Fred R. Volkmar
Fred R. Volkmar, M.D., is the Dorothy W. Goodwin Endowed Chair in Special Education and the Director of the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University. He comes to Southern from his position as Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and Psychology at Yale University, Child Study Center where he served for eight years as Director of the Center. A graduate of the University of Illinois and Stanford, Dr. Volkmar completed residency training in adult psychiatry and then a Fellowship in Child Psychiatry at the Yale University's School of Medicine. He has dedicated his career to understanding and treating children with developmental disorders and is a leader in the field of autism research. He has served as a teacher and mentor to many trainees some of whom are now leaders in the field. Dr. Volkmar's grants and publications run just short of 100 pages in his CV. He is editor of the Journal of Autism, a gifted clinician and teacher and his contributions have greatly improved the lives of children suffering from developmental disorders and their families.
Kari Sassu, Ph.D., NCSP, is a research scientist with 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. She served as the Director of the Center of Excellence for Autism Spectrum Disorders for one year. Dr. Sassu also 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.
Dr. Bean is a research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders at Southern CT State University. Her current research interests focus around the knowledge and use of evidence-based practices used with students with ASD in our CT schools. Additionally, she is interested in investigating supports at the college level for individuals with ASD. She has presented at national conferences on the following topics related to ASD: supports for families, technology used in classrooms, reading interventions, and use and knowledge of evidence-based practices. She is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education and Reading at SCSU. She is the Graduate Coordinator and Area Coordinator for the Master’s Special Education Program Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Developmental Disabilities. Before joining Southern Connecticut State University, she was a special educator in the public school setting with children with ASD for ten years.
Dr. Meghan Brahm, BCBA, is an Assistant Professor at Southern Connecticut State University in the Department of Special Education, teaching in the Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis concentrations, and is a Research Scientist in Center of Excellence on ASD. Dr. Brahm completed her Ph.D. at the National University of Ireland, Galway in Psychology and ABA in 2018. Her doctoral work focused on epidemiological studies of ASD, including the evaluation of weight related maternal risk factors for the development of ASD in offspring and the application of ABA to manage disordered eating, pre-pregnancy. Dr. Brahm received her Master’s degree in 2012 from The University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford, Connecticut in special education, ASD and ABA after completing her Bachelors in 2009 at Eastern Connecticut State University in Psychology, focusing on psychology of childhood and adolescence and ABA. Dr. Brahm is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst who has worked both domestically and internationally as a practitioner and consultant across a multitude of settings, supervising evidence-based interventions to support individuals with ASD and developmental disabilities of varying ages. At current, Dr. Brahm’s work focuses on researching and delivering effective training services to school-based personnel, families and community service providers to increase the integrity with which evidence-based practices are used to support individuals with ASD.
Barbara 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.
Mark 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).
Karen Meers, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA-CT is a Research Associate for the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Meers 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 and is certified to teach Special Education (K-12) in Connecticut. 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, 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.
Bogdan Zamfir directs the Center for Educational and Assistive Technology at Southern Connecticut State University and teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Special Education Department. As a member of the Center of Excellence on ASD team, he provides assistive technology expertise and support. His current research interests focus on the role of technology in supporting classroom instruction and he is finishing his Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a dissertation on the role of pedagogy and content on technology selection by faculty in higher education.
Past Center Directors
Dr. Ruth Eren, along with the late former interim dean of the School of Education James Granfield, co-created the Center in 2010 to help provide the state with a distinctive resource to improve the experiences of children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). She spent many years consulting with public schools in Connecticut regarding program development for children with ASD and has been a member of several state committees related to this subject, including Connecticut’s Task Force for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr. Eren is a former special education teacher and administrator, and served as chairwoman of the SCSU Special Education Department. A noted expert in this field on program development for children she was selected, after a national search, as the Goodwin Endowed Chair in Special Education, the first endowed chair in the University's 122-year history.
James (Jim) Michael Granfield
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.