Meet the Team

Kenann McKenzie-ThompsonDr. Kenann McKenzie
Executive Director, Wheelock College Office of Sponsored Programs
617-879-1034
kmckenzie@wheelock.edu

Dr. Kenann McKenzie immigrated to the United States at the age of 7 and has had a multinational, multicultural framework that shapes her approach to education and research. Based on her own childhood experiences in Guyana as well as her upbringing in New York City, she made a decision at 12 years old to devote her future life's work to improving the lives of children and families—to which the mission and vision of Wheelock College is a perfect complement.

For the last 20 years she has worked in the higher education sector as an academic counselor, researcher, lecturer, and policy analyst. In addition, she has also worked in the K-12 sector and the federal government as an administrator. During that time, she earned her doctorate from a joint degree program at Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Teachers College in the Politics of Education. In her most recent post, she served as the Executive Director for the National Board of Education Sciences (NBES).

In addition to being heavily engaged with the school her two children attend, she also serves on volunteer boards that focus on children and education. Dr. McKenzie credits her undergraduate research experience with helping her to engage in and relish her college experience while attending Cornell University. She is excited to join the Wheelock family to help create its first Office of Sponsored Programs. Her hope is that it will serve as a point of connection and community for faculty, staff, and students. Dr. McKenzie has a BA in Africana Studies from Cornell University, M.Ed. from the University of Virginia in Social Foundations of Education, and Ph.D. in the Politics of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Mary Watson Avery

Mary Watson Avery
Senior Program Director
Aspire Institute
617-879-1462
mavery@wheelock.edu

Mary Watson Avery, M.S, is the Aspire Institute Senior Program Director, in addition to leading the Connected Beginnings Training Institute. Her career has focused on babies, young children and their families. Her special interests include the professional development of individuals working with families; the play of typical and traumatized children; therapeutic parent education; and the mentoring of early childhood trainers. She has been a teacher, administrator and consultant in several urban early childhood programs in New York City and the greater Boston area. Mary has also served on the faculty at Harvard Graduate School of Education and was the Director of Family Connections, a community mental health outreach program based at Children's Hospital Boston. Mary earned an MS in Infant and Toddler Studies from Wheelock College and a BFA from Manhattanville College in Studio Art. She also authored a variety of articles, curricula, and co-authored and illustrated the children's book, What Is Beautiful? (1995, Tricycle Press) with her husband David M. Avery.

Eric BurkesEric Burkes
Manager of Operations and Communications
Aspire Institute
617-879-1064
eburkes@wheelock.edu 

Eric Burkes received his Master of Arts in Professional Writing from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He has experience with several aspects of writing, including grant writing, technical writing and proofreading, as well as writing for internal and external communications.  Following his graduate studies, he served for three years as a Lead Teacher in an Afterschool program where he promoted the social, emotional, physical and cognitive development of children in grades K-8.  Eric also has previous early childhood experience serving as an Administrative Assistant at Somerville Early Head Start. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Communication with a concentration in Public Relations at Boston University.

Emily CallejasEmily Callejas, Ed.M.
Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Content Manager
Connected Beginnings Training Institute
617-879-1348
ecallejas@wheelock.edu

Emily Potts Callejas is the Connected Beginnings Training Institute Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health Content Manager. In this role, Emily supports the development, adaptation, and delivery of the Institute's trainings across early childhood and family service settings. Emily's career has focused on working with administrators, parents, and children in culturally and geographically diverse educational environments to improve educational opportunities. Emily holds an Ed.M. in Risk and Prevention from Harvard University Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in History from Barnard College. Prior to her work at Connected Beginnings, Emily served as a mental health consultant and materials development coordinator for Family Connections at Boston Children's Hospital. In this role she worked with both children and adults to address depression and related adversities in Head Start programs. Emily is the co-author of several publications including the Tell Me A Story Materials for Working with Families (CallejasBeardslee, Ayoub, and  Avery) and the Tell Me A Story Materials (Avery, Beardslee, Ayoub, Callejas & Watts).

Emily has also worked at the Florida Charter School Resource Center in Tampa, Florida, as an advisor to families and school officials on the strategies and challenges involved in starting up charter schools. Emily's experiences in education reform began with Advantage Schools in Boston, where she wrote and oversaw implementation for special programs under Titles I, II, IV, and VI of the Improving America's Schools Act for sixteen charter schools.

Tulika LahiryTulika Lahiry
Grants and Contracts Accountant
Aspire Institute
617-879-1150
tlahiry@wheelock.edu

Tulika Lahiry started her career as Grants and Contracts Accountant at Wheelock College Aspire Institute in January, 2015. She does Payroll, budgeting, reporting, and billing for Aspire Institute and CBTI grants and contracts.

Tulika started her career as a Project Manager in India. She then moved to Canada and started her career as an accountant. After moving to the USA, she took some time off and stayed home with her daughter. In May 2005, Tulika started her first job in the USA as Financial Analyst at UMASS Medical School where she learned about MA state Contracts. She then went to Worcester Polytechnic Institute where she worked as a Research (Grant) Accountant. At WPI, she worked with hundreds of Federal and Corporate Grants, and State Contracts. Tulika then joined Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. as Senior Accountant.

Tulika has a Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in History. She also acquired a Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Applications.

Amy McClennenAmy Quatromoni McClennen
Teacher Support Program Manager
Aspire Institute
amcclennen@wheelock.edu

Amy Quatromoni McClennen brings a deep understanding of urban teaching and Boston Public School (BPS) culture to her role as Teacher Support Program manager. Amy's focus is to ensure teachers get the support they need to improve classroom outcomes for children and adults. Prior to joining the Aspire team, Amy was a school board member, a teacher mentor, a kindergarten teacher in Mexico, and a Boston Public School teacher.

During her 17 years in BPS, Amy worked as an elementary science specialist, a reading specialist, a kindergarten teacher, a third grade teacher, and a paraprofessional. Working in both public and private school settings has allowed Amy to appreciate and honor the relationship between culture and educational expectations.

Amy earned her B.A. in Art History & Business from Skidmore College, her M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College, and completed post-graduate work in language acquisition & linguistics at Boston University.

Olivia ThomesOlivia Thomes
Learning Solutions Project Coordinator, Operations Specialist
Aspire Institute
othomes@wheelock.edu

Olivia Thomes is a graduate of Wheelock College with a BA in Literature and minors in Writing, Communications: Media Literacy, and Music History. She is currently enrolled in Lesley University's MFA program for Creative Writing. Through her work as a creative writer and a literature scholar she has come to believe that readers and writers discover meaning together through the medium of language, which she incorporates into her work. Olivia has been employed in a number of fields from managing horse barns, project coordinating and assisting in the labs at Beth Israel Hospital, serving as a TA at Wheelock College, teaching writing workshops in New Orleans, teaching enrichment classes in the Boston area, serving as an Executive Functioning tutor, and actively volunteering for the community. From these different roles Olivia has developed a knack for problem solving and specializes in maintaining an exceedingly functional and friendly/collaborative work environment.

Catherine WakelyCatherine Wakely
Training and Technology Specialist
Connected Beginnings Training Institute and Aspire Institute
617-879-1465
cwakely@wheelock.edu 

Catherine Wakely is the Training and Technology Specialist at Connected Beginnings Training Institute, where she joined the staff in 2011. Catherine specializes in coordinating all registration, database use, training participant data gathering and reporting for CBTI, Aspire, and the Department of Government, External Affairs & Community Impact at Wheelock College. She earned her B.S. in Animal Studies from the The University of Maine where she also worked for several years as an IT support consultant. Catherine has also served as an operations coordinator at Sun Life Financial.

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