2024 Spring Retreat





Elizabeth Albro

Commissioner, National Center for Education Research, Institute of Education Sciences

Dr. Elizabeth Albro, Commissioner of Education Research at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), U.S. Department of Education, is committed to building bridges between the basic sciences of learning and education practice. Trained in the behavioral and social sciences, cognition, and communication, she received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Chicago. Since joining IES in 2002, she has served as a program officer for multiple research portfolios and as Associate Commissioner of Teaching and Learning. She has participated on multiple interagency committees focused on open science and the federal research investment in language and communication. She has edited several books in the area of reading comprehension, and has published articles in Discourse Processes, Scientific Studies of Reading, and Educational Psychology Review. Prior to joining IES, Dr. Albro was a faculty member, first at, Whittier College and subsequently at Wheaton College (Norton, MA). All of her research is grounded in her own experience as a preschool teacher in Cochabamba, Bolivia

Meet the Funder: Thursday @ 11:00 a.m.

Kenly Brown

Associate Program Officer and Project Manager, Spencer Foundation

Kenly Brown’s research draws on her interdisciplinary training in Black intellectual thought and humanist social science situated at the nexus of race, gender, and education. Kenly is completing her book manuscript Subversive Dreaming: The Affective Lives of Black Girls in Alternative Schooling where she employs creative ethnography to capture how Black girls experience and share what it feels like to survive interpersonal and institutional violence as students enrolled in a California continuation school. Prior to joining Spencer, Kenly was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St Louis in the Department of African and African American Studies. During her time there, she founded and led the Black Girlhood Studies Lab housed in the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Equity where students and collaborators explored, centered, and supported Black girl life through research, community engagement, and mentorship. Kenly earned a Ph.D. in African American and African Diaspora Studies with a designated emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from UC Berkeley. Kenly’s research has been supported by the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and AERA Minority Writing Fellowship.

Meet the Funder: Thursday @ 11:00 a.m.

Claudia Cervantes-Soon

Associate Professor, Arizona State University
NAEd Retreat Planning Committee

Situated at the intersections of educational anthropology, critical pedagogy, bilingual education, and Chicana/Latina feminisms, Dr. Cervantes-Soon’s work examines the interplay of sociocultural factors including race, class, gender, language, and citizenship/immigrant constructs in her analyses of educational contexts. Through community engaged and critical ethnographic approaches, her research captures the relationships between the localized, nuanced, and grounded perspectives and the larger global, ideological, geopolitical, and economic forces shaping contexts and practices. Dr. Cervantes-Soon’s work seeks to recognize the intersectional identities and subaltern knowledges that are often ignored by dominant discourses about minoritized and border/transborder communities. Her research focuses on two broad areas of inquiry: 1) Equity and social justice in bilingual education, and 2) Borderlands/transborder Mexicana/Latina youth literacies and critical pedagogies.


Kara Finnigan

Senior Vice President, Spencer Foundation

Finnigan has conducted research and evaluations of K-12 educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level for more than 30 years. She has written extensively about high-stakes accountability and school choice and focuses on issues of racial justice and equity in policy design, implementation, and outcomes. Finnigan has published two edited books and co-authored Striving in Common: A Regional Equity Framework for Urban Schools (Harvard Education Press). Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science and employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis and GIS mapping.  She is currently studying connections between education and housing policies; social movements around integration in metropolitan areas; and the social networks of educational leaders around research evidence.

Welcome to the Spring Retreat: Thursday @ 8:30 a.m,

Cassandra Harper

Associate Professor, University of Missouri

Casandra Harper is Associate Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. She is also a Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies. She studies the differential effect of college on students across a range of topics including: parent and family engagement in first-generation college students’ lives, racial identity, student success, and how students and families navigate the financial aid process. Dr. Harper received her B.S. in Psychology and her M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Arizona, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from UCLA.

Building On and Pivoting Your Research Agenda: Friday @ 12:30 p.m.


Jason Harshman

Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities

Jason Harshman is a Program Officer in the Division of Education Programs. Harshman received his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and Comparative Cultural Studies from the Ohio State University. His dissertation examined youth perspectives on the intersections of place, race, gender, and one’s sense of belonging. Before coming to NEH, Harshman was a professor of teacher education and international education. He has facilitated research and professional development projects in Turkey, South Africa, South Korea, and Japan. His publications include the co-edited volume Research in Global Citizenship Education

Meet the Funder: Thursday @ 11:00 a.m.

Sarah-Kathryn McDonald

Senior Advisor, National Science Foundation


Meet the Funder: Thursday @ 11:00 a.m.

Okhee Lee

Professor, New York University

Okhee Lee is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She is widely known for advancing research, policy, and practice that simultaneously promote science and language learning for all students, particularly multilingual learners. Lee was a member of the NGSS writing team and served as leader for the NGSS Diversity and Equity Team. She also was a member of the Steering Committee for the Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University. Her research involves integrating science, language, and computational thinking with a focus on multilingual learners. Her latest work addresses justice-centered STEM education with multilingual learners by integrating multiple STEM subjects, including data science and computer science, to address pressing societal challenges using the case of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jenny Irons

Senior Program Officer, William T. Grant Foundation

Jenny Irons is a Senior Program Officer at the William T. Grant Foundation, where she directs the Institutional Challenge Grant program and the major grants funding initiative that supports studies to reduce inequality among youth. She also serves on the Foundation’s senior program team, which sets program directions, develops new initiatives, and reviews grants. Before joining the Foundation, Jenny directed student leadership and engagement programs at Tulane University’s Newcomb College Institute. Prior to that, she worked in evaluation research as a consultant for the Greater New Orleans Foundation and as a senior research analyst for The Policy & Research Group in New Orleans.

Meet the Funder: Thursday @ 11:00 a.m.

Pieter Martin

Senior Acquisitions Editor, University of Minnesota Press

Pieter Martin acquires scholarly and general interest books in art and architecture, urban studies, politics and international relations, educational studies, and history of technology. In architecture, he looks for writing and research that connect the material realm of buildings, landscapes, and cities to broader cultural and political contexts, as well as the intellectual and cultural history of architectural practice. In art, he is interested in projects on environmental topics, visual and material culture, avant-garde practice and design history. In political science and international relations, he acquires projects that are theoretically ambitious, policy-focused, or both; specific interests include the governance of cities, the politics of race and ethnicity in America, environmental studies, critical security studies, carceral studies, and innovative work in political theory. His list in education focuses on intersections of race and sexuality, school reform, and social justice. Finally, he oversees the Press’s distribution program, partnering with outside institutions on the distribution and marketing of their publications.

Publishing Your Research in a Book: Friday @ 12:30 p.m.

Darris Means

Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh
NAEd Retreat Planning Committee

Dr. Means is an Associate Professor in Educational Foundations, Organizations, and Policy. Additionally, he is the Executive Director for Rural and Community-Based Education in the School of Education. He earned his PhD in Educational Research and Policy Analysis with a concentration in Higher Education from North Carolina State University. Prior to joining the School of Education faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, he was an associate professor of college student affairs administration at the University of Georgia, and prior to that he was an administrator for Elon University’s Elon Academy, a college access and success program for students with a financial need and/or no family history of college.


Gabrielle Oliveira

Jorge Paulo Lemann Associate Professor of Education and of Brazil Studies, Harvard University

Gabrielle Oliveira’s research focuses on immigration and mobility — on how people move, adapt, and parent across borders. Her expertise includes gender, anthropology, transnationalism across the Americas. Merging the fields of anthropology and education through ethnographic work in multiple countries, Oliveira also studies the educational trajectories of immigrant children. She is the author of Motherhood Across Borders: Immigrants and their Children in Mexico and in New York City (NYU Press). The book has won the inaugural Erickson and Hornberger Book Award by the University of Pennsylvania’s Ethnography Forum and the award for book of the year by the Council of Anthropology and Education. 

Building On and Pivoting Your Research Agenda: Friday @ 12:30 p.m.

Lorrie Shepard

Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Colorado Boulder
Chair, NAEd Retreat Planning Committee

Lorrie A. Shepard, PhD is University Distinguished Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Research and Evaluation Methodology program.  Her research focuses on psychometrics and the use and misuse of tests in educational settings.  Her technical work has contributed to validity theory, standard setting, and statistical models for detecting test bias.  Her research studies on test use have addressed the identification of learning disabilities, readiness screening for kindergarten, grade retention, teacher testing, effects of high-stakes accountability testing, and most recently the use of classroom assessment to support teaching and learning.

Opening and Closing Remarks; Facilitator

Emily Spangler

Senior Acquisitions Editor, Teachers College Press

Emily Spangler is Senior Acquisitions Editor at Teachers College Press, where she is always on the lookout for new and exciting work in language and literacy, technology in education, and child development. In addition to identifying promising research in these areas, she also helps authors develop and refine book proposals for the press, oversees the editorial process for new projects, and promotes new books at professional conferences including AERA, ILA, LRA, and NCTE. Prior to coming to TC Press, she started her publishing career at Cambridge University Press, where she worked on books in history, political science, philosophy, religious studies, and psychology. She holds a BA in history with highest honors from the University of California, Berkeley, and has done graduate work at the University of Cambridge and New York University.

Publishing Your Research in a Book: Friday @ 12:30 p.m.

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