About Us


Patricia Cluss, PhD Director

Patricia Cluss, PhD

Susan Nitzberg, MPH Associate Director, Outreach

Susan Nitzberg, MPH
Associate Director, Outreach

Barbara Penner, MS Associate Director, Employer Services

Barbara Penner, MS
Associate Director, Member Services


Patricia Cluss, Ph.D., is the Director of STANDING FIRM. Recently retired from her position as Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, she continues her professional work as a licensed psychologist and consultant for several regional nonprofit and health-related organizations. At Pitt, she engaged in research and program development in partner violence, smoking cessation for special populations, and pediatric obesity and published a number of articles about partner violence in academic journals. Dr. Cluss' consulting work with community organizations focuses on women's health initiatives and community program outcomes expertise and assistance. She is an expert member of the Allegheny County District Attorney's Intimate Partner Violence Homicide Review Team and a consultant for a PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency-funded research project at the University of Pittsburgh that is describing the methodology and impact of batterer intervention programs in the region. Dr. Cluss is a consultant at the National Council of Jewish Women and directs the STANDING FIRM initiative there.

Associate Director, Outreach

Susan Nitzberg, MPH, serves as Associate Director, Outreach for STANDING FIRM. She has extensive experience with community and non-profit organizations. She has held numerous leadership positions in organizations such as National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section, Family Hospice and Palliative Care, Union Aid Society, the Child Health Association of Sewickley and many more. Within NCJW, she spearheaded domestic violence programs and initiatives. Formerly, she served as Vice President, St. Clair Hospital. She is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh. In 2013, she received a Women of Achievement Award.

Associate Director, Member Services

Barbara Penner, MS, is the Associate Director, Member Services for STANDING FIRM. She brings extensive experience in structuring, managing, and evaluating projects for adults and children. Ms. Penner most recently coordinated the National Institutes of Health-funded HEALTH for Families study at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, she is an Employee Assistance Program professional who engages in training, program development and critical incident debriefing with companies throughout the Pittsburgh region.

Project Associate

Daria Katson



Thanks to the following foundations for their interest in and support of this important community initiative:

Present Funders

FISA Foundation, whose mission is to build a culture of respect and improve the quality of life for women, girls, and people with disabilities in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Heinz Endowments, whose mission is to help the Pittsburgh region thrive as a whole community - economically, ecologically, educationally and culturally, while advancing the state of knowledge and practice in the fields they work in.

Another local foundation that chooses to remain anonymous

Past Funders

Eden Hall Foundation

Jewish Women's Foundation

McAuley Ministries

PNC Charitable Trusts

Scaife Family Foundation

Staunton Farm Foundation

Women and Girls Foundation