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Our Staff


  Kari Sassu

Kari SassuKari Sassu, Ph.D., NCSP, is the Director of the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders and an Associate Professor in the Counseling and School Psychology department. Dr. Sassu has been a faculty member at SCSU since January of 2010, having taught in the CSP department and served as the Coordinator of School Psychology.  Prior to her appointment as the Center’s Director, Dr. Sassu served as the Coordinator of Development in the Center for two years, during which time she contributed to the development of workshops and training modules for school-based personnel who work with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).  Dr. Sassu has worked with individuals with ASDs in public schools and private settings, conducting assessments, developing individualized plans, and providing supports that capitalize on individual strengths. Over the course of her career, Dr. Sassu has had the opportunity to serve diverse populations in varied settings.  Her professional experience includes service as a public school psychology practitioner in the K-12 setting, providing in-patient rehabilitation counseling to adult patients with dual diagnoses in a residential setting, and conducting neuropsychological evaluations of children and young adults within a practice of clinical psychologists. Dr. Sassu earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Psychological Services, both from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Master’s degree and Sixth Year Professional Diploma in School Psychology, both from the University of Connecticut, a Sixth Year Professional Diploma in Educational Leadership from Southern Connecticut State University, and a doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut. She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) and holds certifications as both a school psychologist and a school administrator in the state of Connecticut. Beyond her work in academia, Dr. Sassu serves her local community as a member and the secretary of her town’s Board of Education.  She is the mother of three children, one of whom has an ASD.
  Barbara Cook
barbara cookBarbara Cook, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, is a full time assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University.  She is the co-advisor of the Student Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club with Dr. Richard Zipoli and engages on multiple committees and initiatives, focusing on supporting university students with social communication challenges. As a member of the Center of Excellence on ASD team, she supports the development of training and research initiatives with an emphasis on the development of social communication, primarily in adolescents and adults.

Dr. Mark Groskreutz 
mark groskreutzMark Groskreutz, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Research, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) who has worked with individuals with ASDs in public and private school settings, their homes, and vocational and community settings.  His experience has focused primarily on designing individualized social and educational curricula, interventions for challenging behavior, classroom specific and district wide professional development programs, and research studies based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). 

Megan Rudne-Hoffecker
hoffeckerMegan Rudne Hoffecker is an Assistant Director of Academic Advising at SCSU and has served as   coordinator of the Artism Program for the Center of Excellence on ASD since 2010. Meg is a dual-certified art and special education teacher, and she focused on Autism for her Master of Science in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University. Through the Center and the Institutional Review Board at SCSU, Meg conducts research of the effects of the Artism program on participants’ social competencies. Since 2011, Meg has travelled to the National Art Education Association annually to present on materials, choices, outcomes, research, and best practices associated with the Artism program.

Dr. Karen Meers
meersKaren Meers, Ph.D., BCBA-D, brings experience in case management and transition planning. She has assisted individuals with ASD in achieving independence through the development of self determination, goal setting, and both educational and vocational skills. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Ph.D. in Adult and Vocational Education. In addition to her work with individuals with disabilities, Dr. Meers spent several years as a corporate trainer, training and development consultant, and instructor for the business and higher education fields.

Deborah Puglia
pugliaDeborah Puglia, M.S., Sixth Year Professional Certificate, brings to the center 36 years of experience as a special education teacher and administrator. Throughout her career, Ms. Puglia has been active in the State Department of Education's BEST and TEAM initiatives a s a mentor trainer, assessor, portfolio scorer and module scorer. Ms. Puglia has led many professional development trainings for both teachers and paraprofessionals. Her special area of interest is the transition of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Ms. Puglia serves as a trainer in the Center's professional development activities. 

granfieldIn Memory of James (Jim) Michael Granfield 
February 16, 1951-July 28, 2010 
Dr. James Granfield, former Co-Director of the Center, passed away in July of 2010. As interim Dean of the Southern Connecticut State University School of Education, Jim had the vision and the courage to support the concept of a Center of Excellence that would serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders. An active member of the 08-5 study group, Jim contributed tremendous effort, knowledge and skill in acquiring and evaluating the information needed to move ahead with initiatives to support the ASD population in Connecticut. He enthusiastically embraced the concept of a Center of Excellence; in fact, Jim would accept nothing short of "excellence" here at Southern.  Once the Center concept was developed into a specific framework with goals and objectives, Jim worked tirelessly with the team to acquire federal funding to support the Center's first year initiatives. Jim's presence and influence will remain with the Center for many years to come.