Meet the Team

Our team of dedicated professionals maintain a common commitment to providing the highest level of quality care.  Our leaders and therapists represent the best, brightest, and most-talented individuals in their respective fields.

Joanne L. Ward, OTR/L

Executive Director

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since April of 2014

Joanne graduated from State of New York Downstate Medical and has worked nearly 35 years in a variety of settings including JFK Medical Center, Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, and Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC. In 1989 she assumed the role of Director of Occupational Therapy, following the grand opening of Universal Institute’s first rehabilitation facility in New Jersey. She later went on to work in many other rehabilitation settings in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, before returning to UIRehab in April of 2014 when she joined our Pennsylvania facility as Executive Director. Joanne has always had a passion for assisting brain-injured individuals and remains an advocate within the brain injury community.

Fun Fact: Joanne was the Occupational Therapist that worked for NFL football player, Dennis Byrd throughout his rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Medical Center. His therapy and recovery were chronicled in the book “Rise and Walk: The Dennis Byrd Story” as well as a TV movie of the same title.

Krystal Rivera

Compliance Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2013

I am a true believer that if you set your mind to a goal and have the support behind you, that you can achieve your dreams. I have worked in several industries from Customer Service to Managing Operations to the Health Care Industry, and I have seen from my experience that a great team can establish a great community. I assist the Chief Compliance Officer and Executive Director with Compliance of our PA Programs by monitoring State and Federal Regulations as well as assist with CARF Accreditation.

Fun Fact: I love spending time with my family and my son. I enjoy going out and watching my son play football and basketball, goin on hikes in the Appalachian Mountains, and camping.

Juanita Feith, BA

Administrative Assistant

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since August 2018

“I’ve not only learned so much, I’ve met some amazing people in the process. Coming into this position I had no idea what Universal Institute was. After working here and seeing what we offer and do for our Clients, we really do change lives for the better. I couldn’t be any happier to be a part of that.”

After graduating from Clemson University with a B.S. in Accounting, Juanita moved to Pennsylvania to be with her family and find local employment. After diversifying her experience and obtaining additional qualifications, she was able to identify skills that she was certain would allow her to make a difference in our organization. The smile on Juanita’s face makes it evident she knows that she has!

Fun Fact: Juanita has been playing field hockey for 13 years and counting. In her spare time she enjoys volunteering at her high school, and in the summertime, helping to coach kids at local sports camps.

Calleen Wagner

Administrative Assistant

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2017

“Working here is like having an extra family. Everyone is always there for each other.”

Calleen has been working in the health care industry for nearly 10 years. Her steadfast commitment for providing excellent support within fast-faced environments is what has helped her to excel in her current role. At UIRehab, Calleen is responsible for many moving parts of front desk operations. In addition to various administrative functions, she is instrumental in the process and smooth coordination of client scheduling.

Staci Horvath, BS

Admission Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2016

“If you shape your life around your passions, you will become your greatest influencer. I truly enjoy coming to work each day, knowing that I have the ability to spread a little laughter and light, not only on our Clients and their families, but also on my co-workers—my friends. The smiles they give me in return are invaluable. I am grateful.”

After graduating from DeSales University with a B.S. in Marketing, Staci continued on a path that would become nearly a 20-year adventurous flight in large-scale event management and facility operations. With a heart to give and a passion to help people, she decided to pursue a career in human services in search of a role with greater sense of purpose. Having worked with individuals of all ages and backgrounds, she knew she could make a significant difference here. Staci is currently studying to obtain her CBIS certification.

Fun Fact: Staci likes to recharge her mind by tackling gardening and landscape projects—whenever, wherever, and at ALL TIMES POSSIBLE! In the winter months when she can’t get her hands in the dirt, she enjoys leather-crafting, home renovation projects, listening to her vinyl record collection, and spending time with her favorite partner-in-crime, Mowgs, and their three Butterscotch tabbies, Kitty, Tricky, and “Stevie From Topton.”

Latteshia White, BS

Care Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2016

“I truly believe that all my experiences thus far, ultimately led me to Universal Institute. I enjoy being the liaison for our clients and their families. I love that I am given the opportunity to connect with our community each and every day. It brings me great joy!

After graduating from Kutztown University with a B.S. in Psychology, Latteshia followed her passion of helping others. Continuing on this path by taking on various roles which are altruistic in nature, Latteshia worked with many different populations providing in-home services to at-risk families.

“Live the life you love. Love the life you live.” – Bob Marley

Victoria Munday, BA

Residential Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2018

After graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey with a B.A. in Psychology, Victoria began working at a day program facility assisting individuals with mental health and traumatic brain injuries. Having worked with such a diverse group of individuals, she discovered her passion for helping people achieve their potential. After a few years, Victoria discovered Universal Institute in Livingston, NJ, and joined the team as an internal auditor. She has now been with Universal for nearly five years, her most recent promotion being in 2018 to Residential Coordinator here at the Bethlehem facility.

Fun Fact: In her free time, Victoria enjoys playing retro adventure-type video games and spending time with family and friends. Activities she finds particularly relaxing are shopping for unique sneakers and playing with her two cats. Feeling most energized by the fall months, apple picking, cool weather, and all things pumpkin spice are some of Victoria’s favorite things.

Kester Peters

Group Home Manager

Marilyn Morales

Group Home Manager


“If anyone asks ‘Who is the lady with the contagious smile always bringing laughter and humor to the room?’ please say ‘that’s Marilyn Morales, our Residential Manager!’”

Marilyn’s journey with Universal began in 2011 as a CNA. Her natural ability for being an empathic conversationalist has aided her in fostering collaborative relationships with our Clients. Marilyn’s passion for bringing healing to people who have been through traumatic experiences has motivated her to seek growth within our company and she continues to manifest light in the lives of all those she comes in contact with. “It all begins with a SMILE.”

Beverly Walcott

Group Home Manager


“I genuinely love what I do. Working at Universal Institute has been such a rewarding a fulfilling experience for me. I’m honored to be part of this company.”

Beverly has had the pleasure of working in the health care field for nearly 20 years. Her passion for helping and caring for others has gained her the current position as a Residential Manager for Universal Institute. She has also received the opportunity to work at both the New Jersey and Pennsylvania locations for the company.

Fun fact: As a single parent, one of my greatest accomplishments in life is my daughter. I have instilled her with great values and ensured that she understood the importance of being educated.

Direct Care Professionals

UIRehab is proud to celebrate the incredible people who make up our Direct Care Team. Our residential and day program support staff demonstrate an attitude of excellence, teamwork, and commitment. Their tireless dedication and strong sense of purpose is what makes our Clients happy—the most treasured feeling in the world.

John Handley


Rachel Pyke, CTRS

Rehabilitation & Day Program Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2018

Rachel is a Certified Therapeutic Recreational Specialist and has extensive experience working with a wide variety of populations. She graduated from York College of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Administration with a concentration in Therapeutic Recreation as well as Community Recreation. (Say THAT fast three times!) Rachel works as a Cognitive Therapist at Universal Institute bringing a variety of ideas to connect our Clients to the community.

Fun Fact: Rachel enjoys crafting, cooking, and spending time with her two young daughters, her husband, and their two kitties.

Pam Defensor, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist

Kellie Lupacckino, MOT, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since September 2018

After graduating from Temple University in 2005, Kellie moved to fabulous Las Vegas, NV to begin her life in the professional world as an elementary school teacher. After living in Vegas for four years, Kellie and her husband moved back to Pennsylvania where Kellie continued her teaching career and eventually moved into the realm of providing in-home educational and social services to families with young children. After working alongside many occupational therapists and taking several years to explore the profession, Kellie decided to return to Temple University to pursue her Masters in Occupational Therapy. Since graduating Kellie has worked in a variety of settings including pediatrics, in-patient rehab, corrections, and long-term care. Kellie loves working with Clients to develop interventions that are Client-centered and work towards achieving each individuals’ goals.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Kellie loves spending time outdoors. Kellie and her husband dream of visiting all of the US National Parks and take any opportunity to visit the beautiful southwest United States. When she’s not at work or outside, she can be found lounging around with her Beagle mix, Logan, cheering on the Phillies and Eagles.

Kim Kishel, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since April 2016

Kimberly graduated with a DPT from Misericordia University where she also receive a B.S. in Health Care Management.  After becoming a licensed Physical Therapist in early 2016, Kimberly began working at UIRebab.  Her passion is working with individuals to improve their mobility and quality of life through care, compassion, and Client-centered goals.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Kimberly enjoys spending time with her husband, their mini-rex bunny Casey, family, and friends.  She and her husband also enjoy traveling throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Roberta Kasmiroski, MS, CCC/SLP

Speech Therapist

Brandon Loch, CTRS, CBIS

Recreational Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since December 2016

“I love my job and take great pride in being a part of our Clients’ rehabilitation process. Universal has become a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Brandon graduated with a B.S. in Recreation Management and then received his Therapeutic Recreation Specialist Certification shortly thereafter. He began working with Universal Institute as a Recreational Therapist and moved forward to obtain his CBIS certification a year later.

“Don’t Let Yesterday Take Up Too Much Of Today.” – Will Rogers

Fun Fact: Brandon loves to be outside and pursue leisure interests such as hiking, golf, and fishing.

Amie Federico, ATR-BC, CBIS

Cognitive Therapist

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since December 2014

After graduating from Marywood University with a M.A. in Art Therapy, Amie began working with residents in an Alzheimer’s neighborhood where she planned and led various therapeutic group and individualized activities. Two years later she transitioned to Universal Institute as a Cognitive Rehabilitative Therapist. Amie loves to see our Clients find new avenues for expression through various art materials.

Fun Fact: In her spare time, Amie loves trying new craft projects or recipes for baking. She especially enjoys spending time with family and friends, and relaxing with her husband Dave and their large but lovable Golden retriever, Benson.

Michael Rock, BS, CBIS

Cognitive Therapist

With UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since November 2015

Michael has worked in human services since 1985, mostly in mental health, and has served in various clinical and leadership roles throughout the years. As a Cognitive Therapist, Mike enjoys facilitating large and small cognitive themed groups. He uses humor in his work and feels successful if he provokes a smile in each person he encounters every day. “A noble man gifted in the ways of The Force,” Mike’s ability to intuitively navigate his job, has earned him the nickname Obi-Wan Kenobi. He can always be counted on for his insightful advice and astounding ability of bringing calm and order to any situation. Simply stated, Mike ROCKs! Mike has a B.S. in Psychology and is a Certified Brain Injury Specialist.

Fun Fact: In his free time, Mike enjoys working with his hands. He owns three properties in Jim Thorpe, including a popular guest house which he operates with his wife.

Matthew Kleist, RN

Medical Department

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since May 2016

Matthew is a graduate of Northampton Community College. He has spent the majority of his 20-year career working with patients receiving rehabilitation services in an in-patient setting. He joined the Team at Universal Institute in 2016.

Nicole Tembo, BS

Medical Care Coordinator

with UNIVERSAL INSTITUTE since Summer 2017

“The best part of my job is that I get to meet new people and learn new things.”

After graduating from Temple University with a B.S. in Marketing, Nicole knew she wanted to work with people. She applied at UIRehab in the summer of 2017 as a Rehabilitation Aide and after a few short months she decided she would be most helpful in the medical office. She soon landed the Medical Care Coordinator position and has been assisting Clients by determining their needs and referring them to the appropriate providers. 
“Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright.” – Bob Marley

Fun Fact: Nicole spends most of her free time reading, meditating, and designing garments. Her goal is to one day have her own fashion brand.

Eddie Rodriguez

Medical Driver


Awesome Team Member

If you have a passion for learning new things, sharing your knowledge with others, and recognize that a positive attitude is what matters most, UIRehab may be the right place for you! When you join UIRehab you will become part of a vibrant culture that thrives on making a meaningful impact not only on the Clients we serve, but also on one another. We are currently hiring for positions in our Bethlehem, PA location. Visit the careers page of our site to learn more.