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Our Team


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 and Data 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 administrators play in influencing organizational climate and teacher psychological well-being. ​ 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.


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.


Elyse Shenberger, M.A.

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Elyse is a doctoral candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research interests focus on early childhood development and preschool expulsion. She is passionate about translating the science of behavior change to inform practice and support practitioners as they support children’s social-emotional development. Clinically, she conducts therapy with children, adolescents, and families presenting with a variety of emotional, behavioral, and physical health concerns. 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. Outside of school, Elyse enjoys singing in an a capella group, finding new cafes, and enjoying porch season as long as Chicago will allow.

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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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Maya Chan Morales

Graduate Student Research Assistant

Maya Chan Morales is a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a recipient of the Access to Excellence Fellowship, as well as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program (NSF-GRFP). Maya graduated from UC Berkeley in 2018 with a BA in Psychology and Anthropology, and before starting at UIC, was a clinical research coordinator at the Child Brain and Behavior Lab at Stanford, a research assistant at UCSF Benioff Children's Physicians (CHO), and a research assistant at the Stress and Development Lab at Harvard University. Her primary research interests are in early life stress, trauma, and adversity in the foster care system, and how these environmental factors can impact a child's neurological and behavioral development, and more specifically, contribute to mental health risks in children and adolescents. In her spare time, Maya likes to read, sing, write poetry, climb, and explore the outdoors! 


Kayla Scanlan, B.S.

Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

Kayla graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2019 with a B.S. in Psychology and Human Services (Mental Health Focus). At SETL, Kayla assists as a coder for ALP and helps the project coordinator with updating the website. Outside of the lab, she works in data and operations at a non-profit. Kayla's goal is to obtain her Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology, where her research interests lies in child psychopathology and cultural psychology, 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, she enjoys tending to all of her plants, eating all sorts of food, and traveling to new places.

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.



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

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Lee Schindler
Cyreena McBride
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