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EPOL Department - Student Spotlight
Philosophy of Education

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  • Naomi Simmons-Thorne, PhD (She/Her)

    Naomi Simmons-Thorne is a PhD Student in Philosophy of Education at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Naomi serves as an instructor, graduate research assistant, and Doctoral Fellow of the Graduate College

    Her research interests include moral and political philosophy, black education, black feminism, Africana philosophy, decolonial thought, Marxism, and critical theory/pedagogies. 

    Advisor: Rebecca Taylor

    Anticipated Graduation: 2028


    • PhD (2028), Philosophy of Education, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    • MT (2023), English Education, University of South Carolina
    • BA/BS (2020), Philosophy and Sociology, University of South Carolina
    • AA/AS (2018), Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College
  • Ryan Medina (he/him)

    Ryan Medina is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with a concentration in Philosophy of Education. His research interests revolve around epistemic injustice and the role of education in mitigating that. 

    Advisor: Dr. Nicholas Burbules

    Anticipated Graduation: 2027

    Academic Background

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

    M.A., Education - California State University, Sacramento

    B.A., Philosophy -  California State University, Sacramento

    LinkedIn: Ryan Medina

  • Jessica Harless (she/her/hers)

            I am a doctoral candidate in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership, specializing in philosophy of education. My professional background in college access and student development, coupled with my academic philosophical training, has led me to research and write about the intersection of higher education, ethics, and educational & social theory. My current project explores the role of inquiry in campus debates about free speech and safe spaces.

            In my time at Illinois, I have served as teaching assistant for EDUC 201 and EPOL 406, as editorial assistant for the journal Educational Theory, and as research assistant for a project on ethics in higher education. Recent publications include a chapter in the book Ethics in Higher Education, an article in Educational Theory, and an article in Ethics and Education.

    Graduate Advisor: Chris Higgins

    Expected Graduation Year: 2022


    • Ph.D., Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    • M.A., Philosophy and Education, Teachers College-Columbia University
    • B.A., Philosophy, University of Florida