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Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy

Who We Are

Research Support Staff

danica balslev

Danica BalslevDanica is a recent graduate from the University of Denver where she studied Psychology and Sociology. She is passionate about learning about people and applying her knowledge to improve life situations for everyone. She did her work-study at the Marsico Institute for 3 years working as an operations assistant and after graduation, she became a research assistant. She is Danish-American and lived in Denmark for 8 years. She is lucky to say she has been able to travel to over 10 countries. Because of that, she has fallen in love with traveling and experiencing different cultures, art, foods, and the experience as a whole. As she moves forward, she hopes to find a place within management and human resources where she can apply her skills that she has developed at Marsico and from her studies and experiences at the University of Denver.

Mary Bechler

marybethMary Bechler is a second-year Masters student in the Curriculum and Instruction program, focusing on mathematics. She holds a B.A. in 4th-9th Grade Education, concentrating in mathematics and science instruction from Wittenberg University. During her Masters study, Mary taught for two years as a middle school mathematics interventionist for Denver Public Schools. As a graduate research assistant in the Marsico Institute, Mary is a member on the Learning Trajectories Studies team. Mary's research interests revolve around the foundation and effects of white supremacy in mathematics education and how a liberating pedagogical practice can humanize mathematics instruction, thereby reigniting a sense of wonder in learning. Upon completion of her Masters program, Mary hopes to pursue a career as a full-time mathematics teacher. In her free time, Mary enjoys playing the harp, hiking, reading, kickboxing, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Victor Carrasco

Victor CarrascoVictor Carrasco is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program and a graduate of New Mexico State University's master's program. Victor has worked in outpatient and inpatient mental health services. His past research has focused on social determinants of health, Latina/o populations, masculinity, integrated behavioral health, and burnout in the medical field. Victor has worked in the k-12 school system as a counselor. At New Mexico State University, Victor taught undergraduate classes in multiculturalism, introductory counseling, and freshman seminars. At the Marsico Institute, Victor is currently a research team member of the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories [LT]2 project.

Menglong cong

Menglong CongMenglong (Jason) Cong is a second-year doctoral student in the Research Method and Statistics at the University of Denver and is currently a member of the team working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. Menglong holds a B.S. degree in Applied Psychology and a M.A. degree in Educational Psychology. During his educational psychology graduate program, Menglong worked for two years as an Evaluation and Research Assistant at a program evaluation center at California State University, Long Beach. Additionally, he has served as a clinical psychological counselor and special educator in China. His research interest includes student achievement in higher education, international students' acculturation, and program evaluation in higher education.

Yixiao dong

Yixiao DongYixiao Dong is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Research Methods and Statistics program at the University of Denver. He holds a B.S. in Applied Psychology and an M.A. in Educational Psychology. Yixiao's research interests include test fairness of educational assessments, measurement validity, and personality of children and adolescents. He likes fishing and writing/reading academic papers along lakes. Before Yixiao came to DU, he worked at a charter school with a full-inclusive program at Denver Public School district. He is currently working on the DREME project.


 Danica Drapela

Danica DrapelaDanica Drapela is a second year Ed.S. student in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program and is involved in research at the Marsico Institute. Danica received her B.S. in Psychology at Western Oregon University. In her time at Western she was a research assistant studying current and past students' career expectations and paths. Before moving to Denver, Danica was a youth rowing coach for two years and loved being able to work outdoors and with youth. Danica is passionate about making a positive impact in students' academic journeys and is ecstatic to become a School Psychologist.

Grant goble

grantGrant is a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Curriculum and Instruction. Grant holds a M.Ed. in secondary education and was a high school theatre teacher and director in Texas prior to pursuing his Ph.D. Grant's research interests are on arts education, theatre education, and using theatre arts outside of the theatre arts classroom. Grant is currently working with as a graduate research assistant on the LT studies project.




JoeyJoey is a second-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. She holds a B.Ed in Educational and Counseling Psychology in Taiwan and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She worked in public schools as a high school teacher and guidance counselor before coming back to school for her Ph.D. Joey has clinical experiences including working in college counseling, community mental health, and integrated health settings with adolescent and adult clients. She is interested in working with underserved clients and providing multicultural therapy/supervision/training to diverse populations. At the Marsico Institute, Joey is currently a research team member of the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project.

Erin Jamieson

erinErin Jamieson joins the Marisco team as an assessment specialist. Erin has worked in the field of research and evaluation in education for over ten years, supporting initiatives in preschool and elementary classrooms throughout Denver including the Denver Preschool Program, Clayton Early Learning, and the Children's Literacy Initiative. She holds her B.A. in Humanities, with emphasis on Sociology and Spanish, and is one of Colorado's many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. She is Mom to two kids, plus a cat and a dog, a textile artist, and sometimes finds time to practice her fiddle.




Julia ratchford


Julia Ratchford is a third-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program and a graduate of DU's Counseling Psychology master's program. She currently holds a training position at the VA hospital in neuropsychology and has worked in various healthcare settings throughout her training including community mental health, family medicine, and inpatient psychiatry. As a result of her clinical training, Julia has developed a passion for collaborative team-based care with specific research interests in patient-provider interactions within medical settings. This will be Julia's third year working for the Marsico Institute. Previously, she worked as a GRA on the LT Studies grant and is currently working on the DREME grant (Go DREME team!). In her free time, Julia enjoys riding her dirt bike with her partner, attending concerts, backpacking, and cooking. She appreciates the value of networking and utilizing resources so feel free to reach out to her for more information about her GRA position at

Jackie Shi

Jackie ShiJackie Shi is a doctoral student in Research Methods and Statistics program at Morgridge College of Education. Prior to her Ph.D. study Jackie has been an IT consultant and Data Analyst for a number of non-profit organizations in the Washington, DC area. She's got her master's degree in Communications & Technology from Georgetown University. Jackie is assisting Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories [LT]2, CREMAT and REMA with IT coordination. She's driven by technology and numbers with a cause. Her current research interests include mix methods research on public opinion, new media and entrepreneurship. She enjoys arts, culture and spending time with her family and two beautiful dogs.

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni is a doctoral student in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program with a concentration in Early Childhood. Marisa has previously attended Grand Valley State University and received a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology. During her time in Michigan and during her first two years in Colorado, Marisa worked with school psychologists in Grand Rapids and Denver school districts where her work in assessment and data analysis focused on early childhood and middle school students. Marisa is currently working for the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) with high needs populations that include social/emotional needs along with learning and developmental disabilities doing brief therapy, curbside consults, and assessment. Her interests involve working with youth who have developmental disabilities and youth from underprivileged populations, specifically in early education. Marisa is currently working on the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network grant. She works on the mathematics and executive function project, paying critical attention to the role of executive function in mathematics and how executive function and math are linked to a wide range of important, long-term academic outcomes.