Kirsten Willar (Schohl) grew-up in Milford, Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan with honors with a B.A. in Psychology in 2010. That same year, she began graduate studies at Marquette University’s (MU) Clinical Psychology doctoral program, earning an M.S. in Clinical Psychology from MU in 2012. Kirsten looks forward to earning the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from MU in May, 2016, specializing in Child and Adolescent Psychology and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Kirsten’s experience with ASD began with a sibling diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS), and her interest grew as a part-time high-school caregiver for a child with ASD. Her curiosity in psychology was cultivated while at the University of Michigan, where as an undergraduate she accepted a position at the University of Michigan’s Autism & Communications Disorders Center (UMACC), then a leading entity in ASD diagnostic tools and evaluations. Under guidance from her MU Department of Psychology faculty mentor Dr. Amy Vaughan Van Hecke, Kirsten’s experience and knowledge of individuals with ASD has grown exponentially throughout her many years of graduate school at MU.
Kirsten’s Master’s thesis, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorder, is based upon replication and extension of the "Program for the Education & Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS)" intervention. PEERS, originated at UCLA, is a social skills intervention for adolescents and young adults with autism. Kirsten successfully completed the defense of her Ph.D. dissertation, which is focused on assessing the durability of the PEERS intervention as well as the potential long term changes PEERS may have on adolescent social anxiety and physiological regulation following participation in PEERS.
At Marquette, Kirsten provides assessment and therapy services at Marquette’s Center for Psychological Services and the Marquette Autism Clinic. In addition, Kirsten leads MU’s PEERS’ young adult and adolescent groups. Kirsten was also a practicum student at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, where she worked in the Gastroenterology clinic as a part of a multidisciplinary medical team. She also worked at Froedtert Medical Center & Medical College of Wisconsin, where she conducted infant and toddler neuropsychological testing.
During the 2013-2014 academic year, Kirsten served as an adjunct lecturer for the Lifespan Development course for Nursing Students at MU. For the 2014-2015 academic year, Kirsten was awarded the Arthur J. Schmitt Fellowship, graciously allowing her the financial means for full-time devotion to her Ph.D. dissertation work efforts, along with MU research, clinical, and Milwaukee community related activities. She also continued an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) practicum, and completed the application process for her one year clinical internship assignment, a requirement of the MU Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program.
Kirsten’s internship placement for June, 2015 – June, 2016 is with the JFK Partners interdepartmental program of the departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry of the University of Colorado School of Medicine located at the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. Designated as Colorado's University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Program, JFK Partners has collaborative relationships with numerous organizations that are a part of Colorado's developmental disability and special health care needs communities. She is very excited about this opportunity to expand her clinical experience in the Denver area.
Over the past few years, Kirsten has been working at the Milwaukee Center for Independence, where she helps run a summer camp for children with autism. Kirsten has also been volunteering as a swimming instructor with a local occupational therapist, where she teaches children with ASD and Down syndrome how to swim. When she is not pursuing her love for children with autism and psychology, Kirsten enjoys running, kayaking, rock climbing, swimming, being outdoors, traveling, eating great food, spending time with her husband, family and friends and cheering on the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball team and the University of Michigan football & basketball teams!