Director of Professional Development and Training
Erica spent the first half of her career as a teacher in an integrated classroom from 2000-2006. She then worked in the private sector, advancing to Director of Educational Programs at Falls View Academy where she developed program opportunities through Supplemental Educational Services (SES) and Extended Learning Programs (ELT) across the state for students with disabilities and underserved populations. In 2015 she began working in Vocational Rehabilitation Community Employment at the Center for Human Services Education, create materials and provide trainings to school personnel on options for students with disabilities after high school. As a Special Education teacher herself she was unaware of how many young adults with disabilities are unemployed. Bridging the gap between the high school and college/work became her passion. In her most recent role as the Associate Director of the CHSE, she had the opportunity to oversee contracts that provided training and education to agencies that provide Supported Employment across NYS. A highlight of this position was collaborating and organizing the yearly NYS APSE Conference in Lake Placid, NY. Erica and her husband live in Fairport, NY with their three children. In her free time she volunteers as a Parent Representative on the Committee for Special Education.
director of policy & Advocacy
Julie J. Christensen, LMSW, PhD, is the Executive Director at APSE – the Association of People Supporting Employment First. Julie has served as Director of Public Policy and Advocacy since January 2019. Prior to this, Julie served on APSE’s National Board of Directors and co-chaired APSE’s Public Policy Committee.
Julie's career has centered around improving quality of life outcomes for at-risk youth, including youth with intellectual and development disabilities, through promoting employment and access to leisure and recreation opportunities in inclusive settings. Prior to joining APSE, she served as the Director of Iowa’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at the University of Iowa, where she was also research faculty in the Carver College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry. Julie's previous experience includes her role as the Director of Employment Programs at the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester (a New York UCEDD), where she served as the Principal Investigator and Project Director for the New York State Partnerships in Employment Systems Change project, Co-Director of the New York Employment First State Leadership Mentor Program, and as the New York State Coordinator for Project SEARCH.
Julie received her undergraduate degrees in advertising and music from Syracuse University, and a Masters in Social Work from Roberts Wesleyan College and her Ph.D. in Health Practice Research at the University of Rochester. She served as the Senior Disability Policy Fellow for the Harkin Institute at Drake University from 2019-2021.
Business Operations Manager
Sarah joined APSE as project coordinator in 2016. Sarah assists with CESP™ program, membership, and conference coordination. She has worked in the administrative field for a number of years helping teams with project coordination and quality assurance. Sarah received a bachelor’s of science in applied psychology from Pennsylvania State University.
Terri is a Certified Employment Support Professional (CESP™) with over 20 years of experience working with job seekers to obtain and maintain community-integrated employment. Terri earned her CESP™ in 2015, assuring that she would have the knowledge and skills to provide the highest level of support and services to job seekers and employees with disabilities.
Terri has advocated for Employment First within her community and state. On the national level, she has served as Chair of the ESPCC (Employment Support Professional Certification Council) from 2017-2022 and as Co-Chair on the Council's Quality Assurance Committee. In 2022 Terri joined the Illinois APSE Board assisting with social media for the chapter. Terri places value on mentoring up-and-coming employment support professionals where she can share her knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for Employment First and the CESP™.
When not working, Terri enjoys visiting family and friends and working on various photography and art projects. Terri lives near Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and two cats. She has one adult son who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife and their son. (Plus, five cats!)
Christa P. Rainwater
Director of Membership and Chapter Engagement
Christa P. Rainwater is a passionate leader committed to social justice, member development and engagement, and equity and inclusion. Christa began her career as an educator — teaching Introduction to Women’s Studies courses at the collegiate level, sociology, geography, and American Government at the middle and high school levels. In her most recent role at the International City-County Management Association (ICMA), Christa led ICMA’s women’s initiatives, drove equity and inclusion programming, chapter development and engagement for ICMA’s student chapters and Women Leading Government state chapters. Christa brings membership experience, project and organizational management skills, and relationship-building capabilities — as well as a strong personal desire to advocate for people with disabilities and the people who support them. She has a master’s degree in political science with a concentration in feminist theory from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in Secondary Education from George Washington University. Christa lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband, son, and two dogs.