SJU’s Kinney Center Launches Faculty Affiliates Program

The initiative strengthens understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders

Monday, January 8, 2018

PHILADELPHIA (January 8, 2018) — The Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support at Saint Joseph’s University has appointed Cheryl George, Ph.D., assistant professor of special education, and Elizabeth Becker, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology and director of behavioral neuroscience, as faculty affiliates. Participants in the new initiative, which began in June 2017, engage in autism-related research, programming and advocacy for a three-year term.

Faculty affiliates spend their appointment engaging in discipline-appropriate research based on the mission of the Kinney Center. George’s research focuses on improving the behavior and academic performance of children with disabilities, specifically through aerobic exercise. As an affiliate, she is currently surveying University alumni to determine the impact of the Kinney Center’s experiential learning programs, such as the Kinney SCHOLARS program, on their post-graduation paths. George partners on this project with Abigayle Jayroe ’14 (MBA), Kinney Center director of operations.

Becker, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist, uses an animal model to study the neural and hormonal mechanisms of social behavior. Her research broadly examines how parental behavior impacts development of offspring brain and behavior. As a faculty affiliate, she empirically tests the link between maternal antidepressant use and the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in offspring. Her work is critical for understanding the impact of maternal drug use during pregnancy and lactation.

George and Becker, who began the program in June 2017, are also engaging in a joint research project, studying the effects of aerobic exercise on adults with ASD who attend the Kinney Center’s day program. The pair serve as liaisons between the Kinney Center and their respective academic departments to enhance scholarship around autism studies. They also help to oversee the Kinney SCHOLARS by serving as mentors, offering lectures and facilitating discussions that deepen students’ knowledge of their work.

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Founded in 1851 in the Jesuit tradition of academic excellence, Saint Joseph’s University is a top-ranked Catholic University that provides a rigorous, student-centered education. With a total enrollment of 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students, SJU offers a wide array of academic programs designed so that each graduate enters the world with a competitive resume and global perspective. This is achieved through intense academic study led by thought-leading faculty scholars, a comprehensive campus experience and robust study abroad, service-learning, internship and co-op programs. Upon graduation, nearly 100 percent of students are employed, pursuing advanced degrees or volunteering in prestigious service programs. A member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, SJU offers 20 Division I intercollegiate men’s and women’s sports. SJU alumni — over 68,000 strong — provide a powerful network that spans the globe.

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