Alumni Gather for School of Education Awards

by John Conroy

Pictured from left to right: Mandi Davis Skerbetz (winner of CGSE Extra Mile Award), Everett Herman, Carol McGrevin, Kay Alicyn Ferrell, Brian White, Dean Alan Lesgold, Lauren A. Silverstein, Erica Kolat, Andrea M. Kriska, Mineko "Minnie" Avery (accepted on behalf of son Christopher Norio Avery), and Hedda Sharapan. Not pictured: Lisa Brahms.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Education celebrated the recipients of its annual Alumni Awards on March 27, 2015, at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association in Oakland. Awards for the school’s departments and individual categories were presented at the reception and are listed below.


Carol McGrevin (BS ’64) is currently a partner in MCG Partners, a company involved in start-up organizations in health care and education. She started her career as an elementary school teacher, opting to become active in administrative management. She later became an elementary school principal and assistant superintendent of schools in New Jersey. After earning her PhD, she served on the faculty at Texas Christian University, the University of Northern Colorado, Pepperdine University, and Georgia State University. As a faculty member at Georgia State, she directed the Principals Center, which is a member of the International Network of Principals’ Centers. After leaving academia, she became a master consultant for the Southern Regional Education Board, focusing on school leadership to improve principals’ effectiveness as school leaders.

McGrevin and her husband, Gene, established the Lois Lyden Zord and the Honorable Joseph Zord Jr. Endowed Scholarship in the School of Education, which provides financial support to Pitt students. They also have established the Dr. Carol and Gene McGrevin Endowed Chair in the School of Education through their estate, provided professional and financial support to the Center for Urban Education, and created the McGrevin Postdoctoral Award in the Pitt School of Medicine. The McGrevins reside in Atlanta, Ga., and St. Petersburg, Fla., and have a son and a granddaughter living in California.


Lauren A. Silverstein (PhD ’12) is the founder and director of Jr. Apprentice, a program that helps underserved teens in Hartford, Conn., to get work experience, develop job skills, and receive career mentoring through paid apprenticeships. Prior to starting the program, Silverstein worked with low-income teens at urban public high schools as well as taught undergraduate and graduate students at universities. Among her high school students, few knew about the variety of careers available to them or were able to make informed decisions about which careers were good fits based on their talents, interests, and market demands.

Established in 2013, Jr. Apprentice now involves more than 150 volunteers and supporters along with a waiting list of local professionals interested in hosting an apprentice or facilitating a workshop. The organization exceeded the fundraising goal needed for its annual budget by 22 percent, allowing it to meet all first-year expenses and start the second year in fall 2014 on solid ground.

Prior to founding Jr. Apprentice, Silverstein taught in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. While her career has spanned several sectors, including community partnership development, college and career advising, and higher education teaching and administration, a common purpose has been present in each sector: to promote educational equity, opportunity, and success. It is this purpose that continues to energize her.


Brian White is superintendent of the Chartiers Valley School District, where he is responsible for managing the day-to-day operation of the district. During his five years as superintendent, White has created and facilitated a comprehensive strategic planning process involving the entire Chartiers Valley community. He is currently leading the district through the construction of a new high school and middle school for Chartiers Valley.

White began his career with the Pittsburgh Public Schools as a teacher, activities director, and band/orchestra director at Pittsburgh Brashear High School before becoming an administrative practitioner and then acting assistant principal at the former Schenley High School. He then held several positions in the Beaver Area School District, including assistant principal, middle/high school principal, and assistant superintendent, before becoming superintendent of the Chartiers Valley School District.

White is an active member of several educational leadership organizations, including the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, Tri-State Area School Study Council, and Pennsylvania School Boards Association. In 2005, he was recognized by Pittsburgh Magazine as one of its 40 Under 40, young leaders in the Pittsburgh area who are making a positive impact on the region’s development.



Erica Kolat received her Doctor of Education in school leadership in 2014 and completed the Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility Program in 2010, both from the University of Pittsburgh. Kolat is currently the superintendent of schools for the McGuffey School District, and she was most recently named one of 100 superintendents from across the nation recognized for their leadership in transitioning their districts to digital learning. The Superintendent Summit was hosted in November 2014 at the White House by President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and senior leaders from the U.S. Department of Education. The special honor helps and provides opportunities for educational leaders to share lessons learned with each other and to disseminate promising approaches across the nation.

In her past leadership roles, Kolat served as assistant superintendent for the McGuffey School District, district administrative assistant in the Chartiers-Houston School District, principal of Allison Park Elementary School, assistant principal at Claysville Elementary School, an English teacher at Waynesburg Central High School, and a substitute English teacher at Albert Gallatin Area High School.


Andrea M. Kriska (MA ’80) is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. She is a physical activity epidemiologist who has guided many National Institutes of Health studies in the areas of both physical activity assessment and lifestyle intervention. Kriska led the development of the physical activity component of the original Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) lifestyle intervention curriculum as part of the national DPP Lifestyle Resource Core at the University. She continues her involvement in physical activity intervention and assessment as well as being principal investigator of a study involving the translation of DPP’s successful behavioral intervention into diverse community settings ranging from senior centers to the military.

Kriska also is a faculty member at the Diabetes Prevention Support Center at Pitt, which provides training and support in lifestyle intervention efforts in diverse communities. Much of her research and almost all of her service efforts, including on local and national committees and task forces, focus on underserved populations in which prevention efforts are most needed.


Kay Alicyn Ferrell (PhD ’83) a professor of education in the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). For more than 40 years, Ferrell has been instrumental in leading the field in the education of individuals with visual disabilities, with particular emphasis in research on infants, preschoolers, and their families; cross-modal abilities of infants with disabilities; personnel preparation; distance education methodologies; and leadership development.

Ferrell is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field of service to professionals who serve individuals with visual disabilities. Her areas of specialization include the development and education of individuals with visual disabilities, particularly infants and preschoolers; personnel preparation; and distance education methodologies. She has authored books and monographs, including, most recently, Reach Out and Teach: Helping Your Child Who is Visually Impaired Learn and Grow  (2011), and has coordinated graduate programs in visual impairment and early childhood special education as well as the doctoral programs in special education at both UNC and Teachers College of Columbia University.

Ferrell has served as an assistant dean and as chair of UNC’s School of Special Education. She directed the National Center on Low-Incidence Disabilities from 2001 to 2010. In collaboration with colleagues, she has obtained more than $16 million in external funding during her academic career.


After Hedda Sharapan graduated from college in 1965, she followed her interest in children’s television and sought advice from Fred Rogers. At his suggestion, she enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School for Child Development. During her second year, Rogers received funding for the very first production of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and brought Sharapan on board as assistant director.

During her 48 years with Rogers and his company, she served as assistant producer and associate producer, handling viewer mail, coauthoring a nationally syndicated newspaper column, and speaking at conferences about Rogers’ approach to children and families. Sharapan currently director of early childhood initiatives as well as associate director of public relations at the Fred Rogers Company.

Sharapan has been inducted into the McKeesport High School Hall of Fame, received a lifetime achievement award from the National Association for Family Child Care, and was awarded an honorary doctorate by Saint Vincent College. Most recently, Sharapan was named PNC Grow Up Great Senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.


Christopher Norio Avery grew up in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh and attended Fanny Edel Falk Laboratory School from kindergarten in 1971 through eighth grade in 1980. After graduating, Avery attended and graduated from Pittsburgh Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, completed his undergraduate degree in applied mathematics at Harvard University, and earned a PhD in economic analysis at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. After earning his PhD, Avery began his career in 1993 as an assistant professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and he has been a member of the faculty ever since, having been named the Roy E. Larsen Professor of Public Policy and Management in 2005.

Much of Avery’s research has been particularly focused on improving the college-going prospects and outcomes of disadvantaged students in the United States. For example, together with Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University, he has documented the extent to which high- achieving, low-income students miss out on realizing their potential to attend high-quality colleges and universities.

In addition to the extensive body of research Avery has conducted related to educational equity, he also has worked for many years to put his research into practice through Harvard’s College Opportunity and Career Help Program, in which Harvard students support high school students in the Boston Public Schools navigating the college application and financial aid process.


Everett Herman is pursuing a PhD degree in the School of Education’s Department of Administrative and Policy Studies, with a concentration in social and comparative analysis in education. His research interests include exploring the link between the motivations and outcomes of students who participate in academically based civic engagement efforts.

Since 2012, Herman has served as a graduate student researcher at the Collaborative for Evaluation and Assessment Capacity, led by Cindy Tananis, associate professor in the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies. As an active member of the Council of Graduate Students in Education, Herman has served as a student representative on the School of Education Council as well as its Student Affairs Committee.

Additionally, he has organized and assisted in the facilitation of the Department of Administrative and Policy Studies’ new student orientation and has been a dependable, professional, and committed member of the School of Education community. The School of Education previously recognized him in 2012, when he was selected to receive an Alumni Doctoral Fellowship.

Originally from the greater Philadelphia, Pa., region, Herman earned both a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s degree in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania.


Lisa Brahms is director of learning and research at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh as well as a visiting researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments. Brahms earned her PhD in learning sciences and policy at the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, holds a master’s degree in museum education and childhood education from the Bank Street College of Education, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion and Jewish studies at Vassar College.

Professionally, Brahms has been an educator and designer of formal and informal learning experiences and environments for more than a decade, working in schools and at numerous children’s, art, and history museums across the country.

Since 2011, she has led the development and study of MAKESHOP, a makerspace designed for young children and family learning at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The MAKESHOP project has become a national model of informal learning research and practice.

Brahms’ research considers the design of informal learning environments for meaningful participation in creative processes with physical and digital media. Brahms’ dissertation was titled “Making as a Learning Process: Identifying and Supporting Family Learning in Informal Settings.”