Neil Websdale's Portrait

Neil Websdale, Ph.D.

Professor Neil Websdale is Director of the newly formed Family Violence Institute at Northern Arizona University and Director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative (NDVFRI). He has published work on domestic violence, the history of crime, policing, social change, and public policy. Dr. Websdale’s five books include: Rural Woman Battering and the Justice System: An Ethnography (Sage), 1998, which won the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Outstanding Book Award in 1999; Understanding Domestic Homicide (Northeastern University Press), 1999; Making Trouble: Cultural Constructions of Crime, Deviance, and Control (Aldine Books, co-edited with Jeff Ferrell), 1999; Policing the Poor: From Slave Plantation to Public Housing (Northeastern University Press), 2001, winner of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Outstanding Book Award in 2002 and the Gustavus-Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights Award in 2002. His latest book, Familicidal Hearts: The Emotional Styles of 211 Killers was published by Oxford University Press in 2010. Dr. Websdale is currently working on a new book, tentatively titled, The Tale the River Told: The Murder of Susan Casey. His social policy work involves helping establish networks of domestic violence fatality review teams across the United States and elsewhere. He has also worked on issues related to community policing, full faith and credit, and risk assessment and management in domestic violence cases. Dr. Websdale trained as a sociologist at the University of London, England and currently lives and works in Flagstaff, Arizona.

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Kathleen Ferraro, Ph.D.

Kathleen Ferraro is the Director of Training and Curriculum at the Family Violence Institute and Professor of Sociology at NAU. She has worked in the field of family violence since 1976 as an educator, trainer, researcher, volunteer, shelter and domestic violence coalition board member, and as an expert witness in over 140 criminal and civil cases involving domestic violence. She has published widely on this topic in leading academic journals, including Social Problems, Journal of Marriage and Family, Hypatia, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and Violence Against Women. Her book, Neither Angels nor Demons: Women, Crime, and Victimization (Northeastern University Press), 2006, was a Choice Outstanding Book selection in 2007. She is the former Director of the Women and Gender Studies Program at Arizona State University (1998-1999; 2000-2003), Past-President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (2004), and the former chair of the Department of Sociology & Social Work at NAU (2011-2016). She was the founding chair (2009-2016) and is a current member of the Coconino County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.  In Phoenix, she helped establish a drop-in center for women involved in prostitution (Women’s Street Support Center) and women leaving prison (Women Living Free). In 2013, she received the Lee Founders Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems for significant lifetime achievements in the humanist tradition of sociology. Dr. Ferraro earned her BA in sociology from Case Western Reserve University and her MA and PhD in sociology from Arizona State University. 


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Stephen E. Browning, M.Ed.

Steve comes to NAU after devoting years of professional work surrounding child/family wellbeing and community social services. Education achievements include: M.Ed. in Counseling/Human Relations from Northern Arizona University; B.A. in Sociology from California State University Northridge; and his Life/Relationship Coaching Certification through Life Impact LLC. Steve's formerly held professional positions included: Foster Care Services State Director and Community Engagement Manager - Christian Family Care; Program Manager of Therapeutic Foster Care Services - A New Leaf; Director of Child and Family Services - Rise/ARISE Inc. and V.P. of Programs and Manager of Youth Services - The Volunteer Center of Maricopa County. He has served on various local and national committees and boards to include: The National Youth Volunteerism Task Force - Points of Light Foundation; Youth Volunteerism Task Force - Corporation for National Service and currently serves as a National Board Member for the Father & Families Coalition of America. Steve has extensive experiences with training and presenting locally and nationally on various subjects from child welfare, to healthy parenting/fatherhood and family relationships. 

Diana B. Garcia, M.A.

Diana Garcia, ACASI Volunteer Coordinator, has more than 13 years experience in community outreach, program development, case management, and consultation in educational settings with the goal of improving outcomes for at-risk youth and students receiving special education services.  Her skills include conducting professional development, curriculum and assessment development,  coordination of services, community collaboration, and data collection. Garcia earned her M.A. in Secondary Special Education and Transition Services from George Washington University, in 2014. In addition, she earned her M.Ed. in Human Relations in 2011 and a B.A. in Psychology in 2006 from Northern Arizona University. In 2014, she received the School-Based Arizona Secondary Transition Services Award in recognition of outstanding service to students with disabilities. Garcia also services as a board member for ACHIEVE Human Services, a local nonprofit. Garcia continues to strive towards developing programs for children and youth in Yuma County.  



Holly Hulen, M.A.

Holly Hulen, Associate Director of the Family Violence Institute at NAU, has more than 20 years of administrative experience that includes grant and contract management, program development and implementation, fiscal management and staff supervision. Her skills include public relations, marketing and fund development. She has a strong background in direct service that includes providing crisis intervention assistance to victims of crime, managing a homeless shelter, coordinating children’s social service programs and providing advocacy for seniors. She earned her M.A. in Applied Sociology at Northern Arizona University and also serves as NAU Adjunct Faculty.


Melissa Knight 

Melissa Knight joined the Family Violence Institute as a Coordinator in February of 2016, having retired from Pinal County Superior Court in September of 2015 after 25 years of service. Melissa brings with her a total of 32 years of experience in the criminal justice system, working in both uniform and undercover law enforcement, juvenile and adult probation, and for the last 12 years of her career in court administration. She was a charter member of the Pinal County Domestic Violence Coalition, and the Pinal County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. She pioneered the first Domestic Violence Court in the State of Arizona, coordinated the second Fatality Review and Safety Assessment pilot site in the nation, and successfully secured and managed over two million dollars in grant funds during her tenure with Pinal County Court Administration. Other projects included implementing the Juvenile and Adult Drug Courts, the Integrated Family Court, and the Early Disposition Court; guiding the court toward a philosophy of Restorative Justice; and establishing a Pretrial Services Unit, and the Director of Treatment Services for the Courts position. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Behavioral Sciences from Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania; and a Master of Science degree in Administration of Justice from Shippensburg State University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. She has taught classes in Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Women in U.S. History at Central Arizona College; and in Police Community Relations, Communications, and Victimology at the former Central Arizona Law Officers Training Academy.


Danielle Langel, MSW, LMSW

Danielle Langel, MSW, LMSW, Case Management Coordinator for the ACASI Program, has 20 years of experience working in the fields of Domestic Violence and Social Work. Danielle's background is in Victim Advocacy, Legal Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Case Management. Danielle earned her B.S. in Psychology and Criminal Justice from Northern Arizona University in 1996 and her Master's in Social Work from Arizona State University in 2007. Danielle dedicates her spare time providing animal assisted therapy services to at risk youth living in group homes and at homeless shelters.


Stephanie Loyer Burns, MSW

Stephanie Loyer Burns, MSW, is a Case Manager of the Arizona Child and Adolescent Survivor Initiative at the Family Violence Institute. Stephanie received her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Northern Arizona University in 2013. In 2014, Loyer Burns earned her master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on children, youth and adolescents from Arizona State University. 


Stephanie Mayer

Stephanie Mayer, M.P.A.

Stephanie Mayer has been involved in the domestic and sexual violence field for 11 years. She is a Coordinator at the Family Violence Institute (FVI) at Northern Arizona University. Mayer provides training and technical assistance to fatality review teams and coordinates the FVI’s STOP funded Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Initiative. The project develops, implements, and preliminarily evaluates a risk assessment and management system in two Arizona communities. Previously, Mayer spent four years at the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Throughout her time at the Coalition, she was the staff liaison for their involvement in fatality review and served on five teams throughout the state as a full team member, reviewing cases and working with local communities. She also tracked deaths and analyzed trends in the state and used the information to create a policy document for stakeholders. Outside of her involvement in DV related deaths, she coordinated a statewide domestic and sexual violence public health project funded by Futures Without Violence from 2010-2012. She headed a multi-disciplinary Leadership Team and organized and implemented trainings around the state aimed at policy and procedural change. Prior to taking on that role, she served as a Systems Advocate. From 2005-2008, Mayer lived and worked in western Massachusetts, designing and implementing primary and secondary violence prevention curricula for schools and community-based programs. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2005, where she was involved in anti-violence programs and campaigns. Mayer recently earned her Master’s in Public Administration at Northern Arizona University.


Melissa Rhodes, MSW, LCSW

Melissa Rhodes, MSW, LCSW is the Clinical Director of the Arizona Child and Adolescent Survivor Initiative at the Family Violence Institute (Northern Arizona University). She has served as faculty for Northern Arizona University’s Bachelor of Social Work program, and has provided clinical services to children, adolescents and their families for the past 15 years, with an emphasis in work with Hopi and Navajo youth. Prior clinical social work includes individual and family therapy with child, adolescent and adult clients in private practice, schools, and community mental health settings. She has been involved with Coconino County Victim Witness Services, the Coconino County Fatality Review Team, and for several years, facilitated children’s divorce groups for the Coconino County Integrated Family Court. Melissa has a long-standing interest in helping children and families heal from trauma and loss. 



Hannah Leber 

Hannah Leber is a Student Intern at the Family Violence Institute.  She is working toward her Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences degree at Northern Arizona University.