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Our Team

Researchers and Staff

Project Director
Kathryn Underwood

Tricia van Rhijn
Virginia Caputo
Elaine Frankel (retired)
Gillian Parekh
Karen Spalding (retired)
Magdalena Janus
Brenda Poon
Patricia Douglas
Martha Friendly
Arlene Haché (retired)
Joanne Weber
Nicole Ineese-Nash

Kathryn Church (retired)
Eliza Chandler
Kristin Snoddon
Kathleen Brophy (retired)
Breanna Lawrence
Donna Lero (retired)
Heather Willis
Henry Parada
Marion Trent-Kratz
Bryany Denning
Catherine Moher
Yvonne Bomberry
Jessica Mudry
Stephen Swales
Janelle Brady

Special thank you to past Researchers
Laura Coulman
Taunya Paquette

Administrative Lab Manager
Katherine Ceolin

Project Coordinators
Alison Smith
Catriona Kollar

Data Coordinator
Thanh Thanh Chung

Research Assistants
Asshwi Krishnagopal
Grace Caya
Melanie Dos Remedios


Yvette Cooper

Past Staff

  • Amber Ahmed
  • Taylor Akers
  • Maheen Akif
  • Sultan Arziman
  • Abneet Atwal
  • Kaitlyn Avery
  • Jacky Au Duong
  • Alec Benavides
  • Dezarae Bodnar
  • Yvonne Bomberry
  • Stephanie Brocca
  • Abigail Buist
  • Joyce Chan
  • Lynn Cormier
  • Betty Daley
  • Joanne Desjardins
  • Riley Easterbrook
  • Laura Feltham
  • Heather Finch
  • Patricia Gora
  • Brooke Groombridge-McLeod
  • Amber Holmes
  • Tyler Huff
  • Nerissa Hutchinson
  • Christina Ilichev
  • Michelle Jones
  • Jeff Junke
  • Stephanie King-McLaren
  • Lanze Kishong
  • Angela Lenis
  • Ziqi Liu 
  • Julia Martin 
  • Nan McLeod
  • Mathew Mendonca
  • Karina Mohammed
  • Shagini Nithianandarajah
  • Stephanie O'Leary  
  • Caitlyn Osbourne
  • Sana Rokhsefat
  • Emily Shallhorn 
  • Penny Smith
  • Rsha Soud
  • Jessica Vostermans 
  • Kristen Tollan
  • Shruti Vyas 
  • Judi Winkup

Past Students

  • Rhutta Bhatti
  • Tavia Campbell
  • Melissa Fay
  • Josephine Fernicola
  • Dianne Jang
  • Michaela Jones
  • Kate MacEachern
  • MacDonald Maunder
  • Sierra Miller
  • Tracy Ranta
  • Lauren Rodgers
  • Shazia Sami
  • Judy Sengsavang
  • Samra Shakil
  • Grace Sweetman
  • Rachel Taras 
  • Francine Venne
  • Jiayao Wang 

Staff and Student Profiles

Abneet Atwal

I joined the IECSS project as a research assistant in 2017 after completing the MA ECS program at Toronto Metropolitan University. Shortly after this I started working as one of the project coordinators on the team. As a project coordinator I have had the opportunity to develop as a researcher through supporting recruitment, interviews, transcription, mapping, analysis, writing, and knowledge mobilization activities. I have also had the amazing opportunity to work with the IECSS Youth advisory Committee since 2018. Working with the youth advisors on several projects such as writing reports, research articles, and developing the Research Matters…for Children website has contributed to my knowledge and will continue to influence my future work. I will continue to stay connected to the project through my PhD research focused on the intersection of human movement and childhood disability. During my time on the project I have been able to learn from families, community organizations, and the larger IECSS research team. As I work towards finishing my PhD, I hope to continue to learn from these different groups!

Shazia Sami

I am a 4th-year student at Toronto Metropolitan University in Early Childhood Studies. I have completed my 3rd-year placement remotely with IECSS in the current year. I have learned many new skills throughout my placement. My main responsibilities included a transcription training session, participating in team meetings and check-ins with my team, transcribing, maintaining confidentiality, policy brief recommendations, and providing daily updates. I have learned many new skills throughout my placement such as communication skills and how to actively listen and transcribe during the task of transcription, professionalism, how to support policy briefs, and learning about interview protocols. The IECSS team is extremely supportive and guided me throughout my learning journey. The team helped me out and mentored me in every way possible by helping me achieve my goals as a placement student. It was an amazing learning experience overall. It was such a pleasure to be a part of IECSS.

Alec Benavides

Working as a research assistant for the IECSS project has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career thus far! Through transcribing interviews, I have the great privilege of learning about families’ experiences with services. I believe that my role will make me an informed healthcare worker in the future. The IECSS team is also great as everyone is supportive of each other and dedicated to the project. I always leave our team meetings feeling inspired and lucky to be part of the team!

Thanh Thanh (Trang) Chung

I became part of the IECSS project as a research assistant in 2015, when the project was conducting their first interviews. After 4 years into the project, I became the Data Coordinator, where I led the distribution of data to ensure its completion. I have recently completed my MA ECS program at Toronto Metropolitan University and had an amazing opportunity to critically analyze the data I had been working with for almost a decade. During my time in the IECSS project, I had also been working in the field with disabled children and got to actually see daily how institutional systems operate in my work experience. As a result, this has allowed me to become a better teacher, therapist, support worker, and researcher. It has been such a pleasure working with an amazing team and getting the opportunity to hear about these real-life experiences.

Nerissa Hutchinson

I am a 4th-year student at Toronto Metropolitan University in the Child and Youth Care program. As a research assistant, my responsibilities include transcribing and working together with an amazing team that is professional, supportive, and dedicated. Working with my team has been an amazing opportunity that has helped me in understanding and learning the experiences of families as they navigate systems and services. I believe this experience will benefit me tremendously in my continued education toward my Master's Degree and working in the field.

Yvette Cooper

I became involved with the IECSS project as part of my 3rd-year practicum. As a mother to 4 daughters, three of whom have disabilities, I am passionate about access to services and support that families and individuals need. Involvement with the IECSS project has given me the opportunity to be involved in meaningful work that not only has the potential to support families in the future but supports participants right now by providing active listening regarding their journeys. Transcription has allowed me to hear multiple stories from all different families, deepening my understanding of the barriers and struggles faced by families trying to support their children with disabilities. 

Laura Feltham

I learned about the IECSS project while completing my MA in the Early Childhood Studies program at TMU and later became a part of the IECSS team in Spring 2018. I feel so fortunate to have been able to work with this team and learn firsthand, through the project, the importance of community partnerships. I am so grateful to have so many participants in the study continue to participate year after year and share their experiences navigating systems. In my time as a project coordinator with the IECSS project, I have participated in recruitment, interviews, transcription, system mapping, report and academic writing, and dissemination. I was also able to work on the ethics applications and management for the project, allowing me a deeper understanding of research ethics and its processes. I feel so fortunate to have been able to play a role in this important project and will continue to listen and learn from the IECSS project. 

Josephine Fernicola
I am currently a fourth-year Early Childhood Studies student at Toronto Metropolitan University. With over twenty years of experience working with children and also being a mother to five, I wanted a field placement that would challenge me and teach me something new. My third-year field placement with the Inclusive Early Childhood Service System Project (IECSS) did just that! Part of my responsibilities as a student was to complete a transcription and work on the mapping process. I was able to see and hear some of the challenges many families face when accessing services and support for their children with special needs. For me, the complexity and some of the barriers of these real-life experiences were very surprising and solidified the importance of this research project. As a mom of a child with special needs, I am honoured to have been a part of this incredible team and I am also grateful that research is being conducted to learn more about these challenges. I was reminded that parents are the experts and there is so much to learn from each family’s unique journey. This experience has widened my understanding of research and will help me in many ways with my future endeavours in the early childhood field.