New Faculty 2023-2024

September 11, 2023

The College of Education welcomed more than 30 new faculty members and academic specialists in the 2023-2024 academic year. In addition, the college recognized two individuals with distinguished roles.

New Leadership

Kui Xie became the chair of the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education on July 1, 2023. Previously, Xie was the Ted and Lois Cyphert Distinguished Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Sciences.

Xie, along with Department of Kinesiology Professor Karin Pfeiffer, were also the first in the college to earn the title of Red Cedar Distinguished Professor. The endowed position recognizes “individuals who combine externally recognized, exemplary scholarly accomplishment and/or potential, with clear professional relevance to specific areas of MSU scholarly need, disciplinary development, or research or creative emphasis” (Office of Research and Innovation).

The rest of this page honors the newest Spartans to our college. Faculty in tenure-system or fixed-term roles are listed first, followed by academic specialists within that unit.

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


Assistant Professor – Rehabilitation Counseling
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Enhancing community participation of youth

“Transition-age youth with disabilities experience unique challenges in community participation, such as employment. In particular, transition-age youth from traditionally underrepresented groups encounter additional barriers in obtaining and retaining employment. My research aims to identify the factors influencing the participation of transition-age youth in vocational rehabilitation services and employment, along with identifying strategies to help strengthen the existing outreach efforts and service provision to this group. My research goals are to contribute to the development of culturally sensitive training for professionals and educational training for parents of youth with disabilities from traditionally underrepresented groups. An examination of all these elements can help provide a bigger picture of the factors impacting the utilization of community supports, quality of service provision, and the successful employment outcomes of transition-age youth with disabilities.”

SARAH K. COX (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor – Special Education
Ph.D., Florida State University

Improving math outcomes for youth with autism spectrum disorder

“Through my research, teaching and service activities, I hope to improve the academic and employment outcomes for youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Drawing from principles of cognitive science, I work with students with ASD (and their teachers) to develop and evaluate mathematics interventions focused on connecting mathematical concepts and procedures. Many individuals with ASD exhibit cognitive strengths which could advance the STEM workforce if they receive adequate supports throughout their K-12 educational experience. My goal is to collaborate with members of the community to advance identification of and access to effective academic supports for this underserved population.”

TRISHA L. EASLEY (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) – Rehabilitation Counseling
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Empowering individuals and families with disabilities

“My clinical and research experience with neurodevelopmental disabilities and caregivers fuels my interest in exploring how family involvement can enhance transitions to improve community integration, relationships and overall quality of life. Ultimately, my research seeks to empower and elevate the wellness of people with disabilities and their families, contributing to a more inclusive society.”

KYLIE GORNEY (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor – Measurement and Quantitative Methods
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Enhancing test fairness and validity

“My goal is to conduct impactful research that promotes fairness in testing and supports valid interpretations of test scores. My investigations of the differences between various types of behavior (e.g., cheating vs. solution behavior) produce valuable insights regarding the process examinees go through as they progress through an exam. I hope to use these insights to inform the underlying causes of complex behaviors and understand the differences that are observed both between and within subgroups of test-takers.”

JAEYOUNG KIM (he/him/his)

Assistant Professor – Rehabilitation Counseling
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Advancing trauma-informed perspectives

“My research endeavors are predicated on the pressing need to reframe the narrative surrounding the post-traumatic responses of individuals with disabilities. Too often, these reactions are misconstrued as individual deficiencies, impairments or behavioral issues across a variety of contexts, from homes and schools to workplaces and healthcare settings. 

“My scholarly mission aims to elevate trauma-awareness through the lens of rigorous scientific inquiry, specifically targeting the unique experiences of people with disabilities. In doing so, I aspire to contribute to the creation of safer, more empathetic environments not only for individuals with disabilities but also for the professionals dedicated to their well-being and quality of life.”

ALEXANDRA A. LEE (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) – Educational Psychology and Educational Technology
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Creating novel solutions to increase motivation

“I intend to build my programmatic line of research by continuing to use sophisticated mixed-methods research approaches to investigate how context shapes students’ motivation with a focus on generating actionable insights that will improve student success. By uncovering new information about how existing programming, instructional practices, and achievement experiences influence students’ motivational beliefs, I aim to provide actionable insights about what is already working (and not working) to help students reach their full potential. In addition to understanding how situational factors impact student motivation today, I seek to provide new solutions for tomorrow. Therefore, my research is focused on designing and developing educational interventions to help teachers more effectively support student motivation and maintain their own motivation throughout their careers.”

EMMA NATHANSON (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) – School Psychology
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Engaging caregivers to improve educational experiences for youth

“I hope to bolster parent and caregiver engagement and well-being across home, school and community settings and improve outcomes for children with mental health concerns. I am particularly interested in childhood anxiety and related disorders. I am also committed to providing high-quality training for school psychology graduate students through my teaching role.”

Academic Specialists in the CEPSE Department:

ALVIN BREWER (he/him/his)

Outreach Specialist (Fixed Term)
Ph.D., Siena Heights University

Brewer is a vocational rehabilitation professional with over 10 years of progressive experience. His professional interests are job readiness, self-advocacy, career development, reasonable accommodation in the workplace and mentoring other young professionals.

GOUN CHOI (she/her/hers)

Academic Specialist (Fixed Term)
M.A., KDI School of Public Policy and Management

Choi is an academic specialist for the TE150 (Reflection on Learning) course.

REBEKAH GORDON (she/her/hers)

Curriculum Specialist (Fixed Term)
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Gordon is a curriculum specialist for Project STEMM-Up within the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education. In this role, she orchestrates the development, evaluation and enhancement of educational materials for diverse learners, prioritizing adaptability, inclusivity and accessibility.

ALYSSA HERNANDEZ (she/her/hers)

Academic Specialist (Fixed Term)
M.B.A., Michigan State University

Hernandez is a proud, queer, Latina from Detroit, Michigan. She specializes in integrative staff management, education and employment advancement, and community building. She is the project manager for Project STEMM-Up at Michigan State University.

KAILY KRAFT (she/her/hers)

Academic Specialist (Fixed Term)
M.A., Michigan State University

Kraft is an academic specialist in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education. She is currently serving as a career pathway coordinator for Project STEMM-Up. She specializes in assisting individuals with disabilities with the development of their job readiness skills in order to help them obtain and maintain meaningful careers within STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine) fields.

REBECKA MOCK (she/her/hers)

Academic Program Coordinator
M.A., University of Chicago

Mock is the program coordinator for the School Psychology program in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology & Special Education.

MARY GRACE (she/her/hers)

Career Pathway Coordinator
M.A., Wayne State University

Grace is a Career Pathway Coordinator for the STEMM-Up Project, an exciting pilot program between Michigan State University and Michigan Rehabilitation Services. Grace provides employment preparation and soft skills curriculum, coupled with facilitating positive life and work experiences with other community members.

In the Department of Educational Administration:

SARA BANO (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor – Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Creating meaningful learning experiences for adults

“The overarching goal of my research is to create iterative and reflexive research projects that connect research findings and practice to create meaningful learning experiences for adults and to ensure an inclusive learning environment for individual and institutional transformation. It is my hope that my research will support educators, administrators and policymakers to create effective and inclusive learning experiences for adult learners in a variety of settings, especially in cross-cultural environments.”

BRAD COX (he/him/his)

Associate Professor – Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

Helping autistic students thrive in college

“Ever since my son was diagnosed with autism, I have been dedicated to ensuring that autistic students like him could thrive when they got to college. Through both my original research and the work of the College Autism Network (a nonprofit organization I founded in 2016), my efforts advance three goals: 

  • Student Well-being: I want autistic students to feel confident that they have the personal qualities and institutional support necessary to succeed in college.
  • Educational Achievement: I want to maximize the likelihood that students with autism enter, persist and graduate from college.
  • Institutional Responsiveness: I want educational institutions to be responsive to autistic students’ specific needs, appreciate their distinct perspectives and highlight the unique contributions these students can make to their institutions, fields of study and society at large.”

LARA DIXON (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor -K-12 Educational Administration
Director – Educator Preparation and Accreditation
Ed.D., Eastern Michigan University

Collaboratively leading for profound results

“As an assistant professor of K-12 Educational Administration, I am preparing relational, innovative and transformational educational leaders. As the director of educator preparation and accreditation, I am creating an inclusive, iterative continuous improvement process that supports significant, measurable and known achievement in the direction of our goals to further our mission, vision and impact as we inspire tomorrow’s accomplishments.”

JUSTIN GUTZWA (they/them/their)

Assistant Professor – Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education
Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

Actualizing trans-inclusive college classrooms

“My research imagines what collegiate learning environments could look like if they were truly trans-liberatory and anti-racist. To root this imaginative work in tangible areas for educational reform, I look at the curricular experiences of transgender, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming and other students holding expansive gender identities (or, trans students), paying particular attention to the intersecting gendered and racialized oppression trans Students of Color encounter in their college classrooms. Colleges and universities were not built for queer and trans students, Black, Indigenous and other Students of Color, and those whose identities exist at the intersections of multiple minoritized communities. I believe that prioritizing ways to amplify the voices and lived experiences of multiply marginalized trans students in our classrooms can disrupt the basics of how and why we teach in ways that silence the voices of those who live at the margins of both education and society.”

Photo taken by Kai J. Huang (they/he/ze)

In the Department of Kinesiology:


Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) – Kinesiology
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Improving outcomes for underserved students

“My professional experiences of working with high school students/athletes as an athletic director sparked my interest in exploring how the leadership of teachers and coaches can influence academic and behavioral outcomes for students/athletes in underserved contexts. This interest then expanded into considering how the use of serious games in education technology as a proxy for leadership can help all underserved students with their postsecondary planning and outcomes. My current research aims to gain a better understanding of how gamified technology can act as a leadership mechanism for students in an underserved context that provides guidance, assessment and tailored planning for sustainable outcomes. I believe this translational research can turn the notion of ‘gaming’ on its head, centering gameplay technology as a viable source of assessment and guidance for students’ making realistic and sustainable postsecondary plans.”

CHAD WIGGINS (he/him/his) – Starting January 2024

Assistant Professor – Kinesiology
Ph.D., Indiana University-Bloomington

Improving exercise tolerance in health and disease

“My work is focused on understanding mechanisms that limit performance and identifying novel ergogenic aids to improve exercise tolerance. Understanding these phycological targets will allow us to test methods to improve exercise tolerance during exposure to a variety of environmental stressors (high altitude) and in a number of different disease states (including COPD, sickle cell disease, and others).”

In the Department of Teacher Education:


Assistant Professor (Fixed Term) – Elementary Social Studies
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Disabling traditional social studies narratives

“I have always loved learning people’s stories about the past. Often they complicate, if not contradict, the dominant narratives in K-12 history education and, more specifically, history textbooks. My research examines how the stories families tell, as well as the information they (un)intentionally leave out, shapes who we are and how we understand the world. It is my hope that my scholarship can help us gain a better understanding of how family stories and silences are a form of curriculum that can be just as influential – if not more – than traditional K-12 history curriculum.”

Photo taken by Kyle Chong

SAMANTHA LAM (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor – Elementary Education
Ed.D., Loyola University Chicago

Creating culturally responsive teachers

“I am passionate about ensuring our teachers have the knowledge, skills and dispositions necessary to be successful in the classroom. My scholarship focuses on best practices in elementary school literacy and math education and the importance of being culturally responsive. Equipped with the understanding and ability to implement best practices in teaching while being culturally relevant will ensure all students have access to high-quality education. Furthermore, I am also focused on educational leadership in the K-12 setting. As a former elementary school principal, I understand the need for strong building leaders and the role they play in instructional leadership. My work strives to explore the role of the principal as an integral component of teacher professional growth and increasing student achievement.”

STEFANIE MARSHALL (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor – Science Education
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Disrupting the status quo about science/STEM education

“I research questions that unmask the behaviors and power resulting in inequitable experiences in science and the practices of change agents deliberately countering the status quo. I apply various frameworks to shed light on the narratives of those doing critical work in science education and to understand the unintended consequences of policies influencing science and STEM education. I situate my research at the intersection of educational policy, leadership and science education. Without research examining policies, science and STEM education organizationally, and the sociocultural factors currently limiting equitable instruction – equity in science and STEM education will not be achieved.”


Assistant Professor – Science Education
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin

Creating educational equity for young learners

“We do not need to wait until young people are in high school to teach them accurate and diverse histories and to offer them opportunities to read stories by and about those who are most marginalized in our society. I support pre- and in-service teachers in teaching more inclusive and honest histories and narratives starting in elementary school, with a particular focus on Asian American and ethnic studies.”

Academic Specialists in the TE department:

DANI HUELS (she/her/hers)

Academic Specialist (Fixed Term)
M.S., Eastern Illinois University

Huels is an academic specialist in the Department of Teacher Education. She is the second-grade lead for the development of the OpenSciEd Elementary curriculum. Huels specializes in the design and development of high-quality materials aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards for elementary grades.


Academic Specialist (Fixed Term)
M.S., Eastern Illinois University

Morrison Thomas works with the Department of Teacher Education’s OpenSciEd Elementary Development project (writing K-2 science curricula) and with MSU’s CREATE for STEM Institute (providing professional learning for teachers in districts using MSU-developed K-12 science instructional materials).

In additional Centers, Institutes and Offices:

JASON BURNS (he/him/his)

Academic Specialist
Ph.D., Michigan State University

Jason Burns is a research specialist with the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC), where his focus is supporting EPIC’s portfolio of research on Michigan’s teacher workforce. His responsibilities include project development, data collection and analysis, and project management.


Chief of Party – Transforming Higher Education Systems
Ph.D., University of Nairobi

Tasokwa Kakota Chibowa is the chief of party for the Transforming Higher Education Systems Project in Malawi. Chibowa’s research interests are on gender equality and social inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

KELLEY JOHNSON (she/her/hers)

Outreach Specialist
M.A., Central Michigan University

Kelley Johnson is the outreach, recruitment and programming specialist in the College of Education’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Her primary responsibility is to develop relationships with K-12 administrators, teachers and community partners throughout the state to recruit high school students to participate in pre-college programs.

BETH LUSTY (she/her/hers)

Advisor – Student Affairs Office
M.A., Michigan State University

Beth Lusty is an academic advisor and meets with current and prospective students interested in or majoring in Kinesiology. She enjoys helping students during their college experience and working with them to ensure student success.

CHARLES MOSSETT (he/him/his)

Outreach Specialist
M.A., Oakland University

Charles Mossett is an outreach specialist in the Office of K-12 Outreach. He works with administrators and teachers in schools in Michigan helping them better meet the needs of their students and the school community.

ANGELA SMITH (she/her/hers)

Advisor – Student Affairs Office

Angela Smith is an academic advisor in the College of Education. She specializes in offering educational assistance and support for existing and new undergraduate Spartans.

MELODY STRANG (she/her/hers)

Outreach Specialist (On-Call)
M.A., Michigan State University

Melody Strang is an on-call outreach specialist in the Office of K-12 Outreach. Utilizing her 30 years of experience in the field of education, Strang coaches administrators and provides professional development to educators in an effort to increase student success.