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Institute for Human-Animal Connection

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Faculty & Staff

Affiliated Faculty & Staff

  • Philip Tedeschi

    Philip Tedeschi, MSSW, LCSW

    Executive Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Clinical Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    Craig Hall, Room 234
    303-871-3833
    philip.tedeschi@du.edu
    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.

  • Ramona Beltran

    Ramona Beltrán, PhD

    Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    PhD, University of Washington
    Craig Hall, Room 336
    303-871-3371
    ramona.beltran@du.edu
    GSSW Faculty Profile

    More about Ramona

    Assistant Professor Ramona Beltrán's scholarship is based on indigenous theory and methodology and focuses on the intersections of historical trauma, embodiment, and environmental/social determinants of health as they affect health and risk behaviors in indigenous communities. As an IHAC affiliate faculty member, she is interested in working with IHAC faculty, staff and students to build knowledge that incorporates traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) into health research, practice, and policy. TEK is an indigenous conceptual framework that recognizes the interconnectedness and interdependence of all aspects of creation including animals and all aspects of the natural environment.

  • Sarah Bexell

    Sarah Bexell, PhD

    Humane Education & Anti-Cruelty Programs Manager, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Research Associate Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    Director of Conservation Education, Chengdu Panda Base
    970-672-6133
    sarah.bexell@du.edu
    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

    LINK Project Coordinator, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    courtney.brown@du.edu

    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 group to graduate from GSSW's new 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 and has developed an interest in studying the human-animal bond, One Health and Conservation Social Work, specifically in their application to sustainable development. Courtney has five years of experience developing, implementing and evaluating innovative programs, training events and projects with local https://www.du.edu/humananimalconnection/media/images/rsz_ekholm_fry_bio_photo.jpgand national partners. Her professional interests include addressing issues of animal welfare and social/environmental injustice through humane education and grassroots community development.

  • 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: nina.ekholm-fry@du.edu
    Phone: (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

    Assistant Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Administrator, Animals and Human Health Certificate Program
    Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    Craig Hall 137
    303-871-2719
    erica.elvove@du.edu

    More about Erica

    Erica Elvove has over fifteen 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 Assistant 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

    Carri King-Bussard, MA, LPC


    Canine-Assisted Intervention Specialist, Institute for Human-Animal Connection
    Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Social Work
    carri_king@hotmail.com

    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
    303-871-3203
    laura.meyer@du.edu

    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
    kevin.morris@du.edu
    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
    drew.webster@du.edu

    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 www.gooddogsrule.com.

  • Marla_small

    Marla Yetka

    Director of Marketing
    marla.yetka@du.edu

    More about Marla

    After a 15-year marketing career in the hospitality industry, Marla decided to switch gears and pursue her long time passion for animals. In 2014, Marla earned her Animals and Human Health (AHH) Certificate from the Institute for Human-Animal Connection (IHAC) at University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work. The program broadened her understanding of Animal-Assisted Interactions and cemented her desire to contribute to the industry's continued growth and full acceptance into the therapeutic mainstream.

    Marla served on the Board of Directors for Denver Pet Partners from 2014-2016 and continues to volunteer with her golden retriever, "Snickers", in a variety of settings as ambassadors of the Human-Animal Bond and Animal-Assisted Interactions. The team is also registered with Professional Therapy Dogs of Colorado.

     

Distance Learning Faculty

  • Ann Howie

    Ann Howie, LICSW, ACSW

    Website
    humananimalsolutions@comcast.net

    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

    alison@positivepawsibilities.com

    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

    jenpearsonaat@gmail.com

    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 Pipe, PhD

    Sheryl.Pipe@du.edu

    More about Sheryl

    Sheryl Pipe 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

    aatconsult@frii.com

    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).

Scholars-in-Residence

  • 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.

Consultant

  • Jim Pyle

    Jim Pyle, MSW, LCSW

    Colorado LINK Project
    jimpylelcsw@comcast.net

    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.