Who We Are

J Lawrence Aber

J. Lawrence Aber, Principal Investigator

Larry is is Distinguished Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Policy at New York University and chairs the board of its Institute of Human Development and Social Change. Through his academic career, Aber’s research has focused on (1) the social-emotional, behavioral, cognitive and academic development of children exposed to poverty and violence, and (2) the design and rigorous evaluation of programs and policies to enhance the development of children and families exposed to poverty and violence. In collaboration with the IRC, Larry designed and serves as PI for OPEQs impact evaluation.

Edward Seidman

Edward SeidmanCo-Investigator

Ed is is Professor of Applied Psychology and a member of the Institute for Human Development and Social Change at NYU. His central interests are in the development of higher quality theory, measurement, and intervention research on social settings, especially high-risk classrooms and schools. Prior to returning to NYU in 2011, he served as Senior Vice President of the William T. Grant Foundation. As part of his work in the OPEQ evaluation, Ed is leading the development of a measurement instrument to conduct direct observations of teacher practices and classroom processes in the DRC.

Leighann Starkey, NYU Project Director


Leighann is a doctoral student studying Developmental Psychology at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. She received a BS in Psychology from The University of Pittsburgh, where she worked on several studies at the Pitt Mother and Child Laboratory related to longitudinal outcomes of children at high-risk for antisocial behavior. Prior to her work with NYU, she worked at the Institute of Children, Poverty and Homelessness; and she also worked on a follow-up study of the 4Rs Program, a school-wide randomized social-emotional literacy intervention, at Fordham University. Her research interests include the effects of SES transitioning on markers of child cardiovascular health; and how classroom environment intersects with community violence exposure to influence socio-emotional development.


Catalina Torrente, former Project Director

As an advanced doctoral student in Developmental Psychology, Catalina served as project director for the OPEQ evaluation from 2009 to 2013. Her research interests center on the development of socio-emotional and academic competencies in the face of adversity, and the design of cost-effective evaluation methods to inform school-based interventions for the improvement of children’s wellbeing. During her doctoral studies, she also worked on the experimental evaluation of the 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect and Resolution), a school-wide universal intervention program implemented in NYC public schools. In September 2013 Catalina joined the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence as a postdoctoral associate.


Brian JohnstonSenior Research Assistant

Brian is currently working on his PhD in Social / Personality Psychology at the City University of New York, Graduate Center. His research interests include the role of emotions in intergroup relations, particularly in relation to intergroup bias. On the OPEQ project Brian has been responsible for data cleaning, various forms of data analyses, and assistance with report preparation. Brian also received a BA in Psychology from the University of South Florida and an MA in Psychology from Rutgers University, Camden.


Alana Gross Research Assistant

Alana is a senior at New York University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. She is also currently working in Bellevue's Adolescent Inpatient Psychiatric Unit on a research project, concerning the rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and its related comorbidities. Previously, Alana has worked at both Mount Sinai’s Continuing Day Treatment Program, treating adults with mental illness, and at NYU's Summer Program for Kids, a therapeutic camp for children with ADHD and other behavioral disorders.


Emily Jacobson Research Assistant

Emily is a second year Master’s student in the Human Development and Social Intervention (HDSI) Program at New York University. She is also currently working at Right to Play, a child focused Sport for Development nonprofit. Emily received a B.S. in Psychology from James Madison University. Emily’s research is in the area of cumulative risk and protective factors for academic outcomes. Previously Emily has worked at Childhelp Children’s Center of Virginia, The Office on Children and Youth, and the Virginia Child Protection Newsletter.


Mahjabeen RazaResearch Assistant

Mahjabeen is a Master's student in Human Development and Social Intervention at New York University. Her current research interests include socio-emotional learning, monitoring and evaluation of interventions in conflict/post conflict zones, gender studies, early intervention programming. As a part of the OPEQ team, she serves on the TIPPS development team and is currently working on the development of the training materials as well as psychometric analysis of the instrument.
Prior to graduate school, she worked at a Women in Science and Engineering initiative that served to engage, retain and matriculate traditionally under-represented students in math, engineering and science majors. 


Marissa McCoyResearch Assistant

Marissa joined the OPEQ team after graduating with a Masters in International Education from New York University.  She is also a part of a team that developed the Teacher Instructional Practices and Processes System (TIPPS) observation tool and she is currently working on the construction of TIPPS training materials. Her current research interests include social-emotional learning, teacher effectiveness, teacher- and school-level risk factors and educational policy.  Prior to graduate school, she taught remedial reading and peer education as a Peace Corps volunteer in Jamaica, as well as English at a women's institute in Rwanda. In February 2013 Marissa joined the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. 


Sharon Kim,  Research Assistant


Sharon has been involved in the OPEQ project as a member of the Teacher Instructional Practices and Processes System (TIPPS) development team where she has worked towards the continued refinement of the tool and related training materials.  Her work in recent years has been devoted to international development issues such as Education in Emergencies and gender and development as a researcher with various global NGOs.  Additionally, her research interests include evaluation of educational interventions, social-emotional learning, and education policy.  Sharon received her MA in International Educational Development from Columbia University and, prior to that, completed her BA studies in English and Music from the University of Michigan. 


Mario Rodriguez, Research Assistant


Mario is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Applied Psychology at Steinhardt. Before coming to NYU he was a sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and a quality assurance representative in the 3rd Marine Aircraft Division. Since he joined the OPEQ team Mario has been assisting with data management and cleaning tasks as well as with literature reviews.


Travis Hardy, Research Assistant


Travis recently received his master's degree in International Education at NYU. As part of the OPEQ team, he has worked on data cleaning, French-to-English language translations and transcriptions, and a literature review on EGMA (The Early Grade Math Assessment). Additionally, he currently works as a co-teacher and program evaluator for the international education non-profit Global Partners Junior. Prior to coming to New York, Travis received his bachelor's degree in English Language & Literature at the University of South Carolina. He has served as a high school English teacher in Chartres, France, and also spent a semester studying and volunteering in Legon, Ghana.