Annie Slease is the strategic manager of Mental Health Initiatives at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies. Prior to joining CDS in December 2022, Annie enjoyed a 25-year teaching career before serving for more than five years as director of advocacy and education at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Delaware.
Annie serves on several statewide mental health advocacy initiatives. She is the mental health lead for the Delaware School-Based Health Alliance, the youth subcommittee chair for the Delaware Suicide Prevention Coalition, and she sits on the Education Committee of the Lt. Governor’s Behavioral Health Consortium as well as the Department of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families Advisory and Advocacy Council.
Annie holds a bachelor of arts in Education from Benedictine College and a master of Education from the University of Delaware. She and her husband, Tom, have five grown children who live in five different states. Annie and Tom live in Newark with their cat, Daisy, and their pandemic puppy, Penny Rose.
Brian Bard is a program specialist with the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program at The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). Before joining NIDILRR, he worked at OSERS/RSA as a grants management specialist handling assistive technology formula grant programs.
Brian has also spent several years as a state vocational rehabilitation counselor in Delaware. Previously, he worked for the Air Force as an intelligence specialist, ran an eBay business with his wife, worked on websites, wrote for newspapers and magazines, and worked as a computer programmer.
He holds a Masters degree in rehabilitation counseling from George Washington University.
Brian’s been an advocate for individuals with disabilities via several committees in Delaware (and Florida), including the Policy and Law Committee, the State Council for Persons with Disabilities, and the State Rehabilitation Council. He’s volunteered as a mentor for individuals with disabilities and taught computer courses for individuals with disabilities.
When he’s not busy indulging his love of technology, Brian enjoys SCUBA diving, HAM radios, service dogs and target shooting.
He lives with this wife in Seaford, Del., and has two children. Brian notes that he’s been a quadriplegic for nearly 30 years, the result of a diving accident while on his honeymoon. He says he understands the proper phrase now is “tetraplegic,” but adds that he “can’t seem to get used to that term.”
Brynn Fallah works as a coach with CDS’s Delaware Positive Behavior Support (DE-PBS) Project, assisting school districts with their implementation of a multi-tiered behavioral and mental health support system for students. She also works on other grant-based projects at CDS including Project DelAWARE and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Brynn’s background in is school counseling and has worked with students from kindergarten through 12th grade in both Delaware and New York City. Brynn has a passion for social-emotional learning and mental health. She is an advocate of mental wellness and self-care and uses social media to do her own personal end-the-stigma campaign.
Brynn lives in Hockessin, Del., with her husband and son, and their Maltese. When work isn’t the focus, Brynn can be found practicing yoga, going on hikes and enjoying time with her family and friends.
Brittany Powers is the Interim Director of Health & Wellness at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She oversees multiple projects aimed at supporting the systems that serve children and youth with special healthcare needs, as well as families of individuals with developmental disabilities and autism. Brittany serves as the CDC Act Early Ambassador to Delaware and is a current doctoral student in the Health Behavior Science and Promotion program at UD. She received her Master’s in Public Health and Certificate in Health Education from New York Medical College.
Brittany’s passion for disability studies arose while a fellow in the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and related Disabilities (LEND) program at the Westchester Institute for Human Development. During her training, Brittany conducted an extensive review on available autism screening tools and participated in a research study of caseworker knowledge of disabilities in the child welfare system.
When Brittany is not at work or busy with her studies, she can be found teaching yoga and enjoying time outside with her husband, Ryan, and their two dogs, Remi and Bela
Brian Freedman is associate director of the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware, and director of its Transition, Education & Employment Model (TEEM) Unit. He oversees multiple programs for adolescents and adults with disabilities, including UD’s college program for students with intellectual disabilities.
Previously, Brian was the clinical director for the Kennedy Krieger Institute Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore, Md.
Brian’s blog posts represent his experiences as a psychologist, professor, researcher and dad. He has written for a variety of disability-focused publications, including Autism Advocate and Exceptional Parent. He also has published research on topics such as college students with intellectual disabilities and divorce rates among parents of children with autism, and his work has been featured on NPR, in The Baltimore Sun and in The (Delaware) News Journal.
Brian is a huge baseball fan, an avid runner and spends his free time with his wife and their three children at their home in Chester County, Pa.
Charles Bryant is a training/education administrator for the Office of Professional Development within the State of Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services/Division of Developmental Disabilities Services. In that role, he creates and implements statewide training programs for direct support professionals.
Charles got his start in mental health and intellectual and developmental disabilities services at Manhattan Psychiatric Center on Wards Island, N.Y., later relocating to Goldsboro, N.C. to raise his two children in a country environment. While there he worked at O’Berry Center and Cherry Hospital, then left IDD services for 12 years to became a police officer with the Goldsboro Police Department. In 2007, he moved to Delaware, returning to the work he “truly enjoys.”
Charles says his passion for serving people with developmental disabilities stems from a personal experience he and his wife shared in 1988. Their second child, Terrence Bryant, was born with cerebral palsy and lived eight months. Charles says that at that time, he didn’t understand why such a thing could happen to such a young and innocent life. But later, he found himself in a position to help people who in various ways are like Terrence. Now, Charles says, he understands why his son’s life was cut short. His son “ignited a flame within my heart to serve people with developmental disabilities.”
Charles lives with his family in Dover, Del.
Cory Nourie is the Patient Transition Social Work Coordinator at the Nemours Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. where her mantra — “Is it is helpful or positive?” – guides her energy and efforts.
Over her career, Cory has devoted herself to the intellectual and developmental disability community, first as a direct support professional for men with autism, then, before joining Nemours in 2008, as a Training Coordinator at the Center for Disabilities Studies at the University of Delaware
A self-proclaimed “data dork,” she sees herself as a liaison between public policy/systems and real life people.
Cory is a recipient of the Leonard L. Berry Service Excellence Award, the highest honor given to a non-physician at Nemours. She also serves on several boards, councils and committees. Among her commitments: She’s a co-chair on the Delaware State Transition Task Force for Emerging Adults with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs, first vice-chair of the executive committee of the Community Advisory Council to UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, and a member of the Community Advisory Board to The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND).
Away from the office, you’ll find Cory spending time with her husband, two children, cat and dog in Wilmington, Del., and advocating for the public schools in her community.
Daniel Lanier is a student in UD’s Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program, a two-year offering that provides individuals with intellectual disabilities classroom, campus and internship- and career-building experiences. A self-advocate, Daniel is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities through writing and sharing his personal experiences as a person with autism.
Daniel has participated in the Special Olympics of Delaware, and in 2006 received two gold medals in basketball and volleyball, as well as a bronze medal in bowling. These days, he’s an active member of the Brandywine Social Club and an artist for the Creative Vision Factory in Wilmington.
When not studying or working, Daniel enjoys spending time with family, writing poetry and reading. He lives with three roommates in Newark in an assisted living program provided through the state of Delaware.
Debbie Harrington is a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership and Innovation at Wilmington University. She’s also a retired U.S. Army colonel, having logged 25 years in transportation and logistics, and a former administrator for one of the largest African American churches in Delaware.
Debbie is active in community development initiatives and serves on the State Use Law Council, Vocational Rehabilitation Council for Blind & Visually Impaired, Exceptional Child Committee, DOE/DVI MOU Committee, MOT NAACP and Appoquinimink School District “Success for All” Committee.
Debbie lives in Middletown, Del., with her husband, Robert Harrington, an entrepreneur. She’s the parent of three children: Christy and Jeffery, both graduate students, and Elizabeth, a high school student at Maryland School for the Blind.
Debbie loves quiz and word games, listening to “old school music” and hand dancing. Her mantra is “grace and mercy, peace and strength, knowledge and power.”
David Lynch was a member of the executive committee of CDS’s Community Advisory Council.
As a self-advocate, David brought a personal perspective to navigating the disability community and was passionate about seeking improvements for persons with disabilities.
Earlier in his career, David worked in several financial institutions in Delaware.
David lived in Wilmington, Del., at the Mary Campbell Center, a collaborative community that seeks and applies innovation to enhance the well-being and independence of persons with disabilities.
David passed away on March 23, 2016.
Heather Godwin is the program manager for Project DelAWARE, an initiative supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that focuses on expanding and coordinating mental health services in schools. Heather facilitates the grant management in coordination with CDS, the Delaware Department of Education and three partnering school districts: Colonial School District, Capital School District and Indian River School District.
A Delaware native, Heather holds bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and special education and a master’s degree in school leadership from Wilmington University. Heather spent six years teaching a combination of English Language Learners and Special Education (K-5) for Christina School District. Before joining CDS, Heather worked as an administrator at a non-profit organization providing therapeutic classrooms in two New Castle County school districts.
When she isn’t spending quality time with her family or taking her two daughters to dance class, Heather is meeting with her running club for group runs and signing up for her next race near her home in Newark, Del., or eating tacos – lots of tacos.
Jasmina Chatani is a graduate student at the University of Delaware, pursuing both a Master’s and Education Specialist degree in School Psychology. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Human Development and Family Studies and Cognitive Science from UD in May 2017.
Jasmina became interested in working with students with disabilities while completing work study at The College School her sophomore year at UD. As an after-school homework mentor to children with attention, learning and behavioral difficulties, she decided she wanted to combine her passion for psychology with the educational system to ensure that all students have the academic and emotional support they need to thrive. She’s excited to learn more about the disability community as the graduate assistant for CDS’s Communications and Advocacy Unit this school year and looks forward to contributing to the Inclusion blog, exploring issues related to quality of life, specialized instruction and inclusive education. She plans to serve children, families, schools and communities in innovative ways.
When she’s not working or studying, Jasmina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, watching movies, taking walks and daydreaming about vacations she’d like to take.
Karl Booksh has been a professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware since 2006. He earned his doctorate in chemistry from the University of Washington, and was an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina before joining the faculty at Arizona State University in 1996. His research is on chemical sensors for environmental and biomedical analyses, and he’s the author of more than 100 manuscripts on spectroscopy and chemical data analysis. Karl has received the Elseiver Award in Chemometrics and is a fellow of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy.
Karl works to increase the inclusion of persons with disabilities in postsecondary STEM education. He is the principal investigator on a unique NSF funded research experience for undergraduates (REU) program designed to prepare students with disabilities for graduate school in chemistry. He is also past chair of the American Chemical Society Committee on Chemists with Disabilities and a member of both the ACS Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and the Community Advisory Council to UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies.
Karl lives in Hockessin with his wife and twin boys. In his spare time, he enjoys reading history, playing computer games with his kids and fantasizing about having enough time to take up bridge again.
Katie Johnson is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, pursuing a degree in Public Policy with a minor in Disability Studies. While completing her undergraduate program, Katie is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in nonprofit management. Her senior thesis is on the role perception of direct support professionals and she plans to graduate from UD in Spring 2019. Her interest in disability centers around cross-disability social justice movements, radical accessibility, inclusive education and employment, and community-based, self-determinant living. Katie hopes her blog posts will reflect her engagement as a scholar and her interest in public policy.
Through CDS, Katie works with the new Access:Ability Scholars program as a peer mentor to first year scholars. Katie is also a site leader trainer for UDaB (University of Delaware alternative Breaks), where she trains student leaders in areas such as leadership development, diversity and inclusion, and justice topics, to promote active citizenship on campus. When she isn’t working, she enjoys traveling, eating out with her friends, or watching Netflix.
Beth Mineo is the director of the Center for Disabilities Studies and an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware. She also directs the Delaware Assistive Technology Initiative, which has helped thousands of individuals find and acquire AT.
A speech language pathologist with a doctorate in Communication Science and Disorders from the University of Pittsburgh, Beth has helped pioneer new communication interventions and assistive technologies; secured more than $20 million in federal funding for disability-related programs and projects; and contributed to a new Communication Bill of Rights as a member of the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons with Severe Disabilities (www.asha.org/njc). Beth also has served as editor-in-chief of the journal Assistive Technology.
Beth’s an avowed “policy geek.” But most of all, she says she enjoys working with multiple stakeholders on bringing concepts to reality, particularly those that can enable people to live the lives they want for themselves. When she’s not busy with her family, friends and dogs in Wilmington, Del., Beth’s often planning her next project, be it a trip to Scotland, an archeological dig, or a pursuit tied to art and music.
Megan Pell is a coach for the Delaware Positive Behavior Support Project at UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies. She also supports the Center’s School Age Unit’s work with the Access to the General Education Curriculum (AGEC) Committee.
Previously at CDS, she coordinated the Junior Partners in Policymaking Program, created and funded by the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council. Megan has also worked as a transition support teacher and a secondary classroom special education teacher in public and private schools.
Megan views the CDS Inclusion blog as a dynamic venue for sparking new conversations about disability in local and regional communities. She’s especially interested in engaging people in conversations related to disability and sexuality, disability in the arts and the intersection of poverty and disability in schools.
Although Megan and her husband enjoyed living in Brazil in their younger years, they have found their groove in Delaware and feel lucky to be raising their two sons near so much family on the east coast.
Susan Veenema is an instructional coach for the Delaware Positive Behavior Support Project at UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, where she leads professional development and coaching on developing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and social skills.
Susan also discusses her personal experience living with bipolar disorder with students enrolled in UD’s Senior Seminar in Disability Studies. Advocating for a greater awareness of issues affecting people living with mental illness and the elimination of stigmas often associated with people living with mental illness has always been a passion of Susan’s.
Before joining CDS, Susan was a special educator, spending more than 10 years working with students with varied disabilities in residential and public school settings. Most of her teaching consisted of supporting students with autism. Susan is pursuing a graduate degree in Public Policy and Urban Affairs, where she hopes to continue supporting the educational needs of students with disabilities.
Away from work, Susan often can be found outdoors with her husband, two daughters and German Shorthaired Pointer in Chester County, Pa. She loves reading biographies and history, traveling and being a foodie, and developed an appreciation for art while studying in London. She’s grateful whenever she finds the time to explore what’s new in the local art and food scene.
A longtime journalist, advocate and policy analyst, Victor Schaffner joined UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies as its director of communications and advocacy in 2013. Victor launched the Inclusion blog to engage the disability community, public and policy makers in a provocative discussion of issues with the potential to bring about positive changes in the lives of people with disabilities.
Before arriving at CDS, Victor was vice president of policy and outreach with the FloridaNEXT Foundation, a senior editorial writer with the Orlando Sentinel, editorial page editor of The Ann Arbor News, assistant metro editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, and the editor of Empire State Report magazine in Albany, N.Y. His began his reporting career in Chicago, his home town.
The author of hundreds of editorials, blog posts, columns and op-eds spanning disability and non-disability related subjects, Victor’s many honors include the 2010 Florida Society of Professional Journalists’ First Place Award for editorials, the Peter Lisagor First Place Award for public service reporting, and Associated Press and SPJ awards for editorial writing and education reporting.
Victor lives with his wife, an artist, and his daughter, who has special needs, in Chester County, Pa.
Zachary Davis is an outreach associate at the Center for Disability Studies. An Elkton, Md. resident, he first studied saxophone performance at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wis. After the onset of a severe mental disorder, he moved back home and transferred to the University of Delaware.
At UD he studied neuroscience, Japanese and anthropology before returning to writing and acting, his first loves. He will graduate in 2018 with a B.A. in English.
His interest in disability advocacy was born from personal experience and has played a part in everything he’s done since, from research on abnormal psychology to acting with UD’s Healthcare Theatre program, where he specialized in portraying patients with mental and physical disabilities.
Zachary works as a stage and voice actor. He is proudest of his work with the Delaware Shakespeare Festival and as an audiobook narrator.
At home, he and his mom, a professional author, enjoy writing, performing music, going on long road trips and playing video games. They also keep company with an adorable Husky and two highly opinionated cats.