Meet Some Core Staff

Dr. Lindsey Nichols

Lindsey Nichols

Lindsey Nichols has been co-leading the school counseling program and the now Global Youth Development program since her arrival to UM in 2012. She has a B.S. in History, an M.A. in Education (Secondary History and Social Studies), M.Ed. in School Counseling, and completed her Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision after working as a school counselor in North Carolina. She has worked in K-12 and post-secondary academic settings and volunteered with various non-profits including her current board service with Tamarack Grief Resource Center. Her interests are focused around cultural approaches to wellness and empowerment. Most recently she has been researching and developing training to address rural and/or frontier K-12 educator's awareness, knowledge and skills to assist students coping with mental health difficulties. Originally from just south of Rochester, New York, learning more about rural communities in the U.S. and abroad has become a focus. Traveling throughout her life, most recently she has professionally traveled to Turkey, Italy, Argentina and Ethiopia. She is excited to develop more opportunities for global collaboration and immersion, while getting to know the people, mountains, lakes and rivers of Montana. In her treasured downtime, she can typically be found watching a documentary and is always looking for good recommendations.

Dr. Catherine Jenni

Cathy Jenni

Cathy has been a faculty member in the Department of Counselor Education since 1990. Prior to her faculty position at The University of Montana she was professional staff at Counseling and Psychological Services at UM and earlier was an instructor in Early Childhood Education at Solano College in California. Cathy's international activities include being an exchange student through the American Field Service to Istanbul, Turkey; a student at the University of Poitiers (through Stanford University) in France; a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa; a Fulbright scholar for a summer in Southeast China; and a short term instructor in Existential-Humanistic Psychotherapy at Moscow State University. Cathy is trained in coding the Adult Attachment Interview and in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Levels I and II. She formerly served as a consultant to Ravalli Early Head Start. Cathy is a member of the Montana Board of Behavioral Health and is a Court Ordered Special Advocate (CASA) for neglected and abused children. She teaches a movement practice called Nia and is trying to play the piano at least as well as she did when she was 13!

Kirsten Murray, Ph.D.

Kirsten Murray

Kirsten Murray is an Associate Professor in Counselor Education and has been with the department for five years. Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Interpersonal Communication, a master’s degree in Couple and Family Counseling, and doctoral degree in Counselor Education and Counseling. Her clinical experiences include counseling and advocacy work for homeless adolescents and children impacted by sexual abuse, as well as time working with couples and families in a private practice setting. Since joining the University of Montana, she has found a rich environment to teach her passions for working with youth and families, social justice, advocacy, and multicultural counseling. After spending time abroad in South America and Europe, her next adventures will be navigating these experiences with a young family.

John Sommers-Flanagan, Ph.D.

John Travel

John Sommers-Flanagan is a Professor of Counselor Education at the University of Montana and co-host of the forthcoming National Parenting Education Network Parenting Podcasts. John has taught for many years in many places, including Belize, Northhampton (U.K.), Canada, and . . . Montana! John is author or coauthor of over 60 professional publications and nine books. In his wild and precious spare time, John loves to explore his creative side; this includes running (slowly), dancing (poorly), laughing (loudly), producing home-made family music videos, and fantasizing how to help make the world a better place. 

Roni Johnson, Ed.D.


Roni Johnson received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Montana, her M.A. in Mental Health Counseling from the University of Montana, and her Ed.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, also from the University of Montana. After teaching for five years at Winona State University in Minnesota, Roni returned home to join the Department of Counselor Education at the University of Montana in 2014. Roni's clinical experiences include group home work, college counseling, adult mental health, and couples counseling. Her teaching and research interests include clinical supervision and supervision training, development and maintenance of intimate relationships, professional ethics, and forgiveness in intimate relationships. Roni's favorite extracurricular activities include playing Scrabble, floating the river, and spending time with friends and family. She enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and watching her family grow. 

Sara Polanchek, LCSW, Ed.D.

Sara Polanchek

Sara is the clinical director in the Department of Counselor Education and Supervision. As director, she is responsible for the clinical supervision of the department’s counselors-in-training, as well as the overall functioning of the Intimate and Family Relationships Lab.  Sara earned a bachelor’s degree in Family Science from Montana State University, a master of Social Work from Arizona State University, and a doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision from the University of Montana.  Sara and her husband have two super-awesome boys (ages 14 and 12) whom she hopes are on the cusp of appreciating all of her relationship-related wisdom.  Together they enjoy snowboarding, a multitude of team sports, card games, neighborhood Top Chef competitions, and myriad outdoor adventures.  

Hauna Hochstetler – Graduate Teaching Assistant

Hauna Hochstetler

Hauna Hochstetler is the TA for GYD and is currently in the M.A. School Counseling program. Hauna recently returned from living in Ecuador where she worked as the Program Manager for the Tandana Foundation, a small nonprofit. In Ecuador Hauna worked with 23 rural indigenous communities in the province of Imbabura. The foundation works with communities in the areas of health, environmental sustainability, and education. Hauna taught high school Spanish for 5 years in Montana before moving to Ecuador and has also worked as an international trip leader for youth. She has guided in 10 different countries on 5 continents. During her leisure time, Hauna enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and playing competitive games of ping-pong with her husband.   

Mailing address for supplemental admission material:
GYD/Counselor Education Dept.
P.J. Washington Education Center Room 212
32 Campus Drive
The University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812
tel: (406) 243-4863 or (406) 243-5252