Around the College: March 30, 2016

— Will Ashley, a doctoral student studying learning, design and technology, has been awarded a fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). GRFP selects approximately 2,000 recipients from more than 17,000 applicants and is geared toward promoting excellence in STEM research. The fellowship will allow Ashley and his adviser, Gabriela Richard, assistant professor of learning and performance systems, to research gaming, equity and STEM learning for women and minorities.

— Professor of Higher Education Alicia Dowd is a lead author on a chapter of a book that earned the AERA Division J’s 2016 Publication of the Year Award. The winning book is titled “Critical Approaches to the Study of Higher Education: A Practical Introduction,” edited by Ana Martinez-Aleman of Boston College, Brian Pusser of the University of Virginia and Estela Mara Bensimon of the University of Southern California. Dowd’s chapter is co-authored by Robin M. Bishop and Estela Mara Bensimon and is titled Critical Action Research on Race and Equity in Higher Education.

— Charles Gibson III, a doctoral candidate in the higher education program, has been selected as one of 12 recipients for the 2016 Way Paver Award, an annual award given by Penn State’s Council of College Multicultural Leadership. The award recognizes individuals who are committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community, and enhancing student life and a positive climate across the University and in the local community.

William Hartman, professor of education policy studies, was elected to the position of president-elect for the National Education Finance Academy (NEFA) during its conference in February. The purpose of the academy is to promote an understanding of education finance principles and policies, including equity, adequacy and efficiency concepts; state, local and federal revenue generation and distribution; and analyses of expenditures. At the conference, Hartman also presented research regarding enrollments and financing for special education in Pennsylvania over the past decade.

M. Kathleen Heid, distinguished professor of education, recently delivered the 35th annual Ostrom series of lectures at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. In her lecture titled “What does it really mean to understand (or not understand) mathematics,” Heid addressed the different myths surrounding how mathematics is learned and discussed theories and research related to how people understand and misunderstand mathematics.

In a second lecture, Heid spoke with the mathematics department about “Mathematical understanding for secondary teaching: A classroom-based approach,” in which she discussed “The Mathematical Activity,” a project that describes the mathematical actions that characterize the nature of the mathematical understanding that secondary teachers could productively use.

MJ Coon-Kitt, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction and a 2015 graduate of the curriculum and instruction doctoral program, was recently named the inaugural recipient of the Doctoral Dissertation Award from the National Association for Professional Development Schools. The award, which includes a $500 monetary gift and a commemorative plaque, recognizes a recent education doctoral candidate whose research focuses on and contributes to the understanding of Professional Development Schools.

— Joe Luther, a graduate student in the workforce education program, is the recipient of the HeroScaper of the Year Award, presented by Ep Henry. The HeroScaping program helps communities in honoring national heroes by donating materials for veterans’ memorials and monuments. The award comes after Luther and his students at Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology built a custom patio for a local veteran, a project they completed in 2015. He plans to complete the same project again this year after the Builder’s Association of Central Pennsylvania names a local veteran to receive a free patio during the Central PA Home and Garden Show scheduled for April 1-3 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Gabriela Richard, assistant professor of learning and performance systems, has been awarded a New Faculty Teacher Grant from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. The grant will allow Richard to explore the use of board games for instructional purposes.

— Jennifer Wertalik, a doctoral student studying special education, won third place in the Social and Behavioral Science Category at the annual Penn State Graduate Exhibition held March 24-26. Her research, titled "Comparison of Two Instructional Methods to Increase Accuracy of Activities of Daily Living for Adolescents with Autism," will be on display at the EPCSE student poster session scheduled for May 4.

Carlos Zalaquett, professor of counselor education, conducted a two-day seminar on March 17-19 on counseling microskills at Pontifical Bolivarian University of Medellin in Medellin, Colombia. The seminar was for students enrolled in the university’s psychotherapy graduate program. While there, he also participated in a colloquium about cognitive behavioral therapy and a conference that addresses ways to infuse counseling microskills into counseling and psychotherapy.

"Around the College" highlights accomplishments by faculty, staff and students in the College of Education, including publications; research presentations at conferences and workshops; and awards, grants and fellowships. Please share your news with us and your colleagues by emailing

Last Updated March 30, 2016