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EPOL Department - Student Spotlight
Higher Education

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  • Thong M. Trinh, PhD (he, him)

    Thong M. Trinh is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education. His research focus is higher education policy with a focus on finance. Thong has published in the areas of student willingness to pay, university budgeting and related topics of higher education policy.

    Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Delaney

    Expected Graduation Year: 2027

    Academic Background: 

    • PhD (2022-Present) Education Policy, Organization & Leadership – Higher Education – University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
    • MSc in Business Analysis and Consulting – University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, United Kingdom - 2022
    • BSc International Business - Banking Academy of Vietnam - 2019

    Websites:

    Homepage, Google Scholar

  • 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

  • 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/

     

  • 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

  • Nicole M. DelMastro-Jeffery

    Nicole M. DelMastro-Jeffery is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. Nicole’s research focuses on the intersection of community determinants of health and educational trajectories of marginalized collegians. Her quantitative approach to mapping proximity of educational institutions to quality basic needs, such as access to clean drinking water, is a genuine passion of hers. Over the past decade she has served in a variety of leadership roles across 2-year and 4-year colleges. Nicole is excited about the future upstream sustainable transdisciplinary approach to ensuring students’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing on their way to graduation.

  • Tara Adams, Ed.M., JD

    Tara is a Ph.D. student in EPOL with a concentration in higher education. Her research interests are focused specifically on the ethics of higher education fundraising, particularly when it comes to vulnerable donor populations like the elderly and cognitively impaired. Tara is currently the Director of Development at North Carolina State University in Raleigh and the co-founder of Cognitive Empowerment Consulting, a higher education and nonprofit consulting firm. 

    Advisor: Dr. Jennifer Delaney

    Education: Illinois State University (B.S.), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (J.D. & Ed.M.)

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

  • 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/

     

     

  • 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

  • H. M. Kuneyl M.A.Ed.

    Kuneyl (Ka-Neil) is a Ph.D. student in EPOL with dual concentrations in Higher Education and History of Education. Her research interest centers the history of two-year colleges which were founded in the Jim Crow South, minority serving institutions, and racially marginalized community college students. Kuneyl has served in higher education for over eight years and currently works as a graduate research assistant for the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL).

    Advisors: Dr. Baber, Lorenzo and Dr. Jon Hale 

    Education: Lone Star Community College (A.S.) Texas A&M University (B.S.) Virginia Tech (M.A.Ed.). 

    LinkedIn: H.M. Kuneyl | 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

  • Arianna Agramonte Holterman

    Arianna Agramonte Holterman is a doctoral student in the Higher Education graduate concentration. Their advisor is Dr. Denice Ward Hood. Arianna's research tends to focus on student retention and success within crisis or emergency situations. Currently they plan to utilize oral history methods to gather Latinx student success narratives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Arianna plans to graduate in Spring 2025.  Arianna has 16 years of experience in Higher Education and Student Affairs within areas such as University Housing, The Career Center, and Office of the Dean of Students. LinkedIn: www.linkedin/in/AriannaHolterman. 

  • 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