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Vanderbilt Project Team

Meet our Team

Primary Investigator

Erik Carter
Erik Carter, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department Special Education at Vanderbilt University and an investigator of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. His research and teaching focuses on evidence-based strategies for supporting access to the general curriculum and promoting valued roles in school, work, and community settings for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. His research interests include adolescent transitions from school to adult life; peer relationships and peer support interventions; students with severe disabilities, access to the general curriculum; and religion, congregational supports, and disabilities.


Co-Primary Investigator

Blair Lloyd
Blair Lloyd, Ph.D., BCBA-D, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at Vanderbilt University. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and a member of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. In the Department of Special Education, Dr. Lloyd teaches graduate courses on Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Single Case Research Methodology, and special topics courses on Childhood Aggression and Intensive Interventions. Her current research focuses on intensive, individualized assessments and interventions for students with persistent challenging behavior.


Project Director

Abbie Jenkins
Abbie B. Jenkins has been the Project Coordinator for the Tennessee Behavior Supports Project since 2010. Her current interests include supporting schools in implementing multi-tiered systems of support.


Training Director

Brooke Shuster
Brooke Shuster, M.Ed., BCBA, received her Master’s degree in Special Education and Behavior Analysis from Vanderbilt University. She joins the team after serving as a special education teacher and then a Behavior Analyst in school districts in Middle Tennessee.


Educational Consultant

Becky Shafer
Becky Shafer, M.Ed., BCBA, received her Master’s degree in Special Education and Behavior Analysis from Vanderbilt University. She previously worked in Middle Tennessee school districts as a teacher and behavior consultant. She also has experience working in home and clinical settings as a Behavior Analyst.


Educational Consultant

Dia Davis
Dia Davis, M.A., received her Master’s degree in Varying Exceptionalities from the University of South Florida and is working on her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt team, Dia worked as a consultant on the Florida’s Positive Behavioral Interventions & Support Project, served as a District Coordinator for PBIS, a District Multi-Tiered System of Supports Facilitator, and a special education teacher.


Educational Consultant

Melissa Hine
Melissa Hine, M.Ed., NCC, received her Master’s degree in Professional Counseling from The University of Georgia and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. Previous to Vanderbilt, she worked as a Professional School Counselor for school districts in Georgia and Iowa and managed grant work at the UGA Disability Resource Center.


Educational Consultant

Tara Axelroth
Tara Axelroth, M.Ed., BCBA, received her Master’s degree in Special Education and Behavior Analysis from Vanderbilt University. She was previously a special education teacher in Middle Tennessee where she served on her school’s leadership team to develop their school-wide positive behavioral support program.


Educational Consultant

Emily Lanchak, M.Ed., received her Master’s degree in Special Education from Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining the Vanderbilt team, Emily worked as special education teacher in Middle Tennessee. She also holds a secondary education teaching license. Emily served on her school’s RTI2-B leadership team and enjoyed the opportunity to utilize both her special education and general education experience to develop her school’s positive behavior support system.


Media Specialist

Devin Curtis works on multiple projects as a media producer for the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Devin enjoys sharing stories of triumph over adversity from schools and individuals all across the state.


Media Specialist

Kyle Kurlick works on multiple projects as a media specialist for the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Kyle has spent the past decade telling the stories of Tennesseans across the state as a multimedia producer for various organizations.


Research Analyst

Caitlin Bernstein
Caitlin Bernstein graduated Next Steps last year and loved the program. This is her first year working on this project. She is from Saint Louis but lives in Nashville now. She likes to go to the mall, hang out with friends, and go to Starbucks. She is a big fan of coffee. She also likes to exercise in her room and hang out with her family.


Graduate Assistant

Manavi Jain is a graduate student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a Master’s degree in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She has been working on this project as a Research Assistant since Fall 2018. After graduating she hopes to work as a special educator and behavior analyst in as well as outside of the United States. 


Graduate Assistant

Zichen Gao is a first-year master student in the High Incidence program in the department of Special Education with a BA degree in Literature and Translation from China Agricultural University. Originally from China, she loves Shakespeare and Poe. Her favorite quote is “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”


Graduate Assistant

Jiayue Liu is a first year student in the Vanderbilt University Special Education High Incidence Program. She has a great passion for education, especially focusing on providing positive supports to students with challenging behavior, and she’s always energetic. Also, she enjoys swimming and cooking Chinese cuisine in her spare time. 


Graduate Assistant

Stephanie Thompson is a first year Masters student in the Special Education department at Peabody College. She received her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education and Child Studies before deciding to continue her education at Vanderbilt. 


Graduate Assistant

Maddie Ferrell is currently a first-year master student in the low-incidence program. She is originally from Atlanta, GA. Before coming to Vanderbilt she went to Clemson University where she got her Bachelor of Arts in Special Education. After Vanderbilt she hopes to become an elementary school special education teacher.