Innovation Continues at Aspire Institute

Meet the Aspire Team

We are welcoming the summer here at the Aspire Institute and wrapping an exciting academic year of new additions, including inaugurating a new President, Dr. David Chard! My name is Dr. Kenann McKenzie-Thompson, the new Executive Director for the Aspire Institute and the Office of Sponsored Programs. I came to Wheelock primarily because I am personally and professionally EXCITED about, and in alignment with its mission to “Improve the lives of Children and Families.” You may read more about me here.

The Aspire Institute will continue to expand its reach into the community within Wheelock’s new Office of Sponsored Programs. This Office was created with the intention of creating a collaborative space for both the Aspire Institute and the Center for Scholarship and Research. The goal is to create synergy and secure resources to expand the reach of our active trainings, responsive research, and community action.

Aspire retains its unique role as an innovation hub at Wheelock, offering both training and technical assistance on salient issues affecting children and families. As a direct reflection of Wheelock’s mission to “Improve the Lives of Family and Children,” the institute continues in the strong tradition of Lucy Wheelock, our founder, with programs such as:

  • Connected Beginnings Training Institute, led by Aspire team member Mary Avery.  Connected Beginnings offers early childhood education training and technical assistance throughout the state of Massachusetts and beyond.
  • Teacher Support Program, led by former Boston Public Schools veteran teacher and Aspire team member Amy McClennen. This program has taken root with the generous foundation support of the Kellogg Foundation.

Watch the video showcasing our teacher mentoring program here:

In addition, we have been expanding our portfolio of course-delivery models to make learning more accessible to all students—both traditional and non-traditional—by creating and offering courses that are hybrid (online and in-person), as well as those based on competency-based education with team member Barbara Joseph.

We are fortunate to have a wealth of expertise at Wheelock and will be showcasing our faculty work through collaboration with the Center for Scholarship and Research, led by Dr. Janine Bempechat. We look forward to sharing the work we are doing with you and also ask you to feel free to reach back to us to share your thoughts and requests for supports.

We are here to truly improve the lives of children and families here in Boston, nationally, and abroad wherever we can make an impact.

Thank you.

Learn more about Aspire at Learn more about the Office of Sponsored Programs at

Dr. Kenann McKenzie-Thompson is executive director of Wheelock College’s Office of Sponsored Programs, the Aspire Institute, and the Center for Scholarship and Research.