The Robinson Center is a national leader for developing programs that serve highly capable young pre-college and college students. Through early entrance programs the Robinson Center prepares younger students for college and provides them with challenging, accelerated learning opportunities in a vibrant, intellectual community at the University of Washington. The Center provides outreach through enrichment and summer programs that offer classes for highly capable Puget Sound students. The Robinson Center is also a site for research and discovery of best practices in supporting highly capable young students, and maintains the UW’s position as an internationally-renowned center of gifted education.
In 2011, the Robinson Center created an advisory board to support the mission of and promote the Center, suggest and discuss program development, and reach out to the campus, gifted, and broader communities. The advisory board is comprised of professors, lawyers, scientists, parents of alumni and current students, gifted-education experts and practitioners. They have all come together to serve and advocate for the Robinson Center.
Meet the Robinson Center Advisory Board
A teacher for 36 years, Debby Benzinger believes that highly-capable students deserve a rigorous educational environment where they can be recognized and supported. For the past 20 years of her career, Benzinger has focused primarily on meeting the educational needs of academically-gifted students in public schools. She is currently team-leader for Bellevue School District’s self-contained middle school gifted program, PRISM, where she teaches history, philosophy, and language arts. She has encouraged many of her students to attend educational enrichment centers because it motivates them to develop their individual talents and challenges them to make a positive difference in their lives and their community.
Benzinger earned her degrees in psychology and education from Whitworth College; her National Board Teaching Certificate is in social studies and history. As a peer facilitator, she has supported other teacher candidates’ educational goals. She is member of the State’s Gifted Advisory Board. In addition, she supports the Future Problem Solving, a program that stimulates critical and creative thinking skills and prepares students for leadership roles, and has coached teams for many years. The past several years, her teams have won the state competition and have continued on to the international competition.
Pauline Bowie is a parent advocate within the gifted education community. She is also a board member at the Northwest Gifted Child Association, a support and advocacy organization for parents of gifted children.
Anna Mari Cauce
Dr. Ana Mari Cauce graduated from the University of Miami in 1977 with degrees in English literature and psychology. She continued her education at Yale University, where she earned her doctoral degree in psychology, with a concentration in child clinical and community psychology. Cauce began teaching at the University of Washington in 1986 and is currently the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Carmine “Chick” Chickadel
Chick Chickadel is upper division head at Evergreen Middle School, meeting the educational needs of highly capable children. He came to Evergreen from The Bush School, where he served for 13 years as dean, head of middle/high school English, and interim head of the upper school. Chickadel has 40 years of academic experience, primarily in private and independent schools.
Jane Fellner is an active member in the Seattle School District’s Accelerated Progress Program and longtime gifted education advocate.
Doug Dale is the parent of son, Reid, who attended Transition School in 2009-10 and continues at the UW through the Early Entrance Program. Reid is currently working as the English class teacher’s assistant at the Transition School. The Dale family is very thankful for the unique opportunity that the Transition School affords students who are looking for a rigorous academic environment. Dale is the vice president of finance at Sea Mar Community Health Centers, which provides health care and social services to low income and underserved populations in Western Washington. He also volunteers on various committees at Calvary Lutheran Church in Federal Way, WA.
Marcia Holland, a graduate of the University of Washington, has been a parent advocate for gifted education for 35 years. Marcia is the mother of two gifted adult sons and the grandmother of two gifted grandsons. Both her sons participated in the Johns Hopkins Young Scholar Search facilitated by the Robinson Center. She currently serves as president of Northwest Gifted Child Association, which has worked with the Robinson Center on public education forums for parents. She also serves on the leadership team of the Washington Coalition for Gifted Education. She is a former school board member for the Renton School District and worked as the lobbyist and parent involvement director for the Washington State PTA is the early 1990s.
Paul B. Hopkins’ son Samuel is an Early Entrance Program Student at the Robinson Center. Hopkins is also a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Washington, where he has taught organic chemistry to both Early Entrance and Academy students for many years. Hopkins believes these Robinson Center programs pay a double-dividend, benefiting the students themselves, as they avail themselves of the extraordinary breadth and depth of learning that is possible at the UW, and benefiting the UW overall by lifting the quality of students in our classrooms and laboratories.
Hopkins graduated with a bachelor of science in chemistry from Purdue University, then earned his Ph.D. in chemistry with Professor E.J. Corey at Harvard University. In 1982, Hopkins joined the UW Chemistry Department faculty as an assistant professor. He rose to the rank of full professor and has served as chairman of his department since 1995. He has taken great satisfaction through the years in being a teacher of students, in discovering new knowledge through research, and recently through overseeing the hiring of the next generation of faculty members who will assure the excellence of UW programs for years to come.
John “Jack” Lee
John M. “Jack” Lee has been a member of the UW Mathematics Department faculty since 1987, and has been involved with the Robinson Center since 2004. He has a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in anthropology and a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT; has worked as a computer programmer, a high school teacher, and a resident dean at Harvard; and dabbles in music and drawing. He and his wife Pm Weizenbaum (a freelance editor and currently head of the Early Entrance Program Parent Society) are the parents of two boys—Nathan (21), who was in the Early Entrance Program 2004-2010, and Jeremy (17), currently a senior at Nova High School in Seattle.
When Jack first heard about the Early Entrance Program many years ago, he had a hard time imagining why any parent would want to send their 14-year-old to college. But after his son Nathan started expressing an interest, he took some time to learn about the program, and discovered the many ways in which it provides a wonderful and unique opportunity for students like Nathan.
Paul LePore is the associate dean for Student and Academic Programs in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His appointment began in December 2008. As associate dean, LePore focuses on student issues, including recruitment, retention and graduation; academic advising; program development; learning assessment; student engagement; the college’s residential living/learning programs; course scheduling; and enrollment management. A sociologist by training (specializing in social psychology and sociology of education), LePore’s scholarship looks to identify factors that promote academic achievement and student success. In addition to his duties as associate dean, LePore continues to work with students and researches and analyzes trends impacting our nation’s educational system.
Prior to his work at ASU, LePore was assistant dean for educational programs in the UW’s College of Arts and Sciences, a faculty member in the Department of Sociology, and Robinson Center Academy instructor. He is a member of the American Sociological Association, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and the American Educational Research Association.
Sue Mark is a graduate of the University of Washington School of Pharmacy and is currently a pharmacy manager for a local chain. She has two daughters who have been a part of the University of Washington Academy program: Rebecca who has since graduated and is currently employed by the Robinson Center and her younger daughter Michelle who is a senior set to graduate this year.
Stephen Martin has been involved with gifted education as teacher, administrator, consultant, and parent. He currently works with the Seattle Public Schools Advanced Learning Office and serves as president of the Washington Association of Educators of the Talented and Gifted. His previous professional experiences include work with school districts in Massachusetts and Washington, the Department of Defense dependents schools in the Philippines and Germany, and as director of an online charter school in Colorado. Martin is a member of the Washington Coalition for Gifted Education, Northwest Gifted Child Association, State Gifted Advisory Committee, and the National Association for Gifted Children.
Paula Olszewski-Kubilius is currently the director of the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy. She has worked at the Center for Talent Development for 28 years during which time she has designed and conducted supplementary, outside-of-school educational programs for learners of all ages. She is active in national- and state-level advocacy organizations for gifted children in the Midwest. She currently is president of the National Association for Gifted Children, serves on the board of the Illinois Association for Gifted Children, and is a trustee of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. She has conducted research and published extensively on issues of talent development, particularly the effects of accelerated educational programs and the needs of special populations of gifted children. She has served as the editor of Gifted Child Quarterly and as a co-editor of the Journal of Secondary Gifted Education. She has also served on the editorial advisory boards of the Journal for the Education of the Gifted, and Gifted Child International, and was a consulting editor for The Roeper Review. She currently is a member of the editorial board of Gifted Child Today and Gifted Child Quarterly. In 2009, she received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Association for Gifted Children.
Nancy Robinson and her husband, Halbert (Hal), met during one of their first graduate-school classes in a program of developmental/child-clinical psychology at Stanford University in 1950. From that instant on, they were close partners in all aspects of their lives, including parenting four children. After 10 years at the University of North Carolina, they joined the UW faculty in 1969. Hal, a professor of psychology, founded what is now known as the Robinson Center in 1975, and its Early Entrance Program in 1977, with Beth, their youngest daughter (now CFO of NASA), as one of the first Early Entrance Program students. Meanwhile, Nancy was attending to the “other end of the normal curve” in UW Health Sciences. After Hal’s death in 1981, she couldn’t let Hal’s innovative programs disappear, so, although she continued her work in disabilities for seven more years, she also became the Robinson Center director and, until her retirement in 2000, shepherded the Center, including its Transition School/Early Entrance Program, its clinic, its summer programs, teaching, and research.
Dr. Ilene S. Schwartz is professor and chair of the area of special education in the College of Education at the University of Washington, and the director of the Norris and Dorothy Haring Center for Research and Training in Education. She earned her Ph.D. in child and developmental psychology at the University of Kansas and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Schwartz has an extensive background working with young children with special needs, specifically with young children with autism and other severe disabilities. She is the director of the DATA Project, a model demonstration project to develop school-based services for young children with autism, and principal investigator of an IES-funded grant to examine the efficacy of literacy and social interventions for young children with ASD in elementary schools. Schwartz is excited to be working with the Robinson Center to better understand the needs of children who are twice exceptional, that is are gifted cognitively and have social, behavioral, or mental health challenges.
Carrie Shiu is passionate about helping young people find their dreams and realize their potentials. She is a long time volunteer for the FIRST Robotic Competition and for her church’s children fellowship. As the parent of a current Robinson Center Transition School student and as an advisory board member, Shiu looks forward to supporting the Robinson Center’s mission in providing a supportive yet challenging environment for the young minds.
Shiu joined the Boeing Company in 1996 as an aerodynamics engineer, fulfilling her childhood dream, and has since been involved with airplane design, simulation, flight test, and certification. Currently she is a product marketing regional director responsible for presenting the value of Boeing products and services to airlines, leasing companies, media and other constituents. Shiu received her bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Kansas. She is a certified Project Management Professional since 2004 and a Stanford Certified Program Manager since 2010. In 2011 Shiu was selected by the Chinese Institute of Engineers – USA as the Most Promising Asian American Engineer of the Year.
Dr. Stephanie Wood-Garnett is a faculty member in the UW’s College of Education. Wood-Garnett’s personal experiences as one of the only students of color in highly capable courses during her middle and high school career contribute to her passion for this work. Her areas of interest include school improvement, urban education, culturally-responsive educational practices and disproportionality. She has written and contributed to several publications including “Teacher Preparation and Response to Intervention at Middle and High Schools” (2009) and “Addressing the Overrepresentation of African American Students in Special Education: An Administrator’s Guide” (2002). Wood-Garnett was the executive director of Bellevue School District’s Highly Capable Program and also served as a member of the Highly Capable Program Technical Workgroup for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Prior to moving to Seattle, Wood-Garnett held a variety of positions with the District of Columbia Public Schools, Learning Point Associates, and the Council for Exceptional Children.
Wood-Garnett obtained her B.A. in English literature from Dartmouth College; M.S. in education administration from The George Washington University; and Ed.D. in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. In her free time, Stephanie chauffeurs her four children (ages 6, 8, 9 and 11) to activities in the Seattle-area.
Melissa Yeager is the parent of an Early Entrance Program alum.
Ex-Officio Advisory Board Members
James Clauss, Director, Honors Program
Maren Halvorsen, Associate Director, Robinson Center
Nancy Hertzog Director, Robinson Center
Kim Lee, Administrator, Robinson Center