Staff


Dr. Serena Butler-Johnson – Assistant Vice President for Student Wellness

Dr. Serena Butler-Johnson

Dr. Serena Butler-Johnson is the Director of the University’s Counseling and Wellness Center. Dr. Butler-Johnson has a wealth of administrative, clinical, and programmatic experience and 15 years of clinical experience in the Washington DC Metropolitan area. Dr. Butler-Johnson is a Licensed Psychologist. During her tenure at UDC, Dr. Butler-Johnson has expanded the Center’s clinical training program, served as the author and Project Director for two HBCU-Centers for Excellence in Behavioral Health mini-grant programs, lead the Division of Student Affairs assessment efforts, coordinated the TEAM 100 mentoring program, developed the Starting Early, Starting Smart women’s psychosocial support program. In addition, Dr. Butler-Johnson has served on the University’s Threat Assessment Team, Garrett Lee Smith Suicide Prevention Grant Advisory Group, Disability Resource Center Task Force, Assessment Leadership Group, Wellness Committee, Retention Committee, Involuntary Leave Policy Committee (Chairperson), and Staff Hiring Committees (Chairperson). Dr. Butler-Johnson is a faculty member of the DC Department of Behavioral Health – St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatry Residency Training Program, and she is an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program. Dr. Butler-Johnson has also authored and co-authored grant proposals on content areas such as suicide prevention, women’s health, violence against women, HIV/AIDS, and substance abuse prevention. Dr. Butler-Johnson received her Doctorate in Psychology (Psy.D.) from The George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Dr. Butler-Johnson’s interests include resilience, exercise and nutrition, individual psychotherapy, psychodynamically informed psychotherapy, relational concerns, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, women’s issues, multicultural issues, and therapeutic use of the arts.  Dr. Butler-Johnson also has experience leading Health Services, Disability Services, and Peer Education programs, and has served as an Assistant Vice President for Student Wellness.


Dr. Avetta White

Dr. Avetta WhiteDr. Avetta White is a native of Alexandria, Virginia.  Dr. White graduated from high school at T.C. Williams in Alexandria, VA.  Dr. White earned her Bachelor’s degree (B.S.) in Psychology and received a minor in Business Administration from Longwood University.  Dr. White obtained her Master’s degree (M.A.) in Professional Counseling from Argosy University.  Shortly after Dr. White completed her Master’s degree, she worked toward and obtained her certification as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and later received her license in Washington, DC  as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).  Dr. White earned her Doctorate degree (Ph.D.) in Higher Education from Morgan State University focusing her research on the presenting mental health and psychosocial stressors of minority college students.

Dr. White has served at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) for  fourteen years.  In Dr. White’s fourteen years at UDC, she has served in several capacities making it her mission to provide therapeutic services, support, programming and community outreach in mental health, wellness, community health, student services, and STI’s/HIV/AIDS education.  As a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Dr. White has currently been serving in the Counseling & Accessibility Resource Center (CARC)  under UDC Student Wellness Cluster at the University of the District of Columbia Community College (UDC-CC).  Dr. White also serves as an adjunct professor for the Humanities Division of UDC-CC, teaching Principles of Psychology over the past 5 years.  Dr. White has particularly worked hard in her current and past roles to serve traditional and non-traditional college students, and underserved populations in the community. Dr. White’s goal is to continue serving the needs of college students and the community through her expertise in mental health and higher education.  As a female African-American professional, Dr. White’s hope is to lead by example, implanting her mark among aspiring college students.


Dr. Lauren Cross

Dr. Laruen Cross

Dr. Lauren Cross is a native Washingtonian who graduated from School Without Walls Senior High School. She received her Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology from Wellesley College in Wellesley, MA. Dr. Cross has a wealth of clinical experience in both outpatient and inpatient settings. She completed her Pre-Doctoral Internship at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington and her Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Sheppard Pratt Health System in the Trauma Disorders Program. Prior to training as a psychologist, Dr. Cross spent many years working in the non-profit world, where she focused her efforts on serving homeless and disconnected young adults in Washington, DC. As a therapist, she has years of experience working with trauma, anxiety, life transitions, self-esteem issues, depression, familial distress, career challenges, grief and loss, and much more. She works from an integrative approach with a psychodynamic focus in order to facilitate symptom relief and deeper understanding of oneself. Her clinical and research interests include trauma, cultural issues, and feminist psychology. Her sense of humor and deep empathy for the challenges of the human experience are woven throughout her work.


Dr. Francesca Alesi

Dr. Francesca Alesi

Prior to obtaining her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Dr. Alesi had a career in policy and international relations. She has worked with university students in different settings, including as manager of international scholarship programs for students from the Middle East and North Africa, as an adjunct faculty at undergraduate and graduate institutions in the Washington, DC Metropolitan area, and as a remote coach supporting candidates studying for the psychology licensing exam. Dr. Alesi has also received training in outpatient medical settings, private practice, an inpatient hospital, and a community mental health clinic.

Dr. Alesi sees therapy as a process to foster self-awareness, facilitate personal growth, and help individuals identify and achieve their goals. This results in her striving to create a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere for individuals to promote healing. Dr. Alesi commits to supporting safe spaces for Black folks and people of color to heal, be seen, and valued. Dr. Alesi seeks to promote Black wellness in the various roles she occupies and resist intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional racism. Dr. Alesi adopts a social justice approach to psychology, as she believes that the theories and practice of psychology are not isolated from the larger sociocultural influence of our society. Part of her advocacy work is carried out through the Government Relations Committee at the DC Psychological Association.

Dr. Alesi’s clinical orientation consists of an integrative model, in which empirically supported interventions are assimilated to take into account the person’s strengths and challenges. In addition, her treatment approach is collaborative, integrating resources to provide appropriate and culturally sensitive treatment to diverse populations. Her experience includes working with individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, self-esteem, relationship problems, trauma, stress management, and general difficulty coping with change. She is honored to join a team of other professionals committed to serving the UDC campus community.


Ms. Shawnda Sanford – Administrative Assistant

Ms. Shawnda SanfordMs. Sanford is the Staff Assistant of the Counseling and Career Development Center. She has worked with TRIO and College Preparatory Programs for the past ten years here at UDC. Ms. Sanford is working on her Bachelor’s degree at the University. “I am excited about working in the Counseling and Wellness Center.


This year’s part-time therapists are from the DC Department of Behavioral Health (St. Elizabeth’s Residency Program) and The George Washington University Doctor of Psychology program.   The therapists are:

Dr. Faisal Akram

Ms. Muska Anwar

Ms. Divya Babbar

Dr. Denise Batuuka

Dr. Ernesto Henderson

Ms. Jane Howitt

Ms. Pavani Khera