2020 Class of Research Fellows 

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Jessika Boles, PhD, CCLS – Chief Fellow

Jessika Boles, PhD, CCLS, is a Certified Child Life Specialist and Team Lead at Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee, where she also holds an Adjunct Professor position in the Department of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. She has earned a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, a master’s degree in Applied Child Studies from Vanderbilt University, and a PhD in Educational Psychology with graduate certificate in Qualitative Research from the University of Memphis. Since 2009, Dr. Boles has worked as a Certified Child Life Specialist for infants, children, adolescents, and young adults with chronic, life-threatening, or terminal illnesses and injuries in a variety of clinical settings.

Click here to read more about Jesika.

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Sherwood Burns-Nader, PhD, CCLS

Sherwood Burns-Nader, PhD, CCLS is an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In this role, Dr. Burns-Nader coordinates the undergraduate and graduate child life programs, teaches child life coursework, and maintains a research agenda. She earned her PhD in Educational Psychology and her MS in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Life from the University of Alabama. Dr. Burns-Nader's research interests include examining the psychosocial issues affecting children and families in the healthcare setting, the benefits of child life interventions during healthcare procedures, and the value of play in development and coping in children. She has publications on these topics in such journals as BurnsPain MedicineChildren's Health CareClinical Pediatrics, and Journal of Child Health Care. In 2018, Dr. Burns-Nader received the Association of Child Life Professionals Research Award. She is an active leader in the Association of Child Life Professionals and the Southeastern Association of Child Life Professionals, including serving as Chair to the Child Life Certification Commission and Chair to SEACLP.

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Kathryn Cantrell, PhD, CCLS

Kathryn Cantrell, PhD, CCLS (pronouns she/her/hers) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Human Development, Family Studies, and Counseling at Texas Woman's University. Kathryn's research interests include examining best practices for pediatric chronic illness disclosure, racial disparities in pediatric psychosocial services, and social justice pedagogy in child life. Kathryn is the founding Executive Editor of The Journal of Child Life: Psychosocial Theory and Practice, an ACLP publication. 

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Sarah Daniels, MS, CCLS

Sarah Daniels, MS, CCLS, (pronouns she/her/hers) is a Certified Child Life Specialist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee and a doctoral candidate in Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Memphis. Sarah divides her time between clinical and research responsibilities for the child life program, with opportunities to engage in research and quality improvement projects that evaluate the feasibility, efficacy, and role of child life services in the hospital setting. Her research interests include trends in technology use and youth development, psychosocial aspects of adolescent and young adult oncology, and mixed methods research design. Sarah volunteers for the ACLP Journal Committee as a member of the Review Board for the Journal of Child Life: Psychosocial Theory and Practice. 

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Kia Ferrer, MS, CCLS, GC-C

Kia Ferrer, MS, CCLS, GC-C brings to the ACLP Research Fellows program extensive expertise in the study of racially marginalized populations across the pediatric mental health infrastructure (i.e. higher education, accrediting bodies, workforce, and those in training). Ferrer is passionate about fostering inclusivity in the healthcare community through the mentoring of students and colleagues, and she is personally and professionally focused on raising awareness about cultural consciousness and the varieties of racism (personal, systemic, and institutional) that children and families face in pediatrics on a daily basis.
 
Ferrer is uniquely qualified to consult on these critical issues in child life, as she has been a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) for a decade, a Chicago native of Puerto Rican descent, Adjunct Faculty at Erikson Institute (a graduate school in child development), and University of Illinois of Chicago (UIC) Jane Addams College of Social Work. In 2017, Ferrer was offered a Doctoral Fellowship to Erikson Institute and Loyola University’s PhD Program in Child Development (expected 2023) and is an active member of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee convened by Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).
 
In addition to her strong academic and professional background, Ferrer has presented at several conferences hosted by ACLP, Cooley’s Anemia Foundation, Mayo Clinic Social Media Conference, and Make-A-Wish Foundation. Most recently, she presented a plenary on Cultural Consciousness at ACLP’s annual conference in May 2020 with CCLS Divna Wheelwright and internationally recognized developmental psychologist, Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll. Ferrer is a doctoral candidate currently involved in a variety of research projects based in Chicago and Puerto Rico, critically analyzing texts and evaluating professional training curricula for early childhood professionals.
 
As an ACLP Research Fellow, Kia will bring cultural consciousness and sensitivity to the varieties of racism faced by our members and the families they serve, and will help ensure that our organization supports research that is aligned to our values of inclusivity and equality in the support for the early care, education and healthcare for families of color.

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Cara Sisk, PhD, CCLS

Cara Sisk, PhD, CCLS is an Assistant Professor in the School of Human Ecology at Tennessee Technological University. Having served children and families as a practicing Certified Child Life Specialist informs her work educating child life students. Cara’s clinical experience influences her research interests of children’s healthcare experiences, children with special healthcare needs and disabilities perceptions of healthcare, children with special healthcare needs social relationships, and the integration of child life interventions into child life research. Cara contributes to child life through scholarly publications, professional presentations, and volunteer service with the Association of Child Life Professionals. Cara currently serves as a member of The Journal of Child Life: Psychosocial Theory and Practice Review Board. 

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