UCF’s Marriage and Family Research Institute named Naomi Wheeler as its new executive director this month.

Wheeler takes over from Andrew Daire, who co-founded the institute and has accepted a new position as the associate dean for research in the College of Education at the University of Houston.

The institute was created in 2003 to facilitate the development of research and clinical initiatives to better support couples, marriages and families. The institute also conducts original research and supports scholarly activity of faculty and graduate students interested in marriage, family and child issues.

Under Daire’s leadership the institute grew to serve more than 7,000 research participants and clients through relationship education programs, free counseling and workshops throughout Central Florida. The institute through the years has received more than $12 million in external funding.

Daire said that the institute is in good hands under Wheeler’s leadership.

Wheeler has been with the institute since 2010 in a variety of roles, including training and technology coordinator and family services counselor. In 2012 she became the director for the institute and project director for its Project TOGETHER. Wheeler’s leadership brought the institute recognition from the federal Administration for Children and Families as a best-practice program.

Under her direction, the Project TOGETHER grant —$6.5 million for three years — received a funding extension opportunity for another year, bringing in another $2.2 million to the program. The program is geared toward low- to moderate-income individuals and couples with or without children, and it provides free relationship education that focuses on preventing stress and conflict.

Daire said that throughout the years Wheeler has shown a strong commitment to serving the community by providing relationship education and counseling services.

Wheeler has a master’s degree in counselor education from UCF and a master’s degree in therapeutic recreation from the University of Florida, where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She has been admitted to the UCF counselor of education doctoral program, and is schedule to start this fall.

The institute is part of the College of Education and Human Performance. In addition to the benefits of free services and resources for couples and singles, the institute also offers valuable clinical research experience and mentorship opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students who study counseling, social work, or marriage and family therapy.

To learn more about the Marriage and Family Research Institute and Project TOGETHER, click here.