Chief Executive Officer
Susan assumed the role of CEO in October 2021 after serving as Chief Operating Officer. Susan joined the organization in 2016. She has 20 years of experience working with youth in residential, inpatient, outpatient, emergency rooms, and homes. Her strengths include program implementation and expansion, clinical assessment, strategic thinking, developing partnerships, grant-writing, and fiscal management. Susan received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Latin American Studies from Boston College. She later returned to her alma mater to earn her Master of Social Work degree.
Susan’s expertise is in child and adolescent mental health, having trained at Children’s Hospital. She is passionate about permanency initiatives and trauma informed behavioral interventions. She held important child program management positions at South Shore Mental Health (now Aspire), Riverside Community Care, Tenet Healthcare, and Jewish Family & Children’s Service. She has also been on the faculty at Boston College School of Social Work where she taught a graduate level course “Clinical Practice with Children and Families” and has trained many interns from various graduate schools of social work.
Susan’s passion for Italian Home is only matched by her love of family, friends, ice cream, binge-worthy shows, and “glamping”. She can often be found around town cheering on her two daughters at swim, soccer, and dance.
Senior Vice President of Programs
Joe is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and National Certified Counselor with over a dozen years of experience in behavioral health with a focus on children, youth, and families. Joe brings a strengths-based, community-focused approach to treatment. Joe has extensive experience with CBHI and outpatient services as well as former involvement as a Lead Agency Director for Bay State Community Services and DCF. Joe has practice experience with adults as well, having trained at Corrigan Mental Health Center. Joe was the Vice President of Northern New England for Northeast Family Services, overseeing the operations of services in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine.
Joe received an Associates from Massasoit Community College, Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Master degree in Clinical Psychology from Bridgewater State University. For about nine years, Joe was an Adjunct Professor at Bridgewater State University, Oxford University Press, Quincy College, and Massasoit Community College. Joe earned the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching from Bridgewater State University in 2018 and a “40 Under 40” award in 2012 from Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.
In addition to his work in the field and higher education, Joe is also a current mental health lobbyist and bill writer, former President of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, and President and Director of the Massachusetts Mental Health Counselors Association. Joe also sits on various state and national boards and committees including the AMHCA Ethics Committee and has assisted in the development of state and federal CBHI and mental/behavioral health policy. Joe is former Chairman of the Housing Authority, former Chairman of the Hanson Planning Board, member of the Capital Improvement Committee, and currently Selectman for Hanson, MA.
Vice President of Agency Advancement
Joe joins Italian Home for Children’s leadership team with over 9 years of nonprofit management experience within Greater Boston. His career in development began at Catholic Memorial School in West Roxbury where he served as Director of Annual and Reunion Giving. During his three years at Catholic Memorial School he oversaw all direct mail, email, social media, phonathon and volunteer driven solicitation strategies, which resulted in a 55% growth in Annual Giving. After Catholic Memorial School, Joe served within the Development Department at the YMCA of Greater Boston for three and a half years. In his role as Senior Regional Development Manager, he oversaw a team that provided support, leadership and direction to 16 YMCA Annual Campaigns with a combined goal of roughly $4M.
Joe’s experience in annual giving, event fundraising, major gift cultivation and strategic planning has prepared him well for his new role at Italian Home for Children. He prides himself on his innovative, collaborative and mission driven approach to fundraising. He’s extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to lead this talented Advancement Team and he can’t wait to start raising the charitable support required to transform the lives of all the children and families we serve.
Joe was born and raised just down the street in West Roxbury. He’s a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Political Science. His passions are golf, running and spending valuable time with his family and friends.
Associate Vice President of Milieu Programs
Nicole Chester serves as our Associate Vice President of Milieu Programs. In this role, Nicole oversees our residential and CBAT programming as well as our Out of School and Camp programming. Nicole holds a Bachelors degree from UMass-Boston in Human Services and a Masters in Mental Health Counseling from Springfield College. Nicole has been working for Italian Home for Children for 13 years and in the field for two decades. She started out as Assistant Director of the Residential program, and in 2014 she transitioned to managing the After-School and Camp programs. During her tenure overseeing Out of School Time programs, Nicole doubled the number of children served in after-school and nearly tripled summer camp. She has developed strong relationships with the Department of Mental Health, Department of Children and Families, and other mental health agencies.
Outside of work, Nicole enjoys spending time with family and traveling.
Associate Vice President of Community Based Programs
Dr. Gikas is the Associate Vice President of Community Based Programs, overseeing the outpatient and community based services within the agency. She has over 15 years of clinical experience working with children, adults, and families in a variety of mental health settings. Dr. Gikas has worked for the Italian Home for Children for over a decade in a variety of managerial and clinical roles. Previously, Dr. Gikas was the Clinic Director of the outpatient program at Italian Home, Brighton Allston Mental Health Association, which included the school based outreach therapy partnerships with Boston Public Schools. Dr. Gikas holds a BA degree in Psychology from Northeastern University, MA degrees in Mental Health Counseling and Psychology from Boston College and Suffolk University respectively, as well a Ph.D degree in Clinical Psychology, with a Specialty in Children and Families from Suffolk University.
Dr. Gikas’ areas of interest include: leadership and program development, clinical supervision, client advocacy, complex trauma and attachment, Dialectical and Cognitive Behavioral Therapies, and adolescent and young adult mental health.
Dr. Gikas is proud to be a 2nd generation Greek-American, and is fluent in Greek. She is also an Adjunct Professor at her alma mater, Boston College, where she teaches at the Lynch Graduate School of Education in the Mental Health Counseling Program. In her spare time Dr. Gikas is an avid reader, and enjoys cooking and traveling.
Vice President of Performance Improvement
David Mazza is the Vice President of Performance Improvement. David has been with Italian Home since 2003, and spent over 16 years working in the Residential program. Starting as a Residential Counselor, he later held numerous direct care supervisory positions before becoming the Director of Residential Operations in 2015. During his time with the Residential program, David helped to implement impactful programming, fostered relationships with the Departments of Children and Families and Early Education and Care, helped the program achieve CARF accreditation and was recognized by his peers with an Outstanding Service Award. In his current position, David oversees and supports Italian Home’s licensing and accreditation, quality improvement and risk management activities. He is passionate about the work and mission of Italian Home and is dedicated to assuring all programs provide high quality services. David is also a certified trainer in Therapeutic Crisis Intervention.
David is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Psychology. An avid Boston sports fan, outside of work David enjoys traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Vice President of Strategy and Business Development
Katherine Hala joined Italian Home in 2021 and is the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development. She uses processes of innovation, collaboration, and analysis to support IHC’s mission and strategic growth.
Katherine brings 15 years of professional experience to this role. She taught English in elementary schools in France, managed a nonprofit arts organization in Boston, and oversaw curriculum and compliance for an international education company. Most recently, she worked for Wheelock College, engaging with undergraduate students as a Resident Director and then progressing from Assistant Director to Director of Academic Support Programs. Katherine has also worked in the community to volunteer for youth in foster care, chair a DEI committee, and hold a representative position for the Special Education Parent Advisory Council in her public school district.
Katherine also brings a love for learning to her work and holds degrees from Boston University and Babson College. Her desire to learn more about the success of mission-driven organizations led Katherine to focus on impact and social innovation in her MBA program at Babson. While there, she served on several consulting teams, including a public-private partnership that practiced human-centered design thinking. Katherine appreciates the opportunity to apply this lens to her work at Italian Home as she seeks to identify needs, operationalize plans, measure impact, and build community.