Skip navigation
Institute for Human-Animal Connection


Faculty & Staff

Executive director

Philip Tedeschi

Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW

Executive Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
Clinical Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
Craig Hall, Room 234
[email protected]
GSSW Faculty Profile

More about Phil

Philip Tedeschi is an Animal-Assisted Social Work and Experiential Therapy Specialist and co-founder of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW). Tedeschi is the Executive Director of IHAC and coordinates GSSWs Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate program for Master of Social Work (MSW) students, as well as the Animals and Human Health online professional development certificate program. He also teaches MSW courses in forensic social work and experiential therapy approaches, with emphasis on conservation and environmental social work in areas such as East Africa and the inclusion of animals in therapeutic settings. A certified Master Therapeutic Riding Instructor, former course director and instructor with Outward Bound, wilderness medical technician, he has many years of experience in non-traditional therapeutic approaches with children, adults and families, as well as in interpersonal violence including, assessment and intervention with animal abuse, attachment, trauma disordered and sexually abusive youth and adults.

Affiliated Faculty and Staff


  • Sarah Bexell

    Sarah Bexell, PhD

    Humane Education & Anti-Cruelty Programs Manager, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Coordinator, Raising Compassionate Kids: Humane Education & Interventions for Early Learners Certificate
    Research Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    Director of Conservation Education, Chengdu Panda Base
    [email protected]
    GSSW Faculty Profile

    More about Sarah

    Dr. Sarah M. Bexell has been engaged in wildlife conservation, conservation education and humane education for over 20 years. Currently the Director of Conservation Education at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, adjunct professor at Humane Society University and the University of Northern Colorado, she has developed programs, curricula and program evaluations related to conservation, animal behavior and education. She was instrumental in helping the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding and Chengdu Zoo establish their conservation and education departments, and has served as Director of Conservation Education at the Chengdu Research Base since 2006. She has authored several publications to increase awareness of threats to other animals and co-authored the popular science book: Giant Pandas: Born Survivors with her colleague Dr. Zhang Zhihe.

  • Courtney Brown

    Courtney Brown, MSW

    Senior Community Projects Manager, Institute for Human-Animal Connection

    [email protected]

    More about Courtney

    Courtney Brown earned an MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate from the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work in 2015. She was a member of the first cohort to graduate from GSSW's Sustainable Development and Global Practice concentration. Courtney completed her Bachelor of Art in International Studies focusing on Development at the Ohio State University. Before beginning her studies at the University of Denver, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Romania.

    During her time at GSSW she had the opportunity to travel to Kenya where she developed an interest in studying the human-animal bond, One Health and Conservation Social Work, specifically in their application to sustainable development. Courtney has over five years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating innovative programs, training events and projects with local and national partners. As part of her work with IHAC Courtney oversees the Colorado LINK Project

  • Nina Ekholm Fry

    Nina Ekholm Fry, MSSc.

    Director of Equine Programs, Institute of Human-Animal Connection
    Coordinator, Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate
    Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    [email protected]
    (928) 830-5727

    More about Nina

    Nina Ekholm Fry, MSSc., has specialized in equine-assisted therapy as a treatment strategy in psychotherapy and counseling for the past 10 years. She is the Director of Equine Programs at the Institute for Human-Animal Connection and Adjunct Professor at University of Denver where she leads the new Equine-Assisted Mental Health Practitioner Certificate program. Nina is the former Director of Equine-Assisted Mental Health at Prescott College and served as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counselor Education until 2014. She is an Executive Board member of the national Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals (CBEIP) and has trained in a number of equine-assisted approaches in North America and in Europe. She has worked with populations diagnosed with trauma/PTSD, ASD, ADHD, anxiety and addiction, as well as with youth-at-risk, cancer survivors, and military service members and veterans, and consults on psychotherapy services with horses for several providers nationally. In addition to client work and teaching, Nina conducts facilitation workshops and is the editor of the Scientific and Educational Journal of Therapeutic Riding, published by the International Federation of Horses in Education and Therapy (HETI).

    Nina holds a certificate in equine management (Vocational College of Ostrobothnia) and is a certified Riding Instructor (CHA level 4/4). She is a certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and a certified Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning through PATH International and serves on their Equine Welfare committee. She is also an Equestrian Special Olympics coach (AZ). As a practitioner member of the International Society of Equitation Science (ISES), she is dedicated to ethical equitation, application of learning theory, and the understanding of equine cognition, behavior, and mental states as part of equine management, assessment, handling, and training. Nina has a particular interest in equine welfare issues, both in EAAT services and in human-horse interactions in general. She is currently the lead consultant for the Equine Initiative at the Yavapai Humane Society in Arizona, where she advises on facility and program design for a new equine rescue, rehabilitation and adoption initiative.

  • Erica Elvove

    Erica Elvove, MSW

    Associate Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Administrator, Animals and Human Health Certificate Program
    Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    Craig Hall 137
    [email protected]

    More about Erica

    Erica Elvove has over eighteen years of social work experience working with diverse clients, developing and managing programs and specializing in human-animal interaction education. She earned her MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate from University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. A lifelong animal enthusiast, Erica draws from intimate knowledge of dogs, horses, and backyard chickens and is fortunate to have met and worked with many other species along the way.

    Erica has experience working as an equine groom, creating animal-assisted educational programming for high-risk youth, coordinating large-scale volunteer operations for a premier therapeutic horseback riding center, developing and implementing a miniature horse visitation program and has acted as an Instructor and Program Administrator for the Animals and Human Health certificate program since 2008. Erica acted as the Program Coordinator of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection from 2012-2015 and is now the Associate Director. As a returned Peace Corps volunteer in a remote, subsistence-farming community of Nepal and former Vice-President of an environmentally conscious landscaping company, Erica also fosters great interest in the environment as a key element of holistic social work.

  • small_carri_king

    Erin Flynn, MSW

    Research Associate, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    [email protected]

    More about Erin

    Erin Flynn earned an MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate from the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work in 2017. She has over 10 years of experience working as a Research Assistant and Project Manager on initiatives that span the fields of animal behavior, conservation biology, and social work. Her research interests center on understanding the relationship between human and animal health. Currently her work focuses on managing clinical research efforts that aim to rigorously measure the impacts of animal-assisted interventions in a variety of environments, including family preservation services, residential treatment centers for adolescents and prisons.

  • jaci

    Jaci Gandenberger, MSW

    IHAC Research Fellow
    [email protected]

    More about Jaci

    Jaci Gandenberger earned an MSW from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work in 2019 and an MA in Middle East Studies from the University of Oklahoma in 2014. She has three years of experience working as a university Fulbright Award advisor and in teaching intercultural awareness skills to prepare students to engage more successfully with diverse groups within the United States and internationally. This foundation informs her interest in examining the field of animal-assisted social work through a lens that considers implications for diverse and marginalized communities. Jaci is currently serving as a Research Fellow with IHAC, examining the impacts of animal- and environment-based interventions in residential treatment centers for adolescents.

  • small_carri_king

    Arielle Giddens, MSW

    Animals and Human Health Program Coordinator
    Instructor, Animals and Human Health
    [email protected]

    More about Arielle

    Arielle Giddens loves people and animals and has made a career combining the two. Arielle earned her MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work Certificate from the University of Denver in 2013. Prior to graduate school, Arielle earned her Bachelor of Art degree from the University of New Mexico double majoring in Psychology and Fine Arts. While at GSSW, Arielle began studying the relationship between communities and animals during a social work course in Kenya. She is passionate about this area and, after graduation, worked for three years at a local animal shelter in Colorado, experiencing first-hand the impact that animal welfare can have on community members and how communities treat and value animals. Arielle is currently working for the Institute for Human-Animal Connection as the Program Coordinator for the Animals and Human Health certificate program.

  • small_carri_king

    Sloane Hawes, MSW

    Maddie's Fund Research Fellow, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    [email protected]

    More about Sloane

    Sloane Hawes earned her MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate from the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. In her studies at GSSW, she completed a concentration in Sustainable Development and Global Practice and explored concepts of One Health, cultural competence, and an ecosystems approach to community-based social work practice. She completed her undergraduate coursework at University of San Diego, receiving a BA in Ethnic Studies and Psychology. This foundation informs her examination of the impacts of human social issues across both space and time, and guides her exploration of the role humane education and the human-animal bond can play in promoting social justice. Sloane is currently serving as the Maddie's Fund Research Fellow and manages the Institute's research agenda on the human community factors that promote or hinder animal welfare.

  • small_carri_king

    Carri King-Bussard, MA, LPC

    Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    [email protected]

    More about Carri

    Carri earned her Master's degree in counseling from Webster University in Albuquerque, NM in 1998. She is currently a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Colorado. Carri earned a Certificate in Animals and Human Health: Animal Assisted Therapy and Learning from University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) in 2007.

    In her work over the last 24 years, Carri has utilized the strength of the human-animal bond while working with a variety of people in a variety of settings. She has extensive experience working in the community with high-risk youth and their families.

    Carri currently works within her private practice which is called Animal Assisted Counseling of Colorado (AACC). AACC provides office and community based mental health services which are a combination of evidence based practices and Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). AACC provides individual, group, and family therapy as well as ongoing assessment and case management services. Carri receives most of her referrals from the child welfare system and is a Medicaid provider for both Denver and Arapahoe Counties. Carri also works with adults with mental illness. Carri works with many furry co-therapists that include her three therapy dogs, four therapy Guinea pigs, two rats, and collaborates with Gallants Gold Acres to provide Equine Assisted Psychotherapy.

    Carri is also Co-Owner of Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado whose mission is: to promote the human canine bond for professionals and volunteers working within the mental health field. PTDC provides education, training, evaluation and registry for dog handler teams. PTDC is dedicated to enhancing the mental health professional's ability to incorporate and deliver individualized canine interventions.

  • Laura Meyer

    Laura Meyer, PhD

    Clinical Assistant Professor
    Graduate School of Professional Psychology
    Ammi Hyde Building, Room 230
    [email protected]

    More about Laura

    Laura Meyer, a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP), earned her Ph.D. in Quantitative Research Methods in 2008 and has taught introductory and advanced courses in statistics and research methods since 2007. Dr. Meyer also teaches courses in geropsychology and doctoral paper development, and in the summer of 2014 will co-teach the GSPP's first class on animal-assisted interventions (AAI). She is currently conducting research on the impact of equine therapy on the PTSD symptoms of Vietnam veterans. Given the tremendous interest of GSPP students and fellow researchers in AAI, Dr. Meyer is working to increase opportunities for student training and research in this area via grant funding and other training options.

  • Kevin Morris

    Kevin Morris, PhD

    Research Associate Professor
    [email protected]
    GSSW Faculty Profile

    More about Kevin

    Dr. Morris holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of Chicago. He was actively involved in cancer research in both academic and biotechnology environments for over 20 years. Dr. Morris joined the Animal Assistance Foundation as the Director of Research in 2009 and began focusing his scientific skills on the advancement of animal health and welfare through research and analysis. He served as the Principle Investigator on a wide range of studies in animal sheltering, pet overpopulation and the field of Human-Animal Interaction. He now serves as a scientific consultant for several animal health and welfare organizations and biotechnology companies, and is a Research Scholar in Residence within the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver. Dr. Morris leads clinical research efforts that aim to rigorously measure the impacts of animal-assisted interventions in a variety of environments, including family preservation services, pediatric oncology, residential treatment centers for adolescents and prisons. His current focus for addressing the issue of unwanted companion animals is through the development of non-surgical spay/neuter technologies. Toward this end, he has served on the Board of Directors of the Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs since 2011 and as a Scientific Advisory Board Member for the Michelson Prize and Grants since 2014.

  • Drew

    Drew Webster, CPDT-KA

    Canine Program Manager
    [email protected]

    More about Drew

    Drew Webster is a certified professional dog trainer and our canine behavior expert. He specializes in understanding canine behavior and implementing effective and humane training programs to meet goals. There's more than one way to teach a dog how to learn skills, commands and confidence, his focus in on educating the humans to build a strong relationship and further the human animal bond. Drew believes training is the process of creating a shared language between two different species. His work as a trainer includes boarding facilities, AHAA accredited veterinary practices, dog daycares, therapy programs and animal shelters. You can lean more about Drew by visiting

Distance Learning Faculty

  • Molly DePrekle

    Molly DePrekel

    [email protected]

    More about Molly

    Molly DePrekel is a psychologist in private practice at the Midwest Center for Trauma and Hold Your Horses. Molly received her MA in counseling and psychological services from St. Mary's University and BS in Animal Husbandry from Michigan State University. She holds a certificate in EMDR, Yoga Calm, and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and has utilized the unique relationship people have with animals and nature to assist her in therapy for over twenty-eight years. Molly has facilitated workshops, taught internationally, and volunteered with numerous organizations in the field of nature based healing. She is past President of the Equine Facilitated Mental Health Association and is a contributing author to the book, "Harnessing the Power of Equine Assisted Counseling: Adding Animal Assisted Therapy to Your Practice", and has co-authored six manuals on animal assisted interventions. She is an Eponaquest approved instructor, and was a co-founding member of the Certification Board for Equine Interaction Professionals.


  • Ann Howie

    Ann Howie, LICSW, ACSW            Program Director, Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist Certificate

    [email protected]

    More about Ann

    Ann has enjoyed and learned from animals in her life since birth. Ann began integrating animals into her counseling practice in 1987 and has worked with animals in (human) healthcare ever since. She founded and coordinated a hospital animal-assisted activities and therapy program from 1990-1997. She has written two textbooks for animal-program coordinators and contributes to internationally recognized training books on handler skills, animal-handler evaluation, and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) techniques.

    Ann also provides therapy dog training and screening of animal-handler teams for appropriateness for animal-assisted interactions programs. She emphasizes animal well being in her work. Ann was Delta Society®'s Director of AAT Services from 1995-2000, and she is an Eden Associate. Ann is an adjunct faculty member at University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work in the on-line Animals in Human Health certificate.

    Ann consults nationally and internationally through her business, Human-Animal Solutions. Ann shares her life with her husband Doug and (currently) two Wheaten Terriers, and multitudes of wild birds and squirrels.


  • Alison Leslie

    Alison Leslie, MSW, LCSW

    [email protected]

    More about Alison

    Alison Leslie has always loved being around animals and decided to combine this passion with her professional expertise as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Alison graduated from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work with a certificate in Animal Assisted Social Work and was the first graduate to successfully train and graduate with a therapy dog by her side. Marley, a flat- coated retriever, and Alison went on to work with families in transitional housing, youth in foster care, and families in the child welfare system. Alison also helped create and implement group programs for youth in treatment centers throughout the Denver-metro areas. Alison and Marley were also profiled in a chapter of the book, New Lives: Stories of Rescue Dogs Helping, Healing, and Giving Hope by Joanne Wannan.

    Alison now runs her own private practice, Positive PAWSibiliites, in Bloomington, IN and works with youth and families by including animals in a cognitive behavioral, solution focused, strength based program.

  • Jen Pearson

    Jen Pearson, MSW, MSc

    [email protected]

    More about Jen

    Jen Pearson entered the social work profession after years of working as a riding instructor and dog handler. Her clinical work has focused on utilizing animal-assisted interventions with at-risk youth in settings such as Green Chimneys Children's Services, the Griffith Centers for Children and The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, as well as Pet Partners and PATH International. In addition to her MSW and Animal-Assisted Social Work certificate from the University of Denver, Jen earned a Master of Science (MSc) degree from the University of Edinburgh's Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in the United Kingdom in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare.

    For her doctoral work, Jen's research interests include the human-animal bond and related psychopathologies from an attachment theory perspective, animal and object hoarding, the development of international ethical standards for animal-assisted interventions, and welfare assessment for animal participants in therapeutic activities.

    Jen is connected with several local dog-training facilities and conducts intensive canine behavioral rehabilitation on a private basis. She enjoys working dogs in obedience, agility, tracking and protection sports.

  • Sheryl Pipe

    Sheryl Pierre, PhD

    [email protected]

    More about Sheryl

    Sheryl Pierre earned a doctoral degree in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University. She has been combining her career interests in psychology, education and animal welfare since graduate school. Her grant supported dissertation research investigated the role of a friendly dog in rapport development in initial social interactions.

    Sheryl went on to lead the Humane Education department of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). In that role, she developed and supervised both education and animal-assisted interaction programs. She was a speaker at a number of local, regional and national animal welfare and education conferences—including American Humane Association, National Middle School Association, Youth Service America, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Association for Gifted Children and the Association of Professional Humane Educators conferences.

    Currently, Sheryl is a post-doctoral fellow at Dakhari Psychological Services, LLC. in Moorestown, NJ. She works with pediatric clients with varying presenting issues. She was elected to board positions within the Association of Professional Humane Educators (APHE), Humane Educators Reaching Teachers (HEART), and South Jersey Psychological Association and is Membership Committee Chair for the New Jersey Psychological Association. Sheryl also teaches within the Canisius College Anthrozoology Master's program.

    Sheryl shares her home with one dog and four cats, none of whom want to become registered therapy animals.

  • Sue Teumer

    Sue Teumer, MA

    [email protected]

    More about Sue

    An educator by training, Sue has taught at all levels – graduate-level courses down through preschool and even parent/infant programs. Her 25+ years of teaching have run the gamut from special education to gifted education as well as a stint in "regular education." She insists her most meaningful teaching experiences, though, are those she has shared with a variety of animals.

    Sue has extensive experience in the field of animal-assisted interactions. She has developed and led animal-assisted education, activity and therapy programs for individuals of all ages, employing several models of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and including animals of many different species. What started by bringing her trained pot-bellied pig into schools to motivate increased language in young children grew into an opportunity to develop and run a therapeutic farm providing services for dozens of students each week. She has served as a volunteer, trainer, evaluator and national board member for the Delta Society's Pet Partner program. She has also worked as program coordinator, volunteer, instructor and Executive Committee member for HABIC, Human-Animal Bond in Colorado. With Dr. Aaron Katcher, she co-authored a chapter for Aubrey Fine's Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy, (Second Edition).


  • Frank Ascione

    Frank R. Ascione, PhD

    GSSW Visiting Faculty Profile

    More about Frank

    Dr. Ascione is an internationally renowned researcher and author who has conducted research related to humane education, children's attitudes toward animals, and child and adolescent animal abuse. His current research on animal abuse examines the common roots of violence toward people and animals and has been directed at identifying an early indicator of at-risk status in children. Dr. Ascione has collaborated with human services, social work, and child development staff working with abused children, with youth corrections personnel, and with state shelters for women who are battered.

    Dr. Ascione has published numerous articles on the development of antisocial and prosocial behavior in children, co-edited Cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence: Readings in research and application (1998) and Child abuse, domestic violence, and animal abuse: Linking the circles of compassion for prevention and intervention (1998), and authored Safe havens for pets: Guidelines for programs sheltering pets for women who are battered. Ascione also authored Children and animals: Exploring the roots of kindness and cruelty, published in 2005 by Purdue University Press and translated into Japanese and Italian editions. The international handbook of animal abuse and cruelty: Theory, research, and application, edited by Dr. Ascione, was published in May 2008. In September 2010, he was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Waltham Foundation to study children exposed to intimate partner violence and to animal abuse. Dr. Ascione was selected to receive the 2001 Distinguished Scholar Award from the International Association of Human-Animal Interaction Organizations and the International Society for Anthrozoology. Dr. Ascione served as the inaugural American Humane Endowed Chair and Executive Director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work from September 2009 until June 2012.


  • Jim Pyle

    Allie Phillips 

    Attorney/Consultant, Institute for Human-Animal Connection on the Colorado LINK Project
    [email protected]

    More about Allie

    Allie Phillips is a former prosecuting attorney, nationally recognized expert and author involving animal protection, animal abuse prosecutions and human-animal interactions that impact the criminal justice system. She launched and directed the National Center for Prosecution of Animal Abuse at the National District Attorneys Association, is the founder of Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T)™ Program the first and only global initiative assisting domestic violence shelters to create on-site housing for family pets so that families in crisis do not have to be separated from their pets or leave them behind in an abusive home, and she is the creator of Therapy Animals Supporting Kids (TASK) Program which is helping to incorporate volunteer therapy animal teams for maltreated children in the criminal justice system.

  • Jim Pyle

    Jim Pyle, MSW, LCSW

    Colorado LINK Project
    [email protected]

    More about Jim

    Jim Pyle was the Project Manager for the Colorado LINK Project and is also a Field Liaison for the Graduate School of Social Work. Jim has over 25 years of experience working with high-risk youth/families with expertise in the areas of independent living/emancipation issues, supervision and program management, program evaluation, training and consultation. His clinical experience includes individual and family work with "high-risk" adolescents and adult sex offender treatment. As the Project Manager for the Colorado LINK Project, Jim works with numerous organizations, systems and professionals to increase the awareness of and response to relations between animal cruelty, human maltreatment, and violence and criminal behaviors through resource development, training activities and performing forensic animal cruelty evaluations.