Our Team

CO-Principal Investigators

Itzhak Yanovitzky (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Communication and Chair of the SC&I Health and Wellness Faculty Cluster at Rutgers University. He is an expert in the areas of behavior change, public policymaking, translational research, and program evaluation. Professor Yanovitzky’s program of research explores effective mechanisms for improving use of research evidence in policy and practice and building the capacity of communities to apply communication strategies and tools to promote population health and wellness. He has an extensive experience partnering with collaborators across academic disciplines and sectors to address a range of public health problems, including most recently efforts to address the opioid epidemic and the rising toll of youth depression and suicide. Professor Yanovitzky is Chair of the Health Communication Division of the International Communication Association and a member of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication Research and Practice. More Information

Matthew Weber (Ph.D., University of Southern California) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University. He was formerly a postdoctoral research at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, and a visiting scholar at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Matthew’s research examines organizational change in relation to the use of new information communication technologies. He examines organizations from both an internal and external perspective, focusing on the interaction between macro- and micro-level changes. He has studied organizations in a variety of contexts, including an examination of transformation of the news media industry in the United States, an analysis of local newspaper ecosystems, research on technology use in large multinational organizations, and work on social movements. More Information

Cindy Blitz (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania) is a Research Professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education, and, the Executive Director of the Center for Effective School Practices (CESP), a research and evaluation unit within the school. With 20 years of experience as a social scientist, her expertise is in the assessment of group processes and in the implementation and evaluation of evidence-based practices in health and educational settings. Much of her theoretical and empirical research centers on designing and testing effective mechanisms, processes, and tools for building capacity of professionals to adopt and adapt evidence-based practices. She has extensive experience with effectively engaging diverse groups of stakeholders in authentic collaborations that can produce effective and sustainable solutions to real-world problems. In this capacity, she makes significant contributions to advancing theory and evaluation of collaborative learning and implementation structures in fields such as team science, dissemination, and implementation, and organizational learning. Her recent work in K12 and higher education focuses on rigor, equity, and engagement of students and educators in STEM education, assessment, and implementation of relevant policies at a meaningful level. She has been awarded several NSF grants  where she works collaboratively with other educators from multiple diverse and geographically dispersed school who are committed to (1) developing and delivering high-quality CS and CT professional development (PD) that is aligned with CSTA K-12 CS Standards and tailored to the needs, experience, and competencies of teachers and schools, and (2) building the capacity of school and district leaders to plan, implement, manage, and evaluate programs and policies that can support rigor and equity in providing CS education to all students. More Information

Brian C. Chu, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in, and Department Chair of, the Department of Clinical Psychology in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University. He is also Founder and Director of the Youth Anxiety and Depression Clinic, a research clinic specializing in evaluating and providing evidence-based care for children and adolescents. He has received the Klingenstein Third Generation Foundation Young Investigator Award to support development of behavioral activation and exposure programs in middle schools.  He has co-edited a book, Transdiagnostic Treatments for Children and Adolescents: Principles and Practice (Guilford, 2013) reviewing the science and treatment of universal processes that cut across youth pathology. He is co-authoring a practitioner-oriented book designed to guide clinicians in everyday evidence-based practice: Treatment Plans and Interventions: Child and Adolescent Mood and Anxiety Disorders (Translating Evidence-Based Treatments into Personalized Therapies). He is Editor of Cognitive & Behavioral Practice, the practice-oriented journal of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and he serves on the Editorial Board for several scientific journals, including Behavior Therapy, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, among others. For his sustained, outstanding contributions to the field of behavioral interventions and psychological practice, he has earned Fellow Status for the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Dr. Chu’s areas of interest include the assessment and treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders in youth, with a special emphasis on the dissemination of evidence-based practice, effectiveness research, and the evaluation of mechanisms of change. He is also interested in utilizing technology (e.g., mobile applications and web-based coaching) to foster the effectiveness of evidence-based treatment delivery and professional training. He has a developing interest in understanding multicultural issues that impact help-seeking behavior and access to mental health services. He is a committed teacher and mentor to undergraduate and graduate trainees learning to appreciate and become competent in evidence-based psychological practice. More Information

Meredith Masin Blount is the Executive Director of NAMI NJ, a leading voice on mental illness in New Jersey. NAMI New Jersey (NAMI NJ) is a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.  NAMI NJ, in conjunction with its 19 affiliates across the state, held more than 600 support groups, 310 education classes and provided more than 260 presentations in 2019.

Prior to NAMI NJ, Ms. Blount was the Senior Director of Youth Services for New Brunswick Tomorrow. Through this role, Ms. Blount managed the state’s largest School Based Youth Services Program – providing mental health counseling and youth development services to students in New Brunswick Schools. The program had steadily grown over her seven-year tenure and expanded to seven schools, serving more than 1,000 New Brunswick students yearly. Prior to joining New Brunswick Tomorrow, Ms. Blount worked at the New Brunswick Housing Authority; creating the Social Services Department within the agency. She also was an AmeriCorps*VISTA Volunteer with the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance in Boston. Meredith is also a proud wife to a very patient husband and mother to 3 soccer boys: 15, 12, 7.  If you do not see her in the office, you can probably hear her cheering on the soccer fields every weekend.  Every weekend.

Maggie Xiaomei Luo is the Associate Director of Communications and Technology with National Alliance on Mental Illness of New Jersey (NAMI NJ) where she oversees the statewide organization’s public awareness programming, online presence, community outreach, member/donor relations and fund development. Maggie has almost 20 years of experience in working with immigrant families affected by mental illness in cultivating grassroots awareness on mental health issues and planting community self-help groups in various localities across NJ. She is the founder and coordinator for NAMI NJ’s Chinese American Mental Health Outreach Program since 2003, and recently led a successful restructuring and program alignment effort across NAMI NJ’s four award-winning multicultural outreach programs. Maggie is the recipient of the inaugural NAMI NJ Diversity and Inclusion Award in 2020 for her exemplary efforts in engaging minority communities in program development and team recruitment. She is fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Maggie received her master’s degree in communications with a health focus from Rutgers University. She is a member of her local public school’s Special Needs Parent Teacher Organization advocating for students with learning disabilities. Maggie is also a member of the Rutgers Christian Community Church in NJ where she has served as a Sunday School teacher for special needs youth and young adults for the past decade.

Postdoctoral Associates

Calandra Lindstadt (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is a Postdoctoral Associate at Rutgers University in the School of Communication and Information. Her research in the area of persuasive public health communication seeks to better understand media effects by examining the characteristics of meaningful messages (i.e., what distinguishes influential messages from noise), particularly in the context of sexual health communication and sexual health behavior. She has been published in journals such as Health Communication, Journal of Health Communication, and Qualitative Research Reports in Communication and is an active member of the International Communication Association. Ultimately, Calandra’s work seeks to contribute to national and international conversations about disease control and prevention through the development of effective communication. More information

Senior Project Staff

Vivian Allen is the Associate Director of Research and Evaluation at the Center for Effective School Practices (CESP), where she works closely with faculty, staff, and external partners to ensure the rigor and relevance of CESP’s research portfolio with an eye toward efficient and effective project management within a fiscally sound manner. She brings to this role a wealth of diverse analytical experiences as a financial analyst, project manager, and program evaluator. Having spent the past 20 years working with private industry and non-profit organizations, she has a deep understanding of and appreciation for the central role of third-party organizations in an educational research and policy context. More Information

David Amiel is a Research Assistant and Teaching Fellow at CESP. A recent graduate of Rutgers University with training in biomathematics, computer science, economics, and cognitive sciences, he works to co-create programs, learning experiences, and methodologically rigorous research and evaluation projects with the aim of improving learning for all people. He works closely with members of the research team to ensure practitioner-relevant and data-driven instruction and research. His analytical background allows him to engage fully in work across content areas, fields, and learning institutes. More Information

William Bejarano (MLIS, MLER, Rutgers University) is a PhD student at the Rutgers School of Communication & Information. His area of interest is in the dissemination, translation, and use of research evidence outside of academia, with a particular focus on public health research. He currently works full time at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey as a grants coordinator, and prior to that had worked for over a decade in academic and research libraries.

Taylor Goulbourne is a Ph.D. student at the School of Communication & Information, Rutgers University. Her work lies at the intersection of public health and health communication. She is particularly interested in unpacking the role of communication as a social determinant of health, and investigating ways in which communication can both reduce existing and create new health disparities. Prior to joining the doctoral program, Taylor received her Master of Public Health from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018, and her Bachelor of Science from William & Mary in 2016.

Justine Quow (M.A., Rutgers University) is a first year Ph.D. student in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University. Her research focuses on how disparities within community health can affect the resilience of disadvantaged individuals and shape their social support perceptions, by examining the environmental factors that influence community resilience.

Xizi Ru is a Ph.D. Candidate at the School of Communication and Information (SC&I), Rutgers University. Her research interests center around information and communication technologies (ICTs), social media, social influence, social networks, and mental health. She is particularly interested in how new ICTs, such as social media, influence individuals and organizations in disseminating and seeking information; how social media influence people’s mental health; and the mechanism of social influence on social media. She uses multiple methods, such as statistical modeling, content analysis, social network analysis, and interviews, to examine the dynamic processes of online social and informational interactions. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Communication University of China, and a Master’s degree in Communication from Peking University.

Hajar Shirley is a Ph.D. student at the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University, where she is advancing health equity and educational equity research. Hajar is an experienced healthcare technology leader and educator. As the former Global Head of LifeScan Commercial Technology at Johnson & Johnson, Hajar Shirley led global efforts centered around researching and mitigating disease management barriers for persons with diabetes via patient-centered support, implementation of new digital technologies, and extension of product offerings to emerging countries. Hajar recently completed a competitive research internship with the Rutgers Institute for Health in which she studied gun violence as a public health issue – leading efforts at the Rutgers Gun Violence Research Center. In addition, Hajar is a student leader at the Rutgers Global Health Institute and serves as the co-chair of the inaugural Rutgers GHI Impact Case Competition. Ms. Shirley completed her undergrad and graduate training and earned a BS and MS in Computer Science and a MS in Management. She completed the Smith College –Leadership Edge program and also attained a certificate from Babson College on Technology Innovation. In 2016 she completed the Global Marketing Management certification at Wharton –UPENN.