Dawn C. Carr


Dr. Dawn C. Carr is a Professor of Sociology and has served as the CPC Director since May, 2022. Carr’s mission as a scholar is to understand factors that bolster older adults’ ability to remain healthy, active, and engaged as long as possible. Before joining Florida State University in 2016, she was a social science researcher at the Stanford Center on Longevity, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute on Aging at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a researcher at Scripps Gerontology Center. Carr holds a PhD in Social Gerontology from Miami University (2009).

Victoria Simon

Administrative Specialist

Victoria Simon, an accomplished business and administrative specialist, joined the Claude Pepper Center in January 2024. With 15 years of combined experience in customer service and business management, she adeptly handles the intricate administrative responsibilities at the CPC. Prior to her current role, Victoria contributed significantly at FSU’s Institute for Successful Longevity, where her interest in aging was ignited.

Shekhar Chauhan

Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Shekhar Chauhan holds a PhD in Population Studies from International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, India. He has substantially explored various aging issues including mental health, chronic conditions, self-rated health, multimorbidity, and functional limitations. Prior to joining CPC, he worked as a Senior Project Officer for the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI) survey.

Rebekah Carpenter

Graduate Research Assistant

Rebekah Carpenter is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology and holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from University of North Carolina – Charlotte and Florida State University. Rebekah currently serves the CPC on contract and grant projects focused on older workers and employment over the life course.

Caitria DeLucchi

Research Coordinator

Cait DeLucchi is a social scientist who joined the Claude Pepper Center in 2023. Cait received her master’s in sociology from Florida State University in 2021. Cait previously worked as a Research Assistant at the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). At OPPAGA, she constructed interview guides, aided in research design, and prepared reports and graphical representation for executive leadership. Cait also worked as a Data Sciences Analyst at the Department of Elder Affairs where she helped to design and maintain database systems and used statistical tools to analyze datasets. 

Fabio Correa

Research Engineer

Fabio is a physicist and data scientist who joined the Claude Pepper Center in 2023. His mission is to promote the understanding of aging and health issues in social science and public policy. He is developing a public mapping and statistical platform with insights from state and national datasets. Before joining the center, Fabio applied his statistical and programming skills to various policy and social issues, such as the spread of infectious disease in Colombia and the management of forest resources in Belize.

Suzanne Smith

Opening Minds Through Arts Program Facilitator

Suzanne is a North Florida native and former preschool and elementary school teacher.  She lived abroad as an international volunteer in France and Guatemala and traveled extensively, helping provide humanitarian aide before resettling in the Tallahassee area. Suzanne’s compassion for those in need and her lifelong love of art led her to Opening Minds through Art (OMA), where she became a facilitator to bring this award-winning, evidenced-based, intergenerational art-making program for people living with dementia to FSU and the local community.  

Palwasha Merzaei

Office Assistant

Palwasha came to the United States as a refugee from Afghanistan in 2020, and joined the CPC in 2023. Palwasha was a High School English Teacher in Naswana Omul Balad Girls High School in Mazar-i-Sharif from 2006-2021, and program coordinator for the International School Award (ISA) for the British Council from 2019-2021 in the Balkh Province of Afghanistan. Palwasha supports a variety of the CPC programs and activities.

Anna Nguyen


Anna started as an intern at the CPC in May 2023 before graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health from FSU. As an intern, she supported numerous CPC programs through coordination, advertising, and social media. After graduating, she now continues to work at the CPC to support the goals of the OMA program.

Research and Community Partners

Amanda Sonnega

Survey Research Expert

Amanda Sonnega, PhD, is an Associate Research Scientist in the Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at the University of Michigan (UM), where she is responsible for integrating communication, outreach, and education efforts for the Health and Retirement Study. She received her doctorate through the Department of Health, Behavior, and Society at the Johns Hopkins University and completed a postdoctoral fellowship within the ISR program in Social Environment and Health. Dr. Sonnega has lectured in the UM School of Public Health on psychosocial factors in health-related behavior. Her research focuses on life course trajectories of physical and mental health; institutional and personal factors associated with vulnerability and resilience in aging individuals; and work transitions and their broad effects on health and well-being.

Rima Nathan

Director, Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic

Rima Nathan is a clinical professor at FSU Law and directs the Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic. She is a graduate of Florida State University’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy as well as the College of Law. Nathan previously practiced in the areas of complex civil litigation, trials, and appeals, and she served as a judicial clerk to Justice Jorge Labarga of the Supreme Court of Florida. Nathan directs the Claude Pepper Elder Law Clinic and teaches an Aging and the Law seminar at the College of Law. Nathan brings her experience in public interest advocacy to her clinical work through engaging students with direct client representation for low-income seniors, creating community partnerships to spread awareness of elder law resources, and building relationships to support legislative advocacy efforts to enhance our societal approach to aging.

Tyler Bruefach

Data Scientist, Knowli Data Science

Dr. Bruefach recently received his Ph.D. Sociology from Florida State University. Through his doctoral training at Florida State University, the Consortium on Analytics for Data-Driven Decision-Making (CAnD3) for Analytics and Data-Driven Decision-making (CAnD3), and Knowli, he’s honed substantive expertise in social determinants of health and health inequalities over the life course, and a keen interest in how to reduce inequitable outcomes within data-driven decision making. Dr. Bruefach gained experience collaborating with a diverse set of organizations, including government agencies on the local and state level, hospital systems, and small nonprofits.

Kyle Saunders

Data Scientist, Knowli Data Science

Dr. R. Kyle Saunders is a Medical Sociologist and Data Scientist at Knowli Data Corp. His research examines the processes through which health disparities emerge and persist across sexual and gender minority groups. His current research focuses on examining the support systems that facilitate healthy aging among older members of the LGBTQ+ community. His current applied work focuses on detailing health disparities in South Carolina and Florida populations and potential policy solutions at the state and local levels. His published work has appeared in the Journal of Health & Social Behavior, Society & Mental HealthThe Gerontologist, and Demography.

Expert Advisors

Julia Sheffler

Clinical Advisor

Dr. Julia Sheffler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine, Director of the Integrative Science for Health Aging research program at the FSU Center for Translational Behavioral Sciences, and a licensed clinical psychologist. Her research program aims to develop psychological and behavioral approaches to improve adherence and the long-term success of health behavior interventions for older adults.

Miles Taylor

Director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy, Professor of Sociology

Dr. Miles Taylor has served as Director of the Pepper Institute on Aging and Public Policy at Florida State University since August 2021 and is Professor in the Department of Sociology. Her research primarily focuses on the health and wellbeing of older adults, including the life course factors that shape these processes and contribute to disparities in independent functioning. Her methodological expertise keeps her involved in an array of research topics and projects with collaborators across disciplines. She is also passionate about training the next generation of leaders in aging and health in academic and nonacademic sectors. Prior to joining FSU in 2008, she was a postdoctoral fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill and received her PhD from Duke University in 2005.

Stephen R. MacNamara

Claude Pepper Foundation Secretary and Board Member, Former Managing Director

Stephen R. MacNamara is a former Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Florida State University (FSU) and served for three years as the Associate Dean of the FSU College of Law.  He succeeded Governor Lawton Chiles as the Executive Director of the LeRoy Collins Center for Public Policy at FSU. In addition, he served as Executive Director of the Claude Pepper Center from 2006 to 2008. MacNamara is the only person in Florida history to serve as Chief of Staff to Florida’s House Speaker, the Florida Senate President, and the Governor of the State of Florida. MacNamara serves as a board member and the Secretary to the Claude Pepper Foundation.