Presenters Brief Bios 2023

Listed by Breakout Sessions



Alina M. Baltazar, PhD, MSW, LMSW, CFLE

MSW Program Director, Professor of Social Work, Co-Associate Director, Institute for the Prevention of Addiction, Andrews University

Session 1 – The Role Parents Play in Preventing and Treating Self-Harm in Teens




Dr. Ivan Godfrey, PhD

Dr. Ivan Godfrey, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice & Behavioral Science at SUNY Ulster Community College, a Visiting Professor in the Forensic Mental Health Department at Russell Sage College, and The School of Social Welfare at the SUNY University at Albany.

He has worked in Law Enforcement as a Correction Officer with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

In his role as a Psychological Evaluator & Re-entry Coordinator Dr. Godfrey and his team developed a new intervention titled the (PVDI) “Parole Violation Diversion Initiative” that, afforded parolees who were re-arrested and met certain criteria, to be diverted to mental health treatment instead of being sent back to priszon. This program model has been replicated and is in use today in several cities around the country.   The benefit to cities with this model program addresses two key issues, the primary problem responsible for the re-arrest of individuals diagnosed Co-occurring Disorders (mental illness & substance abuse), and saving taxpayer’s money by not returning these individual to prison or jail.

Dr. Godfrey recently completed a Doctoral Degree in Practical Theology at Masters International University of Divinity in 2017, is a published author of several Journal articles on Treating Mentally Ill individuals in the Criminal Justice System, has authored a chapter in a book titled “Never Going Back” released in the Fall of 2016 and authored his own book in 2021 “Corrections and Beyond: My Story of Doing Time on the Other Side of the Bars” He has participated on several panels related to his work with the forensic population in prisons, jails and psychiatric facilities.

Session 1 – The Impact of Incarceration on Families: How the Church Can Assist in Effective Prisoner Reentry and Diversion




Dionne Gittens, MDiv, MA

Dionne Gittens, MDiv, MA, interest in research is in the area of family resilience, particularly resilience in single parents. She has led and established several different family and child development groups in several churches throughout Michiana. She is passionate about supporting families and helping parents and children experience mental-emotional wellbeing. Dionne has a Master of Divinity from Andrews University, and a Master of Arts from Queens College, City University New York, and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Discipleship in Lifespan Education at Andrews University. Currently, she serves as International Financial Advisor at the Office of International Student Services, Andrews University.

She has been married to her husband, Marvin, for over 20 years, and together they have two teenage daughters.

Session 1 – Parenting with Resilience: Hope, Heal, Thrive!




Willian Oliveira, PhD (candidate)

Willian Oliveira, PhD (candidate) is Professor at Northeast Adventist Brazilian College. His area of interest in research intersects Theology and Psychology. He is Pastor and psychologist and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Religious Education/Discipleship in Lifespan Education at Andrews University. He has served the Bahia Conference in Brazil as Family Life leader. He is the husband of Tchana and the Father of William and Lana.

Session 1 – Family Education Through Supportive Groups: A Model for Developing Family Resilience




Dr. LaPorte, D.Min., M.Div., CFLE

Dr. LaPorte, D.Min., M.Div., CFLE, has worked with families as a pastor in multiple conferences within the Adventist Church and as a Chaplain in the United States Army. He is also a Certified Family Life Educator with the National Council on Family Relations. He is presently the Director of Family Ministries for the Nevada Utah Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Dr. LaPorte holds a Master of Divinity, as well as a Doctor of Ministry, in Family Ministry, from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He has been married to his precious wife, Marian, for 27 years. They have one college aged son, Manny LaPorte, Jr.

Session 2 – The Marriage and Mental Health Connection




Ruth Nyabeta-Omwocha, MA, CFLE-P

Ruth Nyabeta-Omwocha, MA, CFLE-P, is a doctoral student at Andrews University, and her area of interest is in family studies. Her passion for family wellness has led to her ongoing exploration and implementation of an intergenerational model in discipling and working with families, children, and youth. Ruth has ministered to diverse congregations, conducting Family Life Seminars and mentoring youths and youth adults across the Globe. She has also developed a curriculum for Parent-Time classes that several churches have implemented. She’s currently serving as an Assistant Pastor at South Bend First Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Bend, Indiana, where she oversees Family Life and Children Ministries.

Before joining Andrews University and South Bend First SDA Church and while in Kenya, Ruth worked in various USAID-funded programs as a Communication Specialist for ten years.

Ruth is married to Omwocha. She has been married for 13 years, and together they are blessed with four children: Joshua, Caleb, Russell, and Sarah-Rachel.

Session 2 – The Impact of Social Media Engagement on Couples’ Emotional Health




Julián Anderson-Martin

Julián Anderson-Martin, MA, LLPC, LMHC,Counselor, Owner/Director Rose Above the Thorn Counseling Center

Session 2 – Pornography, Sex Trafficking: Their Influence and Impact on Family




Hebert Davi Liessi, PhD

Hebert Davi Liessi, PhD (cand), area of research focuses on the integration of theology and anthropology as a pedagogical approach to religious education in formal and informal learning context. His current research assignments include the exploration of variables that significantly affect select individuals’ spiritual wellbeing as well as pedagogical approaches in enhancing the relational and emotional wellbeing of individuals and families. Hebert has a bachelor’s in theology and I Master’s in Biblical Interpretation and Teaching. In the last 13 years, he has worked as a church pastor, chaplain, and Religion Professor for High School and University. Currently, he is the coordinator of Religious Education for Northeast Adventist University in Brazil. He is married and he and his wife Lucicleide have two sons, Theo, and Gael.

Session 2 – Pedagogical Approaches as Best Practices in Enhancing Family Relationships and Emotional Wellness




Kristina Freed, PhD (cand)

Kristina Freed, PhD (cand), area of research embodies the integration of theology and social science as a viable approach to Christian formation and discipleship. Her research interests include the exploration of how secure attachment to God impacts a variety of human contexts, including intra- and inter-personal discipleship and family relations. In her current research, she has been examining the biblical canon for evidence that God self-identifies in ways that can be interpreted as providing attachment caregiving and indicating that God is not just an adequate attachment figure but the ultimate attachment figure.

Kristina is a wife, mother, adjunct professor, speaker, and presenter with a special interest in the intersection of theology and psychology.

Session 3 – Divine Attachment as Model for Seventh-day Adventist Family Discipleship



Pete A. Palmer, PhD

Pete A. Palmer, PhD research interest is on issues relating to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and faith maturity in ministry leaders, particularly pastors and pastors-in-training. His doctoral studies focused on exploring possible correlations between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Faith Maturity in a select population of Leaders in the SDA Church.

Prior to completing doctoral studies at Andrews University, he completed a Master of Divinity and served extensively in various pastoral leadership and administration contexts, including his role as elected Vice President for Administration, Allegheny East Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, and later, President of the Allegheny East Conference.

His professional assignments created opportunities to speak internationally in the Caribbean, East and West Africa, and Korea.

Pete is married to his wife Dahlia, and they are the parent of one son, Troy Levy, and grandparents to Benjamin, Kenneth, and Isaac.

Session 3 – The Relationship Between Childhood Trauma and Mature Faith




David & Beverly Sedlacek


Brief Biography: David Sedlacek, PhD

David is Research Professor in the Department of Discipleship and Lifespan Education at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He received his master’s and doctorate in Social Work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He has worked in various settings, both public and private, as a clinician, researcher, teacher, pastor, chaplain, and administrator. He has worked extensively in the areas of addiction, abuse, relationships, marriage, and family. He is a Certified Family Life Educator and a Licensed Masters Social Worker.

Brief Biography: Beverly Sedlacek, DNP

Beverly is a therapist in private practice at University Medical Specialties in Berrien Springs, MI. She earned a Master of Science (MSN) degree specializing in psychiatric nursing from the Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) from Andrews University. She has served as Clinical Director in several treatment facilities and has taught psychiatric nursing at several colleges and universities.

David and Beverly have written a book entitled Cleansing the Sanctuary of the Heart: Tools for Emotional Healing along with its accompanying workbook. They conduct seminars nationally and internationally on many topics related to family ministry and are family ministry directors in their local church. They have five children, twelve grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Session 3 – Adverse Childhood Experiences in Pastoral Ministry: Hope, Heal, Thrive!


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