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James Scholar Honors Program

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Honorary James Scholars

2014 Honorees

About the Honorees

Rebecca Ginsburg

Dr. Rebecca Ginsburg is a faculty member at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the current director and co-founder of the Education Justice Project (EJP), the campus' prison education program, housed in the College of Education. EJP offers for-credit courses and a range of extracurricular activities to men incarcerated at Danville Correctional Center, a medium-security state prison. It engages almost one hundred faculty, graduate students, and staff from across campus in delivering these programs. EJP members and incarcerated EJP students also produce scholarship and creative work around higher education in prison.

Dr. Ginsburg received her Bachelor's degree in English from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, her JD from the University of Michigan Law School, and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of California at Berkeley. It was while she was a graduate student at Berkeley that she first became involved in prison education.

At the University of Illinois, she is on the faculty of the Department of Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership and the Department of Landscape Architecture. She teaches courses on the history of prisons, and education and social justice. She is currently working on an edited book project about higher education in prison.

Kathy Ryan

Ms. Kathy Ryan, Assistant Dean in the College of Education, has been a stalwart leader in the College in every facet of undergraduate education; she has been a tireless advocate for the advancement of our undergraduate students; and she has helped the College and university achieve its goal of making this campus more reflective of the diversity in our global society, appreciative of our undergraduate students, and more intentional of our actions and engagements with them.

Kathy is a leader among leaders. She is brilliant, empathetic, has the moral compass and courage to do what is right each and every time, and understands the transformative power of living and experiencing a life full of diverse people, experiences and opportunities. Her career in the College of Education at the University of Illinois spans fifteen years. She was hired as an undergraduate academic adviser for our teacher education students and today is our Assistant Dean for Student Affairs. Immediately she saw that the College was underrepresented in every category as it related to the campus and college missions for diversity, enhancing the overall experiences of our undergraduates, and, more specifically, ensuring we acknowledge and provide for our James Scholar students. Kathy's list of accomplishments in the short time she has been Assistant Dean are beyond remarkable. She has taken it upon herself to recruit students from underrepresented backgrounds to increase their enrollment at the undergraduate level; she looked at the opportunities and funding provided in the College and suggested and implemented creative ways to ensure that these monies reach every student in the College; she provided mentoring and leadership opportunities for our students to enhance their overall experiences; and she asked the College leadership to put the needs of our undergraduate students front and center in all aspects of the College's agenda, strategic planning, and initiatives.

And this does not even begin to express her considerations and contributions to the James Scholar Program. More and more students are conducting undergraduate research in College classes and presenting their research findings at campus, college, and specialized events. They are studying abroad; attending College-lead professional development workshops and are the sole recipients of this wonderful annual banquet to recognize them.

She has singlehandedly helped the College identify, recruit, mentor, graduate, and place in the field as a teacher more than 200 students from underrepresented backgrounds. She helps others find their passion at a university that is sometimes ignorant or unforgiving of the challenges they face as first generation college students. She is a champion for justice and equity. The College looks to her for guidance on matters such as diversity that would make us a more hospitable and inviting space. Her colleagues across campus respect her for her commitment, generosity, wisdom, passion, and wherewithal to continue striving for what is best in and for our students.

David Zola

Professor David Zola joined the faculty of the Department of Educational Psychology in College of Education in 1978. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University.

Professor Zola began his career at UIUC as a senior scientist at the Center for the Study of Reading where he established and conducted basic eye movement research exploring the fundamental reading skill development of elementary students. His extensive longitudinal data-set is still being explored and analyzed by scholars and graduate students interested in the perceptual acquisition of reading proficiency.

Professor Zola taught numerous courses for the Department of Educational Psychology, most notably the foundation courses EPSY 201, 236, and 404. Professor Zola has also taught courses for the Departments of Human Resource Education, Educational Policy Organization and Leadership, Special Education, Agriculture Education, Curriculum, & Instruction, and the Department of Psychology in LAS.

One of Professor Zola's favorite instructional opportunities was EPSY 200, an Honors Symposium in Education for James Scholars. This course met on the first Saturday of each month during both the fall and spring semesters of the academic years for in-depth scholarship and sharing about essential issues of teaching and learning from an educational psychology perspective. The success of the learning came from shared conversation over coffee among all participants. This course always filled quickly during advanced enrollment from the College's James Scholars.

Professor Zola enjoyed every moment he spent furthering the self-discovery and development of our students, whether over discussions, or research, or many, many cups of coffee.