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crowd of diverse people from many racial backgrounds

2022 Faculty First-Look Scholars

Zyrashae Smith

Zyrashae Smith is a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education studying college access for minoritized and low-income students. Stemming from her own experiences as a first-generation college student and college access advisor in Baltimore City Public Schools, she examines how institutional structures perpetuate educational inequities by serving as barriers to postsecondary  access and enrollment for underrepresented, college-aspiring students. She is a recipient of a 2022 American Education Research Association (AERA) Minority Dissertation Fellowship, the 2022 JHU Jeffery A. Grigg Memorial Award, and a 2021 Johns Hopkins 21st Century Cities Initiative Award for Doctoral Research on Urban Issues. Along with her doctoral studies, Zyrashae serves as a Graduate Research Assistant for the Baltimore Education Research
Consortium (BERC). She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Morgan State University and a Master of Science in Educational Studies with a graduate certificate in Urban Education from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

Paris Wicker

Paris Wicker is a 4th-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis with a doctoral minor in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Using multi and mixed methods, her research explores three areas: (1) the connection between education and well-being, (2) The role of racism and anti-racism within higher education policy and practice, and (3) relational frameworks for organizational change. Her dissertation is a social network analysis of well-being for Black and Indigenous college students. In addition to pursuing her Ph.D., she is also a health equity graduate assistant at the University of Wisconsin- Madison supporting initiatives at the policy and structural level to advance and cultivate well-being, especially in academic settings. Before the doctoral journey, Paris had ten years of experience as a practitioner within college admissions and student affairs, facilitating student success and building relationships and supportive campus climates. Paris holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Vocal Music and French and Francophone studies from Lawrence University, a Master of Science in Education in Professional Counseling from the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh, and is originally from Chicago, Illinois.

Candace Sumner-Robinson

Candace Sumner-Robinson is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sociology of Education program within the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her research interests focus on the formation of social identities through academic spaces, social and cultural inequities in education, and the impact of globalization and internationalization on education. She is currently researching the intersectional social identification formation of adolescents through experiential learning opportunities in K-12 and higher education. In addition to a doctoral candidate at NYU, Candace is also the Assistant Dean of Diversity and International Students for the College of Arts and Science and the Director of the Academic Achievement Program at New York University. She assists with developing student programming within CAS and across the university, offering academic and social support for the students she works with and ensuring inclusive spaces for international and historically underrepresented students of NYU. Originally from the Washington, D.C. area, Candace has spent 13 years working for colleges and universities within the mid-Atlantic region. Prior to arriving at NYU, Candace was an Academic Advisor at The New School, George Washington University, and Notre Dame of Maryland University where she later taught courses on student leadership and served as a full-time Admissions Counselor for their Women’s College. Candace received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminology from Notre Dame of Maryland University and her Masters of Science in Social Science from Towson University. Candace is the recent recipient of the 2019 NYU Distinguished Administrator award and has presented her scholarly research at the 2019 National Academic Advising Association annual conference.

Shanteria Carr

Shanteria Carr received her clinical doctorate in Occupational Therapy with a specialization in pediatrics and leadership from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University in 2020. Shanteria was selected by NYU as an exceptional student to highlight among more than 18,000 graduates in the Class of 2021. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Health Science at the University of Florida and a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy at Howard University. As a licensed pediatric clinician, she has experience in school-based, clinic-based, and early intervention settings. Shanteria’s research interests include the early identification of children diagnosed with autism and other developmental disorders. She is also interested in supporting families through the provision of services and developing effective academic support systems for racially minoritized occupational therapy students. As a recent graduate, Shanteria has returned to NYU as an Adjunct Faculty member in the Department of Occupational Therapy.


Stephanie Robillard

Stephanie Robillard (she/her) is a proud graduate of Chabot Community College and a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Education, studying Race, Inequality and Language in Education (RILE) with a focus on English Teacher Education. Her years spent teaching have shaped her research interests - exploring the ways in which conversations about racism, white supremacy, and inequality are navigated in classroom spaces. Prior to studying at Stanford, Stephanie served as a middle school teacher-librarian and at UC Berkeley, where she earned her Master’s Degree in Education.

Bianca D. Rivera

Bianca D. Rivera is a current candidate for a Doctorate in Public Health (DrPH) in Epidemiology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. She received a Master’s of Public Health in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from the same institution. Bianca has collaborated on various multidisciplinary studies in the fields of occupational, environmental, social, and cardiovascular epidemiology. She is currently a data analyst with the NYU Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy (COEP). Bianca is interested in the effects of policy and social determinants of health on access and utilization of treatment and social services in vulnerable populations. Her dissertation assesses the relationship between digital health interventions and stroke prevention and rehabilitation. Building on the work she collaborates on at COEP, her future research agenda intends to explore the impact of climate events on substance use-related harms, prevention of overdose, and access to treatment.


Bryant Best

Bryant O. Best is a third-year doctoral student in the Justice & Diversity in Education program at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Prior to coming to Vanderbilt, Bryant served at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the American Council on Education (ACE) both of which are in Washington, D.C. In these roles, Bryant contributed to projects and initiatives designed to advance educational equity in public education, kindergarten through college. Bryant holds a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies and Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in Sociology with a focus on race, class, and gender from the University of Maryland, College Park. Bryant’s research aims to investigate how assets in the 37208 zip code in Nashville, TN, can be used to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and/or mass incarceration. 37208 was selected as the study site because the zip code has the highest incarceration rate per capita in the United States (U.S.). Preliminary findings suggest: (1) systemic, longstanding patterns of racist policies and practices have contributed to the social issues in the 37208 community today; (2) the roots of the school-to-prison pipeline are multifaceted and complex; and (3) members of the 37208 community have the capacity to address their own issues if provided the right resources and opportunities. In the future, Bryant aims to use this research as the foundation for his dissertation on the 37208 community and contribute to an interdisciplinary framework or model to address systemic issues in North Nashville. Bryant’s hobbies include biking, playing basketball, and video games. He is also an active member of the Marriage Ministry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Nashville, TN. Bryant lives in Antioch, TN with his wife, Ashley.

Melissa Williams

Melissa Rojas Williams is a first-generation doctoral candidate and mother scholar in the Social Studies Program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin, where she also earned a M.Ed in Bilingual/Bicultural Studies and B.A. in Mexican American Studies and Government. Melissa currently serves as an assistant instructor for both the Generalist and Bilingual Elementary Social Studies Methods, as well as the Latinx Children's Literature Course. It is an honor for her to explore how pre-service Bilingual Teachers utilize children's literature to help build children's civic identities as they too reflect on their own civic identity, membership, and agency. Having had ten years of teaching experience in a bilingual classroom, Melissa is personally invested in long-term mentoring pre-service teachers in their journey of health and sustainability within the teaching profession.

Lorena Camargo Gonzalez

Lorena Camargo Gonzalez [she/her/ella] is a doctoral candidate in Education at the School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She holds a master’s degree in education from California State University (CSU), Long Beach, and a bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Chicana/o/x Studies from CSU Sacramento. Her current research undertakes a historical analysis of how civil rights movements shaped the activism of critical librarians and community organizations to advocate for anti-racism and social justice in children’s literature. Lorena is also a University of California President’s Pre-Professoriate Fellow and serves as a research associate for the Center for Critical Race Studies in Education at UCLA.

Kimberly Jones

Kimberly V Jones is a graduate candidate at Rice University. Her research focuses on histories of the Afro-Atlantic world, the gendered identities of Black women, and African American history. Kimberly's current project considers the relationship(s) between slavery, capitalism, and disability as a critical debate in Early American Republic scholarship. Her dissertation, “Critical Bodies: Slavery, Gender, and Disability in Early Republic Virginia” argues that slave law was a vertex for white aspiration and Black resistance. In adding disability and racial capitalist frameworks she reveals strategies to employ capitalist extraction of disabled enslaved people’s bodies and most importantly, the efforts of slaves and 'fit' or disabled to constitute community and provide support to their kin despite the trauma of slavery. Her research is supported by Citizens and Scholars through the Woodrow Wilson Women’s Studies Fellowship. Kimberly has four post-secondary degrees in History and Economics. She has been involved in building academic and intellectual communities at Rice as well as lending her leadership abilities to on-campus associations. In her time at Rice, she served as Secretary of the Humanities Graduate Student Association and Black Graduate Student Association, President of the Humanities Graduate Student Association, Chair of the Teaching and Professional Development Committee for Humanities Graduate Students, Program Coordinator for the Department of History Graduate Student Professional Development Colloquia, and member of the steering committee for Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice. In addition, she has served on numerous other executive boards and associations as well as created intellectual colloquia at Rice. The Black Feminist Reading Lab and Center for African and African American Study Black Thought Reading Lab have both been successful endeavors. Kimberly continues her work with public history by participating in distance lectures as a moderator or host. She is also a program manager for a podcast entitled Medicine Race and Democracy, where she invites and holds interviews with activists and scholars. Kimberly is also editorial assistance for the Journal of Southern History. 

 Jessica Stovall

Jessica Stovall is a doctoral candidate in the Race, Inequality, and Language in Education (RILE) program at Stanford University. She holds a B.S. in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.S. in Literature from Northwestern University. She has received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching grant, the Stanford Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) Fellowship, and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. Her current research explores Black teacher retention through examining how discourses of storytelling and ratification in Black teacher affinity spaces reverse Black teacher attrition. She is also conducting an oral history project with Black teachers who taught in the Bay Area during school integration. Before Stanford, she taught English for 11 years in the Chicagoland area.

Gabriela Corona Valencia

Gabriela Corona Valencia is a Ph.D. candidate and doctoral student instructor in the School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA. She is a researcher, educator, and bridge-builder passionate about versatile ways of knowing, learning, and thinking. Her research highlights how the socialization of objectification is linked to eugenicist educational practices of control, containment, and surveillance that have affected Latina women's access to their sexual citizenship throughout time, space, and place. She utilizes a range of special collections and digital repositories to pinpoint evidence of Latina girls and women punished for "crimes" related to impermissible female pursuits of pleasure and desire from 1909 to 1979 and from 2009 to the present day. Before her graduate school journey, Gabriela obtained her BA in Chicana/o studies with a minor in Anthropology from CSU Dominguez Hills and her MA from the School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA.  

Khadejah Ray

Khadejah (Ka-dee-juh) Ray is a first-generation doctoral student from Altadena, California. She credits college bridge programs for her success in higher education. Khadejah is a proud alumna of the UCLA Vice-Provosts’s Initiative for Pre-College Scholars (VIPS) Program. She credits the UCLA VIPS program for developing her skills to critically analyze race, gender, and class inequalities in education. She is also a proud alumna of the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program (known as the McNair Scholars Program). Khadejah credits the McNair Scholars Program for cultivating her scholarly identity and preparing her for doctoral studies.

Andwatta Barnes

Andwatta Barnes is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan’s School of Education, Educational Studies program specializing in Teaching and Teaching Education. Andwatta has a B.A. in Elementary Education and an M.Ed. in TESOL from Grand Valley State University. At U-M, she has taught Educational Linguistics/Second Language Teaching in the Master of Arts in Educational Studies with Secondary Teacher Certification program. She began her career in education as an elementary school teacher and soon became a middle school English as a Foreign Language teacher in Japan. Just prior to pursuing a doctoral degree at U-M, she was an English as a Second Language (ESL) and English literature instructor, as well as a pre-service teacher mentor in the Middle East. She was also an assessment specialist for national and international ESL teacher licensure and English language proficiency assessments for several years. Her research interests span racialized, gendered teacher knowledge and identity, especially when they are licensed in mainstream education and teach English as a medium of instruction in K-12 schools outside of the United States. Her current work explores how Black American women teachers of English as a medium of instruction draw on their cultural, linguistic, and professional experiences in United Arab Emirates Pre-K-5 schools. Andwatta is a former McNair Scholar and hopes to become a professor of language education upon completion of her Ph.D.

Christine Quince

Christine Quince is a proud Detroiter and PhD candidate in the Teaching and Teacher Education program at the University of Michigan’s School of Education. Her research focuses on the cultural capital and experiences Black elementary students have at an early age. In her dissertation, Christine centers Black elementary students’ cultural capital by positioning their home experiences as wealthy examples that educators can learn from in order to improve their teaching practice and the success of Black students. Christine holds both a B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.A. in Educational Studies focused on Teaching and Learning from the University of Michigan.

Chazz Robinson

Chazz Robinson is a PhD candidate, Arthur A Schomburg/Julian Park Fellow, and Teaching Assistant at the University at Buffalo Graduate School of Education. He holds a BA in Psychology from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota and a M.Ed in Higher Education Administration from the University at Buffalo. Chazz’s research looks at the intersections between race, class and graduate student persistence.

Lashawn Washington

LaShawn Faith Washington is a fourth-year Ph.D Wisconsin Center for Educational Research Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, with a minor in Afro-American Studies. A Dallas, Texas native, LaShawn is a proud first-generation non-traditional community college graduate, and a two-time alumna of The University of Texas-Austin receiving an M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction – Cultural Studies in Education, and a B.A. in Government (Honors). Her research explores the navigational practices, theories, and programs Black women utilize within higher education as a result of their intersectional identities. She has been invited to present her research at the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), The National Association for Student Affairs Professionals (NASPA), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and The National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE).

Oscar Gutierrez

Oscar Gutierrez is a PhD candidate and NASEM Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. He was born and raised in Southeast Los Angeles where he currently lives and conducts research with queer communities of color and analyzes their relationship to landscapes of environmental justice. His dissertation project entitled, “A/effective Pollutants: Landscapes of Environmental Justice in Southeast Los Angeles” looks at queer Latinx relationships to industrial sites to understand how notions of race, class, gender, and sexuality have reshaped the social and political movement. His involvement in the Environmental Justice movement is what drew Oscar to pursue his doctorate in ethnic studies. For over a decade, he has worked alongside his community to address environmental impacts through his involvement with organizations like Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) and East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ). Oscar is an alumnus of the Marina Pando Social Justice Research Justice Collaborative, an environmental justice research program at EYCEJ where he built collaborative community-based research on land-use and local indigenous collaboratives. His commitment to environmental justice scholarship comes from his ongoing work in his community. Oscar currently serves as a member of the board of directors at CBE, a California-based environmental health and justice organization where he has been a member and organizer for over a decade. In 2020, Oscar was awarded the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation fellowship for his contributions to environmental education and social justice movements. He continues his work with EYCEJ, The Communities, and Renters Autonomous Collective and is an active member of the board of directors at CBE where he works on local environmental justice, housing, and mutual aid issues.

Estela Bernice Diaz

Estela Bernice Diaz is a doctoral candidate and Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow at Columbia University. Estela’s research interests center on issues of education, culture, and inequality. Her current research examines families navigating the admissions process to private ongoing schools, beginning with entry at preschool or kindergarten. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Estela worked as an undergraduate admissions officer at Princeton University. She holds a M.A. in Sociology from Columbia University and a B.A. in Sociology (with honors in sociology) from Princeton University. Her work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.

Claudia Triana

Claudia M. Triana is a Ph.D. Student in the Department of Education Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A scholar of comparative and international education, her research focuses on the inequities of im/migration and education policies, displacement, and resistance. Over the past ten years, Claudia has served a youth worker with refugee and immigrant students, as well as leading culturally-responsive research and evaluation projects with public schools. Her research is supported by the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Award. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, Claudia worked for the New York City Department of Education. A proud product of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, she received her M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University and B.S.F.S from Georgetown University.

Aireale Joi Rodgers

Aireale J. Rodgers is a PhD candidate in the Urban Education Policy program and serves as a research assistant in the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. Aireale’s research explores how to better design interpersonal and organizational learning that facilitates faculty and students’ critical race consciousness. Her dissertation is a comparative case study of learning and racial meaning-making in three doctoral-level courses. Before coming to graduate school, Aireale has worked as a Founding Dean at a middle school in Chicago and served as a higher education administrator. Aireale holds a B.S. in Social Policy and an M.A. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy.

Aishah AlFadhalah

Aishah AlFadhalah is a doctorate candidate at the education department at John Hopkins University. She earned a Bachelor of Health Sciences in Speech-Language Pathology and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish for the Health Profession at Marquette University and Master in Speech-Language Pathology with a bilingual concentration from Portland State University. Aishah’s research interest is in the field of bilingualism. Specifically the importance of maintaining the home language to improve second language learning and cultural identity in children with and without developmental disabilities.

Lilly B. Padía

Lilly B. Padía is a PhD candidate in Teaching & Learning and adjunct professor at New York University, where she also works as a research assistant for the Metro Center’s Regional Educational Bilingual Resource Network (RBERN), serving on the New York State taskforce for students labeled as English Learners with Disabilities. Born and raised in Oakland, California, she now resides in the Bronx, where she taught grades K-8 for seven and a half years as a certified bilingual special education teacher. She also worked in the Bronx as an Instructional Coach and as a Training Academy Director for the New York City Teaching Fellows helping other teachers develop their classroom practice. She is an adjunct professor and academic advisor for graduate Bilingual, English as a New Language (ENL), and Special Education teachers at CUNY's City College of New York & Hunter College and has taught undergraduate courses at Montclair State University and Monroe College. At CCNY she works with pre-service and in-service undergraduate and graduate student teachers and leads courses supporting students in completing the edTPA and Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) workshops. She consults and teaches for Hunter College on their Bilingual Special Education New York City Teaching Fellows program. Her own research looks at the intersections of language learning and dis/ability identity, with a specific focus on the communication practices of nonspeaking bilingual children and their families. Her work challenges the white supremacist norms that position dis/ability and language learning as deficit and inferior in the United States schooling. She believes that liberatory learning involves young people and their families as experts and guides.

Hank Sherwood

Hank Sherwood is a fourth-year, part-time doctoral candidate in the Sociology of Education program at NYU Steinhardt. He works full-time as the Associate Director of Communications for NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Originally from Rochester, Minnesota, Hank attended Penn State University where he earned a BS in Supply Chain Management and Information Systems. Upon graduation, he earned his teaching credential and taught seventh- and eighth-grade math in East Palo Alto, California for several years. After teaching, Hank attended Loyola Merry Mount University in Los Angeles where he earned an MA in Urban Education Policy and Administration. He is passionate about working towards educational equity for all and examining sexual and gender-diverse youth (SGDY) experiences.

Noemi Linares-Ramirez is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research examines how racially underrepresented groups demand and experience change in educational institutions. Noemi’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Mays Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council.