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EPOL Department - Student Spotlight
Higher Education

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  • 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

  • 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/

     

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Nicole M. DelMastro-Jeffery (she/her/hers)

    Nicole DelMastro-Jeffery is a doctoral student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, with a concentration in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests center on undergraduate student experiences to and through math pathways amid the COVID pandemic.

    DelMastro-Jeffery's professional experience includes a decade of education equity work in higher education administration, student services, and program coordination in both the two- and four-year college sectors. Before joining OCCRL, she served as a community college research assistant, TRIO advisor, UIUC academic advisor, faculty member, and higher education administrator for students pursuing graduate degrees in the field of public health.

    Advisor: Dr. Eboni Zamani-Gallaher

    Anticipated Graduation: 2022

    Academic Background:

    M.Ed., Higher Education Organization and Leadership at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    B.S.W., American Social Policy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    A.A., Liberal Arts: Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences at Long Beach Community College

  • Image of Chequita Brown

    Chequita S. Brown (She/Her/Hers)

    Chequita S. Brown, a Chicago native, is doctoral student in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. Professionally, she has 10+ years’ experience working in postsecondary administration, instruction, and course and program development.

    Chequita’s research interests center on the lived experiences of minoritized populations in higher education, including college access and retention, student engagement and development, and educational equity and diversity. Equally important, she works as a research assistant for Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) and a teaching assistant for College of Liberal Arts and Science.

    Graduate Advisor: Dr. Denice Hood

    Expected Graduation Year: 2022

    Education

    • Ph.D., Student, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • M.S., English Studies, Illinois State University
    • B.S., Sociology, Illinois State University

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

    Updated CV

  • a photo of man with skyline in background

    Amari Simpson (he/him/his)

    Program of Study, Research Interests, & Advisor

    My passion for higher education and education policy stems from my personal experiences and desire to utilize resources (e.g., connections, opportunities, support, etc.) to support the development of those that I have the chance to meet during my lifetime.

    My research interests center on Black, Latino, American Indian, first-generation, women, and low-income persons’ interests and access to STEM majors and careers via pre-college programs. I intend to leverage this work to evaluate and provide insights on STEM education, equity, and inclusion to educators across the P-20 pipeline.

    My advisor is Dr. William Trent.

    Expected Year of Graduation: 2022

    Professional & Educational Background

    •  Ph.D. Candidate, Education Policy, Organization & Leadership in Higher Education Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • Ed.M., Curriculum and Teaching in Secondary Science Education, Boston University
    • B.A., Psychology, Middlebury College

    LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/amarisimpson  

    Current CV