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. 


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

Publications & Articles


Sulley, C., Wood, L., Cook Heffron, L., Westbrook, L., Levy, N., Donde, S., & Busch-Armendariz, N.B. (2018). At least they’re workin’ on my case? Victim notification in sexual assault “cold” cases. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1177/0886260518789905

Cook Heffron, L., Serrata, J. V., & Hurtado, G. (2018). Latina Immigrant Women & Children’s Well-Being & Access to Services After Detention. Latino Public Policy, 6,

Cook Heffron, L. (2018). Sex Trafficking among Immigrant Women in the U.S.: Exploring social work response within a landscape of violence against immigrant women. In Nichols, A., Edmond, T. & Heil, E. (Eds.) Social Work Practice with Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

Nsonwu, M. B., Cook Heffron, L., Welch-Brewer, C., & Busch-Armendariz, N.B. (2018). Supporting sex-trafficking survivors through a collaborative single-point-of-contact model: Mezzo and micro considerations. In Nichols, A., Edmond, T. & Heil, E. (Eds.) Social Work Practice with Survivors of Sex Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.

Busch, N.B., Nsonwu, M., Cook Heffron, L. (2017). Human Trafficking: Applying Research, Theory, and Case Studies. Sage Publications.

Zayas, L., Brabeck, Cook Heffron, L., Dreby, J., Calzada, E., Parra-Cardona, J., Dettlaff, A., Heidbrink, L., Perreira, K., Yoshikawa, H. (2017). Charting Directions for Research on Undocumented and Unaccompanied Immigrant Children and Citizen Children. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 39(4), 412-435.

Held, M., Cuellar, M., & Cook Heffron, L. (2017). A Study of Social Work Students’ Knowledge and Perceptions of Stages of Latino Immigration. Journal of Social Work Education.

Wood, L., Cook Heffron, L., Voyles, M.E., & Kulkarni, S. (2017). Playing by the rules: Agency policy and procedure in service experience of IPV survivors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 

Fong, R., Cook Heffron, L., Wachter, K. (2017). Transnational Practice: Responding to Violence against Immigrant and Refugee Women. In Lundy, M. & Hilado, A. (Eds.) Models for Practice with Immigrants and Refugees: Collaboration, Cultural Awareness, and Integrative Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, Inc.

Zayas, L. & Cook Heffron, L. (2016). Disrupting Young Lives: How Detention and Deportation Affect US-Born Children of Immigrants. Children, Youth & Family News, American Psychological Association.

Cook Heffron, L., Snyder, S., Wachter, K., Nsonwu, M., & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2016). “Something is missing here:” Weaving feminist theories into social work practice with refugees. In S. Wendt & N. Moulding (Eds.) Contemporary Feminisms in Social Work Practice. Routledge.

Busch-Armendariz, N., Nale, N.L., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., Torres, M.I.M., Cook Heffron, L., Nehme, J. (2016). Human trafficking by the numbers: Initial benchmarks of prevalence and economic impact for Texas. Austin, TX: Institute on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, The University of Texas at Austin.

Wachter, K., Cook Heffron, L., Busch-Armendariz, N. B., Nsonwu, M. B., Kammer-Kerwick, M., Kellison, B., Jones, A. & Sanders, G. M. (2016). Responding to Domestic Minors of Sex Trafficking (DMST): Developing Principle-Based Practices. Journal of Human Trafficking, 1-13.

Cook Heffron, L. (2016). Assessing Lethality to Support Asylum Claims Based on Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence Report, 21(6), 91-94.

Nsonwu, M.B., Welch-Brewer, C., Heffron, L.C., Lemke, M., Busch-Armendariz, N., Sulley, C., Cook, S., Lewis, M., Watson, E., Moore, W., & Li, J. (2015). Development and Validation of an Instrument to Assess Social Work Students’ Perceptions, Knowledge, and Attitudes about Human Trafficking Questionnaire PKA-HTQ: An Exploratory Study. Research on Social Work Practice.

Wachter, K., Cook Heffron, L., Snyder, S., Nsonwu, M. & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2015). Unsettled integration: Pre- and post-migration factors in Congolese refugee women’s resettlement experiences in the United States. International Social Work. doi: 10.1177/0020872815580049

Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Wachter, K., Cook Heffron, L., Snyder, S., & Nsonwu, M. (2014). The continuity of risk: A three city study of resettled Congolese refugee women, Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin. 

Busch-Armendariz, N.B., Nsonwu, M.B., & Cook Heffron, L. (2014). A kaleidoscope: The role of the social work practitioner and the strength of social work theories and practice in meeting the complex needs of victims of human trafficking and the professionals that work with them. International Social Work, 57(1),7-18.

Cook Heffron, L., Vohra-Gupta, J., Johnson, R., Camp, V. & Busch-Armendariz, N. (2014). Time to decide: Initial verdict of a non-report sexual assault examination policy. American Journal of Nursing, 114 (3), 26-35.

Faulkner, M., Mahapatra, N., Cook Heffron, L., Nsonwu, M. & Busch-Armendariz, (2013). Moving past victimization and trauma toward restoration: Mother survivors of sex trafficking share their inspiration. International Perspectives in Victimology, 7 (2), 46-55.



Cook Heffron, L., Hurtado, G., & Serrata, J. V. (Accepted for October 2018). Latina Asylum- Seekers’ Experiences of Immigrant Detention in the US. Paper accepted for the 7th Annual International Conference on Community Psychology in Santiago, Chile.

Hurtado, G., Cook Heffron, L., & Serrata, J. V. (July 2018). Latina women experiences in immigration detention centers in Texas. Poster accepted for the 5th Biennial American Psychological Association Division 45 Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Ethnicity, and Race Research Conference in Austin, TX.

Cook Heffron, L., Hernandez, A., & Marcos, A. (2017). Models for student and faculty engagement in assisting detained asylum-seekers. Paper presented at 2nd Annual Binational Conference Mexico-United States, Transnational Responsibility of Social Work in Migratory Processes and Human Rights in Mexico and the US, San Antonio, TX.

Berger Cardoso, J., Cook Heffron, L., Faulkner, M., Hernandez, A., & Guerrero, M. (October 2017). Forensic models for student & faculty engagement in assisting migrants seeking asylum. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of the Council on Social Work Education in Dallas, TX.

Cook Heffron, L. (2017). The Americas in Motion: Migration, Trade, and the Future of Hemispheric Relations. Panelist at Georgetown University’s John Carroll Weekend, Austin, TX.

Held, M., Cuellar, M., & Cook Heffron, L. (2016). A Study of Social Work Students’ Knowledge and Perceptions of Stages of Latino Immigration. Paper presented at Council on Social Work Education, Atlanta, GA.

Cook Heffron, L. (2016). Detention & the migration-violence nexus among Central American migrating women. Invited panelist at 3rd Biennial Latina Researchers Conference, San Antonio, TX.

Cook Heffron, L. (2016). Human Trafficking & Immigration. Panel presented at the 2016 Santa Clara International Law Symposium Global Justice for Women- Advancing Equality. Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA.

Cook Heffron, L. (2016). “Salía De Uno y Me Metí En Otro:” Exploring the Migration-Violence Nexus Among Central American Women, as part of panel titled Justice for Forced Migrants Fleeing Violence in the Global South. Paper presented at the Society for Social Work Research Annual Conference, Washington, DC.