Social Work  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

Social work students explore lead poisoning of children in NYS, Syracuse, at 21st Annual James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum


A group of people listen to a speaker in a courtroomOn November 1, students in Syracuse University’s School of Social Work in Falk College explored one of today’s major public health threats that hits very close to home: lead poisoning of children in New York State and specifically, Syracuse. Each year an estimated 1,800 children are found to be lead-poisoned in New York State.

With a focus on implications for public policy and social work practice, the 21st Annual James L. Stone Legislative Policy Forum brought students together with neighborhood, community and political leaders, and other experts to understand what can and needs to be done about the unacceptably large number of children exposed to lead.

Any amount of lead in the body can be harmful, causing life-long cognitive and neurological delays and behavioral problems, among other issues. It is caused by inhaling or ingesting microscopic lead dust that comes from lead paint in older homes, the dirt where children play, water flowing through lead pipes into our homes, and other less pervasive sources.

Students heard from panelists and speakers including state and county officials and others with political, professional and personal experience addressing lead poisoning from many aspects, including:

  • social, economic, and political forces giving rise to this problem;
  • implications of poisoning for children, families and communities;
  • ways social workers, social work services, public health professionals and policy advocates touch families experiencing the lead poisoning of a child;
  • efficacy of existing laws, regulations and programs;
  • legislation, administrative changes and advocacy civic efforts, and;
  • practical steps for remediating and eliminating lead poisoning of children.

Keynote speaker, Hon. Gustavo Rivera, senator, New York State Senate, District 33, Chairman, Committee on Health, presented, “Legislative Action to End Lead Poisoning of Children in New York State.” Panels included:

Making State and Local Change
Moderator: Eric Kingson, professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Hon. Rachel May, Senator, New York State, District 53, chair, Committee on Aging and chair, Legislative Commission on Rural Resources; Hon. David H. Knapp, Chair, Onondaga County Legislature; Hon. Pamela J. Hunter, assemblywoman, New York State Assembly, District 128; chair, Subcommittee on Women Veterans.

Lead Poisoning of Children in New York and Syracuse: Poverty, Race, & Environmental Injustice
Moderator: Nancy Mudrick, professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work,
Panelists: Sandy Lane, professor of public health and anthropology, Syracuse University, Research Professor Upstate Medical University; Robert Searing, curator of history, Onondaga Historical Association; Hon. Joe Driscoll, 5th District councilor, Syracuse Common Council, founder, Syracuse Lead Prevention Coalition; Kelly J. Mikullitz, Esq., supervising partner, O’Connell and Aronowitz Lead Poisoning and Toxic Exposure Litigation Group and first vice president, Brain Injury Association of New York State.

The Lived Experience: How Lead Poisoning Affects the Lives of Children, Families, and Service Providers
Moderator, Carrie Smith, associate professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Darlene Medley, parent and member, Families for Lead Freedom Now; Oliviere Sekarore, bridging case manager, Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment (RISE), and; Ellen Morrissey, grandmother, member, Families for Lead Freedom Now, and founder of an online lead poisoning support group.

Public/Private Collaborations to End Lead Poisoning in Syracuse
Moderator, Stefanie R. Pilkay, assistant professor, Syracuse University School of Social Work
Panelists: Peter Dunn, president & CEO Central New York Community Foundation; Stefanie Pasquale, commissioner, Department of Neighborhood and Business Development, City of Syracuse; Debra Lewis, MSW, lead program coordinator, Onondaga County Department of Health; Paul Ciavarri, community development organizer, Community Counsel Project of Legal Services of Central New York.

The day-long event concluded with comments from Professor Kingson and MSW graduate student, Ellan Ryan. Ryan served as the student conference coordinator working closely with event organizers Professors Kingson and Carrie Jefferson Smith, along with director of the School of Social Work and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Syracuse University, Keith Alford.

School of Social Work alumnus, James L. Stone, MSW ’64 created an endowed fund to support this event into the future and was involved in this year’s event. “Once again, the School of Social Work has brought together an amazing and informative panel of experts, law makers and committed community leaders who bring clarity, understanding, and passion to a significant issue that is relevant to social work practice and policy. We are indebted to James Stone for his generosity in endowing this event,” says Diane Lyden Murphy, Dean, Falk College.

Helping seniors age in place: Career paths for social workers in legal settings

Wendy Goidel
Wendy Goidel, Esq.

Wendy K. Goidel, Esq., ’84, principal of the Goidel Law Group, founded the Geriatric Care Advocacy Center® to promote awareness about an alarming national epidemic – the shortage of geriatricians, allied health care professionals and other helping/service practitioners trained to support the aging population.

“I am passionate about helping seniors to safely and successfully age in place in the residence of their choice,” says Goidel. Because the traditional elder law model is fragmented and fails to adequately address critical health and care needs, Goidel created an interdisciplinary, holistic approach that integrates the best practices of both geriatric social work and estate and long-term care planning to assist clients and their caregivers and families along the continuum of care.

Recognizing the invaluable benefits of working on a team with geriatric social workers, Goidel introduced her collaborative model to Falk College’s School of Social Work. She is leading and funding an initiative between Goidel Law Group, Falk College, Syracuse University Law School’s Elder and Health Law Clinic, and SUNY Upstate Medical Center to develop a medical-legal-social work partnership model at the academic level. This innovative initiative will inure not only to the benefit of students across the triad of disciplines, but ultimately to the growing demographic of aging Americans. This initiative is particularly synergistic with the goal of the School of Social Work’s Field Office to provide internships in non-traditional settings, such as legal clinics.

Students are not typically exposed to internships in corporate settings. However, according to Goidel, “students and business leaders need to be educated about the unique value and perspective that social workers can provide to the for-profit sector.”

School of Social Work Sponsors “Theater of War”


A panel of 4 persons present to an auditorium of peopleOn Oct. 17, members of the Syracuse-area professional community gathered on Syracuse University’s South Campus for a full day of veteran cultural competency training followed by “Theater of War,” an innovative public health project designed to encourage thought and discussion around the impact of war and its challenges faced by military service members, veterans, their caregivers and their families.

Sponsored by the Falk College School of Social Work, “Theater of War” attendees learned best practices for delivering quality, culturally competent care and education for veterans and military families as well as how to acquire and implement the strategies for optimizing their performance and growth. Upon program completion, each participant earned 7.25 credits in evidence-based veteran cultural competence training.

“Trainings like this go a long way in creating more military-friendly communities and workplaces,” says Ken Marfilius, a United States Air Force veteran and professor in the Falk College’s School of Social Work. “The University’s readiness to provide this type of impact program speaks to the institution’s long-standing commitment to the military community and helps those who serve and employ veterans to bridge the military-civilian divide.”

“I know firsthand the power of experiential education,” said Tracy Walker, director of field instruction in the School of Social Work. “This program did a tremendous job engaging learners intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically. It caused me to put myself in a soldier’s shoes in a way that I have never done before and it resulted in my deepening respect and compassion for our soldiers.”

Read more about the event at Syracuse University News

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.

Veterans, health and society


Veterans put up a flagA recent edition of WCNY’s Connect New York, “Beyond PTSD: Veterans, Health & Society,” interviewed visiting teaching professor Kenneth Marfilius. The session, led by broadcast journalist Susan Arbetter, focused on the mental health challenges of veterans. Besides Dr. Marfilius, experts included Derek Coy, a Veterans’ Health Officer with the New York State Health Foundation, Melissa Spicer, President, CEO and Co-Founder of Clear Path for Veterans, and Dr. Tanya Bowen, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist at the Syracuse VA Medical Center.

Active veterans often do not seek help because they fear a mental health diagnosis that could lead to a Fit for Duty examination and possibly to a discharge. Active duty mental health therapists can also have a difficult job of balancing the needs of the military and the mission as well as those of the individual on active duty service. These challenges can lead individuals on active duty to not speak up when they have a problem. Sometimes the feeling of not being able to talk about mental health carries over into their civil lives once they are out of the service.

While active duty, Marfilius served in the U.S. Air Force Biomedical Science Corps in multiple roles: active duty clinical social worker, mental health therapist, family advocacy officer in charge, and as manager of the alcohol and drug prevention and treatment program. He was commissioned in 2013 and was discharged in 2016 having obtained the rank of captain. At the Barksdale Air Force Base, Marfilius served in a variety of mental health roles related to sexual assault prevention and response, suicide prevention, and traumatic stress. Marfilius has also worked for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs at the Syracuse VA Medical Center in the Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Program.

Community groups are key in engaging veteran populations and providing a sense of belonging and purpose. One example of this is the Clear Path K-9 program, which has helped to shed light on the importance of animal-assisted intervention for health. Veterans dealing with depression, anxiety and chronic health issues sometimes have a hard time acknowledging the need for help and can be mistrustful of the system depending on their experiences. During the WCNY edition, Melissa Spicer explained that Clear Path was founded on building trust within the veteran’s population. The organization originally started with a K-9 service dog program.

The K-9 Dogs2Vets program, provides emotional support to veterans with post-traumatic stress, military sexual trauma, or physical impairments by establishing a reliable relationship between them and a canine companion. Dogs are selected from shelters and matched with veterans based on specific needs and interests; some veterans bring their own dog.

The program is getting results. Veterans have become less isolated and more interactive, less hypervigilant and more physically active. The program has witnessed increases and reemergence of sense of humor, decreased levels of anxiety, increases in levels of trust and higher levels of confidence among participants. Participants have to problem solve and make important decisions with respect to their canine partners, and this spills over into decision making in other aspects of their lives.

Falk College’s Dessa Bergen-Cico and Brooks Gump, professors of public health and Yvonne Smith, assistant professor of social Work have all worked with Clear Path’s Dogs2Vets program doing research that seeks to quantify the gains, measuring things like post-traumatic stress, quality of life, and negative thoughts among participants in the program. Initial results of the program assessment looked good, including a marked decrease in PTSD symptoms and negative thoughts and increased quality-of-life scores—the opposite of outcomes observed in a control group waiting to enroll in Dogs2Vets.

Further research has reported significant reductions in PTSD symptoms, as well as reductions in perceived stress, isolation, and self-judgement, and significant increases in self-compassion when comparing the veterans that participated in the Dogs2Vets program over a 12-month period to veterans that were on the waiting list to receive a dog during that time period.

Falk College has been committed to helping veterans through research and educational opportunities:

The Undergraduate Trauma Research Training program is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Education for Undergraduates (REU) opportunity directed by Brooks B. Gump, a professor of Public Health in Falk College. This program brings together veterans and non-veterans in a safe environment to pursue trauma research activities.

The program, now in its eighth year, draws on personal experiences of veterans who understand the nature and context of traumatic events. The program has many successful stories to share that has impacted the lives of veterans and their families.

Falk College supports many other active research projects and has many veteran’s students currently getting an education. If you are a veteran or individual interested in joining an educational program doing research with the veteran population, reach out to our Admissions team to find opportunities that fit your passions.

Falk College’s many academic programs focus on touching the lives of individuals and making an impact within our community.

View a listing of all of Falk College’s academic programs
Watch the full interview on WCNY Connect New York

Social Work Student Leads On and Off the Ice


Allie Munroe and fellow hockey teammates discuss on the iceAs Allie Munroe graduates with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the Falk College, she looks back with deep gratitude on her experience as a student and a four-year defensive player on the Syracuse ice hockey team. After leading Syracuse University to its first NCAA tournament, Allie Munroe charts a course to play professional ice hockey.

Allie Munroe grew up at the hockey rink and soccer field in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. Not one to sit on the sidelines, she strapped on her first pair of ice skates at age five. That was the first spark that ignited Munroe’s passion for hockey.

That passion—and a fierce determination—led her to teams and camps in Canada, and eventually to Syracuse University, to develop her skill in the sport.

As a senior captain, she helped lead the Orange to the College Hockey America (CHA) championship and a spot in the NCAA tournament, the program’s first in its 11-year history. She was awarded Best Defensive Player and Most Valuable Player honors at the team’s annual banquet on April 25.

Becoming a student athlete

When exploring colleges, Syracuse quickly captured her heart. “I stepped on campus and fell in love right away,” she says. “There is so much history here, and everyone knows Syracuse for its academics and athletics.”

She learned to balance her life on the ice and in the classroom. As a part of the required internship for her major, she worked at Huntington Family Centers, a local organization dedicated to children and families. There, Munroe provided pre-counseling and post-counseling services. “My internship experience helped me to put everything in perspective,” she says. “No matter what happened on the ice, I got to go to my internship and help people. Some days were difficult, but it was rewarding.”

Munroe says being a student-athlete helped her to be a better student in the classroom, especially with time management skills. “When I was in class, I usually had to stop myself from trying to relate it to hockey,” she says.

Munroe reflects on the growth she has experienced on the ice during her four years at Syracuse. “I was a little bit of an underdog; I am going to assume the coaches really didn’t know how I would turn out,” she says of her first year. “I am pretty proud of what we have accomplished, especially winning the CHA in my senior year.”

In that first year, the team advanced to the CHA championship game, but lost, leaving a strong memory. “In the locker room, there was not a dry eye. You realize you are never going to play with these seniors—or this team—again,” she says. “It’s heartbreaking.”

The experience was still fresh in her mind as the team closed in on the 2019 title. “I think there was about a minute left and I had the puck. I realized we were going to win and can’t even describe the feeling,” she says. “I had a flashback—there are no sad tears today. We get to throw off our gloves and celebrate.”

“That moment, just skating on the ice, it was like, this is it—it has been an amazing four years at Syracuse. It just all hit me at that moment. Especially celebrating afterwards. I had tears in my eyes, just all of the emotion of past years,” she says.

The Promising Path Ahead

With her Syracuse experience complete, Munroe is now focused on playing hockey professionally and working toward her goal of representing Canada in the Winter Olympics. She also plans to pursue a career in social work in the future.

Wherever her journey takes her, she says she will always bleed Orange.

“I am going to miss Syracuse more than you know,” Munroe says. “It has a special place in my heart; I couldn’t have picked a better school.”

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Adapted from Syracuse Stories – an article by Kelly Homan Rodoski

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