Our Team

Dana Suskind, MD
Suskind is Director of the Pediatric Hearing Loss and Cochlear Implant Program and a Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics in the Section of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. Stemming from her work as a cochlear implant surgeon, she created Project ASPIRE to address the disparities in outcomes she noticed with her patients at her clinic on Chicago’s South Side. Suskind continued on to create its sister program, The Thirty Million Words™ Project, a parent-directed program that aims to address language disparities and the subsequent achievement gap in all young children. She directs a diverse team of collaborators across many disciplines to drive forward efforts toward ensuring all children reach their potentials.

Beth Suskind, BA
Suskind joined Project ASPIRE and The Thirty Million Words™ Project in 2011 after 15 years in television. As a Producer/Show Runner, she was responsible for all aspects of pre-production, production and post-production for series on such networks as NBC, TLC and A&E. In Suskind’s current role, she applies that same set of skills to developing and implementing Project ASPIRE and TMW. Her primary focus has been creating multimedia components for both projects. She also contributes to module development, formative testing and professional development. Most of all, Suskind enjoys working with the parents and kids who are at the heart of our projects.

Kristin Leffel, BS
Research Coordinator
Leffel is a Research Coordinator for Project ASPIRE and The Thirty Million Words™ Project at the University of Chicago. Her primary role with the programs is curriculum and intervention development. She joined Dr. Suskind in 2009 to help build the programs from ideas into reality. Leffel’s relationships with the families in the programs solidified her passion for working to confront health disparities and promoting the health of socially disenfranchised populations.

Ereni Katsaggelos, MS
Research Coordinator/Lab Manager
Katsaggelos is a Research Coordinator and Lab Manager for Project ASPIRE and The Thirty Million Words™ Project. She received her Masters in Urban Education from Johns Hopkins University and was a Teach For America corps member in Baltimore. Through her Teach For America experience, Katsaggelos witnessed the achievement gap firsthand and realized the extreme importance of addressing language disparities at a young age. She feels honored to be working towards ensuring that children from all backgrounds have the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential.

Mike Halpin, BS
Animator, Graphic Designer, Web Designer
Halpin is an animator in the lab, where he builds Flash animations to illustrate the main ideas and points of the curriculum. He graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in interactive media. Throughout his career he has produced websites, logos, movie posters, magazines, and much more. His drawn animations have appeared at the After Hours, Melbourne, and Alaska International Film Festivals.
Project ASPIRE Interventionists

Sally Tannenbaum, M.Ed., CED, LSLS Cert. AVT
Tannenbaum is the Co-Director of the Pediatric Hearing Loss and Cochlear Implant Program at The University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital. She received the Beebe Award for Outstanding Auditory Verbal Clinician, has numerous publications and has been working with children with hearing loss for over 30 years.

Kristen Schraml, M.S. Special Education
Schraml is an early interventionist specializing in children with hearing loss and their families. After several years in Fairfax, VA as an Early Childhood Special Educator, she relocated to Chicago where she currently provides independent Aural Rehabilitation services as a Developmental Therapist - Hearing Specialist. She’s passionate about working closely with families and children with a variety of communication needs and learning styles, empowering them through education and support.

Jen Haney, M.Ed.
Haney works as a hearing itinerant serving deaf/hard of hearing students in the mainstream ages preschool-high school. She also works as a developmental therapist-hearing providing aural rehabilitation services for deaf and hard of hearing babies birth-3.
Research Assistants

Sengyeon Lee, AB ‘13 Comparative Human Development and Spanish
Student Research Assistant
Inspirational quote: "Life itself is a quotation." -Borges
I code the outcomes videos of the mother and child during their playtime. I transcribe what they say and code their simple gestures. The transcripts are formatted for a computer program to later pull data from them.

Joseph Caputo, AB ’14 Public Policy
Student Research Assistant
Inspirational quote: "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it" - Neil deGrasse Tyson
I dabble in databases and scheduling mostly. Also, I drive my squat blue subcompact all over the South Side.

Gene Lee, AB ’13 Psychology
Student Research Assistant, Graphic Designer, Videographer
Inspirational quote: “After a long day's work, a can of coke is man's best friend.” - Gene

Kaitlin Thompson, AM ’14 Social Work
Student Research Assistant
I am a graduate student of social work at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration. I am a research assistant in the lab and helps out with participant assessments, interviews, data, and logistics.

Gaelle Sharma, AB ’14 History and Philosophy of Science
Student Research Assistant
Inspirational quote: “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” –Mahatma Gandhi
I watch videos of moms playing with their children, paying careful attention to every word or babble said. I record the praise a mother gives her child and categorize the mother’s praise as directed either towards a trait or an effort of her child.

Stephanie Xiao, AB '15 Biology/Law, Letters, and Society
Student Research Assistant
"Maybe in order to understand mankind, we have to look at the word itself 'Mankind.' Basically, it's made up of two separate words--'mank' and 'ind.' What do these words mean? It's a mystery, and that's why so is mankind."
I am working on survey validation.

Brian Lu, AB ’15 Psychology
Student Research Assistant, Graphic Designer
I love visual and textual storytelling; currently I am focused on comics and graphic narrative. In Dr. Suskind’s lab, I animate scenes for the curriculum. I am interested in using art as a form of psychological therapy, and so creating animations for such purposes falls perfectly into my interests.

Diana Wang, AB ’16 Economics
Student Research Assistant, Animator
Originally from Atlanta, GA, I’m currently a first year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago and planning to major in economics. I first became interested in animation in middle school and have been developing my skills throughout the years. I am excited to be able to use my animation skills for a good cause.
Our Collaborators

Mary Ellen Nevins

Marc Hernandez