Lab Leadership

SECD Lab Director

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Maurice Elias, Ph.D.

Professor of Psychology, Rutgers; Director, Rutgers Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab; Co-Director, Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service; Co-Director, Academy for SEL in Schools

He is Past President of the Society for Community Research and Action/Division of Community Psychology (27) of APA and has received the SCRA Distinguished Contribution to Practice and Ethnic Minority Mentoring Awards, as well as APA’s National Psychological Consultants to Management Award, the Joseph E. Zins Memorial Senior Scholar Award for Social-Emotional Learning from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), the John P. McGovern Medal from the American School Health Association, and the Sanford McDonnell Award for Lifetime Achievement in Character Education.

Dr. Elias lectures nationally and internationally to educators and parents about students’ emotional intelligence, school success, and social-emotional and character development. Dr. Elias writes a blog for the George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia Website. For a list of selected publications, please click here.

Outside the lab you can find me: Watching the Yankees, the Rangers and the Knicks and teaching my grandchildren to do the same.

Senior Lab Research and Practice Advisor

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Danielle Hatchimonji, Ph.D.

Danielle Hatchimonji joined the SECD Lab in 2013.  She has worked on the New Brunswick Public Schools project and the MOSAIC Project, collaborating with school personnel and the SECD Lab team to improve school culture and climate through a Social-Emotional and Character Development approach.  She also works as a consultant to support schools' and districts' efforts to implement social-emotional learning (SEL) and character education initiatives and foster a positive school climate.  Much of her research has centered on understanding character virtues in the context of underserved, high-poverty schools.  Danielle is interested in preventing the adverse effects of trauma, chronic stress, and poverty in children and families through multi-tiered interventions in the school and health care systems.

Outside the lab you can find me: Going on Philadelphia adventures to parks, playgrounds, and museums (and breweries!) with my toddler son and my husband.

Post- Doctoral Fellow

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Marisa MacDonnell, Ph.D.

Marisa MacDonnell is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the SECD Lab. Before joining the lab, she received her doctoral degree in Family Science and Human Development from Montclair State University where she served as a research assistant and project manager at the Institute for Research on Youth Thriving and Evaluation (RYTE Institute). At the RYTE Institute, she developed research protocols, coordinated data collection, and co-authored several manuscripts and conference presentations. Marisa also brings prior research and evaluation experience from her work at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and International Rescue Committee in San Diego. Marisa is interested in social-emotional and character development, with a specific focus on prejudice reduction and program evaluation. 

Outside the lab you can find me: taking a run or walk with my husband and son, attempting to organize and tidy up, or drinking an iced coffee

Graduate Students

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Arielle Linsky, M.S.

SECD Lab Associate Director (On Internship Leave)

Arielle Linsky is a 6th year Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Rutgers University, and she is currently completing her clinical internship working with children, adolescents, and adults at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, NY. Ms. Linsky’s research focuses on social-emotional and character development for students in urban middle schools. She is particularly interested in student mental health and school turnaround. Ms. Linsky has also received extensive training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy to address a variety of clinical needs. Through her research and clinical practice, she has co-developed school-based interventions, published in peer-reviewed journals, and presented at both national and international conferences including the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and the Society for Community Research and Action.

Outside the lab you can find me: enjoying yoga and dance classes, exploring New York City, and spending time with my partner, family, and friends.

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Samuel Nayman, M.S.

STAT Project Director

Sam Nayman is the Students Taking Action Together (STAT) Project Director and a Ph.D. student in the Rutgers University clinical psychology program. He received his B.S. in social policy from Northwestern University. Sam is committed to creating greater opportunities for people to achieve their potential, by way of policies and interventions that target social-emotional skills and character. In this pursuit, he has designed, consulted on, and published peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter on school-based social-emotional and character development programs.

Outside the lab you can find me: participating in the annual JDRF 100-mile bike ride, singing karaoke, and listening to podcasts!

Angela Wang

SECD Lab Project Director, Youth Mental Health and Leadership

Angela Wang is a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Rutgers University. Prior to joining the SECD Lab, she received her Masters of Education in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard and served as a research coordinator and lab manager for a Family Depression Prevention program at San Diego State University. Angela is broadly interested in creating, assessing and disseminating efficient, effective and equitable preventions of support for SECD in school settings. She has a special interest in youth leadership development and mental health outcomes. She is also involved in fieldworks that support schools and district efforts to implement SEL and character education initiatives to foster positive school climates and improve student mental health outcomes.

Outside the lab you can find me: skiing, enjoying spoken word poetry, and spending time with my friends and family. 

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May Yuan

SECD Lab Project Director, Youth Social-Emotional and Purpose Development

May Yuan is a second-year Ph.D. student in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University. Before joining the SECD lab, she completed her Masters at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2018. Her research broadly pertains to youth socio-emotional and purpose development, including ways to create a supportive school climate and culture, to enhance social -emotional skills in youth, and to reduce negative outcomes such as bullying and suicide. She is also interested in tailoring and adapting evidence-based prevention interventions for communities based on respective context and culture, as well as investigating best practices for implementation and dissemination.

Outside the lab you can find me: enjoying Pilates, music, reading, trying new types of food, and spending time with family and friends.

Research Coordinator

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Aishwarya Ganguli

Aishwarya Ganguli is the Research Coordinator for the SECD lab. She is a recent graduate of Rutgers University with a BA in Psychology and Public Health. She joined the SECD lab in the fall of 2017. Her research interests in SEL lies in comprehending the relationship between student feedback of the SEL curriculum and their perception of the overall school climate. She is also interested in learning about how intervention programs like SEL can have a bigger impact on eradicating disparities in terms of academics, physical health, mental health etc. After completion of her post bac research she plans on attending further training in Health Psychology with an interest in health disparities and social, psychological and economic factors contributing to health.

Outside the lab you will find me: Spending time with family, traveling to different states across the US, cooking and trying new recipes and recently I have re-discovered the literary world and continue to explore and read as much as possible. 

Academy for SEL Grant Coordinator

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Belle Scherer is the Academy for SEL Grant Coordinator for the SECD Lab. She recently graduated from Rutgers University, New Brunswick in 2018 with a B.A. in Psychology. Her personal interests include youth mental health within immigrant populations, bullying prevention methods, and achieving educational equity in schools nationwide. Her research interests involve investigating the positive effects of social-emotional learning and character development on school environments. Belle enjoys working with youth populations, particularly adolescents, and hopes to one day become a school psychologist so she can help youth learn the social-emotional learning and character development skills they need to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Outside the lab you can find me: experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, watching social and true crime documentaries, traveling to other countries and experiencing their unique cultures, and trying new cuisines at restaurants within the New Brunswick area.

Grants Coordinator 

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Crystal Molyneaux

Crystal is a second year School Psychology Psy.D. student attending the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology (GSAPP) at Rutgers University. Presently, Crystal works in Dr. Maurice Elias' SECD Lab on the Students Taking Action Together (STAT) project, which has researched and developed materials embodying social action pedagogy and SECD for integration into middle and high schools throughout New Jersey. She is passionate about creating and maintaining student support systems, while also using evidenced-based methods to build confidence; her ultimate goal is for the work done with students and staff within the school to impact families and communities as a whole. Prior to working on the STAT project, Crystal also worked with students in group and individual settings to assist in self-awareness and self-management in hostile/adverse situations.

Outside of the lab you can find me: at the GSAPP researching and developing observational tools to objectively measure the quality of Restorative Practices or with my family enjoying activities such as attending basketball games, hosting movie night, and attending concerts and the theatre.


Field Practicum Students


Highland Park

Angela Wang

May Yuan

New Brunswick

Zaire Ali

Aria Hurley

Annie Moten

STAT Consultants

Molly Stern

Crystal Molyneaux

Samuel Nayman