Faculty

Ph.D., Miami University
M.A., University of Virginia
B.A., University of Notre Dame

Dr. Diane Berish is an assistant research professor for the College of Nursing. Her research interests include statistics and research methods, long-term services and supports, aging and health care policy, and health care quality.

Ph.D., Nursing and Bioethics, Penn State
Post-Graduate ACNP, University of Pennsylvania
MSN, Thomas Jefferson University
BSN, Bloomsburg University

Dr. Barbara Birriel is an assistant research professor for the College of Nursing. She is a participant on a Penn State Strategic Initiative led by Dickinson Law — The Pennsylvania Adult-Fiduciary Project: Developing Statewide Online Education in Support of Aging and Vulnerable Adults. Her contribution is in development of content related to family member surrogate decision-making. She is working with the Hershey Medical Center’s Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice Council, advising clinical nurses on current projects. Her research interests lie at the intersection of critical care and bioethics, including decision-making and cognitive impairment and recovery following critical illness.

DNP, University of Maryland
MSN, Drexel University
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Kristen Bransby is an associate teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She is a pediatric nurse practitioner and a pediatric mental health specialist who teaches the pediatric course work in the Family/Individual Across the Lifespan Nurse Practitioner track and mentors and facilitates learning for DNP students. Her practice interests include pediatrics, pediatric mental health, community health and health disparities, breastfeeding, health policy, and nurse practitioner full practice authority.

Ph.D., The Ohio State University
MPH, Emory University
B.S., East Tennessee State University

Dr. Cara Exten is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist, focusing on health disparities affecting sexual and gender minority populations, with an emphasis on sexual health (specifically HIV and other sexually transmitted infections) and substance use. She has extensive experience in survey data collection, data analysis, and working with high-risk populations, and she is passionate about the examination of diseases in their entirety, including biological, sociological, and epidemiological factors.

DNP, Wilkes University
M.S., Penn State
BSN, Johns Hopkins University
B.S., Franklin & Marshall College

Dr. Sandra Halbruner is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She has more than 21 years of experience in the field of medicine. Her research interests include active learning techniques in the multi-site or online classroom.

Ed.D., Nursing Education, Columbia University Teachers College
M.Ed., Nursing Education, Columbia University Teachers College
M.S., Adult Nurse Practitioner, Columbia University School of Nursing
BSN, Columbia University School of Nursing

Dr. Judith Hupcey, professor of nursing, medicine, and bioethics, is the associate dean for graduate education and research in the College of Nursing at Penn State University Park. She is also a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing. Her present research focuses on persons with heart failure at end of life, and their family caregivers. She recently completed a study investigating the palliative care needs of persons with heart failure and their family caregivers. From this study, a cutting-edge model of palliative care for heart failure was developed.

Ph.D., Gerontology, Penn State
MSN, Clinical Nurse Specialist option, Penn State
BSN, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Lisa Kitko is the associate dean for graduate education and an associate professor. Her program of research focuses on palliative care, heart failure, and the needs of family caregivers. She has spearheaded the College of Nursing's efforts to enhance nursing education for minority students. She has taught a variety of medical-surgical nursing and clinical nurse specialist courses and currently teaches pathophysiology.

Ph.D., Leadership and Administration, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
MSN, Wilmington University
MBA, University of St. Francis
BSN, Wilkes University

Dr. Sheri Matter is the director of online MSN programs and is an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. She has more than 30 years of nursing leadership experience, including serving as chief nursing executive of a multiple-hospital system. Her dissertation focused on the nurse characteristics of a highly reliable organization. Her research interests include leadership, nurse characteristics and their effects on quality, and qualitative methods.

DNP, Carlow University
Post-Masters FNP Certificate, Penn State
M.S., Penn State
B.S., Penn State
RN Diploma, Citizen’s General Hospital School of Nursing

Dr. Madeline Mattern is the director of nurse practitioner options and an assistant teaching professor for the College of Nursing. Her dissertation focused on current management strategies of Pennsylvania primary care nurse practitioners for persons diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Her research interests include reducing anxiolytic use in primary care and primary care of underserved and rural populations.

DNP, University of Iowa
MSN, University of Iowa
BSN, University of Iowa

Dr. Nicole Peterson is an assistant teaching professor for the Penn State College of Nursing and an Emeritus associate professor of instruction at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. She is a Respecting Choices® first steps and advanced steps facilitator. She has experience teaching in undergraduate and graduate nursing, including master's and doctorate level, as well as serving as geriatric nurse practitioner preceptor to numerous students, including family medicine residents. Her teaching experience includes lecture, online, clinical/practicum, and simulation with emphasis on utilizing active learning strategies in the classroom. As an enrolled member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin and a first-generation college student, she strives to be a supportive resource for underrepresented students in higher education. Her clinical research interest includes advance care planning. Her DNP project involved advance care planning conversations and completion of an Iowa Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (IPOST) when applicable with nursing home residents in a mid-size town when the medical orders were first available statewide in Iowa.

DNP, Penn State
MSN, Penn State
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Andrea Sillner is an assistant professor for the College of Nursing and a board-certified gerontological clinical nurse specialist. Her 2017 Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Early-Career Investigator Award in Patient and Family Engagement supports her work to develop a new subscale of the Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory, to be known as the P-TAC. This new subscale is being designed to strengthen technology-assisted communication among older adults receiving community-based home health services and their formal and informal caregivers, and will also address current gaps in support needed to improve transitions in care for older adults with multiple chronic conditions. Her research interests include person-centered, preference-based interventions focused on improving communication among health care providers, patients, and family members; technology-based communication strategies; and communication and care transitions for persons with delirium and delirium superimposed on dementia.

DNP, University of Texas Health Science Center
MSN, University of Texas Health Science Center
BSN, University of Texas Health Science Center
B.A., University of California

Dr. Mariya Tankimovich is the director of the DNP program and an associate teaching professor for the College of Nursing. Her practice improvement project is Implementation Plan of a Family Clinic–Based Pilot Study for a Smartphone-Based Short Message System Text-Messaging Intervention to Improve Dietary Practices among Adult Patients with Hyperlipidemia. Her DNP Fellowship Project was Connection to Care: Perceptions, Readmission, and Reality — a research project to study unwanted readmissions of pediatric patients at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and to design and implement a plan to reduce such unwanted readmissions. Her research interests include health promotion and disease prevention, improving patient outcomes, and transitions-of-care challenges.

Ph.D., Clinical Psychology, Bowling Green State University
M.A., Clinical Psychology, Bowling Green State University
B.A., Psychology, Calvin College

Dr. Kimberly Van Haitsma's research interests include developing observational methodologies to assess behavior and emotion in dementia, developing evidence-based education programs to enhance the skills of formal caregivers, advancing the understanding of person-centered care — "knowing preferences for everyday living" — and developing measurement tools for research, clinical practice, and evidence-based interventions for formal caregivers.

Ph.D., Psychology, University of Michigan

Dr. Britney Wardecker is an assistant professor for the College of Nursing and a faculty affiliate for the Penn State Center for Healthy Aging. Prior to her faculty position, Dr. Wardecker began training (funded by the National Institutes of Health) as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center. Her research examines lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) older adults' psychological and physical health outcomes. She also loves to teach in the areas of health, discrimination, health disparities, and research methods. Her research interests include promoting health equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) older adults; examining health disparities and individual differences in health (such as age, gender, and sexual orientation); and biomarker measurement.

DNP, University of Alabama at Birmingham
M.S., Strategic Studies, U.S. Army War College
MSN, Vanderbilt University
BSN, Penn State

Dr. Kelly Wolgast teaches both nurse administrator/management courses and nurse educator courses in Penn State's MSN and DNP Programs. Her research interests includes nurse leadership, health care delivery models, distance learning, and military/veterans' health.

Old Main at Penn State

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