Noël Busch-Armendariz
Associate Vice President for Research, The University of Texas at Austin
Director & Principal Investigator |

Noël Bridget Busch-Armendariz, PhD, LMSW, MPA, is an Associate Vice President for Research at The University of Texas at Austin and full Professor at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, teaching graduate courses in administration and planning, social policy, research, and domestic violence. Dr. Busch-Armendariz is Director and Principal Investigator of the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. Her professional interests include: violence against women and children; social and public policy; social justice; international social work education, training and practice; and adoption and child welfare issues… In her spare time, she likes to learn all about super heroes, bake, cook, and dream about days past when she had a training schedule. >>MORE

Bethany L. Backes
Director of Research & Evaluation |

Bethany L. Backes, PhD, MSW, MPH, is a Research Associate and the Director of Research and Evaluation. Her areas of scholarship broadly encompass research and evaluation on violence against women (VAW) including formal and informal help-seeking trajectories, secondary and tertiary violence prevention strategies, and criminal justice and community-based interventions related to intimate partner, sexual, and stalking victimization. Her overarching goal is to develop and adapt measures, methods, and interventions to enhance victim engagement and autonomy at the systems level (health, community-based, and criminal justice).

Dr. Backes spent a decade directing research and evaluation on VAW and violent victimization at the National Institute of Justice/U.S. Department of Justice. She served as a VAW liaison across the Federal government and worked closely with the Office of the Vice President on domestic violence homicide prevention, campus sexual assault, offender interventions, and sexual assault kits. She has direct practice experience in health education and non-profit management and has worked extensively with survivors of violent crime, first responders, and criminal and community-based organizations. >>MORE

Margaret Bassett
Deputy Director & Director of Expert Witness Program |

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Margaret Bassett, LPC-S, is the Deputy Director and Director of Expert Witness Program at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin. She provides consultation and training on the use of expert witnesses in cases involving interpersonal crimes. Margaret has worked in the field of domestic violence and sexual assault for more than 30 years in a variety of settings, most recently in the criminal justice system working with victims of intimate partner violence felony crimes. She testifies as an expert witness in criminal and civil court cases and teaches a graduate course on domestic violence. Margaret received her Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University and is a licensed professional counselor. She served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in the Dominican Republic. Her professional interests include: violence against women; intimate partner violence; sexual assault; trauma; safety planning and risk assessment. >>MORE

Mariel Dempster
Research Program Coordinator

Mariel Dempster graduated from The Colorado College in Colorado Springs with a degree in English Literature and she has since worked in a variety of administrative positions in academia. She is thrilled to facilitate the mission of IDVSA and aid its team in all aspects of their operation, from providing editorial assistance and communications support, to developing and maintaining internal protocol, and helping projects and grants move forward. Gleaned from her time interning at the Library of Congress and a non-profit poetry publisher, Copper Canyon Press, Mariel has a love of all things literary, and enjoys backpacking, running, and podcast-listening in her free time.

Dixie Hairston
Project Manager |

Dixie Hairston, LMSW, is a Research Project Manager at the InsPicture of Dixie Hairstontitute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at the University of Texas at Austin. Dixie coordinates the Statewide Human Trafficking Mapping Project for Texas, a research project funded by the Office of the Governor of Texas, Child Sex Trafficking Team to provide empirically-grounded data about the extent of human trafficking in Texas. She received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Houston with a Macro concentration and a specialization in Political Social Work. Dixie received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Texas Austin. She has experience in child sex trafficking prevention and intervention policy advocacy and policy analysis as well as case management with youth preparing to age out of the foster care system. Her professional interests include: child sex trafficking prevention and intervention, policy advocacy within the social worker community, exploitation risk factors among youth in the foster care system and among youth with histories of running away and homelessness. In her spare time, you can usually find Dixie on her yoga mat, hiking or planning her next trip.>>MORE

Sharon Hoefer
Project Manager

Sharon Hoefer, MSSW, is a Project Manager for CLASE and contributes to the Victim Notification Training and Technical Assistance program. She received her Master of Science in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin, where she also completed a Bachelor of Social Work and Bachelor of Arts in the Plan II Honors program. Sharon has worked with survivors of intimate and interpersonal violence as a case manager and support group facilitator, and with children and young adults in a variety of settings, including tutoring, violence prevention education, and providing social skills training to children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her professional interests include healthy relationship and sex education, sexual assault prevention, intellectual and developmental disability, and feminism in popular culture. In her spare time, Sharon enjoys dance, yoga, and crossword puzzles. >>MORE

Matt Kerwick 
Affiliated Researcher | mattkk@ic2.utexas.edu33065ea

Dr. Kerwick has extensive experience applying forecasting and conjoint analysis to early-stage product assessments. Typical engagements include product concept viability and optimization studies, post-launch awareness and usage tracking, customer satisfaction and loyalty surveys, market segmentation studies, as well as qualitative methodologies that incorporate predictive modeling at the individual respondent level. >>MORE

T’Shana McClain
Project Manager

T’Shana McClain, MSW is a Research Project Manager at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault at The University of Texas at Austin. She received her Master of Social Work from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Shana has provided counseling, crisis intervention, and case management services to survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in institutions of higher education and community-based settings in the rural South. She has also experienced working in community organizing across the South to promote full LGBT equality and support grassroots organizers. Her professional interests include: intimate partner violence; sexual violence; perpetration risk factors; mass incarceration; suicide postvention; and resiliency in marginalized populations. In her spare time, she likes to read nonfiction, participate in trivia nights, and travel.  >>MORE

Mary (Maggy) McGiffert
Project Manager

Maggy McGiffert, M.A. is a Research Associate at IDVSA who has worked to end violence against women, youth and children in Texas and Colorado for over 25 years. Recently, she has been a consultant focusing on survivor-centered policy and systems change; program development, awareness materials and evaluation with the Texas Council on Family Violence, CASA of Travis County and Denton County Friends of the Family. She was a Policy Manager at TCFV; Parenting Coordinator at Family Connections; Director of SafePlace’s transitional housing and Director of Youth Options AmeriCorps program. She began her activism at the Boulder County Rape Crisis Center. Maggy enjoys living in Austin with her family and friends. She is active in community work focusing on equity in education and equity in maternal health. >>MORE

Caitlin Sulley
Director of Sexual Assault Research Portfolio  |

Caitlin Sulley, LMSW, is Director of the Sexual Assault Research Portfolio at IDVSA. The Sexual Assault Research Portfolio consists of a variety of research, evaluation, and training projects aimed to build knowledge on sexual assault. Sulley currently directs research and training initiatives focused on institutional response to sexual assault, gender-based violence among college populations, and victim engagement in the criminal justice system. She served survivors of sexual assault and family violence in law enforcement and community-based settings. Her professional interests include: violence against women; social justice; intimate and interpersonal violence; multidisciplinary response to sexual assault; victim services; trauma-informed care; social and public policy; violence prevention; vicarious trauma and resiliency; research and evaluation; organizational development and culture. In her spare time, she enjoys connecting with her sisters and playing with her dogs.  >>MORE

McKenna Talley
Graduate Research Assistant |

McKenna Talley graduated from Brigham Young University with a major in Psychology. While attending BYU she interned at the Utah County Children’s Justice Center and assisted with group therapy for children, teens, and adults affected by domestic violence. Currently McKenna is pursuing her Masters degree in Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin. She is currently working on the Statewide Human Trafficking Mapping Project for Texas, as well as The Cultivating Learning and Safe Environments (CLASE) project. Her professional interests include domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and improving interpersonal relationships. In her spare time she likes to spend time with her husband at the movies or playing cooperative board games.

Melissa Torres
Director of Human Trafficking Research Portfolio | 

Melissa Irene Maldonado Torres, PhD, MSW, is the Director of the Human Trafficking Research Portfolio. She oversees the Statewide Human Trafficking Mapping Project for Texas, a research initiative funded through the Criminal Justice Division of the Office of the Governor to provide empirically-grounded data about the extent of human trafficking in Texas. She received her Masters of Social Work and PhD at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work where she is Adjunct Faculty and co-founder of the college’s Latin American Initiative, which provides summer learning abroad programs to Latin America in conjunction with local universities and NGOs.

Dr. Torres served as the Subject Matter Expert on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ healthcare professional’s response to human trafficking program, an initiative of President Obama’s Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims. She developed and teaches a class on human trafficking and social work at the University of Houston and has served as the human trafficking expert for various academic studies in the U.S. and Latin America. Over the last 10 years, her research has included the trafficking of women from Latin America for sexual exploitation, policy analysis on the protection of domestic minor sex trafficking survivors, labor abuse and exploitation faced by undocumented immigrants, assessments on displacement and knowledge of trafficking risks in indigenous communities, and exploring the demand side of sex trafficking… In her spare time, she loves being with her family, traveling the world, going to concerts, and skydiving. Of Mexican descent, Dr. Torres is a native of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and was raised on the U.S.-Mexico border. She resides in Houston with her pit bull, Dylan Aquinas. >> MORE

Alexander Wang
Research Associate | 

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Alexander Wang earned their Bachelor of Arts from Lawrence University with a major in Psychology and a minor in Gender Studies. They also earned their Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. They aspire to earn a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology or a related field in order to help sexual minority people in their emotional lives. Their professional areas of interest include clinical psychology, social justice, sexual wellness, sexual assault prevention, and research and advocacy concerning LGBTQ+ and other sexual minority people. In their spare time, Alex enjoys tabletop roleplaying games, video games, webcomics, traveling, cooking, and spending time with friends.>>MORE

Anna Wasim
Project Manager | 

Anna Wasim, LMSW, is a Research Project Manager with the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at the University of Texas at Austin. Anna oversees the Recording Victim Video Statements as Evidence to Advance Legal Outcomes in Family Violence Cases (REVEAL) Pilot Evaluation and the Legal Aid Services of Sexual Assault (LASSA) Network Evaluation. Anna completed her graduate education at UT-Austin and brings with her over seven years’ of serving the Central Texas community. Her direct service work includes crisis intervention and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking seeking protective orders. She has also worked with community service providers, coalitions, public and private entities to meet the needs of underserved and vulnerable populations. Anna is passionate in working to end gender-based violence; mixed-methods research; program and network evaluations; innovative approaches to enhance victim/survivor well-being and safety; cultural humility and community empowerment. Outside of work, Anna is a runner, dog-lover, St. Louis Cardinals fan, and podcast consumer.  >>MORE

Leila Wood
Research Assistant Professor  | 

Leila Wood, PhD, LMSW is a researcher at the Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault (IDVSA) at The University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work. Her scholarship areas are intimate and interpersonal violence in the campus context, intimate partner violence service evaluation, and qualitative methods. Leila’s research focuses on survivor-centered approaches and establishing evidence for practice in the intimate partner violence field, including college campuses. Leila’s experience in the IPV intervention and prevention work began as high school volunteer at a local shelter, and quickly blossomed into a passion for working to end gender-based violence.

Throughout college, Leila worked as sexual assault and dating violence prevention educator in middle and high schools and in family services at a transitional housing facility. This role evolved after college to advocacy work with adolescent survivors and child witnesses. Leila provided counseling, and directed a regional crisis line and hospital accompaniment program after her MSW program, and continued to volunteer on the crisis line while obtaining her PhD. Leila has also worked in child welfare and medical social work roles with women and children. Her practice history frames her approach to research on intimate partner violence and sexual assault. Over the last several years, she have conducted IPV shelter service program evaluations in close collaboration with area agencies. Leila also had conducted several qualitative studies about advocacy staff experience providing services, and resident experiences and outcomes at shelter and transitional housing. Leila is a mixed methods researcher, but has emerging expertise in qualitative research, particularly with the Grounded Theory method. >> MORE