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Department of Psychology

Our People

The USC School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) is comprised of faculty, staff, graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows from a variety of backgrounds. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of our work, SBHT lab members have backgrounds in clinical psychology, school psychology, developmental psychology, social work, education, public health, and nursing. The SBHT offices are housed at 819 Barnwell Street.  

Director

Mark D. Weist received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Virginia Tech in 1991 after completing his internship at Duke University, and is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina (UofSC). In 1995, with colleagues from the University of Maryland, he established the National Center for School Mental Health, now in its 26th year of supporting this field (see www.schoolmentalhealth.org). He is also a partner on the National Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (see www.pbis.org). He has edited or developed 15 books and has published and presented widely in areas of mental health-education system partnerships, school behavioral health (SBH), trauma, violence and youth, evidence-based practice, cognitive behavioral therapy, supporting military families, and advancing policies that support children and youth at local, state, regional, national, and international levels of scale. With colleagues, he currently leads the Southeastern School Behavioral Health Community (see www.schoolbehavioralhealth.org), and is leading or co-leading a number of federally funded studies on strategies to improve SBH effectiveness, impact and scaling up. Mark recently received the Faculty Achievement Award from the Southeastern Conference (campus winner from the UofSC). 

Curriculum Vitae [pdf]

Staff

Headshot of Courtnie SmithCourtnie completed her Doctorate of Psychology at the Georgia School of Professional Psychology in September 2016 and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of South Carolina in 2010. She completed an APA accredited internship in health psychology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and a post-doctoral fellowship in developmental-behavioral pediatrics with Greenville Health System. Dr. Smith became a part of the School Behavioral Health Team in October 2017 and has since co-managed SBHT and managed multiple grants and contracts aimed at improving the quality of school mental health services in South Carolina. Dr. Smith works closely with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and also works with the UofSC Institute for Families in Society. Most recently, Dr. Smith received funding for Enhancing Capacity in School Mental Health from BlueCross® BlueShield® of South Carolina Foundation to create an undergraduate internship and graduate school mental health enhancement to help close the gaps in school mental health services and increase the recruitment of a well-trained school mental health workforce. 

Headshot of Tricia MotesDistinguished research professor emerita at the University of South Carolina, earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from South Carolina State University and her doctoral degree in clinical-community psychology from the University of South Carolina.  Currently she serves as program consultant with the School Behavioral Heath Team. As a leader in South Carolina,    Dr. Motes has facilitated partnerships among mental health, juvenile justice, schools, and community organizations for the translation of research evidence into programs and services supporting youth and their families, including children enrolled in Medicaid and adults who are uninsured. With a primary focus on positive youth development, Dr. Motes has led a range of projects including systems of care to promote positive mental health outcomes for children, youth, and their families, statewide policy studies on the overrepresentation of minority youth in the juvenile justice system, a volunteer community-based program of support to families in crisis or with acute needs, a mentoring initiative for children and families affected by incarceration, and  efforts to prevent bullying in schools. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team in August 2018. Prior to joining the SBHT, Dr. Motes was research professor in the Institute for Families in Society, University of South Carolina. 

Headshot of Brooke ChehoskiBrooke graduated from Christopher Newport University with a degree in Communication Studies in 2004.  Brooke worked for over a decade in nonprofit management and completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University of South Carolina in 2015. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) in 2019 and serves as the Lead Research Manager across several grants including the Early Supports for Student Success (ESSS) project and the Partnering for Student Wellness (PSW) project. Both inside and outside of work, Brooke excels at excellence and defies the odds. At 5’1”, starting at power forward, she brings the heat! With all the charm of a chubby checkers champion, Chehoski chews up the competition. She puts the ZING in amazing and has been previously described as a national treasure. Brooke has been unanimously voted the most interesting person in our lab.  

Taylor graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Sociology in 2010 and an Education Specialist degree in 2015. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) in 2019 where she serves as a Research Associate. Taylor also serves as an instructor for University 101 Programs and is passionate about working with first-year students. She is a member of the State Advisory Committee on Mental Health in Schools and Communities and is a State Advisor on Social Emotional Learning in Schools with the Department of Education. Outside of her work in the SBHT, she works as a mental health practitioner specializing in the treatment of Trauma and Stressor related disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Depressive Disorders, Personality Disorders, and Suicidality. For self-care, Taylor loves spending time with her dog, Diesel.

Headshot of Tucker ChandlerTucker graduated from Winthrop University with a Bachelor of Social Work degree in May 2018. Upon graduation, she worked with a non-profit organization for two years before completing her Master of Social Work degree at the University of Georgia in May 2021. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) in August 2021 as a Research Specialist, where she works on several grants including the Early Supports for Student Success (ESSS) project and the Partnering for Student Wellness (PSW) project. Tucker also serves as an instructor for University 101 and loves spending time getting to know students and helping them navigate college. Outside of work, Tucker enjoys spending time in the sunshine, going on podcast walks, hanging out with her family at Holden Beach, and fostering her creative side through piano and painting. Around the office, Tucker enjoys writing her boss’ bio and is the head of the Party Planning Committee.  

Headshot of Leah TolanLeah graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Experimental Psychology. She is a second-year Clinical Mental Health student earning her Education Specialist (EdS) degree pursuing to earn licensure as an LPC-A and become certified as a yoga therapist working in a private practice setting. Leah became a part of the School Behavioral Health team in March 2020 as a research specialist to support the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Ending the Silence evaluation project. In addition to her role on NAMI, Leah is the program coordinator for the Enhancing Capacity in School Mental Health (ECSMH) program and an assistant coordinator for the John H. Magill Mental Health Certificate Program. Leah is also a member of the South Carolina Clinical Mental Health Counselor Association (SCCMHCA), a member of USC's Chi Sigma Iota chapter as a student-faculty liaison, a member of the Wellness Enhancement Lab (WEL) in the College of Education, a YESS Lab Mentor, and a Victim’s Advocate for Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands. Leah enjoys spending time with her dogs, Athena and Penny, practicing yoga and running, and serves as the unofficial news anchor for our lab as she always has the most up-to-date information on what’s happening in the Soda City.  

Katie is a Research Assistant Professor at the Yvonne & Schuyler Moore Child Development Research Center in the College of Education at UofSC. She earned a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology with a quantitative concentration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served in the Education sector for 2 years with Peace Corps Ghana. She began collaborating with the School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) in 2017 on the Project about School Safety, the first RCT to evaluate an implementation of the Interconnected Systems Framework (ISF) in elementary schools. A continuing member of the SBHT, she enjoys working with partner leaders to research, evaluate, develop, and support systems that honor and serve all children and families. In her downtime, Katie enjoys nature, movies, travel, and Disney! 

Headshot of Frances SalernoFrances graduated from George Mason University with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and then went on to graduate from the University of South Carolina with a Master of Social Work degree. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team in February of 2020 as a graduate assistant supporting the BASC project. Frances is now a research associate working on the SC School Behavioral Health Academy project and is currently pursuing licensure as a LCSW-A. 

Donna earned her graduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in Human Development and Childhood Disorders (HDCD) in 2008. After graduating, Donna worked as an Intervention Specialist and Assistant Director at the Warren Center, a non-profit agency that advocates, that serves and empowers the children and families impacted by developmental delays and disabilities. In 2016, Donna became Assistant Professor of Instruction at the University of Texas at Dallas in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences also serving as Clinical Advisor for the HDCD practicum and internship program, coordinating placements and providing reflective supervision. During the COVID-19 pandemic, because of an overwhelming need for identification of mental health needs in school aged children, Donna put her evaluation skills to good use conducting psychological assessments for students PK to 12th grade at a private neuropsychology consulting firm. Donna recently relocated to the Columbia area and joined the SBH team!

Headshot of Hannah KnottHannah graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Experimental Psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2019. After graduating, she completed an AmeriCorps service year as a tutor/mentor in New York City public schools before completing a Master of Arts in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2022. She joined the School Behavioral Health Team in August 2022 as a Research Associate for the South Carolina Mental Health Academy project. Outside of work, she enjoys cooking, baking, and catching up on reality TV shows.

Headshot of Madison NilesMadison graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2022 with a degree in Experimental Psychology. Once involved as an undergraduate in the lab, Madison came back for more and is now a research specialist. Madison supervises the undergraduate students and helps out with several ongoing projects at the lab. Outside of work, Madison is an avid movie-goer, loves to be involved with theatre (her second major), and enjoys the outdoors.

Lori joined the SBHT in August 2022 as program manager for the SC School Mental Health Academy. Lori joins SBHT after 20 years working with Waccamaw Center for Mental Health, a community mental health center with SC Department of Mental Health. Lori was Director of Children’s Services for 18 years overseeing treatment programs for children and families, including the second oldest school-based services program in the state.  

 

 

Headshot of Steve Harrod

 

  • Elaine Miller, M.A.T. 
  • Leo Draham, Psy.D. 
  • Liz Miranda-Needham, LMSW 
  • Hannah Hunsaker 
  • Victoria Rizzardi, M.Ed.  
  • Ashley Quell, M.Ed. 
  • Lee Fletcher, M.Div., LMSW 
  • Allison Farrell, MPH, LISW-CP, ACM 
  • David Riddle, B.A. 
  • Katie Faerber, B.A. 
  • Kirstie Hewson, B.A. 
  • Rachel Williamson, B.A. 
  • Kelly Monahan, B.A. 
  • Kendra DeLoach-McCutcheon, Ph.D. 
  • Leslie Taylor, Ph.D. 
  • Johnathan Fowler, Ph.D. 
  • Melissa R.W. George, Ph.D. 
  • Joni Williams Splett, Ph.D. 
  • Theresa Oniffrey, MPH 
  • Danielle Morey, LMSW  
  • Katherine Widener  
  • Cheryl Fitts, MAT 
  • Katie Franke, Ph.D., BCBA  
  • Sommer Blair, B.A.

 

Grad Students  

Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Queens University of Charlotte where she majored in psychology, minored in sociology and music. After studying at Queens University of Charlotte, Samantha started the Master in Social Work (MSW) program at University of South Carolina, where she specialized in children, youths, and families. During her MSW Samantha completed practicum experiences as a school social worker at Irmo High School in District 5 of Lexington and Richland counties and a social worker at Charlotte Family Housing. After graduation, Samantha continued her education at the University of South Carolina in the psychology department, as a student in the School Psychology program under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Weist. During this time Samantha earned her Master in Arts (MA) for school psychology. Samantha has engaged in several clinical experiences within a variety of settings working with individuals with diverse backgrounds. Some of these experiences include providing services at North Central Middle School, Brian Hall Psychiatric Facility, Psychology Services Center (PSC) and Unumb Center for Neurodevelopment. In addition to her clinical experiences, Samantha has been a member of the School Behavioral Health Lab and has participated in several research projects. Specifically, Samantha has worked closely with the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCDMH) John H. Magill School Mental Health Certificate Program and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina Enhancing Capacity in School Mental Health (ECSMH) program. In both her research and clinical practice, Samantha is interested in working with children, youths, and families within the school system to help provide accessible mental health services. Additionally, she has a passion for working with individuals who have experienced grief and loss, conducting assessments both for Serious Mental Illness (SMI) and Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) and generally supporting the mental health needs of children, youth, and families.  

At this time Samantha has completed all doctoral requirements except for her dissertation and she is currently finalizing her work on this project. Samantha has recently matched with an APPIC pre-doctoral internship with the University of Miami Mailman Center for Child Development in the School-Based track. 

Headshot of Kristen FigasKris Figas is a doctoral student in the Clinical-Community Psychology Program.  She received her BA in Psychology from Miami University and EdS in School Psychology from the University of Cincinnati.  Kris is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) with experience working with students aged 3-21 in diverse public and private school settings.  Kris’s research interests center on improving the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based school behavioral health practices, with a focus on the systems change process.  She is also interested in program evaluation and the intersection of research, practice, and policy. 

Headshot of Darien CollinsDarien Collins, B.A. completed her undergraduate studies at the University of SC in May 2019. After graduating, she worked as a Research Specialist on the School Behavioral Health Team (SBHT) led by Dr. Mark Weist, where she managed undergraduate students as they completed the 498/598 coursework within the research lab. Additionally, she was an advanced research coordinator across several grants, including the Pee Dee Resiliency Project (PDRP), the Project About School Safety (PASS), and evaluation of the NAMI Ending the Silence program, as well as assisting with other SBHT tasks. Darien is currently a Doctoral student in School Psychology at the University of SC. Her research interests include mindfulness interventions and promotion of emotional and behavioral wellness for positive youth development. 

 

 

  • Josh Bradley, B.A. 
  • Carrissa Orlando, B.A., M.A. 
  • Alex Roberts, M.A. 
  • Cameron Massey, B.A., M.A. 
  • Sami Hartley, B.A. 
  • Tristan Collier, B.A.  

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