About Us

The Victim Empowerment Program's mission is to provide confidential assistance to FIU students, faculty, staff, and university visitors who have been victimized through threatened or actual violence and to support the healing process. Traditional college-aged students are an at-risk population for violence, and staff are dedicated to assisting students remain successful in their academic pursuits. In addition, the Center seeks to enhance safety and promote healthy relationships by sponsoring awareness activities, prevention education, peer education and collaborating with university officials. Through clinical practice and research, the VEP aims to contribute to the body of knowledge and influence public policy regarding to issues related to victimization.


Sharon "Sherry" Aaron, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is the Director of the Victim Empowerment Program within FIU Counseling and Psychological Services, and has served as Director of FIU's victim services since 2001. She is the former Principal Investigator of a $1.5 million national initiative of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aimed at identifying and intervening in cases of intimate partner violence in health care settings. Previously, Ms. Aaron served as the Advocacy Director of the Dependency Court Intervention Program for Family Violence, also a national demonstration program, supported by a U.S. Department of Justice grant to Miami's Juvenile Court. Designed to identify and meet the needs of abused children and their battered mothers in the child protection system, the program has been recognized by the National Academy of Sciences Research Council. Ms. Aaron was part of the team that planned, developed and implemented the program. In addition, she designed and supervised the intensive case management and intervention protocol. Ms. Aaron has published, and also presented nationally and locally on domestic violence. At FIU, Ms. Aaron secured a $605,500 grant award from U.S. Violence Against Women Grants Office to coordinate a university and community task force that developed FIU policy and procedures related to interpersonal violence. Throughout her tenure at FIU, Ms. Aaron has secured $889,000 in grants to serve victims of violence. Ms. Aaron is also engaged in coordination efforts within the community; she is past Chair of the Dade County Alliance Against Domestic Violence, and past co-chair of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council of Greater Miami. Other community efforts include past service on the Dade County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team, and since 2008, she has been a member on the Domestic Violence Oversight Board of Miami-Dade County, appointed by the County Commission. Currently, Ms. Aaron is engaged in research related to the effectiveness of batterer intervention programs.

Elisabeth “Lisa” Simpson MS, LMHC is the Assistant Director of the Victim Empowerment Program. Ms. Simpson has been practicing in the South Dade community for over 10 years specializing in trauma, Multisystemic therapy and Cognitive behavioral interventions.  She also provides psycho-educational workshops addressing neurobiology and Interpersonal Violence; as well as healthy relationships.  Prior to joining FIU 5 years ago as a Victim Advocate Counselor, Ms. Simpson worked with moderate to high risk adolescents in the juvenile justice system and their families to prevent residential placement and recidivism. She has also worked as a Trust Specialist with the MDCPS system, providing crisis intervention and group counseling services and taught the sexual health education course for 5th grade students.    She earned her Master of Science degree at Nova Southeastern University.  Ms. Simpson is Licensed in the State of Florida and is a Florida Qualified Clinical Supervisor in Mental Health Counseling.

Jeanine Wooden MSW, LCSW joined the VEP team in November 2015   She has over 5 years of experience working with individuals and families who have experienced trauma. Prior to coming to FIU, Ms. Wooden worked in the child welfare field with a focus on adolescents and youth aging out of foster care. As a therapist she specialized in areas of abuse/neglect, domestic violence and substance abuse. Ms. Wooden has extensive experience working with local law enforcement, the courts, community agencies, and schools in developing and delivering services to at risk youth and families. Ms. Wooden has a passion for empowering individuals in acquiring the tools necessary to attain personal success.   She is an FIU alumnus with a Master Degree in Social Work. Ms. Wooden is licensed in in Clinical Social Work in the State of Florida.

Jennifer “Jenny” Lopez, MA, Florida IMFT and California LMFT, joined the VEP team in August 2017.   Prior to coming to FIU, Ms. Lopez practiced for several years as a LMFT at a non-profit organization and high school health center in the San Francisco, Bay Area.  Ms. Lopez provided therapy for monolingual Spanish speaking children, adolescents, adults, and families who experienced trauma.  Ms. Lopez provided crisis intervention, individual, and family therapy.  As a therapist she specialized in trauma informed care, family systems, person-centered therapy, and supporting and advocating for immigrants who have endured trauma. Ms. Lopez is a California native who moved to Miami in 2017 and is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.

Cherise Watson, M.S., LMHC joined the VEP team in August 2017.  She comes to us with several years of experience working with individuals and families who have experienced trauma. Prior to coming to FIU, Ms. Watson worked in the counseling field with a focus on Batterer’s Intervention Programs, Substance Abuse Counseling, as well as Individual, Couples and Group therapy. Ms. Watson has over a decade of teaching experience in MDCPS where she was dedicated and committed to impacting her students’ lives in a positive way.  She graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling.  Ms. Watson is Licensed in the State of Florida.

Vania Macrohon, LMHC has returned to FIU as a Victim Advocate Counselor in Spring 2018.   Throughout her 15-year professional career, Ms. Macrohon has been devoted to assisting at-risk populations and other groups coping with trauma, anxiety, depression, and other life stressors, using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, psychoeducation and mindfulness.   She has worked in private practice, community mental health centers, and counseling in the MDCPS System with youth, young adults and their families.   She is committed to providing individuals with the tools necessary to survive life’s challenges while becoming stronger and healthier.  Ms. Macrohon is a graduate of Nova Southeastern University.  She is Licensed in the State of Florida and a is a Florida Qualified Clinical Supervisor in Mental Health Counseling.

Wendy X. Ordóñez H. M.A.
T. Miss Ordóñez has been working with the Victim Empowerment Program since 2004. She started as a Peer Educator and became the Outreach Coordinator for the Center in 2007. She plans, recruits, and coordinates the Annual Peer Education Training and has revitalized and expanded the peer education program. She is also in charge of creating, marketing and branding campaigns for Counseling & Psychological Services. She has extensive public speaking experience having presented for thousands of students and managed the scheduling of prevention and awareness presentations about Sexual Assault, Relationship Violence, and Stalking intended for the University Community. Miss Ordóñez completed her Master of Art in Teaching Art Education at Florida International University in 2010.



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