NYDBC is comprised of a small team that includes the following: Project Director (full-time), Project Coordinator (full-time), Family Engagement & Outreach Coordinators (two part-time), Project Assistant (part-time), Billing Assistant (part-time) and Principal Investigator (consultation). Each core staff person brings specific expertise in the field of deaf-blindness.
Susanne Morgan Morrow, MA, CI, CT — Project Director
Susanne (Susie) is the Project Director of the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative and is also a nationally certified Sign Language Interpreter. Susie’s career started within the DeafBlind adult community at Helen Keller National Center, over 25 years ago. From those direct experiences she then went on to work on the national deaf-blind project where she addressed topics such as self-determination, advocacy, and transition planning for young adults who are deaf-blind. Throughout her career Susie has had the opportunity to present, interpret and provide coordination services in a wide array of venues for Deaf and DeafBlind people. Her work has been seen at regional, national and international conferences, in higher academia, as well as music and theatrical performances.
Susie has also been adjunct faculty at Hunter College in the graduate program on Severe/Multiple Disabilities with an annotation in deafblindness, a mentor and trainer in various interpreter education programs and has acted as the chairperson to various national organizations and committees. Additionally, she is also the lead developer of the Introduction to Sign Language and Braille module, part of the Open Hands, Open Access intervener module series developed by the National Center on Deaf-Blindness and is also on the national team of reviewers for candidates pursuing intervener certification. Susie is a national trainer on a multitude of topics related to access and education of individuals who are DeafBlind and interpreting.
Her entire career has focused on creating linkages between the interpreting, Deaf and DeafBlind communities through her various roles, constantly learning the myriad ways to best act as an ally across communities.
Christopher Russell, MS, Ed., TVI — Project Coordinator
Chris has extensive experience in the classroom as a Teacher of the Blind/Visually Impaired (TVI), working with children with varying degrees of visual impairment and additional disabilities, including deafblindness. He was the first person to receive Perkins-Roman CVI Range Endorsement in New York and has presented widely on this topic as well as educational best practices, curriculum adaptations, emergent communication development and various eye conditions and their implications.
Chris is past president of the New York Association for Education and Rehabilitation of Blind/Visually Impaired (NYSAER) and remains on the board today. He is also adjunct faculty in two graduate programs at Hunter College; Blindness/Visual Impairment and Severe/Multiple Disabilities with an annotation in deafblindness. Chris was part of a team of developers of the Open Hands, Open Access training modules for interveners and is a national portfolio reviewer for candidates pursuing certification.
Chris currently serves on the DeafBlind International Network of the Americas board and participates in NCDB’s Peer Learning Communities that are focused on the Teacher of the Deaf-Blind and Interveners. Chris has also worked in collaboration with Perkins School for the Blind on their CVI for TVIs webinar series. Chris is currently pursuing an advanced certificate in School Building Leader (SBL) and School District Leader (SDL) through the Educational Leadership program at Queens College.
Suzanne Chen, Family Engagement & Outreach Coordinator – Lead
Suzanne Chen is the lead Family Engagement and Outreach Coordinator for the New York Deaf-Blind Collaborative. She is also a parent of a child who is deaf-blind who has CHARGE Syndrome. With NYDBC, Suzanne is responsible for direct outreach and support to families of children who are deaf-blind throughout New York State. She heads up various family activities, including biweekly online meetings for parents to connect and share experiences, support, and resources, as well as leading family conferences and various professional development, in particular within the medical community. Through her family experience she has advocated for her son and has been a part of the special needs and medical communities for over 11 years.
Suzanne also serves on a variety of boards and organizations. Currently she acts as the President of the New York Parent Association for Deaf-Blind (NYPADB) and is the NY state liaison for the CHARGE Syndrome Foundation. Suzanne is also on the Family Advisory Council for the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and is an Ambassador Mom with the March of Dimes. She also serves as Co-Vice President on the Board of Trustees for the Lexington School and Center for the Deaf in Queens, NY.
Suzanne strongly believes that knowledge is power and advocacy brings change. These philosophies are reflected in how she interacts and engages with families and professionals in order to build critical connections.
Nanci Bentley, Family Engagement & Outreach Coordinator
Nanci is a Family Engagement & Outreach Coordinator (FEOC) with NYDBC and is a parent of a child with Pallister Killian Syndrome, a rare chromosomal disorder that causes hearing and vision loss as well as host of other potential challenges. She and her family began their journey into the world of special needs over 9 years ago. Nanci works in collaboration with the other FEOC in order to connect families and increase identification and referral of children with combined hearing and vision loss in New York State, specifically in Western NY. She continues to build her advocacy skills and foster relationships between families, professionals and agencies. Nanci is impassioned by assisting families in navigating the special education process. She finds merit in seeing families find their “voice.”
Nanci currently serves on the Board of Directors for Ability Partners Foundation (CP Rochester, Happiness House, Rochester Rehabilitation) and offers service to the Kiwanis Club to support fundraising events that enrich the lives of children and their families. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the local YMCA. Additionally, she is on the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Rochester Parent Advisory Council, acting as a parent advisor on the Quality Improvement Team. Nanci also works with Inclusion in Motion, an organization working to bring universal design to community playgrounds, to ensure equal access to play.
Bukurije Ramusevic, Billing Assistant
Bukurije (Buki) is the Billing Assistant for NYDBC. She handles all details regarding payment requests, expense reconciliations, travel requests and consultant paperwork, including Memorandums of Understanding, Independent Contract Agreements, W-9s, resumes, etc. Buki also maintains a grant-wide financial spreadsheet for grant maintenance regarding expenses and available balances. She works directly with the Project Director and is sponsored by Queens College.
Patricia (Pat) is the chairperson of the Political Science department and has been faculty at Queens College for over 35 years. She has provided consultation in over 25 states throughout the country on interagency collaboration, team-building, effective communication skills, systems change strategies and transition planning for young adults who are deaf-blind. She has served as a consultant to two national deaf-blind technical assistance grants and to Helen Keller National Center. Pat has also published on topics in deaf-blindness throughout her tenure in the field. As the Principal Investigator on NYDBC, Pat maintains administrative connections within Queens College and the CUNY system on behalf of the grant program.