Social and Behavioral Sciences Faculty
Click on a photo to learn about our faculty and leadership.
Purdue Global Leadership
Sara Sander began her career with Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 1997. She has served in a variety of positions including professor of communications and languages and program coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences, now known as the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her experience includes over 15 years of teaching adult learners, with a focus in the last 10 years in online education and administration.
Education: PhD, Capella University; MA and BA, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville
Research Interests: Emotional intelligence, faculty performance and behaviors, communication in the online classroom
Mike Brackin currently serves as associate dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, where he oversees the public safety, legal studies, graduate public administration, and environmental policy programs. He has served as a firefighter, state training instructor, and state training director. Before joining the University, he worked as an adjunct instructor teaching fire science degree programs at 2- and 4-year institutions. He was director of the fire academy at Southern Arkansas University Tech, a full-time faculty member at the University of Memphis, and dean of public safety programs at Blackhawk Technical College.
Brackin has served on the National Fire Protection Association 1000 Committee, as chair for the Mississippi Fire Personnel Minimum Standards and Certification Board, president of the Mississippi Fire Instructors Association, and board member for the International Association Accreditation Congress Certificate Assembly. He is also a Mississippi Certified Public Manager and Executive Fire Officer.
Education: EdD, University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Honors and Achievements: 2013 NISOD Leadership Award
Miranda Brand has served as associate dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences since 2011. She joined Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 2006 as an adjunct instructor in the School of Graduate Education and subsequently led the Department of Educational Studies as academic chair from 2008 to 2011. Prior to joining Purdue Global, she served 20 years in public education in various roles including teacher, curriculum coordinator, staff development presenter, and school administrator.
Education: EdD, Nova Southeastern University
Tessa Holst currently serves as the assistant dean of students within the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences where she oversees and generates initiatives to develop student engagement and improve student retention. She is also responsible for problem identification and resolution for second-level student complaints and conflicts. Prior to her current role, Holst served as the graduation director and event planner within the Provost Office. She was responsible for bi-annual graduation event ceremonies, celebrations, and faculty retreats. She has worked in higher education for over 25 years and recently completed her second term as school board member for her local school district, having served for 4 years as president.
Education: MS, Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global)
Honors and Achievements: 2017 Social and Behavioral Sciences Outstanding Non-Academic Support Team Award (Kaplan University), 2005 Hero Award (Kaplan University), 2003 Extra Mile Award (Kaplan Higher Education)
Betsy Tomei oversees the scheduling team responsible for the College of Social Behavioral Sciences, School of Nursing, and Concord Law School and manages the Universal Scheduling process for campus and online programs. She has also served as adjunct instructor, assistant chair of the Department of Professional Studies, and scheduling manager. Tomei has been in the field of education both as an educator and administrator since 1995. She started her career with Johnson & Wales University as a financial planning counselor and financial aid officer. Tomei later joined the Chicago Public School Department, where she served as a teacher and technology coordinator, and returned to higher education when she joined Purdue Global.
Education: MBA, Johnson & Wales University; MA, Saint Xavier University
Dena AuCoin began at the University as an adjunct faculty member, moving to the assistant academic chair and the academic chair. She previously taught various undergraduate courses in early childhood with an emphasis in special education. Currently, she oversees numerous innovations in curriculum, oversees three departments, and participates in ongoing review of data to implement changes at course, department, and university levels. Before joining Purdue Global, AuCoin was an educator in early childhood, elementary, and special education for 15 years. She started her academic career at Grand Canyon University in 2009.
Education: EdD, Northcentral University
Publications: Chapter for a Montessori administration textbook
Research Interests: Early transition language and self-determination for students with disabilities, Montessori collaboration in special education, autism social skills, response to intervention in early childhood, support for students with disabilities in the Montessori classroom, how to make student collaboration more effective in the online environment
Christina Migliara heads the Undergraduate Psychology Department. She was an adjunct professor at the University for one year before moving into administration. Migliara started her career in the clinical field of psychology as a marriage and family therapist. She is the owner of Coastwise Mediation and Therapy, and her practice includes working in inpatient and outpatient addiction facilities, not-for-profit organizations, private practice, and as department head of psychology in higher education. Migliara is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, National Masters Addiction Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor, and Collaborative Divorce Mental Health Neutral.
Education: PhD, Capella University
Memberships: Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the Association for Addictions Professionals, International Coalition for Addiction Studies Education, Collaborative Law Group of Northeast Florida
Julee Poole has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology and serves as the academic chair of the graduate psychology program. Poole was a professor of psychology for 15 years before going into administration. She started her academic career at Austin Peay State University, and began teaching at Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 2007 in the Undergraduate Psychology Department before moving to the Graduate Psychology Department. She became the academic assistant chair before becoming the academic chair of the graduate psychology program in 2013.
Education: PhD, Capella University
Publications: The Cryin’ House: A Story for Children Who Witness Family Violence; When Hitting Hits Home; articles in Family Guidance Journal and PsycCritiques
Honors and Achievements: Presentations at national and international conferences
Research Interests: Family violence, self-esteem, defense mechanisms, service-learning projects, best practices and use of technology in the online classroom
Julie Riley is the academic department chair of the Human Services Department. She has worked as a college professor and in a management role in higher education for over 20 years. Riley started teaching as an adjunct professor at Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 2003. In addition to her work at the University, she owns her own private practice where she works as a clinical supervisor for counselors and a therapist for families and individuals. Riley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state New York, Certified Master Addictions Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Specialist, and Certified Divorce Mediator. She is a behavioral health consultant for local hospitals and a coach for Girls on the Run.
Education: PhD, Capella University; MS, Adelphi University; MSW, Adelphi University
Cheryl Bradt-Hyland is the assistant department chair of the undergraduate and graduate Human Services Department. She has previously worked in higher education as a site supervisor for field internship placements, consultant, trainer, curriculum developer, and as an adjunct professor at both the undergraduate and graduate level. In addition, she has both management and clinical experience in community mental health and the private sector, and works with individuals, families and children in her private practice. Bradt-Hyland is a licensed therapist in the state of New York, a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, a Human Services Board Certified Practitioner, and an Employee Assistance Coaching Specialist.
Education: MS, Capella University
Memberships: HS-BCPE through the Center of Credentialing and Education (committee member, campus coordinator/liaison)
Purdue Global Full-Time Faculty and Full-Time Adjuncts
Melanie Beath teaches various undergraduate courses in human services. She serves as the course lead for a course on human behavior and the environment. Prior to joining Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University), Beath started her academic career at Buena Vista University. She has been actively involved in the human services field for over 25 years in the areas of juvenile justice, child and family counseling, mentoring, college counseling, nonprofit management and case management, along with teaching and public speaking. She has credentials as a Human Service Board Certified Practitioner (HS-BCP) credential and Temporary License in Marriage and Family Therapy (LMFT).
Education: MA, Alliant University; BA, Central College
Research Interests: Student involvement and outcomes in human behavior and the environment
Diane Berry teaches various undergraduate courses in human services with a special emphasis on social policy and ethics. She also mentors new faculty members, acts as course lead for three courses, and assists with updating and revising course materials. She joined Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) in 2011 as an adjunct faculty member and was hired full time in 2014. Before joining Purdue Global, Berry worked in the Child Protective Services Unit at the Manitowoc County Human Services Department for 3 years, was employed at the Mental Health Association Clinic in Manitowoc, and from 2000 to 2012 operated Blue Waters Family Counseling, where she was director and only full-time therapist.
Education: JD, University of Wisconsin Madison; MSW, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Publications: Three books related to family counseling
Honors and Achievements: 2004 In Search of Excellence Award (Wisconsin Family Based Services Association), presentations at 2015 and 2016 NOHS National Conferences
Memberships: Faculty Senate, Human Services Club (Faculty Adviser), National Organization for Human Services (University representative, Advocacy Chair)
Juliet Bradley teaches a variety of courses in the Human Services Department, and has revised and developed courses on the undergraduate and graduate level. Within the Human Services Department, she has also acted as faculty advisor for different student organizations, mentored new faculty members, and has served as a course lead for several classes. Additionally, she served on several University-wide committees and task forces and has facilitated orientation sessions for new students. Bradley has worked in higher education since 2006, teaching courses related to human development, behavioral health, and human services in onground and online formats. Additionally, she is a Licensed Social Worker with 17 years of experience in the fields of human services and social work and has experience writing grants for a nonprofit mental health agency.
Education: PhD, University of Delaware; MA, Boston College; BA, West Chester University
Honors and Achievements: Presentations at national and international conferences
Research Interests: Children with disabilities, adolescents with mental health issues and substance use problems
Jessie Budzinski is a full-time adjunct faculty member in the Human Services Department. She is the instructor for two undergraduate courses, and has been involved in multiple student retention initiatives. Prior to teaching, Budzinski was a field instructor for the College of Social Work at the University of South Carolina and worked with social work students at Western Carolina Community Action, where she served as both the director of Transylvania County Head Start and Early Head Start child care centers and the Mental Health Coordinator. She also worked in a variety of early intervention programs with young children with special needs and their families.
Education: MSW, University of Michigan
Honors and Achievements: Presentations at state Head Start conferences and national Birth-to-Three Institutes
Edward Cumella brings together his clinical, research, and pedagogical experience with his passion for teaching emerging professionals, particularly those from first-generation college families. At Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University), he teaches graduate psychology classes, mentors students through master’s thesis research, and helps improve outcomes for non-traditional students. Prior to joining Purdue Global, Cumella taught psychology courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Grand Canyon University. He has been in the mental health field for 33 years, specializing in the assessment and treatment of eating disorders and the education of emerging mental health professionals.
Education: PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; MA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; BA, Harvard University
Publications: More than 80 peer-reviewed articles; editor of a handbook on eating disorder treatment
Honors and Achievements: 2016 Scholar of the Year Award (Kaplan University), Faculty Adviser of the Year Award (Kaplan University), many presentations and workshops at professional conferences, interviewed as mental health expert (ABC, FOX News, the Discovery Channel, The New York Times, Reader’s Digest)
Memberships: American Psychological Association, Western Psychological Association, professional certification program of International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals (chair), Board of Roots & Wings
Nelly Dixon is a full-time faculty member in the Graduate Psychology Department of Purdue Global. She teaches numerous courses in graduate applied behavior analysis, contributes the development of the program's curriculum and competency assessments, and serves as course lead and mentor for fellow ABA faculty. Dixon began her career as a special education teacher, in which she built a successful program in applied behavior analysis at her school district before becoming an autism consultant and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
Education: EdD, Walden University
Publications: Behavior Analysis Quarterly, Behavioral Science in the 21st Century
Honors and Achievements: Conference presentations, including Association for Behavior Analysis International; Faculty of the Year Award (School of Social and Behavioral Sciences)
Memberships: ABAI, NYSABA, Association for Contextual Behavioral Science, Behavior Analysis Certification Board (verified course sequence coordinator)
Research Interests: Behavioral approaches to increasing student engagement in online higher education, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Elizabeth Donnellan teaches various undergraduate courses in the addiction studies program in the undergraduate psychology program. She serves as a curriculum expert in addictions and mentors both faculty and students in the addiction program. Prior to coming to Purdue Global, Donnellan worked in the fields of school counseling, mental health, crisis/rape counseling, trauma treatment, and addiction, where she also held liscences in these areas. She also served as a federal grant reviewer for the Administration of Children and Families and Health and Human Services.
Education: MEd, Rhode Island College; BS, University of Maryland, College Park
Publications: Research articles, published textbooks
Honors and Achievements: Regular presentations at national conferences for behavioral health
Rhonda Figueroa is an early childhood adjunct professor, teaching a myriad of undergraduate courses for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. In addition, she is a portfolio/course evaluator for Open College, a course lead, and an education facilitator for the Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney's Community Services Program. Figueroa’s professional experience includes teaching emotionally challenged/learning disabled students in the public school system, serving as school principal for a Long Island UPK program as well as owning a large Montessori Day School and EC Center. Her NYS credentials include permanent/dual certification in General Education (EC-Grade 6) and Special Education (birth-21 years). Additionally, she is certified to teach gifted and talented students, is a licensed Public School Principal, a licensed Mental Health Practitioner, and a Creative Arts Therapist (L-CAT). Figueroa is fully Montessori trained.
Education: MS, Adelphi University; BS, Dowling College; Graduate Certificate in Addictions (in progress), Purdue University Global
Michelle Fischer teaches various undergraduate courses in human services, with special emphasis on children and families. She also serves as a course lead and assists with course development. Previously, she has served as assistant chair of professional studies. Fischer started her academic career at Delaware County Community College before moving on to teach at Strayer University, Holy Family University, and Kaplan University (now Purdue Global) as an adjunct faculty member. She is also a Licensed Social Worker.
Education: MSW, Temple University
Honors and Achievements: Professional presentations “Positivity During Tough Economic Times” and “Helping Online Students Learn to Learn”; Best Faculty Mentor Award; Outstanding Professor Nominations
Memberships: National Association of Social Workers, Academy of Certified Social Workers
Harla Frank teaches major applied behavior analysis course sequences in the Psychology Department, as well as other psychology courses. Frank has served as an expert witness for applied behavior analysis in the Colorado court system and has had the privilege of providing “ABA Strategies” training to foster care staff and foster care parents. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
Education: MS, Florida State University
Publications: Columnist, Behavior Analysis Quarterly; contributing writer, Behavioral Science in the 21st Century
Honors and Achievements: 2015 Kaplan Way Award (Kaplan University)
Sally Gill is a full-time instructor in the Undergraduate Psychology Department. She teaches various undergraduate classes in psychology, with an emphasis on new student learners. Gill has worked in child welfare, foster care, and community mental health for over 10 years. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist.
Education: PhD, Walden University; MS, Walden University, MS, University of South Florida
Memberships: Institutional Review Board (Purdue Global), Academic Appeals Committee
Research Interests: Humility, parent education, self-efficacy, grief
William Goodwin teaches various undergraduate courses in human services with emphases ranging from clinical practice to administration and leadership. In 2010, he joined the human services faculty at Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) and became a full-time adjunct in 2015. Goodwin has over a decade of experience providing mental health and counseling services. A licensed professional counselor, he has counseled individuals struggling with addiction as well as those dealing with anxiety or depression.
Education: EdS, Oral Roberts University; MA, Liberty University; MBA, Amberton University
Antonio Harrison teaches in the applied behavior analysis track. He also has presented for different student and faculty webinars. Harrison is also a high school football coach, and has hosted and produced podcast interviews and motivational audio for Purdue Global students.
Education: PhD, The Chicago School; MA, The School School; BS, Grinnell College
Publications: The Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis
Memberships: Golden Key Honour Society
Will Hughes is a full-time adjunct professor, teaching several communications courses and serving as course lead. He has been teaching on the college level for 27 years. Hughes is the executive producer of BIGTV, an intependent producer of scripted content on the web. He is Apple certified in Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, Motion, and audio editing.
Education: PhD, University of Massachusetts Amherst; MFA, Columbia University School of Arts
Publications: Clarence: The Bully Caterpillar children’s screenplay; Bannerkill book series
Marilyn Jerome teaches courses in psychology, case management, human development, and abnormal psychology. She oversees the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Jerome has served as an adolescent and family therapist at West Rivers Hospital for several years as well as parent educator for parents as teachers. Her research on emotional intelligence has allowed her the opportunity to present at several area community colleges and civic organizations. She is currently earning her certification in alcohol and drug counseling for the state of Iowa.
Education: MA, University of Kansas
Honors and Achievements: Several awards for scholarship and academic presentation including completing the Teacher Work Sample from the University of Northern Iowa
Memberships: Iowa Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, American Psychological Association
Carol Laman is a full-time adjunct instructor and teaches a variety of early childhood education courses including early childhood development, child nutrition, and current issues in administration. She has experience as a director of an early childhood facility, teaching in the early childhood and elementary school age environment as well as working with children and young adults with autism. Laman holds teaching certification in the state of Texas for general edcuation as well as special education.
Education: MA, Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global); MS, University of North Dakota
Bridget Rivera teaches various undergraduate courses in psychology and is the course lead for a number of courses. She also currently enjoys serving as the Psychology Club's faculty advisor. Before joining Purdue Global as a full-time faculty member, she worked in the field of clinical psychology for 15 years. Her experience included community mental health, inpatient work, and college counseling. Rivera holds the Master Addcition Credential (MAC).
Education: PsyD, California School of Professional Psychology
Publications: Several published works
Honors and Achievements: 2010 Martin Mayman Award (Society for Personality Assessment), several conference presentations
Research Interests: Psychological assessment, diversity training
Karen Savarese is a full-time adjunct professor in the Department of Psychology. She teaches several psychology courses and also upper-level child development classes. She has been teaching college psychology for twenty years. Prior to her work in higher education, Savarese supervised a foster care program for children with special needs. She has extensive experience working with children with special needs and their families. She has also worked with adults with disabilities to help them find greater independence and become more integrated in their communities.
Education: MS, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology; BS, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Research Interests: Children with special needs and their families
Linda Simon teaches classes in the Human Services Department. She began her career as a probation officer. After working in this field for a few years, she decided to obtain her counseling degree. Simon has over 19 years of experience working with couples, families, and children/adolescents in different settings. She has served as a peer reviewer and is the faculty advisor for the Tau Upsilon Alpha honor society. Simon is currently licensed as a Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia and is also a National Certified Counselor.
Education: EdD, Argosy University; MS, Jacksonville State University; BA, Shorter College
Honors and Achievements: Numerous presentations on stress, burnout, and academic success in the elementary and middle school setting
Research Interests: Stress, burnout, bullying, prevention
Karen Stiles teaches course in introductory psychology and child and adolescent psychology. She has been a member of the General Education Literacy (GEL) Group in Social Science and currently serves on the Ethics GEL group to discuss and review new course assignment content. She also served as the program director for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences for 2 years. Stiles has continued her studies in clinical psychology and education at the Center for Humanistic Studies/Michigan School of Professional Psychology in Detroit. Additionally she completed a clinical internship at St. Luke's Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, and an internship at MLK, Jr. Elementary School in Detroit. Stiles has been published in Capstone, the University’s literary journal. She has also written book, program, and curriculum reviews for the Youth Specialties Journal.
Education: MDiv, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg; BA, Thiel College
Honors and Achievements: 2012 Educator of the Year (Kaplan University)
Dee Strbiak teaches various undergraduate courses in psychology and also designed two courses. She has worked in private psychiatric hospitals and with the military, active in the chemical dependency field, trauma field, and workplace violence area for over 27 years. In addition to teaching in an online environment, Strbiak does training, consulting, and has private therapy clients. She is the director of a DUI treatment agency in which clients are court-ordered to attend treatment due to a drinking and driving offense. Strbiak is also a Cool Tools reviewer.
Education: PsyD, California Southern University; MA, University of Northern Colorado; BA, Metropolitan State College of Denver
Memberships: Virtual Difference Makers
Angela Thompson has taught a wide of classes in the undergraduate psychology program in both the general psychology and addictions-specific areas. She has an active role in her Department, participating in and providing feedback on numerous pilot programs with a focus on student retention and best practices. Prior to teaching, Thompson worked primarily in the clinical psychology field treating adults with dual diagnosis. She has worked in addiction treatment, community outreach, and private practice. Her former positions include vocational counselor, clinical assessor, project manager, counselor II, program manager, and therapist. During this time she obtained her Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and Certified Addiction Professional (CAP) credentials in the state of Florida.
Education: MHS, University of Florida; BS, University of Florida
Marjorie Vandemark teaches a variety of courses in undergraduate psychology. She works with a team within the Psychology Department on initiatives to increase the success of first-time students, improve retention rates, and encourage degree completion. Currently, she is doing post-graduate work in co-occurring disorders and addiction at Purdue Global to advance her skills in clinical treatment. Prior to coming to Purdue Global, she taught psychology and sociology at several local colleges both in person and online. Vandemark has an extensive clinical background that includes outpatient and inpatient treatment, crisis intervention, and community-based behavioral health with populations ranging from early childhood to elderly adults. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Behavior Specialist in Pennsylvania.
Education: MA, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Honors and Achievements: 2017 Outstanding Professor in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; 2017 TIP Conference presentation on academic self-efficacy
Kristy Vukoder teaches various undergraduate courses in human services. Her specialty is working with first-term students by helping them navigate the online environment. Vudoker started her career teaching group communication at Seton Hall University and moved on to teaching at Rutgers University. After teaching on campus for 11 years, she moved on to Purdue Global as a full-time adjunct online and teaches at her local community college part time.
Education: MA, Seton Hall University
Honors and Achievements: Outstanding Classroom Innovation Award; Professor of the Year Award Nomination
Karen Watson is a full-time adjunct faculty member at Purdue Global while also teaching at Washtenaw Community College in Michigan. She has worked as a family development specialist, crisis counselor, home-based therapist, and individual and family therapist. Her experience and specializations include advocacy in the school system and juvenile/adult court programs, anger management, and substance abuse therapy.
Education: MS, California University of Pennsylvania; Graduate Certificate in Addictions, Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global)
Honors and Achievements: 2016 and 2017 Outstanding Course Leader Award; presentation at 1st Annual Virtual Health and Wellness Fair (Kaplan University)
Lisa Wright has worked at Purdue Global (formerly Kaplan University) for 10 years, where she is a professor in early childhood and teaches a wide variety of undergraduate courses in early childhood, with a special emphasis on assessment and autism spectrum disorders. She has designed and revised curriculum in numerous early childhood courses. She began her academic career in the physical therapy department at the University of Missouri, where she was a full-time clinical assistant professor. Wright has experience working in early intervention, rehabilitation hospitals, public schools, and the home environment. She is a liscensed physical therapist and volunteer Guardian Ad Litem for the state of Florida, and is certified to teach K-12 children with exceptionalities.
Education: PhD, University of Missouri; MA, University of Missouri; BS, University of Missouri; Post-Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis, Kaplan University (now Purdue University Global)
Publications: Research on interventions for children with autism spectrum disorders; reviews several professional organizations and journals
Honors and Achievements: Regular international conference presentations