Dr. Sejal Barden is the Executive Director of the Marriage and Family Research Institute and Principal Investigator for Project Harmony. Dr. Barden earned her doctoral degree in Counselor Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and completed her masters and education specialist degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Florida. Dr. Barden’s primary research interests include: supporting healthy relationships for individuals and couples from underserved populations and improving quality of life for chronically ill persons. Her favorite part of her job is mentoring students and working with our team to make data driven decisions to most effectively provide services grounded in strengthening relationships for participants in Project Harmony. She loves that every day allows us the ability to think outside the box and learn from one another. She loves to be outside, often spending free time with her family at the beach, in the pool or at the park. She is a lifelong learner and loves trying new foods, reading books from a variety of genres and traveling to new places.
Dr. Dalena Dillman Taylor
Dr. Dalena Dillman Taylor
Dr. Dalena Dillman Taylor is a tenure earning Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida in the Department of Counselor Education & School Psychology/Counselor Education Program. She earned her doctoral degree in Counseling and completed her master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Texas. Dr. Dillman Taylor’s primary research interests include: advancement of Adlerian Play Therapy field towards evidence-based practice; counseling and educational services for high need children and families; and counselor development and supervision. Her favorite part of my job is encouraging others to strive towards their best! She loves to spend time outdoors with my partner and three wonderful daughters.
Kathleen Hawkins is a Project Director at Project Harmony. Kathleen obtained her Masters in Marriage, Couples, and Family Therapy from the University of Central Florida and currently is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been working with couples and families since 2015 and recently has been enjoying working on the research side of the profession. Kathleen enjoys watching the change, development, and impact that relationship education has on couples and their families. During her free time Kathleen really enjoys being outside and in nature with her family.
Nataly Larenas is the Assistant Director of Operations at Project Harmony. Nataly previously worked in the UCF College of Education for 6 years and with the Marriage and Family Research Institute for the last 6 years. Currently she is working on a Bachelor’s degree in Event Management with UCF Rosen College. Nataly loves all the moving pieces that come with her position. She finds it exciting and rewarding that she gets to help create an experience that enriches the lives of our participants. When Nataly has free time, she loves to spend it with her family. She enjoys anything that involves being creative or learning something new.
Thays Flores is a Program Coordinator at Project Harmony. Thays graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Family Sciences from the University of Kentucky. She worked with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension for about 4 years as a Family and Consumer Science Agent. There she had the opportunity to teach individuals ways they can better themselves and the community. She enjoys being able to connect with people from all different branches of life. She also likes that she gets to see the change in the individuals firsthand. Thays loves to travel and meet different people and learn from them and their culture. One of her favorite things to do while traveling is to try all the delicious cuisine from different countries.
Margarita Manon is a Program Coordinator/ Recruitment Specialist Lead at Project Harmony. Maggie earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Florida International University with a concentration in Developmental and Legal Psychology. Her primary research interest are children eyewitness testimonies, human sexuality, music therapy, marriage, and family. Her favorite part of her job is connecting and building partnerships with the Central Florida Community. She loves to write songs, dance ballet, and go on outdoor adventures with her son.
Jamie Santos is a Family Case Specialist at Project Harmony. Jamie earned her Bachelors of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida in 2015. She joined the Marriage and Family Research Institute during a previous grant under Project TOGETHER. Before rejoining the Institute with Project Harmony, she worked within a private agency helping children in the foster care system. Jamie takes joy in knowing the work she does has the potential to inform research that will impact future couples and individuals. Working closely with her participants is her favorite part of her role in Project Harmony. Jamie enjoys spending time in art museums discovering new artists. She also enjoys spending quality time with friends and family.
Rosa V. Quintero Mora
Rosa V. Quintero Mora
Rosa V. Quintero Mora is a Recruitment Specialist at Project Harmony. Rosa obtained her B.S. in Psychology at the “Universidad Rafael Urdaneta”, Venezuela. Her professional background includes Human Resources, Recruitment, Training and Cultural Corporative Change in a Fortune 500 company (USA). Rosa’s favorite part of her job is getting to know people that can take advantage of the program and interact with a lot of children. She loves reading, dancing, baking and going to the beach.
Fabiola is a recruitment specialist at Project Harmony. Fabiola is a Rutgers University Alumna and received her bachelors in Women & Gender Studies in 2019. Fabiola recently joined the Marriage and Family Research Institute in 2021 and she is very excited and happy with her role, connecting with couples and helping them enhance their relationship through our workshops. Outside of the MFRI, Fabiola is a business owner and an artist. She creates handmade jewelry with healing crystals as well as feminist art. Fabiola is also a radiant sister of Omega Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, who’s philanthropy is raising awareness of violence against womxn. Her passion of healing to people coupled with her role at the MFRI has brought much alignment to her life, and she is excited to see what the upcoming years have in store for her.
Marangelie “Mara” Velez
Marangelie “Mara” Velez
Marangelie “Mara” Velez is a Family Coordinator at Project Harmony. Marangelie earned her Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy from the University of Central Florida in 2018. As a counselor, she has experience working with women in substance use facilities, with children/teens, and with couples. Her favorite part of being a Family Coordinator is meeting new people and coaching couples to help enhance their relationship. In her free time, she likes to go to concerts, travel to new places, and explore different restaurants in Orlando.
Jomarie Rivera Jorge
Jomarie Rivera Jorge
Jomarie graduated from UCF with her bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies. Prior to working with the Marriage and Family Research Institute, she worked at a local domestic violence center as a Victim Service Advocate. Jomarie enjoys being able to watch as the couples change and grow throughout the weeks as they complete the programs. In her spare time, Jomarie enjoys watching movies, traveling to new places, and listening to podcasts.
Melissa Miranda is a Family Program Assistant/Relationship Educator at Project Harmony. Melissa Miranda is currently a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern in the state of Florida. She received her Master of Arts in Marriage, Couple, and Family Therapy from the University of Central Florida and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. What she loves most about working at the MFRI is being a part of a project that creates such positive growth and change in the lives of others. Melissa loves hearing couple’s stories and how the skills and techniques in the program have helped them throughout their journey together. She enjoys cooking, baking desserts, traveling, playing video games, and finding new movies/TV shows to watch.
If you are interested in receiving more information about Project Harmony, please fill out the inquiry form at this link and one of our team members will be happy to contact you: http://mfri.ucf.edu/contact-us/
"As we arrive at the end of our first grant year, I want to take a moment to spotlight the incredible team that we have here at the Marriage and Family Research Institutes, Project Harmony. Starting a new project during these challenging times certainly had new trials and tribulations, however this team met every single one with grace and resilience. It was their dedication and fortitude that allowed us to not just meet, but exceed rigorous expectations. The multi-generational impact that is made, provides the motivation for excellence. I am truly honored and humbled to be a part of such a strong, intelligent, and caring team of women.
Our close bonds shape who we are and have a profound impact on our mental health and well-being” states Psychology Today. We encourage you to continue reading this interesting article regarding our attachment styles and how we can address, process, and consider resolutions.