Think College Staff

Meg Grigal

Meg Grigal, PhD,
Senior Research Fellow

Meg’s work focuses on research, policy, and practice in inclusive higher education for people with intellectual disability (ID). She is the principal investigator on multiple federally funded projects focused on transition to college and employment for students with ID. She has co-authored three books, over 30 peer reviewed research articles, and 15 book chapters on college access. In addition to research, Meg has provided professional development to thousands of professionals and families around building expectations and expanding opportunities for students with ID to go to college.

Debra Hart

Debra Hart, MS,
Education and Transition Director

Debra is the director of ICI’s Education and Transition team. She has focused on developing inclusive higher education options for students with intellectual disability nationwide. Debra has over 30 years of experience working with students with disabilities, their families, and professionals to support youth in becoming valued members of their community by participating in inclusive K-12 education, inclusive higher education, and competitive integrated employment.

Cate Weir

Cate Weir, MEd
Program Director

Cate oversees all day-to-day operations of the Think College National Coordinating Center, with a focus on technical assistance and dissemination. She is a national expert on inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disability. Prior to Think College, Cate served as the project coordinator for the Consortium on Inclusive Postsecondary Education. Cate has led many state and regional capacity building initiatives and has provided training and technical assistance to professionals and families throughout the country.

Clare Papay

Clare Papay, PhD
Senior Research Associate

Clare Papay conducts research on inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disability. Clare is the evaluation coordinator for the National Coordinating Center for the TPSID model demonstration program. She is also the co-principal investigator for the Institute of Education Sciences-funded project, “Moving Transition Forward: Exploration of College-based and Conventional Transition Practices for Students with Intellectual Disability and Autism.” Dr. Papay is co-editor for the Journal of Inclusive Postsecondary Education.

Belkis Choisel-Praslin

Belkis Choisel-Praslin
Research Associate II

Belkis’ work focuses on special education and transition related research and inclusive employment experiences for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She works with the evaluation team at Think College, focusing on data analysis. Belkis has presented her research over 30 times in international and national conferences, co-authored six peer-reviewed publications, three book chapters, and served as co-PI on university research grants. In addition, Belkis provides transition professional development to school districts and teachers across the country.

Pam McFarland

Pam McFarland
Database Manager

Pam works closely with several projects, including the National Coordinating Center, Employment Services, SELN, and Vision Studies. She has experience with multiple database applications, including Quickbase and Filemaker, and online data collection applications such as Qualtrics and Survey Gizmo. As an undergraduate at UMass Boston, Pam was a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society and interned with the Adolescent Acute Residential Treatment program at McLean Hospital. Before joining ICI, Pam managed clinical data for National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trials and longitudinal studies.

Kathleen Becht

Kathleen Becht, Ph.D.
Technical Assistance Coordinator

Kathy provides technical assistance daily to families, K-12 educators, agencies, and college and university staff and educators specific to the development and implementation of inclusive postsecondary education for students with intellectual disability. She has lived, taught, and advocated in the field of exceptional education for over 35 years with a passion for the self-determination of students with disabilities. Her research focus lies in literacy at the secondary and postsecondary levels and inclusive postsecondary education for individuals with cognitive disability. Prior to joining Think College, Kathy was the director of Florida’s Consortium on Inclusive Higher Education at the University of Central Florida.

Rebecca Lazo

Rebecca Lazo
Knowledge Translation Manager

Rebecca manages the social media presence for Think College, fields questions from families and program staff, and coordinates publications for the NCC and related projects, including editing and proofreading. Rebecca has over 20 years’ experience as an editor and dissemination expert in the disability field, developing and disseminating information about best practices related to the education, employment, and self-determination of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to the broader community. Rebecca has coordinated over 60 webinars on a wide variety of topics related to inclusive postsecondary education and keeps the thinkcollege.net website up to date.

Sheila Johnson

Sheila Johnson, MA
Knowledge Translation Associate

Sheila delivers engaging and accessible content to people with intellectual disability and those who support and advocate for their full inclusion in higher education, competitive employment, and the community at large. Prior to her work with Think College, Sheila taught courses in English and communications at multiple New England colleges and coordinated marketing for Employment First Florida and the State Employment Leadership Network at the Institute for Community Inclusion.

Matthew L McClellan

Matthew L McClellan, PhD candidate
Graduate Assistant

Matthew is a doctoral candidate with the School of Global Inclusion and Social Development at the UMB. He supports Think College staff in numerous projects, including grant, research, and program database task support. Matthew’s academic research focuses on the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ college student finding and using supports amid the global pandemic. As an LGBTQ+ advocate, he engages with campus administration to create and facilitate greater inclusive LGBTQ+ programing. Matthew comes with multiple years’ experience working in various nonprofit areas including social work, health care, and higher education.

Xiaoying Wu

Xiaoying Wu, PhD
Data Analyst

Xiaoying has extensive experience working on large-scale quantitative and qualitative data for educational research/evaluation and policy analysis. She is an expert in experimental design, assessment development, and sophisticated statistical modeling and analysis. Xiaoying has engaged in a wide range of innovative educational projects for universities and government agencies as a lead researcher and statistician.

Maria Paiewonsky

Maria Paiewonsky, EdD
Program Manager

Maria is a program manager and transition specialist. She serves as director of the UMass Boston Transition Leadership program, an approved course of study for the Massachusetts Transition Specialist endorsement as well as an approved Division of Career Development and Transition teacher accreditation program for transition specialists. Maria is also a training and technical assistance provider for state and national initiatives that support college-based transition services for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She focuses on professional development and including students with intellectual disabilities in inclusive research related to transition services. Over the years, Maria has coordinated numerous secondary and transition related projects.

Nancy Hurley

Nancy Hurley, MS
Training Associate

Nancy oversees program recruitment and scholar support for the Transition Leadership Program. She also develops and delivers face-to-face and online courses and workshops for educators and professional staff, students, families, and community providers. As project coordinator, Nancy focuses on assessment, access to postsecondary education, youth development, career development, and differentiated instruction. Nancy is a certified ambassador for the Charting the Life Course planning framework. She holds a professional license in Intensive Special Needs from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Ty Hanson

Ty Hanson, MEd
Program Coordinator

Ty Hanson is an inclusive higher education specialist with Think College. She comes to her role with a wide range of experiences including classroom teaching, career counseling, teaching in higher education, and served as a program coordinator for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative. Ty has been active in developing, expanding, and improving inclusive higher education for students with intellectual disability for the past 15 years. Her research centers around college-based transition services and staff development through collaborative inquiry and inclusive research methods.

Lori Cooney

Lori Cooney, MEd
Director, Curriculum Design & Inclusive Education

Lori is the project coordinator for Future Quest Island, a fully accessible college and career readiness adventure for elementary and middle school students funded by the Federal Office of Special Education Programs. She has 25 years of extensive experience designing and delivering professional development on universal design, inclusive education, individualized learning plans, curriculum development, course design, technology integration, college and career readiness, and assessment strategies for pK-16 students. Lori received the 2012 MassCUE Pathfinder Award, a Technology Humanist Award from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and is recognized as a Christa McAuliffe Teacher by the Challenger Learning Center.

Russell Thelin

Russell J. Thelin, MS, LVRC CRC
Senior Research Associate

Russ provides consultation to college programs related to partnering effectively with vocational rehabilitation agencies. He has 30+ years in rehabilitation counseling and held vocational rehabilitation agency positions including executive director and rehabilitation counselor. Russ has been recognized with the 2014 “Ethics in Government” award from The Daniels Fund & University of Utah Eccles School of Business as well as the 2009 Excellence in Rehabilitation Award from the Utah Rehabilitation Association.

Jie Chen

Jie Chen, PhD
Senior Statistician

Dr. Jie Chen teaches introductory and advanced statistics courses and conducts workshops on using statistical software and cutting-edge statistical methods. Dr. Chen has participated in methodological and collaborative research with faculty and investigators from multiple disciplines. Jie has also conducted original research in scan statistics and applied probability. Dr. Chen has published extensively in applied probability and statistics and has served as a statistical consultant on numerous collaborative projects in both the natural and social sciences.

Alberto Migliore

Alberto Migliore,
Research Associate II

Alberto’s research focuses on supporting employment consultants in their work with job seekers through improving fidelity of implementation of effective employment supports. His expertise includes descriptive, correlation, and experimental research within Implementation Science. Earlier in his career, Alberto co-founded a social cooperative where he worked alongside adults with disabilities.

Zhushan Li

Zhushan “Mandy” Li
Methodological Consultant

Mandy has broad research interests in psychometrics and educational research methods, including categorical data analysis latent variable modeling and education measurement issues. She earned her PhD in psychometrics and a master’s in statistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on measurement models and estimation methods with the application to survey data, educational measurement data, and quality of life research data.

Ashley Luce

Ashley Luce
Program Coordinator

Ashley consults on college-based transition services and disability services on the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) project. Ashley’s background is in disability services in higher education. She has worked with students with autism, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and psychological disabilities. She has also worked one-on-one with students as an academic coach and educational coach. Prior to joining ICI, Ashley consulted with faculty members and family members regarding academic supports for students at Framingham State University.