Faculty

Alison Arendt, MSW, LCSW
Alison Arendt, MSW, LCSW

Associate Professor of Social Work, Director of Graduate Studies Office Phone: 630-844-5793
Email: aarendt@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Clinical social work, adult mental health, LGBT+ community needs Education: MSW, Aurora University
BA, Northern Illinois University Favorite thing about AU: "The student-centered atmosphere. On all campuses, in all departments, we are dedicated to creating the best student centered experiences."

Brenda Barnwell, DSW
Brenda Barnwell, DSW

Dean of the College of Education and Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8933
Email: bbarnwell@aurora.edu Education: DSW, Aurora University
MSW, Aurora University
BA, North Central College
AA, Rock Valley College
CADC, Waubonsee Community College Favorite thing about AU: "I value the diversity of our learners, environments, opinions, experiences, faculty, and expressions." View LinkedIn Profile

Marianne Benedek, DSW, LCSW
Marianne Benedek, DSW, LCSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8924
Email: mbenedek@aurora.edu Education: DSW, Aurora University
MSW, Loyola University Chicago
BA, University of Massachusetts Boston

Kristen Brendel, PhD, LCSW
Kristen Brendel, PhD, LCSW

Associate Professor of Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8934
Email: kbrendel@aurora.edu Education: PhD, Social Work, Loyola University Chicago
MSW, Aurora University
BA, Psychology, Benedictine University Favorite thing about AU: "Hearing back from students post-graduation that they have not only met but have exceeded their own expectations." View LinkedIn Profile

Christina Bruhn, PhD
Christina Bruhn, PhD

Associate Professor of Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8915
Email: cbruhn@aurora.edu Education: PhD, Social Work, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago
MSW, Social Work, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago
BA, Biology, Kenyon College Favorite thing about AU: "The sense of community here and the clear commitment of all members of the community to work together to advance student learning."

Laura Carlson
Laura Carlson

MSW Graduate Advisor and Registration Coordinator Office Phone: 630-947-8931
Email: lcarlson@aurora.edu Education: BA, Lewis University Favorite thing about AU: "The tremendous support from the staff and faculty to students and to each other."

Laura Donavon, LCSW
Laura Donavon, LCSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work, Coordinator of Addictions and Forensics Track Office Phone: 630-947-8943
Email: ldonavon@aurora.edu Education: MSW, George Williams College, Aurora University
BSW, George Williams College, Aurora University
Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC)
Certified Criminal Justice Addictions Professional (CCJP)
Clinically Certified Juvenile Treatment Specialist (CCJTS)
Master Addiction Counselor (MAC)
Co-Occurring Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Professional Board Registration (CODP I) Favorite thing about AU: "Transforming the lives of those who will, in turn, transform others' lives." View LinkedIn Profile

Cornelius Gorman, DSW
Cornelius Gorman, DSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work, Coordinator Advanced Clinical Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8926
Email: cgorman@aurora.edu Education: DSW, Aurora University
MSW, Aurora University
BA, History, Northern Illinois University Favorite thing about AU: "The students! Especially those students who ask lots and lots of questions."

Marissa Happ, DSW
Marissa Happ, DSW

Assistant Professor of Social Work, Coordinator of MSW Health Care and Gerontology Track Office Phone: 630-947-8932
Email: mhapp@aurora.edu Education: DSW, Aurora University
Type 73 SSW certification, Aurora University
MSW, Aurora University
BS, Family Services and Child Development, NIU Favorite thing about AU: "The commitment to excellence, dedication to students, and outreach to the community." View LinkedIn Profile

Willie Jackson, Jr., MSW, PhD
Willie Jackson, Jr., MSW, PhD

Assistant Professor of Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8946
Email: wjackson@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Generalist practice social work, social policy, social work with communities and organizations, social work with groups, and research methods designed to address social injustices Education: PhD, School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago
MSW, Generalist Practice, Aurora University
BEEd, Philosophy minor, AA, Philosophy, Waubonsee Community College Favorite thing about AU: "A student-centered and student-driven learning environment where a diverse group of pupils can share their experiences, passions, and expertise for the benefit of all."

Meghan Jarpe, PhD
Meghan Jarpe, PhD

Assistant Professor of Social Work Office Phone: 630-947-8902
Email: mjarpe@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Human services organizations and management, youth homelessness, child welfare, social policy, research methods Education: PhD, University of Chicago
MSW, University of Pittsburgh
BA, University of Michigan Favorite thing about AU: "It's an honor to be a part of a program that serves so many social workers that are shaping our field, here in our region and beyond!"

Emily Kath, MSW, LCSW, PEL: SSW, MAEL
Emily Kath, MSW, LCSW, PEL: SSW, MAEL

School Social Work Coordinator and Licensure Officer Office Phone: 630-947-8935
Email: ekath@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: School social work, medical social work Education: MSW, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville
MAEL, Governors State University
BSW, Western Illinois University Favorite thing about AU: "I enjoy the collaborative teamwork that faculty and staff commit to helping students succeed in their studies! I also enjoy connecting with students individually to hear about their experiences and guide them toward graduation!"

Joseph Oleck, MSW, LCSW
Joseph Oleck, MSW, LCSW

Lecturer of Social Work, Coordinator of Military and Veteran Social Work Track Office Phone: 630-844-5613
Email: joleck@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Military and veteran social work, clinical social work, social policy, research methods Education: MSW, Dominican University
BSW, Aurora University Favorite thing about AU: "The diverse student population and the opportunity to teach and learn from the future leaders in this field."

Allison Schuck, MSW, LSW
Allison Schuck, MSW, LSW

Field Director, Leadership and Administration Track Coordinator Office Phone: 630-947-8936
Email: aschuck@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Child and adolescent mental health, social policy, social work leadership, community/macro practice Education: MSW, Aurora University
BSW, Evangel University Favorite thing about AU: "Our focus on quality: quality connections with our students, quality education, and quality programming to meet the emerging needs of the social work field."

Becky Vacco-Giudice, MSW, LCSW
Becky Vacco-Giudice, MSW, LCSW

Lecturer of Social Work Office Phone: 630-844-4231
Email: rvacco-giudice@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Clinical social work, child and adolescent development, behavioral interventions, social-emotional learning, medical social work, grief and loss Education: MSW, Loyola University Chicago
BSW, Loyola University Chicago Favorite thing about AU: "My favorite thing about AU is the interaction I have with my students and knowing that the knowledge and experience they gain in our classrooms will have an impact on the individuals and communities they will work with following graduation. I love the atmosphere of AU and the commitment to inclusivity and the dedication to student success at all levels."

Joanna VanLear, LCSW
Joanna VanLear, LCSW

MSW Online Field Coordinator Office Phone: 630-844-5262
Email: jvanlear@aurora.edu Education: MSW, Aurora University
BSW, Aurora University Favorite thing about AU: "The culture of mutual respect and appreciation that creates a place where one can thrive."

Laura Vargas, MSW, LCSW, CWEL
Laura Vargas, MSW, LCSW, CWEL

Assistant Professor of Social Work, Coordinator of Child Welfare Track Office Phone: 630-947-8900
Email: lvargas@aurora.edu Education: Type 73 School Social Work Certification, Aurora University
MSW (Specialization - Children and Families), University of Illinois
BS, Social Work, Sociology minor, Illinois State University Favorite thing about AU: "AU offers so many opportunities for lifelong learning and growth for students and faculty. The opportunities to learn something new every day are endless at AU. That is one of many things I love about AU!"

Rita Wiermanski, LCSW, CADC, CAMS-I
Rita Wiermanski, LCSW, CADC, CAMS-I

Assistant Field Director Office Phone: 630-947-8911
Email: rwiermanski@aurora.edu Areas of expertise: Substance use disorders, anger management, working with the adolescent population Education: MSW, St. Ambrose University
BA in Psychology with a Social Work minor, University of Iowa
LCSW
CADC Favorite thing about AU: "There is never a dull moment! The AU staff is supportive and truly defines the word 'team.'"