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Suniya S. Luthar, PhD

Founder, Executive Director, and Group Facilitator

Dr. Suniya S. Luthar is the Founder of AC Groups, Professor Emerita at Columbia University's Teachers College, and also Co-Founder of Authentic Connections, an organization committed to school-based prevention. Dr. Luthar completed her Ph.D. In clinical & developmental psychology at Yale University and an internship at the Yale Child Study Center. Her research involves vulnerability and resilience among various at-risk populations including families affected by mental illness, and those in high-stress work and community settings. A licensed clinical psychologist since 1990, Dr. Luthar has long been committed to ensuring "care for the caregivers" with published intervention studies serving mothers, health care providers, & educators.

For more details, please see www.SuniyaLuthar.org.

Suniya S. Luthar, PhD

Founder, Executive Director, and Group Facilitator

Tracy Juliao, PhD

Chief Advisor, Steering Committee, and Group Facilitator

Dr. Juliao is a fully licensed health psychologist who owns an integrative mental healthcare practice with multiple locations in southeast Michigan. Professionally, Dr. Juliao has spent over 20 years working as a clinician, a business owner/leader, and an instructor at several universities, including Columbia University, Oakland University, and the University of Michigan. Dr. Juliao's early research interests included women's multiple roles via a lens of health and wellbeing. Growing out of her research, all aspects of her clinical work and teaching have continued to focus on integrative health, trauma, vulnerability, shame, energy psychology, and a whole person perspective, which has resulted in a lifetime of advanced education and certification in healing modalities inclusive of those speciality areas.

 

Tracy Juliao, PhD

Chief Advisor, Steering Committee, and Group Facilitator

Jordan Juliao

Project Director

Jordan is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan with her Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience with a specialization in Adolescence. Her research area of interest is in enhancing neuropsychological interventions for the treatment of adolescent traumatic brain injuries, and she has worked in both a Cognitive Psychology Parkinson's research lab and a Wayfinding In Older Adults study. Jordan is a volunteer crisis counselor, alumni mentor at the University of Michigan, and she currently works with student groups at the University of Michigan to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), especially for women of color in STEM, LGBTQ+ populations, and transfer, non-traditional, and international student groups.

Jordan Juliao

Project Director

Thomas Benenson

President, Board of Directors

Thomas Benenson has demonstrated life-long support and commitment to promoting gender equality and the welfare of women and particularly mothers. For many years, he has served as an escort at a Planned Parenthood health clinic. Additionally, he served an eight-year term as a founding member of the board of a non-profit organization, SAFE, the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, during which he was actively involved in fund-raising and other responsibilities of a "working" board. Mr. Benenson has followed and supported Dr. Luthar’s advocacy efforts for youth and families from 1985 onwards and is very pleased to have been on the Board of AC Groups since the nonprofit’s inception, in 2014. Since his retirement, Mr. Benenson lives in Oaxaca, Mexico, and in New York City.

Thomas Benenson

President, Board of Directors

Kimber Bogard, PhD

Vice President, Board of Directors

Kimber Bogard, PhD, is the Senior Officer of Planning and Advancement and Director of the Innovation to Incubation Program at the National Academy of Medicine. In these roles, she leads planning efforts and catalyzes internal and external partnerships and collaborations to bridge Academies’ consensus recommendations with implementation, to have a greater impact on health. She was formerly directed the Board on Children, Youth and Families at the Academies and before that, was Associate Director of the Institute of Human Development and Social Change at New York University. Kimber received her PhD in applied developmental psychology from Fordham University, and she holds a master’s degree from Columbia University-Teachers College.

Kimber Bogard, PhD

Vice President, Board of Directors

Susan Budinger

Board of Directors

Susan Budinger is a developmental scientist dedicated to fostering the well-being of women and children through science-based interventions, and as such, she supported the formation of the science-based AC Groups. Budinger is a founder of Rodel, a group of non-profits dedicated to improving public education and the quality of elected leadership in the U.S. Before their formation, she was a director of Rodel, Inc., manufacturers of products used in semiconductor production. Budinger is vice chair of Rodel Delaware and the Rodel Leadership Institute. She is also a board member of the Hoffman Institute Foundation and a past member of the boards of the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Early Education Funds, and Phoenix Country Day School. Budinger has a M.A. in developmental psychology from Arizona State University and a B.A. in mathematics and economics from Hamilton College.

Susan Budinger

Board of Directors

Elise Geithner, BSN, RN

Secretary, Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Elise Geithner is a pediatric acute care nurse with a background in pediatric palliative care, home hospice, and children with chronic illness. She is currently studying to be a pediatric nurse practitioner at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests include compassion fatigue in pediatric medical professionals, supporting the needs of children with chronic critical illness in the hospital and at home, and early integration of palliative care in treatment plans for children with life-limiting conditions. She completed her BA in Human Biology at Stanford University/ She earned her BS in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a Graduate Certificate in Pediatric Palliative Care from the University of Washington's Palliative Care Training Center.

Elise Geithner, BSN, RN

Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Jennifer Reese, MD

Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Dr. Jenny Reese is the Section Head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, and Associate Vice Chair for Faculty Well-being, Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine. In addition to her clinical work as a hospitalist, she is also the Medical Director for Provider Well-being, Children's Hospital Colorado, leading work promoting well-being for health care providers at Children's Hospital Colorado, and Department of Pediatrics. This work focuses on understanding and mitigating burnout and promoting resilience for health care providers, including research interests in quality improvement. She enjoys facilitating workshops and public speaking on these topics.

Jennifer Reese, MD

Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Pam Roy

Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Pam Roy is a philanthropist, investor, businesswoman, and community leader with a mission to provide transformational community-based mental health support for families and youth. She is co-founder of Straight Up Impact, a company at the intersection of film and social impact. As part of their Meaning in Madness film series, she collaborated with Big Picture Learning, to create B-Unbound, a community platform that connects 14-24-year-olds to supportive adults and peers around shared interests. It runs parallel to school systems and is free to all youth. Recognizing the key role meaning plays in wellness, Pam is the co-founder of the Viktor Frankl Institute of America and co-author of “The Inspiring Wisdom of Viktor E. Frankl.” She writes a blog that inspires parents to look at systemic issues affecting youth mental health and wellbeing.

Pam Roy

Board of Directors and Steering Committee

Helen Burke, LMHCA

Group Facilitator

Helen Burke completed her academic and clinical mental health training at Antioch University in Seattle. She is currently a mental health counselor doing individual and group work with youth and parents through a non profit organization (Bainbridge Youth Services) dedicated since 1962 to promoting the social and emotional wellbeing of adolescents and young adults. Helen also does community outreach and education about youth wellness and the importance of supporting caregivers in the hard work of parenting. Counseling is a mid-life career change for Helen who practiced law before having kids. She has facilitated in person and online support groups in and around Seattle for several years and is regularly inspired by the power of group work.

Helen Burke, LMHCA

Group Facilitator

Sherry Chesak, PhD, RN

Steering Committee and Group Facilitator

Sherry Chesak, Ph.D., R.N., is a Nurse Scientist in the Department of Nursing, Division of Nursing Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Her program of research is centered on care for the caregiver, primarily focused on mindfulness-based interventions to enhance resilience among both professional and family caregivers of patients with complex health needs. She received a Master’s degree in Nursing Education from Winona State University and a PhD in Nursing from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. She has attended multiple trainings for teaching resilience principles and mindfulness practices and is certified by the Global Resilience and Inner Transformation Institute as a Resilience Trainer.

Sherry Chesak, PhD, RN

Steering Committee & Group Facilitator

Amber Cunnings, LMFT

Group Facilitator

Amber Cunnings has been a Marriage and Family Therapist and art therapist for over 10 years. She provides AC groups because she believes that this approach creates more resilient and resourced people in the world which can only lead to good things! Amber has worked in various settings from inpatient hospitals to private practice and has a lot of humor, truth telling, story telling, and space holding that she can use to create the best possible group experience for anyone signing up. She attended Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California where she received her Master's degree. She currently owns her own practice based in the metro Detroit area of Michigan.

Amber Cunnings, LMFT

Group Facilitator

Vanessa Elias, Certified Parent Coach

Steering Committee and Group Facilitator

Vanessa Elias is the founder of Thrive with a Guide, LLC, a certified parent coach, and a mental health activist. She earned my bachelor's degree in psychology from Boston University. During her time as the president of the Wilton Youth Council (2015-2019), she was honored to be named a “Wilton 25” in 2017, celebrating 25 extraordinary Wilton residents for their talent, entrepreneurial spirit, generosity, expertise, and philanthropy. Currently, Vanessa serves as a lead voice in her community connecting parents to professionals, resources, and thought leaders. She specializes in considering siblings when creating a personalized support plan for parents and remains passionate about learning new evidence-based practices in mental health. She has led parent support groups since 2015 and is also a facilitator for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Child & Adolescent Network (NAMI-CAN) and AC Groups.

Vanessa Elias

Steering Committee & Group Facilitator

Alexandra M. Ingram, PhD

Steering Committee and Group Facilitator

Dr. Alexandra M. Ingram completed her education and training in clinical psychology at Arizona State University, as well as clinical internship in health service and postdoctoral fellowship in couples and family psychology at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Jackson, MS and Charleston, SC. Her research and clinical focus include children and families affected by adversity (e.g., divorce, bereavement, severe mental illness) and interventions to promote resilience and recovery from developmental, interpersonal, and systems-based approaches. She previously served as project director of AC Groups.

Alexandra Ingram, PhD

Steering Committee & Group Facilitator

Alex Kreinces

Steering Committee

Alex has extensive experience across business, research, and communication. Having worked for some of the largest holding companies in the advertising industry, is able to truly understand and interpret consumer behavior. Combining his time and experience in the advertising industry with his passion for research and human development, Alex brings a unique point of view to AC Groups' steering committee, supporting the team on strategic partnerships and outreach. 

Alex Kreinces

Steering Committee

Steve S. Lee, PhD

Senior Advisor: Policy & Dissemination and Steering Committee

Dr. Steve Lee is Professor and Director of Clinical Psychology Training at UCLA’s Department of Psychology. He is also Associate Editor of the journal Clinical Psychological Science, and Past-President, Society for Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology (SCCAP). Dr. Lee obtained his BA from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from UC Berkeley, and his post-doctoral fellowship in Psychiatric Genetics was done at the University of Chicago. Dr. Lee's ares of expertise include attention deficit and behavioral problems in children, with special attention to how these develop in families, and implications for treatment. Among Dr. Lee's honors is the American Psychological Association's Division 7 2021 Mavis Hetherington Award for Excellence in Applied Developmental Science.

Steve Lee, PhD

Senior Advisor: Policy & Dissemination and Group Facilitator

Jeremiah Neal, LMHC

Group Facilitator

Jeremiah Neal is a licensed mental health counselor, an AC Groups facilitator, and the current Upper School Counselor at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, GA. He received his bachelor's degree in Sociology from Georgia State University in 2009 and his master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Lesley University in 2014. In addition to providing direct services to students, Jeremiah provides consultation and education to school staff and faculty on adolescent mental health issues.

Jeremiah Neal, LMHC

Group Facilitator

Janae Peters

Steering Committee and Group Facilitator

Janae Peters completed her clinical social work training at the Smith College School for Social Work. She is an educator who actively integrates clinical social work into all aspects of the educational environment. She spends most of her time working with high school students at the Mastery School of Hawken, and with graduate students at Smith College School for Social Work. Additionally, she is actively engaged in the pilot stages of founding Prolific Shifts, a cohort space for Black educators and leaders to engage in personal and professional development. In every realm, she has engaged a relational and process oriented approach to learning with and supporting others, and has a highest goal of understanding how different social, political, historical, and environmental contexts influence our capacities for learning, growth, and transformation.

Janae Peters

Steering Committee & Group Facilitator

Erika A. Thomas-Collins, PsyD, DLLP, LPC

Group Facilitator

Dr. Erika A. Thomas-Collins is a Doctoral Limited License Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor. She received her doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from the Michigan School of Psychology and her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Phoenix. She is also a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and Approved Clinical Supervisor. Dr. Erika has been working in mental health since 2008, obtaining experience in case management, home-based therapy, individual, couples, family, and group therapy, psychiatric hospital intake, and supervision/ management. In 2013 Dr. Erika established her own private practice in New Haven, Michigan. Dr. Erika’s area of interest and dissertation research was focused on racial identity development for Multiracial individuals. Her areas of clinical specialty include mood disorders, borderline personality disorder, and PTSD/trauma.

Erika A. Thomas-Collins, PsyD, DLLP, LPC

Group Facilitator