Our Team

The NPI evaluation was carried out by a trans-disciplinary team of scholars from Brock University. The diversity of our research team allowed us to take a comprehensive, mixed-methods approach to evaluating the various components of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative.

Click on the names of our team members to learn about the experience and expertise they brought to the evaluation.

Dr. Anteneh Ayanso

Department Chair and professor of information systems, Goodman school of business

Office: GSB 475P
905 688 5550 x3498

Dr. Anteneh Ayanso is Professor of Information Systems and the founding Director of the Centre for Business Analytics at the Goodman School of Business, Brock University.

Dr. Ayanso holds a PhD in Management Information Systems from the University of Connecticut, an MBA in Supply Chain Management and Finance from Syracuse University, and a BA in Business Management and Accounting from Addis Ababa University. He teaches Business Analytics, Database Design and Management, Data Mining Techniques & Applications and Management of IS/IT. Previously, he taught at the University of Connecticut, and Addis Ababa University.

His awards include the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, Graduate Professor of the Year, and Departmental Researcher of the Year Award from the Goodman School of Business, as well as a Fulbright Scholarship. He is also a member of Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Beta Delta.

Dr. Darlene Ciuffetelli-Parker

Professor, Education

Office: HAM 20C
905 688 5550 x3605

Dr. Darlene Ciuffetelli Parker is Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, Ontario, Canada. With many peer reviewed and invited research articles, chapters, books, reports, policy briefs, and newspaper columns, Ciuffetelli Parker’s commitment to narrative inquiry methodology is mirrored by her deeply felt commitment to literacy, critical literacy and narratives of experience. Her current areas of study include teacher education, literacy narratives as they relate to social justice, and poverty and its effect on education in Canadian elementary and secondary schools.

Ciuffetelli Parker has completed two large funded projects which spanned over four years on students and families affected by poverty, and educators who work in elementary school communities affected by poverty in Ontario, resulting in a research report as well as a co-authored book entitled Poverty and Schools in Ontario (Ciuffetelli Parker & Flessa, 2011). The book is having an impact on initial teacher education and the continuing professional development of teachers. Ciuffetelli Parker continues to research and write on poverty in secondary school settings as she advances partnerships to support deeper knowledge. She readily is an invited keynote/speaker, providing impactful talks to various organizations including: District School Boards, Research Panels/Partnerships, Ontario College of Teachers, Principal Associations, Canadian Women’s University Council, Child Youth Network, poverty education networks, and the community at large.

Ciuffetelli Parker’s research and teaching throughout her tenure at Brock University has been recognized locally and internationally with prestigious awards, including: the 2012 international American Educational Research Association (AERA) recipient of the Early Career Award of the Narrative Research Special Interest Group, the 2012 Faculty of Education Award for Excellence in Teaching at Brock University, and the 2013 recipient of the institutional Brock Distinguished Teaching Award.

Dr. Ciuffetelli Parker was an administrator, literacy resource-consultant, and elementary teacher in Toronto for over fifteen years before joining Brock University as a professor. She obtained her PhD from the Department of Curriculum and Teacher Development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

Dr. Dawn Prentice

Associate Professor, Nursing

Office: EA 318
905 688 5550 x5161

Dawn Prentice, RN, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing at Brock University. Dawn’s research interests include inter and intraprofessional education and practice. Her contributions to the NPI evaluation are related to client outcomes.

Dr. Dennis Soron

Associate Professor, Sociology

Office: STH 418
905 688 5550 x3458

Prior to arriving at Brock in the summer of 2005, Dennis Soron received his PhD from York University’s interdisciplinary program in Social and Political Thought and completed a multi-year postdoctoral fellowship with the Neoliberal Globalism and its Challengers project at the University of Alberta.  Professor Soron’s current teaching and research interests include contemporary social theory, political economy, the sociology and political economy of consumption, radical ecology, environmental sociology, and working class culture. He has published various book chapters, articles, and interviews on consumerism, work, the environment, and the issue of depoliticization. He is (with Gordon Laxer) the co-editor of Not For Sale: Decommodifying Public Life(Broadview/Garamond, 2006).

Dr. Felice Martinello

Professor, Economics

Office: Plaza 433
905 688 5550 x3329

Felice Martinello is a labour economist working in the Economics Department at Brock University. He is also a participating faculty member in the Department of Labour Studies. Felice grew up in Hamilton, did his undergraduate work at the UWO, and completed his PhD in Economics at UBC in 1984. His early work examined labour unions, with publications on wage determination in heavily unionized industries, union organizing activity, and stock market responses to union certification drives. His more recent work has focused on post-secondary education. It includes studies of faculty salaries, students’ transitions across post-secondary programs and institutions, decreases in students’ grades from high school to university, and the effect of withdrawal dates on students’ persistence. His teaching interests include labour economics, sports economics, and the economics of the environment.

Dr. Kevin Gosine

Associate Professor, Sociology

Office: STH 427A
905 688 5550 x4412

Kevin Gosine is interested in the study of race and racism, social inequality, youth studies , and education. He has researched the social identities of high-achieving Black university students, racial bias and disproportionality within the Ontario child welfare system, the social and educational impact of youth organizations, and the communal identities and educational experiences of marginalized urban youth. He has taught courses in social research methodology (at the undergraduate and graduate levels) in addition to service learning and community engagement.

Dr. Jeff Boggs

Associate Professor, Geography and Tourism Studies

Office: MC C328
905 688 5550 x4975

Jeff Boggs is an economic geographer with current research interests in regional economic development, regional political economy, precarious employment and mixed-methods pedagogy. Once upon a time, he wrote a MA on the structural and geopolitical conditions leading to collapse of East Germany, followed by a PhD that examined the evolution of two centres of the German book trade, Frankfurt-am-Main and Berlin. In the last decade he examined policies shaping the geography of Canada’s book publishing and video game industries. Recently, he collaborated on the PEPiN project, which provided the first systematic examination of precarious employment in the Niagara Region.

Dr. Joyce Engel

Associate Professor, Nursing

Office: EA 303A
905 688 5550 x3168

Dr. Engel PhD (Nursing, University of Alberta), M Ed (Curriculum and Supervision, University of Calgary), B Ed (Secondary Education, University of Calgary), RN Diploma (Galt School of Nursing, Alberta) has been a professor in nursing at Brock University since 2009.  Her research interests include interprofessional collaboration and education and miscarriage.  Prior to joining Brock University, Dr. Engel worked for several years in university and college settings in midlevel and senior leadership and administrative roles, which included the development and evaluation of curricula and programs.  Most recently, she has completed program reviews for the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing.

Marc Todd

Manager of social assistance and employment opportunities, Niagara Region

905 734 7975 x6548

Marc is a manager with Niagara Region Community Services, Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities (SAEO). Employed with the Region since 2001, and has held positions as an Ontario Works Case Manager, SAEO cost analyst, trainer, and supervisor. Since 2008, Marc’s portfolio has included managing two SAEO offices (Welland and Port Colborne) as well as the lead within SAEO for Literacy, Mental Health, Addictions, the Eligibility Verification Process and Poverty Reduction, which includes the Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI).

Dr. Mary-Beth Raddon

Associate Professor, Sociology

Office: STH 401A
905 688 5550 x3460

Mary-Beth Raddon researches topics of money and finance from the vantage point of social history, political economy and culture. She is especially interested in economic institutions, such as inheritance, charity, philanthropy, social welfare, households and cooperatives, whose primary logic is not market exchange. She has written a book on community currencies, which explores how new local exchange networks expose existing gendered patterns of reciprocity, work and shopping. Mary-Beth also researches on civic participation, social activism, and community-based research. These interests dovetail with her work in service-learning, a method of teaching that combines formal learning with community engagement. Areas of supervision include economic sociology and critical pedagogy.

Dr. Michael Busseri

Associate Professor, Psychology

Office: MC B316
905 688 5550 x4798

Michael Busseri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Well-Being Research Lab at Brock University. His research interests include the topic of ‘subjective well-being’, which encompasses individuals’ evaluations and emotional experiences of their lives. His studies also examine how individuals from across the adult lifespan view their lives as unfolding over time – from the recollected past, to the present, and into the anticipated future.

Natalie Chaumont

NPI Program Manager, United Way


Natalie has managed the Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) projects since 2009 when NPI held its first RFP.   With over 350 projects funded, Natalie is responsible for NPI’s operational management including planning and developing the request for proposal (RFP), establishing measurement outputs and outcomes, and monitoring and supporting active projects to ensure compliance and successful completion.   Over the last year, Natalie has been developing a custom contract management system to centralize NPI’s data to increase NPI’s ability to collect and report data back to the community.  Natalie also has extensive experience in planning and coordinating collaborative community initiatives and securing funding from provincial and regional governments, foundations and other sources through grant writing.

Princely Ifinedo

Assistant Professor, Goodman School of Business

Office: GSB 437
905 688 5550 x5794

Princely E. Ifinedo began teaching at Goodman School of Business in 2018. He holds a PhD in Information Systems from the University of Jyväskylä, an MBA in International Management from Royal Holloway at University of London, a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Port-Harcourt, and a Diploma in Education from University of British Columbia. He teaches courses in business modelling and information systems.

Previously, Ifinedo was an Associate Professor at Shannon School of Business at Cape Breton University, and an Adjunct Professor at ICT University in Louisiana.

Dr. Rachel Hirsch

Research Officer, Office of Research Services (Formerly Projects Facilitator, Social Justice Research Institute)

905 688 5550 x4004

Dr. Rachel Hirsch offers expertise in research development and capacity building stemming from over eight years’ experience working collaboratively with academics and community groups at Brock University, Memorial University, Trent University, and York University.

In 2010, she completed her SSHRC funded, award-winning doctoral work on the social dimensions of residential pesticide policy change at the University of Western Ontario in Geography. From 2010-2013, she developed a collaborative research program focused on building research and evaluation capacity on the topic of knowledge translation and food security in Iqaluit, Nunavut and Nain, Nunatsiavut (Labrador). During this time, Dr. Hirsch led or co-led multiple grant applications for community-administered research and program funds totaling over $135,000 including a SSHRC Standard Research Grant. She has been recognized for her research on the social dimensions of policy change and local knowledge sharing by the Society for Risk Analysis, the Canadian Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice, and the Canadian Association of Geographers.

From 2014-2017, Dr. Hirsch was Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute (SJRI) Projects Facilitator during which time she bolstered research imaginations leveraging more than $700,000 in external research grants and contracts. Now, in her current role as a Research Officer, Dr. Hirsch is the main point of contact for any Brock faculty members planning to apply to SSHRC or any other external social science and humanities research funder. This includes assistance with research development, review/feedback on draft applications, and any internal or external liaisons necessary for letters of support, contract negotiations, or other agreements with research partners.

Dr. Tiffany Gallagher

Professor, Education

Office: WH 371
905 688 5550 x5114

Tiffany L. Gallagher, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Educational Studies and the Director of the Brock Learning Lab. She completed her doctoral studies on the effects of tutoring students with learning difficulties and the associated experiences of their literacy tutors. Professionally, Tiffany was a teacher and administrator in private practice supplemental education for over a decade. In this capacity she administered achievement and aptitude tests and interpreted the results for individualized educational programming.

Dr. Zachary Spicer

Professor, Political Science


Zachary Spicer is an Associate with the Innovation Policy Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and a Lecturer at The University of Western Ontario’s local government program. Prior to joining the Munk School he served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Brock University, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in public administration, local government and public sector management. He received his PhD in Political Science from The University of Western Ontario and completed post-doctoral fellowships at the University of Toronto and the Laurier Institute for the Study of Public Opinion and Policy at Wilfrid Laurier University. His first book, The Boundary Bargain: Growth, Development and the Future of City-County Separation, was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press in 2016.

The NPI evaluation was supported by a team of graduate students, who participated in all stages of the research process, simultaneously sharing and developing their professional capacities.

Click on the names of our Student Research Associates to learn about the experience and expertise they brought to the evaluation.

Adam Fischer, MA

Geography and Tourism Studies


Adam completed his Master of Arts in Geography at Brock University with a focus in urban and economic geography. His master’s thesis focused on the relationship between the global financial crisis of 2008, Canadian house prices and mortgage debt, and Toronto’s condominium market. This background in housing has led to an interest in the relationship between housing, homelessness, poverty, and health in the Niagara Region.

Alicia Riolino, PhD(c)

Business Strategy and ENTREPRENEURSHIP


Alicia is a graduate of the Rotman School of Management MBA program at the University of Toronto. She also holds degrees in Economics from Brock University (BA) and McMaster University (MA). She is currently pursuing her PhD in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from London Business School. Since graduating from Brock, Alicia has worked with many Not-for-Profits and Social Enterprises on strategy development and program planning. She is especially interested in measuring impact and strategy execution under economic and organisational mandate constraints.

Amber Varadi, BSc



Amber-Lee is a second year master’s student in the Critical Sociology program at Brock University. With a diverse research background, with focuses including queer public displays of affection, feminist bookstores, and, most recently, young motherhood, Amber-Lee is interested in the governance, discipline, and regulation occurring across contemporary Western societies. Along with the NPI, Amber-Lee is involved in a research project evaluating the influence of a new mentorship program designed for student parents and is a member of Brock’s Social Science Research Ethics Board. Amber-Lee’s research experience informs her work in this project as she strives to learn how project and participant needs are interpreted, acknowledged, and addressed through the NPI.

Meaghan Ayaka Kovacs (Okutomi), HBA



Meaghan is a current 4th Year Bachelor of Science in Nursing student at Brock University. Through her nursing education, Meaghan has acquired an interest in the socioeconomic determinants of health and specifically how the effects of poverty can be mitigated to improve the health of populations. Meaghan brings to the table an enthusiasm in exploring how the NPI was effective in reducing poverty in the Niagara region.

Palmina Conversano, HBA

concurrent teacher education


Palmina is a teacher candidate in the Concurrent Education Program (Bachelor of Arts Honours in Integrated Studies (Arts Honr BA/Bed, Concurrent Integrated JR/IN) at Brock University with French as a Second Language as her teachable subject. She is currently a standing member of the Brock University Golden Key International Honour Society. Palmina is a Literacy Assistant for the Brock Learning Lab as part of the Niagara Catholic District School Board Tutors in the Classroom Program. Having served as a Literacy Assistant for the past four years consecutively, Palmina has had the privilege to provide focused one-on-one support for Niagara Catholic elementary and secondary school students. Consequently, she has developed a knowledge base regarding how literacy forms the foundation of a student’s academic success and is vital to empowering our most impoverished youth to thrive in their educational trajectories. Her experience as a Literacy Assistant has allowed her to develop a passion and commitment in ensuring that principles of social justice, equity, inclusive education, mental health, and critical literacy inform her practice and pedagogy. Palmina is an active member of Club Sardegna Nel Niagara and a participant of Niagara Folk Arts, which have cultivated her passion and high respect for multiculturalism and diversity in the Niagara Region. She advocates celebrating cultural diversity and heritage both in the classroom and in the larger community.

Palmina’s experiences as a teacher candidate in the Concurrent Program and as a Literacy Assistant have informed her understanding of how impoverished children, youth, and adults all require advocacy for effective support, intervention, and change. Palmina is very much interested in further enhancing her knowledge about effective poverty reduction strategies, and how such strategies dismantle the cycle of poverty through the Niagara Prosperity Initiative Evaluation.

Sarah Morningstar, HBA

Sociology and Child and Youth Studies


Sarah Morningstar graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Child and Youth Studies and Sociology, at Brock University. She was the recipient of the David Siegel Award for Leadership and Academic Excellence in the Social Sciences. Throughout her undergraduate degree, Sarah took a transdisciplinary approach to social justice issues with an overarching focus on income inequality. Sarah has volunteered her time in the Niagara Region as a Crisis Responder. She has worked in an addictions recovery home and more recently in an emergency shelter as a Women’s Advocate. Sarah’s experiences inform her work and highlight the complexity of poverty in the Niagara Region.

The NPI evaluation benefitted from the guidance of members of the Niagara poverty reduction community. This Community Advisory Team shared their insights into poverty in Niagara and helped develop measurement instruments.

Click on the names of our Community Advisory Committee members to learn about the experience and expertise they brought to the evaluation.

Catherine Livingston

Housing program and services manager, housing help centre

905 984 8955 x303

Catherine Livingston was born, raised and educated in Richmond Hill/Toronto. Catherine moved to Quebec City in 1975, and it was there that she started to travel and change her perspective. She learned that poverty by any definition damages the individual and the community. During Catherine’s extensive travels, she observed other cultures and communities and their different approaches to social programs and services – often better than those she observed at home. Travelling has heavily influenced her commitment to equity for all. That belief has become the driving force behind quietly and slowly living her values and a life of integrity.

The majority of Catherine’s professional career has been in the field of addictions. She has been employed for the past 15 years at a local Food Bank in the Housing Program offering services to people in the grip of poverty and hoping to mitigate poverty’s lasting impact.

Catherine believes we need more than band aids and continues to search for solutions with the aim of to having a positive effect on individuals and ultimately the community at large.

Diane Corkum

Executive Director, Project Share

905 357 5121 x22

Diane has worked at Project SHARE since its inception in 1989, and presently holds the position of Executive Director.  When Project SHARE began, the staff and board at that time thought they would be in existence for a year or two, and then would move on to other work when the economy righted itself and jobs became plentiful again.  Well, Diane is still here doing tremendous work.  Diane’s background is business and accounting, (Niagara College, Brock University), but over the years she developed a passion for social services.

Diane is a busy grandmother and I teach yoga in my free time.

Jackie Van Lankveld

Manger, Clinical Services, Niagara Children’s centre

905 688 3550 x158

Jackie Van Lankveld is a clinical manager of rehabilitation services at Niagara Children’s Centre and a Speech-Language Pathologist by trade.  She has a passion for early literacy and has served on numerous advisory committees/task forces for various early years’ initiatives and has presented both nationally and internationally on early language and literacy.  Jackie is an advocate for promoting early literacy within at risk populations.  She is a part time clinical instructor at Brock University and resides in Pelham.

Jane LaVacca

Executive Director, Westview Centre4Women

905 687 4848

Jane LaVacca worked at The Salvation Army in the City of Stratford as a Family Service Worker for twelve years. Next, Jane volunteered with Family and Children’s Services of Niagara in the Transportation Department for six years. Jane took a position as Program Director of Westview Centre4Women in 2008 and recently stepped into the role of Executive Director. Jane also provides pastoral care at hospitals throughout Niagara Health Systems.