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James Scholar Honors Program

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Participating Faculty Researchers

Students interested in pursuing research may contact a participating faculty member to inquire about this option and if available should submit an electronic Honors Credit Learning Agreement (eHCLA). The eHCLA is an agreement between the James Scholar student and the cooperating faculty member that outlines the expectations for the James Scholar project. The list below provides a short summary of faculty members' research interests. You can click on their name for more information about their research, publications, and contact information.

When contacting a faculty member, remember that they are not obligated to allow you to collaborate on their project and/or they may not have availability within a given semester. Below is an example of an e-mail you might send if you want to participate in a faculty members research:

Dear Professor X,

My name is X and I am a James Scholar in the College of Education. I found information regarding the X research project you are currently conducting on the James Scholar website. This research interests me because (…). Is this project open to James Scholars this semester? If so, I would appreciate the opportunity to meet and discuss my participation in further detail. I am available (dates), by e-mail and/or meeting virtually. Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to further conversation regarding your research!

Paul Bruno

Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Paul Bruno studies K-12 education administration and policy. His research uses mostly quantitative
methods and focuses primarily on new teacher personnel administration (such as hiring,
assignment, and compensation), school finance, and school choice.

1. New Teacher Screening and Hiring: This project involves understanding how to screen applicant teachers to predict which applicants will be most effective.

2. High School Computer Science Participation and Staffing: This project explores who participates in rapidly proliferating high school computer science courses, who schools find to teach these courses, whether it matters who teaches these courses, and what the consequences of computer science course taking is for students, teachers, and schools.

3. Charter Schools and School Funding Formulas: This project studies whether charter schools – publicly funded, privately operated schools of choice – change which students they serve when the state funding formula changes their expected revenues for enrolling different types of student.

Depending on interest, background, and availability, the scholar would be involved in literature review, data collection and coding, data cleaning, data analysis, or drafting/editing manuscripts. Scholars should expect to spend 5-10 hours per week on their project, with flexibility around busy times of the semester.

Jennifer Cromley

Professor, Educational Psychology

Dr. Jennifer Cromley is an Associate Professor in Educational Psychology. Her work focuses on two areas of science/math learning:

  1. Comprehension of scientific text--how do students make sense of words and diagrams together in biology and chemistry textbooks?
  2. Retention in science majors--what thinking skills and what aspects of motivation help students want to stay in the sciences?

Work in the lab includes analyzing student scratch work on science and math tasks (middle school through undergraduate); data entry, cleanup, and measurement work on various assessments; and data analysis under supervision. James Scholars who make intellectual contributions can count on having their name on a conference submission.

Stacy Dymond

Professor, Special Education

Stacy Dymond has research interests focused on curriculum and instruction for students with severe intellectual disabilities in inclusive school and community settings. She is particularly interested in the use of service learning as a form of pedagogy for promoting access to academics and life skills curriculum.

Rebecca Ginsburg

Associate Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Rebecca Ginsburg primarily focuses her research on prison education and re-entry from prison.

Project 1: Ginsburg is creating a website directory of all the college-in-prison programs in the U.S. This project includes researching programs, contacting them and requesting further information, and working with the website team to add programs to the site. It's an opportunity to talk and learn from incredible teacher-scholar-activists from across the country. This project is not super time sensitive. Five hours/week would be enough to keep it moving forward. 10/hours/week would allow even more work to be done!

Project 2: Updating bibliography on higher education in prison. Ginsburg has an annotated bibliography on works related to higher education in prison. Updating this will involve library and database searches. The scholars can work independently with an estimated completion time of 30-35 hours of work – 3-4 hours per week over the semester.

Project 3: Ginsburg is organizing a statewide conference on higher education in prison. The scholar can work with the organizing team and attend the conference in Springfield in October while writing short articles for social media about the upcoming conference, as well as during and after the conference. This will involve interviewing people about their work related to college-in-prison and relating their stories and the stories of the programs that they work with. It will involve about 5-7 hours per week.

Rebecca Hinze-Pifer

Assistant Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Rebecca Hinze-Pifer focuses on using a range of quantitative methods including descriptive, quasi-experimental, and experimental methods. She has two lines of research in K-12 schools.

  1. The first explores the non-academic dimensions of schooling, including discipline policy and social-emotional learning.
  2. The second examines educational inequality through multiple lenses.

The James Scholars can assist with the following:

  1. Achievement gaps and officer involved shootings. Dr. Hinze-Pifer is looking at the extend to which student academic performance responds to officer-involved shootings in the area. The scholar will assist with cleaning and categorizing the shootings data. Depending on interest and availability, scholars could be involved in some aspects of the analysis.
  2. National nonprofit tax records. Dr. Hinze-Pifer is working on documenting private spending on public schools. The data will be combined with school achievement and inequality data from the entire country, to examine patterns of inequality and the ways private spending exacerbates or ameliorates unequal school funding. There are several portions of the project the scholar can assist with, depending on scholar interest.

Rodney Hopson

Professor, Educational Psychology

Rodney Hopson is Professor, Educational Psychology and Evaluation and Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Responsive Evaluation and Assessment, College of Education, UIUC. Additionally, he is an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership.  Hopson’s research interests lie in social politics and policies, foundations of education, sociolinguistics, ethnography, and evaluation.

  1. One strand of Hopson's research focuses on language as a harbinger of social and educational change, especially in post-apartheid and postcolonial nation states that wrestle with the tensions and opportunities of democracy and freedom.
  2. A second set of Hopson’s research has been through manuscripts and funded projects that emphasize the transformative possibility of developing mechanisms that promote educational and social equity.   

Scholars will have the opportunity to provide research or project support and assistance related to 1 or 2 projects of interest, such as:

Scholar time commitment would depend on availability and flexibility of scholars.

Wenhao David Huang

Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Wen-Hao (David) Huang is primarily interested in understanding how to motivate individuals and organizations to behave productively in various learning and performance improvement contexts. An essential subset of his research is to understand how decisions are made by individuals and organizations and what are some opportunities and challenges for individuals and organizations to make informed decisions.

Huang invites scholars to assist with the following projects:

  1. Using VR to teach archaeological skills: Huang is looking for scholars who are interested in analyzing quantitative and qualitative data collected from UIUC students. The time commitment is negotiable.
  2. Improving mental health care qualities for underrepresented perinatal women at C-U area: Huang is looking for scholars who are interested in interacting with community members and interested in analyzing qualitative data. Some weekend hours are required.
  3. Understanding how career decisions are made by working adults and/or college students: Huang is looking for scholars who are interested in exploring and synthesizing literature and analyzing qualitative data. Time commitment is negotiable.
  4. IDEA Coalition Bringing Awareness to Perinatal Mental, Physical Health: Wenhao (David) Huang, Karen Tabb-Dina, and Brandon Meline, are working together to use research and technology to improve wellness for new mothers and infants.

Karin Jensen

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Affiliate, Educational Psychology

Karin Jensen focuses her research in engineering education, particularly around undergraduate student mental health and mentorship of engineering faculty in engineering education research.

Jensen invites scholars to assist with NSF Early-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER). This project seeks to study the mentorship relationships of engineering faculty and engineering education researchers who are participating in the NSF RIEF program. The project strives to identify best practices for these mentoring relationships, as well as develop resources and events to facilitate growth of scholars in engineering education. Scholars would work with the research team to review interview transcripts and code these transcripts to identify emerging themes. Scholars would review the literature on mentorship, particularly to learn about the cognitive apprenticeship model. Scholars would also contribute to drafting conference papers and journal articles. Estimated scholar time commitment is 5-10 hours per week, including regular meetings with the research team.




Christina Krist

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

Christina Krist focuses research on how to make science education more meaningful for students. She examines how students learn to participate in sophisticated scientific practices and how they develop care and agency through their participation. Dr. Kirst also examines how teachers support students' agency, both relationally and epistemically.

Scholars will have the opportunity to qualitatively analyze video data from middle school classrooms, teacher interviews, and/or teacher professional development workshops, depending on area of interest. Scholars will be responsible for articulating a focused research question and carrying out some analysis of the data, in collaboration with other members of the research team. In addition, scholars should plan to attend a bi-weekly research team meeting. Anticipated time commitment is ~5 hrs/week.

H Chad Lane

Associate Department Chair & Associate Professor, Educational Psychology

H. Chad Lane is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology with a joint appointment in Informatics. His research involves the application of artificial intelligence and entertainment technologies to educational problems, with an emphasis on informal and self-directed learning. More specifically, this work seeks to investigate the nature of engagement in learning activities and how to best promote it through technology. Dr. Lane is interested in starting new projects along these lines that leverage game-based and effective technologies for K-12 STEM education, and even potentially leveraging commercial-off-the-shelf games such as Minecraft and Terraria.

Nancy Latham

Professor Emerita, Curriculum & Instruction

Nancy Latham focuses her research on teacher workforce pathways, teacher persistence in the field, teacher shortage, and teacher preparation models. She also focuses on early childhood best practices, instructional environments, classroom management and community, and instructional planning and assessment.

Scholars can assist Latham with issues related to state and national policies on teacher preparation, workforce pathways, and teacher shortage, as well as projects specific to ECE instruction described above. Students will be provided the opportunity to co-design the scope and trajectory of their project, later defining the timeline and outcomes.

Ali Lewis

Director, University Primary School


Ali is interested in democratic classroom communities, student and educator agency, anti-oppressive

pedagogy, risk-taking, play, social emotional well being, and inquiry work.

James Scholars work with the staff, children, and possibly even families at University Primary School, the Preschool-5th Grade Lab School for the College of Education located at The Children's Research Center here on campus. Projects will be co-developed alongside school faculty and children, using observation, artifacts, and interviews to develop understandings and provisional theories. James Scholars who work well by taking initiative and receiving guidance rather than directives are more successful in research projects. Time spent in reflective discussions with intellectual puzzling and debate, resulting in small actions to better the educational experience for the community, is the desired result of research work.

Time commitment is dependent on the scope of project work; consecutive weeks for multi-hour observation and data collection during the school day hours are required.



Cheryl Light Shriner

Goldstick Family Scholar and Teaching Assistant Professor, Special Education

Cheryl Light Shriner is interested in research related to high quality assessments and interventions to address challenging behavior in children with disabilities within school settings.

James Scholars can expect to assist Dr. Light Shriner with one of the following projects:

Project 1) This project involves evaluating the completeness and quality of written behavior assessments and behavioral interventions that are included in a student's individualized education program (IEP) within school settings. A James Scholar would be reviewing the literature (reading and summarizing research articles related to the topic), using a tool to evaluate the completeness and quality of FBAs and BIPs, and potentially be involved in training teachers to use a tool to evaluate completeness and quality of FBAs and BIPs. The teachers would then be given a survey to indicate how useful this tool was. The James Scholar could help summarize the usefulness survey information. Expect a time commitment of at least 2 hours each week.

Project 2) This project involves identifying behavior management tools that preschool teachers use in their classrooms to minimize challenging behaviors and to teach alternative skills to children with and without disabilities who demonstrate challenging behaviors. The James Scholar would have the opportunity to interview teachers and observe in classrooms to document the tools and strategies that teachers use and then assist in summarizing this information. The tools and strategies will then be summarized and categorized by function of behavior (reason the child demonstrates the challenging behavior). Expect a time commitment of at least 2 hours each week.

Project 3) This project involves identifying the types of experiences in a course that influence and possibly change perceptions and attitudes about people with disability. There will be an emphasis on what experiences are most helpful for international students who may come from very different cultural backgrounds and belief systems. The James Scholar will be involved in reading and summarizing information from journal articles and may have the opportunity to interview international participants who are enrolled in courses with a disability focus. Expect a time commitment of at least 2 hours each week.

Robb Lindgren

Associate Professor, Educational Psychology

Robb Lindgren is an Associate Professor in the Curriculum & Instruction Department in the area of educational technology. Dr. Lindgren's research examines theories and designs for learning within emerging media platforms (e.g., simulations, virtual environments, mobile devices, video games, augmented and mixed reality, etc.).

Dr. Lindgren has several projects involving the design of STEM education simulations that students interact with using full body movement or hand gestures. These projects involve a variety of learning contexts (K12 schools, universities, museums) and utilize a range of technologies including motion sensors and augmented reality headsets. There are opportunities to work with graduate students in Dr. Lindgren's lab to collect and analyze data about how students of various ages learn from these activities. 

Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky

Margaret Joy Smale Valpey Professor in Special Education, Special Education

Hedda Meadan-Kaplansky focuses her areas of research on social and communication behavior of young children with autism and other developmental disabilities. She is very interested in intervention strategies to promote the social-communication behavior of children with disabilities and in methods for training and coaching parents (e.g., home-based intervention and internet-based interventions).

Idalia Nunez Cortez

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

Dr. Nuñez is an Assistant Professor with specialization in Bilingual/ESL (English as a second language) Education. Her interests include: exploring Spanish-English translanguaging, bilingualism, and biliteracy; linguistic equity in educational settings; and bilingual/ESL pre- and in-service teacher education, identity, and agency. Her research focuses on recognizing the everyday cultural and linguistic resources of students of color, specifically from Latinx communities.

James Scholars may be involved in the following projects:

  1. Bilingual Education with young bilingual leaners. This project examines the knowledge and pedagogies that bilingual learners experience in a 2nd-grade dual language classroom. The scholar's responsibility would involve supporting with data analysis and presenting finding at conferences.
  2. Examining the testimonios of Latinx Transnational families. The scholar's responsibility would involve supporting data analysis and transcription as well as presenting at conferences.

The time commitment to both these projects in one academic year.

Amber Ray

Assistant Professor, Special Education

Amber Ray conducts research that develops and examines the effectiveness of writing and reading interventions and instruction to help students with disabilities and diverse learning needs succeed in elementary through high school. Her research projects focus on strategy and self-regulation
approaches to instruction and methods of professional development for teachers and school leaders on effective writing and reading instruction.

Scholars may be involved in some of the following activities: development and revision of instructional and professional development materials, classroom observations, scoring of student work, review of relevant literature, and analyzing data.

Scholars will have the opportunity to work on research projects related to their interests. Time commitment will depend on the scope of the selected project.

Rachel Roegman

Associate Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Rachel Roegman is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests examine the interconnections of equity, contexts, and leadership, and her work focuses on the development and support of equity-focused leaders.

Dr. Roegman's project focuses on understanding K-12 public school principals’ perspectives on and experiences with addressing issues of race with multiple constituent groups within diverse school contexts, based on the idea that how they approach race impacts student and staff perceptions of the school’s racial climate, which is connected to student outcomes.

Students involved in the project may be involved in some of the following activities: conducting interviews, transcribing data, developing a survey, reviewing literature, and analyzing data. Roegman looks forward to discussing the project with interested students!

Nidia Ruedas-Gracia

Assistant Professor, Educational Psychology

Nidia Ruedas-Gracia (she/her/hers) conducts research that explores sociocultural factors (e.g., sense of belonging) that impact the academic performance and psychological development of historically minoritized students. She also works on informing and developing culturally-sustaining interventions for diverse college students, specifically those who are first-generation/low-income (FLI).

James Scholars will work collaboratively with Dra. Ruedas-Gracia to determine their role(s) and responsibilities in the lab. Typically this is completed during an initial 30 minute meeting. Some examples of roles and responsibilities include leading a literature review, transcribing interviews, conducting data entry, cleaning survey data, coding qualitative data (interviews, focus groups), and collecting data.

For samples of lab projects, visit Opportunities for co-authoring a manuscript with lab members are available.


Stephanie Sanders-Smith

Associate Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

Stephanie C. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction specializing in Early Childhood Education. Her research focuses on urban early childhood programs.

Dr. Smith is particularly interested in:

  1. Pedagogic methods employed by teachers of children in high-poverty areas, especially the effectiveness of progressive pedagogies
  2. Family engagement in schools with high-poverty populations, including understanding barriers to teachers faced by families and barriers to families faced by teachers. 

Michele Schutz

Assistant Professor, Special Education

Michele Schutz conducts research that examines how high schools prepare all students, including those with disabilities, for employment and other outcomes after graduation. Her projects have a specific focus on understanding the roles that various school staff members play in facilitating career development for students with disabilities, how they collaborate with one another, and creative ways in which they may tap into the resources and networks of their local communities, especially in rural areas.

Scholars may be involved in some of the following activities: gathering information about resources and supports available for people with disabilities at the local, state, or national level; review of relevant literature; development of school professional development materials; data analysis (such as transcription, coding, and analysis); or writing. Scholars will have the opportunity to work on projects related to their interests.

Time commitment may depend on student needs and the scope of projects.

Emily Tarconish

Teaching Assistant Professor, Special Education

Emily Tarconish conducts research that examines the experiences of college and graduate students with disabilities, develops effective practices for postsecondary disability services providers, and develops and assesses the effectiveness of disability awareness and inclusive teaching trainings for postsecondary educators. She primarily uses qualitative approaches to analyze and interpret qualitative data, such as interviews, open-ended surveys and transcripts from focus groups.

Scholars may assist with transcription, coding and analysis of data, and writing. Time commitment for assisting with projects may vary depending on the student’s interests and needs.

Asif Wilson

Assistant Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

My research broadly explores justice centered pedagogies in p-20 educational contexts. More specifically, it explores a) how policies and social movement organizing shape justice-centered pedagogies, b) how teachers engage in, and conceptualize, justice-centered pedagogies, and c) how students experience justice-centered educational spaces.

Social Studies in Illinois - I have a contract with ISBE to design, co-facilitate, and assess/evaluate a five-part professional learning experience with Illinois social studies teachers. Interested scholars could support the research component of the project. 

Archival research on teacher activism/educational social movements. - This is a Chicago-based assignment. I am working on several research threads related to teacher activism and educational social movements in Chicago. I would love support with searching archives for important resources. 

Envisioning Justice, Imagining Freedom - Illinois social studies teachers will be completing surveys and interviews related to their experience in a professional learning experience on the school-prison nexus and liberatory pedagogies in social studies. Interested scholars could support the research component of the project, which will take place virtually.

The time commitment on these projects is flexible.

Allison Witt

Director, Office of International Programs, Office of International Programs

Allison Witt focuses her research on globalizing teacher education and teaching practice. She is especially interested in how pre-service teachers can develop global competency themselves in ways that can be modeled with their own students later.

Witt's current research projects include the analysis of the cross cultural exchange between visiting and host teachers in international contexts. She is particularly focused on the transformative potential of collaborative international partnerships that must be established and maintained between schools, universities, administrators, and teachers.