My primary responsibilities include community-oriented research in rural areas across Central and Southern Illinois, with a particular focus on family health and well-being, as well as developing interventions, manuscript/ grant writing, and mentoring students.
As a Midwest native, my education began in my home state of Michigan. In 2012, I graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology with an applied statistics minor and a Bachelor of Arts in German. I left Michigan to enter Saint Louis University for a dual Master’s and PhD program in experimental psychology. My concentrations were developmental psychology and quantitative methods in behavioral sciences. Concurrently, I worked for Pennsylvania State University’s Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center for over 5 years in national intervention programs to support youth. This experience led me to desire focusing on prevention research more locally. I joined the Division of Human and Community Development in the Department of Population Science and Policy in fall 2018. In summer 2021, I became Director of Social Innovation.
I integrate community-based participatory processes to target health concerns in rural communities. My current work is divided between two tracks: mental health and hospitals’ community health needs assessments (CHNA). In the first track, I work with Hillsboro and Nokomis schools identify risk and protective factors around mental health needs and work with steering committees to implement programs (e.g., Blues and Sources of Strength). In the second track I focus on innovating more community-focused, data-informed, and sustainable process to improve hospital’s community health needs assessment approach required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Through integrating a community-based participatory process into CHNA requirements, hospitals have made changes in data collection, community involvement, and youth participation.
This work and other recent projects were brought to life by receiving over $720,000 in funding. My work has been funded by the Lumpkin Family Foundation, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, and local hospitals. I look forward understanding the culture of rural communities and building a stronger future for families in Central and Southern Illinois. To read some of my select publications or read my recent interview in Psychology Today, visit the links below.