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HDL Program Faculty

Sarai Coba-Rodriguez, PhD, CFLE Heading link

Coba-Rodriguez Headshot

Sarai Coba-Rodriguez, PhD, CFLE, is an Assistant Professor of Human Development and Learning in the Department of Educational Psychology. Her qualitative research focuses on how ecological context (community), individual, and family factors promote the resilience of low-income, ethnic-minority families and children’s transition from preschool to kindergarten. Challenging notions of dysfunction, Sarai emphasizes families’ strengths and cultural resources, and highlights the active role that low-income families play in preparing their child for school entry. Sarai also explores concrete ways to further enrich home-school collaboration.


PhD University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Human Development and Family Studies
MS University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Human and Community Development
BA University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Sociology; Spanish (minor)

Aisha Griffith, PhD Heading link

Aisha Griffith Headshot

Aisha Griffith, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her research focuses on the development and function of supportive relationships between adolescents and non-parental adults within informal and formal learning contexts. She is particularly interested in the critical role of trust within youth-adult relationships and how these relationships support positive adolescent development.  More broadly, she is committed to connecting research and practice on out-of-school time programming.


PhD, Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
MA, Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
BA, History, Northwestern University

Marisha Humphries, PhD Heading link

Marisha Humphries headshot

Marisha L. Humphries, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and a licensed clinical psychologist. Dr. Humphries’ research seeks to develop an integrated approach to studying African American children’s normative and prosocial development, and utilizing this basic research to create culturally and developmentally appropriate school-based behavior promotion programs. Her work examines African American children’s emotional and social competence, and the ways in which educational settings can support children’s development in this area. Due to her interest and experience in applied research, Dr. Humphries’ work considers the contextual and cultural factors associated with children, families, and schools.


PhD, Clinical Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
MS, Clinical Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
BS, Psychology, Howard University

Dalal Katsiaficas, PhD Heading link

Marisha Humphries headshot

Dalal Katsiaficas, PhD is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her current research focuses on the positive social development of immigrant-origin youth as they emerge into adulthood. Specifically her work examines the social responsibilities of immigrant-origin youth as well as the impact of undocumented immigration status on educational experiences. With Participatory Action Research frameworks guiding her work, Dr. Katsiaficas utilizes mixed-methods such as ethnographic observations, semi- structured interviews, large-scale surveys, focus groups, and identity mapping in her studies. Dr. Katsiaficas’ research agenda is responsive to the socio-political issues most pressing to the communities she works with and believes research can be a powerful tool to take action towards social change.


PhD (Human Development and Psychology): University of California, Los Angeles
BS (Applied Psychology): New York University

Bernadette Sánchez, PhD Heading link

Bernadette Sánchez headshot

Bernadette Sánchez is a Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is an expert on mentoring relationships and the positive development of urban, low-income adolescents of color, particularly Latinx and African-American youth. Her research is on the role of formal and natural mentoring relationships in youth’s educational experiences, the resilience and resistance of youth who are marginalized in U.S. society, and the racial and ethnic processes, such as racial discrimination and racial/ethnic identity, that have an impact on the development of youth of color and on youth-adult relationships. Her current research projects are on a) the role of mentoring in adolescents’ science and ethnic/racial identities and b) an evaluation of a racial justice training intervention for volunteer mentors of youth of color. She has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation (NSF), William T. Grant Foundation, and local foundations for her mentoring research. Bernadette is a member of the Research Board for the National Mentoring Resource Center. She is a first-generation college student and loves teaching and mentoring students at UIC.


PhD, University of Illinois at Chicago, Community & Prevention Research (Psychology)
MA, University of Illinois at Chicago, Community & Prevention Research (Psychology)
BA, Fairfield University, Psychology

Kathleen M. Sheridan, PhD Heading link

Sheridan headshot

Kathleen M. Sheridan, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Educational Psychology Department at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She is also the program coordinator of the undergraduate Human Development and Learning program. Kathy is the principal investigator on the Early Math Counts and Early Science Matters grant funded projects.


PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
MA Ed, Washington University

Michael K. Thomas, PhD Heading link

Thomas headshot

Michael K. Thomas is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research focuses the cultural dimensions of technology implementation in learning contexts and what this means for the design of technology-rich innovations for learning. Three key questions with respect to this are (a) What are the central concerns of teachers, trainers, and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of technology in learning contexts? (b) What do they do to continually resolve these concerns? and (c) In what ways does culture play a role in the design and implementation of technology-rich innovations? He is particularly interested in video games and gameification in learning environments. He has expertise in qualitative research in general and grounded theory in particular. Before joining, UNCC, he taught instructional technology and research methodology at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He has also been an ESL/EFL teacher in New York City Public Schools and has taught overseas.


PhD, Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University
PhD, Language Education, Indiana University

Theresa A. Thorkildsen, PhD Heading link

Thorkildsen headshot

Theresa (Terri) Thorkildsen is a Professor of Education and Psychology. Focusing on human development, Thorkildsen’s current research highlights how individuals incorporate their understanding of the fairness of institutional practices into their motivation to achieve academic goals. Findings from these studies illustrate how individuals formulate and enact intentions. Thorkildsen seeks to understand how youth come to understand the structure of civil engagement, and how this type of engagement differs from personal and civic engagement. This programmatic attempt to understand why some individuals become highly committed to school while others avoid such commitments is disseminated in a wide range of outlets. Thorkildsen has authored or edited five books as well as a range of journal articles, book chapters, and book reviews. As a fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the American Educational Research Association, Thorkildsen is also an active citizen in a number of professional organizations as well as in the UIC community.


1988 – PhD, Purdue University, Humanities, Social Science, & Education
(Specialization: social development, educational psychology, & research methods)

1985 – Master’s of Science, Purdue University, Humanities, Social Science, & Education
(Specialization: educational psychology)

1982 – Bachelor of Science, University of Washington, Department of Psychology

Stephanie Torres, PhD Heading link

Stephanie Torres, PhD

Stephanie Torres, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology. Her program of research focuses on contexts of risk and resilience among low-income, Latinx communities, particularly Latinx families impacted by immigration-related stress. Her research emphasizes the resilience and cultural strengths among the Latinx community. She leads the FLOR (Familias Overcoming stress with Resilience) Lab at UIC, a research group dedicated to developing school-based and community-based programs that promote well-being and mental health while utilizing a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. To that end, FLOR and The Resurrection Project, a local community agency, have developed and are piloting FIESTA (Familias Inmigrantes Empoderándose contra eStrés Tomando Acción), a 10-week intervention program led by community health workers which aims to address the stress caused by structural racism among Latinx immigrant families.

Dr. Torres also is also interested in trauma-informed care and ways to infuse trauma-informed care in educational spaces. Her clinical work focuses on addressing trauma among minoritized families and she specializes in serving bilingual, Spanish-speaking families. She is also interested in promoting clinician, researcher, and educator involvement in policy and advocacy efforts.


PhD Loyola University Chicago, Clinical Psychology (2019)
MA Loyola University Chicago, Clinical Psychology (2016)
BA DePaul University, Psychology and Latin American/Latinx Studies (2013)

Nic Weststrate, PhD Heading link

Nic Weststrate PhD

Dr. Nic Weststrate’s research program investigates optimal psychosocial development across the adult lifespan. His research examines human development at the intersection of personal, social, cultural, and historical forces. He is primarily interested in Eriksonian developmental constructs, including personal and collective identity, generativity, ego integrity, and, especially, the development, manifestation, and transmission of wisdom. In recent research, Nic has been exploring the influence of intergenerational storytelling on psychosocial development. He is currently examining this within the context of families and the LGBTQ community.

Nic’s research orientation is informed by lifespan developmental, personality, narrative, and cultural psychology. He incorporates diverse quantitative and qualitative methodologies in his work, with an emphasis on narrative methods that successfully capture the diversity, complexity, and cultural embeddedness of human development.


2017 – PhD, University of Toronto, Developmental Psychology and Education
2011 – MA, University of Toronto, Developmental Psychology and Education
2007 – HBSc, University of Toronto, Psychology and Philosophy