National Coordinating Center Team Members

Meet the Think College National Coordinating Center (NCC) Team!

The NCC is housed at the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston, a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Our staff, consultants, and partners have years of experience in research, technical assistance, and training, as well as program planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Principal Investigators

Debra Hart

Debra Hart, MS

Co-Principal Investigator

Debra has over 25 years of experience supporting youth to access inclusive education. In her role with the NCC, she oversees all project activities, with a focus on program accreditation standards.

Meg Grigal

Meg Grigal, PhD

Principal Investigator

Dr. Grigal oversees all NCC tasks and activities, with a focus on data collection and research activities.


Project Coordinator

Cate Weir

Cate Weir, MEd

Project Coordinator

Cate manages all day to day operations of the NCC, with a focus on technical assistance, training and dissemination. 


Evaluation Team


Clare Papay, PhD

Senior Research Associate/Project Manager

Clare manages all data collection, analysis and reporting requirements for the NCC.


Pam McFarland

Pam McFarland

Database Manager

 Pam manages the QuickBase data collection system utilized by the NCC to collect data from TPSID projects.


Xiaoying Wu, Ph.D.

Consultant Data Analyst

Xiaoying conducts data analysis for the NCC.


Belkis Choiseul-Praslin, Ph.D.

Research Associate II

Belkis assists with data collection and conducts data analysis for the NCC

Knowledge Translation and Dissemination Team

Rebecca Lazo

Rebecca Lazo

Knowledge Translation Manager

Rebecca manages all aspects of knowledge translation and dissemination for the NCC.

Sheila Johnson

Sheila Johnson, MA

Knowledge Translation Associate

Sheila contributes to numerous aspects of knowledge translation and dissemination for the NCC.


Technical Assistance and Training Team

Kathleen Becht

Kathleen Becht, Ph.D.

Technical Assistance Coordinator

Kathleen coordinates all technical assistance and training activities for the NCC, including management of the NCC Help Desk.

Maria Paiewonsky

Maria Paiewonsky, EdD

Technical Assistance Provider

Maria’s role with the NCC is to provide resource development, training and technical assistance in the area of college based transition services.


Ty Hanson

Ty Hanson, MEd

Technical Assistance Provider

In her role with the NCC, Ty provides technical assistance and support to students, families, and professionals as they navigate the transition from high school to college. 


Lori Cooney, MEd

Technical Assistance Provider

Lori provides TA for the NCC on instructional resources, universal design techniques, lesson plans, and assessment strategies that meet the learning styles of all students. 

Russ Thelin

Russell Thelin, MS, LVRC CRC

Technical Assistance Provider

Russ provides consultation to college programs related to partnering effectively with vocational rehabilitation agencies. 


Ashley Luce 

MAICEI Program Coordinator 

Ashley consults on the areas of college-based transition services and disability services.


Technical Assistance Consultants

Kelley Kelly

Kelly Kelley

Assistant Professor, Western Carolina University

Kelly directs a successful program for students with ID at Western Carolina University and is a member of the special education faculty there. In her role with the NCC, Kelly provides technical assistance related to program development and operations.

Margo Izzo

Margo Izzo, PhD

Program Director, The Ohio State University Nisonger Center

As the Director of Ohio’s Statewide Consortia (OSC), Dr. Izzo assists postsecondary programs across Ohio to enhance their programs for students with IDD. In her role with the NCC, she consults on transition to college and careers for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Brian Freedman

Brian Freedman, Ph.D

Unit Director, University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies

Dr. Freedman leads postsecondary transition programs at the UD Center for Disabilities Studies. In his role with the NCC, he provides technical assistance on all aspects of program development.

Julie Lackey

Julie Lackey

Executive Director, LeadLearnLive

Ms. Lackey is the Founder and Executive Director of LeadLearnLive and the parent of a student with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She offers technical assistance to families and professionals on grassroots organizing for program development.

Lisa Pluff

Lisa Pluff, MA

Director, Office of Comprehensive Transition and Postsecondary Education, UNC Greensboro

Lisa’s experience includes over 20 years in postsecondary education for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and non-profit and program management. She serves as the Program Director for UNCG's CTP program.

Susanna Miller-Raines

Susanna Miller-Raines, MSW

Operations Coordinator at the Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University

Susanna's 20 years of experience in the disability field includes transition, inclusive postsecondary education, leadership development for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, coordinator for the Georgia Inclusive Postsecondary Education Consortium and a director on the AUCD Board of Directors.


External Project Evaluation

Teresa Grossi

Teresa Grossi, PhD

External Evaluator

Teresa has extensive background in secondary transition and employment for individuals with disabilities and evaluates the activities of the NCC in her role as external evaluator.


Think College National Coordinating Center Partners

Denise Rozell

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Denise Rozell, Senior Policy Strategist

The Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) is a network of interdisciplinary centers advancing policy and practice for and with individuals with developmental and other disabilities, their families, and communities. Denise Rozell is the Policy Strategist at AUCD, working primarily on post-secondary education, employment and independent living and is the lead staff person for the NCC/AUCD partnership. Denise has twenty-five years of experience in disability policy at the federal and state level. In her role with the NCC, Denise provides technical assistance and support around public policy development in the area of postsecondary education for students with ID.

Stephan Smith

Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD)

Stephan Smith, Executive Director

AHEAD is the leading professional membership association for individuals committed to equity for persons with disabilities in higher education. Stephan Smith, the Executive Director of AHEAD, is the primary contact for the AHEAD/NCC parternship.  In addition to serving as the chief staff officer at AHEAD, Stephan has taken on increasingly complex roles in local, state, and national arenas advocating for the total and equitable inclusion of people with disabilities in higher education and the workplace.  He also serves on numerous national and international advisory boards and executive councils related to people with disabilities, education, employment, transition, social justice, and civil equity.