2019-20 COGS Disciplinary Leadership Award Recipients

Joelyn de LimaJoelyn de Lima
Plant Biology

I am a discipline-based education researcher in the Department of Plant Biology. My research is focused on undergraduate biology education. I explore how context influences the way students reason about evolution, and the way they represent their knowledge and reasoning. Specifically, I study the variation in students’ responses to equivalent questions asked using different contexts, and the degree to which different modes of response influence the content and accuracy expressed. My research leverages analytic and statistical approaches used by population biologists and network scientists to test theories rooted in psychology and the learning sciences. In addition to my research, I am involved in various science communication and community building endeavours.

Andrew GerardAndrew Gerard
Community Sustainability

Andrew Gerard is a PhD candidate in the Department of Community Sustainability and is pursuing a doctoral major in Environmental Science and Policy. Andrew’s mixed-methods social science research focuses on institutions and policies for sustainable development. Much of his research centers on analyzing and improving policies for coffee productivity and increased farmer income in Rwanda and Burundi, where he has worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Africa Great Lakes Region Coffee Support Program. He is currently a research assistant on the project Identifying Leverage Points for Transformation in Urban Food Systems in Flint, Michigan, where he studies attempts to collectively organize the Flint food system.  In 2019, Andrew was elected to the board of directors of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) as a graduate student representative. As a USSEE board member, Andrew focuses on graduate student outreach, engagement, and support.

Dee JordanDemetrice Jordan
Geography, Environment and Spatial Science and the Environmental Science and Policy Program

Demetrice (Dee) Jordan is a dual-Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Science and the Environmental Science and Policy Program. Her dissertation research focuses on risk reduction approaches to tsetse and trypanosomiasis control in sub-Saharan Africa. African trypanosomiasis or ‘sleeping sickness’ is a vector borne parasitic illness transmitted by the bite of a trypanosome infected tsetse fly and effects both humans and animals. In humans, African trypanosomiasis has a case fatality rate of near 100%, if left untreated. While treatments exist, they are often very expensive and toxic. Currently, no vaccine is available.  Each year an estimated 60 million Africans are at risk of contracting the disease from daily subsistence activities. Dee’s research seeks to reduce the burden of risk through spatial models that identify areas where exposure is most likely, introduce novel applications for vector control in risk areas and develop multiscale participatory policies to control and eradicate the tsetse fly.

Dee is the Founder and Co-lead of the Advancing Geography Through Diversity Program (AGTDP) – a disciplinary transformation initiative. The four-pronged recruitment, retention, support and graduate engagement strategy is a comprehensive approach to increasing demographic representation among African American, Hispanic American and Native American graduate students in the discipline of Geography. Currently, there are two AGTDP scholar cohorts in residence at MSU. The program has already received national attention from the American Association of Geographers (AAG) chronicling MSU Geography’s history making efforts for diversity. The link to the article can be found here: https://www.aag.org/2018/04/the-department-of-geography-environment-and-spatial-sciences-at-michigan-state-university-makes-history/.  Due to the success of the AGTDP, the AAG has allocated $30,000 to the MSU Geography Department paid in $10,000 installments over the next three (3) years. For her efforts, Dee was named the 2020 AAG Enhancing Diversity Award recipient, the first time in history a non-faculty member has won the award!

Bret Staudt WilletBret Staudt Willet
Educational Psychology & Educational Technology

Bret Staudt Willet is a PhD candidate in the Educational Psychology & Educational Technology program at MSU. His research focuses on networked learning at the intersection of information science and teacher education. Specifically, he has been exploring how social media platforms support induction and ongoing professional learning for K-20 educators. His research is interdisciplinary and has utilized a variety of methods—both qualitative and quantitative, human and computational—including qualitative content analysis, social network analysis, and machine learning. Through a mixed-methods dissertations (interviews first and then a survey), Bret seeks to understand the challenges faced by early-career educators during their transition from educator preparation programs into professional employment contexts (i.e., their induction period). This study explores what supports for professional learning early-career educators seek during induction, if any; from whom; and how, if at all, they use social media with the intention of seeking supports and connections. Bret is currently the Social Media SIG Co-chair for the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) and Research & Theory Division Secretary for the Association for Educational Communication & Technology (AECT). Visit Bret’s website, http://bretsw.com, to learn more and connect.

Vivek Vellani
photo credit: Urja Davesar

Vivek Vellanki
Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education

Vivek Vellanki is a Doctoral Candidate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education in the College of Education at Michigan State University and holds an M.A. in Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. His artistic practice and scholarly research center issues of migration, arts-based research, and educational justice. As part of his dissertation, Vivek held an exhibition titled Do you have anything to declare? at the MSU Union Gallery in October 2019. The exhibition featured artworks created through his collaborative engagements with over 50 migrants and refugees in the Greater Lansing Area. His work has been published in Contemporary Education Dialogue, Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and other journals.