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Our Staff


  Kari Sassu

Kari SassuKari Sassu, Ph.D., NCSP, Director, also serves as an Associate Professor of School Psychology at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).  Dr. Sassu has worked with individuals with ASDs in public school and private settings, conducting assessments, developing individualized plans, and providing supports that capitalize on individual strengths. Her professional experience includes service as a public school psychology practitioner, coordinating the implementation of Positive Behavioral Supports systems across multiple school districts, and conducting neuropsychological evaluations of children and young adults in a clinical psychology practice. Dr. Sassu is also a mother of three children,  one of whom has an ASD.


  Barbara Cook

barbara cookBarbara Cook, Ed.D., CCC-SLP, is a full time assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at Southern Connecticut State University.  She is the co-advisor of the Student Autism Awareness and Advocacy Club with Dr. Richard Zipoli and engages on multiple committees and initiatives, focusing on supporting university students with social communication challenges. As a member of the Center of Excellence on ASD team, she supports the development of training and research initiatives with an emphasis on the development of social communication, primarily in adolescents and adults.


  Dr. Mark Groskreutz 

mark groskreutzMark Groskreutz, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Research, is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) who has worked with individuals with ASDs in public and private school settings, their homes, and vocational and community settings.  His experience has focused primarily on designing individualized social and educational curricula, interventions for challenging behavior, classroom specific and district wide professional development programs, and research studies based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). 



  Megan Rudne-Hoffecker

hoffeckerMegan Rudne Hoffecker is an Assistant Director of Academic Advising at SCSU and has served as   coordinator of the Artism Program for the Center of Excellence on ASD since 2010. Meg is a dual-certified art and special education teacher, and she focused on Autism for her Master of Science in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University. Through the Center and the Institutional Review Board at SCSU, Meg conducts research of the effects of the Artism program on participants’ social competencies. Since 2011, Meg has travelled to the National Art Education Association annually to present on materials, choices, outcomes, research, and best practices associated with the Artism program.

  Dr. Karen Meers

meersKaren Meers, Ph.D., BCBA-D, brings experience in case management and transition planning. She has assisted individuals with ASD in achieving independence through the development of self determination, goal setting, and both educational and vocational skills. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Ph.D. in Adult and Vocational Education. In addition to her work with individuals with disabilities, Dr. Meers spent several years as a corporate trainer, training and development consultant, and instructor for the business and higher education fields.



  Deborah Puglia

pugliaDeborah Puglia, M.S., Sixth Year Professional Certificate, brings to the center 36 years of experience as a special education teacher and administrator. Throughout her career, Ms. Puglia has been active in the State Department of Education's BEST and TEAM initiatives a s a mentor trainer, assessor, portfolio scorer and module scorer. Ms. Puglia has led many professional development trainings for both teachers and paraprofessionals. Her special area of interest is the transition of individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Ms. Puglia serves as a trainer in the Center's professional development activities. 




granfieldIn Memory of James (Jim) Michael Granfield 

February 16, 1951-July 28, 2010 
Dr. James Granfield, former Co-Director of the Center, passed away in July of 2010. As interim Dean of the Southern Connecticut State University School of Education, Jim had the vision and the courage to support the concept of a Center of Excellence that would serve individuals with autism spectrum disorders. An active member of the 08-5 study group, Jim contributed tremendous effort, knowledge and skill in acquiring and evaluating the information needed to move ahead with initiatives to support the ASD population in Connecticut. He enthusiastically embraced the concept of a Center of Excellence; in fact, Jim would accept nothing short of "excellence" here at Southern  Once the Center concept was developed into a specific framework with goals and objectives, Jim worked tirelessly with the team to acquire federal funding to support the Center's first year initiatives. Jim's presence and influence will remain with the Center for many years to come.