Laurie Cook Heffron, PhD, LMSW, is an Assistant Professor at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. She has interest and expertise in the areas of forced migration, domestic and sexual violence, and human trafficking, and her research explores the experiences of, and relationships between, violence against women and migration.

As former Associate Director for Research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (IDVSA), she has contributed to multiple research projects since 2001, including a program evaluation for services to victims of human trafficking, a statewide domestic violence prevalence study, program evaluation of Texas’ Non-Report Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Program, and a national pilot program to develop professional and organizational resiliency among child welfare workers. Laurie also worked with IDVSA in completing a study of resettlement experiences among Congolese refugee women and a statewide evaluation on human trafficking and existing laws and social services in collaboration with community organizations and governmental agencies. 

Laurie has both direct social work practice and research experience with a variety of immigrant communities, including refugees, survivors of human trafficking, and asylees. Previously, she served as program coordinator for Green Leaf Refugee Services, providing intensive health and emotional health case management services to refugees, victims of trafficking, asylees, and other immigrants in Central Texas. Currently, she provides assessments and serves as an expert witness in immigration cases of women and children seeking T visas, U visas, and asylum based on domestic violence. 

Laurie earned a master's and a doctoral degree in Social Work from the University of Texas at Austin and an undergraduate degree in Linguistics from Georgetown University. She has studied in Santiago, Chile, and in Quito, Ecuador, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa. 

Personal Statement

I am inspired by the opportunity to learn and work alongside students, faculty, and the broader community in generating understanding and action around global-minded social justice initiatives, particularly those related to violence against women, forced migration, human trafficking, and the detention of immigrant women and children fleeing violence.

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor, St. Edward's University, 2016 - present

Lecturer, University of TX at Austin, 2015-2016

Post-Doctoral Fellow in Immigration & Violence against Women, University of TX at Austin, 2015-2016

Associate Director for Rsearch, Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, University of TX at Austin, 2010-2015

Year Started


Languages Spoken

English and Spanish (and rusty French and Hausa)


PhD, University of Texas at Austin, 2015

MSW, University of Texas at Austin, 2002

BS in Linguistics, Georgetown University, 1996