Development in School Contexts

Department of Psychology

Liz Berke

Liz graduated with her PhD in 2016. Prior to that earned an MA in Applied Developmental Psychology and a BCBS certificate. She received her B.S. in psychology from James Madison University and worked for 2 years at The Ivymount School in Rockville MD, in the Autism Program. She has interned at the federal Department of Education Institute of Education Sciences. Her interests include special education, student–teacher relationships, and public policy.

Rebecca Ullrich

Becca is a graduate of the MA program in 2015. Prior to that Becca eared a BS in Human Development from Virginia Tech in 2010. At Virginia Tech, she was an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Cindy Smith's Children's Emotions Lab, examining parenting and emotion regulation in young children. Following graduation, Becca worked as a behavioral counselor with an in-home behavioral intervention group in Richmond, VA, and as a research assistant for Abt Associates in Bethesda, MD conducting policy and program evaluation. Becca's research interests generally include child development in the context of pre-K classrooms. She is particularly interested in the benefits of inclusion of children with special needs in inclusive classroom settings.

Lydia Wattigny

Lydia graduated with her master’s in the Applied Developmental Psychology in December of 2015. Prior to that, she graduated Cum Laude from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2014 with a BS in Psychology. Lydia became interested in child development after volunteering as an intern and therapist at the Therapy Center of Acadiana, which focused on working with children who have developmental disorders to help prepare them for typical school settings. Her research interests include helping children with special needs improve their organizational and functional skills so that they can join children their own-age peers in a typical classroom setting.


Natalie Williams

Natalie graduated from the undergraduate honors psychology program in May of 2015. She volunteered as a research assistant on the TASSEL project which looked at teachers' roles in preschoolers' development of social and emotional competence. She is now a doctoral student in School Psychology at Syracuse University.

Guifeng Xu

Guifeng graduated from the masters program in 2014. Previously, she had earned her medical degree from Huazhong University of Technology and Science in Wuhan, China in 2006 and her masters degree in public health (MPH) from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China in 2009. She has returned to China to work at Guangzhou Women and Children’s Medical Center, focusing on assessment and therapy for children with developmental behavioral disorders.

Craig S. Bailey

Craig graduated with his doctorate in 2014. Craig's research focus while at George Mason University was on social-emotional learning and social-emotional teaching practices in the preschool classroom. Craig's work also emphasized integrating technology into the preschool classroom by providing teachers with easy to use, research supported tools they can use to enhance their classrooms. Craig is now a post-doctorate researcher at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

Alexandra Davidson-Palmer

Alexandra graduated with her MA in 2014. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wake Forest University in 2012 with a BA in Psychology. Her interests in children's development in classrooms was prompted after volunteering at a preschool and observing the students over the course of several years. Her research interests include the role of student-teacher interactions in promoting children's development.

Emily Spencer

Emily graduated with her MA in 2014. She received a BS in Psychology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005. She was commissioned as an officer in the Army in August 2005. In 2009, she received a Masters in Applied Forensic Services from The Chicago School. Emily is interested in studying the effects of continuous geographical displacement, particularly on socio-emotional development, during early childhood. Emily completed her practicum placement at Zero to Three. She is currently assigned as an instructor at The United States Military Academy at West Point.

Abby Carlson

Abby is a 2013 graduate of the ADP program having received her doctorate in 2013. Presently, she works for Apple Tree Public Charter Schools in Washington, DC. She received her BS in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. She has worked in numerous areas of early childhood education over the years, developing an interest in cognitive development and predictors of academic achievement. Abby?s current research interests include the development of fine motor skills, visual-motor integration, working memory and their contributions to academic achievement.

Mike Widerman

Mike received his B.A. in psychology from McDaniel College in 2008 before working for the Research Institute on Aging as a Research Assistant for a year. His thesis examined how music affects students' sustained attention during deep and surface level studying.  In general, Mike is interesting in how learning is affected by social and environmental contexts. He graduated from our MA program in 2013.

Matt Willis

Matt is a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Namibia from 2005 to 2007. He received his BS in mathematics from James Madison University and his MA from the ADP program in 2013. His thesis investigated possible effects of facial mimicry on mood and empathy. Broadly, his interests include social and emotional development and the application of developmental research to international education programs.

Noora Hamdan

Noora is a 2013 graduate of the ADP masters program. Originally from Northern Virginia, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from James Madison University with a BA in 2011. She is currently a PhD student in the Psychology program at Temple University. She is interested in young children's development of academic and socio-emotional competencies as a function of classroom supports. She is also interested in the effects of flipped classrooms (watching lectures for homework and doing 'homework' in class) on student performance. For her thesis she is investigated the stability of teachers' emotional supports over the course of a lesson.

Helyn Kim

Helyn graduated from our MA program in 2012 and is now a doctoral student in the Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science program at the University of Virginia. Helyn graduated from the University of Virginia in 2007 with a B.A. in psychology and a Masters of Teaching in the Early Childhood & Developmental Risk program. She worked as an early childhood special education teacher in the Fairfax County Public School system for three years before coming to George Mason. As an MA student Helyn was interested in looking at the associations between early motor skills, cognitive skills, and social skills in preschool-aged children with developmental disorders.

Lauren Royster

Lauren graduated graduated from our MA program in 2012. As an undergraduate, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Christopher Newport University with a BS in Psychology. During her studies, Lauren developed a strong interest in research methods and statistics and in exploring how teachers in various contexts help foster positive development in preschoolers.


Catharine Chavez

Catharine Chavez graduated with MA in 2011. She originally transferred to George Mason University as an undergraduate from Abo Akademi University, Finland in 2008. At Mason, Catharine was selected to participate in the Undergraduate Apprenticeship Program. She received her B.A. in psychology in January 2010. During her time at Mason she gathered data in Head Start classrooms and conducted a secondary data analysis for a study on social interactions in pre-k classrooms.

Taylor Edwards

Taylor earned her MA from Mason in 2010. As an undergraduate, she studied at the University of Mary Washington, earning a B.S. in Psychology. While at Mason, Taylor was interested in developmental disabilities, classroom relationships, and childhood temperament. Taylor also worked as an Inclusion Facilitator for the Jewish Community Center in Fairfax where she enjoyed teaching play groups for special needs children and pre-teens.