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. Hannah Douglas and Amy Clark serve as co-chairs for the 2015-’16 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

Education:
B.S. in Child Development and Education, University of Bosporus, Istanbul, Turkey M.S. in Child Development with Infancy Specialization, Erikson Institute
Interest areas:
Early mathematics teaching and learning, instructional quality in early mathematics, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten assessment
Dissertation title:
N/A
Additional information:

Bilge Cerezci is a fifth-year doctoral student at Erikson Institute and Loyola University. She worked as a preschool teacher and counselor in different preschools in Turkey before moving to Chicago in 2007 and earning her M.S. in Child Development with Infancy Specialization from Erikson Institute. Currently, Bilge works for Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative, focusing on refining a new tool that can be used in preschool through third-grade classrooms to measure the quality of mathematics teaching. She also is an adjunct instructor at the City Colleges of Chicago.

Amy Clark

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

Education:
B.S. in Family and Child Development, Texas State University
M.A. in Early Childhood Education, The University of Texas at San Antonio
Interest areas:
The organizational culture of child development centers, transformational leadership in early childhood education, family engagement
Dissertation title:
N/A
Additional information:
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 working as an adjunct faculty member.

Sabrina Altagracia Mendez

Education:
A.A. in Psychology, Miami Dade College
B.A. in Psychology, Florida International University
M.S. in Mental Health Counseling, Florida International University
Interest areas:
Parent-child interactions, infant mental health, child development, social-emotional development, trauma
Dissertation title:
N/A
Additional information:
Sabrina moved to Chicago in 2015 to pursue a doctorate degree at Erikson Institute. Prior, she was an infant mental health therapist in Miami working with children and families involved in child welfare. Sabrina was a licensed mental health counselor trained in the evidence-based Child-Parent Psychotherapy therapeutic model. She was also an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College and Florida International University teaching a variety of psychology courses. Currently, Sabrina is working as the program manager and evaluator for the Making Futures Bright project, a trauma-informed training initiative for early intervention professionals serving children and families throughout Chicago, and a research assistant for Fussy Baby Network® New Orleans and Gulf Coast Research Initiative.

Mary Quest

Education:
B.A., Concordia University Chicago, M.A.
Interest areas:
Teacher preparation, teacher development, engaging adult learners, the Reggio Emilia Approach, human development
Dissertation title:
N/A
Additional information:
Mary is currently teaching courses at Erikson Institute and Columbia College Chicago. She is working as a graduate assistant on a project at Erikson to create a website and online professional development for family child care providers. Mary is 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, including NAEYC, PEN (Progressive Education Network), and AATE (American Alliance for Theatre and Education).  Mary taught full time in an early childhood teacher preparation program for five years and prior to that taught preschool and kindergarten for 12 years. She has also been adjunct faculty at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois; Concordia University Chicago; and Pacific Oaks College.

Lauren Solarski

Education:
B.A., DePaul University
M.S.Ed., Northwestern University
Interest areas:
Empowering teachers, culturally-relevant pedagogy, teacher leadership, anti-bias education, social and emotional learning, restorative justice, early childhood STEM, nature deficit disorder, play
Dissertation title:
N/A
Additional information:
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. In addition, she coordinates the Early Childhood STEM Working Group and facilitates Learning Labs for Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative. She is also an instructor teaching Erikson courses T414: Key Concepts for the PreK-3 Curriculum, and C426: Development of Cognition, Language and Play, as well as supervising student teachers in Erikson’s Teacher Education Program. Previously, Lauren taught kindergarten and served as her school’s early childhood team leader. She is a 2014 Illinois State Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching and an alumna of Inner-City Teaching Corps and Accelerate Institute’s Teacher Leadership Academy. Baby sloths are her favorite animal.

Kandace Thomas

Education:
B.A., Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT
M.P.P., The University of Chicago
Interest areas:
Mindfulness as intervention strategy, intergenerational trauma, trauma-informed services and systems, diversity-informed practice, infant mental health, program evaluation, social policy and systems impact on families.
Dissertation title:

N/A
Additional information:
While pursuing her doctoral studies at Erikson Institute and Loyola University Chicago, Kandace is a senior 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, advocacy, training, leadership development, reproductive health, justice, and domestic violence. Kandace was central to the creation of the Diversity-Informed Tenets of Infant Mental Health, ten guiding principles outlining equity standards in the infant mental health field. She also 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.

Katherine Varey

Education:
B.A. and B.S., Evergreen State College
M.A. in Elementary Education, Northern Illinois University
Interest areas:
Bilingual education, social-emotional learning techniques, attention restoration theory, mindfulness, math and science outdoor education.
Dissertation title:

N/A

Colleen Wilson

Education:
B.A., University of Pennsylvania
M.S.W., University of Pennsylvania
M.S.Ed in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, University of Pennsylvania
Interest areas:
Social-emotional development, early childhood trauma, complex trauma, risk and resilience, early intervention, parenting interventions.
Dissertation title: N/A
Additional information:
Colleen recently moved to Chicago from Philadelphia, where she previously worked as a clinical social worker and clinical research coordinator, to pursue a doctorate in Child Development at Erikson. She is currently working as a research assistant on a project evaluating home visiting programs.