Below are brief biographies from our students and colleagues who have worked closely with us on various projects. We deeply appreciate their friendship and contributions!
Zahra AlghafliZahra Alghafli is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Aljubail University (Saudi Arabia). She earned her Bachelor’s degree from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and a Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Creighton University. She received her Ph.D. in Child and Family Studies from LSU in 2015 and has contributed to the American Families of Faith project by researching, interviewing, and publishing. Zahra’s focus has been Shia and Sunni Muslim families.
Tamara Marshall Chamberlain
Tamara Marshall Chamberlain received her BA and MA from Brigham Young University years ago and has recently returned as a graduate student in the Marriage Family and Human Development Program. Working on American Families of Faith, she has coded data for topics such as: Belief in God, Conflict Resolution and Marital Commitment specifically for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Women of Faith.
Cassandra Chaney is J. Franklin Bayhi Endowed Professor in Child and Family Studies at Louisiana State University. She examines the structure and functional dynamics of Black family life, which includes emotional closeness and commitment among dating, cohabiting, and married Black couples; the influence of religiosity and/or spirituality among Blacks; and several other topics that affect Black families. She has co-authored several of the American Families of Faith manuscripts that address religious Black families.
Joe Chelladurai received his PhD in Marriage, Family and Human Development from Brigham Young University. He is a research analyst for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He received his Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Madras Christian College in India and a Master's degree in Development Management from Madras School of Social Work. His research focuses on positive psychology and healthy family functioning.
Rebecca W. ClarkeRebecca W. Clarke received her PhD in Marriage, Family, and Human Development program at Brigham Young University, with Dr. Chelom Leavitt as her advisor. Her research focuses on the intersection between religion and sexuality, and healthy sexuality in committed relationships. She received a master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Brigham Young University in 2000.
Tanya Davis Coleman
Tanya Davis Coleman graduated from LSU in 2003 in Family, Child, and Consumer Sciences, and earned her MSW from Southern University at New Orleans in 2005. For the past 5 years she has been employed as a supervisor for the Georgia Dept. of Human Services/Office of Inspector General. She has conducted interviews, coded data, and co-authored articles relating to strong, religious African American families with the American Families of Faith project.
Hilary Dalton Pippert
Hilary Dalton Pippert received her PhD in family studies at Kansas State University. She is a Family Life Educator who specializes with military families. She has coded, taught students how to code, collaborated in publishable papers, and is collaborating on book manuscripts detailing findings related to the nexus of faith and family life.
Michael Goodman received his PhD in Marriage, Family and Human Development at Brigham Young University in 2004. He is an Associate Professor of Church History and Doctrine. His research interests revolve around the intersection of religion and family life – particularly the marriage relationship. He has been a lead or supporting author on several journal articles and book chapters in conjunction with the American Families of Faith project.One of those articles was awarded the professional paper of the year award from the National Council on Family Relations Religion and Family section.
Sam Hardy, a Professor in Psychology at Brigham Young University, earned his Ph.D. in developmental psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. With over two decades of expertise, his research delves into religious/spiritual development in adolescence and young adulthood, with a focus on family context. Currently, he investigates religious conversion, deconversion, and reconversion processes, emphasizing the role of faith crises.
Trevan G. Hatch is the Anthropology, Bible & Ancient Near East, Middle East, and Religious Studies specialist (associate faculty rank) in the Lee Library at Brigham Young University. He received a PhD in 2015 from the School of Social Work at Louisiana State University, where he wrote his dissertation on American Jews. He earned his MA in Jewish studies at Towson University via Baltimore Hebrew University. He is currently finishing a second doctorate in Jewish Studies with an emphasis in Bible and Early Judaism at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. He has published several dozen articles and book chapters on various aspects of Judaism, Islam, and the intersection of religion and family.
Justin Hendricks is pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology at The Pennsylvania State University. He recently earned his M.S. degree from BYU in 2023. He is the Co-Director and project manager for the RESTARTS project (i.e., Relational Experiences, Spiritual Transformations, Attachments, Religious Transitions, Sanctifications), and is the project manager for the Strong Interfaith Families branch of the American Families of Faith Project. His research focuses on religion and families, specifically how individuals and families can best navigate religious/spiritual differences, changes, and struggles.
Heather Kelley is a Presidential Doctoral Fellow at Utah State University. She has interviewed, coded, and trained students on qualitative research techniques. She has collaborated on publications related to families in various faith communities and the unifying and dividing influence of religion on relationships.
Nathaniel Lambert is a senior lecturer for the School of Social Sciences at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji. He has published nearly 70 articles and book chapters and solo authored 5 books on the topic of thriving in life. He also served as an editor of The Journal of Positive Psychology. He has presented his research across the United States and on four continents and has received numerous awards for his research. His research has been featured in numerous national magazines, newspapers, and television programs.
Emily Layton received her Master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development from Brigham Young University in 2010. Her research focuses on the religious and spiritual identity development of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim adolescents. She has co-authored and published articles on religious commitment, exploration, and sacrifice. She has also done work on religion and transformative processes in marriage. Her interest is coding and analyzing qualitative data.
Chelom E. LeavittChelom E. Leavitt is an Assistant Professor in the School of Family at Brigham Young University. She received her master's degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development at BYU and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to research and teach on family relationships in Ukraine. Her earned her PhD in Human Development and Family Studies from Penn State. Chelom researches healthy sex within committed relationships. She also examines how being mindful in daily experiences and sexua
l experiences may be associated with increased sexual well-being. Chelom has been particularly interested in the intersection of religion and sexuality and how religion may help couples sanctify their relational and sexual interactions.
Yaxin Lu earned her Ph.D. in Human Ecology from Louisiana State University in 2012 in Child and Family Studies. Her research focuses on faith and Chinese immigrant families and garnered an NCFR Student/New Professional Paper of the Year Award from the National Council on Family Relations’ Religion and Family Life Section in 2012. She was recently visiting professor at Georgia Southern University. She has conducted interviews, coded data, and served as lead author on several articles related to the American Families of Faith project.
Eliza Madsen is a masters student at Brigham Young University studying Marriage, Family, and Human Development. Eliza has worked on the American Families of Faith Project for two years as a researcher and team lead. For her thesis, Eliza is using AFF data to learn more about how a relationship with God impacts marriage, specifically conflict in marriage, for highly religious women. She hopes one day to be a professor of family life and/or religion.
Laura McKeighen is the Outreach Director for the American Families of Faith project. She graduated from Brigham Young University in Marriage, Family, and Human Development.
Olena Nesteruk is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Child Studies at Montclair State University. She earned her Ph.D. in Human Ecology from Louisiana State University in 2007 in Child and Family Studies. Olena’s main research interest is in studying immigrant families across generations and over the life course, with a focus on acculturation, parenting, intergenerational relationships, heritage language, and ethnic identity development. She has conducted interviews, coded data, and co-authored work for the American Families of Faith project.
Jolyn Schraedel is a PhD student in the Marriage, Family, and Human Development program at Brigham Young University. Her research interests include attitudes and practices surrounding gender in religious families. She has coded data and co-authored articles relating to gender roles in highly religious couples, highlighting experiences from women of faith.
Toshi Shichida is a doctoral student in the Marriage, Family and Human Development Program in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University. His research focuses on the interface of religion/spirituality and marriage, parent-child relationship, or the child’s moral development. Especially underlying values of families, intrinsic religiosity/spirituality, and types of relationship have been his central topics.
Antonius (“Skip”) Skipper
Antonius Skipper is an assistant professor at Georgia State University with an emphasis on studying strong Black marriages, as well as health disparities. He received a PH.D. from the School of Social Work at Louisiana State University. He is a recipient of the Huel D. Perkins Diversity Fellowship, and he has a passion for examining the role of spirituality in the strengthening of African American households and communities. He has coded and collected data on highly religious African American families for the American Families of Faith project.
Bill Stanford received his PhD in Human Development and Family Science from the University of Georgia. He has a Master's in Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary. His research focuses on how parents draw upon their communities in raising children and passing on their religious commitments. He is currently collaborating on a project exploring the experiences of inter-faith couples. He serves as an Anglican clergyman.
Sofia Suxo-Sanchez is a master’s student at Brigham Young University studying Marriage, Family, and Human Development. Sofia works primarily on the Strong Hispanic Families branch but has also had the opportunity to code data for the Strong Black Families branch. Her research focuses on parenting styles and how these parenting styles can influence children. Sofia believes the American Families of Faith Project allows her the opportunity to give a real voice to these amazing families and feels privileged to work on the team.
Katrina Hopkins Tanner
Katrina Hopkins Tanner earned her Ph.D. in Human Ecology from LSU. Katrina has extensive professional experience working in human resources, specializing in diversity recruitment, outreach, and retention, and she serves as a cultural diversity facilitator and certified trainer within the Portland, Oregon, community. She has conducted interviews, coded data, and published several pioneering articles relating to strong, religious African American families. Katrina was co-recipient of an NCFR Paper of the Year Award from the National Council on Family Relations’ Religion and Family Life Section.
Tehya Vassar graduated with her bachelor's degree in Family Life: Family Studies from Brigham Young University in December, 2023. The highlight of her experience was getting to work on the American Families of Faith Project. Tehya worked with Sarah Fox, Sofia Suxo-Sanchez, and Danielle Heaton Cannon to code data for the Strong Black Families branch. By coding these inspiring interviews, studying about diverse families of faith, and writing about what she found, Tehya learned from voices across time, culture, and religious belief. The friendships she formed and the lessons she learned about faith, life, and family are what made her education enriching to her. She is grateful for the academic and public scholarship that AFF does to make it possible for many others to learn from these incredible families too.
Kaity Pearl Young
Kaity Pearl Young received her Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Utah State University. She has coded data, and collaborated on publishable papers about the struggles of highly religious families for the American Families of Faith Project.