Presenter Biographies

Presenter Biographies

Find biographies of our seminar presenters and instructors below.


Alex Bickford, M.A.; Senior Manager of College Finance, College Coach 

Alex Bickford joined College Coach as part of the college financing team after working in the education finance department of Citizens Bank. He had been the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Southern New Hampshire University. Alex has spent most of his professional career working in financial aid, and has assisted undergraduate and graduate students in financing their educations. He holds an M.A. in Business Education from Southern New Hampshire University.

Bonnie Cohen, LCSW; Senior Director of Family and Clinical Services, University Settlement 

Bonnie Cohen has worked with children and families in the Early Childhood field for 25 years, and was a pioneer in Early Intervention programs. Bonnie is the Senior Director of Family and Clinical Services at the non-profit University Settlement in New York City. She manages over 100 professionals in early childhood programs that deliver mental health services to young children and families experiencing life transitions or difficulties. Bonnie has presented on early intervention and special needs topics at national conferences, at parenting groups, and in medical settings. She has taught at City College, CUNY, and has authored numerous papers, reviews, and articles.

Ken Davies, E.A., CEBS, B.S.; Retirement Programs Manager, MIT

Ken Davies, the MIT Retirement Programs Manager, manages MIT’s retirement plans and the team that delivers retirement services to members of the MIT community. Prior to joining MIT, Ken was a pension consultant and actuary providing advice about the design, administration, and funding of large corporate pension plans. Ken holds a B.S. in Finance from Babson College, and is an Enrolled Actuary and a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist.

Steven Dimitriou, AIF, PRP; Managing Partner, Mayflower Advisors 

Steven Dimitriou is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Mayflower Advisors, with more than 23 years of experience in the retirement plan industry. Prior to forming Mayflower Advisors, he was a Managing Director at H.C. Wainwright & Co., Inc., responsible for the Retail Products division, which included the Retirement Plan Services and Mutual Fund Research departments. He is currently the President of the National Association of Plan Advisers (NAPA), the largest retirement plan advocacy group in the nation. Steve has earned the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) designation and the Plan Sponsor Retirement Professional (PRP) designation. He is a graduate of Colby College, where he earned a B.A. in both Honors Physics and Economics. 

Richard Dufresne, M.S.W., LICSW; Founder and Principal Consultant, Alliance Consulting HRD

Richard Dufresne has provided customized training and consulting services to clients in a variety of business sectors since 1992. These include healthcare, higher education, early childhood development, nonprofits, the financial sector, retail, and industry. He has presented on the national level and has given presentations and keynotes to groups from 10 to as many as 1,500 people. His presentations have been described as “upbeat, interactive with the focus on learning, and providing tools and skills for immediate use and application.” Richard holds an M.S.W. from Boston University School of Social Work. He lives in New Hampshire and is somewhat retired.

Ruth Economou, M.S.W., LICSW; Clinical Social Worker

Ruth Economou has been a clinical social worker for 17 years. She has worked at the Adolescent Clinic at Boston Medical Center, at Brookline Mental Health, and for the last three years in the Young Parents Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her professional interests include adolescent mental health, mindfulness, and group counseling. Ruth is the mother of two children. She holds her M.S.W. from Boston University and a B.A. in Sociology from Mount Holyoke College.   

Paul R. Fulton, Ed.D., M.S.; Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Mindfulness-Based Learning and Founding Member, Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy

Paul R. Fulton is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, founding member and former President of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, and a Lecturer in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University. Prior to this, he was the Director of Mental Health for Tufts Health Plan. Paul has been practicing mindfulness for over 46 years. He is the co-editor and co-author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (Guilford Press), and has authored many articles and book chapters on mindfulness and Western psychology. Paul holds an Ed.D. from Harvard University, and an M.S. from the University of Chicago.

Jody Gastfriend, M.S.W., LICSW; Vice President, Senior Care Services,

Jody Gastfriend is the Vice President of Senior Care Services for As a licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years of experience, Jody knows the challenges and struggles of family caregivers, having helped manage the care of her own father with dementia for more than a decade. Before joining, Jody was Director of Social Service at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford, Chief Operating Officer of Visiting Nurse and Community Health in Arlington, Clinical Supervisor within the Social Service Department of Massachusetts General Hospital, and a consultant to numerous other hospitals and long term care facilities in the Boston area. Jody has lectured widely on topics ranging from elder care and aging to work and family integration, and has published numerous articles on caregiving and aging, most recently in the Harvard Business Review. Jody holds an M.S.W. from Simmons School of Social Work.

Mike Giambrone; Supervisor, MIT Carpentry Shop

Mike Giambrone is the Supervisor of the MIT Carpentry Shop. Mike has worked many years as a carpenter as well as a carpentry supervisor. 


Jennifer Gibbons, M.S.W., LICSW; Senior Care Advisor,

Jennifer Gibbons is a Senior Care Advisor at Passionate about working with families and individuals, she guides and assists family caregivers in finding resources and support for themselves and their family members. Jennifer also determines and locates the right care for adults and seniors nationwide. She has experience leading groups for adults, teens, and children in a variety of settings. Jennifer holds an M.S.W. from Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work.

Lawrence Glazer, AAMS; Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Mayflower Advisors 

Lawrence Glazer is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner with Mayflower Advisors, a full-service financial consulting and wealth management firm headquartered in Boston. He provides guidance, direction, and planning in financial matters to clients ranging from individual investors and nonprofit organizations to Fortune 500 companies. Larry is also the Chairman of the Board of the Massachusetts Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and serves as the President of the Rivers School Alumni Association and Alumni Council. Prior to starting Mayflower Advisors, he was a Senior Vice President at Advest and H.C. Wainwright & Company; he began his finance career at the Bank of Tokyo. A graduate of Duke University, Larry has obtained the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) designation and holds Series 7, 63, and 65 security registrations.

Tamar Gordon, Ph.D.; Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Tamar Gordon is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive training and experience in using Cognitive Behavioral Therapies. Through her private practice, she treats individuals with a full range of mental health challenges. She is also an adjunct faculty member at both Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Teachers College, Columbia University. Tamar holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from St. John’s University.

​Zaragoza Guerra, M.A.; Senior Manager of Educational Counseling, College Coach

Zaragoza Guerra worked for many years as a senior Admissions Officer for MIT, Caltech, and the Boston Conservatory, before joining College Coach. In his previous positions, Zaragoza directed overall recruitment and yield activities as well as international, transfer, and special student admissions, along with specialized student recruitment and review of domestic and international student files. He also oversaw overall recruitment and auditions for students interested in Music, Theater, and Dance. Zaragoza holds an M.A. in International Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. 

Elizabeth Guttenberg, M.S.W. LMSW; Senior Care Advisor,

Elizabeth Guttenberg is a Senior Care Advisor with’s Senior Care Planning team. Her desire to guide and support families and caregivers as they work through complicated issues was the driving force behind her decision to pursue a career in social work. Elizabeth’s experience includes facilitating groups as well as working with individuals and families in a variety of psychiatric and medical settings—such as a private behavioral health hospital and the Emory University Hospital and ALS Clinic. She holds an M.S.W. from the University of Georgia.

Richard J. Harwood, CLU®, CAP; Special Care Planner, Financial Services Representative, Baystate Financial

Richard J. Harwood, of Baystate Financial, has over 28 years of experience in financial services and specializes in special needs planning strategies. Rich has presented to national organizations, is a local advocate for families with special needs, and lends his knowledge and leadership skills to many local nonprofit advocacy organizations. Rich holds a B.S. from Bridgewater State College.

Dave Hingston; Supervisor, MIT Plumbing Shop

Dave Hingston is the Supervisor of the MIT Plumbing Shop. Dave has worked in the trade for over 30 years, and teaches plumbing at a local trade school. 


Todd Holmes, B.A.; Program Manager, MIT International Safety and Security 

Todd Holmes is an experienced academic and humanitarian security risk professional with over 20 years of international experience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, World Vision International, Catholic Relief Services, and the U.S. Peace Corps with significant work and living experience in Cyprus, Egypt, Guatemala, Haiti, and Mali. He has extensive field experience and interest in international development and social change with experience in emergency relief programming, food aid, micro-finance, and NGO security management. Todd is one of our MIT go-to experts in traveling, exploring, working, and being curious, while keeping safe. Todd holds a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Julia Jones, M.A.; Director of Admissions, Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School

Julia Jones has been working with adolescents and college admissions for most of her career. She was involved in virtually all aspects of the admissions process at Brandeis University, including overseeing the creation and production of admissions publications and recruitment materials and serving as director of the Brandeis Alumni Admissions Council, a 1000-member network of alumni recruiters and interviewers.  During her tenure at Brandeis, Julia also was a member of the New England Association of College Admission Counseling (NEACAC) and served on the planning committees for three NEACAC annual conferences.  More recently, she continued to work with high school students and their families as director of admissions at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School in Waltham, MA. Julia holds a bachelor’s degree in French language and literature from Brandeis University, and a master’s degree in education in creative arts in learning from Lesley University.

Kathy Kasabula, B.A.; Child Care Operations Administrator, MIT Work-Life Center

Kathy Kasabula oversees the many services that support MIT’s Technology Childcare Centers (TCC) and works closely with MIT’s child care management vendor, Bright Horizons, to ensure that TCC centers are able to meet the needs of the families they serve. Kathy oversees campus lactation rooms, and is a contributor to many Work-Life Center projects offering support to MIT children and families. Kathy holds a B.A. from Rhode Island College.

John Ledbury; Supervisor, MIT Electrical Shop

John Ledbury is the Supervisor of the MIT Electrical Shop. John is a licensed electrician, and has worked for over 20 years in the trade. 



Stephanie Leishman, B.A.; Founder, Apiarity

Stephanie Leishman founded Apiarity to help organizations achieve their goals with exceptional social media. Previously, as a Social Media Strategist, she managed MIT’s social media strategy while working on institute-wide initiatives and advising departments on digital communications. At MIT, she led several projects, such as the development of MIT Connect, which received a Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) award. Stephanie is an experienced public speaker and strategy consultant. She loves to help professionals optimize their online presence.  Stephanie holds a B.A. from Harvard University and is HubSpot Inbound Certified as well as Certified in Digital Analytics from Google.

Norman Magnuson; Manager, MIT Grounds Services

Norman Magnuson is the Manager of Grounds Services. Norm has worked at MIT since 1974 and has been a manager for the last 15 years. 


Connie Mahoney, M.A.; Educational Administrator, The Center for School Crisis Intervention & Assessment

Connie Mahoney is the former Director of Prevention & Intervention Services for Springfield Public Schools, a large urban school district in Massachusetts. While there, she led the development of the bullying prevention policy and intervention plan in 2010 through 2015. Connie has provided professional development for over fifty schools, as well as presentations on bullying prevention and intervention in the community and at Westfield State University and Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company. She has participated in the Committee for Children’s Think Tank on the Steps to Respect curriculum development, a research-based, peer-reviewed program widely used in schools throughout the country. Connie is a veteran educator of twenty-six years. Connie holds her M.A. in Education from Administration from Westfield State University.

Barbara Melton, M.Ed.; Licensed Professional Counselor 

Barbara Melton is a Licensed Professional Counselor working in private practice in Charleston, South Carolina, since 1991. She works with children, adolescents, and adults who are dealing with grief, loss, or trauma. Barbara also is trained in Critical Incident Stress Management, and is the Disaster Mental Health Lead for the Charleston-area chapter of the American Red Cross, where she has responded to many incidents involving death and loss. She has helped individuals affected by the Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Church mass shooting that occurred in June of 2015.  

Barbara is also an expert on children’s use of the internet and is co-author of the book, What in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online? How to Understand the Electronic World Your Children Live In. She has contributed resources to the television show, To Catch a Predator. Barbara has worked with local police and the Internet Crimes Against Children Division to educate the public about potential problems with internet use by children. She holds an M.Ed. in Clinical Counseling from The Citadel.

Delvina Miremadi-Baldino, Ph.D.; Founder and Chief Resilience Officer, Realize Your Resilience

Delvina Miremadi-Baldino is the founder and Chief Resilience Officer of Realize Your Resilience, a company dedicated to helping individuals, groups, and organizations build upon their strengths and foster resilience so they can grow, succeed, and thrive. Delvina is also the Director of Research and Program Development at Life Advantages, LLC, where she applies over 10 years of experience specializing in resilience education and program development. Prior to this, she worked for the Department of Psychiatry at Boston Children’s Hospital, developing innovative depression and suicide prevention tools and the curriculum for the Swensrud Depression Prevention Initiative. Delvina holds a Ph.D. in Education Leadership from Simmons College and an Ed.M. in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University.

Sandra Mitchell, M.B.A.; Director, MIT Office of Insurance

Sandy Mitchell is a risk and insurance professional with over 25 years of experience working in a wide variety of industries, including corporate risk management, brokerage, and consulting. Sandy has been with MIT for four years. As the Director of the Office of Insurance, she leads her team in ensuring that the Institute, its community members, subsidiaries, and/or controlled entities are protected against the risk of financial loss to property- and casualty-related occurrences. This is accomplished through the proper management of insurance programs, claims handling, and risk control services and activities. Sandy has been an adjunct professor at Babson College and Bentley College, as well as a presenter at regional and national conferences on various insurance and risk topics. She holds an M.B.A. from Boston University.

Ron Nestor; Supervisor, MIT Grounds Services.

Ron Nestor is the Supervisor of Grounds Services at MIT.



Valerie Paradiz, Ph.D.; Director, Valerie Paradiz, LLC

Valerie Paradiz works to provide technical assistance and strategic development to schools, universities, corporations, and agencies that support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Valerie is a national board member of Autism Speaks, where she also serves as chair of the Family Services Committee. In a part-time capacity, she is Executive Director of the Autistic Global Initiative (AGI). Valerie is also a regular columnist for the Simons Foundation Autism Research Institute’s Spectrum News. Valerie holds a Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Jeff Perrotti, Founding Director, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Safe Schools Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning Students 

Jeff Perrotti is the Founding Director of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Safe Schools Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students. Jeff conducts workshops on sexual orientation and gender identity for school administrators, counselors, nurses, coaches, teachers, parents, and students, and assists schools and families in orchestrating a thoughtful, comprehensive, and successful process for transgender students to transition their gender. He currently teaches and advises students at Harvard University, and has received several awards for Excellence in Teaching.

Maureen Ratigan, M.B.A.; Director of Benefits, MIT

Maureen Ratigan, the MIT Director of Benefits, and her Benefits Team, are responsible for designing and delivering a broad array of retirement, health, insurance, and work-life benefits for the MIT community, which includes current faculty and staff, retirees, and their families. Before joining MIT, Maureen was a consulting actuary and management consultant for over 25 years. As a consultant, she worked with both for-profit and not-for-profit clients, including several universities. Much of her work centered on the design, implementation, and communication of human resource programs. Maureen holds an M.B.A from Harvard University, and is a member of the Society of Actuaries.

Anna Robinson, M.A., WLCP®; Special Projects Administrator, MIT Work-Life Center

Anna Robinson provides workshops, information, and resources to support a wide range of work-life issues, including job flexibility, conflict and family issues, child care, daily life, and balancing work and personal life. Prior to joining MIT, Anna provided counseling at Boston University Student Health Services, and was a member of a mobile crisis intervention team. Earlier in her career, she worked with nursery and elementary school children with special needs in school and hospital settings. Anna is a Work-Life Certified Professional through the Alliance for Work-Life Progress, and is certified in facilitative mediation through the Harvard Mediation Program. Anna earned a B.A. in Psychology from Vassar College and an M.A. in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine from Boston University.

Mary-Ellen Rogers, B.S.W.; Principal, Excellere

Mary-Ellen Rogers is the Principal of Excellere, a health optimization and human capital management firm that combines innovative strategies to maximize wellness and productivity. Mary-Ellen was the founder and former CEO of Work/Life Innovations, an Employee Assistance Program specializing in work/life resources and referral services to major corporations and hospitals. Prior to founding Work/Life Innovations, Mary-Ellen, a social worker, was the Director of Staffing & Recruiting for The Travelers Insurance Company. She has spent many years as a Human Resource consultant, trainer, and coach. Mary-Ellen serves on the Board of Trustees of Providence College, the Board of Trustees of the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools, and the Executive Board of Women Executives in Healthcare. She holds a B.S.W. from Providence College.

Carolyn Romano, J.D.; Special Education Practice Leader, torchlight

Carolyn Romano is an attorney and education specialist with over 20 years of experience. As a Special Education Practice Leader, Carolyn oversees the development of all education and disability-specific content and is an expert consultant. She has worked as an attorney; a project director of national and state education projects; a consultant to nonprofit organizations, schools, and school districts; and a lead grant writer for federal, state, and foundation proposals. Carolyn earned a B.A. from Drew University and a J.D. from Boston University School of Law.

Sogna M. Scott; Acting Supervisor, MIT Grounds Services

Sogna M. Scott is the Acting Supervisor of MIT Grounds Services. Sogna has worked at MIT since 1997 and with Grounds Services for the last 17 years.

Joe Vella; Senior Supervisor, MIT Carpentry, Lock, and Paint Shops.

Joe Vella is the Senior Supervisor of the MIT Carpentry, Lock, and Paint Shops. Joe oversees the structural areas within Repair and Maintenance, and ran his own business for a number of years before coming to MIT. 

Anu (Anuradha) Vyavaharkar, M.S.W., LICSW, M.P.H.; Clinical Social Worker 

Anu (Anuradha) Vyavaharkar is a clinical social worker in the Young Parents Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Her professional interests include adolescent development, supporting new parents, and clinical interventions with babies and toddlers. She is the mother of two children. She holds an M.S.W. from Boston University School of Social Work and an M.P.H. from the Boston University School of Public Health.

Wendy Wollner, M.S., M.B.A.; Founder and CEO, Balancing Life’s Issues 

Wendy Wollner is the Founder and CEO of Balancing Life’s Issues (BLI). With over 25 years of experience, she has built and oversees a network of more than 1,500 BLI trainers who bring work-life balance programs to corporations, not-for-profit organizations, employee assistance programs, and educational institutions. Wendy earned an M.S. degree in Industrial Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, completed an Executive M.B.A. program through WBENC and Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, and is a graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program.  

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