About the PEACES Team

Brad Cox, Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

Michigan State University

Brad Cox headshotDr. Brad Cox is an Associate Professor of Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) at Michigan State University and Founder of the nonprofit College Autism Network (CAN). His research on college student success has earned over $1,100,000 in grant funding and has been published in many of the field’s top-tier journals, including Educational Researcher, the Journal of Higher Education, and the Journal of College Student Development. Dr. Cox’s most recent scholarship examines the systemic, institutional, and personal conditions that shape college access, experiences, and outcomes for students on the autism spectrum.

Brett Nachman, Ph.D.

Co-Principal Investigator

University of Arkansas

Brett Nachmann headshotBrett serves as co-principal investigator of Project PEACES, an assistant professor in Adult and Lifelong Learning at the University of Arkansas, and director of research for College Autism Network. As an autistic autism/higher education researcher, Brett is committed to illuminating the unique and holistic experiences that autistic college students face. He has published his work in journals including The Review of Higher Education, College Student Affairs Journal, Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, and Community College Journal of Research and Practice. His honors include being awarded a Spencer Foundation Large Research Grant, the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award from the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and an ECMC Foundation Postsecondary CTE Research Fellowship.

Research Team

Nicholas Gelbar, Ph.D.

University of Connecticut

Nicholas Gelbar headshot

Dr. Gelbar is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Connecticut in the Department of Educational Psychology. Previously, he was an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut Health Center (School of Medicine) and the research director for the UConn University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. He earned his Ph. D. in Educational Psychology (with concentrations in School Psychology, Special Education, and Gifted/Talented Education) from the University of Connecticut in 2013. He is a licensed psychologist and has served as the internal evaluator for several OSEP-funded projects including the Early Childhood Personnel Center. His post-doctoral research has focused on the experiences of college students with disabilities, especially those with ASD, and has authored two seminal publications in this area (Gelbar, Smith, & Reichow, 2014; Gelbar et al., 2015). In addition, he edited a book for Oxford University Press entitled Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Clinical Handbook. Dr. Gelbar has authored 31 peer-reviewed articles and six book chapters.

Before starting Educational Testing and Consulting, Dr. Gelbar worked from 2014-2019 at the Autism Center at the Hospital for Special Care as a Psychologist, and as a researcher at the University of Connecticut University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. He is a Licensed Psychologist, National Certified School Psychologist, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral Level. He has training and expertise in Neurodevelopment Disabilities (including Autism Spectrum Disorder), Learning Disabilities, and Gifted/Talented individuals including those who also have disabilities (also referred to as Twice Exceptional).

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, Ph.D.

College of Staten Island (CSI) and the Graduate Center, CUNY

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch headshot

Kristen Gillespie-Lynch is a Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island (CSI) and the Graduate Center, CUNY. She directs CSI’s Autism Certificate Program and a participatory mentorship program for autistic college students, Project REACH. She leads NSF-funded Game Design and Employment workshops for autistic youth and is the Co-PI of a new NSF-funded study through which autistic college students will mentor autistic high school students. She is an advisor for INSAR’s Autistic Researchers Committee.

Emily Raclaw, MS, LPC, CRC

Marquette University

Emily Raclaw Headshot

Emily is the director of Marquette University’s Neurodiversity Support Program, On Your Marq. She is a Nurodivergent affirming ADHDer and brings 15 years of disability in education expertise to the project. She has presented at several conferences and trained other college success programs on the topics of disability as diversity, neurodiversity, and programming.   

Prior to coming to Marquette, Emily taught high school special education, worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and coordinated a college success program for students with disabilities. She is an expert in program creation and development, as well as a disability advocate and professional. She is also a licensed professional counselor and utilizes those skills to ensure her approaches support the whole student.

Julie Lounds Taylor, Ph.D.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Julie Lounds Taylor headshot

Dr. Taylor is the Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, Endowed Directorship in Autism Research.  Dr. Taylor’s research focuses on understanding the factors that promote positive outcomes for autistic adults and their families, particularly during the transition to adulthood.  Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health for over 10 years, with additional funding from Autism Speaks, the FAR fund, and the US Department of Defense. She is an associate editor for Autism and serves as a member of the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.


Katie Tobin McDermott, M.A.

McDermott Autism Services

Katie Tobin McDermott headshot

Katie supports autistic young adults with their plans after high school, primarily focusing on transition to college and college success. A proud graduate of Boston College and the University of Kansas, she has graduate degrees in education with a focus on autism spectrum disorder and a graduate certificate in transition. Katie has worked as a classroom teacher, student support specialist for college students, and transition coordinator. She participates as a practitioner in the College Autism Network.

Rebecca L. Brower, Ph.D.

Rebecca Brower, Ph.D.Dr. Rebecca L. Brower is a qualitative researcher who studies resilience in community college students as well as large qualitative datasets. Prior to joining the PEACES team, she worked as a Research Faculty member at Florida State University and as an Assessment Specialist at Auburn University at Montgomery. Rebecca is the author of 13 articles which have appeared in journals such as The Journal of Higher Education, Teachers College Record, and the International Journal of Qualitative Methods. From 2019 to 2021, she was a member of the editorial board of The Journal of College Student Development.

Graduate Student Team

Mary Margaret Cunningham, Ed.D.

Arkansas State University

Mary Margaret Cunningham headshot

Dr. Mary Margaret Hui Cunningham (she/her/hers) is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Qualitative Methodologist at Arkansas State University. She has over 10 years of experience in various higher education settings, including administration; academic coaching; instruction at a community college; Division I student-athlete success; and teaching and research at a doctoral university with very high research activity. 

She holds a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Administration, a Master of Arts in History, a Graduate Certificate in African and African American Studies, and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and History. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in Educational Statistics and Research Methods at the University of Arkansas. Past publications include peer-reviewed and practitioner-based journals and several presentations at international and national conferences. She is passionate about research methodologies, scholarly activism, connecting with students, and sharing research-based application techniques with higher education administrators, faculty, and staff. Her research areas include QuantCrit, arts-based analyses in qualitative inquiry, and differential item functioning (DIF).

Ethan Harris, M.S.

University of Arkansas

Ethan Harris headshot

Ethan graduated from the University of Wyoming with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and MS in Statistics. After working as an aerospace engineer, he pivoted to teaching statistics and is currently seeking his Ph.D to teach full-time and research. His interests lie in using statistics to combat issues of social justice, especially racism.

Karli Yarber, Ph.D. Candidate

University of Arkansas

Karli Yarber headshot

Karli serves as a graduate research assistant for Project PEACES while completing her Ph.D. in Agricultural Communications. Karli is a qualitative research with a commitment to expanding the theories, methods, and standards for quality being used in her discipline. As a researcher and hopeful future professor, Karli hopes to carry out research which can be implemented and applied in beneficial ways to consumers, students, and educators. Although her expertise lies in communication, her passion for improved university teaching methods and services for students led her to this role.

Chris Wernimont, M.S.

Chris W. imageUniversity of Arkansas 

Chris is a second-year doctoral student and graduate assistant for the Adult and Lifelong Learning program at the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. After graduating from Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, with a BST in Wood Product Manufacturing, a BBA in Management and Marketing, and an MS in Career and Technical Education, he is pursuing his Ed.D. with research interests in CTE and the interactions between work and education.

Self-Advocate Advisory Board

Lydia X. Z. Brown, Ph.D.

Georgetown University

Lydia X. Z. Brown headshot

Lydia X. Z. Brown (they/them) is core faculty in Disability Studies at Georgetown University. They also teach for Women’s and Gender Studies, the Capitol Applied Learning Labs, and the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at the Center for Child and Human Development at the Georgetown University Medical Center. Lydia has taught for American University’s Department of Critical Race, Gender, and Culture Studies, and the University of Delaware Honors College.

Kelly Bron Johnson, CMHA

Completely Inclusive

Kelly Bron Johnson headshot

Kelly Bron Johnson (she/they) is an Autistic and Hard-of-Hearing self-advocate, keynote speaker, author, and founder of Completely Inclusive and the Autistic Entrepreneurs Network. As a mixed-heritage Black, non-binary person, Kelly Bron brings her intersectional identity into all her work and aims to break down the stigmas and systemic barriers that exist in society to make the path easier for others.

Kelly Bron is also a Certified Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace Advisor, a Mental Health First Aider, and recently completed a Professional Certificate in Restorative Justice from Vermont Law and Graduate School.

Kayden M. Stockwell

University of Virginia

Kayden Stockwell headshot

Kayden Stockwell is an autistic Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia studying developmental psychology with a concentration in quantitative methods. Under the supervision of Dr. Vikram Jaswal, he’s conducted research to understand the experiences and stigmatization of autistic college students. His current work focuses on the experiences of non-speaking autistic people and dyadic interactions.