Meet Our Team
James J. Hodge, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Dr. James Hodge is a proud Penn State Behrend graduate with an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a Doctoral degree in Social Psychology from the University of Vermont. James was named the Director of CORE in March 2019, having previously served as the Interim Director, Director of Evaluation, and Positive Youth Development Coordinator. James also has an appointment as an Assistant Research Professor at Behrend, which gives him the opportunity to teach a number of classes at the undergraduate and graduate levels. James brings to CORE extensive training in quantitative research, coupled with a passion for understanding and promoting positive social change for youth.
Charisse Nixon, Ph.D.
Associate Director, CORE
Professor of Psychology
As a full professor, Dr. Charisse Nixon is active in the academic and applied spheres at Penn State Behrend. Much of her research focuses on preventing peer aggression and promoting resiliency among youth. Her background in developmental psychology and quantitative research is an especially positive contribution to CORE, as she helps lead many research initiatives that focus on promoting positive youth development for Erie youth.
Andrea K. Bierer
Associate Director of Community Outreach
Andrea K. Bierer has over fifteen years of experience coordinating community grants and prevention efforts throughout Pennsylvania. Since January 2013, Andrea has had the privilege of focusing her efforts where her heart is: in Erie. Andrea spent six years coordinating the Erie County Community Action Plan, the prevention portion of the three-pronged UnifiedErie violence reduction project in Erie County. As of January 2019, Andrea joined CORE as the associate director of community outreach. Andrea received her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications from Cedarville University in 2000. Andrea brings to CORE incredible passion for effective collaboration and her deep love for the Erie area.
Mary A. Baird, M.S.
Mary Baird has served as CORE’s mentor coordinator since July 2016. She has years of experience in mentoring both high school students and college students. Formerly, she served as the CEO of The Ophelia Project, based in Erie, PA. During her tenure, she traveled throughout the nation working with students at all levels in mentoring capacities. She has co-authored mentoring and anti-bullying curriculum and video materials that appear on CORE’s site as part of The Ophelia Project works. Her true passion lies in working toward building connected relationships between college students, community mentors, and the middle-school-aged children they strive to serve.
Abbe Biebel, B.S.
Abbe Biebel earned her Business, Liberal Arts, and Science bachelor's degree from Penn State. Having worked at CORE for many years, Abbe is a well recognized face in Erie County. Her knowledge of the community and passion to promote positive youth development are a great asset to CORE. Abbe also leads several asset training sessions for the community.
Jonathan Kinnear, B.A.
Jonathan Kinnear earned his psychology degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and has been working at CORE for over five years. As a research assistant at CORE, Jonathan brings great ideas and support to the team. His participation in PYD task forces, attention to detail, and research experience are great assets. The integrity and success of many PYD initiatives are thanks to Jonathan’s hard work and behind-the-scenes help.
Nate Magee, M.S.
Community Outreach & Evaluation Coordinator
Nate Magee began as an intern at CORE in 2009 while he was earning his undergraduate degree in developmental psychology from Edinboro University. He stayed on part-time while completing his master’s degree in Special Education at Mercyhurst University. Nate is passionate about the strength-based approach that CORE and Positive Youth Development employ to help youth achieve better outcomes. As a member of the American Evaluation Association, he is actively involved in many evaluation projects at CORE.
Melanie Hetzel-Riggin, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Psychology
Professor of Psychology
Dr. Melanie D. Hetzel-Riggin received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in August of 2005 from Northern Illinois University. She is a professor of psychology at Penn State Behrend and is a licensed clinical psychologist. Her dissertation investigated the role of dissociation on physiological reactivity to reminders of rape experiences. Her current research focuses on the effectiveness of bystander intervention to reduce sexual violence and peer mistreatment, as well as the relationship among interpersonal trauma, coping style, and mental health outcomes. Her teaching interests include abnormal psychology, clinical psychology, trauma and resiliency, career counseling, crisis intervention, ethics, and research methods.
Wilson Brown, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator, Applied Clinical Psychology M.A. Program
Wilson J. Brown, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of child clinical psychology and program coordinator of the Applied Clinical Psychology (ACPSY) Master’s Degree program at Penn State Behrend. He completed his doctoral training and formal trauma specialization at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, predoctoral internship in the traumatic stress rotation at the Medical University of South Carolina, and postdoctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at the Center for the Treatment and Study of Traumatic Stress (CTSTS) at Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio. Dr. Brown specializes in translational research and treatment of traumatic stress. He works with both child and adult populations and has completed certified trainings in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Prolonged Exposure (PE). Recently, Dr. Brown has focused on the dissemination of trauma-informed services in the community setting. Dr. Brown has conducted numerous trainings and continued consultation at community mental health agencies that service both child and adult populations. His intention is to create a change in culture at the organizational, provider, and service levels in community mental health agencies that inherently treat highly traumatized populations to a trauma-informed model.
Molly Monahan Lang, Ph.D.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Sociology
Dr. Molly Monahan Lang is a native of Erie who earned her undergraduate degree from Penn State University. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University, where she cultivated her love of teaching sociology to undergraduates. After teaching at Baldwin-Wallace University in Berea, OH, and Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, PA, she returned to Erie. Now at Behrend, she is proud to teach where her father taught for 25 years. Her research interests include the constructions and inequalities associated with race, social class, and gender in various social institutions such as family, medicine, and the law. She is interested in the opportunities and constraints that affect people's chances of living long lives of high quality.
Daniell DiFrancesca, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology
Dr. Daniell DiFrancesca earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from North Carolina State University in 2015. She is currently an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State Behrend. Prior to earning her doctorate, she taught middle school for seven years and worked on district and state initiatives to improve learning outcomes for students and teachers. Dr. DiFrancesca’s research interests focus on developing self-regulation in learning with a focus on designing and evaluating classroom-based interventions. Additionally, Dr. DiFrancesca has worked as an evaluator for university programs and community initiatives. Her background also gives her the opportunity to teach courses in both psychology and education at Behrend.