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Dr. Christina Cipriano

Dr. Chris Cipriano is an Applied Developmental and Educational Psychologist, and her research focuses on social and emotional learning in the service of traditionally under-served student and teacher populations through systematic examination of the interactions within their homes, schools, and communities to promote pathways to optimal developmental outcomes. Chris is recognized as a national expert in SEL and classroom observation methodologies and has extensive experience working in classrooms with marginalized populations, providing training to teachers and support staff, and direct instruction to students.

Dr. Cipriano is the Director of Research at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and she designs and maintains large-scale basic and applied research studies on: emotions, emotional intelligence, and social and emotional learning, including longitudinal studies and randomized controlled trials. She is the Principle Investigator of several funded research to practice projects and regularly disseminate her science in both academic journals and professional development workshops for pre-service and in-service educators and school personnel.

A Jack Kent Cooke Scholar, Dr. Cipriano received her Ph.D. and a Certificate in Human Rights and International Justice from the Boston College Lynch School of Education, her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and B.A. from Hofstra University Honors College. Dr. Cipriano currently serves on the Professional Advisory Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Teachstone, and Transforming Education.

Dr. Tia N. Barnes 

Dr. Tia N. Barnes is an assistant professor in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. She teaches courses related to special education, guidance and behavior, and social-emotional learning at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her research focuses on the social-emotional well-being of minoritized populations. To study this she focuses on the areas of social-emotional learning, culturally responsive pedagogy, and special education.

In addition to her work with the RELATE Project, Dr. Barnes is also the principal investigator for a Delaware Department of Health and Social Services-funded grant to examine the physical and mental health, social media use, and discrimination experiences of black girls ages 10-19 in the state of Delaware. She also serves as co-PI of a National Science Foundation-funded grant to develop cybersecurity education for upper elementary-aged students by using storytelling and social robots.Her research has been published in Prevention Science, International Journal of Educational Research, Aggression and Violent Behavior, Infant and Child Development, Journal of School Violence, and Developmental Review.

Dr. Barnes received her Ph.D. from the University of Florida and engaged in postdoctoral training at the University of Florida’s Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies and Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. She is the host of the Scholarly Self-Care podcast.

Meet The Team

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Lauren Hunter Naples
Postdoctoral Associate, YCEI

Dr. Lauren Hunter Naples is a postdoctoral associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Her research focuses broadly on the development of social and emotional skills to enhance student well-being among children with diverse learning needs. Her most recent projects involved designing, implementing, and evaluating a positive psychology intervention program for fostering gratitude, optimism, persistence, and zest among young students with social cognition challenges. Dr. Naples is also interested in using design-based mixed methods research to investigate the psychometric properties and socioecological validity of assessment tools targeting student well-being and social and emotional health in elementary school settings.


Dr. Naples joined the YCEI after receiving an Ed.D. in special education and disability studies, with a concentration in translational neuroscience, from the George Washington University. Dr. Naples is nationally board-certified as a mental health counselor specializing in play therapy with an M.A. from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and she holds a B.S. in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. Her current work focuses on collaborating within research-practice partnerships to develop and adapt strengths-based strategies that promote positive classroom climates and access to effective SEL instruction for the widest range of student diversity. Dr. Naples is passionate about engaging in participatory action research to co-create communities of inclusion that encourage all students to grow and thrive as happy, healthy, and productive members of society.

Yu Xia
Doctoral Student, UDEL

Yu Xia is a third-year PhD student in the Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. Her research interests center around classroom environment and  teacher-student relationship in early childhood settings. She hopes to expand her dissertation on examining the characteristics in the teacher-student relationship to help teachers provide more meaningful and joyful learning experience to children in the classroom.


Yu holds an MS in Statistical Practice from Boston University, and a BS in both psychology and economics from University of Wisconsin-Madison. During her master, she worked on several projects with multidisciplinary approaches that encompass the fields of psychology, public health, and education.

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Abi Eveleigh
Post Graduate Associate, YCEI

Abi Eveleigh is a postgraduate associate at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence where she works within the RULER for All team. Abi originally started working with the center in August 2019 as a Research Fellow in the Early Childhood team, during which she completed her Master of Research in Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology from University College London and Yale University.


Her prominent research interests are developmental disorders, ASD, special education and social and emotional learning. Her most recent work explored emotion knowledge and executive functions of preschoolers exhibiting autistic behaviours in early childhood.

Melissa Stoffers
Doctoral Student, UDEL

Melissa Stoffers is a doctoral student in the Human Development and Family Sciences department at the University of Delaware. Melissa completed graduate and undergraduate work at Rowan University where she received her M.S. in Collaborative Teaching in 2011 and B.A. degrees in Collaborative Education and American Studies in 2010.


Melissa holds multiple teaching certifications and worked as a special education teacher at the elementary and middle school level prior to coming to the University of Delaware. Her research interests are focused around the facilitation of healthy relationships and advocacy for individuals with disabilities.

past Team members

Susan Rivers (PI, Yale)

Michelle Bertoli (Yale)

LIsa Flynn (Yale)

Rebecca Weller (UMass)

Nate Simmons (UMass)

Olivia Covino (UMass)

Kathleen McCallops (UDEL)


William T. Grant Foundation

University of Massachusetts