research in intimate partner violence in the U.S. and neighborhood violence in the U.S. and Caribbean;
  • links between neuropsychological executive functions and domestic violence;
  • coursework in EMDR Therapy, which relieves many types of psychological distress, and;
    courses and an academic track focused on trauma in medical settings with children.

Learn more about the Couple and Family Therapy Center
Read this article on SU News
View news coverage by

Falk students, founders of Calm Connections host information session April 5

Falk students Mabin, Hollie, and Reid
From left to right: Mabin, Hollie, and Reid. Photo credit Jelilat Williams. Courtesy of Calm Connections.

Three doctoral students are on a mission to bring simple mindfulness techniques to children and teens in the Syracuse area to help them manage big feelings. Last year, Staceyann Reid, Aysha Mabin, and Brandon Hollie of Falk College co-founded Calm Connections, a Syracuse-based nonprofit organization that teaches youth mindfulness exercises and yoga techniques such as breathing, attention training, relaxation and stretching, which they can use as tools to help manage emotions at home and at school.

By facilitating mentoring and mindfulness instruction, Calm Connections encourages systemic change by teaching compassion and empathy for one’s self and others to reduce traumatic responses such as anxiety, social isolation, and headaches, and promote healthy responses such as self-awareness and resilience, ultimately building more connected communities. The co-founders intend to expand their presence in the community over time with a specific goal of providing weekly programming in the Syracuse City School District.

The idea for Calm Connections was inspired by a meeting with campus guest speaker, Andres Gonzalez, co-founder of the Holistic Life Foundation, Inc., hosted by Syracuse University’s Contemplative Collaborative and local school teachers, which explored systematic methods of integrating mindfulness education and practice into Syracuse area classrooms.

The Contemplative Collaborative supports Syracuse students, faculty and staff engaged in mindfulness and contemplative research, teaching, and practice. Rachel Razza, Ph.D., associate professor in Falk College’s Department of Human Development and Family Science (HDFS), is the associate director of the Contemplative Collaborative and one of its founding members. “The goal of the Collaborative is to provide a mechanism for promoting contemplative-based work across the campus and within the community,” says Razza. “Calm Connections reflects this goal by addressing the critical need for evidence-based and trauma-informed programming for at-risk youth in the city of Syracuse.”

Razza’s research in the benefits of mindfulness programming in schools is what drew Reid to Syracuse University. “I always had a passion for working with children and adolescents, which I have done in different capacities over the years–most recently as a mental health counselor,” says Reid, who serves as the executive director of Calm Connections. From Queens, New York, she earned an M.S. in clinical mental health counseling from Long Island University Post. “I always knew that I wanted to do more, and I felt that delving into my research interests, which are social-emotional development and mindfulness, would be just what I needed to elevate my career and be able to make a greater impact.”

Fellow HDFS Ph.D. candidate, Mabin, is Calm Connections’ fundraising director. She is from Los Angeles, California where she earned a B.A. in psychology from California State University, Fullerton. “Through my experiences working in the public school system, I became more interested in the influences on youth academic achievement. The Syracuse University HDFS program provided a great opportunity to obtain my Ph.D. with support for my research goals.”

Hollie is pursuing his Ph.D. in Falk College’s Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. “I selected the marriage and family therapy program at Syracuse because of the renowned faculty, commitment to social justice, and their excellence in the field,” he says. “I did a lot of community work and wanted to be in a place where faculty would continue to support me in trying to bring services to the community. Syracuse was the perfect fit for this.” Hollie is from Chicago, but raised in Iowa. While earning a M.A. in marriage and family therapy from Mount Mercy University, he co-founded Recess, which delivered mindfulness training to help relieve stress among undergraduate students. Now, Hollie serves as the marketing director for Calm Connections.

Falk College is rich in mindfulness and contemplative work across several disciplines, including human development and family science, marriage and family therapy, as well as public health, social work, food studies, and nutrition. The College’s Research Center supports an active community of faculty and student researchers, both graduate and undergraduate. To learn more about Calm Connections, visit

Calm Connections will host an information session Friday, April 5, 2019 in the Wildhack Lounge, room 336 in the Falk Complex, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., followed by a reception with light refreshments. RSVP to is encouraged, but not required to attend. Community members can park free for this event in Irving Garage. Please mention “contemplative event” at the gate. For accommodations requests, please contact Bonnie Shoultz at or Kathy Rainone in the Department of Human Development and Family Science at 315.443.2757 by April 2. The event is co-sponsored by Syracuse University’s Contemplative Collaborative and Hendricks Chapel.

Page 1 of 6