Ozioma Aloziem, MSW | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

I am a social work scholar and professor that is deeply committed to embodied learning. I prioritize liberation, radical imagination and healing in my teaching, scholarship, and activism. I use this focus to amplify the voices of communities that have been marginalized and left on the fringes of research, public policy, and global conversation. Presently, my research is centered around healing-centered organizational cultures, shared trauma, historical trauma, radical healing, and radical imagination.


Ozioma (Ozy) Aloziem, Founder and Principal Advisor of HEAL INC LLC, is an Igbo social worker situated at the intersection of multiple ways of knowing. She is a TEDx speaker and an award-winning Igbo social worker deeply committed to collective liberation, racial justice, and healing. She is a well-regarded skilled facilitator & speaker and has served as a racial equity & racial healing consultant for numerous organizations across the nation and globe. Ozy was the Denver Public Library’s first Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Manager during which time she was named a 2021 Library Journal “Movers & Shakers” award winner for her racial equity research and advocacy.

Kristen Atkinson, MSW, Ph.D. | Assistant Professor

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Kristen’s research explores young people’s activism for social justice and social change. She is particularly interested in the impact of popular education and youth organizing on young people’s development, as well as how youth activists shape the world around them. Her research draws on the methods and philosophies of community-based participatory research.


Kristen is a full-time clinical faculty member at MSU Denver, teaching primarily in the MSW program. Her practice background is centered around positive and community youth development and includes work to reduce interpersonal and community violence, build intergenerational partnerships and embed anti-oppression within our organizations.

Kristen began teaching in 2009 and has taught foundation practice courses, history and philosophy of social work, participatory research, program development, program evaluation and youth development theory and practice courses. She currently teaches Capstone I and II, Research Methods and Advanced Integrated Practice: Leadership. Her approach to teaching is grounded in critical and transformative pedagogies, as well as a deep-rooted joy in journeying with people as they embark on self-discovery.

Kristen hails from Michigan, where she earned her BSW from Eastern Michigan University. She completed her MSW at San Francisco State University and her Ph.D. from the Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois Chicago. When not working, you can find Kristen hanging outside with family and friends – gardening, hiking, biking, etc. – or inside (very awkwardly) practicing beginner piano.

Karina Benabe, MSW | Clinical Field Faculty


Karina is full-time faculty in the Department of Social Work, with a focus on field education in the BSSW program. She received her BA in Anthropology and MSW with an individualized concentration in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis. Karina has experience in fundraising and development, volunteer management, translation and interpretation, and direct service provision. Much of her experience working with clients has been at the intersection of law and social work, having worked in interdisciplinary teams of social workers and attorneys to provide services to adults in immigration detention. Karina has been working in the field education space since 2017 and loves connecting with students through teaching field seminar and other courses.

Erin Boyce, MSW, Ph.D. | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

My research interests are focused in multiple aspects of child welfare, including the impacts of abuse and neglect, family engagement, parent training, and trauma along the life course in relationship to success in higher education. My current research is focused in several areas. First, I am engaged with the use of design justice for creating a diverse and equitable higher education curriculum and collaborate with colleagues on qualitative research looking at the impact of this model of design in social work. In addition, in collaboration with colleagues I am focused on understanding the role of trauma both on the learner and educator, and incorporating the lens of trauma-informed care with the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Finally, I have two projects which utilize a participatory action research model with current students in higher education. Both programs seek to serve many of our most vulnerable students at MSU Denver with the mission and goals of creating a space of belonging for students that will support their progress towards degree completion and graduate school.


Dr. Boyce received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Then received a PhD from the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver.

Dr. Boyce’s social work practice has been focused on program evaluation. She has provided management, data collection, and data analysis for large federally funded programs, to working within the non-profit sector providing direct evaluation of mental health services for at risk youth and adolescents. Dr. Boyce is currently interested in using her evaluation skills in the macro area of social work, focusing on the role of systems in the lives of families, in particular poverty and child welfare.

Currently, Dr. Boyce is a full-time faculty member at Metro State University where she teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Classes taught include Research (BSSW/MSW), Power, Oppression, & Privilege (BSSW/MSW) and Gender in Social Work (BSSW). She has also taught classes in trauma theory and the integration of social work ethics through a social justice lens.

Bianca Brandon, MSW | Lecturer in Social Work

Social Work DEI Committee Role

BIPOC Student Affinity Group Facilitator and Black-Identified Student Affinity Group Facilitator

Bianca Brandon, LCSW is a Full-Time Faculty Member as well as the BIPOC Student Affinity Group Facilitator.  Bianca has been doing DEI work in some capacity for many years, initially within the child welfare system to create equitable conditions for foster families and children.   Currently, she does work with organizations in the community around DEI and dismantling oppressive systems through anti-racism work.  Bianca teaches classes such as Power, Oppression and Privilege as well as Anti-Racist Practice, and Criminal Justice in Social Work.  As a member of the Colorado Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, she is committed to furthering equity outcomes for students and education faculty through continued education.  In her spare time, Bianca can be found spending time with her children, hiking Colorado’s beautiful outdoors and doing hot yoga.

Shawn Brndiar, LCSW, LAC | Lecturer in Social Work

Julie Clockston, DSW, LCSW, Cert Ed | Assistant Professor and DEI Co-Coordinator

Social Work DEI Committee Role

DEI Co-Coordinator, Neurodiverse & Disabled Student Affinity Group Facilitator and Black-Identified Student Affinity Group Facilitator

Dr. Clockston is dedicated and determined to support people and organizations at the social work profession’s micro, mezzo, and macrosystem levels. More specifically, she aims to uplift the four tenants of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in educational spaces. She seeks to be intentional about accepting intersectionality and the full spectrum of humanity through anti-oppressive approaches. Her work with marginalized populations over the last 30 years, coupled with her social work identity, empowers her to engage with others in the critical work of a JEDI. She brings a wealth of life experiences and her education that have informed her about the inequalities and lack of social justice prevalent in society. She strives to bolster CSWE standards and the NASW code of ethics/values while partnering with others through transformational leadership to enact sustainable positive change.

Areas of Research and/or Practice

I am interested in research that focuses on utilizing a community-based participatory action research approach through qualitative, mixed methods involving public and private partnerships and social work. I enjoy incorporating students into the research and learning process for program evaluation and research methods. I love supporting students in getting past the fears of research and exploring areas that are important to them as social workers. I am interested in educating and incorporating Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) work across all areas of social work. It is my goal to integrate it into every area that I teach.

I am interested in developing approaches to enhance the quality of life for all people, mostly lower socio-economic individuals residing in America. As a result, my professional goal is to become an established researcher for individuals and families with developmental and intellectual disabilities. I plan to seek opportunities to enhance my understanding of innovative research methods and increase my capacity to apply mixed methodologies to a given research question. Moreover, I intend to use my experience to influence positive outcomes for individuals involved in the human service system and the CPS department through community participatory research by adopting a care perspective system. My academic commitment is to research, community advocacy, and teaching social work.


Julie Clockston (She/Her/Hers) is a proud alumna of MSU Denver, where she earned both her BSSW and MSW. She was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. She completed her Post-Masters Certificate in Education with a specialization in college teaching, instructional design online track, and her Doctor of Social Work (DSW) at Capella University. She is the President of The National Association of Social Workers Colorado Chapter (NASW, Colorado) 2019-22. At NASW, she serves on the education and the diversity, equity, and inclusion committees.  She is the president of The Association of Successful Parenting (TASP), an international organization. At TASP, our mission is: We are Dedicated to Enhancing the Lives of Parents Living with Cognitive Difficulties and Their Families through Education, Advocacy, and Support. At TASP, she serves on the education committee and as chair of the executive committee. In addition, at TASP, she is a lead trainer, educating professionals who work with parents living with Developmental/Intellectual disabilities (IDD).

She serves on several other organizations and university boards. She is a social work solopreneur who has worked with individuals living with IDD for 26 years. During the course of her career, she has been a state-licensed therapeutic foster parent and early childhood educator. She is a mental health normalizer who works in private practice specializing in trauma work utilizing evidence-based modalities such as EMDR, Brainspotting, and an eclectic variety of treatment approaches. She is a licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). She is a coach and consultant, and forensic competency-based parenting assessor. She especially, loves working with students and is a field instructor, university professor, lecture, author, and speaker. She enjoys teaching a variety of social work courses. She desires that students leave her class feeling heard and valued. She wishes for them to learn first and foremost to gain the competency and skill set they will need to go forward. Outside of her professional ecosphere of all the most significant things in life are her four children.

Currently, Dr. Clockston is a full-time Faculty Assistant Professor at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, primarily in the BSSW program. She is involved in the BIPOC Faculty and Pedagogy and Diversity Committee. Being a full-time professor in higher education at MSU Denver is a pinnacle accomplishment and is one of her most rewarding professional endeavors.

Perri Corvino, MSW, LCSW, LAC | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Perri is currently focused on their PhD dissertation: bringing trauma-informed care to higher education classrooms. They are also developing a training program for supervisors to provide compassionate and effective supervision to therapists with a personal history of trauma. They are very curious about the relationship between spirituality, mental wellness, trauma, and healing.

Perri’s clinical work addresses the complexity of healing from trauma and addiction by using psychodynamic psychotherapy, trauma-informed care, anti-oppressive practice, and harm reduction.


Perri is a full-time clinical faculty member at MSU Denver. They received their Bachelor of Arts degree from SUNY Potsdam in Psychology. They received their Master of Social Work degree and Master of Arts in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. They are currently completing their PhD studies at Smith College’s School for Social Work. Perri has worked in outpatient, residential, and jail-based addiction treatment settings in the Denver Metro area. They attained their addiction counselor licensure to enhance their capacity to facilitate healing from substances and trauma. They supervise licensed therapists. They teach Generalist Practice, Social Work Supervision, and Trauma-Informed Social Work.

Devon Cozens, LCSW, MSW | Clinical Field Faculty

Kristin Lindsay Danhoff, Ph.D., MSW | Associate Professor and Assessment Coordinator

Areas of Research and/or Practice

I am passionate about educating the next generation of social workers to think critically, to respond with integrity, and to think of our world (and its inhabitants) in a holistic way. I am encouraged for the future of our profession every day by the passion, intellect, drive, sense of justice, and commitment I see from our amazing students! My work experience prior to arriving at MSU Denver focused in child/family work, medical social work, program evaluation, and domestic violence. Kristin is the author of the book: 101 Careers in Social Work (with her colleagues Dr. Ritter and Dr. Obermann).

Dr. Danhoff is Associate Professor and Assessment Coordinator in the Department of Social Work. Kristin received her PhD from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO and her MSW from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Her areas of research have focused on program evaluation (which can take you so many places!), education/teaching theories, and wellness. Kristin examines how the fundamental beliefs educators have about teaching and learning present in the classroom setting. She is interested in exploring how those teaching philosophies influence student outcomes, engagement, and sense of belonging. Dr. Danhoff is passionate about helping her students think of themselves holistically to help them prepare to be well in this profession of wellbeing.

Dr. Danhoff teaches primarily in the BSSW program and has taught: across the Generalist Practice sequence (GP I, II, and III), Social Work Experience and Field Experience, Case Management, Research I and II, and Research Methods (MSW).

Kristin is originally from Nebraska and have lived in Colorado for over 20 years. She has over a decade of experience in the field of social work with state agencies, hospitals, and community-based non-profits in Nebraska and Colorado. Kristin loves sports (Go Avs and Huskers!), her fur babies, and traveling.

Lori Darnel, JD, MSW | Assistant Professor

Social Work DEI Committee Role

Lori Darnel has combined theoretical knowledge with practical experience, to focus on advocacy skills and interdisciplinary education to address equity and inclusion.  Working on curriculum, initiatives, and trainings in DEI for approximately 8 years, Ms. Darnel currently sits on the DEI committee and facilitates the white identified affinity group titled Allies Becoming Accomplices.

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Criminal justice reform, child protection, and cultural responsiveness.


Lori Darnel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver teaching in the Macro Content Area. Starting at MSU Denver in 2013, Ms. Darnel was an adjunct at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work since 1999. Combining a theoretical knowledge with practical experience, Ms. Darnel focuses on teaching advocacy skills and interdisciplinary education with an emphasis on legal issues and policy.

Ms. Darnel is a native of Colorado and received both her Juris Doctorate and Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver. She has dedicated her career to advocacy including at risk youth, families and senior populations. Starting her career at the Denver District Attorney’s Office as a prosecutor and then moving into the non-profit sector with nonprofit management, Ms. Darnel has continuously integrated the practice of law with social work.  Prior to coming to MSU Denver, Ms. Darnel practiced law extensively in criminal, juvenile and family law areas.  In addition, Ms. Darnel practiced social work in the area of aging through ombudsman work in long-term care, truancy through program development for school districts and judicial districts, as well as non-profit management.

Barbara Decker, MSW | Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Barbara is most interested in exploring how students who have been marginalized in the educational system, especially those with disabilities or who are first generation college bound, can feel accepted and find ways to share their gifts in schools and universities. In addition, Barbara is very excited to teach the Environmental Justice and Social Work elective.


Barbara is thrilled to teach in the Department of Social Work at MSU Denver and believes that her career has been building toward helping her be prepared to teach the amazing students at this university. She has spent her career working with students at the university and high school level who have been marginalized in the education system. Barbara worked at the University of Denver’s Learning Effectiveness Program and taught at the Women’s College at DU. Later, she directed a comprehensive support program for students with learning disabilities and ADHD at a Denver high school. Barbara was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver in the Graduate School of Social Work. Most recently, Barbara worked with a local mentoring agency and headed efforts to provide case management and mentoring for underserved students after they completed high school. Barbara earned both her BA in Sociology and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Denver. With two children in college, she is hoping to one day have hobbies. She is thrilled to have her daughter attending MSU Denver and now has a great reason to get to campus theater productions to see her daughter perform. An ideal day for her would involve a long walk with her husband and sometimes naughty greyhounds, a dinner at home with her family, and curling up on the couch with a good book.

Matthew Drake, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D. | Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Shawna M. Farrell, MSW, Ph.D. | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

International Social Work
Indigenous Research Methodology
Discernment and Social Work Practice


Shawna Margesson, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

She has over 20 years of experience in the areas of international social work, program evaluation and the nongovernmental sectors both in the United States and globally. Margesson runs her own consulting business called LotusOak Counseling, LLC. She has taught in Colorado, California and abroad in South Africa, Belize, China and Ireland/Northern Ireland. Margesson joined MSU Denver in 2018.

Her passion for the peer to peer movement in mental health has led her to serve local nonprofits in mental health equity. Margesson served on the Behavioral Transformation Council for the Governor of Colorado representing peers in behavioral health. She was also a policy committee member for Mental Health America of Colorado and mentor for VISTA members for Corporation for National and Community Service. Her current research interests include international mental health, first generation college learners and program evaluation in mental health.

Margesson received her doctorate in social work from University of Denver in 2011, a master’s in advanced generalist social work practice from Colorado State University in 2001 and a bachelor’s in philosophy from Humboldt State University in 1995.

Tanya Greathouse, LCSW, Ph.D. | MSW Program Director, Associate Professor and DEI Co-Coordinator


Tanya Greathouse, Ph.D., earned her BA in Sociology from University of Colorado Boulder, a Master’s in Social Work from University of Denver and a PhD in Clinical Social Work from Smith College. She completed American Management Association Managers training and VISIONS Multicultural training. Dr. Greathouse serves as a Faculty Field Advisor at the rank of Adjunct Associate Professor for Smith College School for Social Work, Affiliate Faculty for Metropolitan State College of Denver and is a private psychotherapy practitioner in the Denver/Boulder area. Her foundation of cultural competency is informed by her teaching curriculums and multicultural trainings. She holds certifications as; Administrator and Interpreter for the Intercultural Developmental Inventory and QPR Gatekeeper Instruction.

Outside of her professional activities, Greathouse is an avid bicyclist, outdoor enthusiast and enjoys cooking with her partner.

Louise Haimowitz, LCSW | Senior Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Perinatal Mood Disorders, Failure to Thrive in Infancy, Early Trauma, Attachment Disorders, Parenting.


Louise Haimowitz LCSW has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 1985, and has held numerous community mental health positions providing clinical supervision, and program administration within nonprofit settings serving at-risk populations children and families in need of trauma-informed care. Louise has also maintained a private practice and utilizes her advanced certification in the use of EMDR for treating complex trauma, as well as specialized training in the use of DBT and Trauma-Informed CBT. Louise currently provides consultation to child protection caseworkers aimed at improving resiliency and reducing the incidence of vicarious trauma. Louise has been an instructor in the Graduate School of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver since 2011, and has been grateful for the opportunity to work with students teaching primarily MSW courses : Generalist Practice I & II; Advanced Integrated Clinical Practice, Maternal & Infant Mental Health; and Field Experience III & IV. Louise incorporates mindfulness practice into all class sessions as an element of her trauma-informed teaching approach.

Christian Itin, MSW, Ph.D. | Professor and Curriculum Coordinator


I was born in Queens New York and grew up in Connecticut. I’ve lived in Vermont, New Hampshire, Upstate New York, and Northern California. This is my third time moving back to Colorado.

I discovered a passion for social justice as a child of the 60’s. I grew up with a growing awareness of the racial, economic and environmental issues surrounding us. I began engaging in service in junior high and it has been a part of what drove me to social work. I also discovered my love of the outdoors in junior high through skiing. These early passions have been at the foundation of my career for over 30 years. I have sought to combine social work with work in outdoor adventure and wilderness contexts for much of my career. In the pursuit of combining these areas I deepened by knowledge of experiential education, group work and experiential practice. These elements make up the majority of my professional writing and presentations. I have been fortunate to travel around the world meeting amazing people and having incredible conversations about the power of work with people by engaging them in activity and group process. I truly believe (and the empirical data supports this) that a group of people engaged in activity is a powerful vehicle for change.

What attracts me to MSU Denver is the commitment of this University to the ideas of social justice and social action. The rich diversity of lived experience in our students, faculty and staff is a testament to the mission of our University. I hope to meet you and have a conversation!

Amanda Baranski, DSW, LCSW | Lecturer in Social Work

Dawn Matera Bassett, LCSW, Ph.D. | Professor


During the past 30 years Dr. Matera Bassett has worked with children, adolescents, transition-aged youth and their families who have complex behavioral health issues. Dr. Matera Bassett has worked in residential, day treatment, community-based, and sub-acute mental health settings as a Program Manager; Cultural Competence Liaison; Continuity of Care Coordinator; Family, Group & Individual Therapist, Program Specialist & Trainer, Case Manager; Family Preservation Counselor; and Youth Treatment Counselor.  Dr. Matera Bassett has been a member of several federal, state, and private grant projects. Current grant projects include:

  • Principal Investigator, HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Education & Training for Professionals
  • Principal Investigator, HRSA Behavioral Health Workforce Education & Training for Paraprofessionals
  • Co-principal Investigator, THRIVE vicarious trauma training and consultation initiative with Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)
  • Principal Investigator and Leadership Council, Kemp Center, Child Welfare Training System, subaward
  • Chairperson, Colorado State Resiliency Taskforce

Her grant project foci has included workforce development, vicarious trauma, children of incarcerated parents, and recruitment of foster parents with diverse identities. Dr. Matera Bassett has also been involved in grant projects from the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Daniels Fund where she has developed curricula and trained therapists, case workers, teachers, foster parents, and paraprofessionals on how to effectively work with children and adolescents and their families.  She has drafted policy white papers and legislation that have been adopted by the state of Colorado. Dr. Matera Bassett’s research interests lay in improving the efficacy of services provided to children, adolescents and families. The foci of her interest are on projects which support clinical staff development; address the impact of vicarious trauma on the workforce; build personal, familial and community assets; and explore the efficacy of interventions. Dr. Matera Bassett actively engages in dissemination of scholarship through National and International presentations and peer-reviewed journals.

Laura Montero, MSW | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research

Program evaluation, transition-age foster youth, crossover youth, and international social welfare policy


Laura Montero received her Master of Social Work (MSW), with a concentration in social policy and evaluation, from the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Driven by her profound experiences working with transition-age foster youth in California, Laura developed a passion for seeking out and evaluating innovative social policies and programs designed to support young people around the globe. While in graduate school, Laura’s research brought her to Melbourne, Australia, where she led a qualitative study exploring the resettlement experiences of asylum seekers and refugees. Grant funding from UCLA’s Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy supported Laura’s next research project in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Examining both the envisioned and actual policy consequences of Argentina’s established “minimum age of criminal responsibility,â€?? Laura interviewed policy experts, defense attorneys, politicians, and youth advocates across Buenos Aires. In 2018, Laura joined Metropolitan State University of Denver, transitioning from adjunct faculty to Category II Lecturer. In this role, she strives to make research accessible and applicable to the professional goals of her students. In addition to the Capstone series, Laura teaches Foundations in Social Welfare Policy, Community Organizing, Advanced Practice: Leadership, and Research Methods. Through her teaching and mentorship, Laura works everyday to motivate students to understand, embrace, and promote evidenced based practices in their own social work careers. “

Ann Obermann, LCSW, Ph.D. | Associate Professor and Online Learning Coordinator

Areas of Research and/or Practice

I am passionate about preparing social workers to thrive in any work environment through igniting their passions, challenging their critical thinking, nurturing their desire to be change agents, practicing their use of evidence based practice, and seeing the leader within!


Ann is an assistant professor at Metropolitan State University in the Department of Social Work. She received her Masters of Science in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her undergraduate degree from St. Olaf College. Ann also received her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver. Her research interest is in how the organizational health of human service organizations impacts employees, client outcomes, and quality of services.

Ann’s passion is teaching and training. She has been an affiliate instructor at MSU and University of Denver for a combination of 7 years. Her classes have included: Direct Practice, Family Therapy, Mental Health Assessment, Trauma Interventions, Trauma, and Child Maltreatment. She enjoys training child welfare and mental health professionals on many topics including trauma, adolescent development, leadership and supervision, and family engagement.

Ann has lived and worked in the Denver area for the past 20 years. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of Colorado with extensive social work practice experience working in human service management, community mental health, and with at risk families and adolescents in both child welfare and mental health settings. Ann loves everything outdoors and enjoys playing the fiddle.

Brad Palmertree, MSW | Lecturer in Social Work

Areas of Research and/or Practice

I am passionate about theories & practices related to organizational wellness in nonprofit spaces, including trauma-informed & anti-racist policies & practices, employee engagement & retention, and inclusion & belonging. As an educator, I am constantly considering ways to incorporate anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices into the classroom so that all students have equitable access to their education. I also find joy in helping students understand and appreciate the connection between micro and macro practices and how they can be the best advocates for their clients by engaging in policy change.


Before I became a social worker, I wanted to be a high school teacher. So after nearly two decades in practice, it is a true joy to be at MSU Denver supporting the next generation of change agents and global citizens. Even though I originally wanted to become a therapist, my BSSW policy course set me on a different path. Since then, I’ve worked in a variety of mezzo and macro roles including community organizing, advocacy & lobbying, volunteer management, program & service development, trauma informed systems change, training & facilitation, and nonprofit management. I’ve worked mostly at the intersections of health care policy, child welfare, & juvenile justice and I’ve dabbled in public health as a co-founder of a collective impact model to prevent & mitigate childhood trauma across multiple sectors in Metro Nashville. Along the way, I co-founded and led a nonprofit that supports LGBTQ youth & their adult allies in K-12 schools.

I relocated to Denver in 2020 from Nashville, TN and founded a consulting & facilitation business to fight burnout in mission-driven organizations by giving tools and insights of organizational wellness, joy, and resilience to nonprofits, schools, government agencies, & health care systems. At MSU Denver, I teach a variety of courses including Generalist Practice (BSSW); Social Policy & Social Justice (BSSW); Power, Oppression, & Privilege (BSSW); Social Policy Analysis (MSW); Groups, Teams, & Leadership (MSW); and Advanced Integrative Practice: Leadership (MSW).

Outside of the classroom, you can usually find me listening to NPR, exploring new hiking trails, watching The Golden Girls, eating dark chocolate, or planning a wedding with a self-proclaimed “Groom-zilla.” Our two cats, Rocky and Isabella, graciously allow us to cohabitate with them in our home in Denver.

M. Marina Pereira, MSW | Associate Professor

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Marina’s area of expertise is in Mental Health. Her teaching and research interests extend over the fields of clinical practice, leadership, faculty mentoring, and immigration.  She has special interest in the intersection of leadership, acculturation and diversity.


Professor Pereira is an associate professor in Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver’s Department of Social Work. Professor Pereira served for six years as an associate dean in the College of Language, Arts and Sciences. Her primary responsibilities included overseeing of equitable faculty hiring processes, faculty and student conflict resolution, diversity and equity issues and leading the College DEI Committee. She chaired and developed curriculum for the college’s newly hired faculty mentoring committee.  Professor Pereira returned to her role as faculty, in Social Work Department, in Spring of 2022. Prior to her service as associate dean, she served for 17 years as a faculty member in the Social Work Department. While in this role, she designed curriculum for the graduate and undergraduate programs, participated in quantitative and qualitative research studies, and supported student success and retention in academic settings.

Prior to teaching, she worked in clinical, medical and behavioral health. As a practicing clinician in medical and mental health settings, she specialized in treating domestic violence, intergenerational trauma, grief and loss

Jessica Ritter, MSSW, Ph.D. | BSSW Program Director and Professor

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Dr. Ritter’s professional social work experience has focused on child welfare, child well-being, and children’s rights. In her research she has studied the political participation of social workers in the U.S. She is the author of two books: 101 Careers in Social Work and Social Work Policy Practice: Changing our Community, Nation, and the World.


Jessica Ritter is a Full Professor of Social Work in the Department of Social Work at MSU Denver. Dr. Ritter grew up in Texas, but since receiving her PhD she has been a faculty member at George Mason University in the DC area and at Pacific University located just outside of Portland, Oregon. At Pacific University she served as the BSW Program Director and Associate Dean of Social Sciences. Dr. Ritter began her social work career in child protection due to her strong desire for working with children and families served by the child welfare system. Her career as a social worker and social work academic has been dedicated to child welfare and children’s rights as well as political advocacy focused on social and economic justice issues.

Professor Ritter earned her BSW, MSSW, and PhD in social work at the University of Texas at Austin. She teaches a variety of courses including Generalist Practice, Child Maltreatment, Research Methods, and Social Welfare Policy. She has a special passion for teaching policy with the goal of getting social work students excited about social policy, demystifying the political process, increasing students’ levels of political efficacy, and inspiring them to be engaged politically. Dr. Ritter is a Fulbright scholar and is the author of two books—101 Careers in Social Work and Social Work Policy Practice: Changing our Community, Nation, and the World. Being a social work educator is one of the great joys of her life!

K Scherrer, M.A., LCSW, Ph.D. | Professor

Areas of Research and/or Practice

Dr. Scherrer’s professional social work practice experience has focused on working with families experiencing crises, such as supporting a family member when they disclose an LGBTQ+ identity or older couples coping with illness and loss. Areas of research and practice expertise include intergenerational family relationships, aging, the life course, and sexual orientation and gender identity, with particular focus on bisexual, asexual, transgender and non-binary identities.


K Scherrer is a Professor in the Department of Social Work. Dr. Scherrer’s scholarship focuses on how issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity shape people’s life course experiences of social inequality, particularly within family systems. Drawing on an interdisciplinary framework (sociological and social work), Dr. Scherrer’s research reflects their commitment to understanding how social inequalities are constituted at micro-, mezzo-, and macro- levels of society. Dr. Scherrer’s primary focus has been to better understand social inequalities, how they persist, and ultimately, how they can be dismantled, as well as to prepare students to address social inequalities in social work practice. While much of their work focuses on inequalities experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (and other allied gender and sexual identities) (LGBTQ+) people, they strive to take an intersectional lens in examining how issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, ability status, nationality, and other identities shape social experiences. Recent research has focused on the experiences of trans and non-binary University students, culturally responsive practice with bisexual and asexual individuals, and queer joy. Currently they serve as a Faculty Fellow for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, with a focus on campus climate.

During their 12+ years as a full-time faculty member, they have taught numerous undergraduate social work courses including, Introduction to Social Work, Social Work Experience: Practice and Communication, Social Work Practice with LGBTQ+ People, Privilege, Oppression and Power, Gender and Social Work, Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Advanced Cross-Cultural Issues, Generalist Practice IV, and Creative Approaches to Change. Dr. Scherrer has also taught MSW courses, including Social Work Practice I with Individuals, Families and Groups, Clinical Social Work: Aging, LGBT Issues, Women’s Issues, International Social Work, and Exploring Diversity. They also supported PhD students, and developed and taught curriculum to DSW students at Rutgers University, on the topic of Current Perspective on Gender and Sexual Orientation: Theory, Research and Practice.

Dr. Scherrer received a BA in Sociology and Psychology the University of Colorado at Boulder. They conducted their graduate work at the University of Michigan where they received an MSW, a MA in Sociology and a PhD in Social Work and Sociology, as well as a certificate in teaching. Dr. Scherrer is a licensed social worker in the state of Colorado.

Eileen Starr, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D. | Associate Professor

Area of Research and/or Practice

Religious and Cultural Tolerance in Northern Irish Participants; Impact of the Ulster Project Delaware (Cross-community Programs); Community and Sectarian Violence, especially with children and adolescents


Eileen Starr was born and raised in Newark, Delaware and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (Delaware; Maryland; Colorado). She received her PhD and Master’s Degree in clinical social work from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and did her dissertation research in Northern Ireland. While in Northern Ireland, Eileen also facilitated seminars dealing with challenging families and children/adolescents in the Social Work Department at Queen’s University, Belfast, NI.

Eileen has been a community social work practitioner most of her career at Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services Inc. (UBCSS), a private, non-profit agency in Cecil and Harford Counties in Maryland. At UBCSS, Eileen developed and was the supervisor of the School Based Mental Health Program (SBMH). She continues her private practice through tele-psychiatry with Mid-Atlantic Behavioral Health (Delaware) on a part-time basis. Eileen has been an adjunct professor since 2000 teaching undergraduate and graduate social work classes at Widener University, Chester, Pa, Salisbury University, Md. and the University of Delaware in the sociology and criminal justice departments.

Eileen is behavioral in her teaching style and clinical work, describing her style as “very interactive in partnership with her students, clients & families to help them meet their goals established in the classroom and in the therapeutic process.”  She believes a reciprocal therapeutic relationship cultivates the best possible outcomes in her students as well as her clients.

In her “off time,” Eileen enjoys outdoor recreation and has coached and officiated girls’ basketball at the Middle and High School levels, taking her High School teams as an assistant and head coach to regional and state championship games. She is hoping to coach again in the Denver area.

Ann Sullivan, LCSW, Ph.D. | Clinical Field Faculty

Kate Trujillo, LCSW, Ph.D. | Associate Professor

Areas of Research

My career in social work is dedicated to child welfare with a focus on healing trauma, prevention, and workforce development.


I am a full-time member of the faculty at MSU Denver, Department of Social Work. I have been practicing social work with a focus on child welfare since 1999. I earned a Master’s Degree (2001) and a PhD (2010) in Social Work, both from the University of Denver. I have held a number of positions: caseworker, clinician, supervisor, research assistant, grant administrator for a Children’s Bureau federal demonstration project, and non-profit executive. I am the principal investigator at MSU Denver for the Colorado Child Welfare Scholars Consortium (CCWSC). We are dedicated to preparing scholars for high-impact careers in child welfare. Our community of leaders is committed to developing systems that are anti-racist, trauma-informed, and focused on prevention.
My research is focused on children from vulnerable populations who have been displaced, disrupted, abused or who have otherwise experienced trauma. Framed by critical realism, my research relies heavily on recognizing the importance of embodiment and engagement as foundations for human relationships. My orienting research question has been to investigate how vulnerable children approach their performance of everyday life and orient themselves toward their possible futures.

You may see me around MSU Denver with Nellie, an 80-pound black lab and certified therapy dog. Another area of scholarship is animal assisted therapy and Nellie and I are busy, with projects related to reducing trauma, supporting family relationships, and supporting social work students.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be a part of your learning and professional development. I love teaching and value the relationships I build with you in the classroom and as an advisor.

Outside of work, I love to explore the Colorado mountains, hike, ski, SUP, and camp with my family.