Tufts University, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development

A Note to Readers

This issue of the EP News is devoted entirely to stories about EP alumni and to demonstrating the diverse career pathways EP alums have chosen while sharing a common mission to serve children and youth. The stories told here are exceptional stories, but so too are the stories of countless others who have graduated from Eliot-Pearson. If you are an alumni reader, we hope you will take pride in the stories told here and share your own exceptional story with others.

Winter 2017 NEWS

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1980's Graduates

1990's Graduates

2000's Graduates

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Cathy Alexander

Cathy Alexander

Cathy Alexander

It was shortly after graduating from Eliot-Pearson that Cathy Alexander found her calling. She had her own first grade classroom in Winchester, MA and had put on a play with the children which they presented to the entire school. She says, "It was amazing to see what these young children could do when given the opportunity to perform." Much later, in 1979, she started the Winchester Cooperative Theatre. To provide the children with professional support, she gathered people with expertise in music, dance, choreography and set design. She says, "I wanted to make sure that we provided professional support to these children so that the productions would be of the highest quality."

The theatre group began in a small church hall where the children in the audience sat on the floor to watch the show. During that first year, each of the three performances were sold out. Since then, the group has produced two full length musicals a year and run a summer theatre program. Many of the graduates from the program have gone on to pursue careers in theatre or related fields and feel that this was a life changing experience. The Winchester Cooperative Theatre is now in its 38th year!

Cathy says she owes much to Eliot-Pearson. She says, "I believe that Eliot-Pearson and its amazing faculty taught me the most important lesson about working with children, namely, that they will far surpass your expectations if given the support and opportunity."

"I believe that Eliot-Pearson and its amazing faculty taught me the most important lesson about working with children, namely, that they will far surpass your expectations if given the support and opportunity."


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Annie Coull (nee Samet)

Annie Coull

Annie Coull, 1969

From very early on, Annie Coull seemed destined to work in ways to improve the lives of children in the difficult circumstance of being hospitalized. She attributes this, in part, to an early and anxiety provoking hospitalization – at a time when children were gathered in wards and when parents were not allowed to come inside and visit. Happily, it wasn't the trauma of the hospital that had the final word, but rather the quality of homecare provided by her homebound teacher who, she says, was her biggest fan and someone who fostered her learning while she lay in bed. From this and other early experiences, Annie came to appreciate "…the significance that human interaction can have on a child's experience" even under challenging circumstances – such as being homeschooled in bed.

Years later, Annie came to Eliot-Pearson as a graduate student, to further her understanding of child development and to learn how to be that person who provides a positive experience for children regardless of their immediate circumstances. And after graduating from Tufts and working with children with special needs, she returned to that early experience of being hospitalized and developed a newfound interest in designing environments to help hospitalized children thrive. Her interest led her to go back to school to study architecture.

In speaking about her decision to become an architect, Annie says, "I entered the profession of architecture at a critical time in the evolution of design for healthcare environments. Big transformational changes were about to take off: evidence-based design; sustainability; health and wellness; safety, quality, and efficiency; and, the environment as a legitimate treatment modality." And she adds, "As I began to focus more on healthcare environments for children, I found that my Eliot-Pearson education and experience enriched my work as an architect in myriad ways." For example, with children and families' needs in mind, she worked to feature the discipline of Child Life at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco by creating a "Town Center" — a two-story destination with its own dedicated elevator — for families and children who can leave their patient care units. There, children and families find play areas, audio and video arts studios, lounges just for teens, a San Francisco public school district classroom, and family lounges for respite.

"As I began to focus more on healthcare environments for children, I found that my Eliot-Pearson education and experience enriched my work as an architect in myriad ways."

With regard to meeting the different developmental needs of children and teens, Annie says, "Being at the forefront of the new generation of children's hospitals in 1985, I made sure that design addressed the needs of children, adolescents, and adults with features that inspire delight, whimsy, introspection, and interpretation at any age – with spaces that are a bit grand, like 2-story atriums, spaces that are exciting but not overwhelming." She adds, "We as designers have the obligation to maximize opportunities for choice and control within the healthcare environment and help patients and families feel the normalcy of day-to-day life." And so, to provide that sense of normalcy, Annie worked to provide the patient care units at the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital with ‘sky porches', rooms with partial height glass walls so that patients and families can have views of the neighborhood and beyond while feeling natural San Francisco Bay breezes.

After more than 30 years' experience as an architect and as a key player on the design team for the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco, Annie initiated a pro bono project to bring resources in her community together to enhance the children's roof terrace at the Hospital — to better suit children's and families' needs. She says, "Taking advantage of multiple levels of roof deck during design of the original project, we created spaces for multiple uses — a play and therapeutic garden adjacent the "Town Center", a view garden for the birthing rooms; a quiet strolling garden for the critical care floor; and a small south-facing outdoor terrace for the antenatal unit where pregnant women who may be hospitalized for several months can step out for fresh air."

Clearly, Annie Coull has fulfilled her calling to be like that exemplary homebound teacher and provide for hospital-bound children and families the supports and enjoyments that define normalcy and promote healing regardless of the circumstances.


John Hornstein

John Hornsetien

John Hornsetien, 1977

John Hornstein has had a long and successful career working with children, teachers, parents, clinicians, and researchers — in a number of roles and for a variety of missions. Throughout his career, two themes have remained constant, namely, observation and inclusion — with observation being carried over into relationships in the form of listening well. Both themes found their voice in 1974, when John was a master's student at Eliot-Pearson and teaching in the Children's School. He says, "My first course at Eliot-Pearson was in observational child study. I became obsessed. After completing my first assignment, the professor, Art Sills, asked if I was planning to write The Great American novel. I was. And my muse was the Children's School."

At that time, Sam Meisels (later to become president of Erikson Institute and executive director of the Buffet Early Childhood Institute) was the Children's School director, and Dot Marsden was the co-director. Under their leadership, the School was becoming a model program for inclusion – not only inclusion for children with challenging behaviors but also inclusion for children with physical disabilities. John was imprinted on this culture of observation and inclusion and thereafter carried it everywhere he worked. He says, "When I first returned to Maine after leaving Eliot-Pearson in 1977, I helped teachers and parents integrate children with special needs into early childhood classrooms, and, a few years later, became the director of an early intervention program. In this work, my relationships with parents and staff members, along with my advocacy for the children, began with observation and the fact that understanding the real child, not the diagnosis, is where understanding and the relationship with a family begins."

After getting his Ed.D. from Harvard, John taught in the University of New Hampshire's Department of Education where observation was essential to all his teaching. He says, "When I visited interns, I always started with classroom observation, and conversations almost always began with what we saw. It was, and still is, the currency of my support and instruction."

Later on, John joined the Touchpoints group in the Boston Children's Hospital and helped develop the Touchpoints training program with Touchpoints' famous founder, T. Berry Brazelton. The core phrase defining Touchpoints' practice was and still is, "Use the behavior of the child as your language.", in other words, begin with observation. The importance of doing so, says John, lies in the fact that a child's behavior provides more than an assessment. It provides an opportunity for making meaning. Furthermore, observing children with their parents and with colleagues builds relationships.

The core phrase defining Touchpoints' practice was and still is, "Use the behavior of the child as your language."

Reflecting his own immigration to America as a young child, John's work has increasingly focused on culture and childrearing. Traveling across the country and to Native American communities and the Caribbean as a speaker and trainer, John remained aware of the need to observe and listen with an understanding of diverse cultures and especially to the ongoing needs and values of those who have historically been excluded – again, the themes of observing closely and working to include were foremost.

Recently, John has come full circle and is spending a year at Eliot-Pearson as a visiting scholar. Not surprising, one of his first actions was to return to the observation booths in the Children's School and to listen attentively to those at Eliot-Pearson working to create a more inclusive society. Observing, listening, and inclusion and Eliot-Pearson are for John, still intertwined.


Mary Pat King

Mary Pat

Mary Pat

All her life, Mary Pat has made the outdoors, and especially the ‘wild' outdoors, her home. Even today she has the same passion as she did as a young woman – for hiking in national parks, kayaking on lakes surrounded by nature, and cross-country skiing in quiet, undisturbed woods. That passion for nature is what decided her career path of working for the National Park Service (NPS) and the US Forest Service (USFS) — serving as a law enforcement officer — not a usual role for women at the time she started out. And she gives Eliot-Pearson some credit for helping her make this career choice. She says, "I am glad that my courses in Child Study helped me to examine gender stereotypes and conditioning. It led me to realize that I could do anything I wanted to do in terms of career!"

The choice to become a law enforcement officer led, predictably, to times when stereotyping and prejudice came into play. She says, "I loved my various positions doing law enforcement with the federal agencies I worked for. But I had difficult times with some male supervisors, which I guess is one of the drawbacks of being a female pioneer in performing law enforcement for these agencies at that time. But I have been a survivor because I was conscientious in performing my duties."

"I am glad that my courses in Child Study helped me to examine gender stereotypes and conditioning. It led me to realize that I could do anything I wanted to do in terms of career!"


Now, in retirement, Mary Pat continues to stay connected to the natural world, both at her home in New Hampshire and her other home in Florida that she bought when she worked her last job as a law enforcement officer in the Apalachicola National Forest. But now, she not only continues to hike, kayak, and cross-country ski, she also actively supports environmental groups and their work to conserve and restore our natural treasures. As an active member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Sierra Club, and other organizations taking on today's great environmental issues, Mary Pat continues to be ‘on watch' and ‘watching out' — to keep our natural places not only as safe places but also as places to heal and be inspired.


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Laurie Erichson Leibowitz

Laurie Leibowitz

Laurie Leibowitz always knew she would work with children. She just didn't know what direction that would take. So, in 1979, she chose Tufts for her undergraduate education largely because of Eliot-Pearson and the many different paths available to its graduates. She liked her work as a child study major so much that after graduation she continued on at Eliot-Pearson to get her Masters in Education.

Her education at Tufts and Eliot-Pearson provided her with a natural bridge to her first job – working at Project Zero – one of the Harvard Graduate School of Education's most well-known research centers. She says, "The project I worked on, co-directed by Professors Howard Gardner at Harvard and David Henry Feldman at Tufts, was, for me, an ideal mix of the theoretical and practical. I helped devise activities that I then introduced to 4-year olds at the Eliot-Pearson Children's School in order to assess what Howard Gardner calls ‘multiple intelligences.' My studies at Eliot-Pearson prepared me well for this role."

Laurie has spent the majority of her career as an early childhood teacher. She says, "I became interested in working with Toddlers and Twos while at E-P, when I had the opportunity to teach at the Children's School. It was incredible to see just how much development took place in each child from the beginning to the end of the school year, and I loved how everything we did was a new and exciting learning experience for the children." Laurie says she was drawn to early childhood education because of its focus on all aspects of a child's development. She says, "I am passionate about helping children develop basic yet vital skills such as listening to others, expressing themselves effectively, solving problems creatively, making decisions, and coping with frustration. What could be more important than providing the building blocks that our youngest people need in order to become lifelong learners, compassionate friends, productive citizens, and just all-around good people?"

...helping children develop basic yet vital skills such as listening to others, expressing themselves effectively, solving problems creatively, making decisions, and coping with frustration.

For the past 20 years, Laurie has been teaching in a Twos' classroom at a Jewish preschool in Westchester County, New York. She says she and her long-time assistant have a lot of fun together, which helps create "a joyful vibe" in their classroom. Laurie and her assistant also run the afternoon enrichment program for Threes and Fours, and therefore get to teach many of the same children for three years in a row. She says, "Watching them grow from little toddlers into big, self-assured 4- and 5-year-olds is such a treat. And because I live close to where I work, I see many of my students become young adults. The Twos from my very first class are now in their senior year of college!"

Married for 27 years, Laurie is the proud mom of two young adults, Aaron and Becca, both Tufts alums — with Becca also being an Eliot-Pearson alum who shared some of the same wonderful professors who once taught her mother. In summing up what Eliot-Pearson means to her, Laurie says, "Eliot-Pearson prepared us well to go out into the world and make a positive impact on children's lives!"

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Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Deborah Mitchell

Put simply, Deborah Mitchell helps others. She helps others through her non-profit, Women of Influence and Purpose, which assists women with job placement and with finding mental health and educational services. WOI has helped a good number of women, including those having to make use of domestic violence shelters.

...she is active in library work and seeing to it that children of color have access to culturally relevant books.

Deborah also helps others with their own organizations serving women. In the words of one person running an organization for women on Cape Cod, "Deborah lends her support to all women's organizations in her sphere of influence and is such a positive entity in the community at large."

Deborah's helping is motivated by her faith. She is a certified Evangelist who ascribes to the motto "Let go and let God.". It is also informed by her Tufts' and Eliot-Pearson training and by her ongoing graduate work in education and library science. In many ways, then, Deborah is an exemplar of what it means to be a life-long learner.

Not surprising, Deborah takes as her most important work that of helping children and youth. She does this through her supporting their reading and through her linking that support with her involvement in her faith community. In particular, she is active in library work and seeing to it that children of color have access to culturally relevant books. Furthermore, she has written her own children's book, Poppin Beans, the first in a series of children's books based on African-American family values. Her next book is titled Nana's Mean Greens.

With regard to her work, Deborah says, "My impact has been felt mostly by youth in communities. For instance, (with youth in mind) I planned a photo exhibit called "images of Black Culture and coordinated a library exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the book, The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats." And she adds. "In my local church, I am creating my own library services featuring books mostly by Boston clergy and local artists."

Jobs, books, children, women, faith – all give us a picture of someone who isn't just trying to help – but also of someone succeeding in helping in deep and powerful ways.


Carol Weigel DiFranco

Carol Weigel DiFranco

Carol Weigel DiFranco

Carol DiFranco describes her decision to enroll at Eliot-Pearson as a simple and fortuitous choice: "It just clicked," she says. Nearly 35 years later, the ideas and people she encountered at EP continue to shape her life, professionally and personally. She says, "It's all about the people! For me, Tufts faculty made the difference, and some of my best friends are people I met at Eliot-Pearson."

A native of North Andover, Massachusetts, DiFranco attended Regis College where she majored in psychology, and then continued her studies in Eliot-Pearson's master's program. DiFranco feels fortunate to have studied with a number of "shining stars", those who helped establish Eliot-Pearson's national reputation in the area of applied child development. Her mentors included EP faculty members Kathleen Camara, Katherine Frome Paget, David Henry Feldman, Maryanne Wolf, and Donald Wertleib. As a graduate student and later as a research assistant, DiFranco contributed to Wertlieb's landmark study of children of divorce, honing skills and developing knowledge of "how to be an educated consumer of [clinical] research."

Her education at Eliot-Pearson has served her well at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, where DiFranco has been a Clinical and Data Manager for over three decades, primarily in the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations. Her responsibilities include management of the inherited retinal disorder service at Mass Eye and Ear and supporting scientists in both the clinical and regulatory aspects of their work. She views her role as helping Mass Eye and Ear researchers to curate and use the significant amounts of historical data available to them. Over the course of her career, DiFranco has witnessed the rapid evolution of technology in clinical research. "Clinical trials are very complex today," she notes, and new technological tools can add tremendous value, "but only if you use them correctly."

...DiFranco contributed to Wertlieb's landmark study of children of divorce, honing skills and developing knowledge of "how to be an educated consumer of [clinical] research."


She draws satisfaction from the gifts to Eliot-Pearson that she and her husband, Joe, have established through their trust. "I hope that my gift can help to perpetuate the quality of experience that I enjoyed at Eliot-Pearson, and create opportunities for students who might not otherwise be able to study there."

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Wid Alharthy

Wid Alharthy

Wid Alharthy, 1999

My daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was three years old. This meant that her pancreas stopped producing insulin — resulting in her needing to live on insulin injections the rest of her life. I was clueless about diabetes. At the hospital they passed me an orange and told me to practice giving injections on it with no proper explanation of what is diabetes. My daughter was looking at me in fear, and I didn't know what to tell her. The experience was horrible and I felt like it was the end of the world. A few months later, my husband and I took our daughter to the Joslin Clinic in Boston. There, we were educated about T1 diabetes. I felt much more in control because I was empowered by the proper knowledge.

When I returned home to Saudi Arabia, and after giving our situation a lot of thought, I felt that God had given my daughter diabetes for a reason and that I must have something to give in return. Having graduated from Tufts with a BA in Child Development in 1999, I had the knowledge of how to deal with children, and I knew I must now use that knowledge. I decided to volunteer and work with diabetic children in charities. I really enjoyed working with the children and their parents. I used to talk to them about proper nutrition and how to educate themselves about diabetes. I created art sessions for them to express their feelings and I told them stories. I had one-on-one sessions with the parents to share my experience and advise them. I also visited underprivileged villages and homes to spread an awareness about diabetes.

However, I faced many challenges, some of them related to restrictions and bureaucratic policies for charities in Saudi. When it comes to diabetes, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest prevalence rates. Twenty-five per cent of our population has it. The government spends 80 billion Riyals a year on diabetes and its side effects. By 2030, it is expected that half of the population will have diabetes.

With this in mind, in 2013 I decided to found my own center for diabetes care and provide everything related to diabetes care under one roof. My goal was to focus on education because it is the core pillar for understanding how to deal with diabetes. The International Diabetes Care Center became the first private independent diabetes center in Saudi Arabia. In the IDCC, we have Adult and Pediatric Endocrinologists, Diabetes educators, clinical nutritionists, a podiatrist, a psychologist, and a dentist. We also added retinal screening, a lab, a kitchen to teach healthy cooking lessons for parents and kids, and a gym. It was one stop shopping for diabetes care. In addition, we do awareness campaigns in schools and malls. We offer lectures and we have diabetes support groups for mothers. We also share awareness posts and competitions through the social media.

...in 2013 I decided to found my own center for diabetes care and provide everything related to diabetes care under one roof.

For me, the best part is our dealing with the children at the clinic. We teach them about diabetes through arts and crafts. We have a purple elephant called Filfel who has diabetes. We use Filfel to teach the children the areas where they can inject themselves. We play an animated movie for them as well. We have a special play room just to make the environment fun and lively. This past month we launched an Arabic children's book called "Filfel Sukkar." It's about our elephant Filfel and how he reacted when he got diabetes and how he learned how to adapt and live with it positively. Finally, we organize summer camps for our diabetic children and sports programs.

Although I didn't immediately implement what I learned from my days at Eliot-Pearson, as life led me to my "calling", my knowledge of child development became indispensable for carrying out that calling. I am grateful to Eliot-Pearson and to my Alma Matter for empowering me with the knowledge that helped me to become a productive person, serve children in my country, and touch the lives of many.


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Kathryn Ohle

Kathryn Ohle

Kathryn Ohle, 2004

After graduating from Eliot-Pearson's M.A.T. program in 2004, Kathryn Ohle taught kindergarten and third grade, completed her doctorate in Early Childhood, Intervention, & Literacy at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and became an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her work now includes teaching literacy, math, and science methods courses in early childhood, getting children's books translated into Alaska Native languages, supplying new teachers with classroom libraries, and conducting research on subjects ranging from preservice training, kindergarten reading readiness assessment, and preschool teachers' use of dual language books. As an active researcher and scholar-practitioner, Kathryn has already established herself as someone who regularly presents at major conferences and publishes in journals for educators.

Kathryn credits Eliot-Pearson with giving her the approach she instills in her students, one that has them looking first at the child and the child's strengths and only then considering what skills need to be taught. Even in her methods courses, this child-first approach is evident in her emphasis on first understanding and relating to the whole child and only then focusing on instructional methods.

...the approach she instills in her students, ... has them looking first at the child and the child's strengths and only then considering what skills need to be taught.


Kathryn also credits Eliot-Pearson with where she began to see tangible ways in which to make education more equitable for children needing extra supports and for those being discriminated against. In particular, Eliot-Pearson is where she learned about the powerful inclusion models used at Eliot-Pearson's laboratory school, about assessment of different learning styles in Mary Anton-Oldenburg's course on emergent literacy, and about policy induced educational inequities in Robert Hawkins' social policy course. Kathryn also points to specific elements in her practice as a teacher educator that are reflections of those she came into contact with at Eliot-Pearson. She credits Martha Pott for showing her how to create long-lasting relationships with students that exist beyond the classroom doors and Rebecca New for demonstrating how to make learning personal, flexible, and full of choices. For Kathryn, Heidi Given modeled the most responsive, thoughtful, and intentional teaching she's ever seen, and Lynn Meltzer's emphasis on making teaching techniques explicit is something she continues to consider every week as she prepares for class. Finally, Debbie LeeKeenan's commitment to advocating for children, families, and teachers and her ability to stand up and say what's right – even if it's uncomfortable or political – continues to inspire her to be first, an advocate and second, an educator.

By her own account, Kathryn is a proud product of Tufts and Eliot-Pearson, an advocate for children, families, and teachers, and, above all, a teacher educator who values the relationships she makes with her students. She hopes to continue to make a difference in her students' lives in the same ways her professors at Eliot-Pearson did for her.


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Tucker Delaney-Winn

Tucker Delaney-Winn

Tucker Delaney-Winn, 2010

At Eliot-Pearson, Tucker Delaney-Winn found ways to cultivate his interests in media and the arts – and so the connection between EP and his current work should come as no surprise. After graduating from Tufts, Tucker became a copy writer at SpotCo, a Broadway advertising agency in New York City where he has advertised for Hamilton, Lincoln Center Theater, The Great Comet of 1812, and many other plays and musicals. On any given day, you might find him writing a script for a television commercial, thinking up tag lines for a new show, directing a voiceover record, or tackling any number of other copy-related tasks.

For fostering the kind of critical thinking that underlies his work, Tucker says," I feel grateful to the marvelous professors at Eliot-Pearson who fostered in me a love for thinking deeply...I'm especially thankful for three EP professors who had a major impact on my career. Professor Julie Dobrow's course, Children & Mass Media, introduced me to the idea that storytelling could be a profession. Dr. Kathleen Camara's endless enthusiasm while mentoring me as I wrote my musical, Hamlet, the Hip-Hopera, taught me I could create in ways I did not know I could. And Dr. Maryanne Wolf's unforgettable lectures taught me to approach any project with excitement and curiosity."

Being an artist, Tucker does more than carry out his on-the-job responsibilities; he creates art – the best example being Hamlet, the Hip-Hopera, which began as an independent study at Tufts with Dr. Kathleen Camara and premiered at the Balch Arena Theater in 2011. Since that time, he has produced the musical for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, where he was nominated for the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Playwriting Award, and most recently for the New York International Fringe Festival, where it was selected as a Festival Favorite. When asked, "Why rap? Why Shakespeare?" Tucker replied, "Fusing Hamlet with hip-hop was instinctive. I have loved rap since I was a child. I was taken with its immediacy, with how quickly and potently it could communicate ideas. When I encountered Hamlet in high school, I was gripped by his humor (He loves puns!) and by his desperate desire to make sense of the world and his feelings. That same struggle is what often drives me to write music."

...Hamlet, the Hip-Hopera, ... began as an independent study at Tufts with Dr. Kathleen Camara and premiered at the Balch Arena Theater in 2011.


The musical is perhaps the best example of Tucker's ongoing connection to EP – since it speaks to today's youth. He says, "It's been amazing to see the show spark conversations. I'm not trying to convert all teenagers into Shakespeare aficionados, but it was really cool when I'd perform the show at high schools and kids were genuinely excited about what was happening. Afterwards, they'd talk to me about the same things that grabbed me when I first read the play, but also things I'd never thought of before. I'm glad I was able to contribute something that encouraged that kind of engagement."


Rita Mazina

Rita Mazina

Rita Mazina, 2011

I graduated from Tufts in 2011 with degrees in Child Development and Psychology. Originally a pre-med student, I decided my senior year that instead of going to medical school, I would pursue a career as a pediatric nurse practitioner. After graduating, I took a year off to take prerequisite classes and apply to nursing school. In August 2012, I started at the Yale School of Nursing, where I did an accelerated 3-year program in advanced practice nursing – to become a pediatric nurse practitioner.

At Yale, I loved studying physiology, health assessments, diagnoses, and the latest treatments, but I felt most connected to studying the holistic model of nursing as a profession – to the part where patients are treated as human beings first and foremost and only secondarily as individuals defined by their illness and diagnosis. I associated this holistic nursing model with much of what I had learned as an Eliot-Pearson student. For example, I specifically remember learning to call a child with autism just that, and not an autistic child. I carry this practice with me in every interaction I have with my patients.

I have been a pediatric nurse practitioner now for the past two years. Though I know that I received a great education and was ready to start my career after graduation, nothing can quite prepare you for the day-to-day life in this field. I love what I do – that I can see a well newborn one minute and counsel parents on what is normal and abnormal and treat an asthma attack the next. I love that I can play with toddlers while examining them and also have serious discussions with teenagers all in one day. Nevertheless, being a primary care practitioner has its challenges. The truth is that you have to navigate insurance policies and requirements that you may not feel are beneficial or necessary for your patients. And sometimes there are productivity pressures that make it difficult to spend as much time with a patient as they may need or you might like. In addition, electronic medical records have created new time constraints as documentation now consumes large portions of the workday, even as direct patient care and face-to-face interactions continue to be what should come first.

Every day of my practice, I am reminded that it takes support from one person, caring for and relating to another, in order to develop resilience in a child – I learned this, too, from my years at Eliot-Pearson.


However, despite these challenges, the rewards of caring for children in my role as a nurse practitioner cannot be understated. The opportunity to see newborns become clever, talkative toddlers and help their parents make healthy choices that will positively impact their children as young adults is extremely gratifying. Even more rewarding is the knowledge that I can now make a difference. I was reminded of this when a teenage girl thanked me for asking about her mental health, acknowledging her depression, and taking the time to have a conversation with her father about the need to stop stigmatizing the disorder so that she could get the therapy she needed. Every day of my practice, I am reminded that it takes support from one person, caring for and relating to another, in order to develop resilience in a child – I learned this, too, from my years at Eliot-Pearson.


Avanti Taneja

Avanti Taneja

Avanti Taneja, 2013

Avanti Taneja graduated from Tufts summa cum laude in 2013 – after double majoring in child development and anthropology. She went on to complete a master's program in Migration and Diaspora Studies in England. As a budding writer of children's books, we see the anthropologist in her in the way she focused on migration stories that are common in today's troubled world. But we also see the child savvy person she is in the ways she tells imaginative-fanciful migration stories, stories that not only engage children but also provide them with hope and a sense of security. She says, "In reading and writing for children, I relish entering a world where young people are agents of their own circumstances and their imagination is celebrated. This child-centered approach is something that was instilled in me during my time at Tufts and Eliot-Pearson. One of the most salient influences was the course I took with Dr. Lerner at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development, where I began to think about children and young people's democratic voice and active citizenship capabilities. That influence shows up in one of my characters who invents an imaginary society where children are in charge, at first as a game for her brother and eventually as her own coping mechanism that becomes crucial to her safety."

She goes on to say, "My passion for children and the childlike, nurtured at Tufts, also intersects with my interest in telling migration stories. For me, migration stories are about the themes of childhood and growing up: love and loss, displacement, sense of belonging and arriving at a new ‘home' – be that an actual place or a renewed identity."

Avanti's first short story publication came out this summer in AQUILA children's magazine for 8-12 year-olds. The story is based on the characters of her novel in progress. As a result of the publication, in June, she was ‘highly commended' for a Faber & Faber children's writing prize, and a few literary agents have expressed interest in the manuscript of her novel in progress. The novel in progress builds on her personal and political interest in migration regimes. It features Atalia, a young dreamer from Aleppo, who journeys into refugeehood and uses her storytelling imagination to navigate the smuggling and asylum systems that will lead her to ‘home.'

"My passion for children ... intersects with my interest in telling migration stories ... about the themes of childhood and growing up: love and loss, displacement, sense of belonging and arriving at a new ‘home' ... or a renewed identity...


If the themes of migration in today's troubling times seem inappropriate for children, Avanti answers that children have the capacity to experience and participate in the troubles that effect so many, including the troubles inherent in migration from war-torn countries such as Syria. But with children, she says, the key is helping them experience and participate in their own ways – which are ways having to do with imaginative stories. She writes, "The EP ethos of valuing and celebrating a childlike view of the world has been the through-line of my non-profit career as well as my emerging writing career." We see, then, in Avanti's compassion for children and in her taking a child's perspective, a keen awareness of the value of fantasy – not for fleeing from a troubled world but for making sense of a troubled world and in doing so, becoming better equipped to survive and even thrive in a troubled world.


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Alumni Stories

News from Alumni

1983 — Alice Hanscom (Alice Gould) writes that for the last nine years she has been a PCI Certified Parent Coach with her own business — Denali Parent Coaching. Her work for parents has also included writing three books described on the following links: Parenting Inspired: Finding Grace in the Chaos...; PAUSE: The Power of Parenting...; and Denali Parent Coaching.

1991 — Julie Patterson was recently selected for the 2017 POZ 100, which recognizes women (either HIV positive or negative) who are committed to ending the HIV epidemic. POZ is a magazine that chronicles the lives of people affected by HIV/AIDS.. To learn more about Julie's work, see this link in POZ.

1994 — Ilda King is in her twentieth year of self-employment consulting to school districts and creating reading programs for students who have not responded to other special education methods, training teachers in alternate special education reading techniques and ways of diagnosing reading disabilities.

1998 — Dan Lord continues his combined art and teaching career the Massachusetts' ‘North Shore' – where he creates with colored pencil and oil paints, maintains two art studios, and granite cutting, and where he runs two art studios at Harborlight Montessori School. Both children and adults continue to be the beneficiaries of his creativity and teaching.

2001 — Jamie Delaney (formerly Granatino) is now working as the Florida Regional Director for Early Autism, Inc. – based in the Tampa Bay Florida area. She works with a variety of children with special needs in different settings and writes, "I use the skills I learned back in my EP classes with my children both at work and at home, and my experience at Tufts made me a better clinician and mom!"

2005 — Shara Marrero Brofman writes of the ongoing influence that EP has had on her as she works as a clinical psychologist in reproductive psychology.

2006 — Andrea Andrade After becoming chief resident in Family Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Andrea has returned to the Bronx, NY to work with her father in his medical practice and to work in outpatient, primary care medicine. She has hopes to do international medicine as well as continue with providing outpatient, primary care.

2013 — Stella Benezra After working in an after-school program in Austin, TX, and in the Putney School Summer Program in Putney, VT., Stella got her master's degree from the Teachers College Columbia University's master's program in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education. She currently works in the New York Department of Education as a teacher of the Deaf. She says, "My passion for deaf education began at Tufts with my sign language courses, deaf culture classes, and volunteer work with the Deaf and Blind."

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"I use the skills I learned back in my EP classes with my children both at work and at home..."

Jamie Delaney



"My passion for deaf education began at Tufts with my sign language courses, deaf culture classes, and volunteer work with the deaf and blind"

Stella Benezra



News from Most Recent Graduates

Highlighted below are several of our recent graduates and the work that they are doing. Click on an alumni's name to read the full profile.

Simone Dufresne — Transition Navigator and Coordinator
Simone works for the Autism Program at Boston Medical Center as the Transition Navigator and the coordinator of TEAM, the program's teen mentoring initiative.

Lauren Gabriel — Lead Teacher and Social Group Facilitator
Lauren works at FUSE Preschool, a therapeutic school for children with social and emotional challenges.

Leah Harrigan — Clinical Supervisor
Leah works at Youth Villages managing a team of counselors who serve children with emotional and behavioral needs.

Patrece Joseph — PhD Student at Tufts University
Patrece is working towards her PhD at Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development.

Qing Liu — Family Service Specialist
Qing works at the Concentric Social Work Service Center serving 500,000 residents in Guangzhou, China.

Sarah Neville — International Project Coordinator
Sarah works at EDC helping to manage US government foreign aid-funded education projects.

Sarah Pila — PhD Student at Northwestern University
Sarah is currently a PhD student in Media, Society and Technology working at the Center on Media and Human Development.

Lindsay Rosen — PsyD Student at Denver University
Lindsay is working towards her Doctor of Psychology in clinical psychology.


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