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SARRC Appoints Three New Directors



                                Denise D. Resnik
                                Stephanie Jarnagan


The Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) recently named Todd Lewis executive director of the Vocational & Life-Skills Training Academy, Christopher Smith research director, and Daniel Openden clinical services director.
As director of SARRC’s new Opus West Vocational & Life Skills Training Academy, Lewis is charged with developing, implementing and evaluating the programs and services offered through the academy. He also oversees the management and coordination of the staff and programs. Before joining SARRC, he worked as district program manager for the Department of Economic Security, Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD). In this role, he was responsible for the development and application of Support Coordination Services for Division I, the supervision of more than 175 staff members, and management of a budget of more than $145 million. In similar capacities, Lewis has also worked for the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona State University, and Tempe Union High School District
Lewis is an Arizona State University graduate with a master’s degree in education with a focus in special education and rehabilitation and a bachelor’s in English. Additionally, his current and past board memberships include: Best Buddies of Arizona, Arizona Public Health Association and the Arizona Adolescent Health Coalition, and committee chairperson for the Arizona Transition Leadership Team. He is also a faculty member at Mesa Community College.   
As research director, Smith brings his expansive understanding of the autism phenotype to work with the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) on genetic research to help identify the phenotypes that align with various genotypes. Most recently he worked as assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York where he conducted autism research for 14 years.
Smith earned his doctorate in psychology from City University of New York, Brooklyn College, where he began studying implicit learning and autism. He was also one of four finalists for the 34th James McKeen Cattell Award for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation in Psychology.
    As clinical services director, Openden brings his expertise in working with families affected by autism spectrum disorders and developing training programs for school districts, parents and professionals, specializing in Applied Behavorial Analysis (ABA). Prior to joining SARRC, he worked as associate specialist and head of community training at the Koegel Autism Center at the University of California Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, Santa Barbara. 
    Openden earned his doctorate in special education, disabilities and risk studies in 2005 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 2004, he received the Julie Vargas Student Research Award from the California Association for Behavior Analysis. Additionally, Openden has worked extensively with families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders on both federal and state funded research projects, and has been published in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters relating to the field. 
Founded in 1997, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to autism research, education and resources for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families. SARRC undertakes self-directed and collaborative research projects, serves as a satellite site for national and international projects, and provides up-to-date information, training and assistance to families and professionals about ASDs. For more information about SARRC, call (602) 340-8717 or visit

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