UConn Scholars

UConn Neag School of Education

Melissa Stalega

I’m Melissa Stalega and I am a second year Phd Student in Special Education at the University of Connecticut. As an undergraduate student at Bryant University, I began as an accounting major with a minor in psychology. I ultimately decided I wanted to work towards building a future career where I could make valuable contributions. This led me to pursue educational psychology. Throughout the years I have participated in a variety of different research projects which have left me with an eclectic knowledge base.

I attended the University of Virginia and received my M.Ed. in Educational Psychology. During my time at UVa, I participated in research studies out of the Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). I focused on teacherstudent interactions and professional development in early childhood education. I became interested in how teacher-student interactions contributed to children’s social emotional development and learning. Following my master’s program, I contributed to the development of an inclusive preschool motor program where I used my knowledge of intentional teaching strategies to build a curriculum that supports each of the school readiness skills (including pre-literacy!).

Over the past couple of years my work has focused on reading research. My most recent research projects have included (1) supporting the development of a tabletbased dyslexia screener for children as young as 4 years old and (2) coordinating a virtual reading program for use at home to prevent the “COVID slide”. I look forward to advancing my studies to learn more about reading theory and how to apply this to early childhood education as well as translate it into meaningful language for educators.


Shannon Langdon

Shannon is a second-year doctoral student in Special Education with a concentration in Postsecondary Transition at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. Last year Shannon was a LEND trainee through the University’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research, and Service (UCEDD). Previously, she obtained her M.Ed. in Counseling with a focus in rehabilitation counseling from Springfield College and is a certified rehabilitation counselor (CRC). Shannon has worked in the past to help individuals with disabilities obtain individualized employment, as well as served as a transition specialist helping individuals’ transition from school to work. She is interested in researching postsecondary transition for individuals with disabilities as well as the development of effective IEP and 504 plans. Upon completion of her degree, Shannon hopes to work on researching and conducting policy advocacy in the area of IEPs, 504 plans, and transition planning.


Sarah Rosati

Sarah Rosati is a doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology Ph.D. program at the University of Connecticut with a concentration in Special Education. She received her undergraduate degree from Fordham University in Spanish Language & Literature with a minor in Psychology prior to receiving a dual master’s degree in Childhood Special Education (also from Fordham University). She was a teacher in New York City at an independent school serving elementary-aged students with complex and multiple disabilities, ranging from learning, developmental, social, emotional, linguistic, and medical special needs. In seeking greater depths of understanding of School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBIS) as implemented beyond that independent school site, Sarah moved into the public school sphere. She became a special education director for a public K-5 elementary school north of San Diego, California. As such, she was also the case manager for all students in the school with academic Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). For the past few years, Sarah served as a fourth-grade general education teacher at a trilingual public school in San Francisco, where she was also the Culture and Climate Teacher Leader to support her colleagues in executing tiered interventions and implementing SW-PBIS on site.

Sarah’s experiences in a variety of educational positions and settings, from special education to general education and from private to public, led her to pursue a doctoral degree in order to formally research questions she has crafted along the way. Sarah aims to focus on how teachers are making decisions about behavior management in the absence of training on PBIS in order provide more targeted training for preservice teachers, how PBIS is affecting students with disabilities and/or working to reduce special education referrals for social, emotional, and behavioral concerns, and how equity can better guide the continued improvement of PBIS. Sarah has years of experience implementing interventions among students with disabilities and is excited to be a member of Project LINC because of its contextualization of these interventions within educational, policy, mental health, and family systems.


Nina Bayer profile

Nina Bayer

Nina Bayer is pursuing her Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Connecticut. She entered the doctoral program, a part of UConn’s Department of Educational Psychology, as a LINC fellow in fall of 2021. Nina’s brings with her a background in teaching, management, and research, coupled with dedicated inquiry around reading disabilities, intervention systems, and student success.

Nina pursued a double major at UConn, earning bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology. She continued her studies at Sacred Heart University, where she received her certification as a secondary English teacher and her Master’s Degree in Teaching. Nina began exploring the field of special education as an educational mentor and vocational coach for students and young adults with special needs. Nina continued her career in education as a high school English teacher. She began digging deeper into reading disabilities to support her students. She carried this passion to the Community College level, where she supported hundreds of students who struggled with reading and writing. Determined to understand the foundations of reading and reading support, Nina began work with K-5 students as a reading interventionist. It was here that she decided that she wanted to enter educational research. She moved on to become a Research Assistant for the Department of Educational Psychology.

As a Research Assistant and Project Coordinator, Nina was a part of various research teams under PIs who investigated research questions around the effectiveness of different reading interventions and neurological changes that coincide with instruction. Nina managed logistical aspects (including project development, recruitment, hiring, training, planning, managing, and data collection), and she taught reading intervention programs with struggling readers in grades 2-5. Now as a fellow, Nina is excited to delve into theory and application in the field, as well as explore, contribute, collaborate, and develop research in the science of reading.

Sarah Sinnott headshot

Sarah Sinnott

Sarah Sinnott is a doctoral fellow working towards her PhD in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Special Education. She completed her undergraduate degrees at Susquehanna University where she graduated with a degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Education, in addition to a degree in Creative Writing. She is currently certified in English 7-12 in CT, and has completed her coursework to receive her cross-certification in Special Education as well.

Recently, she has completed her master’s degree in Special Education from Fairfield University. While she was completing her master’s degree, she worked the last few years as a general education English teacher at an alternative high school. This alternative program focused on preparing students for college and career readiness, used PBIS systems and strategies, and implemented an SEL curriculum. As a member of this team, she was able to help create and lead schoolwide career days and projects, collaborated with colleagues to implement PBIS with fidelity, and worked through multiple roles to help with the SEL curriculum across her time in this position.

This entire experience helped to shape her interest in research in this field after she had seen firsthand how these programs impacted her students’ lives. She loved being a part of such a collaborative team in this position, and this furthered her interest in pursuing a master’s in Special Education, and now, her PhD in the same field. During her time at the University of Connecticut, she is hoping to focus on Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), in addition to focusing on how to prepare students for their transition to life after high school and the positive impact that social emotional learning (SEL) can have on many aspects of high school students’ lives. Upon completing her degree, she would love to join a faculty where she can continue to explore research opportunities in these fields, as well as share these particular areas of focus with future educators.