College student and child high-fiving in a classroom

About the Team


Project Directors

headshot of Eleanor Brown

Eleanor Brown, PhD

Eleanor Brown, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at West Chester University, where she directs the Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab (ECCEL). Dr. Brown is internationally recognized for her scholarship on poverty and child development as well as her research on arts’ impact. For the past 15 years, Dr. Brown and the ECCEL Team have partnered with Settlement Music School and other community organizations serving children and families facing poverty and racism to study how family and community strengths as well as psychology, the arts, and mindfulness might be leveraged to mitigate effects of stress and trauma. Dr. Brown’s research has been highlighted as a model by federal governmental agencies, legislators, cultural alliances, and private foundations, as well as organizations such as PBS Kids, and Sesame Workshop and PNC (Grow Up Great).


Dennie Palmer Wolf

Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf is Principal Researcher at WolfBrown and one of the leading arts education researchers and evaluators in the United States. She holds a doctorate from Harvard where she served as a researcher at Project Zero for more than a decade where she led studies on the early development of artistic and symbolic capacities and later focused on design, implementation, and evaluation strategies that help cultural organizations and communities examine and improve how people gain access to learning, culture, and creativity both in and outside of formal institutions. Nationally, Wolf has helped a number of city-wide and regional consortia build coordinated systems that support critical and creative learning for young people in and out of school time, in cities as varied as Boston, Chicago, Dallas, and Portland. Her work has been supported by the National Endowment for Arts, the U.S. Department of Education, the Buck, Arnold, Carnegie, Mellon, Spencer, and William Penn foundations, and has appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books.


Steven Holochwost

Dr. Steven J. Holochwost is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Lehman College at the City University of New York and Director of Research for Youth & Families at WolfBrown, where he works with programs designed to improve the lives of vulnerable children and youth. His research focuses on the effects of environment, and particularly poverty and parenting, on voluntary forms of self-regulation (e.g., executive functions) in childhood and the involuntary activity of neurophysiological systems that support self-regulatory abilities. This research is directly relevant to his applied work, which examines the efficacy of educational interventions for children in poverty. The common thread running through both these lines of work is the need to understand how poverty impacts child development, and how programs that expand educational opportunities for children can mitigate those effects.


Program Staff and Research Assistants

Padmaja Charya Headshot

Padmaja Charya

Hi. I’m Padmaja, and I am a doctoral student at West Chester University. Through REACH, I am studying the neurophysiological and psychological impact of music and dance activities on preschool children who have experienced trauma and economic hardship. This area of research is particularly meaningful for me, as music and dance have had such a powerful, healing impact throughout my own life.  

Prior to the PsyD program, I received my B.S. in Psychology from Drexel University and an M.S. in Clinical Health Psychology from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. Since then, I have worked as a licensed mental health clinician for children and adults in the Delaware / Pennsylvania area as well as refugees from across the globe. Being a part of REACH and ECCEL has been such a pleasure, and I look forward to what the future will bring.  


Cassie Gallo Headshot

Cassie Gallo

Cassandra Gallo graduated from West Chester University in 2022 with a BS in Psychology with minors in Contemplative Studies and Health Sciences. Cassie is currently in her first year at West Chester University working toward a MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. As an undergraduate, she spent two semesters in the ECCEL program. Post-graduation, Cassie became Lead Researcher at Settlement Music School, the Philadelphia Head Start location. Her responsibilities include scheduling, training students in administration of assessments, collecting cortisol samples, data entry, and video coding. She is also involved in Play on Philly data collection and data entry. Cassie is passionate about child psychology and plans to focus her career on working with children.  

Izabell Hearst Headshot

Izabell Hearst

My name is Izabell Hearst, and I am a first year PsyD student at West Chester University. I received my BS in psychology from the University of the Sciences in May of 2022. My previous research experience focused on improving preschoolers' early numeracy skills using numerical card games which was aimed to target students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. My current research interests include examining the impact of racial/ethnic match between student and teachers and how that impacts emotional regulation. Within the ECCEL I complete video coding, observe classroom components, and help recruit undergraduate students. A fun fact about me is that I have three cats and a tortoise named Baba.


Todd Henkin

Todd Henkin's life in music has been dedicated to recording and performing original music as well as the use of creativity to connect and strengthen communities. With his band The Great Unknown, he shared bills with notable acts like Dr Dog, Tuneyards, Dawes, and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. As a teaching artist he's written songs in classes and homes with immigrants and refugees, international community leaders in Vanderbilt University, and students, recording an album on tour of co-written songs (Other Voices Other Rooms) sponsored by ASCAP. Todd is currently working with Carnegie Hall's celebrated International Lullaby Project as a Teaching Artist and Artist Researcher co-writing/performing songs and researching the benefits of music and songwriting in families with infants.


Molly Murphy

Molly Murphy is a second-year graduate student in the Doctor of Psychology program in Clinical Psychology. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has experience providing counseling to children, adolescents, adults, and families. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from West Chester University and went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from Rosemont College. Molly has experience working in private practice, non-profit clinical social work, crisis intervention, and educational supervision. Her passion is to provide mental health services and counseling to underserved communities with a focus on self-advocacy, social justice, and the understanding and treatment of trauma. Molly is excited to be a researcher in West Chester University’s Early Childhood Cognition and Emotions Lab (ECCEL) as well as the Research on Equity via the Arts in Childhood (REACH) Lab, and she is currently a Team Leader for The Lullaby Project.


Estefania Ortiz

My name is Estefania Ortiz. I am a post-baccalaureate ECCEL research fellow. I graduated from West Chester University, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, December 2020. I’ve been in the ECCEL team for two years now, and my current roles include recruiting culturally-diverse preschool students and their caregivers as participants for ECCEL studies, administering individual assessments to preschool participants, conducting caregiver interviews, mentoring and providing guidance to undergraduate research assistants, observationally coding child behavior and emotions, data collection, scoring, and entry. My research interests center around the impact of poverty and racism on children and families, and in the future I hope to continue my studies on child development.

Amani Patel Headshot

Amani Patel

Amani Patel is a first year student in the Clinical Psychology PsyD program at West Chester University. She received her BS in psychology from Hofstra University in December 2023. Her past clinical research projects investigated the effects of violent film elements on SI in young South Asian adults, as well as the impacts of early intervention programs on children with disabilities in Asian countries. Amani has also served as a crisis intervention specialist, providing emotional support to adolescents and young adults with anxiety, depression, and trauma. Clinically, she is interested in examining how strong themes of self-reliance in Asian and immigrant communities influence coping skills in the youth populations. She also hopes to extend trauma-focused research initiatives to clinically underserved populations, so as to implement more culturally sensitive practices into mental health care.

Nasserra Robinson Headshot

Nasserra Robinson

Nasserra Robinson is a first-year student in the Clinical PsyD Program at West Chester University. She is a veteran of the United States Navy and is a proud alumna of the first historically black university, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, where she received her BS in Psychology. She then furthered her education at Temple University pursuing her Master of Education in Counseling Psychology. Nasserra's professional journey has included invaluable experience counseling individuals with diverse mental health needs at a partial hospitalization program. In this capacity, she applied evidence-based therapeutic methods such as DBT and CBT. She guided group therapy sessions focused on fostering healing and growth for every participant. Outside of her academic and professional pursuits, Nasserra's commitment to community empowerment is unwavering. As an active volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she advocates for psychoeducation, culturally competent care, and works to dismantle stigma surrounding mental health. Her involvement extends to organizations like Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated and the National Council of Negro Women, where she leverages her platform to uplift and empower marginalized communities. Drawing on her understanding of the mistrust stemming from systemic racism, discrimination, and the absence of culturally competent care, Nasserra is passionate about addressing the deep-rooted skepticism many People of Color harbor within the mental health field. Nasserra aspires to contribute to the field by conducting research, implementing interventions, and advocating for policies that foster trust, empower clients, and promote equitable access to quality mental health care.

Emily Schnarr Headshot

Emily Schnarr

Emily Schnarr is a first year in the clinical psychology program at West Chester University. She received her B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish from Truman State University. She received her M.S. in Clinical Psychology from Missouri State University and had a research focus on trauma and resilience. She worked as a graduate assistant at the Learning Diagnostic Clinic to conduct psychoeducational evaluations. She worked in a private practice for a year, working with individuals with mood disorders, PTSD, and substance use. In the ECCEL and REACH Labs, Emily conducts assessments, collects cortisol samples, and assays cortisol samples for levels of stress hormones. Her research interests include resilience factors for those who have experienced trauma and the effects of trauma and stress on emotion regulation. Fun fact: she has two dogs whom she adopted from Missouri.


Fola Shokunbi

My name is Fola Shokunbi and I’m a second year PsyD student at West Chester University. I received a BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia in 2015 as well as a MT in Secondary Social Studies Education in 2016. My clinical interests are child and adolescent focused and include both treatment and assessment. I am particularly interested in issues concerning executive functioning and ADHD. Prior to enrolling at WCU I held several different research and clinical positions including working in an intensive group home for Boston area children with ages ranging from 7-13 as well as 4 summers at a short-term residential summer camp for children with trauma-based behavioral and emotional disorders. Additionally, I had the opportunity to work for the VCU site of the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development study, a planned 10-year study of substance use and brain development. Within ECCEL, I work primarily at our Coatesville Head Start preschool location where I administer study measures, help collect child cortisol and correspond with some of our preschool teachers. My research interests include examining how executive functioning develops across adolescence into young adulthood, factors leading to negative outcomes, and preventative measures that can be taken to avoid them. Fun fact: I ran track for 2 years while at UVA. Go Hoos!


Shanelle Stovall

My name is Shanelle Stovall. I am a first year PsyD student at West Chester university. I received my BA in psychology from Rutgers University, May 2021. I have previously worked in a research lab that focused on language development of bilingual children. I interned at Imani Teen Partial program. This program was designed to provide mental health treatment to non-violent adelescents between the ages of 13-17. My research interest focuses on the impact of socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, and stress on child development, trauma, and future aspirations. A fun fact about me is that I know how to play violin, guitar, piano, drums, and harmonica at the beginner level. Also, I won the state championship when I was in 4th grade. I also have two dogs; a Golden Retriever named Mackenzie and a St. Bernard named Leodis.


Emma Terrell

Emma Terrell is pursuing a Master's degree in Arts in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and previously received her Bachelor's in Percussion Performance at Rice University. Her current research interests focus on investigating, designing, and implementing professional development opportunities on culturally-sustaining music education for teaching artists and arts educators. Emma comes to WolfBrown with a unique perspective as a performer, educator, professional development facilitator, and budding arts researcher. Emma is thrilled to join WolfBrown, as she is drawn to the organization's multifaceted approach to helping arts and cultural organizations create effective and relevant educational programs. She is currently working with Dennie Palmer Wolf on Carnegie Hall's Reflections on Resilience project, in partnership with PUBLIQuartet and PlayUSA. In this project, she is documenting different ways in which PlayUSA member sites execute a group creative project and the impact it has on teaching and learning in community music settings. She is also supporting Dennie Palmer Wolf's work with the Philadelphia Lullaby Project, studying the impact of music and play on interactions in young families.


Edith A. Tettey, MS, LPC, LPCMH

Edith is a first year PsyD student at West Chester University. Edith graduated with her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Georgia State University in 2014. Since then, Edith has been in practice as a licensed professional counselor serving at all levels of care from inpatient psychiatric & outpatient hospitalizations, school-based health centers, and private practice. She is currently licensed in Georgia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania and carries robust experience treating mental disorders among youth and adult populations. Her research interests involve adverse childhood experiences and the impact of toxic stress in minority youth and family functioning. Edith believes research should drive clinical decisions and aims to help broaden evidenced-based approaches lacking cultural applications to minorities and immigrants experiencing trauma and racial bias. She has research experience in conducting cultural conceptualizations linking psychopathology and complex trauma in community-based settings as well as with survey-based studies on mental health engagement and success. Edith’s personal interests include working out, distance running, cooking, baking, and traveling with her family.

Caitlyn Thomas Headshot

Caitlyn Thomas

Caitlyn Thomas is a first-year student in the Clinical Psychology PsyD program at West Chester University. She received her BA in psychology from the University of South Carolina in 2024, where she conducted research in the Research Center for Childhood Well-Being and the School Behavioral Health Lab. Within these roles, Caitlyn concentrated on advancing school-based mental health initiatives, parental interventions, and enhancing mental health literacy. She participated in an internship at Richland County Sheriff’s Department, where she guided at-risk youth, nurturing their decision-making skills, problem solving abilities, and goal-setting capabilities. Presently, Caitlyn is conducting independent research exploring the interplay between Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and self-efficacy among college students. Her research pursuits primarily center on the development of childhood psychopathology, with specific interests in the impact of trauma and creation of early intervention programs in schools and communities.


Suzanne Varnell

My name is Suzanne Varnell and I am a second year MS student in Psychology at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. My research interests include music and visual art and their effect on social-emotional learning and stress for children facing economic hardship. For ECCEL, I am a research supervisor primarily working remotely for this last year with students in our online set up. My current work includes presenting research, writing manuscripts, and conducting data collection and entry. I also work as a graduate assistant for Dr. Kristen Breit in her lab at WCU and assist with her research on the effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol, nicotine, and THC. A fun fact about me is that I love to dance and have taken classes in many styles including ballet, tap, and ballroom. I also graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture and a minor in Human Development and Family Studies from Pennsylvania State University in 2019. I realized through my thesis designing an arts center for youth facing economic hardship that I was more interested in the psychology component and wanted to contribute to the research I was finding on the impact of the arts.


Zachary Weaver

My name is Zachary Weaver. I am a third year PsyD student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. I received my MS in clinical psychology from WCU in December 2020. My clinical interests are child and adolescent populations-focused and include psychotherapy as well as assessment. I am currently completing an externship at Drexel University’s Autism Institute where I conduct psychodiagnostic evaluations with young, neurodiverse children. With ECCEL, I am a research team leader at our Coatesville Head Start preschool location where I administer social-emotional and cognitive functioning measures and collect child cortisol. My research interests include examining how the context of early childhood economic hardship impacts physiological stress and what that means for executive functioning development. A fun fact about me is that I eat, sleep and breathe music, whether that is listening, collecting records or messing around on the guitar, keyboard, or saxophone.

Technical Working Group


  • Angela Guerriero, Assistant Professor of Music Education and Certified Music Therapist, West Chester University
  • Iheoma U. Iruka, Research Professor at the Department of Public Policy and Fellow, Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill
  • Girija Kaimal, Associate Professor, Creative Arts Therapies Department, Drexel University
  • Adam Winsler, Associate Chair and Professor, Department of Psychology, George Mason University


  • Amanda Atkinson, Managing Director of Child Development and Family Services, Public Health Management Corporation
  • Dan Berkowitz, Chief Strategy Officer, Neubauer Family Foundation
  • James Cupit, Early Childhood Education Field Administrator at The School District of Philadelphia
  • Kelly Fisher, Director for Policy, Society for Research in Child Development
  • Frank Machos, Executive Director, Office of the Arts, School District of Philadelphia
  • Mai Micsik, Early Childhood Education Policy Director, Children First PA
  • Rashanda Perryman, Program Officer, Early Childhood Education, Vanguard Foundation
  • Elliot Weinbaum, Program Director, William Penn Foundation



  • Mallory Garnett, MA, Clinical Science Doctoral Student, University of Delaware
  • Blanca Velazquez-Martin, MA, LPC, Whole Child Home
  • Fola Shokunbi, MT, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, WCU
  • Molly Murphy, MA, LPC, NCC, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, WCU
  • Edith Tettey, MS, LPCMH, LPC, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, WCU
  • Shanelle Stovall, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, WCU
  • Padmaja Charya, Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student, WCU
  • Suzanne Varnell, MS, Doctoral Student, Purdue University
  • Estefania Ortiz, Research Fellow, WCU and WolfBrown