New Faculty Members, 2015-2016

January 28, 2016

The College of Education welcomes 12 new tenure-track faculty members this academic year. Here are their bios and, in their own words, the impact they hope to make while at Michigan State University.

In addition, Lynn Paine, professor of teacher education, has been appointed Assistant Dean for International Studies. Learn more about her background and plans in her new position.

In the Department of Kinesiology:

Kuenze-ChrisChris Kuenze, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Chris Kuenze studies the impact of exercise following traumatic knee injury. He is working to identify the impact of fatiguing exercise on patterns of lower extremity muscle function and movement patterns following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. He plans to work on early clinical interventions to promote a return to normal physical activity while reducing the risk of re-injury and knee joint osteoarthritis following ACL reconstruction. He also seeks to identify and implement new low-cost motion analysis technologies that can be used easily in the clinical setting to track patient outcomes and provide real time feedback during rehabilitation.

“The primary issue that I hope to address in the near future is the translation of best current evidence related to muscle and movement dysfunction after ACL reconstruction into realistic clinically relevant interventions for application by health care providers. A strong understanding of the symptoms and underlying mechanisms related to reduced physical activity and elevated knee injury rate after ACL reconstruction is essential but providing clinicians with the tools to address these problems is the clear “next step” in this area of sports medicine research.”


Ferguson-DavidDavid P. Ferguson, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Texas A&M University

David P. Ferguson studies how early life nutrition influences cardiovascular development and function later in life. It has been shown that children who are malnourished at birth have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease in adulthood. Ferguson investigates the mechanistic changes that occur due to poor diet and proposes therapeutic countermeasures to increase cardiovascular function and decrease mortality rates. A second area of his research focuses on the physiological stress placed on automotive race car drivers and pit crews. He is working with NASCAR, Indycar, and Formula 1 teams to increase performance and safety of drivers and crew members.

“The end goal of my research is to promote health and longevity. By understanding how early life nutrition can influence cardiovascular function, we can potentially prevent mortality from cardiovascular disease. In regards to my automotive racing research, by understanding the stress placed on drivers and crew members we can increase the safety and performance of the individuals participating in the sport, thereby making the sport more enjoyable for all parties involved.”

In the Department of Educational Administration:

Gonzales-LeslieLeslie D. Gonzales, Assistant Professor
Ed.D., University of Texas at El Paso

Primarily a qualitative researcher, Leslie D. Gonzales explores questions related to the academic profession. Specifically, her research agenda consists of three overarching lines of inquiry: (a) legitimacy within academia; (b) relations of power that govern the recognition of knowledge and knowers; and (c) the possibility of agency among academics. Gonzales seeks to contribute to ongoing policy and administrative conversations pertaining to the recognition, valuation, and evaluation of faculty members across different types of colleges and universities.

“Across all types of postsecondary institutions, faculty members are facing increased pressure to produce in ways that are measurable across various types of markets (e.g., cultural markets, economic market, labor market), and yet teaching and learning, as well as knowledge creation are socially, culturally, and temporally embedded processes, meaning it is quite difficult to measure the work of faculty in the ways that outcomes are typically measured. As a result, the measures and the fundamental epistemologies that are being used to measure and value faculty limit how the academic profession is conceptualized. In this way, I hope my work informs faculty preparation efforts as well as the support and evaluative systems that colleges and universities employ when it comes to professors.”


Kim-DongbinDongbin Kim, Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California-Los Angeles

Dongbin Kim’s research program focuses on issues of equity and social justice in higher education in three areas: (1) financial aid policy; (2) college access; and (3) international doctorates and faculty within U.S. and global higher education contexts. She primarily uses quantitative research approaches, using large national and international datasets. Kim’s most recent research examined the intersection of individual, financial, and institutional context that shapes students’ college mobility patterns.

“I am interested in contributing to the discussion on the crucial role that higher education plays in moving toward a more equitable society–socially, economically, and educationally.”

In the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education:

Falk-CarlCarl F. Falk, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of British Columbia

Carl F. Falk’s research focuses on the development, testing, and computer programming of advanced psychometric models with applications across the social sciences. Recent examples include: 1) non-standard/flexible item response functions and their application in large-scale educational assessments; and 2) the modeling of response styles when using Likert-type items in survey research. Additional interests include topics in cross-cultural measurement, mediation analysis, and analysis of datasets with missing/non-normal data.

“Advanced psychometric models are sometimes either underutilized or misunderstood. Among my goals are to advocate for the consideration of more advanced measurement models in applications of large-scale educational assessment and survey research in the social sciences. My role is therefore to not only develop advanced measurement models, but to also test the limits of their versatility and make them widely available and accessible to others.”


Schmidt-JenniferJennifer A. Schmidt, Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Chicago

Jennifer A. Schmidt’s work informs scholarship on human motivational processes as well as adolescent development, teacher practice, educational intervention, and educational environments. Her current research examines diversity in the affective and motivational dimensions of student experience in middle school and high school science learning environments. She is examining the way science “feels” for students, modifying these perceptions through targeted classroom interventions and teacher education, and identifying features of formal and informal learning environments that foster STEM interest and engagement. Schmidt uses the Experience Sampling Method (or ESM), in which participants provide repeated reports of their subjective experience.

“Most teachers cite student motivation as one of their greatest instructional challenges. My hope is that my work will better illuminate the diversity in students’ motivational processes, identify teacher practices that enhance student motivation, and design effective mechanisms for communicating these practices to teachers. Additionally, through my research that focuses on STEM learning, I hope to broaden the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields.”

In the Department of Teacher Education:

Barros-SandroSandro R. Barros, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Cincinnati

Sandro Barros is focused on multilingual development, culture, and language politics in K-16 curricula. He is interested in how the study of languages other than English (LOTE) shapes the public’s perception of citizenship and belonging within the context of the nation-state. He analyzes connections between ideologies of language learning and how they support truth regimes that influence multilingual pedagogy discourse. How do intellectuals and policymakers exercise their institutional power to influence public thought in the name of the common good? How do second language pedagogy discourses reinforce monolingual ideologies and how do they assist us in cultivating linguistic diversity?

“I see the purpose of my research as finding a way to seek a better understanding of the ramifications of policy decisions and pedagogical practices enacted by stakeholders invested in second language literacy development. I believe that as educators, citizens and lifelong students living in a diverse society, we should develop an ecological macro-perspective on the dynamics of second language literacy development for the continued betterment of society. One of the greatest challenges faced today in the field of multilingual education is that of trusting, encouraging, and supporting alternative frameworks that redefine a language beyond its traditional nationalistic purview. Reconceptualizing what we understand as a language is thus paramount if we are to capitalize more productively on the most creative and fascinating activity that defines us as a species: our language ability.”


Santiago-MaribelMaribel Santiago, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University

Maribel Santiago is a social studies education scholar with a specialty in Latina/o history education. In particular, her work is concerned with how Latina/o contributions are taught in the U.S. History curriculum, and the consequences of such depictions. The overall goal of this work is to understand how people respond to the inclusion of a group that has, for the most part, been excluded from U.S. history. Collectively, this work is part of her broader goal to challenge the education field to rethink diversity in a way that is more inclusive of Latinas/os.

“At the core of my research is broadening education researchers’, teacher educators’, and teachers’ understanding of race/ethnicity in U.S. history. My work aims to improve social studies instruction and teacher preparation for our increasingly diverse K-12 classrooms.”


Symons-CarrieCarrie Symons, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Carrie Symons focuses on literacy instruction, reading comprehension, and English language development. As a former elementary classroom teacher of 10 years, she is interested in how teachers develop the tools and practices necessary to facilitate students’ meaning-making. In particular, her work examines how dialogic instructional practices paired with close attention to language can mediate elementary English learners’ meaning-making with text. In order to ensure English learners have equitable access to instructional contexts that will advance their literacy attainment, she aims to help teachers develop pedagogical practices that foster literacy learning and growth for linguistically diverse students.

“According to the U.S. Department of Education, 9.1% (4.4 million) of the students in U.S. schools are learning English as a new language. Unfortunately, an achievement gap between English learners and their proficient English-speaking peers has persisted for years. It has become imperative for English learners to have equitable access to instruction that will advance their literacy development; mainstream classroom teachers must know how to meet the needs of linguistically diverse students. Through my work, I am examining how a teacher’s linguistic orientation to meaning-making can facilitate English learners’ reading comprehension and language development. Drawing upon cognitive, sociocultural, and sociolinguistic theories, this involves  studying  how teachers translate theories of reading comprehension and language learning into a literacy and language pedagogy and identifying instructional practices that can be used to support English learners’ literacy development in mainstream classroom contexts. As a result of this research, teachers and those in roles of supporting teachers’ development (e.g., teacher educators, curriculum developers, instructional leaders) can better understand how to  make language and meaning more explicit for English learners.”


Tortorelli-LauraLaura S. Tortorelli, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Virginia

Laura S. Tortorelli examines the context in which children develop into proficient readers and writers in the early elementary grades. Her research combines developmental perspectives with the RAND model of reading comprehension to highlight how reader, text, and task factors interact in an iterative process that shapes reading development over time. Her projects include creating statistical profiles of slow readers to support individualized fluency instruction and examining the associations between aspects of text complexity and reading rate. In addition, Tortorelli is working with colleagues at the University of Virginia to develop projects investigating key factors in early writing instruction.

“In my research, I hope to bridge the gap between our understandings of early literacy and proficient reading. I want to understand how children develop from early readers into proficient readers and how instruction does — or doesn’t — support that development for different types of children.”


VanDerHeide-JenniferJennifer VanDerHeide, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., The Ohio State University

Jennifer VanDerHeide focuses on teacher learning of dialogic teaching and writing instruction, student writing development over time, and connections between classroom interactions and learning to write. She has explored effective practices for teaching argumentative writing in secondary schools and students’ developmental trajectories for learning argumentative writing. VanDerHeide is interested in the contextualized nature of writing and the tensions that arise between what counts as learning to write within a particular context and high-stakes, decontextualized measures of writing achievement. Current projects involve a study of preservice teachers’ learning of dialogic practices, and how mentor teachers and teacher education programs support this learning.

“Through my work, I hope to reframe adolescents and their learning to write from a deficit model (a focus on what students aren’t doing well according to decontextualized, standardized measures) to an asset-based model, by tracing the learning that students make visible in their speaking and their writing. I hope to impact the nature of standardized assessments of writing as well as classroom practices that recognize and support students’ learning.”


Watson-VaughnVaughn W. M. Watson, Assistant Professor
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University

Vaughn W. M. Watson is a former public high-school English teacher of 12 years in Brooklyn, N.Y. His areas of research focus are the interplay of literacy learning, and reimagining identities for Black youth and youth of color across socio-cultural contexts of English education, hip-hop and education, civic learning and action, and qualitative participatory research methodologies. His research examines how youth, making meaning of diverse literacies and identities across creative and artistic artifacts and practices affiliated with hip-hop, reframe understandings of changing mandates for student work, and teacher accountability.

“My research challenges English teachers and education researchers to better support complex and fluid literacies, identities, and civic imaginaries of Black youth and youth of color within and across curriculum, pedagogy, teacher preparation, and participatory research methodologies, in support of youth in an increasingly diverse U.S. society. At a time when mandates for student work and teacher accountability define what counts as literacy, and delimit youth’s identities, envisioning civic imaginaries is an action-taking stance, involving ways in which Black youth and youth of color, and their English teachers, envision youth as participants and contributors in schools and communities.”