Researchers

Susan M. Swearer, Ph.D.

Susan M. Swearer, Ph.D.

Founder, Empowerment Initiative


Dr. Susan M. Swearer serves as professor of school psychology at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and co-director of the Bullying Research Network. As principal investigator of the Target Bullying: Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention project, Swearer has a long-standing track record of working with schools and districts nationwide to reduce bullying behaviors. She received a bachelor's in psychology from Swarthmore College, a master's in special education from the Pennsylvania State University, and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

For more than a decade, Swearer has developed and implemented a data-based decision-making model for responding to bullying among school-aged youth. She has conducted staff trainings in elementary, middle and high schools, with the goal of helping school personnel establish cost-effective and data-based strategies to reduce bullying behaviors. Swearer has authored more than 100 book chapters and articles on the topics of bullying, depression and anxiety in school-aged youth, co-authoring "Bullying Prevention and Intervention: Realistic Strategies for Schools" and co-editing "Bullying in North American Schools (2nd Edition)" and "Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective."

Swearer's Target Bullying Intervention Program was featured on "CBS Sunday Morning" in February 2011, and she presented at the White House Bullying Prevention Conference in March 2011. In February 2012, she served as a panelist at Harvard University for the launch of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, appearing alongside Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelieus. Swearer also appeared as a featured bullying expert on Anderson Cooper's daytime show, "Anderson," in March 2012. Her work has been featured in numerous other print, radio and television outlets. Most recently, she has partnered with the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard University and Career Training Concepts to develop the H.E.A.R. presentation for the National Guard.

A licensed psychologist, Swearer serves as a supervising psychologist in the Child and Adolescent Therapy Clinic at UNL. She has devoted her career to the intersection of research and practice, serving as co-editor of the e-publication "Bullying @ School and Online" through Education.com. She chairs the research advisory board for the Born This Way Foundation and can be followed on Twitter (@DrSusanSwearer, @Bully_Research) and Facebook via the Empowerment Initiative and Bullying Research Network pages.

Elliot Tebbe, Ph.D.

Elliot Tebbe, Ph.D.

Co-Principal Investigator,
Born Brave Experiences Mixed Methods Research Study


Dr. Elliot Tebbe joined the Empowerment Initiative in 2015. His research focuses on the experiences of marginalized populations, particularly trans and sexual minority populations. Tebbe is interested in how identity (e.g., identity development, identity processes, feelings about one’s identity, etc.) impacts health and well being. Numerous studies have documented high rates of discrimination experiences and mental health problems in sexual minority and trans populations, while a much smaller number of studies have focused on positive outcomes and well being. Therefore, he is also interested in exploring factors that may promote health and well being, even in the face of negative life experiences. It is Dr. Tebbe's ultimate hope that his research will contribute to prevention and intervention programs aimed at helping individuals who hold stigmatized identities in this society connect with that which is positive, unique, and beautiful about their identities.

Michelle Howell Smith, Ph.D.

Michelle Howell Smith, Ph.D.

Co-Principal Investigator,
Born Brave Experiences Mixed Methods Research Study


Michelle Howell Smith serves as a project manager and acting research assistant professor at the Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools, housed within the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A native Nebraskan, Howell Smith earned her bachelor's in English from UNL and received her master's in counseling and personnel services from the University of Maryland at College Park. After spending more than a decade creating leadership development programs at colleges and universities across the country, Howell Smith returned to UNL, earning a doctorate in educational psychology with a specialization in quantitative, qualitative and psychometric methods.

Howell Smith specializes in mixed-methods research designs, with a particular interest in instrument development procedures such as grounded theory analysis, cognitive interviews, and exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis. Her dissertation, a mixed-methods instrument development study, received the 2013 Outstanding Mixed Methods Dissertation Award from the American Educational Research Association. Howell Smith's other research interests include improving educational supports for at-risk students, increasing the number of women and underrepresented students in STEM fields, and exploring best practices for survey and assessment development.

As the manager of Project READERS, Howell Smith helped direct a large-scale randomized control trial that examined the efficacy of online instructional coaching for teachers in rural communities. She has also overseen research projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Heather Schwartz, B.S., PLMHP

Heather Schwartz, M.A., PLMHP

T-BIP Specialist


Heather is a sixth-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her interests include the relationship between empathy, bullying and multiple intelligences. Heather is particularly interested in exploring how multiple intelligences relate to students' empathetic expression toward others, as well as possible engagement in bullying behaviors. She also serves as a qualitative interviewer for the Born Brave Experiences Mixed Methods Research Study.

Zach Myers, M.A.

Zach Myers, M.A., PLMHP

T-BIP Specialist


Zach is a fifth-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests include the relationship between victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying and their mental health outcomes. He is also interested in the effects of cyberbullying via Web-based social networking sites and online gaming. Zach serves as a qualitative interviewer for the Born Brave Experiences Mixed Methods Research Study.

Sara E. Gonzalez, B.S.

Sara E. Gonzalez, M.A., PLMHP

T-BIP Specialist, Empowerment Initiative Student Representative


Sara is a fifth-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her interests focus on utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to assess bullying victimization and its impact on children's development. Additionally, Sara is interested in finding ways to increase communication between hospital and school settings when assisting children with special health care needs. She also serves as a qualitative interviewer for the Born Brave Experiences Mixed Methods Research Study.

Allen Garcia, B.A.

Allen Garcia, M.A.

T-BIP Specialist


Allen is a fourth-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests include facilitating the translation of bullying prevention and intervention research to practice. Additionally, Allen is interested in emphasizing the use of social and emotional learning to reduce bullying and promote positive behaviors and skills among youth.

Ana Cathcart, M.A., PLMHP

Ana Damme, M.A., PLMHP, BCBA

T-BIP Specialist


Ana is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include mental and behavioral health outcomes of students with bullying behaviors and victims of bullying. Also, Ana is interested in the bullying dynamic in rural communities as well as program evaluation of bullying prevention and intervention programs.

Shir Palmon, B.A.

Shir Palmon, B.A.

T-BIP Specialist


Shir is a third-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include age and gender differences in bullying, as well as, relational bullying.

Nick Asay, B.A.

Nick Asay, B.A.

T-BIP Specialist


Nick is a third-year Ed.S. student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests include system-level interventions and examining how perceptions of school climate are related to engagement in bullying behaviors and attitudes related to bullying.

Kaitlyn Mosher

Kaitlyn Mosher, B.A.


Kaitlyn is a second-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include bullying prevention and interventions.

Raul Palacios

Raul Palacios, Ed.S.


Raul is a second-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He earned his Ed.S. in School Psychology from Seattle University. His research interests include bullying intervention and prevention, social justice, and the implementation of restorative practices in schools.

Guadalupe Gutierrez

Guadalupe Gutierrez, M.A


Guadalupe is a first-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her research interests include the development of prevention and intervention programs for underrepresented youths and college students from a strength-based perspective with a particular focus on protective factors and resilience. She also wants to explore the underlying relationships between early school experiences like bullying and the detrimental impact in children psychological well-being.

Cody Solesbee

Cody Solesbee, BS


Cody is a first-year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His research interests include the social neuroscience of aggression and bullying. He is collaborating with Dr. Hideo Suzuki on neuroimaging research related to structural and functional brain changes due to social factors.