Our Research Team

Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac, Assistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood: Diversity and Transitions is the Principal Investigator and Director of ECCRC.

Our multidisciplinary research staff consists of professionals and students at the undergraduate and graduate levels from diverse disciplines. We support capacity building and skills development through intentional goal-setting and teamwork.

Dr. Jessie-Lee McIsaac

Jessie-Lee McIsaacAssistant Professor and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Early Childhood: Diversity and Transitions with the Faculty of Education and Department of Child and Youth Study

Jessie-Lee McIsaac holds a PhD in Public Health and an MSc in Health Promotion from the University of Alberta, and a BSc in Kinesiology from Dalhousie University. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship on policy interventions and knowledge mobilization with the Healthy Populations Institute (Dalhousie University) and Propel Centre for Population Health Impact (University of Waterloo).

The goal of her program of research is to enhance well-being during early childhood by ensuring policy and practice supports families as they transition across early learning environments. McIsaac studies early childhood and educational policy initiatives using an engaged scholarship approach to co-produce research that mobilizes knowledge and experiences for and with marginalised families. She works collaboratively with researchers, community, policy makers and research participants to inform policy and program design, and decision-making.

Fun stuff

When not doing research in early childhood, she is doing the practice of early childhood with her son Michael.

Marlene Flores Ramos

 Marlene Flores Ramos, MA WGS

Research Projects Manager

Alison Brown

20151011_0856Alison Brown, MLIS, Research Assistant

Alison is a recent graduate of the Master of Library and Information Studies from Dalhousie University where she completed a thesis exploring the profound outcomes of a shared reading program for federally incarcerated mothers and their families. Her research interests include the reading practices of marginalized communities and reading for empathy and social justice. She is preparing her PhD research project in which she will work with children and youth involved in the foster care system to determine what role reading for pleasure can play in supporting their social and emotional well-being.

Fun stuff

Alison likes best to wander and wonder with family and friends, read books with her kids in the hammock, hike along the coast, camp in the woods, eat pie, and arrive early.

Stephanie McCabe


Stephanie McCabe, MA CYS

Pyramid Model Project Coordinator

Stephanie is a recent graduate of the Master of Arts in Child and Youth Study program from Mount Saint Vincent University where she completed a thesis looking at parents and early childhood educator’s role in supporting the sleep hygiene practices of preschool-aged children in licensed childcare. Currently Stephanie is working at ECCRC as the Project Coordinator for the province-wide Pyramid Model initiative. Stephanie has always been passionate about supporting children with challenging behaviours and that’s why the Pyramid Model is the perfect fit for her!

Fun stuff

In her spare time Stephanie loves to be outside! She enjoys going camping on the weekends and spending time with family, friends, her two kittens Maple and Penny and her puppy Finn! Her favorite pass times include hiking, canoeing, swimming, snowshoeing and reading.

Brenna Richard

Brenna Richard MSVU 2018Brenna Richard, MA CYS

Brenna has a Master’s in Child and Youth Study from Mount Saint Vincent University. Although her research interests include most anything related to healthy living, she’s especially interested in children’s physical activity and outdoor play. Her thesis research explored outdoor play in Nova Scotia’s Pre-primary Program. Brenna now works for the ECCRC from her home in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Fun stuff

In her spare time, Brenna enjoys being active outdoors, exploring trails, and learning new things. Preferable with friends, family or dogs.

Marla Smith

Marla Smith, MA CYS, Research Coordinator

Marla is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Child and Youth Study program at Mount Saint Vincent University. Marla’s thesis focused on Adverse Childhood Experiences and Early Childhood Educators awareness and perceived support related to working with children who have had unfavourable early life experiences. Currently, Marla is a Research Coordinator at ECCRC, leading the Positive Solutions for Families project, an add-on to the Pyramid Model, a province-wide initiative in Nova Scotia. Marla is passionate about supporting the social emotional health of children, whether that be through her personal and/or professional work!

In her spare time, Marla enjoys spending time with friends, checking out local breweries and finding new and fun adventures to do in Nova Scotia. When she isn’t exploring the province, she is visiting her family in her hometown of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Madison MacQuarrie

Madison MacQuarrie, MA HPO, Lead Research Assistant

Meet Madison! Madison is a recent graduate from the Master’s in Health Promotion program at Dalhousie University. Her research interests involve many topics Health Promotion related. For her thesis research, Madison explored partnerships and participation in the Halifax Mobile Food Market in relation to partnership sustainability. Over the past few years, she has also developed a keen research interest in the health of children in the early years, specifically related to physical activity.

Fun stuff

In her spare time, Madison can be found cooking, exploring and being active outdoors, crafting, or relaxing with family and friends!

Sarah Morris

Sarah Morris, MA HPRO, Lead Research Assistant

Meet another one of our research assistants, Sarah! Sarah’s educational background is in Applied Human Nutrition, a degree she completed through MSVU in 2011. After a few years of private nutrition consulting, she discovered her passion for health promotion and disease prevention, which led her to the graduate Health Promotion program at Dalhousie University and ultimately to discover her research interest in early childhood development. Sarah’s research background primarily includes her own thesis work, which explored perceptions of physical health and well-being in the early years and her experience with social-emotional learning in the early years. It is her hope to tie together her passion for food and nutrition and early childhood development.

Fun stuff

Sarah enjoys running and is currently training for a quarter marathon this summer. Above all, she loves spending time with her husband and two daughters playing outside, hiking in the woods, and engaging her family in vegetable gardening.

Milena Pimentel

Milena Pimentel, Research Assistant, BA CYS

Meet Milena! She is currently enrolled in the (BA) Child and Youth Study program at MSVU and has worked at the Child study centre throughout her school terms since the summer of 2018. She loves to work with children of all ages but has found that she thrives in infant/toddler spaces. Milena’s interests lie around social emotional wellbeing of children and ECEs and in cultural diversity within early learning settings. Her goal is to complete an honours thesis which would allow her to explore her interests in a little more depth. Milena was born and raised in Bermuda, but is of Brazilian ethnicity. As a child she visited Brazil every summer and lived there as a teenager for 5 years. She loves the rich culture and diversity within Brazil, and the FOOD!

Her hobbies are whatever her kids are into! They love the water, and are still discovering Nova Scotia and have found some pretty awesome spots, the water is a tad too cold though! They love summers here in Halifax and all the fun events that happen such as Busker Festival, Rib fest (yes they are Foodies!) and they love Canada day celebrations. Strawberry picking and blueberry picking has quickly become a tradition, and they love apple and pumpkin picking in the fall!

Randi Cummings

Randi Cummings, Research Assistant, BA CYS

Randi has recently graduated with a BA in Child and Youth Study from MSVU through which she discovered her passion for supporting the social-emotional and cognitive development of children. Randi worked as an Early Childhood Educator for some time and has since returned to MSVU to work towards obtaining a BA in Psychology. She has returned to school with the hopes of entering a specialized program which will allow her to work directly with children with diverse needs to help them realize their own potentials. Randi’s research interests broadly include how early childhood experiences such as, attachment, traumatic experiences, and diverse needs, can affect the social-emotional and cognitive development of the child.

Growing up in a small fishing town has led Randi to love the ocean, and in her free time she goes home as often as she can to enjoy the beautiful beaches and her family. She also loves to travel and does so as much as possible!

Nahal Fakhari

Nahal Fakhari, Research Assistant, BA CYS, MA HPO (C)

Meet Nahal! She is originally from Iran and moved with her family 8 years ago to Halifax. She graduated with her honours in the BA Child and Youth Study program with a minor in Biology. Her thesis is about exploring e-health behaviour among Child and Youth Study students. She was also accepted into the MA Health Promotion program at Dal and will start in September 2020.

She enjoys traveling with her husband to see historical sights, historical museums, and art museums. In her free time, Nahal likes to go to the gym or do yoga, watch movies, and read books.

Denver Hilland

Denver Hilland, MA HPO, Project Coordinator

Denver Hilland holds a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology and Physical Education, with a minor in Psychology from Wilfred Laurier University. She recently completed a Master of Arts Health Promotion through Dalhousie University. Denver’s MA thesis explored parental perspectives of young children engaging in outdoor risky play. Her research interests include anything to do with healthy living and optimal development throughout the lifespan.

Fun stuff

Outside of work, Denver can be found teaching group fitness or clambering up mountains!

Jane Harley

Jane Harley, MA, Evaluation Manager

Jane holds an M.A. in Family Studies from the University of British Columbia, a B.Sc. in Psychology from the University of Washington, and A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education. She has additional graduate training in Measurement, Evaluation, and Research Methodology. Jane spent several years teaching preschool before moving into academic research. She has been involved in numerous programs of research including investigations of ADHD in preschool populations, social-emotional learning in young children, and influences of parenting on childrens’ emotion regulation. Additionally, Jane spent 5 years as an instructor at the University of British Columbia teaching courses such as Child Development and Applying Developmental Theories. Her personal research interests include externalizing behavioral problems in preschool children and the impact of parent–child conflict on family processes.

Fun stuff:

Jane loves spending time with her husband and preschool-aged son, is passionate about travelling, and likes to cook, watch baseball, drink craft beer, and attempt the occasional craft project.

Past Team Members

Leah Crowell, Project Coordinator
Samantha Rioux, Graduate Research Assistant
Chris Mitchell, Communications Assistant
Brittney Roughan, Research Grants Manager
Patrick Carolan, Research Project Manager
Sandeep Dhillon, Graduate Research Assistant
Sherry Stevenson, Evaluations Coordinator
Odeisa Stewart, Graduate Research Assistant