Department: Social Work
JaLisa Williams is a BSSW lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Her areas of expertise include mindfulness interventions for race-based trauma, black generational healing, yoga, social justice and radical pedagogies.
Williams joined MSU Denver in 2019, first as an affiliate professor and taught a variety of courses in the BSSW and MSW program. Her classes taught included creative approach to change, gender and social work as well as power, privilege and oppression. Williams also served as an affiliate professor for Regis University where she developed two innovative curriculums under the Integrative Core Department.
She is the owner for Soulflower Experiences, which is a community-based mindfulness business teaching workshops, yoga and meditation classes. She also worked as a yoga therapist and counselor for The Center for Trauma and Resilience. There she provided short term counseling for individuals who have experienced crime in Denver, provided crisis intervention and client advocacy as well as presented and co-facilitated classes for the Befriending the Body yoga program.
Williams was a violence prevention program coordinator where she led, created and facilitated programing around interpersonal violence, healthy relationships, and violence against women and gender fluid individuals. Williams received her bachelor’s in kinesiology and exercise science in 2013 and her master’s in social work in 2016 from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Eileen Starr was born and raised in Newark, Delaware and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (Delaware; Maryland; Colorado). She received her PhD and Master’s Degree in clinical social work from Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, and did her dissertation research in Northern Ireland. While in Northern Ireland, Eileen also facilitated seminars dealing with challenging families and children/adolescents in the Social Work Department at Queen’s University, Belfast, NI.
Eileen has been a community social work practitioner most of her career at Upper Bay Counseling and Support Services Inc. (UBCSS), a private, non-profit agency in Cecil and Harford Counties in Maryland. At UBCSS, Eileen developed and was the supervisor of the School Based Mental Health Program (SBMH). She continues her private practice through tele-psychiatry with Mid-Atlantic Behavioral Health (Delaware) on a part-time basis. Eileen has been an adjunct professor since 2000 teaching undergraduate and graduate social work classes at Widener University, Chester, Pa, Salisbury University, Md. and the University of Delaware in the sociology and criminal justice departments.
Eileen is behavioral in her teaching style and clinical work, describing her style as “very interactive in partnership with her students, clients & families to help them meet their goals established in the classroom and in the therapeutic process.” She believes a reciprocal therapeutic relationship cultivates the best possible outcomes in her students as well as her clients.
In her “off time,” Eileen enjoys outdoor recreation and has coached and officiated girls’ basketball at the Middle and High School levels, taking her High School teams as an assistant and head coach to regional and state championship games. She is hoping to coach again in the Denver area.
Susie Ryder, M.S.W., is the director of undergraduate and graduate field education in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Ryder started her career in social work at Cleo Wallace Centers where she worked for 7 years in various positions including inpatient social worker, residential clinician, inpatient manager and clinical director. She then continued her work with children, adolescents and families at Mental Health Partners for 16 years. At Mental Health Partners, Ryder was the solution focused therapy trainer for the center for several years and most recently senior program manager for the Prevention/Intervention and School Based programs in the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain School Districts with oversight of 35 therapists.
She has been a faculty field advisor, admissions reader, integrative seminar co-leader and lecturer in the continuing education for advanced clinician program at Smith College School for Social Work. In addition, Ryder has a private practice in Boulder working with individuals, couples and families. She currently serves on the board of a suicide prevention program for adolescents and offers presentations in Boulder county on this topic.
Ryder received her Master of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work and a bachelor’s from Oberlin College. She is a licensed social worker and a licensed addiction counselor.
Jessica Ritter, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Her career as a social worker and academic has been dedicated to child welfare and children’s rights as well as political advocacy related to issues of social and economic justice. Ritter has been teaching social work at the college level for 13 years.
She is a Fulbright scholar and is the author of two books—101 Careers in Social Work, 2nd ed. (2015) and Social Work Policy Practice: Changing our Community, Nation, and the World (2nd edition is In Press).
Ritter received her doctorate, master of social work and bachelor of social work from University of Texas, Austin.
Jessica Retrum, Ph.D., is associate professor and chair of the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Retrum has eight years of clinical social work experience in health and mental health related settings, including hospice, home inpatient care, in-home therapy and developmental disabilities. She was a recipient of the John A. Hartford Foundation Pre-Dissertation Award in 2006. Through her own research and affiliation with the Institute of Gerontology from 2005-2009, Retrum worked with many community non-profit organizations that serve the social, health and mental health needs of older adults and their families. She was also the partner postdoctoral fellow in Public Health Systems and Service Research (funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) at the University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs from 2010-2013.
Her research background includes addressing the needs of underserved at at-risk isolated seniors; LGBT seniors using support to age in neighborhoods; and geriatric social work. She served as lead researcher for the AARP’s “Framework for Isolation in Adults Over 50.”
Retrum received her doctorate in social work from University of Denver in 2010, master of social work from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 and bachelor of social work from Illinois State University in 1996.
Professor Marina Pereira has taught graduate courses in the Graduate Social Work program as MSU Denver. She has taught at Metropolitan State University of Denver since 1999.
Professor Pereira is well versed in topics of mental health and families. She has special interest in issues of acculturation, diversity and first-generation Latino students. She was an advisor for the Student Association of Social Workers (SASW), a student organization that helps students develop and increase their sense of civic responsibility and community engagement by service learning activities.
Before teaching at MSU Denver, Pereira worked in the areas of medical social work and mental health, where she specialized in treating and advocating for children and families with a history of domestic violence, sexual and physical abuse.
Ann Obermann, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of social work at Metropolitan State University of Denver. Since 2016 she has taught courses in direct family practice, family therapy, trauma, mental health assessment, trauma interventions and child maltreatment. In addition, she enjoys training child welfare and mental health professionals on topics such as trauma, adolescent development, leadership and supervision as well as family engagement.
Obermann is a licensed clinical social worker in the state of Colorado and has extensive social work practice experience working in human service management, community mental health and with at risk families and adolescents in both child welfare and mental health environments. She also managed an intensive evidence based program where she created and facilitated different trainings for online social work instructors to prepare them for socially just educational experiences. Obermann is also the coauthor of the book, “101 Careers in Social Work”.
Obermann received her Ph.D. in social work from the University of Denver in 2017, her master’s in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002 and her bachelor’s in social work from St. Olaf College in 1997.
Andrew Mrkvicka, M.S.W., is an affiliate faculty in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
Mrkvicka has 17 years of experience working as a clinical supervisor for Adams County where he oversees the clinical components of the county, manages a team of clinicians and does program development. He has been teaching at MSU Denver since 2011 and is a trainer for the Colorado Child Welfare Training System at University of Colorado Denver since 2016. Mrkvicka is also a member of the National Association of Social Workers.
He received a master of social work from University of Denver in 2004 and a bachelor’s in family studies from University of Northern Colorado in 1994. Mrkvicka is a licensed clinical social worker.
Shawna Margesson, Ph.D., is a lecturer in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.
She has over 20 years of experience in the areas of international social work, program evaluation and the nongovernmental sectors both in the United States and globally. Margesson runs her own consulting business called LotusOak Counseling, LLC. She has taught in Colorado, California and abroad in South Africa, Belize, China and Ireland/Northern Ireland. Margesson joined MSU Denver in 2018.
Her passion for the peer to peer movement in mental health has led her to serve local nonprofits in mental health equity. Margesson served on the Behavioral Transformation Council for the Governor of Colorado representing peers in behavioral health. She was also a policy committee member for Mental Health America of Colorado and mentor for VISTA members for Corporation for National and Community Service. Her current research interests include international mental health, first generation college learners and program evaluation in mental health.
Margesson received her doctorate in social work from University of Denver in 2011, a master’s in advanced generalist social work practice from Colorado State University in 2001 and a bachelor’s in philosophy from Humboldt State University in 1995.