OCCRL Director

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Eboni Zamani-Gallaher

Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, Director of OCCRL

Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher is a Professor of Higher Education/Community College Leadership in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a PhD in Higher Education Administration with a specialization in Community College Leadership and Educational Evaluation from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her teaching, research, and consulting activities largely include women in leadership, psychosocial adjustment and transition of marginalized collegians, transfer, access policies, student development and services at community colleges. Her research has been published in various journals and scholarly texts, including Equity and Excellence in Education, Higher Education Policy, and New Directions for Student Affairs. Dr. Zamani-Gallaher has authored/edited seven books. Her most recent titles include Working with student in community colleges: Contemporary strategies for bridging theory, research, and practice (ACPA/Stylus Publishing, 2014), ASHE Reader Series on Community Colleges, Fourth Edition (Pearson Publications, 2014), and The Obama administration and educational reform (Emerald Group Publishing, 2014).Prior to joining the College of Education at Illinois, she previously held appointments as a faculty member at Eastern Michigan University and West Virginia University. Zamani-Gallaher was a former fellow at ACT, Inc. and Mathematica Policy Research Institute (MPR) in Washington, DC. Dr. Zamani-Gallaher is Past-President of the Council for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) and is Director-Elect for Research and Publications for the American Association of Personnel Administrators (ACPA). 

Email: ezamanig@illinois.edu

OCCRL Faculty Affiliates

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Lorenzo Baber

Associate Professor, Iowa State University

Lorenzo 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.

Email: ldbaber@iastate.edu

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Debra D. Bragg

Edward William and Jane Marr Gutgsell Endowed Professor Emeritus and founding director of OCCRL

Debra D. Bragg is a Gutgsell endowed professor and the founding director of the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Bragg's research on the transition of youth and adults to college and employment is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, state governments, and private foundations. She has been studying Applied Baccalaureate degrees since 2007 when she co-led a national study funded by the Lumina Foundation. In 2010, she received a 4-year grant to study Applied Baccalaureate degree programs for the National Science Foundation (NSF), Advanced Technology Education (ATE) program. Dr. Bragg holds a PhD in comprehensive vocational education from The Ohio State University with specialization in public policy analysis and evaluation. She is the recipient of the University of Illinois' College of Education career teaching, distinguished research, and "breakthrough" awards; and the senior scholar award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges.

Email: dbragg@illinois.edu

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Matt Giani

Research Scientist, Office of Strategy and Policy,  University of Texas at Austin

Matt Giani is a Research Specialist at the University of Texas at Austin. His research interests include stratification and social mobility in higher education, high school to college transitions, and the use of quantitative methods in educational policy research. Matt was part of the research team for the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) evaluation at OCCRL. He is currently conducting the quantitative research and impact analyses for both the Credit When It’s Due initiative. He is also working on projects investigating the college destinations of top ten percent students in Texas, socioeconomic disparities in postsecondary transition rates, and how socioeconomic background impacts the labor market outcomes of college graduates. Dr. Giani completed his PhD in education policy and planning from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in applied statistical modeling.

Email: matt.giani@austin.utexas.edu

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Donald Hackmann

Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Donald G. Hackmann serves as the director of Pathways Resource Center for the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a professor of educational administration in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 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, instructional supervision, school improvement, and the role of school leaders in promoting college and career readiness. He has worked closely with several Illinois high schools, assisting school leaders with implementing school improvement reforms and developing teacher leaders. He received his Doctor of Education degree in educational administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Email: dghack@illinois.edu

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Jason L. Taylor

Assistant Professor Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, University of Utah

Jason L. Taylor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. He received his PhD in higher education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a research specialization in evaluation methods and concentration in public policy. His broad research interests are at the intersection of community college and higher education policy and educational and social inequality. Dr. Taylor has conducted and led several quantitative and mixed methods studies related to college readiness, developmental education, adult pathways to college, dual credit/enrollment and early college experiences, transfer policy and reverse transfer, LGBTQ students and educational access and equity. He is currently the Co-PI with Dr. Debra Bragg and co-leading the research agenda for the Credit When It’s Due initiative, a 15-state effort to develop and implement reverse transfer programs and policies. 

Email: jason.taylor@utah.edu

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Anjale Welton

Assistant Professor of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Anjalé D. Welton is an assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She examines how opportunity structures in secondary school settings shape connections students of color make to educational resources and matriculate to college. Dr. Welton also explores issues of equity especially as it pertains to the politics of race and diversity in school reform and improvement. Dr. Welton recently co-authored a report titled Facing equity: Understanding P-20 equity conscious leadership for college and career pathways. Her professional experiences include coordinator of a leadership and empowerment program for urban youth in secondary schools, a facilitator of an urban education teacher preparation program, and a teacher in large urban districts. Dr. Welton received her PhD in educational policy and planning from The University of Texas at Austin. 

Email: ajwelton@illinois.edu

OCCRL Research Associates

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Carianne Bishop

Research Data Analyst

Cari Bishop is a research data analyst working on the Healthcare Professions Pathways (H2P) and NISGTC Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants. She previously worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Center for Prevention Research and Development (CPRD) where she was an analyst for 14 years. During her last 5 years at CPRD, Ms. Bishop was the senior research data analyst and was responsible for oversight of the data entry, statistical analysis, relational data querying and web programming teams. Ms. Bishop 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.

Email: chbishop@illinois.edu

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Mark Combs

Project Coordinator

Mark Combs is the project coordinator for the Healthcare Professions Pathways Program (H2P) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grant (TAACCCT) at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership. Mark previously served as project director for a community-based job training grant for Parkland College. Mr. Combs earned a Master of Science degree in educational psychology from Southern Illinois University and has been working with grant funded programs for over 10 years.

Email: combsm@illinois.edu

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Heather L. Fox

Project Coordinator

Heather Fox serves at the project coordinator for the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). Ms. Fox works on the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) evaluation projects and the Transformative Change Initiative. Her research focus is the improvement of educational outcomes through workforce development initiatives, with an emphasis on issues of equity. Ms. Fox 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. Ms. Fox has a MNM in nonprofit management and is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of human resource development.

Email: hlfox2@illinois.edu

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Catherine Kirby

Research Information Specialist

Catherine Kirby is a research information specialist at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL), where she provides leadership in evaluation, research, and development projects related to the Department of Labor's Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grants and Perkin's Programs of Study. 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 EdM degree and has completed advanced coursework from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with an emphasis on higher education and community college leadership.

Email: ckirby@illinois.edu

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Heather McCambly

Project Director

Heather McCambly is the Project Director for the Pathways to Results Initiative at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). Prior to moving to Illinois, Heather was a Program Associate in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success at the Association of American Colleges and Universities. A passionate advocate for educational equity, Heather has dedicated her career to increasing college access for non-traditional, low-income, and racial and ethnic minority students. For four years, Heather worked on a college campus in Portland, Oregon, managing student support programs and led diversity and international initiatives. Heather has also conducted educational research, evaluation, and policy analysis at the Gateway to College National Network, Portland State University, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and the Oregon University System. Heather received her M.A. with honors in Educational Leadership and Policy from Portland State University in 2013. She completed her thesis on the equity implications of performance based budgeting systems.

Email: mccambly@illinois.edu

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George Reese

Research Associate

George Reese works on the STEM College and Career Readiness evaluation project at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (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 at Urbana-Champaign, he was a high school teacher in New Mexico where he taught mathematics and English at the Santa Fe Indian School. 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.

Email: reese@illinois.edu

OCCRL Research Assistants

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Randi Congleton

Graduate Research Assistant

Randi Congleton, MS, is a PhD student in Higher Education. She works on the Pathways to Results and Minority Serving Institutions projects. Her primary research interest includes issues of transition, access and equity, and mentoring relationships in graduate education and the experiences of Graduate Diversity Officers. Her dissertation work examines the role of a graduate preparation program on first year transition and socialization to the PhD role. 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.

Email: conglet2@illinois.edu

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Asia Fuller Hamilton

Graduate Research Assistant

Asia Fuller Hamilton is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways Resource Center (PRC). Ms. Fuller Hamilton is currently a PhD student at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership in the division of Educational Administration and Leadership. Ms. Fuller Hamilton received her MEd in Educational Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focus involves understanding and improving the cultural competencies of school leaders, with an emphasis on issues of equity. Prior to working with PRC, Ms. Fuller Hamilton has served in the Champaign Unit 4 school district as an educator and administrator, most recently as the Principal of Booker T. Washington STEM Academy in Champaign, IL.

Email: afullerh@illinois.edu

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Sara Garcia

Graduate Research Assistant

Sara Garcia is a graduate research assistant working with the Credit When It’s Due project at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership. She is a PhD student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Ms. Garcia received a MS in psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and a BA in psychology from Boston University. Her research interests include investigating the achievement gap between minority and majority students , access to higher education, and minority representation in STEM education. 

Email: sagarci3@illinois.edu

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Edmund H. Graham

Graduate Research Assistant

Edmund Graham is a graduate research assistant working on the Pathways to Results and STEN Career and College Readiness projects at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). Mr. Graham is an EdD student in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He received a BS in marketing from Grambling State University and MEd in work and human resource education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to working with OCCRL, Mr. Graham served as a student affairs administrator. His research interests include college student development, retention, and persistence.

Email: egraha3@illinois.edu

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John Lang

Graduate Research Assistant

John Lang is a graduate research assistant working on dual credit and STEM College and Career Readiness projects. John has worked with the Education Justice Project, a prison education program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as an instructor in ethics and as the re-entry coordinator. He also served as managing editor of Philosophy of Education in 2012 and 2013. Mr. Lang was a Harry & Dorothy Broudy Fellow in 2012. Before coming to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he worked in the nonprofit sector, focusing on economic development, affordable housing, and tenants’ rights — most recently as the executive director of the Tenants Union of Washington. Mr. Lang received an MPA from the University of Washington, where he also studied philosophy and education, and is a doctoral candidate in philosophy of education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Email: jlang10@illinois.edu

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Janice North

Graduate Research Assistant

Janice Li North is a graduate research assistant working on dual credit project and is the social media assistant for the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). She examines how gender, race, ethnicity, and class impact student access to and success in early college experiences as well as the key obstacles to increasing students' completion of quality credentials. In addition to her work at OCCRL, Ms. North is conducting her own research on communicative competence and on developing an empirically grounded curriculum based on music and linguistic performances. Her broad research interests are at the intersection of linguistic anthropology, curriculum and instruction, performing arts, and education and public policy. Ms. North received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in business and a Bachelor of Music in piano performance (five-year dual degree) from Northwestern University. She is currently pursuing a master's degree in education policy studies with a specialization in social and cultural studies of education.

Email: jlnorth2@illinois.edu

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Marci Rockey

Graduate Research Assistant

Marci Rockey is a graduate research assistant working on the Pathways to Results project at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership (OCCRL). Marci is currently a PhD student in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a Master of Science in Education with a concentration in College Student Personnel Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from Illinois State University. Prior to working with OCCRL, Marci served as a community college student services administrator with adjunct teaching experience in college success skills, leadership development and public speaking. Her research interests include community college student transition and retention and rural student access and success in higher education.

Email: rockey2@illinois.edu

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Jacqueline Rodriguez

Graduate Research Assistant

Jacqueline Rodriguez is a graduate research assistant for the Pathways to Results project at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership. Ms. Rodriguez is a PhD student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds Bachelor degrees in both Sociology and Chicano/Latino Studies from the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests include investigating the educational and economic mobility prospects for Black and Latino youth.

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Maria Claudia Soler

Graduate Research Assistant

Maria Claudia Soler is a graduate assistant working on the doctoral project “The Applied Baccalaureate Degree: An Emerging Pathway to Technician Education,” sponsored by the National Science Foundation´s Advanced Technological Education program. Ms. Soler is a PhD student in the Education Policy, Organization and Leadership program at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds a MA in International Education and Policy Analysis from Stanford University, an MA in Clinical Psychology, and a BA in Psychology from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana (Bogota, Colombia). Her professional experiences include serving as a school and career counselor, as a lecturer, and as a counselor for a non-profit focused on providing support to Latin American women in London, United Kingdom. She also spent almost four years developing the admission and development programs at Lumni, a company that provides financial aid for higher education to low income students through human capital contracts (also known as Income Share Agreements) in Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile. Ms. Soler has conducted research on the topic of disparities in higher education and the effects of legal reform in Colombia, particularly regarding the selection of STEM programs. Her research interests include higher education access and success policies, especially those related to college preparation, financial aid and financial education, developmental programs, and career pathways models. 

Email: solersa2@illinois.edu

OCCRL Consultants

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Marisa Castellano

TAACCCT Evaluation Consultant

Marisa Castellano joined OCCRL’s TAACCCT evaluation team as a consultant in 2014. Dr. Castellano has 17 years’ experience leading research and policy evaluation studies of secondary and postsecondary reform efforts, first for the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University and most recently for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville. This work has included studies of retention interventions for nontraditional community college students, a systematic literature review on educational transitions, identifying promising practices for low-skilled adults in career pathways, and proposing a career integration variable to a college success model for community college occupational students. Her dissertation was an ethnography of a community college job training program for welfare recipients. Dr. Castellano received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Deborah Richie

Consultant

Deborah Richie serves as a member of the Transformative Change Initiative team at OCCRL, which is funded by the Bill & 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 EdD in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in health education from New York University, and a BS in education from Indiana University.

Email: drichie@illinois.edu

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Ashley Wilkins

Consultant

Ashley Wilkins serves as a member of the Pathways to Results team at OCCRL. Before moving to Illinois, Ashley worked for a not-for-profit community organization supporting underserved students to access and transition into higher education. She has also worked extensively with the Gateway to College National Network supporting the implementation, evaluation, and scaling of student success programs in the community college context at sites across the country. Ashley earned her B.S. in community development from Portland State University and is currently working on her master’s of social work at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Email: awilki4@illinois.edu

OCCRL Support Staff

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Julie King

Technical Support Specialist

Julie King is a web developer working with OCCRL to maintain the current website and develop a redesigned and restructured website to be launched in late 2015. She also provides editorial assistance for various publications. She holds a BA in English, a JD, and an MS in computer science, all from the University of Illinois. Prior to becoming a programmer and developer, she worked as an editor and an attorney. Her professional interests include combining design and programming to create effective user experiences, using data science to efficiently manage and mine complex data sets, and using artificial intelligence, particularly machine learning, to improve natural language processing and document classification.

Email: jking21@illinois.edu