Who We Are


Mary E. Walsh, Ph. D

Director, Center for Optimized Student Support

As Daniel E. Kearns Professor of Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at the Boston College Lynch School of Education, Mary Directs the Center for Optimized Student Support. She is a nationally regarded expert in applying developmental psychology to meet the needs of students, and is the founder of City Connects, a systemic approach to providing each child in a school with a personalized set of opportunities and supports. City Connects began as a partnership between researchers at Boston College and Boston Public School educators, area community agencies, and families. Today, it partners with 80 schools across five states and is demonstrating significant, positive, long-term impacts on student achievement and school persistence. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical-Developmental Psychology from Clark University, where she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science.


Joan Wasser Gish

Director of Strategic Initiatives, Center for Optimized Student Support

Joan works at the nexus of research, practice, and policy to advance equal educational opportunity for all children. Capitalizing on her experience as a Senior Policy Advisor to a United States Senator and as a current member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, Joan works with stakeholders to build statewide systems that support educators and benefit children. At Boston College, she is advancing the work of the Center and leads a new initiative called InterconnectED aimed at developing an infrastructure to facilitate integration of education with social services, youth development, health, and mental health resources for Massachusetts’ children and families. She holds an M.A. in Education Policy from Columbia University Teachers’ College and a J.D. from Columbia’s School of Law.