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Faculty and Staff  


Tammy Day

Tammy Day joined Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in April, 2009, as the founding director of Next Steps at Vanderbilt. Tammy began her career over 30 years ago as a special education teacher who was always interested in the question, “What happens after high school?“ This interest inspired her to pursue certification as a Work-Based Learning facilitator, and the completion of a master’s degree from Peabody College at Vanderbilt with a focus on transition services. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, she worked for Rutherford County Schools as a special education teacher and then the high school liaison and transition specialist, where she developed many new initiatives.

Tammy works tirelessly with creative professionals and students both on and off the Vanderbilt campus in the development of our successful inclusive higher education program. She has worked to expand these college opportunities across our state and country and currently serves as the Chairperson of the Tennessee Alliance for Inclusive Higher Education. Tammy feels honored to be in the business of helping to build a diverse community that benefits all of its members.



Lauren Bethune-Dix
Assistant Director and Academic Development Director

Lauren Bethune-Dix oversees the program of study and all academics support initiatives at Next Steps at Vanderbilt. She works closely with a growing number of faculty and academic support services to expand academic course participation and progress. Her responsibilities include supporting admissions/recruitment, supporting faculty, collaborating with various on-campus academic supports on best teaching practices for faculty, and assisting with the evaluation of academic supports.

Lauren earned her Doctorate of Philosophy in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2015. During her doctoral studies, she worked with the National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) as a graduate researcher focusing on synthesizing research on evidence-based practices in academic skills, transition policy, Common Core State Standards, and 21st century skills. Prior to doctoral pursuits, she served as a coordinator for the Arc Jacksonville’s Academy- On Campus Transition program, an 18-22 year old transition program dedicated to providing an authentic college experience for students with intellectual and developmental disability.

Lindsay Min

Lindsay Krech
Assistant Director of Career Development

As the Job Developer, Lindsay Krech oversees all career initiatives at Next Steps at Vanderbilt. She partners with university and community organizations to create strategic internship placements for the students each semester, which includes providing one-on-one job coaching and individualized supports. She also manages career training for all Next Steps students and supports work study students who serve as peer job coaches. Using the Customized Employment model, Lindsay works alongside students and their families to develop competitive employment opportunities for students upon graduation.

Lindsay earned her Bachelor’s degree in political science from Butler University and graduated with a Master of Community Development degree from Vanderbilt in 2012. During graduate school, she worked for both the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the Vanderbilt Center for Nashville Studies.


John Cayton
Director of Student Supports and Campus Life

John Cayton joined the Next Steps team in May 2016. He oversees the Ambassadore student organization and all efforts involving Next Steps students' campus involvement opportunities.  Knowing who to join while eating meals, exercising, studying, or participating in group(s) adds so much to a student's overall college experience, and John looks forward to ensuring all Next Steps students can participate in and contribute to Vanderbilt's campus life. 

John earned his Bachelor's degree in psychology from Monmouth College, his Master's degree in Leadership in Higher Education from Baldwin Wallace University, and previously managed community integration and residential services for individuals with disabilities in Indianapolis. 



Jenny Gustafson
Director of Development and Residential Supports

Jenny Gustafson works with students, families, and the Nashville community to develop off-campus housing options. For Jenny, expanding opportunities for people with disabilities to live as independently as possible is a principal value and crucial goal. 

A native of Jackson, Tennessee, Jenny earned M.Div. and M.Ed. degrees from Vanderbilt University. She then worked as a behavior analyst in school, home, and community-based settings with children and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities and behavior disorders. Prior to returning to Vanderbilt to work, she was the Education Series Director for Autism TN and the Executive Director of a private residence for adults with disabilities for five years.



Laurie Fleming
Program Coordinator, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)

Laurie Fleming plans, coordinates, and administers Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities programs (VKC UCEDD), including activities of the Community Advisory Council. She also works with Next Steps, particularly with our graduation festivities each year.



Caitlin Bernstein
Research Analyst

Caitlin Bernstein is originally from Saint Louis but now lives in Nashville. She graduated from Next Steps in 2015. She is a research assistant at the Special Education department, which includes working part time for Next Steps. She assists with data entry, making copies, and communicating with alumni and students. 



Erik Carter
Faculty Director and TPSID Principle Investigator                                                   

Erik Carter is a Professor in the Department Special Education at Vanderbilt University and a Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator. His research and teaching focuses on evidence-based strategies for promoting inclusion and valued roles in school, work, and community settings for children and adults with intellectual disability, autism, and multiple disabilities. He has published widely in the areas of educational and transition services for young people with disabilities. 



Elise McMillan
Co-Director, Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD)

Elise McMillan has more than 20 years' experience in leading programs and projects that support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and their communities. She holds leadership roles in numerous national, state, and community disabilities organizations, including The Arc U.S., the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Law and Advocacy Center of Tennessee, and the Tennessee Disability Coalition. As Co-Director of the Center's UCEDD, she provides oversight of daily operations and assists area coordinators and directors of core functions in planning and implementation. She is responsible for personnel, budget oversight, and representing the UCEDD at the local, state, and national level. She is an attorney and Senior Associate in the VUMC Department of Psychiatry. She holds leadership roles with TennesseeWorks, Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, and Next Steps at Vanderbilt.


Kaitie Cooley
Graduate Assistant

Kaitie Cooley is a candidate in the Masters in Special Education Program (Severe Disabilities) at Vanderbilt. As a part of Next Steps, Kaitie assists in the area of employment for the Next Steps students. Kaitie has thoroughly enjoyed joining the Next Steps team, as getting to know the students in the program on a personal level has been her favorite part of the job. 
Kaitie earned her Bachelor degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Upon graduation, Kaitie is hoping to become a special education teacher in a high school transition placement somewhere in the state of Tennessee.



Kelly Longenecker
Graduate Assistant

It just goes to show how important career awareness and career exploration is to hone the career path for your skill set at any age. After a 25 year professional stint, Kelly had a career crisis of sorts and experienced a period of reflection and evaluation of what kind of meaningful work she wanted to be doing and was not currently doing. She knew she needed to make a change. It was only after moving to Nashville with her family and settling them at school that the Principal of that school convinced her to work temporarily in special education as a paraprofessional. She was burdened with fear, had no experience, was not qualified and frankly was convinced she did not possess the 'Kwan' that special educators have. She came to find, however, through this period of career exploration that she indeed had the passion and skills to pursue this field. She jumped in wholeheartedly after being surprised Vanderbilt accepted her application in their Master's program in Special Education. Here, she has further come to find that working with high school and post-secondary age adults is truly where she can draw on many years across many professional lives and skill sets to better the lives of others. 

When not living like a middle aged grad student whose brain and wallet are depleted, she spends most waking moments with two exceptionally lovely and fun middle school girls and a husband of 20 years that make her laugh (and cry!) everyday at their home in Nashville with their many pets. They love to have adventures in travel, ride bikes, play in the woods, and create memories from the little things in life.



Katie Marshall
Graduate Assistant

Katie Marshall is a candidate in the Masters in Special Education Program (Severe Disabilities) at Vanderbilt. As a part of Next Steps, Katie assists in areas of campus life such as coordinating and scheduling Ambassadore supports, communication with Ambassadores, and most importantly, supporting students in their involvement in campus organizations and activities. Katie has been thrilled to join such an amazing team and hopes to continue to work towards ensuring Next Steps students have a rich campus experience. 
Katie earned her Bachelor's degree in history from Davidson College.



Elizabeth Schroeder
Graduate Assistant

Elizabeth Schroeder is second-year M.Ed. Candidate in the Special Education program. In her work at Next Steps, Elizabeth primarily  assists with student course selection, university course syllabus modification, and student progress monitoring. She also helps with the organization of program-wide data collection and grant reporting.

Elizabeth received her Bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she spent much of her time outside of class conducting research on parental expectations at the UNC TEACCH Autism Program. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Elizabeth worked at Best Buddies International in program management, expansion, and fundraising.