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PhD Students

Karina Beltrán

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Karina Beltrán is from El Paso, Texas. She received her B.S. in Human Development with a double major in Chicano/a Studies and a minor in Education from the University of California, Davis. Her major professor is Dr. Samara Akpovo. Beltrán’s research focuses on the trajectories that lead educators into their chosen career. She is also interested in how the systems in place affect underserved youth.


Amanda Capannola

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Amanda is from Tennessee. She received her B.A. in American Studies and her M.S. in Child & Family Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her major professor is Dr. Megan Haselschwerdt. Amanda’s research currently focuses on queer families and pathways to parenthood for LGBTQ+ couples.


Kayley Davis

Kayley Davis

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Kayley is from Knoxville, TN. She received her B.A. in Psychology and M.S. in Child and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her major professor is Dr. Spencer Olmstead. Kayley’s research focuses on young/emerging adult sexual health and well-being, including motivations, various types of sexual relationships, and the effect of sexually transmitted infections on well-being.


Macy HalladayMacy Halladay

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Macy is from Brea, California. She received her B.S. in Family Studies from Brigham Young University and her M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Southern California. Her advisor is Dr. Samara Madrid Akpovo. Macy’s research focuses on parenting decisions surrounding technology and learning within the home through an interdisciplinary and sociocultural perspective.


Tanner Kilpatrick

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Tanner is from Abilene, Texas. He received his B.S. in Animal Science and a MEd. in Agricultural Education from Texas A&M University. He also received his M.S. in Child and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee. His major professor is Dr. Elizabeth Johnson. Tanner uses quantitative methods and focuses broadly on accumulated stressors, particularly among those who have ever been incarcerated. His current work focuses on romantic relationships among individuals who have ever been incarcerated.


Geoff MabeGeoff Mabe

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Geoff Mabe is from Knoxville, TN. He received his B.A. in Bible and Psychology (double major) from Freed-Hardeman University, his M.A in General Psychology from East Tennessee State University, and his M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy/Professional Counseling from Johnson University. His major professor is Dr. Delores Smith. Geoff’s research is focused on religion as a coping mechanism for adult children who have witnessed interparental conflict.


Wendy McLean Cooke

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Wendy is from Redlight District, St. Andrew, Jamaica. She holds an MSW, a B.A. in Literatures in English, a postgraduate diploma in English Education and a diploma in Social Work from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica. Her advisor is Dr. Delores Smith. Wendy’s research focuses on fathering in different family contexts, particularly on how fathers in Caribbean families and step-families are situated in terms of their roles and responsibilities as well as the meaning they ascribe to their fathering experiences.


Lucia Miranda

Lucia Miranda

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Lucia Miranda is from Montevideo, Uruguay. She received her B.S. in Psychology and M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Lucia’s main research interests focus on risks and resilience in early socioemotional development and attachment formation, and how these affect relationship functioning throughout the lifespan.


LaGraff, Melissa

Melissa Rector LaGraff

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Melissa is from Chattanooga, TN.  She received her B.S. in Human Ecology and M.S. in Child and Family Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her major professor is Dr. Heidi Stolz. Melissa’s research examines how to improve family functioning through family policies and parenting education that encourages effective parenting practices.


Siera Schwanz

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Siera is from Gothenburg, Nebraska. She received her B.S. from the University of Nebraska- Kearney in Family Studies with a minor in Early Childhood Education. Her major professor is Dr. Amy Rauer. Siera’s research focuses on various types of romantic relationship variables, such as romantic commitment, trust, passion, relationship satisfaction and relationship maintenance. Siera is the first year representative for the CFS Graduate Student Organization.


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Shahad Subiani

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Shahad is from Saudi Arabia. She received her B.E. in Home Economics from King Abdulaziz University. She works as a research assistant with her major professor Dr. Megan Haselschwerdt who is the director of the Family Violence Across the Lifespan Research Team. Shahad’s research focuses on domestic violence with emphasis on interparental violence and coercive control. Her study looks for the short and long-term health outcomes from the perspective of women and children exposed to domestic violence and abuse.


Melissa Swartzentruber

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Melissa is from Lexington, Kentucky. She received her B.A. in Mathematics and M.A.T. with K-6 teacher licensure from Belmont University in Nashville. She has spent the last 7 years teaching children in kindergarten and first grade. Melissa’s research interests include examining the social and emotional development of young children and how various cultural contexts affect that development. 


Alex Tucker

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Alex is from Nashville, TN. She received her B.S. in Child and Family Studies, her B.A. in Africana Studies and her MS in Child and Family Studies all from the University of Tennessee Knoxville. Her major professor is Dr. Hillary Fouts. Alex’s research focuses on prenatal physical activity and breastfeeding and infant feeding choices with an emphasis on maternal experiences and social-emotional needs.