Erikson’s doctoral students come from around the world to pursue diverse applied research interests.


Doctoral Student Association
Ph.D. students are supported by the Doctoral Student Association, an Erikson student group working to promote an intellectual and social community. Kandace Thomas and Amy Clark serve as co-chairs for the 2014-15 academic year.
The Doctoral Student Association organizes the Applied Child Development Seminar Series, an intellectual forum on topics related to applied child development research.

Ph.D. student biographies

Bilge Cerezci

B.S., University of Bosphorus
M.S., Erikson Institute
Interest areas: Early mathematics teaching and learning, instructional quality in early mathematics, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten assessment
Dissertation title: N/A

Bilge moved to Chicago in 2007 to attend Erikson. Before coming to Chicago, she worked as a preschool teacher and counselor in different preschools in Turkey. Currently, Bilge works for the Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute, focusing on refining a new measurement tool that can be used in preschool through third-grade classrooms in order to measure the quality of mathematics teaching.

Amy Clark

B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.A., University of Colorado at Boulder
Interest areas: Biliteracy development, metalinguistic awareness and transfer, and translanguaging with Spanish-English dual language learners
Dissertation title: N/A

Amy is an adjunct instructor in the Erikson Institute Bilingual/ESL Certificate Program and a member of Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative. Currently she is doing research about teachers’ instruction using culturally relevant texts and its impact on students’ language use. Amy’s other experiences include 12 years as a dual language primary grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools, writing K-2 curriculum for Heritage Speakers of Spanish, and conducting action research around biliteracy development and bilingual identity with first and second graders.

Hannah Douglas

B.S., Texas State University, Family and Child Development
M.A., The University of Texas at San Antonio, Early Childhood Education
Interest areas: Transformational leadership in early childhood education, gender development, and family engagement
Dissertation title: N/A

Hannah is currently a research assistant for the West DuPage Educare Implementation Study. Her other professional experiences include teaching at Head Start, an accredited child development center, and as an adjunct faculty member.

Lud Abigail Duchatelier-Jeudy

B.A., Central Connecticut State University
M.P.H., Boston University
Interest areas: Racial and ethnic socialization processes among Haitian immigrant families, and psycho-social health and well-being of minority, immigrant, refugee children and families
Dissertation title: A Grounded Theory Study of Racial and Ethnic Socialization Processes of Haitian Immigrant Mothers in the Northeast Region of the United States

Abigail works for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, Exchange Policy and Operations Group, implementing the health care quality requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, assuring that health insurance companies provide efficient, high-quality care in the federally-facilitated marketplaces. Abigail was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and migrated to United States at the age of 18. She was the American Public Health Association Maternal and Child Health Fellow from 2004 to 2005.

Amber L. Evenson

B.A., St. Olaf College
M.S., Ed.S., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Interest areas: Infant sleep, infant-parent relationships, parenting self-efficacy, familial sleeping approaches, and the role of culture as it pertains to these topics
Dissertation topic: Contributors to Infant Sleep: Factors Influencing Sleep Consolidation in Five- to Seven-Month-Olds

Amber currently works as the project manager and research coordinator for the Fussy Baby Network® New Orleans and Gulf Coast Region Initiative. In this role she coordinates, oversees and conducts data collection for a Gulf of Mexico research initiative, “Expanding Gulf Coast Maternal and Child Health: Strengthening Family Resilience in Disaster Prone Communities Experiencing Repeated Environmental Stressors.” Prior to this work, Amber conducted research and program evaluation for the Fussy Baby Network® and worked for the National Institute for Early Education and Research Preschool Inputs Study, collecting preschool through first-grade student assessment data in the Chicago Public Schools. Prior to enrolling in the Ph.D. program, she practiced as a school psychologist in Milwaukee and Chicago for three years, and became interested in addressing behavioral and relationship challenges from an early childhood developmental perspective.

Ilana Dvorin Friedman

B.A., Brandeis University
M.S., Erikson Institute
Interest areas: Early childhood professional development, Jewish early childhood education, and parenting and gender construction
Dissertation title:

Ilana is an adjunct instructor at Harold Washington College and the Blitstein Institute. Ilana has also served as the early childhood coordinator and early childhood summer unit head at the Bernard Horwich Jewish Community Center.

Ilona Helin

B.S., Marquette University
M.S., Marquette University
Interest areas: Parent child relationships, parenthood as an identity process, infant mental health, internal working models, early communication development and disorders, children with special needs, prematurity, Newborn Intensive Care Unit as a developmental context, infants and toddlers with feeding differences and disorders, parents’ experiences within health care systems, developmentally appropriate assessment practices in child development
Dissertation title:
Mother-infant Relationships in the NICU: A Multiple Case Study Approach

Ilona is a speech-language pathologist and feeding specialist who works for the Center for Children and Families at Erikson Institute, as well as within her private practice. She has 10 years of experience as a pediatric speech pathologist in hospitals and early intervention. During this time, she worked to support children and their families within all levels of care (inpatient, rehab, outpatient), engaged in program development, multidisciplinary assessment clinics, and mentoring. While pursuing her doctorate, Ilona became interested in developmental care of newborn infants and further pursued extensive training in the Newborn Individualized Developmental Care Assessment Program. Presently, she is an adjunct faculty member at Erikson.

Lindsay Maldonado

B.A., Northeastern Illinois University
M.S., Erikson Institute
Interest areas: Informal/free-choice learning and environmental education
Dissertation title:

Lindsay is currently the director of audience research and evaluation at John G. Shedd Aquarium. She has served as adjunct faculty in the Child Development department of the Chicago City Colleges.

Mary Quest

B.A., Concordia University Chicago
M.A., Concordia University Chicago
Interest areas: Engaging adult learners, early childhood teacher preparation, the Reggio Emilia Approach, language development, growth mindset, the arts in education
Dissertation title:

Mary is currently a full-time lecturer for the Early Childhood Education Program at Columbia College Chicago. Mary is also a founding member of Cultivating the Early Years, a network for progressive early childhood educators. She has provided professional development and workshops for teachers, parents, and students at a variety of conferences, nationally and locally, including conferences hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Progressive Education Network, and the American Alliance for Theatre and Education. Prior to full time college teaching, Mary was a classroom teacher for 12 years, teaching preschoolers from ages 2-5 years old and kindergarten. Mary has been adjunct faculty for Triton College in River Grove, Concordia University Chicago, and Pacific Oaks College.

Lauren Solarski

B.A., DePaul University
M.S.Ed., Northwestern University
Interest areas: School improvement, teacher development, early literacy, urban education, culturally relevant literature, STEM education, nature deficit disorder, the impact of the Common Core on young learners’ social and emotional development, and free play in classroom settings
Dissertation title:

Lauren currently works with the New Schools Project, an Erikson initiative that partners with administrators and teachers in Chicago Public Schools to establish positive, effective learning environments for children in prekindergarten through third-grade classrooms. She is also a faculty advisor supervising students in Erikson’s Teacher Education Program. Previously, Lauren taught kindergarten and served as her school’s early childhood team leader. She is an alumna of Inner-City Teaching Corps and Accelerate Institute’s Teacher Leadership Academy. Baby sloths are her favorite animal.

Kandace Thomas

B.A., Wesleyan University
M.P.P., The University of Chicago
Interest areas: Trauma-informed services and systems, infant mental health, diversity-informed practice, program evaluation, and social policy and systems impact on families
Dissertation title: N/A

Kandace is a program officer at the Irving Harris Foundation where she works to build developmentally-appropriate, trauma-informed equitable systems of care for young children and their families. In this capacity, Kandace manages a grant portfolio of organizations working in infant mental health professional development, policy and advocacy and training and leadership development, reproductive health and justice and domestic violence. Kandace was central to the creation of the Diversity-Informed Tenets of Infant Mental Health, 10 guiding principles outlining equity standards in the infant mental health field, and conducts local and national trainings on the tenets. Kandace is cofounder of Camp Sojourner, Girls’ Leadership Camp, and her other experiences include policy and program development work on behalf of under-resourced families and communities.

Emma Whitman

B.A., Wellesley College
M.S., Bank Street College of Education
Interest areas: Curriculum and instruction in the early childhood classroom, early mathematics education, teacher’s language, teacher development and training
Dissertation title: Teacher Mathematics Language: Its Use in the Early Childhood Classroom and Relationship with Young Children’s Learning

Emma is currently the director of early childhood education at a school in New Orleans. Her previous experiences include several years teaching and leading in early childhood programs, working as a researcher for the Early Math Collaborative at Erikson Institute, and providing educational seminars for educators and parents on a variety of topics related to the development of the young child.

Yinna Zhang

B.S., Tsinghua University
M.S., Beijing Normal University
Interest areas: Program evaluation and the nature, development and application of content knowledge for teaching and learning
Dissertation title: Pedagogical Content Knowledge: What Early Childhood Teachers Know and How it Predicts Teaching and Learning in Early Mathematics

Yinna is fascinated with how human beings acquire knowledge and interested in conducting applied research in child development and education. She moved to Chicago in 2009 to pursue her doctorate at Erikson Institute. As a research analyst, Yinna works with Erikson’s Office of Research. She is also a member of the Early Math Collaborative, which provides professional development trainings to pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade teachers. In her spare time, Yinna enjoys jogging, traveling, reading, and cooking.

Students not listed above

Dana Keiser
Mariel Sparr