Entrance to Falk CollegeSyracuse 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 Nikki Beckwith, director of dietetic internship program, Trinity Benton, kitchen technician, and Deana Hansen-Danis, procurement coordinator in the Department of Public Health, Food Studies, and Nutrition; Bradford Ducre, computer consultant in information technology, and; Lisa Liparulo, internship placement coordinator in the Department of Sport Management.

It also welcomes ten new faculty members, Chaya Charles, Jennifer Genovese, Ryan Heath, Bryce Hruska, Kenneth Marfilius, David Meluni, Jessica L. Garay, Sara Vasilenko, Bhavneet Walia, and Najah Zaaeed.

Chaya Lee Charles, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.G., C.D.N.

Assistant Teaching Professor, Nutrition
Nutrition & Food Studies

Chaya Charles joins the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies as an assistant teaching professor in the nutrition program.

Prior to her appointment as assistant teaching professor, Charles has worked as an adjunct instructor in the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies at Falk College since 2014. In addition, she is currently a consultant dietitian for Sodexo at Menorah Park and senior nutrition consultant for Oswego County Opportunities. She has previously held titles such as outpatient dietitian, clinical dietitian, and nutrition services manager at various health care facilities.

Charles completed both her B.S. degree in nutrition, and her M.S. degree in nutrition science at Syracuse University. Her master’s thesis is titled “Comparing Vegan and Vegetarian Attitudes, Beliefs and Perceptions with Risk for Disordered Eating Behavior.” She is also published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Charles is a board-certified specialist in gerontological nutrition, a registered instructor for the National Restaurant Association’s ManageFirst Program courses, ServSafe certified, and certified in food and beverage cost control. She is the recipient of the 2014 Sodexo Clinical Innovation Award, 2011 Sodexo Northeast Regional Dietitian of the Year, and winner of the 2010 National Sodexo Nutrition Outcomes Study.

Areas of specialization: Vegetarianism and disordered eating behaviors, malnutrition prevention in the elderly, cardiovascular and diabetic nutrition counseling, nutritional intervention for wound healing, weight loss counseling, meal planning guidance and the provision of nutritious menus in institutional and home settings.

Jennifer Cornish Genovese, A.C.S.W., Ph.D.

Assistant Teaching Professor
School of Social Work

Jennifer Cornish Genovese joins Syracuse University’s Falk College as an assistant teaching professor in the School of Social Work. She has previously taught in the College’s Department of Human Development and Family Science and in the School of Social Work, including courses such as Power, Conflict, & Violence in the Family; Interpersonal Competence; Family Systems Theory; Advanced Practice with Individuals, Families, and Groups; and Practice with Children, Adolescents, and Families.

Genovese is a NYS Licensed Certified Social Worker and has worked in private practice as a psychotherapist for 30 years. She specializes in the treatment of abused children and adolescents. She is a clinical consultant for the NYS Department of Social Services and facilitates monthly support groups on secondary traumatic stress of child welfare workers in multiple Central New York counties. She is also a program and ministry consultant for the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Upstate NY Synod.

Genovese has presented for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Professional Symposium in Chicago, IL and for NASW’s Annual Meeting. She was previously employed by St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center as the outpatient clinic manager of the Mental Health Services Department. Genovese formerly served on the board of directors for Girls Inc. and the Mohawk Valley Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. She was the co-host of two long-running radio programs in Syracuse, NY: Teen Talk on 93Q FM and Parenting Matters on 570 AM and 88 WAER FM.

Genovese completed a Ph.D. in child and family studies and M.S.W. at Syracuse University’s Falk College, as well as a B.A. in sociology from the State University of New York College at Cortland.

Areas of specialization: Assessment and treatment of physically and sexually abused children and adolescents, treatment of bereavement, loss and trauma in children, adolescents, and identification and intervention of secondary traumatic stress of child welfare workers.

Ryan D. Heath, M.A, L.C.S.W., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
School of Social Work

Ryan Heath joins the School of Social Work as an assistant professor. Heath’s research seeks to understand how out-of-school programs (e.g., extracurricular, afterschool and summer programs) promote the social-emotional development of low-income youth, students of color, and other historically marginalized youth. To improve the reach, quality, and impact of these programs, his work aims to elucidate how extracurricular programs interface with other social-ecological contexts that affect youth, such as schools, peers and families, and to identify the potential mechanisms through which extracurricular programs influence youth’s social-emotional development and educational attainment. He has been involved in several research projects, most recently as a collaborator on the “Becoming Effective Learners—Out-of-School Time Study” with The Consortium for School Research at the University of Chicago. Heath has published in Youth & Society, Urban Review, Urban Education, LGBT Health, and Pediatric Research. He is also co-author of the research report, Foundations of Young Adult Success: A Developmental Framework.

Prior to joining Syracuse University, Heath taught classes on research methods and cognitive-behavioral therapy at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. As a clinical social worker, Heath has implemented cognitive-behavioral interventions with adolescents and youth groups in both school-based and community settings. He previously worked as a clinical director for Chicago Adventure Therapy, as a school-based therapist at UCAN, as a therapeutic learning coach for Project EDGE of OMNI Youth Services, and as a teen outreach program coordinator at Health Quarters.

Heath earned a master’s degree in clinical social work and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. As a doctoral student, Heath received a pre-doctoral fellowship from the Institute of Education Sciences and the University of Chicago Committee on Education, and completed a graduate certificate in interdisciplinary education sciences. He completed a bachelor’s degree in science with honors from Brown University.

Areas of specialization: Adolescent development, extracurricular and out-of-school programs, social-emotional learning, educational attainment, youth social services, school and community partnerships.

Bryce Hruska, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Public Health

Bryce Hruska is an assistant professor in the Falk College public health program where he has served as a research assistant professor, postdoctoral researcher, and project manager for the public health program. He was previously a postdoctoral fellow at the Vermont Center on Behavior and Health.

Hruska’s research focuses on better understanding how psychological stress “gets under the skin” to impact physical health. Since coming to Falk College, his work has primarily consisted of overseeing the operations of two research projects: “Environmental Toxicants, Race, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Children” and “The Psychosocial and Physiological Consequences of Taking and Not Taking Time Off from Work.”

He has most recently published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, as well as Environmental Research, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, and Social Science and Medicine, among others. He has published book chapters in the Handbook of Cardiovascular Behavioral Medicine and in Trauma and Substance Abuse: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment of Comorbid Disorders, Second Edition.

Hruska has presented his research at conferences including the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the American Psychosomatic Society, and the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. He has made multiple media appearances promoting the research that he and his collaborators are performing, and he serves as an invited reviewer for a number of peer-reviewed journals including the Journal of Traumatic Stress, Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Stress and Health, Addictive Behaviors, and Journal of Psychoactive Drugs.

Hruska earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology, with concentrations in health psychology and quantitative methods, both from Kent State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Akron.

Areas of specialization: Traumatic events, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress and health, occupational stress, recovery experiences, quantitative methods.

Kenneth James Marfilius III, L.C.S.W., D.S.W.

Visiting Teaching Professor
School of Social Work

Kenneth Marfilius joins Falk College as a visiting teaching professor in the School of Social Work.

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, and as a disruptive behavior committee member.

Marfilius previously taught courses such as Social Work Practice in Mental Health and Introduction to Military Culture and Social Work Practice, as well as guest and continuing education lectures at Falk College, and has presented for the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) and at the Association for Humanistic Counseling National Conference. He recently guest lectured at the University of Pennsylvania on “Trauma— Informed Care, Housing First, and Critical Time Intervention for Veteran Homelessness.”

Marfilius is honored with a National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal. He is a recipient of the U.S. Air Force Health Professions Scholarship and the U.S. Air Force Outstanding Unit Award and has twice been awarded the Barksdale Air Force Base Medical Operations Squadron Company Grade Officer of the Quarter.

Marfilius earned a doctorate in clinical social work (D.S.W.) and master of social work (M.S.W.) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in public health from Syracuse University.

Areas of specialization: Military mental health, military families, veteran social work, homelessness, domestic violence, suicide prevention, substance use prevention and treatment, and military culture and social work practice.

David Meluni, M.S.

Assistant Teaching Professor
Sport Management

David Meluni is a teaching professor in the Department of Sport Management, where he served as an adjunct over the past four years.

Meluni has over 18 years of experience in the sport industry, including two years as vice president of sales and business development for both 805 Stats and Infinity Sports and Entertainment. He also spent five years as the vice president of sales at SIDEARM Sports. In his tenure at SIDEARM, he negotiated and signed agreements with the University of Texas, University of Kansas, the Heisman Trophy, and the Maui Invitational as well as with several Division I, II and III institutions.

He has also worked with the New York Collegiate Baseball League as a member of its executive team. Prior to working in the digital space, the Syracuse native spent 10 years with IMG College, the multi-media rights holder at Syracuse University, where he maintained a client base of over $1.1 million per year.

Meluni serves on the board for the Camillus Softball and Baseball Association, coaches multiple travel teams for the Camillus Wildcats, and is a volunteer assistant coach for the West Genesee varsity baseball team.

Meluni earned a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College in sport management, where he also acted as captain and NCAA All-Region Infielder for the Bombers’ baseball team. In 1999, he was selected to attend the prestigious NCAA Leadership Conference. He then attended Florida State University as a graduate assistant in the Seminoles’ ticket office and earned a master’s degree in sport administration. He worked as a marketing assistant at FSU, assisting with football, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, baseball, and softball.

Areas of specialization: Sport sponsorship sales, ticket sales, technology in sport and sports marketing and promotion.

Jessica L. Garay, M.S., R.D.N., F.A.N.D.

Instructor, Nutrition
Nutrition & Food Studies

Jessica Garay joins the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies as an instructor in the nutrition program.

Previously, Garay worked at Utica College as an assistant professor of biology: physiology & nutrition since 2016. From 2010-2016, she was an adjunct instructor at Syracuse University and has held positions at Onondaga Community College and George Washington University, as well as the Washington Cancer Institute and Food Bank of Central New York.

Garay is published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, the American Journal of Human Biology, and Current Biomarker Findings, among others. She has presented at the International Society of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Conference and the NYS Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (NYSAND) Annual Meeting.

Garay is the recipient of a 2016 Emerging Dietetic Leader Award from the NYSAND and currently serves as its public policy coordinator. Garay has held several roles with the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group and is currently the research chair. Her other volunteer work includes serving as an evidence analyst for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ Evidence Analysis Library, and as a member of the American Dairy Association North East’s Sports Nutrition Advisory Panel.

Garay is completing a Ph.D. in science education, specializing in exercise science, from Syracuse University. She earned an M.S. in exercise science, specializing in nutrition and eating behaviors, from George Washington University. She completed her dietetic internship at the Yavapai County Health Department in Prescott, AZ. She completed a B.S. in nutritional sciences and a B.S. in human development at Cornell University.

Areas of Specialization: Fetal programming, nutrition and athletic performance, dietary supplements.

Sara A. Vasilenko, M.S., Ph.D.

Sara Vasilenko joins the Department of Human Development and Family Science as an assistant professor.

Prior to joining Falk College, Vasilenko served as a research assistant professor in Health and Human Development and as a research associate in the Methodology Center at Pennsylvania State University. There, Vasilenko was a postdoctoral fellow in the Prevention Research Center and Methodology Center after working as a graduate assistant in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. Prior to her time at Penn State, Vasilenko held a research apprentice fellowship in the Department of Epidemiology and worked as a research assistant in the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University.

Vasilenko’s research spans topics related to adolescence and young adult health, sexual behavior, and drug use. She is currently a subcontract PI on a grant from the Office of Adolescent Health, which focuses on how multidimensional risk factors moderate effects of teen pregnancy prevention programs, and co-investigator on a National Institute on Drug Abuse grant focusing on how substance use and its predictors vary by age. Vasilenko is published in journals such as the Journal of Adolescence, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Early Adolescence, Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Journal of Sex Research, and Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Vasilenko is the recipient of a 2006 Graham Endowed Fellowship, Pennsylvania State University College of Health and Human Development. She currently is a consulting editor of the Journal of Research on Adolescence and a member of the Society for Research in Child Development, among others.

Vasilenko earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University and a B.A. in English from Kalamazoo College.

Areas of specialization: Adolescent and young adult development, sexual behavior, developmental methodology, substance use.

Bhavneet Walia, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor
Public Health

Bhavneet Walia is an assistant professor in Falk College’s public health program. Walia joined Syracuse University in 2015 from Western Illinois University where she was an associate professor of decision sciences and founding director of the business analytics post-baccalaureate certificate program.

Her fields of specialization include health economics and health econometrics. Her research and scholarship include 14 peer-reviewed journal articles that have appeared in leading journals of applied economics, health policy, and environmental policy: the American Journal of Economics & Sociology, the Journal of Economic Education, and the Southern Economic Journal, and two in Renewable Agriculture & Food Systems, Economics Letters.

The recipient of numerous awards and distinctions that include the Provost’s Award for Excellence at Western Illinois University and the WIU College of Business and Technology Award, both for excellence in campus internationalization, Walia is presently associate editor of the Academy of Economics and Finance Journal. Her professional affiliations include the Academy of Economics and Finance and the American Economic Association.

Walia’s present research efforts are focused in three areas: early child health interventions and cognitive development; mortality and behavioral effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy and related neurodegenerative diseases; and markets for health care in the United States.

Walia holds a Ph.D. in economics with an econometrics specialization from Kansas State University, where her dissertation was entitled, “Three Essays in Health and Labor Economics.” Her master’s and bachelor’s degrees, both in economics, are from Punjab University in India.

Areas of specialization: Health care markets and policy, early childhood development, environmental health, labor market policy, statistical expertise in applied statistical programming and methodology, health statistics, biostatistics, health information systems, labor statistics, analysis of National Longitudinal Surveys, and other social and behavioral statistical analyses.

Najah Zaaeed, E.M.P.A., M.S.W., Dr.PH.

Assistant Teaching Professor
Public Health

Najah Zaaeed joins the Department of Nutrition & Food Studies as an assistant teaching professor in the public health program.

Since 2016, Zaaeed has taught as an adjunct professor in public health at Syracuse University and at SUNY Oswego. Zaaeed previously served as a mental health specialist for Interfaith Works of Central New York and as a social worker for the Islamic Society of Central New York.

Zaaeed’s research interests are in aging with intellectual and developmental disabilities, maternal and child health, effectiveness of ecological models for health awareness at global levels, and refugee health. Zaaeed authored a chapter in the book Refugee Education: International Perspectives from Higher Education and NGOs. She is also published in the International Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the Journal of Refugee and Global Health and has presented at the North American Refugees Health Conference.

Zaaeed is the recipient of the 2017 Selma Andrews Award from Loma Linda University, 2013 Global Health Institute, Loma Linda Research Funding, the 2013 Fadel Education Foundation Scholarship, and the 2008-2010 Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Fellowship from the Islamic Society of North America. She is also a board member of the Society of North American Refugee Healthcare Providers.

Zaaeed earned a Dr.PH. in public health, specializing in health promotion and education, and global health, from Loma Linda University. She earned a M.S.W. and executive master of public administration from the School of Social Work and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, respectively, at Syracuse University. She also earned two graduate certificates in gerontology and international leadership and non-governmental organizations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse. She earned a B.S. in paralegal education from Chancellor University.

Areas of specialization: Global health and mental health, health education and promotion, social media and health outcomes, addiction and wellness, gerontology, disability studies, maternal and child health, refugee health and social service needs