Since 1950
make a referral search this site

Leadership Team

deborah elwell arfken, ed.d.

Interim President and CEO

Dr. Deborah Elwell Arfken had a rewarding career in higher education for more than 50 years. Deborah graduated from The College of Wooster in Ohio with a B.A. in English, earned her master's degree in American Civilization from The University of Pennsylvania, and her doctoral degree in Educational Administration and Supervision from The University of Tennessee, where she also received the Florence McIntyre Award for academic excellence. Deborah taught English at six colleges and universities before beginning her career of 36 years with The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where she was director of University Planning, a professor in the Department of Political Science, Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, and Dean of the UTC Graduate School for 15 years. She has served on many local nonprofit boards and committees, including Girls, Inc.; Rotary Club of Chattanooga; Partnership for Families Children and Adults; Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, and WTCI Public Television.


Wendy Bennett 

executive assistant to president/ceo & events manager

Wendy Bennett is the executive assistant to the President & CEO. In addition Wendy manages the production of Star Night and Style Works, the signature fundraising events for the Institute. Bennett is a graduate of Georgia Northwestern Technical Institute.


jeaninne houck 

chief operating officer

Jeaninne Houck directs all financial affairs for the Institute as well as human resources and facilities. She began her career in 1993 as an accountant with a local CPA firm and in 1998 became the finance director for the Hamilton County Community Services Agency, serving on various committees for the Department of Children's Services and working with grantors and private foundations in children's programs. Houck is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University.


julie mickel 

director, early learning center

Julie serves as director of the Early Learning Center. Julie has more than 20 years of experience in the field of early childhood education, early intervention and special education. A 14-year veteran of the Institute, she provided outreach services to the community through professional and student training on early childhood special education. Recently she has taken the consulting lead with several Tennessee public school systems seeking to bring children with disabilities into an inclusive environment. Additionally, she has presented at numerous conferences both locally and nationally on inclusive practices. She began her career as a preschool special education teacher in Georgia. She has a bachelor’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. 


linda mcreynolds 

director, development and communications

Linda manages the development and communications department of Siskin Children’s Institute. This department is responsible the annual fund, special event fundraisers, community relations, and grant–related support. She comes to the Institute with over 40 years experience in community work in the field of early childhood education, community, and fund development. She is active in the Association of Fundraising Executives, Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute, Downtown Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga Civitans, The Chattanooga Area Association for the Education of Young Children, Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children and the National Association of Young Children. She is a graduate of the University of TN at Chattanooga.


lois kohrt, mba 

director, center for developmental pediatrics

Lois Kohrt is the Administrative Director with over 30 years experience in practice management in both private practice and hospital settings.  Lois received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Accounting from Marywood College and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix.  Highlights of her long career in healthcare include:  seventeen years as an Administrator for a large, multi-site private pediatric group; eight years as a Director of Practice Management at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Operational Director for the Aflac Cancer Center and Emory Children’s Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and most recently as the Executive Director of Physician Services and then Corporate Health for Erlanger Health System.  Lois also has extensive training in leadership and service excellence;  completed six sigma green belt training and has worked with national organizations including the National Initiative for Child Health Quality (NICHQ) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.


brandon rodgers, ph.d.

director, behavioral health services

A Chattanooga native, Dr. Rodgers received his Ph.D. in human development with a specialty in marriage and family therapy from Virginia Tech. He is a licensed marital and family therapist by the Tennessee State Board of Professional Counselors, Marital and Family Therapists and Clinical Pastoral Therapists. In addition to being a certified psychological assistant by the Tennessee State Board of Examiners in Psychology, he is a nationally certified school psychologist. He has presented at numerous conferences and workshops around the country, including the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Annual Conference. Dr. Rodgers currently provides a range of individual, family, and group behavioral health services at the Center for Developmental Pediatrics. He has previously taught courses at Virginia Tech, Appalachian State University, and Western Carolina University and is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee - College of Medicine.


deidra love

director, home & community-based early intervention

Deidra Love earned her master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education from UTC, as well as undergraduate degrees in Education and English from Carson Newman University. She brings more than 18 years of experience in the early intervention field, as a teacher, home visitor, and behavior specialist/consultant. Deidra has focused additional study and professional work in the fields of autism, challenging behavior, and inclusion, providing training and workshops for preschool teachers and early intervention professionals across the state. Additionally, she is the mother of four children, and she is passionate about supporting the developmental therapists on her team, who in turn, help families and caregivers build their skills and confidence as capable teachers of their own children. “I am very grateful and excited to join this team as director of the Home and Community-based Early Intervention Program here at Siskin Children’s Institute. I believe the work of home visitors is so important, as we strive to increase children’s progress and growth by building on the strengths and supporting the needs of their families. I look forward to investing in and leading our dedicated and skilled group of home visitors here at Siskin, as well as expanding our program to reach more children and families in the Chattanooga community and surrounding counties.”