Catharine Biddle is an associate professor of educational leadership at the University
of Maine, focusing on rural school and community well-being, positive youth development,
and youth aspirations. She has gained so much from her participation in the IMMERSE
program, including individualized mentorship on her research program and projects,
new collaborators, knowledge of new techniques, and the ability to better "speak"
Kelli Chelberg is an Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department at the
College of Menominee Nation. Kelli’s research interests include (1) mentoring and
identifying educational strategies as it relates to students of color and their persistence
in postsecondary educational settings, and (2) identifying culturally responsive educational
practices for pre-service teachers. Kelli’s passion for creating equity in the classroom
for her students has been the driving force in submission of several grant proposals
which has resulted in over $2 million in funding to support American Indian students
further their education to become licensed teachers. As a result, she serves as project
director for both CMN’s Aspiring Educators and Early Educators grant projects, which
provide financial and induction support for American Indian students in her program.
Prior to her work at CMN, she spent many years teaching in a variety of K-12 settings.
Kelli hopes to gain invaluable guidance and support in establishing a survey to assess
pre-service teachers preparedness for culturally responsive teaching.
Scott Courtney is a Mathematics Education Associate Professor in the School of Teaching,
Learning, and Curriculum Studies at Kent State University in the United States. He
has directed multiple state-funded mathematics and science partnership projects. His
research interests include exploring teachers’ and students' meanings of mathematics
and statistics in grades 6–14 and teachers' and students' experiences with digital/ICT-based
resources. Through his work with IMMERSE, Scott hopes to develop and validate a survey
to measure teachers’ motivation to support their students' development of age- or
grade-appropriate mathematics content and practice standards.
Angela Crawford is a research scholar, focusing on the mathematics learning of neurodivergent
students. She is particularly interested in how instruction and assessment of learning
can be grounded in students' intuitive and informal knowledge. IMMERSE offers the
opportunity to develop deeper understanding of measurement methodology and awareness
of the cultural experiences of rural students.
Audrey Meador is an Assistant Professor of mathematics at West Texas A&M University.
She researches preservice teacher learning in mathematics and the recruitment and
retention of underserved and underrepresented populations in STEM education in rural
areas. Through IMMERSE, she hopes to increase her knowledge base in scale development
and participate in rural research collaborations.
Soyoung Park is an Assistant Professor at Western Kentucky University. She earned
a Ph.D. in Special Education with a concentration in Learning Disabilities and Behavior
Disorders from the University of Texas at Austin. Her specialization lies in developing
evidence-based mathematics interventions to identify effective instructional strategies
for students with learning disabilities. Additionally, she provides high-quality guidelines
to pre-service and in-service teachers, aiming to enhance their expertise in data-based
individualization for mathematics intervention.
Sharonda Pruitt is an Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership, working to train
the next group of aspiring educational leaders. She holds a bachelor’s degree from
Southern Methodist University. She has earned a master’s and Doctorate in Educational
Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce. With a strong interest in urban
and rural communities, her research concentrations spotlight school leadership support
for anchor institutions, school-community partnerships, community-engaged leadership,
and post-secondary readiness. As an IMMERSE fellow, she will utilize the mentoring
and skills to produce a grant proposal for the National Science Foundation.
Hengtao Tang is an associate professor of Learning Design and Technologies at the
University of South Carolina. He graduated from Penn State with a dual-title Ph.D.
in Learning Design and Technology and Comparative and International Education. His
research interests address the intersection of self-regulated learning, multimodal
data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) in STEM education. Specifically,
Hengtao applies multimodal data analytics to understand how students regulate their
learning and collaboration in technology-enhanced learning environments, thereby creating
AI-driven scaffolds to support students. By attending IMMERSE, Hengtao would like
to understand the contextual factors of rural education and create scaffolds to support
rural students’ STEM learning.
Guan Saw is an associate professor in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont
Graduate University. His research areas include educational inequality, STEM education
and workforce development, college access and success, and research methodology. He
has learned a great deal about measurement and rural education, as well as connected
with methodology and rural education experts across the nation from participating
in IMMERSE, for which he is extremely grateful.
Henry Tran (MPA, SHRM-CP, PHD, PhD) is an Associate Professor at the University of
South Carolina’s Department of Leadership, Learning Design, and Inquiry who studies
issues related to education human resources (HR) and finance. He has published numerous
articles on the topics, including numerous with students. He holds two national HR
certifications and served on the Board of Advisors and Board of Trustees for the National
Education Finance Academy. He is also the editor of the Journal of Education Human
Resources, the Director of the Talent Centered Education Leadership Initiative, and
program coordinator for the Ed.D. with a concentration in Education Systems Improvement.
Prior to his professorship, Tran served as an HR practitioner in both the private
sector and public education. He draws from both experiences in his research and teaching.
He hopes to strengthen his methodological capacity and training from IMMERSE to design
and analyze psychometrically sound instruments, focusing on advancing understanding
of rural education human resource issues.
Yang Wang is an associate professor in language and literacy in the Department of
Teacher Education at the University of South Carolina. She is the Co-Director of the
Center of Bilingualism Matters @USC. Her research focuses on reading comprehension,
reading miscue analysis, English language teaching and learning, and bilingual literacy.
Her goal as an IMMERSE fellow is to investigate bilingual STEM literacy development
using mixed-method research with scholars across disciplines.
Julianne Wenner is an Associate Professor of Science Education at Clemson University.
Her areas of research coalesce around ensuring that all students feel as though they
can participate in and/or pursue science careers or hobbies if they wish (i.e., 'language
of possibility'). Thinking of this from a systems perspective, she investigates how
teachers take on leadership to advocate for science education; explores how to best
prepare elementary teachers to teach high-quality science; and, most recently, she
is examining the ways in which families support their children in participating in
and enjoying science. IMMERSE is helping her learn how to create instruments that
could be given to families; the results of these instruments will allow stakeholders
to create strategic science education interventions.
Elaine Westbrook is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Department
of Educational Theory & Practice at Montana State University Billings. She considers
herself a transient outsider as she has relocated along the east coast between South
Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia many times growing up. After ten years in the industry
as a chemist, she transitioned into secondary education as a high school chemistry,
astronomy, and environmental science teacher via her informal educational experiences,
predominantly with Girl Scouts. She relocated to Montana and pursued her doctorate,
returning to informal STEM educational practices focusing on place-conscious methodology
in rural and indigenous communities. With IMMERSE, she hopes to advance her assessment
methodology and analysis of small data sets commonly found in rural research.
Derek Becker is an associate professor at Western Carolina University in Birth-Kindergarten
education. He conducts research on the cognitive and academic benefits of movement
and play. He is specifically interested in utilizing outdoor context and harnessing
the physical aspects of motor-based play to promote physical and cognitive health. He
hopes to use IMMERSE as an opportunity to explore how movement and risky play within
naturalistic contexts can support physiological and cognitive development and enhance
Karen Eppley (Ph.D., Penn State University) is an Associate Teaching Professor in
the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Penn State University. A first-generation
and Pell Grant recipient, she is a former 5th-grade teacher and a lifelong resident
of the Bald Eagle Valley in Central Pennsylvania. Her work explores ideas around rural
literacies, textual representations of rurality, rural education as social justice,
and policy analysis. She edits theJournal of Research in Rural Education, work that will be facilitated by IMMERSE.
Benjamin Ewing is a New Teacher Mentor for the Lincoln County School District on the
Oregon coast. His primary research agenda explores teacher retention issues through
quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Previous to his work as a mentor, Benjamin
enjoyed teaching middle and high school science in primarily small, rural communities
in Washington, Maine, and Oregon. Through IMMERSE, he hopes to develop his understanding
of quantitative methodologies utilizing large datasets and broaden his professional
Rebekah Hammack is currently an Assistant Professor of K-8 Science Education at Montana
State University, and in August, she will become an Assistant Professor of K-6 Science
Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on the connection of local knowledge
and context to STEM interest and identity development in youth, particularly rural
and Indigenous youth in elementary and middle grades, as well as how elementary teachers
develop teaching efficacy and identity as STEM teachers. In addition to having an
opportunity to engage with other scholars, she hopes to grow her skill set in order
to select and/or develop the best measures that will tell the story of the impacts
of the programming she engages in with rural and Indigenous communities.
Wesley Henry is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at Central
Connecticut State University. Wesley began his career as a public high school teacher
in the School District of Philadelphia and went on to work as a university administrator
before pursuing the professoriate. Wesley holds a dual bachelor’s degree from the
University of Georgia, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and
a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy studies from the University of Washington.
Wesley’s research interests are rooted in better understanding educator preparation,
the role professional learning can play in setting organizational dynamics within
educational settings, and the role of school and community leaders in equity-focused
school improvement and community development. Wesley’s dissertation focused on rural
schools in Washington State and the relationship between regional Educational Service
Agencies (ESAs) and local districts. Wesley is drawn to IMMERSE because he is eager
to expand his methodological skillset. One specific area of research interest centers
on seeking a better understanding of the current capacity of rural districts and other
entities (e.g., ESAs) to support STEM workforce development.
Haidee Jackson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Literacy, Language,
and Special Populations at the University of Texas Permian Basin. Her research interests
are oriented around investigating the impact of affect in instructional design within
math education, with a focus on math anxiety. Her goal in participating in IMMERSE
is to develop a psychometric tool that can be utilized by educators to assess affect
among students and inform the instructional design process to address math anxiety.
Janna Jobel, Ph.D. is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Massachusetts
Lowell in the Biomedical Engineering Department. She is researching in what ways Social
Emotional Competency development impacts the participation and persistence of women
and underrepresented students in engineering. Through her participation in IMMERSE,
she hopes to combine and modify several pre-existing psychometric tools for the engineering
context to validate in rural contexts, so that hopefully it could be widely used in
9-20 settings to better understand student participation and persistence in engineering.
Juhee Kim is currently working as a clinical assistant professor in the Department
of Leadership & Counseling at the University of Idaho. Her research area is related
to rural STEM education, student leadership development, community partnership, and
social change. The IMMERSE training will be beneficial for developing her research
skills in quantitative methods. The opportunity of receiving mentoring and feedback
from recognized experts in science measurement and rural STEM education will allow
her to strengthen her research methods.
Peter Knox is a postdoctoral associate in the College of Education and Social Services
at the University of Vermont. His research areas include Community Schools implementation,
school climate and culture, and family-school-community partnerships. Peter's scholarship
is purposefully conducted through a lens of equity/social justice, and he has a strong
interest in and experience working in partnership with underserved rural schools and
communities. Passionate about community-based participatory research, Peter uses quantitative,
qualitative, and mixed-methods to gain a greater understanding of both student and
educator experiences. Through IMMERSE, he hopes to gain a greater understanding of
ways families, schools, and communities might utilize and apply data to support sustained
success of rural students, particularly as they engage in STEM learning and postsecondary
Rosemary McBride is an Agricultural Education secondary teacher education faculty
member at the University of Wyoming. Her research interests revolve around innovating
teaching and learning ecosystems within rural communities, with a particular focus
on career and technical education (CTE) settings. Her work explores inclusive classroom
adaptations, socially situated cultures and literacies, and the extension of entrepreneurial
frameworks in agricultural education. By participating in IMMERSE, she aims to expand
her expertise in rural STEM education research methodologies, collaborate with like-minded
colleagues, and advance the understanding of rural entrepreneurial education.
Chaney Mosley is an Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education and Associate Director
of the Tennessee STEM Education Center at Middle Tennessee State University. His areas
of research address issues relevant to career and technical education, including mental
health of teachers, suicide prevention, nonformal learning, and deeper learning. By
participating in IMMERSE, he hopes to strengthen my instrument design and data analysis
skills while growing his professional network. Ultimately, he hopes to develop a research
instrument that can be utilized by researchers to explore issues critical to rural
Sarah Pedonti is an assistant professor at Western Carolina University in Birth-Kindergarten
education. She conducts research on the structural and contextual factors that can
enhance the language development of diverse rural children. She is specifically interested
in how naturalistic contexts like the outdoors can be leveraged to support their emergent
STEM inquiry skills. She hopes to use IMMERSE as an opportunity to explore potential
dimensions of children and caregivers' outdoor STEM interactions, ultimately developing
an observational or survey-based instrument to measure these dimensions.
Mayra Puente, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of higher education in the Gevirtz Graduate
School of Education (GGSE) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Her research focuses on college access, choice, transition, retention, and success
issues for rural Latinx students and other institutionally marginalized student groups
and communities. Puente looks forward to expanding her methodological toolkit as a
critical race, feminist, and spatial educational scholar. Participating in IMMERSE
will provide Puente with the necessary professional development in conducting rural
educational research through measurement and quantitative research methods.
Michelle Rasheed is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University
of South Carolina Aiken, where she teaches literacy courses to K-12 preservice teachers.
Her research interests include rural literacy, teacher retention, and opportunities
in rural communities. Through IMMERSE, she hopes to gain a deeper understanding of
quantitative research methods and collaborate with scholars whose research focuses
on equity in rural education.
Jae Ryu is Associate Professor at University of Idaho. He is currently running a STEM
education program titled “Interstate Drone League (IDRONE)” to promote STEM pipelines
across the states. Although survey activities using Likert-scale methods have been
conducted as part of the iDrone program, high-quality, rigorous studies based on statistical
analysis are still required to address barriers and protective factors unique to and/or
operant within rural communities, schools, and students as it relates to STEM education
and workforce development. As such, the experience of learning at IMMERSE will increase
research credentials in years to come.
Colby Tofel-Grehl is an associate professor at Utah State University. Her research
centers on STEM interest and identity for marginalized rural youth. Specially she
seeks to understand the affordances of technology for teacher and student STEM learning
and identification with STEM. Through the IMMERSE program, she hopes to further develop
quantitative measures for rural youth identity development.
Jessica Vandenberg is a Research Scientist at North Carolina State University's Center
for Educational Informatics. Her research area is computer science and artificial
intelligence education for elementary and middle school students. A recent project
of hers centers on teaching rural middle grades students to use and design with AI.
Her participation with IMMERSE will ensure they develop appropriate, relevant, and
timely instruments for this critical population.
Jacqueline Yahn is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Ohio University.
She holds a BA in Secondary English Education from West Liberty University, an MA
in Integrated Teaching and Learning from The Ohio State University, and an Ed.D. in
Educational Administration from Ohio University. Yahn’s current work examines: (1)
the impact rural industries (e.g. resource extraction, farming, manufacturing) have
on school funding and community capitals, (2) societal issues relevant to rural schools
and communities, and (3) the theory and practice of community and career connected
learning (CCCL) in rural schools. Yahn’s goal for her IMMERSE fellowship is to gain
quantitative skills that will enhance the applied policy research she conducts for
Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.