The start of the academic year at Ross School brings with it the addition of several talented new members of the Ross faculty and staff. Each individual offers many years of professional and personal experience that contributes to the School’s academic strength and diverse global community.
Lawrence Alexander, Director of College Counseling Lawrence Alexander is a native of Jersey City and attended St. Peter’s Preparatory School. He received his BS in finance from Kean University in 2003 and his MA in counseling from Montclair State University in 2007. Lawrence has spent a decade in higher education and college access. Most recently, Alexander served as the Director of College Counseling at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria as they graduated their inaugural class in 2013. Alexander directed 76 college-bound seniors as they amassed over $2.1 million in financial aid. Lawrence is happily married to Monique Alexander and they have three children: Jaylynn (12), Elijah (2), and Leighton (1). Lawrence is proud to be a 3x Tough Mudder finisher as well.
Joy Carrigan, Director of Development Joy Carrigan comes to Ross with over 30 years of development experience. She began her career at Beaver Country Day School, a small K–12 school in Chestnut Hill, MA. Her path has taken her to Harvard, MIT, the American Heart Association, and Environmental Defense Fund, among others. Her most recent stint was at Yale School of Medicine, where she raised significant funds for pediatrics, OB/GYN, and Women’s Health Research @ Yale. She grew up in New Jersey, spent her summers right up the road in Southampton Shores off Noyac Road, and had the opportunity to live 16 years in California while running the West Coast development operations for MIT, AHA, and EDF. When not asking for money, Joy loves the beach, her garden, antiques, and all sports. She has two exceptional (according to Joy) children, daughter Carrigan and son M. Christopher, and is looking forward to October 18 when she will gain a daughter-in-law, Kate.
Shunyao Chang, World Languages and Literature Teacher Shunyao Chang is a native speaker of Mandarin Chinese from Taiwan and has lived in the United States since 2011. He received a graduate degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language from Middlebury College in 2014 and a graduate degree in education from Castleton State College in 2013. During this time, he taught Chinese as a Teaching Assistant at Monterey Institute of International Studies and was a Chinese Culture and Language Instructor at Castleton State College. Prior to pursuing his master’s degrees in the United States, Shunyao earned a bachelor’s degree in foreign languages and literature with teaching certification in secondary English at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and taught English at National Tainan Commercial Vocational School.
Lisa Collins, Dean of Students Lisa Collins received her BA in anthropology within the subfield of archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to receive her doctorate from Harvard University in June 2002. While she enjoyed research in her field, her nine years working in Residential Life as the Dean of Saybrook College at Yale, as a Freshmen Proctor and House Tutor at Harvard, and her experience as a dorm supervisor for the New England School of English persuaded her that her passion and expertise lay in academic and student services. Her field of study is anthropology with a specialization in zooarchaeology. Her path-breaking research on human ecology in ancient Maya civilization focused primarily upon the acquisition and consumption of fauna among different social strata at the famed city-state of Copan, Honduras. She has taught specific courses focused on the archaeology of the ancient Maya at Harvard and has given seminars both at Harvard and Yale that provided a general overview of the theoretical approaches and methods used in archaeology, with a particular emphasis on the material culture associated with slave populations. After leaving Yale, Lisa moved to Mexico, to work on a number of projects related to the restoration of historic architecture in the city. While living in Merida, she continued to be active in academia as the Coordinator of the English Department of the Colegio de Estudios Universitarios del Mayab. She has now returned to the United States and is eager to apply her extensive experience to the task of being the Dean of Students at Ross.
John Della Pietra, World Languages and Literature Teacher Having grown up in San Francisco, John Della Pietra was exposed to Chinese culture at a very young age. By his 16th birthday, he had already begun immersing himself in the local Cantonese linguistic environment. He was afforded the opportunity to expand his Chinese learning in the U.S. Navy as a Chinese Mandarin Linguist. After serving a six-year term in the military, he traveled to Hong Kong, where he completed a dual degree in translation and linguistics. While in Hong Kong, John also served as an English Instructor for both native and non-native English speakers. He is thrilled to join the outstanding teaching team at Ross and hopes to develop in his students a greater appreciation for and understanding of language.
Mike Foley, Director of Residential Life Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Mike Foley joins the Ross School team as Director of Residential Life. For the past 19 years, he was in the Orlando, FL, area, where he worked at Disney in various roles, eventually moving into education as the Athletic Director at a newly founded prep day school. From there, Mike went to a boarding school, where he worked to strengthen the residential program and developed several student leadership opportunities as the Dean of Student Services. Over the past year, he gained valuable experience as Director of Development. Though successful in that role, he missed working directly with the students, along with the opportunity to have a direct and positive impact on their life. He earned his BA from Denison University and his MAEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Phoenix. Mike, Stephanie, and their children are excited to become members of the Ross School community.
Stephanie Foley, World Languages and Literature Teacher Stephanie Foley taught in Florida for 15 years. She holds certification in Elementary Education K–6 and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (DHH) K–12. Stephanie began her teaching career at Celebration School in the Walt Disney World neighborhood of Celebration, FL. In addition to her position at Celebration, she has taught Deaf and hard-of-hearing children in Osceola County in a self-contained classroom and worked for Lake County as the county liaison for DHH students. Stephanie taught Deaf children for eight years before switching to a classroom for ESOL students at a private boarding school. Stephanie now joins the ESOL team at Ross School, and she and her husband, Mike, are both excited about the new school year!
Barbara Gaias joins Ross Lower School as a part-time Spanish teacher. With an MA from Middlebury College, she has taught all levels of Spanish for more than 30 years, as well as English for Speakers of Other Languages for a year in Madrid. Barbara is fluent in Spanish, conversant in Italian, and proficient in French, and takes a global approach to her teaching by providing her students with an authentic cultural context. She has been integral to student and teacher exchange programs between the United States and both Spain and Thailand. When not pursuing her love of teaching, reading, and travel, Barbara splits her time between Southampton and Maine. She enjoys hiking, kayaking, biking, skiing and caring for her adopted peek-a-poo, Muffin with her husband, Eddie, and their two daughters, Alina (21) and Larissa (almost 25).
Jack Hill, Dean of World Languages and Literature Jack Hill is an experienced educator, facilitator, and administrator with a passion for educating today’s youth. He shares Ross School’s educational philosophy that all students can become successful learners and that there are no predetermined limits to what students can accomplish at any age. His articles have appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, and WashingtonPost.com. In addition, he is a contributor to the book Diversity Work in Independent Schools: The Practice and The Practitioner,a publication of the National Association of Independent Schools. Jack holds degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, and Middlebury College in Middlebury, VT. He joins us from the Missouri Military Academy, where he served as instructor of English and chair of the Middle and Upper School English department.
L. Wesley (Wes) Howard, World Languages and Literature Teacher After spending his childhood in the snowy mountains of northern New Hampshire, L. Wesley (Wes) Howard left the north country for the cornfields of the Midwest. He attended the University of Notre Dame, where he completed his undergraduate business degree in 2012 prior to beginning a career in the field of medical sales. After discovering that his passion lay elsewhere, he transitioned into education with a Ross Associate position in late 2013, and has determined that teaching is his true vocation. Wes has thoroughly enjoyed his time at Ross, and is so excited to continue his role in education as a full-time faculty member.
Helena Li, World Languages and Literature Teacher Helena Li is a first-year Mandarin Chinese teacher, and is very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to work at Ross School. Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, she spent five years at the University of Pittsburgh in the pursuit of a BA in a German/Chinese dual major and French minor, followed by a MA in teaching a year later. She is a complete and unabashed linguaphile and is always looking for opportunities to babble in multiple languages. In the little free time Helena has, she thoroughly enjoys singing (either on-tune or off-tune), reading, and traveling.
Jessica Obiedzinski, Athletic Trainer Jessica Obiedzinski comes to Ross School after serving two years as an Assistant Athletic Trainer at the University of Texas—Pan American, which is located in the Rio Grande Valley. She worked predominantly with the volleyball, men’s basketball, track and field, and baseball teams. She was also the supervisor for the Student Athletic Training Internship Program. Prior to working for the UTPA Broncs, she served as an Assistant Athletic Trainer for Prairie View A&M University outside of Houston, TX. She completed an Athletic Training Internship at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD, where she worked with all teams during practices and games, served as the liaison to visiting teams and helped to coordinate scheduling and ordering of supplies. She also administered the ImPACT Concussion Management System to student-athletes. Jessica earned her BS in athletic training from Hofstra University and is currently working on a master’s degree in kinesiology from UTPA.
Sarah Ryan, Lower School Teacher Sarah Ryan is a proud graduate of Ross School, class of 2001. She earned her BS in criminal justice and her MAEd in elementary education—curriculum and instruction from Florida Gulf Coast University. After a few exciting years as a Corrections Officer for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Sarah turned to her true passion of teaching, and taught for eight years as an elementary school teacher in the Florida public school system. During her time there, she became a Cooperative Learning Coach for the school, a Family Teams Management Instructor, a Life Coach for a personal growth organization, and a black belt in tae kwon do. Upon returning to New York, Sarah recertified as a NYS Emergency Medical Technician, a certification she had originally obtained during high school. Her biggest joy in life, her son Zane, will be starting kindergarten at Ross this year.
Jack Szczepanski, Marine Science Teacher Jack Szczepanski has a diverse range of experience on the water as well as in the classroom. After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology at Cook College of Rutgers University, Jack taught 8th grade Earth science in Avenel, NJ. After two years, including leading a student trip to Australia, he went back to school to earn a master’s degree from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia and a doctoral degree at the University of Rhode Island. Teaching assignments through graduate school included teaching environmental science to inner-city elementary students, serving as an outreach scientist for supplemental high school oceanography activities, and leading college biology labs. Jack conducted research on squid muscle mechanics and stingray feeding ecology. He then taught Human Anatomy and Physiology at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI, and ran a fish population monitoring survey off of Block Island. Jack brings his knowledge and experience to Ross to enhance the course offerings and Innovation Lab projects with a new “wave” of marine science options.
John Tracey, Science Teacher John Tracey is originally from Jersey City, NJ. He worked for Hewlett-Packard as a Senior Systems Engineer designing Unix systems, until his experiences on 9/11 inspired him to reevaluate his life, driving him to obtain a master’s degree in education to complement his BS in physics from Seton Hall University. He now has 10 years of experience teaching all levels of physics and chemistry, including AP classes. John has three children: one daughter who is a working chemist, one daughter who is working on her doctorate in chemistry, and a son who is a junior in college. John has coached little league baseball and is still a baseball and softball umpire. He also enjoys cycling and kayaking, art, and classical music. In addition, he has a double yellow head parrot named Harpo and for years maintained several marine fish tanks, including 150- and 180-gallon tanks.
Cathy Yun, Dean of Wellness Cathy Yun is thrilled to be joining Ross School and to lead and design the school’s wellness education program. Her interest in wellness education for young people is shaped by her inquiry into the effects of contemplative and reflective practices in the social, emotional, cognitive, and physiological regulatory systems development in adolescents. In her past and current experience of working with young people from many different cultural and social backgrounds, she is continually uplifted by their aspiration to be successful and their desire to make positive impact in their communities and in the world regardless of where they are from. Having had a fairly nomadic childhood, Cathy believes in the social and emotional benefits and multicultural and transnational experiences that boarding schools offer to young people. Cathy grew up in Korea, Iran, and Malawi, and studied English literature at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea. In 2000, she came to the United States for postgraduate study in intercultural communication at the University of Pennsylvania. Before coming to Ross School, Cathy worked in two other boarding schools: Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Northfield Mount Hermon School, both in Massachusetts. Cathy is a certified Kripalu Yoga teacher and mindfulness teacher, and is also a certified level 1 and 2 TRX suspension trainer. For personal pleasure, she likes to read or listen to books, exercise mind and body, and watch nature and art.
NEW ROSS INSTITUTE STAFF
Jennifer Delfino, Ross Institute Executive Assistant/Researcher Jennifer Delfino joined the Ross Institute as Executive Assistant and Researcher in August 2014, three months after having received her PhD in Anthropology from American University. Her passion is helping to develop innovative ways of using schooling and education for social justice, a topic that she examined closely in her doctoral dissertation. Jennifer is very excited to extend this inquiry further with the Ross Institute and its educational mission, and to help contribute to Ross’s future growth as part of its global community vision.
Dan Spindler, Chief Operating Officer Dan Spindler became Chief Operating Officer of Ross Institute in August 2014. Prior to his tenure at Ross, he was Vice President of Operations and Project Management Office (PMO) for EducationDynamics. In this role, he led the organization to streamline processes, reduce costs, improve reporting, create new revenue streams, and implement a PMO to improve discipline related to project deliverables, timelines, and returns on investment. Prior to his time at EducationDynamics, Dan was the Director of Global eCommerce Applications for Audible Inc. (a subsidiary of Amazon.com). His role encompassed launching the Audible service in the United Kingdom, Germany, and France as well as incorporating the Audible service into the Kindle and the Amazon.com website. Dan received a BS in political science from the University of Scranton and his executive MBA from Rutgers University.
Curtis Young, Assistant Director of Ross Learning System Curtis Young spent several years working in youth educational programming and language exchange for organizations around the world, including Tostan International, Legacy International, Amideast, and Nacel Sejours Linguistics. During his time at Nacel Sejours Linguistics, he directed English language immersion centers in Moliets and Cour et Buis, France, and helped to develop and maintain an intense pedagogical language learning experience for students ages 8–15. He has also served as an English Language Instructor in Nantua, France, as a participant in the Ministry of Education’s English Assistant Program. While there, he led language enhancement courses for high school students preparing for rigorous postsecondary academic programs. Curtis joins the Ross team after working for four years with the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN-USA), where he held the Manager of Programs and Development position with specific oversight of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth program (NSLI-Y), a grant sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau. He studied political science and French at Hampton University and urban planning and international development at New York University.An avid Francophile, Curtis also serves on the Advisory Council of the American Friends of the Louvre Museum’s Young Patrons Circle.