Ambassadors of AC Groups

“Having been part of two Authentic Connections Groups groups myself, I can personally attest to the power of this program in supporting moms who balance work and caregiving. Being in these evidence-based groups opened my eyes to the importance of developing deep personal connections with other moms with similar yet different experiences. The nurturing environment is like no other relationship I have in my life and is so valuable. Through my group, I learned about genuine unconditional caring and giving, and we grew together over many months (even well after the formal program was over). AC groups are an excellent way for mothers to gain new insights and valuable support, at a relatively low cost and with minimal time commitment. I believe that these groups could be extremely valuable for all moms, everywhere.”

Spring 2018 & Spring 2020

Kimber Bogard, Ph.D.

Deputy Executive Officer, Programs,
National Academy of Medicine

“One of my proudest professional experiences has been my association with Suniya Luthar’s AC Groups program. These groups were born from Suniya’s passion to acknowledge the needs of caregivers and to provide them space to connect and restore. As a school leader, I brought AC Groups to two different schools and I have been part of several groups myself, both in person and virtually. Colleagues from the same school connected over shared struggles and though their vulnerability and sharing, many in the group stayed connected long after the formal program ended. Through the pandemic, my own AC Group connected me with people from across the country from whom I gained incredible wisdom, perspective and strength. As caregivers, we are not always the best at practicing what we preach; we tend to go it alone as we tend to the needs of everyone else. AC Groups bring caregivers together in a powerful web of generosity and understanding.”

Spring 2017 & Spring 2020

Nicole Hager, MA

Director of Upper School, Former Dean of Students, Northfield Mt. Hermon, MA,
Kent Place School, NJ

“Authentic Connections Groups helped me feel personally validated, thoughtful, and hopeful. I learned that I was not the only one running around like a nut all the time. It made me feel blessed for the resources I have, and opened my eyes to other resources that would be helpful. I think the AC Groups program would be beneficial for all mothers, especially who are also negotiating jobs that are demanding in terms of both time and energy!”

Spring 2015

Lisa Sproat, MD, MSW

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Consultant, Hematology Oncology/ Blood and Marrow Transplant,
Mayo Clinic Arizona

“Our Authentic Connections Group was extremely impactful for me on a personal and professional level. Building relationships with other mothers in medicine helped me reduce feelings of isolation and inadequacy and instead build healthy connections and personal strategies to weather challenges. I’m glad to say that all 3 of the other women in my group continue to be close friends and that we continue to meet and check in on each other to help reinforce the healthy messages we all know to be true but sometimes forget in the chaos of work and family. I’m so grateful for this intervention and hope that so many more will invest in themselves through AC groups.”

Spring 2018

Lauren Treat, MD

Child Neurology & Pediatric Palliative Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine Assistant Professor,
University of Colorado School of Medicine, CO

“In 2018, my colleague Dr. Lauren Treat invited me to a pilot test virtual AC Groups and I joined with three other women/ moms from Childrens Hospital Colorado. I was hesitant at first as it felt like one more thing to add to the to-do list. Four years later I am so thankful that I took the chance as I remain connected with the three other women and have a space to share the ups and downs of being a working mom with people that understand. They have seen me through the birth of my second daughter, post-partum depression, challenges at work, and illness in my family. It is very meaningful to have other people to connect to at work beyond my own friends and also to have the accountability that these women provide me. I am so thankful for this opportunity and do believe that have connections and supportive individuals at work allow us to be more resilient and face any challenges with grace and acceptance.”

Spring 2018

Tai Mara Lockspeiser, MD

Tai Mara Lockspeiser, MD, Assistant Dean of Medical Education, Medical Director, Child Health Associate/ Physician Assistant Program,
University of Colorado School of Medicine, CO

“It was an honor to be a part of two Authentic Connections groups, including one of the first virtual AC groups for mothers. I personally followed Dr. Suniya Luthar’s work for many years, and I even had the opportunity to work with her while I was in graduate school. Dr. Luthar and her team have developed evidence-based groups that foster communication and encourage accountability from other women walking similar paths.” Participants gratefully discover the importance of “go-to” people in their lives for support networks, and they will cultivate nurturing friendships with other moms. Even as a single working mom, I felt that the time commitment was worthwhile, and the knowledge and group rapport proved invaluable.”

Spring 2018

Shannon Noelle Green, PhD

Adjunct Professor in Musical Theatre,
Scottsdale Community College, AZ

“You must make and take time to yourself and this group provides a safe, authentic space to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and other women. The Authentic Connections Group is a true gift and I wish I could share it with other women!”

Spring 2018

Laura Hempberger, PhD

Graduate of the doctoral program in Human Development,
Columbia University’s Teachers College, NY

“My time with Authentic Connections took place prior to the pandemic. I can honestly say that what I learned from those sessions helped carry me through the difficulties of the pandemic. When I started the sessions I was a new mom working in a new job. It was definitely a challenge, to say the least. Authentic Connections was a safe place to share those challenges and identify ways to overcome them. I developed a new appreciation for being vulnerable with those who truly care, and applied that during the pandemic and continue to do so today.”

Julia Zavala-Hadavi, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Psychology,
Mercy College, NY

“Based on robust data, Dr. Luthar identified key priorities for intervention. Not only did she present us with a rigorous scientific perspective, but she addressed our community with passion, empathy and warmth. The balance of both her credibility as a researcher and her relatability as a parent enabled the audience to be highly receptive to her message.”

Geneveive Eason


Wilton Youth Council, Wilton, CT

“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited to join an Authentic Connections Group. But as the world continually reminds me, I needed to be in community with other educators across the country. AC groups for me, particularly during the summer of 2020, were invaluable. I was able to share all of myself — my hopes, my worries, my frustrations — with a group of people who were dedicated to my well-being. I, in turn, was absolutely willing to do the same for those people. There’s something about the groups that allowed me to feel whole, all my vulnerabilities and insecurities just didn’t matter when I was together with my group. Each of us has really challenging days, so the “who needs the floor” mantra from groups has become invaluable for me.”

Summer 2020

Quinton P. Walker, Ed.D.

Head of the High School,
University School of Nashville, TN

“During the first year of COVID, I was in an AC Group for counselors. We met regularly and developed an easy rapport and trust that we had each other’s support in the trenches. During a time when everything seemed a little bit harder, that care was extremely helpful, and I’ve maintained authentic connections with those colleagues since then. As the stressors from COVID continue, many of us are experiencing some pandemic fatigue. Joining AC Groups with colleagues from across the country will do much to help support each other. As a mental health provider & mom myself, I strongly recommend these groups!”

Fall 2021

Bridget Gwinnett, MS, LCMHC

Counseling Department Chair,
Greensboro Day School, NC

“Soon after school closures in 2020, I joined an AC Group with others in charge of students’ mental health. While I am generally able to hold space for the worry, emotion, and pain of others, AC Groups allowed me incredibly valuable space to receive support of my own through some very challenging times. They brought me personal comfort and strength while also allowing a lens into what was working particularly well at other schools, via insights shared by other leaders. I have been extremely grateful for this opportunity and will continue to draw upon authentic connections that I’ve forged through my Authentic Connections Group.”

Summer 2020 & Fall 2020

Anna B. Moore, Ph.D.

Director of Student Support,
The Westminster Schools, GA

Those of us in school leadership are often good at supporting others – we listen, we show empathy, and we provide support for whoever shows up at our door. But it’s not easy for us to find that support ourselves and it’s not easy for us to be open and vulnerable in our school communities. I found my Authentic Connections group to be a rare and valuable outlet. There was trust, vulnerability, humor, and support pretty much from the outset. This was rare in my experience, and valuable.

Summer 2020

Ron Kim

Head of School ,
The Bishops School

“Early in the pandemic, connecting with other men in leadership through our AC Group was a uniquely helpful experience. We were there to support and be a sympathetic ear for one another, and to share how we coped. Very quickly, I found myself engaging in the lives of others in the group, taking my focus away from a bad phone call or a difficult challenge as we dug into the larger issues we faced, both individually and collectively. I found myself looking forward to our meeting each week as an oasis of calm amidst the turbulence of the times.”

Summer 2020

Brad Philipson, PhD

Head of School,
Jewish Community Day School of Greater New Orleans, LA

“It was an honor and privilege to participate in AC Groups during the worst times of the pandemic. I very much appreciated acknowledgement of the magnitude of our jobs. As we returned to campus, it continued to amaze me how many opportunities I had to lend a listening ear to those looking for the same type of empathy. Just yesterday a faculty member said ” You just don’t know how much I needed a safe place to let down”. AC Groups provided a wonderful model of what that looks like. How can I thank you for this and for the work you are doing?! I absolutely recommend AC Groups!”

Fall 2020

Ellen Lagrone BSN, RN

Upper School Nurse,
The Westminster Schools, GA

“During the pandemic, I welcomed the invitation to be in an AC Group with other Heads of School. The environment that the group created was genuine, warm, and welcoming. For me, it was a great gift to have the space to let my guard down while, at the same time, learning a lot from the experiences of other Heads. Being in this AC Group was unique in that we each brought not just our “administrator selves” to meetings but as or more importantly, our personal selves. This allowed us to connect authentically and with the kindness and support that all leaders need (even in the best of times). I will forever be grateful for this experience of Authentic Connections Groups and could not be more enthusiastic in recommending them to all in K-12 education.”

Spring 2021

Cricket Mikheev, PhD

Head of School,
Maple Street School, VT

“The AC Groups program attracts me because it has a new intervention strategy based on support groups, through which women express their psychological pain with other women who are in almost the same professional and social conditions. This program is very effective for the management of the daily stress experienced by mothers who are often less expressive. The progressive sessions allow for the proper identification and support in certain psychosocial problems. Thus, thanks to this exchange of experience with other participants and the support of the facilitators, resilience will find its place and will provide the accompanied women with the capacity to understand themselves, to understand the situations they face and to face them without becoming exhausted.

In Burundi, this program will contribute greatly to gender mainstreaming, which is currently at the heart of all development actors. As Burundian women are the most oppressed and many of their rights are violated, authentic connections for mothers will be useful in breaking down taboos of certain cultural practices and allowing for the recognition of all their roles.”

Summer 2022

Emérence Kaneza, Psychologist

National Coordinator,
Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“I just joined the group in the AC Groups self-study and I find them relevant. They help to overcome certain socio-cultural constraints.

AC Groups are important for Burundian mothers. In most cases, in Burundian society, it is the mother who bears all the misfortune of the family. Even in happy situations, she has to give up her own for those of others. This causes them to be under constant stress. Authentic Connections Groups will enable them to become aware of this state and to take charge of themselves in order to better take care of the family members.”

Summer 2022

Prisca Niyera, Psychologist

Project Assistant, Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“As a psychologist who sees children, adolescents and parents in counselling sessions, I was very interested in Suniya Luthar’s conference presentation at Harvard on resilience in learners. I was strongly motivated by the effectiveness of the AC Group activities, which aim to increase the resilience of medical professional mothers following intense stress related to either daily activities in the family, activities related to the profession, and activities related to the care of children at home.

The 12 AC Groups sessions are truly a practical tool that could be applicable in different countries such as those in Africa where a large proportion of mothers experience intense stress accentuated by recurrent wars and socio-political tensions. As African psychologists, we have been working to make this tool known to many parents who may be experiencing intense stress and to disseminate it to African professionals so that it can be used to support and increase the resilience of parents through AC Groups.”

Summer 2022

Alexis Ndayizigiye, Psychologist

Founder & Country Director,
Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“I’ve been promoting connection in my life and work for years, and the AC Group experience has been transformative in ways I never expected. I learned how to purposefully strengthen and deepen the connections I already had, and I saw clearly the universality of our human experience as mothers. As a result, I’ve become happier, more satisfied with my life and gained a deeper understanding of what I need, and what others in my personal and work life do too! My life direction and intention are forever changed.”

Vanessa Elias

Certified Parent Coach ,
Thrive with a Guide

“One of the more powerful moments from Authentic Connections Groups for me — and for my colleagues who joined — was the realization that the only way we can truly take care of others at work and home is if we ourselves have dependable supports. This is especially important now, given all the stresses from COVID; as far as I’m concerned, all mothers could benefit from these groups!”

Fall 2015

Jewel Kling, MD

Jewel Kling, MD, Professor of Medicine, Chair, Women’s Health Internal Medicine Associate Chair of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity,
Department of Medicine Mayo Clinic AZ

“As a former participant in Authentic Connections Groups, I can tell you it was extremely worthwhile These groups provided a chance to take time to be cared for, to be held accountable in seeking support rather than endlessly giving. They brought validation of my experiences and did build a new Years later, all of us who went through the “AC Group experience” still get together regularly and that is a true gift. For anyone in health care, I would strongly recommend joining an Authentic Connections Group!”

Spring 2018

Jenny Reese, MD

Section Head, Pediatric Hospital Medicine; Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics,
University of Colorado School of Medicine

“I brought AC Groups to our school in fall 2017, and colleagues in my own group still meet, five years later. In my group, all faculty members were people who really cared about students, gave a lot to them. And each week for 3 months, we got to receive love — from each other and also from ‘Go-to’ people in our communities. We actually came to coin it our “blanket of love.” Being in AC Groups exponentially improved my well-being — professionally as well as personally, and I’d really encourage folks to consider being a part of them. They can bring a lot of love into your life, that you didn’t know was possible. I will forever be grateful for my own experiences in Authentic Connections Groups.”

Fall 2017

Johanna Callard, LICSW

Director of Counseling, Northfield Mt. Hermon

“At the start of the start of the pandemic I was fortunate to join an Authentic Connections Group. I began the group originally seeking connection with others to navigate my work and personal stressors of life in a virtual reality. The weekly group quickly became a refuge of acceptance and care. We spoke candidly about our shared struggles as administrators, new retirees and, like so many others, as we lost friends and loved ones. I felt held and cared for at a time of pain in both my professional and personal life. At the finish of the first group, I joined another group that remained together through the development of the COVID vaccine and the return to our changed lives. As I look back on my time with the group, I am humbled by the support I received from other members. I will be forever grateful for the Authentic Connections Group for allowing us to be together as we met the challenges of the pandemic with strength and resiliency.”

Fall 2020

Cynthia Goodwin

Former Director of Mercer Island Child Youth and Family Services, Mercer Island, WA

“In 2018, my colleague Dr. Lauren Treat invited me to a pilot test virtual AC Groups and I joined with three colleagues from our institution. AC took me out of my comfort zone at work, but I am so glad I participated! Years later, the women in my group continue to offer a listening ear and support when I need it most. I am so grateful for AC and the deep and lasting relationships I built with the women in my group.”

Spring 2018

Amy Tyler, MD, MSCS

Director of Quality Improvement, Section of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, Children's Hospital Colorado; Associate Professor of Pediatrics,
University of Colorado School of Medicine

“I’ve often thought about how much I miss the easy intimacy of friendships made during college – real, unforced connection brought about through close living with other women sharing similar joys and tribulations. The intimacy I felt in my online AC Group reminded me of those close connections. The simple commitment to share authentically once a week, guided by a gifted leader experienced in connecting people in surprising ways, made the group so different from the pop-up happy hours and awkward Zoom meetings we’ve all attended to alleviate isolation. While the connections are easy and genuine, there is a method to the AC Group journey – and we could all use some help these days with reconnecting to ourselves and others! I can 100% guarantee these were a good thing for my mental health.”

Spring 2018

Nicole Zillmer, PhD

Graduate of the doctoral program in Human Development,
Columbia University’s Teachers College, NY

“Authentic Connections Groups give you a safe place where you learn to feel at ease with yourself and others. This is an online support group where a woman can be herself and still be accepted and loved for who she is at her core, These groups are also a way to gain new insights from fellow women/mothers around the US, with minimal time commitment. I’ve recommended them to my mom friends, and explained that AC Groups are about connecting with moms who can provide support to each other because of underlying commonalities we all face, with multiple responsibilities and challenges simply for being a mom.”

Spring 2018

Toi Sin Arvidsson

PhD, Graduate of the doctoral program in Human Development,
Columbia University’s Teachers College, NY

“Authentic Connections Groups were important to me during challenging times. It helped to be heard by competent professionals and peers, to admit to them insecurities, and take off the “I’m strong and I know what I’m doing” mask and show the “I don’t know what I’m doing and have intense impostor syndrome” face beneath, only to realize we were all wearing that same mask and had the same face beneath it. There’s a decrease in pressure after seeing your truth in others.”

Spring 2018

Valerie Khait, PhD

Graduate of the doctoral program in Human Development,
Columbia University’s Teachers College, NY

“Three years, one month since first revealing our vulnerabilities, a lifetime friendship established — first time meeting in person. AC Groups brought us together, but life keeps us close. Last night was amazing seeing you, Ruth! (Now it’s our turn, Rose, Barbra, and Suniya!”

Fall 2018

Jennifer Glendly

Mom of 2 Girls,
Small business owner in AZ

“I still remember when I first heard Suniya talk about it at the 2018 journalism conference in Phoenix and I knew it sounded like an incredible gift for women who could be a part of it. And I’m so grateful that I was able to be. My AC Group felt like a community where I belonged and where I could share safely and practice listening deeply, whether it be about professional issues, family, or motherhood. I always felt my spirits lifted by the sense of shared purpose and the sincerity, warmth, and kindness of everyone there. We were able to confide in one another, challenge ourselves and each other, and support each other in stretching out of our comfort zones. I wish all moms could have the gift of Authentic Connections Groups; it is truly a unique, invaluable life experience.”

Spring 2019

Amanda Mascarelli

Science Editor & Journalist,

“I would definitely recommend AC groups. In times of great stress there tends to be a global expectation that we rise to the occasion. There is an insidious pressure to demonstrate resilience as we face overwhelming pain and uncertainty. The result is that we put on so much armor, The immense value of AC Groups is that it is the place of true intimacy, where emotional nutrients are found. These groups are invaluable for counselors, teachers and staff that tend to other’s needs all day long.

Fall 2021

Margaret Winston, LPC

School Counselor,
Jewish Community Day School, LA

“In the Fall of 2020, I had the great fortune of sharing time, space, and care through an AC group with others who were responsible for mental health and wellness in secondary schools. It was a space that I learned to prioritize each week, mostly because I quickly learned the benefits of giving and receiving support and connection in that group. It was different from a faculty meeting or lunch with colleagues. The AC groups have an intentionality around support that the practice of showing up in and sharing love and openness that caught me by surprise, especially given its virtual format. The support and brainstorming in that space is something I’ll value for the lifetime of my work in schools and beyond. I think everyone might benefit from–and definitely deserves–time and care through an Authentic Connections Group.”

Summer 2020

Janae Peters, MSW

Dean of Students,
Mastery School of Hawken, OH

“During the pandemic, I found the Authentic Connections men’s group to be a source of comfort & solace. Having a dedicated opportunity to connect, engage, empathize, and laugh was a true gift; I looked forward each week to the groups. The principles of AC Groups are simple, but powerful – and I, for one, can attest to the fact that they are effective & meaningful.”

Summer 2020

Steve Lee, Ph.D.

Director of Clinical Training,
UCLA Dept. of Psychology

“I was fortunate to be in an AC Group with others in charge of mental health and wellness during the first year of the pandemic. I very much liked having the vulnerability that came with being with “my people” (school counselors), and knowing that I was safe to say anything or cry or be angry. I also appreciated the diversity of our group (location, male counselor, POC, sexuality, etc). Based on my own experience, I would definitely recommend AC Groups for all who work with wellness in schools.”

Summer 2020

Jeremiah Neal, LMHC

School Counselor,
Northfield Mt. Hermon, MA

“I would indeed recommend this experience to other nurses/counselors/faculty / staff, at different schools, and think it would be very beneficial.

After one of our first meetings early in the pandemic, I did reach out to one colleague that I care about and am concerned for. I explained briefly my experience with AC Groups and asked if there was any way we could meet and connect. My sweet friend was so tired and overwhelmed she said it was a great idea, but really had no clue how she could find the time! I plan to reach out again but just to say I’m there if she ever needs it.

I will let it simmer and continue to try to forge compassionate relationships here at work. Thank you again for the experience, and I hope our paths cross again!”

Fall 2020

Frances Seminara

Clinic Nurse,
The Westminster Schools, GA

” I have heard nothing but wonderful reports about these groups (from our faculty and staff). I know people appreciated the time and your guidance. As we are sifting through the plans for the new year, I’ve been mulling in the back of my head a way for us to expand and build in this kind of experience for everyone. It’s a culture shift for us to simply allow ourselves time to reflect, but such a wonderful reminder – and advertisement as folks share the power of that time. Thank you again for your work, support, care… thank you!”

Spring 2021

Melanie Bauman, MA

Director of Counseling and Health Education,
The Webb Schools, CA

“Leading a school during the pandemic required me to manage the emotions of so many in our school community. The load was heavy and my time with Dr. Suniya Luthar’s Authentic Connection group provided me with an outlet in which I could share my load and connect with other Heads of School in a meaningful and authentic way. This experience provided compassion and connection when I needed it most. Having a shared experience with others in the same role expanded my capacity to focus on my own wellbeing. I’m grateful for my AC group experience and highly recommend this experience to anyone seeking support, love, and listening ears. I will be forever grateful for Dr. Luthar and the women in my AC group.”

Spring 2021

Tracie Catlett

First Female Head of School,
Greensboro Day School, NC

“Personally, I was very drawn to the AC Groups program as it supports women by gradually helping them to share their experiences as individuals and as mothers. In our culture, the messages transmitted from generation to generation through proverbs and adages oblige, consciously or not, the Burundian woman to resign herself and sacrifice herself for the happiness of her family, to hide her emotions, to show herself strong even in disastrous situations. Sharing one’s feelings is often considered shameful and asking for help a sign of weakness. AC Groups, through the sharing of experiences with mothers from same backgrounds, gives Burundian mothers the opportunity to express themselves, to feel seen, heard and understood in their feelings without being judged, and to blossom from a psycho-affective point of view as mothers. It allows women to feel fulfilled in their personal, social, and professional lives.”

Summer 2022

Sandrine Iratubona, Psychologist

Monitoring and Evaluation Officer,
Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“Authentic Connections Groups attracted me because it pushed me to see certain points to develop in order to acquire the capacity to face certain stressful situations of everyday life.

In the Burundian community, for example, for mothers from vulnerable families, with low or no income, with large families or with polygamous husbands, often it is the mother who has to take care of her children and she is under permanent stress. AC Groups will allow them to develop the resilience to cope.”

Summer 2022

Charlène Nishimwe, Psychologist

Project Assistant,
Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“Authentic connections attracted me because they have an effective methodology that brings women to understand each other and to be effective for personal and family development and for society in general. It is for me an addition to my professional experience with its adapted technique.
ACG, will be of undeniable use to help Burundian mothers to be strong and effective in their different roles in society. Since they are the pillar of the family. Exposed to the psychosocial difficulties of everyday life and to different tasks, mothers need to be psychically supported to carry out their task.”

Summer 2022

Alice Gapfasoni, Psychologist

Project Manager, Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi

“I’ve been promoting connection in my life and work for years, and the AC Group experience has been transformative in ways I never expected. I learned how to purposefully strengthen and deepen the connections I already had, and I saw clearly the universality of our human experience as mothers. As a result, I’ve become happier, more satisfied with my life and gained a deeper understanding of what I need, and what others in my personal and work life do too! My life direction and intention are forever changed.”

Summer 2022

Alice Ndamukezimana

Executive Assistant,
Clinique de l’Education et de la Psychotherapie (CEP), Burundi