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Conant House Staff

The Counseling Center staff are experienced mental health professionals dedicated to our students’ personal growth and development.
Please feel free to learn more about us below; it is important that you have confidence in your counselor and her or his ability to help you.
Dawn LaFrance

Dawn LaFrance, PsyD

Director
dlafrance@colgate.edu

Welcome and thanks for visiting our Counseling Center website. It is my privilege to serve as director of Colgate's Counseling Center. I enjoy working with college students and helping them through their many life experiences.

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After completing my undergraduate degree at Lafayette College, I earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis. During my training, I worked primarily in community mental health and university counseling centers. I spent my internship year at Utah State University's Counseling Center. My therapeutic orientation is a combination of cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, and systems perspectives. Existential and humanistic theories have also influenced my work. Although I am a generalist, I am especially interested in diversity issues, college adjustment, sexual abuse trauma, women's issues, ADHD, depression, and anxiety. I also support Colgate's diversity initiatives and am involved in positive sexuality initiatives on campus.

I live with my family in Hamilton. I love country living, especially spending time outside. In my free time, I enjoy playing with my children, working in the garden, reading, walking, and spending time with my family and friends.
Julie Hawkins, PhD Staff Psychologist

Julie Hawkins, PhD

Staff Psychologist
jehawkins@colgate.edu

I joined the Colgate Counseling Center in 2012. As a Central New York native, I’m so very pleased to be back in the area after several years of living in Florida. While in Florida, I earned a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Rollins College and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Miami.

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I completed internship at the Florida State University Counseling Center, and a post-doctoral residency in the residential addiction treatment unit of a psychiatric hospital.  Although I enjoyed long walks on the beach, after years of wishing the seasons would change, I decided to move back “home”. 

I’ve worked with people of all ages, in a variety of settings, including several colleges as well as hospitals and community mental health centers. My primary area of interest is helping students with their own personal growth and development, while taking into consideration individual characteristics and values. I appreciate all forms of diversity. I believe that managing stress is vital to overall well-being, and have advanced training in meditation, mindfulness, stress management and mind/body medicine. Issues I find particularly interesting include anxiety, depression, relationships and family dynamics. My therapeutic orientation tends toward a blend of systems theories, Adlerian, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

While I love the clinical work, I always look forward to interacting with students outside the office. I’m a member of the Social Norming Committee and the ALANA Affairs committee. I also teach a course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which students can take for a PE credit, and do several workshops, including Managing Test Anxiety, Beating the Winter Blues, and Helping Students in Distress.

When I’m not on campus, I’m usually out finding new things to explore to balance both the introverted and extroverted sides of my personality – whether it’s a day trip, trying something new and creative or spending time with family, friends and pets.
Niki Keating

Niki Keating, PhD

Staff Psychologist
nkeating@colgate.edu

I joined the counseling center staff in 2013 and truly love supporting students at Colgate. After working in several university counseling centers during my doctoral training at the University at Buffalo, I found working with college students to be my calling. I completed my doctoral internship at the Counseling Center at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

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Although I work with students who have a variety of mental health concerns, my clinical interests include group therapy, mood disorders, body image, women’s issues, identity exploration/development, and relationships. My approach to therapeutic work is strongly influenced by interpersonal, feminist, and cognitive theories.

I coordinate the group therapy program in our office and lead a variety of different groups each semester. I love being involved with groups and am continuously impressed with how much support Colgate students are able to offer to each other! I am also responsible for coordinating the Eating Issues Management Team, and find it very rewarding to support students who struggle with disordered eating and body image issues.

I look forward to opportunities to see students outside of the center through various trainings and outreach activities. I teach the Colgate Body Project each semester to promote body positivity and decrease perpetuations of unrealistic (and irrelevant!) standards of beauty. I have also been consistently involved as a guest facilitator of Yes Means Yes!

I’ve become grateful for quiet country living in Hamilton, and often can’t imagine living anywhere else! When I'm not in the office, I'm most likely to be found trying out a new recipe in the kitchen, gardening, or reading the latest thriller/mystery novel. I’m passionate about personal wellness and environmentalism. My partner and 2 children often keep me busy with outdoor activities like hiking and biking, tending to our chickens, and traveling to fun places!
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Najla Hrustanovic, MS

Staff Psychologist
nhrustanovic@colgate.edu

I am originally from a little country located in southeastern Europe named Bosnia and Herzegovina.  My family and I moved to the United States in year 2001 as refugees and have since been fortunate to have led safer and more productive lives. I earned a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from the State University of New York at Oswego, and a doctorate degree in Counselor Education from the University at Buffalo.

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Over the years I have found the many, meaningful successes from working with college students to be uniquely special and dear to my heart. My clinical training has been focused on serving immigrant, refugee, and underrepresented populations. My research is surrounded around counselor multicultural competence, trauma, and grief and loss issues.

As a generalist, I enjoy helping students who are experiencing a variety of challenges, including issues related to grief and loss, mood disorders, relationship issues, identity development, coping, and more. My specific clinical interests include working with survivors of various trauma, as well as topics including mental health outreach and advocacy; multicultural, diversity, and social justice issues; counselor training and supervision; group therapy; cross-cultural adjustment; international student concerns; and coping and resilience.

My personal approach to counseling is influenced by humanistic and cognitive-behavioral approaches, which focus on restructuring certain thoughts and behaviors to empower individuals to reach their full potential in life. In my professional career I hope to help empower students to become more compassionate, culturally-curious, and productive global citizens. I hope to contribute to our society by continuing to be an advocate for all in ways that will provide individuals with knowledge of the nature of mental health counseling, as well as its benefits and therapeutic possibilities. 

Personally, I am intrigued by nature-meditation and yoga practices, and in such ways I strive to foster a deeper mind-body connection. Additionally, I enjoy spending quality time with my family who live in a neighboring community, as well as volunteering at the refugee center in the area.
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Christian Beck, MA

Staff Counselor
cbeck@colgate.edu

I joined the counseling staff in 2016 and enjoy supporting and helping students navigate the process of improving their well-being.  I received my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Exercise Science from the University of New Hampshire and a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Regent University in Virginia Beach. Additionally, I have completed extensive trauma training through the Green Cross. Although I have been spoiled with Virginia’s sunshine, sandy beaches, and the sound of rolling waves, I am thrilled to return to Upstate New York where I grew up.

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I have experience working with people of all ages at a variety of settings, including outpatient facilities, hospitals, and colleges. While working on my Master’s degree, I had the opportunity of completing my graduate internship at Virginia Wesleyan College’s counseling center. It is there that I developed my passion for mental health counseling in the college setting. College is such an exciting and monumental period of life that fosters growth, individuality, and maturity. My desire is to help students find traction in their busy and often demanding lives, as well as empower them to grow and develop into their full potential.

My therapeutic approach in counseling stems from a humanistic perspective and is strongly influenced by both cognitive-behavioral and Gestalt theories. Although I am a generalist and work with students who have a variety of mental health concerns, my clinical interests include trauma, mood disorders, depression, anxiety, phobias, relationships, and college adjustment.

Personally, I am a huge proponent of health and wellness and enjoy intense physical workouts, running, competitive sailing, and playing all sports. That being said, I am always ready to devour a pizza. You will certainly find me at Colgate sporting events rooting on the Raiders and working out in the Trudy Fitness Center. I also enjoy cooking and am embarrassed to say how many hours I can watch “Chopped” or “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” in one sitting.
Susan Nolen, MSW Staff Counselor

Susan Nolen, MSW

Staff Counselor
snolen@colgate.edu

Originally from Virginia, I received a bachelor’s of social work from James Madison University in 1982, and a master’s of social work from Temple University in 1986. Both my undergraduate and graduate programs focused on systems theory which serves as a foundation for my work with students here at Colgate.

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I enjoy working with the variety of issues our students are dealing with including body image concerns and eating disorders, depression, anxiety, grief, developmental issues, relationship concerns, and family issues. I’ve had the pleasure of helping students work through the problems associated with these significant developmental years on a part-time, adjunct basis since the fall of 1989.

Outside of work I enjoy music, walking, volunteer work, and receiving texts from my three children who are in the process of emptying the nest.
Denise M. Contreras, MSW Staff Counselor

Denise M. Contreras, MSW

Staff Counselor
dcontreras@colgate.edu

I joined the counseling staff in 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed my first year working with a dynamic team and supporting students at Colgate. Originally from San Antonio, Texas, I had the opportunity to travel and serve as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force for over seven years. Following my separation from the military, I pursued my college education and received my Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Social Work from Texas State University in 2006 and 2007. My MSW program in direct-practice was built on the liberal arts perspective.

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I have extensive experience working on the issues that initially brought me to social work: substance abuse prevention, crisis intervention, and a desire to support the emotional health of young adults. I enjoy working with students on the issues they experience including identity, adjustment, depression, anxiety, grief, relationship concerns, men's issues, and family issues. I am a generalist who enjoys helping students identify their strengths and develop new ways of coping with stress. My approach to the therapeutic process involves a strengths-based perspective and cognitive behavioral techniques. In my practice, I am also interested in issues of diversity, identity, and the intersection within.

My outside interests include jogging and attending sporting events. I am a Texas Longhorn football fan. I also enjoy reading, art, travel, and spending time with my family, partner, and friends.
Amanda Bridge, Office Manager

Amanda L. Bridge

Office Manager
abridge@colgate.edu