Development in School Contexts

Department of Psychology

Negar Fatahi

Negar finished her PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology in 2023. Previously, she received her BA in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She later received an MA from New York University in general psychology, with an emphasis on child development. She previously worked with the New York Department of Education to assess social and emotional readiness inside classrooms and to provide data to policy makers who were implementing an expansion of the Free Pre-K for All program. Her research interests include social and emotional development within the school context and social-emotional teaching inside classrooms. 

Kara Poorbaugh

Kara Poorbaugh completed her masters degree in Applied Developmental Psychology in December 2022. She was a hair stylist and salon owner prior to Attending American University where she received her B.A. in Psychology. While completing her B.A. she volunteered and interned with organizations in the mental health field. This included HOPE Multiplied which mentor and advocate for vulnerable youth in the Arlington, VA area and Capital Clubhouse Inc. working along side and in a community helping to promote health and wellness for people with mental illness. Kara is interested in social-emotional development and the interactions of children with teachers, caregivers, and parents.

Kara Watrud

Kara completed her masters degree in Applied Developmental Psychology in December 2022. She received her B.A. in Psychology from Christopher Newport University. As a research assistant at CNU she studied memory enhancement and recall through word type and misspellings. Prior to joining the program, Kara worked as a Pre-K teacher in Denver, Colorado for several years. Kara is interested in social-emotional developmental in early childhood as well as daycare and stay at home parent care in regard to cognitive and social development.

Elpiniki Marchesini Bachmann

Elpi finished her program in 2020 and is on her internship for school psychology. Prior to that, Elpi earned her masters degree in School Psychology from George Mason, prior to becoming a Doctoral student in the Applied Developmental Psychology Program. She completed her undergraduate work at Virginia Tech, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Biology. Her research interests include promoting whole-school improvement, specifically through promoting positive relationships across the classroom and the implementation of social-emotional curricula.

Laura Stokes

Laura earned her degree in 2020. She completed her undergraduate degree at Tulane University in New Orleans, LA where she majored in Marketing and Psychology. She obtained her master's degree in Psychology at Mason. Prior to entering graduate school, she was a scientific research analyst at Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business. Laura currently teaches Educational Psychology (PSYC312) and works as an Undergraduate Academic Advisor in the Psychology Department. Laura focuses her research on teacher professional development and classroom quality.

Gullnar Syed

Gullnar graduated in 2020. She received a B.S in Psychology and a minor in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Prior to joining the program, she worked as a Research Technician in the Motor Development lab at VCU, studying motor and cognitive development in both typical and atypically developing infants. She focused specifically on problem-solving skills and parent-child interactions. Her current research interests include parent-child interactions and emotional development in infants and toddlers.

Xiaozhu An

Xiaozhu finished her doctoral degree in 2019. Prior to the doctoral program, she completed her MA from Mason in 2014 under the direction of Dr. Johannes Rojahn. She earned her B.S. in Psychology at Qingdao University, China. Her research focuses on teacher-student interactions, classroom quality, and inclusive education.​

Alexa Roth

Alexa completed her doctoral degree from George Mason in 2019. She received her MA in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and BA in Psychology at Emory University. She has also served as a Special Education teacher in both elementary and high school settings. Alexa's research interests include children 's social and emotional development within the school setting, specifically for children from low-income communities.

Reba Troxler

Reba completed her doctoral degree in 2019. Her background is in the areas of psychology, sociology and family studies. Her research interests include social-emotional development, school readiness, and at-risk populations, as well as the use of Item Response Theory methods in research.

Qingyuan Xie

Qingyuan completed the master's program in 2019. She received her B.S. in psychology at Washington State University. With previous experiences working with preschoolers, her current research interests focus on emotion regulation and how it could impact on children's academic outcomes in classroom settings.

Christina Nguyen

Christina finished her masters in December of 2018. She received her Bachelor's degree at Penn State with a major in Psychology. After undergrad, Christina worked as a Research Assistant for Johns Hopkins University, where she worked with students in Baltimore City School Districts who were enrolled in the PATHS to PAX Plus! Program. Her research interests include teacher-student and parent-child interactions and how they affect children 's social and emotional growth, as well as how children learn language.

Ashley Clark

Ashley finished her masters in December of 2018. Prior to that, she graduated from GMU with a bachelor's in psychology. Her interests involve the effects of attachment on young children's behavior developed.

Ashley Wood

Ashley finished her masters in December of 2018. Previously, Ashley graduated George Mason University with a BS in Psychology. She has done work doing observations of emotional development and regulation in the classroom.

Lucy Stillerova

Lucy finished her PhD in 2018. She received her MA in Psychology from University of St. Cyril and Methods in Slovakia. Her research interests are student-teacher interactions and children's social and emotional development.

Katie Orth

Katie completed the master's program in 2018. She completed her undergraduate work at Longwood University where she majored in Psychology and Social Work. After graduating, she worked as an adoption social worker at Roanoke County DSS. Katie's research interests include social and emotional development, emotion regulation, and early interventions for children experiencing developmental delays particularly in the school environment.

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) Powell

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.