Our Team

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Kate Zinsser, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Dr. Kate Zinsser is an Associate Professor of Psychology. She received her B.A. from Smith College in Northampton Massachusetts and her Ph.D. from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She currently teaches in the Community & Prevention Research doctoral training program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Zinsser’s research focuses on the quality of early childhood environments, especially the ways by which adults promote young children’s social and emotional competence and well-being. Her work examines early childhood teacher-child interactions, classroom processes, instruction quality and emotion socialization practices that promote children’s social success, positive development, and achievement. She is especially interested in studying systems and policies that impact young children’s learning (e.g., recent preschool expulsion legislation, child care providers’ workplace experiences and well-being, and equity and inclusion in quality care). She is a former post-doctoral fellow of the National Academy of Education, former Associate Editor of Early Education & Development, and was named a Rising Star by the Association for Psychological Science. Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Institute for Education Sciences, the Spencer Foundation, and the Society for Community Research & Action. Dr. Zinsser has also consulted with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and the PBS Kids Network.

 

When not in the lab, Dr. Zinsser enjoys spending time with her family cooking, hiking, and exploring Chicago.

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Joanna Skourletos, M.S.Ed.

Project Coordinator

Joanna is a doctoral student in the hybrid Child Development program between Loyola University and Erikson Institute. She is interested in the role that early childhood leaders play in influencing organizational climate and quality. ​ She obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her master's degree in early childhood education from Dominican University. Before coming to UIC, Joanna worked  on Erikson Institute's Early Math Collaborative. Her interest in the field stems from her work as a Head Start teacher and administrator. During her spare time, Joanna enjoys traveling, attending Broadway musicals, spending time with friends and family and taking walks on the lakefront.

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Christen Park, M.A.

Graduate Research Assistant

Christen is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her broad research interests are studying the contextual and relational influences of children and youth development to advocate for the well-being of children, their families, and the communities they grow up in. Currently, she is interested in asking the question of what practitioners do well with children that create real and lasting change. Before coming to UIC, she worked at the Erikson Institute with the New Schools Project. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio in psychology and a master’s degree in child development from the Erikson Institute.

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Luz Torres, M.Ed.

Graduate Research Assistant

Luz is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is interested in learning more about education policy, teacher preparation programs, and family involvement in the preschool setting. She is also interested in learning more about teacher resilience, job satisfaction, job attitudes and current emotional regulation strategies in classrooms. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). As an undergraduate student, she majored in psychology and minored in nutrition. Following that, she returned to UIC to obtain her master’s in early childhood education and Professional Educator License (PEL) with special education and English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsements. During her spare time, Luz enjoys cooking, running outdoors, encouraging others and reading on personal development.

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Qaswa Hussaini

Graduate Research Assistant

Qaswa is a doctoral student in Community Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree from UIC in 2018, with a major in applied psychology and a minor in philosophy. Her research interests center around the relationship between teachers' self-awareness, mindset, and perception of control on the emotional well-being of both teachers themselves and also students. Coming from a family of teachers, Qaswa understands the profound impact that teachers have on their students. Qaswa enjoys watching foreign movies and cheering for the winning soccer team.

Velisha Jackson

Velisha Jackson

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Velisha is a current Ph.D. student in the Community Prevention and Research program at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She graduated from the UIC in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in psychology. She transferred to UIC after earning her Associate of Arts at Harold Washington College. She aspires to use research as a tool to help the Black community. She also has a passion for the well-being of marginalized populations and aims to spark change in those communities. Her hobbies include listening to music, playing video games, and reading Facebook comments.

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Elyse Shenberger, M.A.

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Elyse is a doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests center around early childhood risk factors for psychopathology, especially how SEL can improve childhood well-being. Before beginning at UIC, she worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Tufts Medical Center and earned her bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.  

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Kay Thursby

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Kay is a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Community and Prevention Research Program. Her research interests are related to the role of mentors in Latinx youth education and educational outcomes. She obtained her Bachelor’s from Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame in Psychology. After graduating, she moved to New York City as a Teach for America corps member. While in New York, Kay obtained her Master’s in the Art of Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. In her spare time, Kay enjoys getting to the orange and red zones at Orangetheory, walking her dog, and cooking with her family and friends.

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John Borrero, M.Ed.

Graduate Student Research Assistant

John Borrero is the Executive Director of the Collaboration for Early Childhood in Oak Park, Illinois.  At the foundation of his 30-year career has been the desire to impact the lives of young children and their families.  John came to the Collaboration from the American Academy of Pediatrics, culminating more than a decade of grant-based leadership work, serving children and families on behalf of the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Head Start and the U.S. Maternal Child Health Bureau.


John is also proud to have held early childhood adjunct faculty positions at several institutions, most recently at New York University and Bank Street College of Education in New York City, where he has delivered instruction in child development, curriculum design, early literacy, early childhood special needs and equity issues in early childhood.

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Danalyn Garcia

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Danalyn is a master's student in Special Education at The University of Illinois at Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree from The University of Illinois at Chicago in 2020 with a major in psychology and a double minor in disability and human development and public policy. She currently works as a Registered Behavior Technician and intends to obtain her Professional Educator License with her masters. She is interested in continuing her knowledge in SEL in early childhood and ways to effectively apply and promote it in her work with kids with disabilities in therapy settings and classrooms. She is additionally interested in the implications of SEL teaching and mental health in kids who are neurodiverse. Her free time is spent with her friends, family, and her 4 year old black pitbull mix pup!

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Amy Terry, B.A.

Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Amy is a post-baccalaureate fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BA in Applied Psychology and a minor in sociology. She is currently planning to get her master’s in Child Psychology to become a school therapist. She is interested in promoting the importance of mental health of children and wants to help children in need. When not busy with research or TA work, she enjoys reading, embroidery, and playing The Sims 4.

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Kayla Scanlan, B.S.

Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Kayla graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology and B.S. in Human Services (Mental Health Focus). Currently, Kayla assists in the SETL Lab as a coder for ALP while also working as a research assistant at Children’s Research Triangle. Her goal is to obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology, where her research interests lies in child psychopathology and the impact it has on the growth and development of children. Kayla is also interested in learning more about how SEL impacts children as well. In her free time, Kayla enjoys tending to all of her plants, eating all sorts of food, and traveling to new places.

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Sarosh Meghani, B.S.

Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Sarosh is a DePaul University graduate with an Early Childhood Education major and Psychology minor. Currently, she is a teacher working in an elementary education setting. Her interests include examining ways in which teachers influence the social emotional development of their students through the implementation of SEL lessons and restorative practices. Additionally, she is interested in how a teacher’s ability to self-regulate can impact the development of self-regulation skills in their students. In her spare time, Sarosh likes to read, paint, and spend time with her family and friends.

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Kareena Shah

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kareena is an undergraduate student who is majoring in Urban Education and minoring in Psychology. Over the summer, she works as a teacher's assistant for children ranging from 15 months to 6 years old over the summer at a Montessori.  Kareena is ambitious and self-determined in different ways of her life. She is very keen to see how to apply the various techniques in the lab such as how to form interpersonal relationships with both her students and their families. As a first-year, she hopes to implement the things she learns in her future classroom. She knows that each individual is different and that one size does not necessarily fit all. Beyond her research interests, she is found reading, writing, hanging out with family, or getting a meal with a friend.

Cyreena McBride

Cyreena McBride

Undergraduate Research Intern

Cyreena is a fourth-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago majoring in Applied Psychology. After graduating, she plans to go to graduate school for School Counseling where she would like to become an academic advisor at a university. She is interested in how college environments impact the mental health of college students and would like to help students maintain their mental well-being while ensuring their success in their academic and career pursuits. In her spare time, she likes to exercise, paint, and spend time with her family.

Lee Schindler

Lee Schindler

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Lee is a second-year student on a three-year track, majoring in applied psychology and minoring in criminology. Having worked so extensively with youth populations in the past, she has a special interest in how role modeling and justice-based curricula can affect social-emotional learning in children and the long-lasting effects this can have. She aspires to work as a youth counselor in the future, leading younger generations to realize the impact that they can have in their modern-day struggles for equality and the ending of all kinds of oppression. When she's not in the lab, working a side job, or studying up on some new interests, Lee likes to occupy her time with a good comedy podcast or with a new bakery recipe she's looking to master.

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Nicole Koeplin

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Nicole is an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) majoring in Applied Psychology. After graduating from UIC, she plans to go to graduate school to receive her Ed.S. in School Psychology. Her career goal is to be able to have a positive impact on students' lives to help them reach their full potential in the classroom and in their daily lives. She is very interested in pursuing ways to help better assist college students with their mental health wellness. She also works in the Counseling Center at UIC as a paraprofessional, she co-facilitates a support group. Outside of the lab she enjoys running, doing yoga, and hanging out with friends and family. 

Want to Join the Team?

Research Opportunities

UIC Undergraduate Students

If you enjoy spending time with children, have a strong work ethic, and are in good academic standing, think about joining our energetic team.

 

Email setl@psch.uic.edu 

Prospective Graduate Students

Email Dr. Zinsser for more information about the UIC Ph.D. program. Students with interests in applications of child clinical psychology in educational or family settings are especially encouraged to apply. 

Lab Alumni

Amber Singh
Amber Singh

Post-Baccalaureate Research Assistant

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Callie Silver, Ph.D.
Callie Silver, Ph.D.

Dr. Silver received her Ph.D. in Community Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2021.

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Marriah Williams
Marriah Williams

Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Tito Ponce
Tito Ponce

2017 - 2021 Project Coordinator 2015 - 2017 Undergraduate Research Assistant

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Claire G. Christensen, Ph.D.
Claire G. Christensen, Ph.D.
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Taylor Koch
Taylor Koch
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Shruti Kumar
Shruti Kumar
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Ana Mandrapa
Ana Mandrapa
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Taylor Duke
Taylor Duke
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Raveena Kingra
Raveena Kingra
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Laura Nicholson
Laura Nicholson
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Phil George
Phil George
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Stephany Rico
Stephany Rico
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Julia Bates
Julia Bates
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Samantha De Souza
Samantha De Souza
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Lynn Weishaupt
Lynn Weishaupt
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Kristina Nguyen
Kristina Nguyen
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Mayson Trujillo
Mayson Trujillo
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Tania Rodriguez
Tania Rodriguez
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Diamond Harris
Diamond Harris
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Nikki Magnuson
Nikki Magnuson
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Xue Jiang, M.A.
Xue Jiang, M.A.
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Jasmina Ejupovic
Jasmina Ejupovic
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Elana Thomas
Elana Thomas
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Emily Shi
Emily Shi
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Vanessa Adan
Vanessa Adan
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Rebbeka Carmona
Rebbeka Carmona
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Mary Jacobson
Mary Jacobson
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Monica Estrada
Monica Estrada
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Janette Zaragoza-Estrada
Janette Zaragoza-Estrada
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Uli Solovieva
Uli Solovieva
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Caroline Lee
Caroline Lee
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Vinoadharen Nair Das, M.A.
Vinoadharen Nair Das, M.A.
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Courtney Zulaf-McCurdy, Ph.D.
Courtney Zulaf-McCurdy, Ph.D.
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Ruby Toledo
Ruby Toledo
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