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EPOL Department - Student Spotlight

Meet our EPOL Graduate Students!

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  • Kelsey W. Knutson, Ed.D Student (she/her)

    Program of Study, Research Interests & Professional Profile:

    Kelsey Knutson is a doctoral student of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, concentrating in Global Education and Diversity and Equity at the University of Illinois. Kelsey's continued research and studies center on inequities in access to digital learning, teacher-student relationships and the intersections of race, sexuality, and gender, grading bias in multicultural and multiracial classrooms, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and sustainable international education policy. Kelsey has recently entered the world of education consulting and is in a 6-month doctoral internship for the education sector of the U.N., specifically the Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems and Teacher Development departments, at UNESCO's headquarters in Paris. Kelsey is a full-time social studies teacher, D.E.I. facilitator and coordinator, and newly appointed travel and foreign exchange director in Phoenix.

    Advisor: Dr. Hyun-Sook Kang

    Expected Graduation: 2025

    Academic Background:

    • Ed.D., (In-progress) Global Studies; Diversity & Equity, in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign
    • M.Ed., Education, Arizona State University, 2016
    • B.A., Global Studies: Human Rights & Justice; Spanish, University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, 2013

    LinkedIn: /kelseyknutson or Kelsey W. Knutson's LinkedIn

  • Corinne Smith (she/her)

    Corinne Smith is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in Diversity and Equity in Education. Her research interests focus on the intersectional identities of rural and small-town students and the college access barriers many of them face. Corinne currently serves as an Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Yale University. Previously, she worked in undergraduation admissions as well as athletic advising at Northwestern University. Recently, Corinne co-authored a book called the College Essay Journal, which helps students brainstorm and write their college applications. 

    Advisor: Sharon Lee

    Expected Graduation: 2024

    Academic Background:

    Ed.D. (in progress) Education Policy, Organization & Leadership | University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    M.S. Higher Education Administration and Policy | Northwestern University

    B.A. Political Science and Sociology | Northwestern University

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/corinnesmith13/

    Website: https://www.collegeessayjournal.com/

  • Gariel Pierce

    Gariel Pierce is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Social Sciences and Education Policy. Her focus of research is on the school to prison pipeline with an emphasis on holistic principles and practices.

    Driven by passion and experience, Gariel believes all students deserve an equitable education in a nurturing environment. Currently she is a joyful fourth grade teacher.

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Bernice Barnett

    Anticipated Graduation: 2026

    Academic Background:

    Ph.D., Education Policy, Organization & Leadership | University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

    M.Ed., Teaching & Learning | Francis Marion University

    B.A., Elementary Education | Blackburn College

  • Christine (Chrissy) Steffen (she/her/hers)

    Chrissy is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education. Her specific focus of research is on mental health and student engagement among Division I student-athletes. Chrissy currently serves as an Academic Advisor in the College of Health & Human Services at Bowling Green State University. Previously, she was an Academic Counselor in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at Illinois for 3 years after a 2.5 year stint at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an Academic Advisor in Athletics.

    AdvisorDr. Denice Hood

    Anticipated Graduation: 2025

    Academic Background:

    Ph.D. (in progress), Education Policy, Organization & Leadership | University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    M.S. Recreation & Sport Management | University of Tennessee, Knoxville

    B.S. Secondary Mathematics Education | Bowling Green State University

    LinkedIn: Chrissy Steffen

  • Shamez Mukhi

    I am pursuing Ed.D in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Diversity & Equity. My Ed.D research will focus on the role of the civil society in providing underprivileged children (in poverty) equitable access to primary education in Pakistan. I am based in Karachi and work for a private university as Director Student Life.

    Advisor: Jon Hale

    Expected Graduation: 2024

    Academic Background:

    MA. Global Diplomacy - SOAS, University of London, England

    MSc. in Computer Science - University of Kent, England

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/shamez-mukhi-b5226212/ 

  • Tasia Fields

    Tasia is an online doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Diversity and Equity. Her research interest includes Best Practices of Equity Directors in a K-12 setting. 

    Currently, Tasia is the Director of Equity and Inclusion for Waukegan Public Schools and an adjunct professor for the College of Lake County.  Education has always been her passion, she founded a website called Great Minds TEACH Alike where she writes and offers consulting services. 

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Denice Hood 

    Expected Graduation Year: 2023

    Academic Background: 

    Ed.D., Student, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Ed.S., Educational Leadership, National Louis University M.Ed., Curriculum & Instruction, Concordia University Chicago B.A., Elementary Education, Western Michigan University 

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tasiafields

    Website: www.greatmindsteachalike.com

  • Bethanie Couri, EdD (She/Her)

    Bethanie Couri is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in Human Resource Development at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Bethanie's research interest involves the increase millennial turnover rate. 

    Advisor: Dr. Jessica Li

    Expected Date of Graduation: May 2024

    Academic Background:

    MBA | Bradley University

    M.S. in Marketing | Bradley University

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bethanie-couri-mba-666b25b7/

  • Paapa Nkrumah-Ababio

    Paapa Nkrumah-Ababio is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a double concentration in Global Studies in Education and Social Science and Education Policy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Paapa's research interest lay in the intersections of education and national development in African countries centered around literacy, citizenship, human development, and educational funding issues using quantitative research methods. Paapa is an international student from Accra, Ghana and is driven in his doctoral journey by the desire to bring a world-class education to the doorstep of every African child.

    Advisor: Dr. Rebecca Hinze-Pifer

    Expected Graduation: 2025

    Academic Background:

    Ph.D. student, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana Champaign

    M.S. Ed., Higher Education and Student Affairs, Baylor University, Texas

    B.S., Petroleum Engineering, Marietta College, Ohio

    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/paapa-nkrumahababio

  • Alicia L. Ross, ABD (She/hers)

    I am a doctoral candidate excited about the experiences I have had at UIUC. My research focuses on DEI in international education and leadership. I have presented at several conferences including NAFSA (Nat&Reg), IEI, HEI Butterfly, LINKS Incorporated. My volunteer experiences include AERA, NAFSA, IEI, UNDP, UIUC-GSC, and Alumni Club(s) of University of Chicago.

    Teaching Assistant: Communications Department-Public Speaking

    Publication: "Digital Divide In Developing Countries". GIMPA Journal, Ghana.

    Certifications: Learning Design Leadership (LDL)

    LinkedIn Profile

    Inspiring Others

  • Aidana Sirgebayeva (she), PhD Student

    Aidana is a full time PhD student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education. Her research interests focused on internationalization of universities, autonomous higher education institutes. She has worked in university settings for eight years. 

    Academic Background:

    PhD Student, Higher Education, EPOL, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

    MSc in Educational Leadership, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

    BEd., Foreign Languages, Abay Kazakh National Pedagogical University, Kazakhstan

    Advisor: Dr Rebecca Taylor

    Expected Year of Graduation: 2028

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aidanasirgebayeva-16b768135/

     

  • Kristy Krisher, EdD

    Kristy is an online doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Human Resource Development. Her research areas of interest center around Career Development. She has worked in HR for eight years and has recently transitioned to a new role as the Associate Director of Employer Relations and Internship Development at Monmouth College in Monmouth, IL. 

    She is also a published author of three women's and new adult contemporary fiction novels.

    Academic Background:

    EdD, Student, Organization & Leadership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

    M.P.A., Public Administration, the University of Illinois at Springfield

    B.A., Psychology, Alfred University in Alfred, N.Y.

    Post-Baccalaurette Certificate, Health Services Administration, Western Illinois University

    SHRM-SCP Senior certified human resources professional

    Expected graduation year: 2023

    Links:

    LinkedIn: Kristy Krisher, MPA, SHRM-SCP - Associate Director for Employer Relations and Internship Development - Monmouth College | LinkedIn 

    Website: https://kristyleeauthor.com 

  • Kelly Searsmith, BA (English & Psychology); MA, PhD (English); EdM (Higher Education)

    Kelly Searsmith is a doctoral student in EPOL (Higher Education) whose advocacy research focuses on the inclusion and success of diverse people with disabilities in higher education, especially neurodiversity with a special focus on autism and mental health concerns. She is autistic and the parent of a successful autistic son. Her other research interests include incorporating humanities and creative modes of knowledge production and expression across the disciplines and the organization and ethics of research administration.

    Advisor: Bill Cope

    Member: AERA, AHEAD, NCURA

    Connections: ORCID, LinkedIn

  • Taylor Masamitsu (he/they), Ed.M.

    Taylor is a PhD student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. He studies the dislocating rhetoric that affects queer Asian American students. 

     

    PhD, Social Sciences and Education Policy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    EdM, Diversity and Equity in Education, Unviersity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    MA, Vocal Music Education, Columbia University, Teachers College

    BFA, Vocal Performance, California Institute of the Arts

     

    Advisor: Dr. Yoon Pak

    Expected Year of Graduation: 2025

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/taylor-masamitsu-edm-799b6586/

    Website: taylormasamitsu.com 

    Current CV

  • Jenny Rowell, M.Ed. (she/her)

    Jenny is an online doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Learning Design and Leadership with emphasis in e-learning in higher education. She joined the New Students Programs department at UIUC in 2022 where she supports the development of new student programming and activities. Her research interests are e-learning, cultural competence, study abroad, and learning ecologies. 

    Her previous work experience allowed her to live internationally for almost a decade. This inspired her passion for working with students to enhance their learning experiences, deepen their cultural awareness and improve their cultural competence. 

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Bill Cope

    Expected Graduation Year: 2026

    Academic Background: 

    Ed.D. Student, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 

    M.Ed., International Higher Education, Loyola University Chicago

    BBA,  Human Resources Management, Loyola University Chicago

    LinkedIN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-rowell-735a2111/

     

  • Billy Green, M.Ed. (he/him/his)

    Billy is a doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Learning Design and Leadership. His research interests include effective professional development for teachers in educational technology, effective staff support in K-12 educational technology implementation and game-based technologies.

    Billy currently works as the Director of Technology at Liberty Local Schools in Youngstown, Ohio. Prior to the Director of Technology position, he was a fourth grade teacher, also at Liberty Local Schools. 

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Bill Cope

    Expected Graduation Year: 2024

    Academic Background:

    B.S., Early Childhood Education, Youngstown State University, 2017

    M.Ed., Learning and Technology, Western Governors University, 2018

    M.S., Special Education (K-12), Western Governors University, 2019

    LinkedIn: Profile

     

  • Tammy Orahood

    Tammy is a doctoral student in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Global Studies in Education. Her research interest focuses on cultures of learning in higher education. She is currently the Director of Global Programs for the Brown School at WashU.

    She has experience in global education, having published, taught, and presented at numerous conferences on study abroad and career development, globalization, global competency and comparative education. 

    Advisor: Allison Witt

    Expected Graduation: 2023

    Academic Background:

    • EdD (in progress), EPOL, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign A.,
    • International Affairs, American University A.,
    • International Studies/ French, Bradley University

    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tammy-orahood-a6a17420

  • Jewel Bourne

    Jewel Bourne is a doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in higher education. As a former community college transfer student and Sally Casanova Scholar, her research interests revolve around the promotion of access, persistence, and empowerment of  systemically excluded student populations in higher education, with a focus on the experience of Black female-identifying students who transition from community college to four-year institutions.  

    Jewel’s professional experience include serving as an academic advisor and program coordinator and supporting historically underepresented student populations achieve their transfer ambitions through the transfer sending and receptive culture frameworks.

    Advisor: Dr. Eboni Zamani Gallaher 

    Expected Graduation: 2024 

    Educational Background

    M.A., Higher Education Leadership, California State University, Northridge

    B.A., English and Gender Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

    A.A., Liberal Arts:  Arts and Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences, Santa Monica College

    LinkedIn: Jewel Bourne

  • Alexander Rosado-Torres (he/him/él)

    Alex is a doctoral student in the History of Education concentration via Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. In addition to this he also holds a graduate minor in Queer Studies within the department of Gender & Women Studies. 
His research is rooted in documenting the role of LGBTQ+ student and teacher activism in educational spaces. Alex is particularly curious how past LGBTQ+ activism has shaped modern day educational spaces which are viewed as LGBTQ+ friendly/safe.

    As a Queer Latinx person, he is especially interested in exploring the experiences of racialized LGBTQ+ folks within these educational contexts. Overall, his research is most informed by oral history, archival methods, and critical theory.

    Advisor: Dr. Jon Hale 

    Anticipated Graduation: 2026 

    Social Media: LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram

  • Christopher Getowicz (he/him/his)

    As a doctoral student at the University of Illinois in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, my current research focuses on the historical intersections of education, race, protest, urban renewal, and law-and-order politics in the midwestern United States. 

    My recent work has focused on the intersections of race, housing, and school closure in Minneapolis, Minnesota between the 1970’s and 2000’s. My ongoing work is currently focused on the rise of law-and-order politics, school desegregation, urban renewal, and student protest during the late 1960's and early 1970's. 

    • Academic Background:
      • Ph.D. (in progress) Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, History of Education - University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
      • M.Ed. Instructional Leadership, Educational Policy Studies - University of Illinois, Chicago 
      • B.A. History - Univerity of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Alejandro J. Suñé

    Alejandro (Alex) J. Suñé, M.S. (he/him/his)

    Alex is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in higher education. His specific focus of research is on food insecurity within the college environment. Alex currently serves as Senior Associate Director for Student Engagement and Assistant to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Success & Engagement at Illinois. In these roles, he oversees Student Org Development & Administration (SODA), the Student Org Finance Center (SOFC), student spirit and tradition initiatives. He also serves as the advisor to Illinois Student Government. He's worked at Illinois since 2014. Before joining the Illini family, Alex worked at Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity Headquarters, Northwestern University, and Texas A&M University.

    Advisor: Dr. Denice Hood

    Anticipated Graduation: December 2022

    Academic Background:

    • Ph.D. (in progress), Education Policy, Organization & Leadership | University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    • M.S. Counseling & Student Development | Kansas State Unversity
    • B.S. Management Information Systems | Kansas State University

    LinkedIn: Alejandro J. Suñé

  • Profile picture

    Sean Reeder

    Sean is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education.  His research focus is in higher education finance and he currently serves as the Vice President of Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer at Eastern Illinois University.

    Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Delaney

    Anticipated Graduation: 2022

    Academic Background: 

    Ph.D. Candidate, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with concentration in Higher Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    M.B.A, with concentration in Finance, University of Ilinois at Urbana-Champaign

    B.S. General Engineering with concentration in Control Systems, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sean-reeder-973aa33/

     

     

  • Tara Adams

    Tara Adams

    Tara Adams is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in higher education. Her academic interests are rooted in higher education fundraising, specifically policy matters and gender disparity issues. Tara is the Assistant Director of Advancement at the University of Illinois College of Law and the co-founder of the Cognitive Empowerment Consulting Group, LLC.

    Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Delaney

    Anticipated Graduation: 2023

    Academic Background:

    Ph.D. (in progress), Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Concentration: Higher Education

    Ed.M., 2020, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Concentration: Higher Education

    JD, 2013, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Bar Passage: Illinois

    B.S., 2010, Finance & International Business, Illinois State University 

    LinkedIn: Tara Adams

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    Anna Barkley

    Anna Barkley is a doctoral student in the department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership. Her research interests include the P-16 pipeline, college access, and transitions. Currently, she is interested in student-centered development of college readiness policy.

    Advisor: Dr. Adrienne Dixson

    Anticipated Graduation: 2025

    Academic Background

    • PhD, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      • Concentration: Social Sciences & Education Policy
    • EdM, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
      • Concentration: Social Sciences & Education Policy 
    • BME, Choral Music Education, Winthrop University

    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/anna-barkley-77b219226/

  • ACP Stonehenge

    Alicia Cabrera-Prado (she/her)

    Alicia Cabrera-Prado is a doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    Her research interests include Dual Language teacher training and study abroad programs. 

    Prior to coming to UIUC, Alicia worked in education as a National Board Certified high school Heritage Spanish teacher, a department chair for World Languages, and as an assistant principal. 

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Allison Witt

    Expected Graduation Year: 2023

    Academic Background

    Ph.D. Student, Global Studies, Organization & Leadership in Global Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    M.A., Educational Leadership, Concordia University

    M.A., Secondary Education in World Languages, Roosevelt University 

    B.S., Mass Communications, Illinois State University 

    LinkedIn: ACP

  • Jennifer Hain Teper

    Jennifer Hain Teper is a part-time doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization, & Leadership Department with a focus on the History of Education. Her research interests lie in the development of formal education pathways for art and cultural heritage conservators and understanding the historic and current barriers towards increasing racial and ethnic diversity within the profession. Jennifer is trained as a book and paper conservator and serves as Velde Professor and Head of the Preservation Services Unit at the University Library at UIUC. She is also adjunct teaching faculty for the ISchool. 

    Advisor: Dr. Christopher Span

    Anticipated Graduation: 2025

    Academic Background:

    Ph.D. (in progress) Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Concentration: History of Education

    M.S.L.I.S. and Certificate of Advanced Study, Conservation and Preservation of Library and Archive Materials, The University of Texas at Austin. 

    M.S. Biology and English, University of Richmond. 

    https://experts.illinois.edu/en/persons/jennifer-hain-teper