Meet Our Team


Christine Y. Mason, PhD

Founder and Executive Director

Chris is an educational psychologist and a nationally recognized expert in the area of educational reform, mindfulness, teacher mentoring, and special education. She has made more than 500 national, international, regional, and local presentations on topics ranging from inclusion and IDEA to student self-determination and integrating the arts.


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.


Ingrid Padgett

Director, Communications and Development

Ingrid is a nonprofit professional with expertise in fund development and communications. Throughout her career, she has worked with organizations to develop
the infrastructure to support programmatic goals and fundraising activities and strategically move beyond traditional fund development programs to more diverse revenue streams.


Meghan Wenzel, MS

Researcher and Writer

Meghan is a researcher and writer with a background in developmental cognitive neuroscience and education, Meghan is very interested in early brain development and subsequent school performance and life opportunities.


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.


Dana Asby, MA, MEd

Director, Innovation and Research Support

Dana is CEI's Director of Innovation and Research Support and she serves as the Education Coordinator at the New England MHTTC. She is a trauma-informed yoga teacher and co-founder of Parent in the Moment, where she teaches families how to use mindfulness to reduce stress and increase the bond of love.


Orinthia Harris, PhD


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.


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.


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.


Kaela Farrise, MA

Program Assistant

Kaela is a therapist and consultant on issues related to the empowerment of communities of color, the experiences of people of color in predominantly white spaces, and in perceptions and treatment of mental health and mental illness in marginalized communities.


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.


Kevin Simpson, MEd


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.


Apoorva Vallampati

Development Specialist

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.