Dale Cusumano, PhD, has worked at the early childhood, school, district, university and state levels as a researcher, nationally certified school psychologist, program coordinator, and evaluator. After earning an educational specialist degree in 2000 and a doctoral degree in 2005 from the University of South Florida's School Psychology program, Dr. Cusumano has advanced her career and currently serves as a Senior Implementation Specialist at the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) and as Co-Director of the State Implementation and Scaling-up of Evidence-based Practices (SISEP) Center at the University of North Carolina — Chapel Hill.
As a Senior Implementation Specialist, Dr. Cusumano provides technical assistance to state departments of education focused on building the knowledge and skills that facilitate development of evidence-based infrastructures in service of delivering full and effective use of evidence-based instruction practices to students. She has served as co-author on several briefs and technical manuals such as the District Capacity Assessment and other capacity assessment briefs. Dr. Cusumano has also served as the Project Director for the IES funded Team-Initiated Problem Solving (TIPS) grant and as a Project Evaluator of a federally-funded Early Learning Opportunities grant, which examined the effect of coaching to facilitate implementation of an early literacy.
At the district level, Dr. Cusumano has assisted in the design and delivery of professional development modules that refined implementation of RtI/MTSS at the school level. Her research and evaluation efforts have been published in numerous journals, one of which was selected as an honorable mention for outstanding article that contributed to the field of early childhood education.
What does a typical day look like in your role?
This is an interesting question! I am not sure I have a typical day, but some general themes do exist. First, as an implementation specialist at the National Implementation Research Network, my work spans several contexts or disciplines. Many days, I am coaching education leaders at state and regional agencies and districts as they build their capacity and infrastructure to adopt and sustain the use of evidence-based practices with fidelity. Other days, I am working with leaders of child welfare agencies to develop a system to supports use of practices leading to optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families.
The greatest variation for a typical day, however, can be found in the location of where these supports are delivered. Many days I am on-site in a state facilitating meetings, coaching leaders of the work, and using data to continually examine the impact of the systemic change that is often needed to meet this goal. When I am not on-site, I am often sitting in front of my laptop participating in virtual meetings and calls, developing resources and tools, or reviewing data that is used to guide next steps and improve our own work. I also spend a great deal of time in airports! So…no real typical days!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
Tough question! I enjoy so many things about my work! I love living in the messy work of systems change, thinking about how to move a system forward and then lifting learning from all of this to do it again but even better! There is never a day without some professional and personal learning. On top of all that, it is aimed at improving kids, parents’, and educators’ lives.
Did you always want to pursue a career in school psychology? What motivated you to pursue this line of work?
At the National Implementation Research Network (NIRN), we talk a lot about focusing on function rather than form. I think my decision to pursue a career in school psychology was driven by that — I wanted to do something that helped kids (i.e., function). Given that kids spend more than six hours a day in school, school psychology was a perfect match!