Managing Editor:

Jessica Murray, Managing Editor

Jessica Murray has worked in the higher ed., nonprofit, and publishing sectors since 2004. Her strong communication and organizational skills allow her to collaborate effectively with a variety of stakeholders. She encourages creative solutions to the age-old problem of “how do I get this thing done?”

As the Coordinating Producer of Pellet Media, Jessica is in charge of day-to-day operations of Stairway to STEM (STS). She likes to tackle big projects and excels at creating and implementing strategies based on community feedback and need. Working on STS is an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience. Hitting publish on an impactful piece of content, which came together through truly collective processes, makes her day.

Editorial Board Members:
STS Editorial Board Member Arianne Garcia

Arianne Garcia is a Hispanic writer, activist, artist, and autism advocate. She was diagnosed at 25 with ADHD and autism. Unsatisfied with just educating herself, Arianne set up her own website to help others navigate the tricky communication bridge between autistic and neurotypical thinking and speaking. Arianne has written on numerous autism topics, such as Hispanics and autism diagnosis rates, hiring autistic people, suicidal ideation in autistic adults, amongst other things. Arianne‘s stress therapy includes sensory aides, music, and playing with Legos. Interested in her work? Visit her website: www.arianneswork.com

Claire Barnett is a Vanderbilt University senior studying Human & Organizational Development. She was diagnosed with autism in November of 2017 and is a proponent of the neurodiversity framework for understanding people with all types of neurological differences. At school Claire is a student journalist, as the Photo-Video Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler and the Executive Producer of Vanderbilt TV News. In summer of 2017, she participated in the White House Internship Program in the Photo Office. You can check out her photographs at www.clairetomphotos.com.

John Caldora, M.Ed. is a case manager who works with students of concern at a large public university in the Southern United States. He is also a member of the autism spectrum. John draws on his personal experiences as well as his knowledge of Higher Education administration to help autistic students succeed. He has spent years presenting to higher education professionals regarding best practice interventions and encouraging self-advocacy in students.

Sara Sanders Gardner is an autistic professional living in Redmond, Washington, near Seattle.  Sara is the designer and Program Director of Bellevue College’s Autism Spectrum Navigators program, now in its 8th year, serving over 200 students. Sara also consults with Microsoft’s U.S. Autism Inclusive Hiring program, and leads training sessions with prospective managers and team peers of individuals hired through the program – discussing areas such as social justice, autism as a culture and a disability, and communication styles. Her website is autisticatwork.

Susan Woods, M. Ed, recently retired as Associate Dean of Student Support Services at Middlesex Community College after 27 years. Susan managed the college’s Disability Support Services, supporting 1000 students with documented disabilities, as well as alternative and grant funded support programs. Susan has regularly provided training and workshops to faculty and staff on creating welcoming and inclusive environments and universal design for instruction. Her work now focuses on professional development and training to high school personnel and families to help support the successful transition to college for students with disabilities. Her professional development website is www.susanbwoods.com.

Theresa Revans-McMenimon, M.S., L.M.H.C., L.M.F.T. is a licensed mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist living and working in New York. In addition, she is an Adjunct Counselor for Students on the Autism Spectrum for Westchester Community College. Theresa brings her experience as a clinician and personal perspective as a parent of an individual with ASD to her higher ed position. Theresa is also an educational consultant to various families and institutions in New York.

Content Contributors:

Abi Hunter is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago currently completing her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics jointly with a Master of Science in Computer Science. She has worked in software development for two summers. She is passionate about the intersections of formal linguistic theory and computer science, and hopes to pursue further graduate work in this field. Abi is passionate about STEM and computer science education in particular, and loves sharing her understanding of her favorite complex topics in programming and linguistics.

Chelsea Harris has appeared in The Portland Review, Smokelong Quarterly, The Fem, Minola Review and Grimoire, among others. She co-runs a zine and reading series in Bellingham, WA called Wallpaper Magazine. Chelsea received her MFA from Columbia College Chicago. You can find her work here: chelseamarieharris.tumblr.com/writing

Elinore Alms is a Registered Behavior Technician in Fresno, California. She works part time as an in-home positive behavior supports provider and is a biology major at Fresno City College. In her spare time, she watches anime and cares for her many pets.

Justin Robbins is currently interning with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation in Florida, where he works in the Wildlife and Habitat Management Program. He is a recent graduate of Tufts University, having double majored in biology and history. In addition to being an advocate for other autistic people, he enjoys modern board games, great worldbuilding, and truly awful puns.

STS Contributor Katie Newton

Katie Matthews is a part time speech and language pathologist and part time professional runner. Katie received both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Boston University in Speech, Hearing, and Language Sciences and Speech-Language Pathology, respectively. She also trains on the Boston Athletic Association High Performance Team. Katie has experience in public and private schools as well as private clinic settings. She works with children and young adults with a variety of disabilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Katie loves to share executive functioning and planning tips along with the more traditional social language strategies to help students succeed.

Laura Gilmour is a PhD candidate in educational psychology at the University of Alberta and an autistic self-advocate. Her research has centred around issues surrounding autism across the life span ranging from sexuality, online gaming, employment, and autism culture. She is actively involved in guest lectures in the Edmonton community which share both her personal and research experience.

Olivia Tyson is an educational coach who works for the ICE (Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment) Program at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Massachusetts. She helps students in the classroom, as well as with homework assignments, social connections, and immersion into campus life. She also has a younger brother named Nick who has autism and attends a residential program. Olivia enjoys teaching, studying and creating art, and spending time with her family.

Guest Contributors:

Cara Feinberg is a journalist working in print and documentary television. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Online, The American Prospect, and Harvard Magazine, and she has worked on television documentaries for the PBS science series NOVA, Discovery Science Channel, Travel Channel, and DreamWorks Animation. She can be reached at www.CaraFeinberg.com.

Maureen Perkins is a 48-year-old mother of five. In 1995 her son Daniel was born and at the age of eighteen months, he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. With this shift in every day life, Maureen and her husband decided in 1995 that she should quit her job at the state auditor’s office to be Daniel’s full-time aid and advocate. Through a great deal of research, travel, and legal battles, she was able to give Daniel the tools to graduate with honors and begin a career in his chosen field.

Patrick Dwyer is an autistic graduate student in the psychology department at UC Davis with a broad interest in helping to ensure that autistic and neurodivergent people can lead fulfilling lives. He plans to use eye-tracking and electrophysiology to explore the heterogeneity of the autism spectrum and different phenotypes of autism, and is particularly interested in studying sensory processing and sensory sensitivities in autism. He has also facilitated peer-support groups for other autistic college students. You can find more of Patrick’s writing on his blog at autisticscholar.com.

Past Contributors:

Andrea Kolodziej, is a Production Coordinator at Award Productions. She manages production shoots and multiple video projects for clients across the country. Andrea has tackled all angles of the production field including video editing, script writing, social media, camera work, web design, and more. She started her production career working as an intern at NBC daytime television and developed her core skills working as an Associate Producer at Pellet Media. She was also a former core member of the Stairway to STEM team and was highly involved in the development of STS. Before her production career began, Andrea spent many years caring for her special needs sister and worked as a therapist and 1-1 paraprofessional for autistic students.

Andrea is passionate about helping others and inspiring through creativity. In her spare time, she is an avid traveler and a freelance photographer.

Julia Leverone, M.F.A., Ph.D., is a Dallas-based university lecturer of language and writing (Spanish, poetry, and essays), and is a poet and translator herself. She also has community college teaching experience and tutors students one-on-one in various disciplines. Her Facebook handle is @JuliaLeverone and her website is julialeverone.com.

Thaddeus Campbell is always in front of people. From television to sales to professional kickboxer and Martial Arts Instructor his professional life has revolved around relationships with other people. His earliest teachers sent home reports that he never stopped talking and not much has changed in the 40 years since. Now he is putting those skills to good use helping students parents and teachers help kids with ASD get the most out of their education.


Kate Becker is a science writer in Brookline, Massachusetts. She studied physics and astronomy and was previously senior researcher for the science documentary series NOVA. Contact her at http://www.spacecrafty.com/

Design Team:

Benjine Gerber was identified as autistic in 2012. Her occupation is freelance graphic designer and user experience designer. She is quite a solitary person who loves creating, writing, working in the garden and taking a walk. Over the years she has been learning about mindfulness, meditation, emotional regulation and medical science, which are topics that she enjoys writing about. Contact her at www.graphicouture.com.

Marlene Ozel is a freelance graphic designer with over 15 years of experience in the field. Over the course of her career, she has implemented her design skills in advertising, television and internal communications within the corporate sector. In her spare time, Marlene enjoys spending time with her family, practicing Yoga and  focusing on her volunteer work. She can be contacted via her LinkedIn account.

Nate Maxfield is an award-winning designer, developer, and skilled photographer with more than 15 years of experience. His career spans a few startups as well as some larger companies. Most recently he led the mobile UI/UX team at Verizon Labs in designing products for the FiOS Mobile suite of apps. Nate spends his spare time with his young family and working on various DIY projects. He also likes coffee, a lot.


Dr. Steven Budd, STS Project Evaluator, brings a mix of career and academic experience to the project.
He is a former community college president and former president of the Council for Resource
Development, (CRD), an affiliate Council of the American Association of Community Colleges. Dr. Budd
served as the originator and Principal Investigator of CRD’s National Science Foundation (NSF) funded
project to “Increase the Success of Community College Faculty in Winning Large Grants.” He continues
to serve as both internal and external evaluator for several NSF projects including The Northeast Center
for Advanced Technology Education (NEATEC). Steve holds an MBA and an Ed.d in Higher Education
Research from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Stairway to STEM was developed, produced, and is maintained by Pellet Media:

Pellet Media:

Anthony Manupelli, Executive Producer

Anthony Manupelli is an award winning producer and director with more than 15 years of experience in documentary television, national series production, educational programming, research and scripting. Anthony excels at using film and video to craft compelling stories while making complicated ideas clear, engaging and entertaining.

As a producer at the PBS flagship station WGBH Boston, Anthony created a diverse range of national science and educational programs and series. For more than a decade at WGBH, he successfully developed, budgeted, produced and managed multi-million dollar projects. Working closely with project funders such as the National Science Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation, he established lasting and productive relationships.

Anthony’s work experience has given him a thorough understanding of how people learn, as well as how to design, develop and disseminate digital content for maximum impact.

Mary Ellen Gardiner, Senior Producer

With more than twenty years’ experience as a producer and production manager, our Chief of Staff knows the ins and outs of every type of video project. Mary Ellen Gardiner is a flexible and adept problem-solver. Whether you need to strategize a budget, organize a remote shoot, or arrange a last minute edit, her proactive solutions will keep your project moving forward.

Mary Ellen began her career booking crews for a Boston production company, as well as managing video operations in studio and on location. In her position as Production Manager at WGBH, she handled multi-million dollar projects for the Educational Productions Department. As second in command at Pellet Media, her extensive production and management skills have been key to our success. We couldn’t do it without her.

Jason York, Post Production Manager

The phrase, “We’ll fix it in post,” always makes Jason York smile because he enjoys solving problems. What’s more, he is good at it. An award winning producer and editor, Jason is comfortable in the studio, on location or in the edit suite.

Jason began his career in 1997 at a small television station. There he had the freedom to learn every aspect of video production. His experience was put to good use when he went to work for the PBS series, NOVA.

As Post Production Manager for Pellet Media, his exacting nature and attention to detail assures that every production will leave looking and sounding great. And, he plays as hard as he works. In fact, Jason’s idea of relaxing is to run a marathon. He’s our kind of guy.