Meet Our Team

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Christine Y. Mason, PhD

Founder and Executive Director

Chris is an educational psychologist and CEI’s Founder and Executive Director. Chris is a nationally recognized expert, consultant, moderator, and frequent speaker on student trauma, mindfulness, children’s mental health, peer supports and teen suicide prevention, listening to youth, furthering equity, and implementing mindfulness, yoga, and meditation in schools. She is also an assistant clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Yale University’s School of Medicine for the Program for Community Health and Recovery and a co-host of the podcast series Cultivating Resilience: A Whole Community Approach for Alleviating Trauma in Schools.

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Nicole Benquechea, MA

Social Media Specialist

Nicole R. Benquechea graduated from California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) in May 2020 with a Master of Arts degree in Psychology. She has a passion for speaking and taking positive action on youth. Currently, she is an intern for the Center for Educational Improvement.

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Orinthia Harris, PhD

Faculty

Orinthia is a dynamic educator with over 10 years of experience both inside and outside the classroom. She has a passion for making learning engaging, and has presented on how to effectively motivate and engage all students, nationally and internationally.

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Suzan Mullane, MSEd

Research Associate

Suzan (Sue) is an expert in early childhood trauma, STEM, the brain and project-based learning, gifted education, autism spectrum disorder, and special education. University of Alaska in Anchorage, and has experience as a School Counselor for the Anchorage School District.

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Martha Staeheli, PhD

Faculty

Martha Staeheli, Ph.D., is a faculty member at the Program for Recovery and Community Health in the Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the School Initiative for the New England Mental Health Technology Transfer Center. Her research interests are focused on recovery within substance use and mental health disorders, issues of health disparity and equity, and the health and wellness of under-resourced community, clinical and educational environments. She is co-author of Compassionate School Practices: Fostering Children's Mental Health and Well-Being.

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Jillayne Flanders, MEd, CAGS

Deputy Director

Jill is an education consultant with a long and successful career as an elementary principal and teacher. Upon retirement from the public education system, she was principal of Hadley Elementary School (PK-6), Hadley MA. In that role she oversaw a growing learning community with an average enrollment that literally doubled from 200 to 400 students during her tenure. She is a tireless advocate for early childhood education and she has served on a number of related policy-driven committees, including her appointment to the Advisory Committee of the MA Department of Early Education and Care as its elementary principal representative.

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Cristine Chen

Marketing Specialist

Cristine Chen is a Mental Health advocate and Psychology researcher. She graduated from Pepperdine University with an M.A. in Psychology.
She has 5+ years of experience as a communications and marketing strategist.

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Amy Huff, MEd

Research Associate

Amy Huff is a licensed mental health and career counselor with an M.Ed. in Counseling and Career Development from Colorado State University. There is an immense need for mental health practices to infiltrate the classroom, doctor's office, community, and home life, and Amy is passionate about using her words to create research-based content that readers understand and are able to apply to their daily environment.

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Michele Rivers Murphy, EdD

Associate Director, Heart Centered Learning

Michele Rivers Murphy is a seasoned consultant, presenter, and educational leader. A change agent for over two decades, she has helped transform some of the highest-needs neighborhoods and districts by improving student engagement, school culture, and academic success.

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Apoorva Vallampati

S-CCATE Manager

Apoorva is a Data and Insights Analyst at Huntington National Bank, and is currently serving as a Development Specialist at The Center for Educational Improvement. At CEI, she works specifically on research and writing related to children's mental health, school trauma, executive functioning, and developmental neuroscience. Apoorva earned her bachelor's degree in Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience and Business from The Ohio State University, and successfully defended her undergraduate research thesis in cognitive psychology and language in 2020.

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Margaret Bass

Communications Assistant

Margaret is graduating Hunter College as a Yalow Scholar with a Bachelor's in Clinical Psychology and Sociology. With a passion for Mental Health advocacy and clinical application, she is obtaining a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling in the Fall of 2022. She hopes to assist in the mental health clinical and research field.

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Kristol Cleaton

Research Assistant

Kristol is currently finishing her master’s in Neuropsychology at the Universidad Mayor in Santiago, Chile. In hopes of bringing a voice to the constant struggles educators are presently facing, her master’s thesis, “Relationship between stress and cognitive processes in primary schoolteachers working online during the COVID-19 pandemic”, looks into the relationship between stress and cognitive functions in K-12 teacher who had to overcome the hassles of teaching remotely.

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Lauren Kiesel, MA

HeartMind e-News Editor and Consultant

Lauren is a researcher and editor passionate about building thoughtful, evidence-based solutions. She is a user experience researcher for a non-profit and has served as a consultant for CEI since 2018 on various projects and publications. She holds an MA in Cognitive Science in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University (2019) and other degrees in integrative neuroscience, evolution, and sustainable food systems.

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Kevin Simpson, MEd

Consultant

Kevin Simpson has 15 years in education with K-16 roles ranging from teacher, specialist, lead teacher, mentor, coordinator, adjunct professor, and consultant. He has taught a range of grade levels and content areas. The last ten years he has focused on mathematics.

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Meghan Wenzel, MS

Senior Researcher and Writer

Meghan is a Researcher and Writer with the Center for Educational Improvement. With a background in developmental cognitive neuroscience and education, Meghan is very interested in early brain development and subsequent school performance and life opportunities. She is co-author of Compassionate School Practices: Fostering Children's Mental Health and Well-Being.