Nine new faculty members have joined the University of Maryland College of Education for the 2017-18 academic year. Some of the new faculty are familiar faces, having graduated from the College or having previously taught courses here, while others join us from as far away as California, Chicago, and the Boston area. They bring a diverse set of research interests to the College, drawing on past professional experience (one was a software developer in another life) to study issues such as diversity and equity in higher education and post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities.
Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology
Yang Liu, Ph.D.
Alma mater: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“[HDQM] is one of the most internationally recognized programs in educational measurement and psychometrics,” Dr. Liu said. “I'm looking forward to working with the talented faculty members and graduate students in the program.”
Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership
David Blazar, Ph.D.
Alma Mater: Harvard University
His research applies economic tools to understand ways to improve teacher and teaching quality, including professional development, the organizational context of schools and districts, and accountability policy. With its proximity to Washington, D.C., Dr. Blazar looks forward to working at UMD to engage in policy-related work and work with practitioners and scholars in local school districts.
“As a former teacher in New York City, I understand firsthand the rewards and challenges of teaching, as well as the great importance of teachers to students' long-term success,” Dr. Blazar said. “I hope that my research will help equip teachers with the tools to provide high-quality classroom experiences to all students.”
Deborah Lewin, M.Ed.
Professional Development School (PDS) Coordinator
Alma Mater: University of Maryland
In addition to her extensive work experience, Lewin is also a graduate of UMD’s MCERT program and had firsthand experience with the College’s academic rigor and pedagogical training. When a position opened up, she jumped at the chance to work directly with students.
“Children are our future. I feel compelled to work towards helping establish a thoughtful, considerate, educated citizenry,” she said. “I can see no better way than to guide our future teachers to be effective in the classroom.”
David Weintrop, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor (joint appointment with the College of Information Studies)
Alma Mater: Northwestern University
He was drawn to UMD because it has what he describes as “a wonderful mix of academic rigor,” and an “opportunity to make a real impact in the lives of students.
A former software developer, Dr. Weintrop’s research focuses on the design, implementation and evaluation of accessible and engaging computational learning environments, especially in the design and creation of programming environments and learning experiences to get people excited about and engaged in computing. He is also interested in the use of technological tools in supporting exploration and expression across diverse contexts, including STEM classrooms and informal spaces.
Department of Counseling, Higher Education and Special Education
Kelli Crane, Ph.D.
Assistant Research Professor
Alma Mater: Virginia Tech
Dr. Crane’s research interests include examining programs and practices to improve post-school outcomes for transition age youth with disabilities, with a focus on randomized control trials. Currently, she is directing a randomized control trial funded by the U.S. Department of Education on work-based learning initiatives for students with disabilities.
“In high school, I started volunteering for various organizations and initiatives that served youth with disabilities. I liked it and did not think of it as work!” Dr. Crane said. “I started down another career path in college. It wasn't until I had a couple years of college complete that I realized working with youth with unique needs was my passion and I could do it for a living.”
Kelly Lee, Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Alma Mater: University of Houston
Dr. Lee most recently worked as a clinical counselor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the Disability Resources and Educational Services.
“I chose to work at UMD’s COE because this position was the perfect alignment of my interests and strengths,” Dr. Lee said. “I enjoy problem-solving at both a big-picture level and small-detail level, and establishing a departmental training clinic offered both of these [opportunities]. I am also committed to clinical training and guiding students towards developing skills to make them strong, independent practitioners.”
Dr. Lee’s research focuses on the impact disorders such as social anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have on academic achievement, especially among gifted students, along with investigations assessing stereotype threat and supervising clinical assessments.
Jessica Diaz McKechnie, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Alma Mater: University of Maryland
She credits psychology courses in her undergrad years, as well as her experience as a teaching assistant her senior year, in helping her discover that she loved teaching and helping students learn skills to help others, as well as that she wanted to continue teaching in higher education.
“I feel connected to UMD in so many ways and I know how special this university is. It feels like home,” said Dr. McKechnie. “The College of Education is like no other in the country. The faculty and students come here looking to be change agents. You don't get that everywhere.”
Kelly Slay, Ph.D.
Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow
Alma Mater: University of Michigan
Rooted in a multi-disciplinary background in psychology, public policy and K-16 education, Dr. Slay’s research explores diversity and equity issues in various educational contexts, including undergraduate recruitment practices and the influence of perceptions of campus racial climate and broader racial tensions in Black students’ decisions to enroll in selective institutions, as well as post-affirmative action contexts. She also studies enrollment management strategies and the experiences of women and students of color in STEM fields.
“At the heart of my research is a passion to improve access and equity for students traditionally underserved by our educational systems — an interest that was cultivated by my own background as a first-generation college student,” said Dr. Slay, who has also worked as a GEAR-UP coach for students of color in Chicago and has worked in several policy organizations such as Education Trust.
Jennifer Willis, MA
Project Coordinator for Connections Beyond Sight and Sound
Alma Mater: McDaniel College
“My primary area of focus is on infants and toddlers, assessment of their needs related to vision and hearing, and strategies to support their development and learning,” Willis said.
With a passion for working with children who are deafblind and have multiple disabilities, Willis is looking forward to making a difference in the lives of others in her new role.