Department News, Fall 2018

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition
Support the Department
Stay Connected

Message from the Chair

John Philbeck


Dr. John Philbeck became the new department chair in July 2018.



Welcome, everyone, to our yearly Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences newsletter! We have had an especially exciting year, and we are looking forward to sharing our successes with you. I have recently transitioned into the department chair role, with special thanks to Chair Carol Sigelman for her patient and generous help. This year, we welcomed Dr. Gabriela Rosenblau to our Cognitive Neuroscience Program area, and three faculty have been promoted to full professors (Professors Le, Mitroff and Shomstein).

After years of preparations, this year also saw the successful launching of two new undergraduate majors: cognitive neuroscience and neuroscience, both co-directed by psychology faculty member Dr. Dwight Kravitz. We are excited about the prospects of these programs. We enjoyed a very successful colloquium series this past year, with six prominent psychologists visiting our department to give talks and meet with faculty and students. We are looking forward to another colloquium series this upcoming year, and we encourage you to attend when you can!

Also described in this issue is Dr. Lisa Bowleg’s recently awarded $3.7 million grant to study the effect of stressors on Black men; an impressive variety of other new grant awards to our faculty and graduate students; and a series of undergraduate research awards. As reported last year, we received a generous gift from an anonymous donor, targeted toward fostering undergraduate research. In the last year, these funds supported research projects for seven highly-motivated undergraduates. This serves as a terrific testament to the power of donations to make a real difference in the lives of individual students at this crucial time in their careers. Even a small gift can help students finish a study or attend their first scientific conference. We always welcome hearing from you! And now, please read on.



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Department Spotlights


Gabriela Rosenblau


Dr. Gabriela Rosenblau became a  faculty member in the Cognitive Neuroscience Division.


Dr. Gabriela Rosenblau joined the faculty this year as an assistant professor in the cognitive neuroscience program. “What impresses me about the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department,” Dr. Rosenblau said, “is its supportive and collegial atmosphere. My research interests cut across the department’s clinical, social and cognitive neuroscience divisions, so I am excited about the many opportunities for collaboration.” Dr. Rosenblau earned her PhD at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, where she combined naturalistic behavioral and neuroscientific assessments to investigate social information processing in individuals with autism.

“My PhD work showed me the importance of assessments that translate to real social and treatment settings, but it also emphasized the need to investigate fine-grained behavioral changes and their underlying neural mechanisms,” she said.

Dr. Rosenblau completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center, during which she studied implicit social learning across typically developing adolescents and adolescents with autism. Under the mentorship of Dr. Kevin Pelphrey, Dr. Rosenblau used a multimodal approach comprising mathematical models of behavior, neuroimaging and eye tracking to investigate learning in social contexts. “I was very excited,” she recalls, “when Kevin told me about the opportunity to build a brand-new autism institute at George Washington University.”

Her involvement with the institute presented her with the opportunity to contribute to autism research and connect with clinicians and policymakers in the nation’s capital. As a member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Program in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at GW, she is expanding her research portfolio to study brain function during various forms of non-social learning using electroencephalogram (EEG) technology, including habituation in young children with autism. “I hope that my research can build bridges between existing programs of research within the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department,” she said, “and I am very grateful for the collaborative and supportive nature of the department as a whole.”

To this end, she received a Bridge to Independence award from the Simons Foundation for Autism Research to investigate the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying learning in social and non-social contexts and their usefulness as potential biomarkers for autism. “Students at GW are hardworking and highly motivated,” she noted, “and I am eager to start new projects and engage and mentor students at different levels.”



This story was contributed by doctoral students Sharanya Rao and Djordje Modrakovic

With rising interest levels in cognitive neuroscience and neuroscience, we spoke to Dr. Dwight Kravitz to better understand all that these majors entail. Affiliated with the Cognitive Neuroscience Program, Dr. Kravitz is the co-director of the cognitive neuroscience major, which is housed under the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and the neuroscience major, which is housed under the Department of Biology.

Could you tell us a little about why these majors were created and what students can expect from them?

We noticed that many students were completing self-initiated majors in what were essentially cognitive neuroscience or neuroscience. Self-initiated majors are hard to coordinate, and so these two new interdisciplinary majors were created: a BA in cognitive neuroscience, which is housed primarily under the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and a BS in neuroscience, which is housed primarily under the Department of Biology. These majors are coordinated by Dr. Damien O’Halloran in the Biology Department and myself. During the creation process, we had input from many of the students who had previously designed self-initiated majors, and the interest level in the new majors is good so far.

The neuroscience major prepares students for careers in medicine or careers with a heavy biochemistry, cellular/molecular physiology or developmental biology component. We will be adding some courses to this major that will be taught by faculty from the medical school. The cognitive neuroscience major has more room for electives and allows students to branch out a little more. The emphasis here will be more on cognitive science than biochemistry, including language, logic, and computational modeling. It’s a more quantitative and biologically grounded version of the psychology major and is heavy on research experience, programming, statistics and analysis preparation. Both majors are a great stepping stone for graduate school.

What kinds of research and internship opportunities can students expect?

We will soon be compiling a list of the labs within the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences that will be great research opportunities for undergraduates. There are labs in biology; cognitive neuroscience; speech, language and hearing science; and even philosophy or biological anthropology. There is also the possibility for students to work in labs in the medical school, where there are at least five to 10 labs working on cellular/molecular research, or at the Autism Institute.

We also encourage students to branch out and seek opportunities outside of the GW community. The National Rehabilitation Center, Children’s National Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health are just some of the options available to students.

Who should be considering a major in cognitive neuroscience or neuroscience? Alternatively, which students would these majors be best for?

The cognitive neuroscience major is a little more free-form; there are multiple pathways in and out of the major, and this is good for students from various backgrounds who are interested in cognitive science and want a challenging major but are not necessarily interested only in medical school. This major commonly attracts students interested in computer science, psychology, biology and biomedicine.

Neuroscience is very useful to students most interested in medical school. It is good to have some research under your belt, but all of the coursework that students need to be eligible for medical school is built into this major. My advice is to get the science courses done early and complete the biochemistry classes in sophomore year. This will really help students prepare for the MCAT. It will also benefit students to get involved in research early.

Finally, why should students choose the cognitive neuroscience or neuroscience major at GW specifically?

In addition to everything that GW offers students as a university in terms of opportunity and location, we have a diverse range of faculty teaching courses for both majors that give students a full sense of the breadth of this field from biology to philosophy. Both majors are also more interdisciplinary relative to other programs.

Dwight Kravitz
Damien O'Halloran

Dr. Dwight Kravitz of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department (left) and Dr. Damien O'Halloran of the Biology Department (right), co-direct the new cognitive neuroscience and neuroscience majors.


In spring and summer 2018, the department awarded seven of our undergraduate majors grants of up to $500 each to support their involvement in research projects and community service internships. These awards were made possible by a generous anonymous donor. The GW Psychological and Brain Sciences Department Undergraduate Research and Service Grants and larger Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships for 2018-2019 will be available to all psychology and cognitive neuroscience majors. These awards aim to help students pursue their research interests and advance their careers—and they did just that, as illustrated by comments from some of the awardees:

Researching sexual assault prevention is a passion of mine, as sexual assault impacts millions of lives. With the grants, I was able to fuel my passion and investigate ways to improve sexual assault prevention programs.” — Jared Axelowitz

 “Looking at these results [on whether a sense of meaning in life was related to the adjustment of undergraduate veterans] and seeing something similar to what I predicted was an extremely validating moment for me. That is, finding strong significant correlations with such limited data reinforced my original intuitions that this topic was worth studying in depth.”— Jack Venezia

[After a semester going on calls with D.C. police officers as an intern] “When I said I wanted to work in law enforcement, the officers took me seriously and took the time to explain MPD policies and procedures as they worked, answered all of my questions, and gave me incredible career advice that I definitely would not have gotten elsewhere. I learned so much this semester and am now considering several different career options that I would not have even thought to consider had I not done this program.”  — Katie Allison

The spring 2018 winners and their projects were:

John “Jack” Venezia: With funds to give incentives to additional research participants, Jack worked on graduate student Meagan Ryan’s dissertation research in Dr. Cindy Rohrbeck’s lab and carried out his own study of how “meaning of life" moderates associations between trauma exposure and mental health outcomes among undergraduate veterans.

Katie Allison: Funds covered transportation costs for her work in domestic violence and other areas with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD); this was in conjunction with Dr. Sharon Lambert’s field internship course.

Ashley Cheng: Work-study funding allowed her to learn to program in Python and develop and conduct a study in Dr. Sarah Shomstein’s lab on how semantic knowledge affects visual attention. 

Jacqueline Mai: Transportation funding allowed her to serve as a research assistant at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS) Laboratory for the Treatment of Suicide-related Ideation and Behavior. Jackie transcribed audio files of therapy sessions and interviews with clinicians and chaplains, compiled and distributed weekly lists of suicide-related abstracts, assisted in literature reviews and maintained files on participant recruitment. Her supervised research experience was co-mentored by Margaret Baer of USUHS and Dr. Carol Sigelman.

The summer 2018 winners and their projects were:

Jared Axelowitz was the first ever winner of our new Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship, but because he also won a $5,000 Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship from Columbian College, his award from psychology was restricted to $500. Jared worked with mentor Dr. Cindy Rohrbeck on two studies aimed at preventing sexual violence by increasing the self-efficacy of bystanders in doing more than just standing by.

Isabel Griffin’s grant allowed her to work with Dr. John Philbeck to develop a new method of testing distance perception using virtual reality technology. With this method, she studied how exposure to the context in which an object will appear affects judgments of the distance of the object from the viewer.

Nir Liebenthal, who also scored a Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship, received a Psychology URSG grant to support his exploratory study of whether parents of high school athletes have sufficient information about concussions and procedures for coping with them. This project was mentored by Dr. Sherry Molock.

Congratulations to all!

Cynthia Rohrbeck and Jared Axelowitz
Cynthia Rohrbeck (left) mentored undergraduate student Jared Axelowitz (right) on his research investigating sexual assault prevention, which was funded by the new Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship from the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department and Luther Rice Undergraduate Research Fellowship from Columbian College


This story originally appeared in GWToday.


Dr. Lisa Bowleg, a professor in the Applied Social Psychology program, was awarded a multimillion-dollar R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health.


Lisa Bowleg, professor of applied social psychology at George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, received a $3.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institutes on Drug Abuse for an intersectionality study focused on reducing drug use and poor health outcomes in black men. Whitman Walker Health, a D.C.-based federal qualified health center, is the study’s community partner.

The study, entitled “Reducing Black Men’s Drug Use and Co-Occurring Negative Mental and Physical Health Outcomes: Intersectionality, Social-Structural Stressors, and Protective Factors,” will examine the way stressors affect Black men across a variety of demographics, including sexual identity and socioeconomic position.

There is a long history in psychology and public health studies about the effects of discrimination-related stress on mental and physical health outcomes, Dr. Bowleg said. But many of those studies, and the policies they influence, focus on structural stressors along a single axis—race, gender or sexual identity, for example—without taking into account the way multiple marginalized positions, and social inequalities based on them, intersect.

“If you’re a Black, heterosexual man with a lower income, what does your stress look like, and what are your experiences with discrimination? And what does that experience look like compared to a Black, high-income gay man?” Dr. Bowleg said. “The ultimate goal will be to develop very specific health and drug use interventions for Black men at different intersectional positions.”

Dr. Bowleg, whose research also has focused on HIV prevention in Black heterosexual men, said that many public health interventions emphasize individual choice without accounting for the structural positions of the populations they hope to affect. For instance, she said, an earlier study she conducted in Philadelphia showed that her participants’ conceptions of masculinity often shaped their condom use—and those conceptions were often rooted in larger social-structural concerns.

“When you talk to Black men you find a lot of their concerns are about structural stuff: unemployment, prison, police violence,” she said. “HIV prevention researchers are saying ‘Use condoms, use condoms,’ but there’s this much larger structural stuff that shapes people’s lives, and those just use a condom messages don’t address it.”

The study also will focus on resilience, Dr. Bowleg said—the self-protective factors, strategies, and structural resources that help some people in marginalized positions maintain good health outcomes despite the stress of intersectional discrimination.

“We have pretty good understanding of the stressors, but we often don’t ask about strengths and what’s protective,” Dr. Bowleg said. “There are going to be men who have all these experiences with discrimination and still stay mentally healthy or don’t rely on drugs to cope. So, we want to understand how to replicate that.”

The study will run through April 2023 and will rely both on self-reported measures of discrimination at the intersection of race, gender and sexual identity, and on biomarkers of stress and drug use.

Dr. Bowleg also will be the editor of the “Perspectives from the Social Sciences” section of the American Journal of Public Health beginning in September. She hopes her editorship, this study and other work she and her team are conducting on intersectionality and public health will have a “translational impact” for other health conditions and diverse populations such as girls and women of color.

“In psychology we tend to focus very much on the individual, but there’s a larger context influencing the extent to which an individual can be healthy and happy,” she said.

-Story contributed by Ruth Steinhardt



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Department Announcements


group photo of department faculty
Faculty gathered to express their appreciation to Dr. Carol Sigelman for her dedication and service to the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department as chair. We wish her a relaxing sabbatical year!

New Grant! Dr. George Howe was awarded a four-year R01 from the National Institute of Mental Health. The grant, titled “Synthesis of trials to prevent suicide risk behavior in sexual and gender minorities,” includes researchers from GW as well as Northwestern University, University of Florida and University of Chicago.

New Grant! In addition to the R01 grant above, Dr. Lisa Bowleg received a new grant from the Kellogg Foundation to examine equitable health and financial security policies and programs for U.S. women and children. Read more about her work.

New Grant! Dr. Ana Maria Del RioGonzales received a Center for AIDS Research pilot grant to study PrEP intentions and use among Latina immigrant transgender women.

New Grant! Dr. Guangying Wu received a grant from Children’s National Medical Center to study the development of direction selectivity in the auditory system.

New Grant! Dr. Sarah Shomstein and Dr. John Philbeck were awarded funding for new interdisciplinary projects from the GW Cross-Disciplinary Research Fund.

Promotions! Drs. Le, Mitroff and Shomstein were promoted to full professors.

Core Director! The DC Center for AIDS Research welcomed Dr. Lisa Bowleg as the new director of the Social and Behavioral Sciences Core.

Publications! The faculty authored over 50 new articles in academic journals.


Christina Gee, Sam Swisher, and Barunie Kim





  Dr. Christina Gee (left), alumnus Sam Swisher, BA ’18, (center) and clinical psychology PhD student Barunie Kim (right), presented their research at APA in San Francisco, Calif, in August.


New Grant! Sammy Dhaliwal, a third-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program, was awarded an R36 grant worth $33,426 USD from the National Institutes of Health to examine the role of sleep disturbance in the development of perinatal depression. She was also featured in the CCAS Spotlight newsmagazine for this achievement.

Poster Award! Barunie Kim, a second-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology program, earned an honorable mention for her poster presentation at the annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco. Her research focused on conflict engagement and co-parenting in low-income, ethnic minority mothers.

Making News! Riko Boone, a third-year doctoral student in the Applied Social Psychology Program, published an article in The Body, an online news source, titled “Why Elton John owes Black people an apology after AIDS 2018 remarks,” following the AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam.

Graduate Fellowship! Sharanya Rao, a first-year doctoral student in the Clinical Psychology Program, was awarded a Columbian Fellowship to support her graduate studies at GW. As a graduate student, Sharanya will research LGBTQ+ health and barriers to healthcare access among LGBTQ+ communities of color.

GW Summer Dissertation Fellowship! Brianne Molloy received a fellowship from Columbian College of Arts and Sciences to support her dissertation research on causal pathways leading to college students’ decisions to misuse prescription stimulants.

Award and Postdoctoral Fellowship! Farzana Saleem was awarded the 2018 Student Achievement Award from the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Ford Foundation.

Fulbright Award! Katherine (Simone) Robins won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant award to work in the Netherlands.

NSF Fellowship! Katherine Thompson was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive a graduate fellowship to support her doctoral studies in social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Publications! Students co-authored over 20 new articles in academic journals. Graduate and undergraduate student authors included Andrew Barnett, Cheriko Boone, Andrew Collegio, Lauren Fowler, Charlotte Hagerman, Sidney Holt, Barunie Kim, Michelle Kramer, Rachel Mack, Mary Mbaba, Brianne Molloy, Joseph Nah, Veronica Pinho, Alyssa Poblete, Sharanya Rao, Meagan Ryan, Paul Scotti, Rachel Tache, Nick Talisman and Mimi Tekeste.

Conference Presentations! Students also co-authored many academic conference presentations, often as presenting author. Graduate and undergraduate student authors included Kelvin Adom, Jared Axelowitz, Andrew Barnett, Andrew Collegio, Catherine Coogan, Patrick Cox, Lauren Fowler, Andrew Gepty, Charlotte Hagerman, Sage Hess, Michelle Kramer, Emily Lauster, Zeljka Macura, Kara Meadows, Djordje Modrakovic, Brianne Molloy, Joseph Nah, Rachel Onefater, Ben Parchem, Veronica Pinho, Sharanya Rao, Jennifer Rose, Meagan Ryan, Laura Schubel, Paul Scotti, Rachel Tache, Nick Talisman, Mimi Tekeste and Jack Venezia.


More Psi Chi members than ever before! Current Psi Chi President Julia Mancini and Dr. Dennis Schell, faculty advisor, report that Psi Chi at GW continues to flourish. Last year Psi Chi inducted 25 new members, yielding a total of 51 members at the end of May—the most in decades.

Psi Chi has developed a mentoring program for all new inductees so that they are aware of the resources available to them and to create a stronger sense of community. Psi Chi also meets once each semester with the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department’s honors students (Dr. Phil Moore, faculty advisor) to discuss relevant issues in psychology.

New Psi Chi inductees, April 2018.
New Psi Chi inductees, April 2018

Grant funding on the rise! Despite the increasingly challenging funding climate, external research expenditures totaled over $2.4 million, up from $1.6 million in 2012.

New PhDs! Huge congratulations to our recent graduates, Paige Clarke and Lauren Fowler of the Applied Social Psychology Program; Sunny Hwang, Stephen Kenny, Kate Lieberman, Laura Mlynarski, Samia Ortiz-Hernandez, Farzana Saleem, Ariel Smith, Hannah Snyder and Teddi Zuckerman of the Clinical Psychology Program; and AJ Collegio and Hannah Rutz of the Cognitive Neuroscience Program.

Postdocs Galore! Many of this year’s grads have accepted postdoctoral fellowships in academic and/or clinical settings, including:

  • Lauren Fowler – Washington University School of Medicine
  • Sunny Hwang – MECCA Group
  • Laura Mlynarski – Capital Institute of Cognitive Therapy
  • Samia Ortiz-Hernandez – DC Veterans Affairs
  • Hannah Rutz – George Washington University
  • Farzana Saleem – University of California, Los Angeles
  • Ariel Smith – Children’s Medical Center Dallas
  • Hanna Snyder – Children’s National Medical Center
  • Teddi Zuckerman – University of New Hampshire


Upcoming Talks! The following invited speakers will be visiting in the spring as part of the Department Colloquium Series:

  • February 8, 2019: Dr. Jane Pearson, National Institute of Mental Health
  • March 22, 2019: Dr. Malathi Thothathiri, George Washington University
  • April 12, 2019: Dr. Vanessa Schick, University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston

This series brings together faculty and students from our three doctoral program areas to expand their perspectives. These colloquia talks also attract undergraduate students, members of other departments, and other members of the D.C. community and we are striving to further involve alumni. Please join us!

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Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Dr. Paul Poppen, Dr. Rita Patel, Dr. Haven Battles, Dr. Eleesha Lewis, and Dr. Deborah Kim






Dr. Paul Poppen (center), professor in the Applied Social Psychology Program, ran into four GW Psychology PhD alumnae in the Starbucks next to Gelman Library. The alumnae were having a 25th year reunion. From left: Dr. Rita Patel (San Francisco), Dr. Haven Battles (Albany), Dr. Eleesha Lewis (Singapore), and Dr. Deborah Kim (Los Angeles).


Aaron Moffett






Aaron Moffett, BA ’99, combines his psychology training and his sports passion to help veterans overcome physical and emotional wounds. He was profiled in the CCAS Spotlight magazine.



Helen Ackerman, MA ’62, continues to work as a psychologist in South Florida, primarily on-line, and serves those who have physical limitations, mobility issues and other constraints that limit the ability to access a physical office location.


Hala Al-Abdulrazzaq, BA ’06, currently directs the Academic Advising Center at the American University of Kuwait where he started as an academic advisor in 2008. He is also a co-founder and a creative director of an artistic t-shirt company called Local Tees.

Kajal Alemo, BA ’08, graduated from Villanova Law and is practicing disability law at Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano in Philadelphia, Penn.

Emily Alexander, BA ’16, works as a clinical research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She works on nicotine addiction studies, including an examination of e-cigarette use among adolescents and an adult smoking cessation clinical trial.

Jessica Allen, BA ’17, is currently working for a nonprofit whose mission is to end the cycle of child abuse and neglect, and applying for graduate programs in school counseling!

Kathryn Allison, BA ’18, is now attending GW for a MA in forensic psychology and working as an on-call advocate for survivors of domestic violence in D.C.

Angelica Alston, BA ’10, is currently in the Master's in School Counseling Program at Trinity Washington University in D.C.

Mollie Anderson, BA ’14, is living in Arlington, Va., and working as a primary counselor at Phoenix House of the Mid-Atlantic. She works in a residential treatment center for women with substance use disorders. She graduated from Marymount University in 2016 with her MA in clinical counseling.

Tina Arrington, BA ’93, is currently working on her doctorate in education leadership at the University of Pennsylvania.

Anisah Bagasra, BA ’02, is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Kennesaw State University. Previously she was an associate professor of psychology at Claflin University where she founded the psychology degree and built an online psychology program.

Amanda Baker, BA ’09, is the owner of Pilates with Amanda in New York, N.Y., and is currently a student at the School of Integrative Nutrition where she will become a certified integrative health coach.

Desiree Baldree, BA ’16, started working at The Conference Exchange shortly after graduating from GW. Conference Exchange is a SaaS firm that helps manage scientific conferences and meetings. She is currently looking into returning to school to pursue a PhD in environmental psychology.

Daniel (Danny) Barrow, BA ’09, is currently serving as director of admissions at LSU, one of the nation's elite 1% universities. His drive to impact students' lives and make a dent in the system of education stems directly from his transformative undergraduate experience at GW.

Habiba Belguedj, BA ’11, co-founded Baytna à Vous (BVSyria), translated as "Our Home for You," in the fall 2015, at the American University of Paris. Baytna à Vour is a student-led initiative to help the transition of refugees, primarily Syrian, as Europe becomes their new home.

Peter Berman, BA, PhD ’74, retired from the VA and Stanford after 42 years as a clinical psychologist. He currently maintains a private practice in Palo Alto, Calif.

Doris Billingsley, BA ’46, was married in 1947 to a returning serviceman, raised three sons and found that to be a full-time job. Bill (her husband) was a professor at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, where she has remained. Bill died in 2007.

Wendy Brush, BS ’75, is happily enjoying retirement. She lives in Massachusetts, she is married and has two children and two grandchildren.

Eileen McKeon Butt, BA ‘84, is a visual artist residing in Austin, Texas. She paints in several genres, and has won awards for her science art, which focuses on astronomy and particle physics. See her work!

John Cecero, PhD ’96, spent 15 years as professor at Fordham University, he is currently the religious superior (Provincial) of the Jesuits of the northeast USA, from New Jersey to Maine, headquartered in New York, N.Y.

Heather Clinger, BA ’99, (MPH, CPS) is a program manager with the CT Center for Prevention, Wellness and Recovery. Most recently he presented at the National Prevention Network conference and the American Association of Suicidology conference.

Michelle Cohan, BA ’11, has been producing international long-form content for CNN's international network, including shows Inside the Middle East, Inside Africa and African Voices.

Cathy Cranberg, BA ’95, launched a new one-of-a-kind game called “How Do You See the World?” It is a card game to challenge your perspective, encouraging people to listen to one another without judgment. It is now available on

Kelia Cummins, BA ‘’00, is a U.S. diplomat presently serving in Bern, Switzerland.

Marietta Damond, PhD ’92, became director of research for the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Dahlia Danesh, BA ’07, currently lives in New York. She is working as a pediatric neuropsychologist in private practice and is affiliated with The Hospital for Special Surgery.

Pooja Dave, BA ’03, is now a clinical health psychologist at Cambridge Health Alliance and instructor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

Eliannah De Carlo, BA ’13, is in the second year of her School Psychology PsyD program at Rutgers University Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. She is also working towards obtaining certification to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Anand Dharawat, BA ’01, wrote a vegetarianism book that WILL help 8 billion people on Earth be vegetarian voluntarily for world peace and to solve all problems on Earth. With a violent diet, there can be no peace of mind or peace on Earth, so choose happiness.....

Emily Durr, BA ’17, has pursued a career in human resources since graduating GW. She is currently working at Bain & Company, coordinating consultant learning and professional development programs.

Kimberly Edzenga, BA ’99, says you never know where life will take you. She is enjoying a career in the management of pharmaceutical clinical trials, an unintended yet thoroughly rewarding career path.

Jaclyn Escudero, BA ’12, is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who is currently pursuing a Master of Public Health from the University of Washington. This fall, she is in Kenya supporting research involving HIV prevention among adolescent girls and young women.

Monika Eyers, BA ’99, is the east coast editor of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

Amir Faghfoory, BA ’02, work as a psychiatrist in Orange County, Calif., and recently re-enrolled in school at Alliant International University after 10 years of being out of school in order to obtain my master's and PsyD in marriage and family therapy.

Andrew Flagel, BA ’90, was named vice president for advancement and member engagement at the Association of American Colleges & Universities and began the position on July 1.

Sarah Friedman, PhD ’75, has had a long career, mostly at the National Institutes of Health. She has joined the GW Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences as a research professor. Her research focuses on military families and children.

David Giordano, BA ’17, now works as a chief of staff to the managing partner of a corporate law firm in Manhattan.

Nidhi Gupta, BA ’02, went on to complete her MD at the George Washington University through the BA/MD program and is an assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Deepak Gupta, BA ’01, is a plastic surgeon and clinical assistant professor at Stanford University. He lives with his wife, Carolyn, and two furry friends in the San Francisco Bay area.

Elizabeth Hart, BA ’71, is the chief development and program officer for Small World Initiative, Inc., a global nonprofit searching for antibiotics in soil utilizing the intellectual abilities of high school and college students in 14 countries across six continents.

Siobhan Hartigan, BA ’09, completed surgical residency in urology at University of Pennsylvania and is now a fellow in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Ickovics Jeannette, PhD ’89, is dean of faculty at Yale-NUS (National University of Singapore) College. She has been at Yale since 1989, currently Herman Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health and professor, Department of Psychology.

William Jimenez, BA ’16, just started his third year in ODU's industrial-organizational psychology program. He successfully defended his master's thesis this past June. #RaiseHigh!

Michelle Karas, BA ’11, recently graduated from Tufts University with her master’s in occupational therapy and got married. She is currently living in Atlanta and working at Emory Hospital in Midtown as an occupational therapist.

Carrie Kerstein, BA ’07, is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Lexington, Mass. She received her MS in communication disorders from Emerson College in 2014.

Carolyn Kraft, BA ’96, is a school psychologist in the Harrisburg (Penn.) School District, working with students grade K through 4.

Jeff Kramer, BA ’79, earned a BA and MA from GW that served him well. He has been an HR exec for 25 years spending the last 10 in Dallas.

Georgia Kulok, BA ’16, is continuing her education at GW in the professional psychology program, earning a PsyD in clinical psychology.

Wesley Langlais, BA ’17, is currently a master’s student at a Boston College Mental Health Counseling program, recently recovering from an almost lethal fall off a cliff where his right elbow was shattered.

Tanya Lavelle, BA ’08, recently joined the University of Texas Hogg Foundation for Mental Health. She is the first person to assume the position of policy program specialist.

Heather Lavine, BS ’91, is working as a therapist at Childhood Solutions, a private pediatric psychology practice in Fort Washington, Penn.

Stella Lee, BA ’85, received her PhD from NYU. She was an AVP at Citibank and a senior organizational consultant at Memorial Sloan Kettering. She works as an independent consultant focusing on executive assessment and coaching, and teaches organizational behavior at NYU.

Anton Lesaca, BA ’15, is a soon-to-be graduate of Emory University School of Law, where he currently serves as a Law Review editor. After graduation, he plans to sit for the D.C. bar before starting his legal career as an associate with a large D.C. law firm.

Pengli Li, BA ’13, is currently a corporate attorney at Cooley LLP.

Jaime Libes, BA ’95, is a pediatric oncologist in Illinois, focused on solid and brain tumors, global health and adolescent and young adult oncology.

Dana Litt, PhD ’10, is an associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. She is the PI of several federally funded grants examining the etiology and prevention of adolescent and young adult substance use.

Irene Ly, BA ’18, is currently attending American University Washington College of Law.

Adrian Mallin, BS ’74, has raised two awesome sons. She has published 2 books, Mother Love Now and After I'm Gone and A Tankful of Thankful. She lives in Boca Raton and Tampa, FL. She was a caterer in Atlanta, GA for 14 years.

Jessica Mandell, BA ’16, is currently a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Memphis! She will be proposing her thesis over the next few weeks, which examines the experiences of social support among mothers living with HIV.

Gabriella Mansilla, BA ’18, has been participating in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World since graduating from GW. In January, she will be returning to the George Washington University to begin her accelerated nursing degree program.

Kelsey Mauro, BA ’16, was recently accepted to George Mason University's Clinical Psychology PhD program. She is now in the first year of the program.

Lorraine McCall, BA ’87, after finishing a Doctorate in Public Administration & Policy at the University of Southern California in 2001, retired from the federal government. She now owns a company that assists governments at all levels improve contracting processes.

Amanda McLaughlin, BA ’11, is attending Seton Hall University's PhD program in higher education leadership management and policy.

Sydney Merritt, BS ’18, is currently at Johns Hopkins University, working towards her MS in public health in health policy.

Aaron Moffett, BA ’99, will be the head coach for the USA Invictus Team at the 2018 Invictus Games hosted by Prince Harry in Sydney, Australia.

Maureen Monahan, BA ’12, is in a clinical psychology PhD program at the University of South Florida, studying suicide prevention. She recently defended her dissertation and is currently in the process of applying to internships.

Abigail (Page) Moore, BA ’08, received her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology after graduating from George Washington. She currently works in a special education elementary school in New York, N.Y.

Michael Nemerof, BA ’08, is staff counsel for Heritage Property and Insurance Company in Sunrise, Fla. Heritage is an insurance company providing homeowner’s insurance.

Daniel Newman, BA ’02, is an assistant professor in the School Psychology Program, in the Department of Human Services, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services at the University of Cincinnati.

Ellen O'Boyle, BA ’74, MA ’77, MBA ’83, is still with the Environmental Protection Agency where she started as an intern while attending GW graduate school first in psychology and then in the MBA program. She hopes to retire and pursue other interests in the next two years.

Caitlyn O'Conor, BA ’16, is currently enrolled at Mass General's Institute of Health Professions as a candidate for a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies!

Somtochukwu Onwuchekwa, BA ’18, has been using her gap year, before applying to medical school, to work for IBM Nigeria. She is set on going to medical school but is very excited to use the next couple of years to explore many career paths.

Lyn Paul, BA ’81, continues to happily serve as full-time clinical associate professor of social work at Adelphi University, while maintaining a part-time private clinical social work practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Brenda Paz Soldan, BA ’96, (MSW, VCU), served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Estonia and has worked in the area of international development  in the United States, Peru and Chile. She is currently country coordinator for EducationUSA (Dept of State program) in Chile.

Adam Pletter, BA ’96, graduated with PsyD in 2001 and has been in private practice in Bethesda, Md., for 17 years and counting. He also started iParent101, LLC where he consults to tech companies and travels the country speaking about “parenting in the digital age.”

Jill Plevinsky, BA ’10, earned her PhD in clinical psychology from Rosalind Franklin University after completing residency at Brown University. She recently began a T32-funded postdoc at Cincinnati Children's Hospital's Center for Treatment Adherence & Self-Management.

Christine Prior, BA ’98, has been working with adults with traumatic brain injuries for 17 years and is currently an area director at NeuroRestorative in New Jersey.

Jacqueline Reyner, BA ’06, completed a postdoctoral fellowship in trauma treatment at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. She is a clinical assessor on a DoD-funded study evaluating assessment tools for PTSD and she is an adjunct assistant professor at UMUC.

Emily Richard, BA ’17, has stayed close to GW, managing their Lab of Autism and Developmental Neuroscience as senior research assistant. Recently she has also been teaching violin and applying to PhD programs, and she is excited to see what the next year brings!

Crystal Rosa, BA ’08, was investigating police misconduct in Washington, D.C., for four years.  She has now moved up to the Boston area and manages four social justice departments for the city of Cambridge, Mass.

Patricia Roy, BA ’87, has been a nurse practitioner for more than three decades.

Rachel Rutfield, BA ’13, received her MS in applied educational psychology and CAGS in School Psychology from Northeastern University. She currently works in Massachusetts as a school psychologist in a public K-8 school.

Kusa Sable, BA ’78, spent years in business development and shares “I help companies better hire and inspire their employees through the use of behavioral assessments,” she says. “People perform better when they're in roles that satisfy their natural drives.

Jacqueline Samuel, PhD ’79, is building the first net-zero house in Ohio. She is also fundraising for a youth program that aims to fill the skills gap after graduation from high school.

Isabel Sanchez, BA ’04, has been living in London for the past nine years working in the third sector, mostly in tech-for-good companies. Currently she works at the Royal Mencap Society as the chief of staff.

Anisa Sanghrajka, BS ’15, is currently enrolled in the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health's MPH Program in Baltimore, Md.

Jesse Sargent, PhD ’09, was recently granted tenure and promoted to associate professor at Francis Marion University in Florence, S.C.

Jaryl Sciarappa, BA ’83, is a speech pathologist and his background in behavioral psychology has been invaluable in practice. True to form, GW develops great practitioners. Strength in knowledge may it be marketing, therapy or life!

Jordan Scott, BA ’03, is a father of three who operates a law practice in Boston, Mass.

Shelly Sharma, BA ’17, has been working for one year at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. She has now started medical school at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine!

Bev Sherman, BA ’72, is now retired and enjoys gardening and genealogy research. She is proud of her six grandchildren with two graduated from college, two attending college, one in high school and one in elementary school.

Brendan Shields, BA ’98, has worked national security policy in Congress, the State Department, DHS, the White House and the private sector. He also was a Naval officer and Iraq war veteran who currently serves as the House Homeland Security Committee staff director.

Debbie Silverman, BA ’79, is president of Consumer-Perspective LLC, (a market research and strategic planning co.) She has grown businesses and won Effie awards for marketing excellence. She is also an Amazon best selling author of It's Just a Conversation.

Pichamol Sirijuntanan, BA ’17, received an MS from Johns Hopkins in 2018. Currently, she is working as a research assistant at GW Department of Psychiatry and applying to clinical psychology PhD this cycle.

Douglas Sisk, PhD ’83, retired from teaching in 2017 and moved to Santa Barbara, Calif. He shares, “My spouse and I are active in various community organizations and the great weather allows me to bike year round.

Simisola (Tomi) Sodimu, BA ’18, has gone on to grow her start-up lifestyle company—Simisola Naturals—as well as her nonprofit the Alicemay Hope Foundation based in Lagos, Nigeria, since graduating GW. She is excited about what this year before graduate school will bring.

Shaeera Tariq, BA ’12, is currently working at a company called Wonderschool where they help educators start their own in-home childcare programs with the hope of giving parents more accessible and high-quality options. Her role is in enrollment operations.

Lauren Thomas, BA ’12, received her EdM in school psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2015. She is now in the Combined School-Child Clinical Psychology PsyD program at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology.

Alyson Vengoechea, BA ’12, recently completed service as a Teach For America corps member in Miami-Dade and is currently obtaining her MS in education from Johns Hopkins University.

Stephen Vitas, BA ’70, PhD ’80, currently performs research analysis in auditory cognitive neuroscience consulting to Dept of Experimental Med, Univ of Rome-Sapienza. He was previously psychotherapist, program director, medical case manager. He resides in Kensington, Md.

Tina Walde, BA ’04, is a faculty member at Oregon Health Sciences University School of Nursing where she teaches in the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs specializing in pediatric mental health.

Shana Wallenstein, BA ’97, lives in a Cleveland, Ohio, suburb with her husband, Jason and their son, Jack, who turns 5 in February. Shana is a consultant focused on strategic planning, board development, fundraising, strategic communications and government relations.

Brad Weiss, BA ’78, lives in the Washington, D.C., area. He is a trial attorney. He uses all he has learned from psychology everyday.

Lia Weiss, BA ’82, received her master’s degree in industrial psychology from University of New Haven then worked as personnel director for visiting nurse services in Westchester White Plains, N.Y.

Alicia Williamson, BA ’13, spent two years in Peru doing community health work with the Peace Corps. She then worked in health services research, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Michigan School of Information studying health informatics.

Shelby Wood, BA ’11, is currently living in New Orleans, working at Tulane University as an academic advisor for undergraduate students. Earlier this year, she married Jeremy Wood, BA ’11.

Kelly Zentgraf, BA ’11, works as a research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania on a grant that leverages behavioral economics and implementation science to improve outcomes in mental health. She is also pursuing a master's in social policy at Penn (exp. 2019).

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Donor Recognition


Richard D. Walk, a notable psychologist best remembered for creating the famous visual cliff test for assessing depth perception in humans and animals with Eleanor Gibson, served for many years on the GW faculty. When he died in 1999, family, friends, colleagues and former students created and contributed to the Richard David Walk Endowment Fund. In spring 2018, the department began using this fund to help our doctoral students complete their dissertations. The first two Richard Walk Dissertation Awards went to:

  • Brianne Molloy of the Applied Social Psychology Program, to recruit and compensate online participants in her dissertation project about how prototypes and academic expectations influence decisions to use nonmedical prescription stimulants. (Dissertation Chair: Dr. Michelle Stock)
  • Makiko Watanabe of the Clinical Psychology Program, to compensate Asian high school students for participating in her study of risk factors and protective factors associated with suicidal thinking (Dissertation Chair: Dr. Sherry Molock)

Both projects address important mental health issues. We believe Dr. Walk and the donors to the fund created in his honor would be pleased. Future contributions to the Richard David Walk Endowment Fund should be specifically designated for that fund.


The Psychological and Brain Sciences Department would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the department from July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.

+ Faculty/Staff | # Parent | ~ Student | * Friend

Dr. Helen P. Ackerman, MA ’62

Mary Jane Adair, BA ’75

Konstantin Artemov *

Gordon B. Avery, MD, # 

Harriet I. Basseches, Ph.D., PhD ’79

Lorraine Brown, Ph.D., PhD ’77

Sarah Calabrese, Ph.D., PhD ’12 +

Charles A. Cross, BA ’72

Dr. Maria L. Dittrich, MA ’02

M. Patricia Edelin, BA ’58

Estate of Grace C. Ferrill, Esq, JD ’50

Elizabeth M. Ginexi, Ph.D., MA ’95, PhD ’97

Johanna P. Glass, Ph.D., PhD ’85

Francis Greenwood #

Sandra D. Greenwood #

Dr. Mary Alice Hurd, BA ’48

Richard C. Jushchuk, BA ’00

Richard Jeffrey Kaplan, BA ’76

Aidan T. Kearns, BA ’18

Riki Koenigsberg, Ph.D., PhD ’71

Georgia R. Kulok, BA ’16

Dr. Huynh-Nhu Le +

Lynn G. Llewellyn, Ph.D., BA ’59, PhD ’69

Dana Mancuso #

Neil Mancuso #

Evans J. Mandes, Ph.D., BA ’61. MS ’63, PhD ’66

Gabriella M. Mansilla, BA ’18

Freddi R. Marsillo, BA ’17

Colette M. McAndrew #

Dr. Thomas P. McAndrew #

Carie Migliori #

Robert Migliori #

Caroline K. Moore, BA ’16

Richard D. Nohelty #

John Erich Opfer, BA ’95

Dr. Marilyn S. Paul, BA ’81

Katherine E. Pokorny, BA ’18

Dr. Paul J. Poppen +

Sabrina E. Porcelli, BA ’18

Amber N. Prince, BA ’18

Cheng Rong, BA ’16

Alana J. Rusonis, BA ’15

Carol Ruth Sacks, Ph.D., PhD ’89

Cassondra Leigh Scheinman, BA ’13

Dr. Dennis Schell +

Matthew A. Schumacher, BA ’18

Dr. Carol K. Sigelman +

E. Naudain Simons, III, MA ’60

Douglas R. Sisk, Ph.D., PhD ’83

Lauren Beth Slone, BA ’90

Tatiana M. Varanko, BA ’18

Clarence P. Walters, Ph.D., PhD ’74

Helen M. Watson, BA ’15

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Support the Department

Gifts to the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences allow us to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships, and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty, and symposia. Each gift, no matter how large or small, makes a positive impact on our educational mission and furthers our standing as one of the nation's preeminent liberal arts colleges at one of the world's preeminent universities.

You can make your gift to the department in a number of ways:

  • By mailing your check, made out to The George Washington University and with the name of the department in the memo line, to:

The George Washington University

PO 98131

Washington, DC 20077-9756

  • By phone by calling the GW Division of Development and Alumni Relations at 1-800-789-2611.

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Get Involved

Our psychology majors truly value talking to graduates about their careers and experiences post-GW. If you would be interested in exploring ways to become more involved with undergraduate GW psychology students, please complete this form and we will reach out to you to discuss the possibilities. (No commitment is required right now!) Thank you in advance for considering this opportunity!

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