Professor of Higher Education, EPOL, and Director of OCCRL
Debra D. Bragg is a Professor in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership and Director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on P-20 policy issues, with a special interest in the transition of youth and adults to college and careers. Community college education is a special area of focus. She has directed research and evaluation studies funded by federal, state, local, and foundation sponsors, including examining the participation of underserved students in college transition and career pathways initiatives. Recent investigations include studies of the implementation and impact of bridge-to-college programs for youth and adults funded by the Joyce Foundation and the United States Department of Education (USDE) and applied baccalaureate and community college baccalaureate degree programs funded by Lumina Foundation and National Science Foundation (NSF), Advanced Technological Education.
Dr. Bragg is also the Director of the Illinois Collaborative for Education Policy Research (ICEPR) and a co-Director for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC), both funded by Illinois' Race to the Top (RTTT) grant from the US Department of Education.
University of Illinois Research Profile for Dr. Bragg
Lorenzo Baber is co-Principal Investigator for the College and Career Readiness Act Evaluation project at OCCRL. Dr. Baber's primary research agenda focuses on the impact of socioeconomic background and ethnicity on identity development and academic outcomes for postsecondary students. He is particularly interested in investigating the persistent educational achievement gap between minority and majority students at Predominately White Institutions. Additional research interests include examination of university-neighborhood partnership initiatives in urban communities and international comparative education.
Donald Hackmann works on the Pathways to Results project at OCCRL, focusing on high schools involved in PTR partnerships. Dr. Hackmann is an associate professor of educational administration in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois. He is a former middle school mathematics teacher, middle level principal, and high school principal, having served in school districts in the states of Missouri and Illinois. His research interests include leadership preparation program characteristics and reforms, educational leadership faculty characteristics, middle level education, instructional supervision, and school improvement. He received his doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Assistant Professor Education Policy, Organization and Leadership
Anjalé D. Welton's scholarship primarily examines the educational opportunity structures of students of color from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Welton examines how institutional and social structures—such as race, social class, tracking, school administration and teacher leadership, etc.—shape the connections students of color make to educational resources, navigate school and ultimately matriculate to postsecondary education. Other research interests include student voice, mentoring, social justice leadership, and employing critical policy analysis (CPA) as a methodological tool for uncovering issues of inequity as well as promoting agency and transformation in P-20 educational settings. Her professional experiences include coordinator of a leadership and empowerment program for urban youth, a facilitator of an urban education teacher preparation program, and a teacher in both Washington D.C. and Austin, TX public schools.
Research Data Analyst
Cari Bishop is a Research Data Analyst working on the H2P TAACCCT Grant. She previously worked at the University of Illinois’ Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) where she was an Analyst for 14 years. During her last 5 years at CPRD, Cari was the Senior Research Data Analyst and was responsible for oversight of the Data Entry, Statistical Analysis, Relational Data Querying and Web Programming teams. Cari has extensive experience working with schools and other state agencies to receive electronic data from large-scale pre-existing data systems and creating relational databases to manipulate, integrate, analyze and report these data.
Mark Combs is the Project Coordinator for the Healthcare Professions Program (TAACCCT H2P) at OCCRL. Mark recently served as project director for a Community Based Job Training Grant for Parkland College. Mark earned a master of science degree in Educational Psychology from Southern Illinois University and has been working with grant funded programs for over ten years.
Heather Fox serves at the Project Coordinator for the Pathways Resource Center and is supporting the TAACCCT evaluation projects, at OCCRL. Her research focus is the improvement of educational outcomes through the use of technologies in the classroom, with an emphasis on issues of equity. Heather has practical experience leading community based organizations with over ten years of experience as an advocate for populations impacted by violence including victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and victims of child abuse and neglect. Heather has a MNM in Nonprofit Management and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership in the division of Human Resource Development.
Ann Jones serves at OCCRL as a Project Coordinator for the Pathways to Results initiative. Her research interests include student affairs and development, history of higher education, in particular student life and access in the 1950s, as well as students and faculty with disabilities success in higher education. Prior to her working at OCCRL, Ann was an administrator at a private graduate level institution. She received her Ed.M. from the University of Illinois in Education Organization and Leadership and a BA in Sociology and Religious Studies from North Central College.
Resource Information Specialist
Catherine Kirby is a Resource Information Specialist at OCCRL, where she provides leadership in evaluation, research and development projects related to the Department of Labor's TAACCCT grants and Pathways to Results. Ms. Kirby formerly served as the Project Manager for Illinois' Shifting Gears initiative. Ms. Kirby's work history includes teaching at Parkland College in Health Science and in a bachelor's degree completion program in the School of Technology at Eastern Illinois University. She is an experienced educational consultant and trainer in leadership, career development and career pathways. She holds an Ed.M. degree and has completed advanced coursework from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with an emphasis on higher education and Community College Leadership.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Matthew Linick is a 2012-2013 Richard E. and Ann M. O'Leary Fellow and a Research Assistant for the Illinois Collaborative for Education Policy Research. He completed his Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests are in the second-level effects of market-based education reforms on district-run public schools. Prior to graduate studies, Matthew taught high school reading and English. He holds a B.A. in English Education and a M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Julia Panke Makela is a Research Specialist at OCCRL, where she leads the NSF-funded project, The Applied Baccalaureate Degree: An Emerging Pathway to Technician Education. Julia is also known for her work in career development as a highly-skilled counselor, researcher, and program evaluator, as well as for her contributions to professional ethics serving as the Ethics Committee Chair for the National Career Development Association (NCDA) from 2009 to 2012. Julia earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Illinois, a M.S. in Counseling from Florida State University, and a B.S. in Computer Science from Cornell University. She is a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). Her primary research interests include program evaluation, outcomes assessment, and career development.
Joy Mordica serves the Research Specialist for the Pathways Resource Center at OCCRL. Dr. Mordica has practical experience in education policy, education research methodology, and assessment. She has worked at the North Carolina Department of Instruction and at the Georgia Department of Education. Dr. Mordica also served as an analyst for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study. Her research interests involve education equity, the instructional environment, and the influence of policy on academic progress. Dr. Mordica completed her undergraduate work at Vanderbilt University. She received a Master of Science in Educational Research and a doctorate in Education Policy Studies from Georgia State University.
George Reese works on the College and Career Readiness Evaluation Project at OCCRL, focusing on K-12 and community college connections. Dr. Reese is the Director of the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) in the College of Education. Before coming to the University of Illinois, he was a high school teacher in New Mexico, where he taught mathematics and English at the Santa Fe Indian School (SFIS). His current interests include teacher professional development, vertically aligned curricula, and connecting career and technical education to core mathematics and science content. His research project investigates the impact of curricular changes on students' understanding of mathematics.
Collin Ruud is a research specialist at OCCRL, conducting research for the National Science Foundation-funded project on applied baccalaureate degrees, Credit When It's Due research, and the TAACCCT evaluation projects. Collin also leads website and online dissemination activites for all projects. Dr. Ruud received his Ph.D. in Higher Education in 2013 at the University of Illinois. He received his Master's of Education in Higher Education at the University of Illinois, and has also studied at the University of Missouri - Kansas City. Collin's research interests include college student development, student affairs, high school to postsecondary transitions, and technology in higher education. His dissertation examines the relationship between online technology use and perceptions of social support. He has previously worked as a graduate research assistant at OCCRL as well as the Office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development and has worked for two years as an administrator in residence halls.
Postdoctoral Research Associate
Jason L. Taylor is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at OCCRL, engaged in work related to the Credit When It's Due Initiative, College and Career Readiness Act evaluation, and the Pathways to Results initiative. Dr. Taylor has previously worked on the evaluation team for the Shifting Gears project, Adult Education Bridge Evaluation project, and the Accelerating Opportunity projects at OCCRL. His research interests include higher education policy related to college readiness, developmental education, transfer students, access and equity, and dual credit. His dissertation used a quasi-experimental method to examine the impact of dual credit participation on college enrollment and college completion in Illinois. In addition to his OCCRL research, he recently finished a collaborative research project to study state dual credit policy (funded by the Higher Learning Commission and Lumina Foundation). Jason is currently on the board of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges, an affiliate council of the American Association of Community Colleges. Jason received his Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Donna C. Tonini is a Research Specialist at OCCRL, working on the TAACCCT Evaluation projects. Dr. Tonini received her Ed.D. in International Educational Development with a specialization in Finance & Planning from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2010. Her research evaluated how current educational policy in Tanzania addressed access to quality schooling, and impacted the local constituents. She also holds an M.B.A. in International Business from Bentley University, and has worked for USAID on development projects in Africa and the Caribbean. She also has multiple years of risk analysis and training experience that spans several industries.
M. Allison Witt is a Research Specialist at OCCRL, where she is currently working on the Transformative Change initiative funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina, and the Joyce Foundation. She is also working on the Illinois Collaborative for Education Policy Research, a group aimed at linking state agency leaders, researchers and other stakeholders in research to improve P-20 education. She is a former Assistant Director of Academic Affairs at the Illinois Board of Higher Education where she contributed to State policy related to higher education completion initiatives, including dual credit programs and developmental education reform. Her research focuses upon the intersection of local, national, and international education policies by exploring issues of cooperation, agency, and access within the higher education sector. Current research projects include case studies of government policy, industry and engineering higher education in Finland and Singapore. She is the author of Shifting Tides in Global Higher Education, published in 2011 by Peter Lang. Allison earned a Ph.D. in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also earned an MA and BA in English Literature from Eastern Illinois University.
Graduate Research Assistant
Scott Chattin is working on the Programs of Study and Pathways Resource Center projects for OCCRL. Scott is a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Educational Policy Studies department. Scott's research interests include higher education administration, equity of access, and Bourdieusian sociology. Prior to his work here at UIUC, Scott was employed full-time at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, North Carolina. He also has experience as a high school English teacher in rural and urban settings. Scott earned an M.Ed., Educational Policy Studies from UIUC; an M.Ed., Curriculum and Instruction from The Pennsylvania State University; an M.A., Ethics and Applied Philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte; an M.Ed., Secondary Education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; and a B.A., English from Gettysburg College.
Graduate Research Assistant
Carol Cong Chen is conducting research on OCCRL's NSF-ATE project studying applied baccalaureate degrees. Ms. Chen is a Ph.D Student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include large-scale assessment, cognitive diagnostic models , Value-added models and Item response theory.
Graduate Research Assistant
Randi Congleton is working on OCCRL’s Pathways To Results and Credit When It’s Due initiatives. Ms. Congleton is a first year doctoral student in Higher Education. Her research interest include factors that influence graduate student persistence. Additional interest include issues of transition, access and equity, mentoring relationships and the experiences of Graduate Diversity Officers. Prior to graduate studies, Ms. Congleton served as Director of Multicultural Programs in the College of Agricultural Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. She received her B.S. in Agricultural and Extension Education from The Pennsylvania State University and a M.S. in Community Services from Michigan State University.
Graduate Research Assistant
Priya Goel is working on the Programs of Study and Pathways Resource Center projects at OCCRL. She consults with high school principals and teachers in the Champaign and Chicago areas on implementation of STEM Programs of Study. Along with OCCRL staff, she conducts research on equity and school improvement. Priya is a joint Ph.D.-MBA student at UIUC. Her Ph.D. focus is in education administration; and her MBA foci are entrepreneurship and general management. Priya's research interests include identity in P-12 leadership, globalization and curriculum, and parent engagement in school policy. Outside of OCCRL, Priya is collaborating with a research team on a WT Foundation-funded project designed to understand intermediary organizations' use of evidence in education policy. Priya earned a M.S. in Education Organization & Leadership from UIUC and a B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Sociology from DePaul University. Prior to her work at UIUC, Priya was involved in P-12 teaching and leadership for eight years in Chicago, New Delhi and Shanghai.
Graduate Research Assistant
Edmund Graham is a Research Assistant working on the Pathways to Results project at OCCRL. Edmund is a Ed.D. student in Higher Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received a B.S. in Marketing from Grambling State University and M.Ed. in Work and Human Resource Education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to working with OCCRL, Edmund served as a Student Affairs administrator. His research interests include college student development, retention and persistence.
Graduate Research Assistant
Erica Harwell is a Research Assistant working on the NSF-ATE project studying applied baccalaureate degree pathways with OCCRL. Ms. Harwell is a M.S. student in the Educational, Policy, Organization and Leadership Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include access and retention of underrepresented students in higher education, students’ pathways to degree completion, and higher education finance. She received her B.S. in psychology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. She has experience as a general academic advisor as well as experience in the non-profit sector including work with an independent college access program for low-income high school students.
Sujung Kim is conducting research on the Adult Education Bridge Program Evaluation for OCCRL. Ms. Kim is a Ph.D Student in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include the role of community colleges in the global context. Her work is founded on critical pedagogy, critical race theory, and cultural studies.
Graduate Research Assistant
Viveka P. Kudaligama is working on OCCRL's TAACCCT-funded H2P evaluation team. At OCCRL, she was previously engaged in the Pathways to Results project. Viveka is an Ed.D. student in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in the Higher Education concentration. Her research interests include economics and financing of higher education, access and equity considerations, and the impact of globalization on higher education. Her dissertation research focuses on graduate education of international students in the U.S. Prior to joining OCCRL, she was the Assistant Director in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Viveka received her M.S. in Agricultural & Resource Economics from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and her B.Sc. in Agriculture from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.
Jeff Flesher joined OCCRL's Pathways to Results project as a consultant in 2010. Jeff is a Visiting Assistant Professor teaching in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (EPOL) at Illinois and has more than 20 years of University teaching experience. He is also President of Prairie Fire Development, LLC a management, training and organization consultancy and has held senior leadership positions in training and organization development with Commonwealth Edison, Abbott Laboratories, Underwriters Laboratories, and Biomet Inc. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois’ Department of Human Resource Education.
Mary Ann Merano joined OCCRL’s Pathways to Results project as a consultant in 2012. Her 30 years of work experience include development of accountability systems for secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs, development of the Illinois Student Information System software, coordination of a master plan for School to Work evaluation, and analyses of labor market supply and demand data for the Illinois Pathways initiative and STEM programs of study. Her national experience includes work with the US Department of Education, the US Department of Labor, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the National Center for Education Statistics. She has presented at national and state events on topics such as data quality, human subjects research, using data for continuous improvement, performance measure construction and other topics related to education accountability. She has a B. A. in Sociology from Northern Illinois University. Additional training was acquired through the Army Management Engineering Training Agency and the Illinois Data Processing Training Center.
Deborah Richie serves as a member of the Community College Transformative Change project team at OCCRL, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation. Dr. Richie has 25 years experience as an administrator at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, including 10+ years as a Dean at the Graduate College, directing graduate fellowship grants and programs. She is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Education, Policy, Organization and Leadership. Dr. Richie earned her Ed.D. in Higher Education at the University of Illinois, a MA in Health Education from New York University and a BS in Education from Indiana University.
Kathy Nicholson-Tosh joined OCCRL's Pathways to Results project as a consultant in 2010. She has work experience at the local, regional, and state levels over the past 30 years. She possesses an understanding of policies and best practices for designing and implementing educational programs of instruction. Since retirement from the ISBE in 2003, Kathy has focused on activities in the health science industry; consulting on the design and development of Programs of Study. She has a B.S. in Education and an M.S. in Education Administration. She has an extensive background in educational program and curriculum planning, development and continuous improvement processes.
Matt is an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois studying Physics and Secondary Education. He is working for OCCRL developing the website and assisting with other technology projects.