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Our staff members are behind the scenes to bring our members the best networking, professional development, and research-based practices to their regions, schools, classrooms and early learning centers.

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Cynthia DiCarlo, PhD

Cynthia Fontcuberta DiCarlo, PhD, holds the Diane Toups Goyette Professorship of Early Childhood Education and serves as the Coordinator of the Early Childhood Education Teacher Education Program.  In her role as Executive Director of the Early Childhood Education Institute at LSU, she oversees a variety of early childhood initiatives, including the LSU Early Childhood Education Laboratory Preschool, the Louisiana Association for the Education of Young Children (LAAEYC), and the LSU Early Childhood Ancillary Certificate (ECAC). Prior to joining LSU in 2004, she was a Clinical Assistant Professor at LSU Health Sciences Center (New Orleans), serving children with disabilities birth to age 3 in community child care, home-based and center based services, as well as teaching early childhood special education in Jefferson Parish Public Schools. 

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Gracyn Austin

Professional Development and Community Engagement Coordinator

 Gracyn is a Texas native but proudly embraces her new Louisiana home. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Journalism. Upon graduation, Gracyn accepted a Communications Internship with the United States Congress. While interning, she obtained my alternative teaching certificate and started the Master's of Education in Teaching and Learning program through Clemson University. She has five years of elementary education and curriculum writing experience. Gracyn is passionate about providing meaningful, positive experiences and resources to educators across Louisiana. 


Gracyn is set to complete the Strategic Communications Certificate program at LSU in 2024 and soon after begin her PhD in Media and Public Affairs.

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Melanie Sandahl

Graduate Assistant 

Melanie was born and raised in Baton Rouge and got her bachelor's degree in Elementary Education at Louisiana State University. She then went on to earn her master's degree in Special Education from Southeastern Louisiana University. Melanie taught in public schools as an Early Interventionist for over a decade before going back to school at LSU to work on her PhD in Early Childhood Curriculum and Instruction.  

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Elena Whatley

LSU Student - President's Aid

Elena Whatley is a student worker at the LSU ECEI from Mandeville, Louisiana. Being a Louisiana native, she is passionate about improving her state's education and childcare. Elena is also an undergraduate student in the Ogden Honors College at LSU. She is currently pursuing a degree in psychology and plans to attend law school in the future.

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