MSW: Master of Social Work

West Chester University

West Chester Campus

Reynolds Hall
West Chester University
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: 610-436-2664

PASSHE Center City

701 Market Street, Concourse Level
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 267-386-3015

Faculty and staff

MSW faculty

image of Page Walter BuckPage Buck, MSS, PhD, LSW
Program Director, Department Chair and Associate Professor
Faculty Webpage

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Buck's primary research and advocacy work focuses on the experiences of mild traumatic brain injury among both survivors and practitioners. She is currently working with two MSW students on a qualitative study of the experience of rehabilitation workers in the mTBI field and recently had an essay published in the journal Neurology Now. Dr. Buck is also collaborating with West Chester University colleagues on the development of a model of field education in social work programs from a systems perspective.



Dr. Nadine M. Bean

Nadine M. Bean, PhD, LCSW
Associate Professor
Faculty Webpage

Dr. Bean’s commitment to underserved populations is best exemplified by her work in New Orleans, where she was a founding board member of, an organization dedicated to rebuilding the devastated Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina. As a Disaster Mental Health Services volunteer with the American Red Cross, she has worked in the aftermath of local and national disasters, including in New York City after the September 11th terrorist attacks. Dr. Bean also works with military families as a national board member and volunteer clinician for The Soldiers Project and as a trainer for the Red Cross’ Coping with Deployments and Reconnections programs. She is a past president of the NASW-Pennsylvania Chapter (2005 to 2007) and in 2011 received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chapter. In 2012, she received a SAGE/CSWE Award for Innovative Teaching in Social Work Education. Her current research interests involve integrative health education and services, teaching from a recovery/resiliency framework and the use of socially transformative and narrative research approaches to give voice to those traditionally not heard in larger society.



Dr. Wan-Yi ChenWan-Yi Chen, MSW, PhD
Associate Professor
Faculty Webpage

Dr. Chen focuses on social work research related to children and adolescents. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, her work has documented the long-term effect of childhood neglect and personal victimization on individual developmental outcomes. Dr. Chen also evaluates innovative child welfare service delivery models and service outcomes and investigates organizational factors associated with social work research grant success.


image of Chiarelli-Helminiah

Christina Chiarelli-Helminiak, MSW, PhD
Assistant Professor

Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak recently completed her doctorate at the University of Connecticut, where she was recognized as an Outstanding Woman Scholar. Her dissertation focused on organizational factors affecting job satisfaction and burnout among forensic interviewers. She also researches the integration of human rights in social work curriculum. Her practical experience includes working with survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Her greatest professional achievement is leading the development of a children's advocacy center providing community-based services in rural north Georgia. Dr.  Chiarelli-Helminiak is a member of the Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education, an organization within the Council on Social Work Education. Dr. Chiarelli-Helminiak received her MSW from Marywood University, where she was the first social work student awarded the Sister M. Eva Connors Peace Medal.   


Dr. Linda Ello

Linda Ello, MSW, PhD, LCSW
Associate Professor

Dr. Ello's work focuses on gerontology and research. She has an extensive and varied range of clinical experiences. Dr. Ello worked as a licensed clinical social worker for many years in a private psychiatric hospital, a community mental health center, and in private practice. She provided inpatient and outpatient services to individuals, couples, and families. Dr. Ello has been the chair of the research content area in the MSW Program for the past 11 years. She is currently working on a research initiative regarding infusing gerontology content into all MSW foundation courses.



Holbrook profile pictureAmber Holbrook, MSW, PhD, LSW
Assistant Professor


Dr. Holbrook’s clinical practice has focused on trauma, mental health, and intimate partner violence. She has served in supervisory and administrative roles in human service and advocacy organizations where her skills in program and policy development, grant writing, and participation in county and state task forces have improved services for individuals with mental illness and victims of intimate partner violence. Dr. Holbrook received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College. Her research has focused on substance abuse and co-occurring mental health disorders in pregnant and parenting women. She has published several articles on the treatment of opioid dependence during pregnancy, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and co-occurring mental health disorders in substance-using women.



image of Terry LewisTerrence O. Lewis, MSW, PhD, LICSW
Assistant Professor


Dr. Lewis has more than a dozen years of clinical practice experience and nine years of research and teaching experience. He has worked in clinical practice at a psychiatric crisis house, family preservation programs, community mental health centers, and private practice with individual adults and couples. As a community-based researcher, he has focused on the relationships between churches and marginalized populations, including LGBT and ethnic minority communities. As part of his work for an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in sociology and social work at Boston University, Dr. Lewis wrote a dissertation on LGBT-affirming Black churches and their responses to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Before coming to West Chester, he spent three years as an Assistant Professor of social work at Augsburg College. Dr. Lewis was recently appointed to a three-year term on the Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, an organization within the Council on Social Work Education.



image of Gwenelle O'NealGwenelle O'Neal, MSW, DSW, LSW

Faculty Webpage

Dr. O'Neal's areas of interest include community mental health services, multicultural resources, and universal design to enhance student and consumer engagement and participation. She has worked professionally and volunteered for various organizations focusing on educational, mental health, and community issues, in Georgia, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. One of her projects at West Chester is the development of a Multicultural Resources Database to provide a framework for social work students to enhance their knowledge of social identities, dynamics and institutional structures connected to social and behavioral services. Dr. O’Neal earned her DSW at Columbia University.



Michael PfeifferMichael Pfeiffer, MSS, MLSP, LCSW
Assistant Professor

Mr. Pfeiffer has taught at Bryn Mawr College and West Chester University in human behavior theory, human development, critical psychopathology, and social work practice, and has been a field liaison for 10 years. His clinical practice has focused on individual, couples, and family therapy, informed by structural family therapy, Imago Relationship Therapy, and narrative/deconstructive approaches. His current research investigates the role of psychiatric diagnosis in the reproduction of stigma for gender nonconforming people. Mr. Pfeiffer is especially interested in fostering the development of robust understandings of professional ethics among social work students and in the field. 



Tennille profile pictureJulie Tennille, MSW, PhD, LSW
Assistant Professor


Dr. Tennille has taught advanced clinical social work practice at the University of Pennsylvania since 2003 and also at Temple University in 2012 and 2013. Her research focuses on developing effective models for teaching evidence-based practice in social work, HIV prevention, and the role of intimacy in mental health recovery. She has worked in direct practice, services research, and administration in public mental health and HIV/AIDS services for more than 25 years. In recent years she has been part of a research team of therapists expertly trained to provide Motivational Interviewing to women in emergency room settings. Dr. Tennille is passionate about social justice, teaching, and continuing her lines of research and scholarship. She received her PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Pennsylvania. 



MSW staff

Lisa AllenLisa G. Allen, MSW, LSW
Director of Field Education

Ms. Allen has spent most of her career in the field of public and non-profit child welfare. She received a certification in Child Welfare through the University of Pittsburgh in 2001. One of her most recent positions in this field was her role as Student-Intern Coordinator for the Chester County Department of Children, Youth and Families, where she provided supervision and guidance to both BSW and MSW students. Ms. Allen has also worked for many years as a clinician with the sex offender population. She has additional experience working with the aging population in Chester County. She earned her MSW from Temple University.



image of Theresa SullivanTheresa Sullivan, MSW

Director of Field Education for Philadelphia

Ms. Sullivan collaborates with the MSW and BSW programs at West Chester as the Director of Field Education for Philadelphia. Her field experience in micro and macro practice, as well as social work research, has enhanced her passion for social justice, especially involving the critical and devastating crisis of mass incarceration in the United States. She was most recently a program manager at Philadelphia FIGHT’s Institute for Community Justice. She has also worked in the fields of family homelessness policy advocacy and case management, school-based social work as a violence prevention specialist and sexual health educator, and in a peace and justice exchange program for teens. She earned her MSW at Temple University.


Kyle Murray

Kyle Murray
MSW Recruiter

Before joining the MSW Program, Mr. Murray worked in the non-profit sector, focusing on career development for low-income individuals. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Joseph’s University, which he earned in 2011. While completing his MBA, he organized a nonprofit bicycle ride across the United States to raise funds for cancer research.



Becky VanderMuelen Rebecca VanderMeulen
Department Secretary

Ms. VanderMeulen was a full-time freelance writer, specializing in higher education and business, before coming to West Chester. She volunteers with Chester County Futures and the undergraduate admissions office at American University. Ms. VanderMeulen is working toward her M.Ed. in School Counseling at West Chester University.



Adjunct faculty


image of Ginneh AkbarGinneh L. Akbar, MSW, DSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor

Dr. Akbar's experience reflects her commitment and passion for child welfare social work. Her work has primarily focused on children and families, providing services in various settings including community mental health, early intervention, and child welfare agencies. Currently she is a psychotherapist on an intervention team of a federal research grant, providing Child-Parent Psychotherapy to families affected by drugs or alcohol and involved with the child welfare system. Dr. Akbar received her MSW from Temple University and her DSW from the University of Pennsylvania, where she is also an adjunct faculty member. Her doctoral dissertation explored the challenges child welfare professionals face promoting client self-determination.



Raymond BoldenRaymond Bolden, MSW, DSW

Adjunct Professor

Dr. Bolden's work focuses on social policy and the use of media in social work advocacy. He has more than 30 years of social work experience in the non-profit setting and is presently the executive director of the Salem County Inter Agency Council of Human Services, a multi-service organization in New Jersey. Dr. Bolden has also been a consultant and trainer in non-profit development, grant writing and administration. His current research is on community planning, the health and welfare of children and families, and ethics and values of social workers. He has also written extensively on the subject of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.



Image of Pier CicerellePier Cicerelle, MSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor

Ms. Cicerelle is has 10 years of experience as a hospital social worker, practicing primarily at Level 1 trauma centers with acute-care trauma patients and their families. She has also trained and worked as an independent donor advocate for people pursuing living kidney donation. Her areas of interest include the social work role within hospital trauma centers, the effect of trauma on health behaviors, and interventions for female victims of community violence. Ms. Cicerelle is a 2006 graduate of West Chester’s MSW Program and is pursuing her DSW at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received the Dr. Ram Cnaan Award in 2014.



Headshot of Kathleen Coyne

Kathleen Coyne, MSS, LCSW

Adjunct Professor

Ms. Coyne is currently acting as a community moderator for, a nonprofit organization that provides information about breast cancer and breast health. Previously she was the program director for The Cancer Support Community of Philadelphia, where she developed clinical programs for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. Before that she worked for the Fox Chase Cancer Center as the assistant director of the department of Social Work Services. She has supervised graduate social work students and field instructors since 1986. Ms. Coyne has taught post-graduate courses at the University of Pennsylvania and Bryn Mawr College, and has trained health care professionals around the country around issues and skills related to health and illness. Her master’s degree is from Bryn Mawr College.



Laura DeRiggi HeadshotLaura DeRiggi, MSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor

Ms. DeRiggi is director of Integrated Clinical Consultation Services for the departments of Human Services and Community Behavioral Health for the City of Philadelphia. She is responsible for program development, integrated service planning, training and clinical consultation. Before coming to Philadelphia, she was responsible for planning and program development for behavioral health services, assisted in developing a unified system of care for clients with serious mental illness and mental retardation, directed a drug and alcohol managed care program, and worked in private managed care. Ms. DeRiggi earned her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh. She was named Citizen of the Year in the City of Pittsburgh in 1989, and in 2007 won the Distinguished Advocate Award from the Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia. She also teaches at Alvernia University.



Image of Allison GonzalezAllison Gonzalez, MSW, DSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor

Dr. Gonzalez has experience ranging from intensive care and emergency room work, to outpatient work with patients across the lifespan, and inpatient medical/surgical and maternity work. She works at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington, Del., as its manager of program development and social services, as well as the primary lead for the development of the hospital’s palliative care program. Dr. Gonzalez also leads the Transitions in Care Program to reduce the rate of re-admissions and promote patient utilization of their primary care physician. She has established two MSW internship programs and has supervised MSW and BSW students in the field. Dr. Gonzalez received her MSW and DSW from the University of Pennsylvania.



headshot of Lara KrawchukLara Krawchuk, MSW, LCSW, MPH

Adjunct Professor

Ms. Krawchuk is founder and CEO of Healing Concepts, a counseling, continuing education, and consulting practice in West Chester, Pa. Her clinical specialties include supporting families facing illness, living losses, life transitions, and bereavement. She is a long-time adjunct professor with West Chester and the University of Pennsylvania, having taught classes on clinical social work practice, human behavior and the social environment, end of life, and loss and grief. She lectures nationally on ambiguous loss, caregiving, coping with cancer and illness, creative healing, grief, and professional stress management. Ms. Krawhuk holds an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


LaFortune profile picture

Aswood M. LaFortune, MSW, DSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor


Dr. LaFortune is a licensed social worker with extensive experience in community mental health services, inpatient treatment, individualized treatment planning, case management, and discharge planning. Additionally, she provides individual, family, and group therapy with adults in various settings. Her areas of expertise include crisis intervention, major mental illness, correctional services, inpatient treatment, psychoeducation, and community social service.Her primary research interest includes the reintegration of veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom into their communities after sustaining traumatic brain injuries in combat. Dr. LaFortune's dissertation topic explored the continued effect of traumatic brain injury on the daily lives of an OIF/OEF veteran and a civilian several years post-injury. She received her DSW from the University of Pennsylvania.



Mary LookingbillMary Lookingbill, MSW, LSW
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Lookingbill has more than 25 years of experience in direct practice, administration, and program development on the micro, mezzo and macro levels of service delivery. A great deal of her professional career has focused on children and families, attachment and childhood trauma. Most recently, she joined with a diverse group of professionals from across Pennsylvania to develop protocols for identifying and treating children and adolescents who misuse fire. Ms. Lookingbill belongs to the Pennsylvania State Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Advisory Group and is a consultant to the state, writing curricula and giving presentations on the topic. She is an adjunct lecturer and field instructor for Temple University Harrisburg, Millersville University, and Widener University. She is an invited speaker at various local, regional and national conferences. Ms. Lookingbill earned her MSW at the University of Kansas.



Leigh AnneLeigh Anne Mertz, MSW, LSW
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Mertz has been program director for the Delaware County Court Appointed Special Advocates Youth Advocates since 2007. CASA recruits, trains, and supervises volunteers to advocate for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. She has spent most of her professional career in the child welfare arena, including employment with the Allegheny County CASA program and work experience in wrap-around mental health services and residential facilities. She has served a faculty field liaison for the MSW Program since 2011, as well as an adjunct professor at Eastern University. Ms. Mertz has an MSW, with a certification in Child Welfare, from the University of Pittsburgh.



Myers profile pictureMeg Myers, MSW, LCSW
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Myers is an outpatient therapist in a non-profit mental health agency in Wilmington, Del. Most of her professional experience has been working with at-risk youth as a family therapist in a dual diagnosis partial hospitalization program. She has also worked as a custody mediator for the Chester County court system. She is also trained as a yoga instructor and has taught yoga, meditation, and mindfulness skills in clinical practice to offer clients alternative ways to self-soothe, self-regulate, and find alternatives to substance use. Ms. Myers is interested in clinical work with trauma survivors, especially with regard to chronic childhood trauma. She earned her MSW from West Chester University and is working toward her DSW at the University of Pennsylvania. For her doctoral dissertation, Ms. Myers is working on a qualitative study exploring the impact of clinical work with traumatized clients on social workers.



image of Stephanie NewbergStephanie Newberg, MEd, MSW, LCSW
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Newberg is a licensed psychotherapist working with individuals, couples and families. She specializes in family and couples therapy, grief/loss, children and adolescents, bullying and cyberbullying, and the implications of divorce on families. She is also a trained family and divorce mediator/co-parent counselor and has received intensive training in sand tray play therapy for adolescents and children. In addition to teaching at West Chester University, she teaches graduate social work students at Bryn Mawr College and is a consultant for the Council for Relationships. Ms. Newberg holds a Master of Education degree in organizational and counseling psychology from Columbia University and an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania.



Owens profile pictureCarlita Owens, MSW, LCSW
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Owens has more than 14 years of experience rich in direct practice, program development and implementation on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels of service delivery. She brings a wealth of experience in working with culturally diverse populations. Since 2007, Ms. Owens has been the clinical supervisor of the Adult Inpatient Psychiatric Unit at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. She also conducts psychosocial evaluations for the Philadelphia Prison System. Her areas of interest are policies and programming that affect community re-entry among women with co-occurring disorders. Ms. Owens has an MSW from Temple University and is a doctoral candidate in the Social Work program at Widener University. She has served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Social Work and Gerontology at Shippensburg University and the Center for Social Work Education graduate program at Widener University.



image of Tracie PurnellTracie Purnell, MSW, LCSW, CADC
Adjunct Professor

Ms. Purnell is a clinic director for an outpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility. Her primary specialty has been working with individuals diagnosed with co-occurring Disorders. She has an expertise in program administration, with experience in resource management and budgeting, program planning and development, training and staff development, case management, and clinical supervision. Through her private practice work, she has utilized trauma-focused techniques with adults who have experienced victimization. She teaches in the BSW and MSW programs at West Chester University. Her MSW is from Widener University, where she later earned a certificate in health care management.



image of Noel RamirezNoel B. Ramirez, MSW, LCSW, MPH
Adjunct Professor

Mr. Ramirez is a program coordinator for a young men’s health program for gay and bisexual men of color who are impacted by HIV, as well as a therapist with a psychoanalytic project for homeless adults and families. A great deal of his professional career has focused on LGBTQ youth communities of color, HIV/AIDS and at-risk youth. His professional background has largely been in medical social work, program development, community planning, and group process. Mr. Ramirez is also a trained kickboxing instructor and has incorporated fitness in public health programming. He earned his master’s degree in public health at Drexel University and his MSW at the University of Pennsylvania.



Alex Redcay HeadshotAlexandra Redcay, MSW, LSW

Adjunct Professor

Ms. Redcay is executive director of Serise, Inc., which provides trainings, research and program evaluation services. She also works as a primary therapist at Princeton House Behavioral Health. She has more than 18 years of experience in direct practice, management, and training, working primarily with adolescents. Ms. Redcay is a former treatment foster parent to LGBT youth and the former co-chair for the LGBTQI youth committee for the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. She is working toward her PhD in social work at Rutgers University, which she expects to complete in 2015. Her dissertation is examining the impact of attraction and identity fluidity on depression. She also teaches at Rutgers and Kaplan universities.



headshot of Michelle SanchezMichelle Sanchez, MSW, MPH

Adjunct Professor

Since 2009 Ms. Sanchez has worked at the Maternal and Child Health Consortium of Chester County, where she oversees the evaluation of programs and a children’s health insurance grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Before that she was a direct-service social worker, working with children facing various life circumstances such as HIV/AIDS, the Philadelphia child welfare system, and international adoption. Ms. Sanchez has master’s degrees in social work and public health from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently serves on the board of directors at La Comunidad Hispana and as co-chair of one of the United Way of Chester County’s Community Investment Teams. She is an adjunct professor at Immaculata University and a Field Instructor for West Chester University.



Betty SurbeckBetty Surbeck, MSS, MLSP, PhD
Adjunct Professor

Dr. Surbeck has extensive experience in child welfare and mental health services. In addition to her teaching, she is currently working on several research projects including a study of how personal narratives of positive coping strategies impact the coping strategies individuals use in stressful situations. Her other work involves the integration of the social work values of social justice, integrity, dignity, and worth of the person in the social work practicum through an examination of social workers as moral agents. She is in the process of developing a research agenda to study patterns of healing and narrative approach to health.



Image of Jacquelyn Warr-WilliamsJacquelyn E. Warr-Williams, MSW, DSW, LCSW
Adjunct Professor

Dr. Warr-Williams has more than 16 years of clinical experience working in a variety of social work settings with adults, children, and families. Her private practice consists primarily of providing in-home clinical services to children and families dealing with trauma, abuse, school issues, mental illness, Asperger syndrome, foster care/adoption, and behavioral issues. She is trained in EMDR, sandplay therapy, and holistic treatment methods such as reiki. Dr. Warr-Williams has been a clinical supervisor for MSW and post-master’s students, and teaches at West Chester, Temple and Rutgers universities. She earned her MSW at Smith College and her DSW from the University of Pennsylvania. Between her graduate degrees, Dr. Warr-Williams completed a fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center.



image of Michelle WorrallS. Michelle Worrall, MSW, DSW, LCSW
Adjunct Professor

Dr. Worrall has more than over 15 years of experience in diverse clinical settings. She is currently the clinical director for Fellowship Health Resources, a nonprofit behavioral health organization in Phoenixville with the mission of partnering with individuals in their recovery from mental health and co-occurring issues. Dr. Worrall's previous teaching experience includes undergraduate and graduate courses in behavioral health, social work, and community leadership at Alvernia University. She has also served on Alvernia University's social work advisory panel and as a faculty field liaison for its BSW program. Dr. Worrall earned her MSW from Temple University and DSW from the University of Pennsylvania.