Our Staff

MEP Staff 2017


To contact a staff member, please email mdequity@umd.edu or go to our Contact Us page.







Meet Our Staff

Gail Sunderman

Gail Sunderman
Gail Sunderman is Director of the Maryland Equity Project and Senior Research Scientist in the College of Education. Her current research interests include the role of the state in education and the impact of policy on the educational opportunities of low income and minority students. Prior to joining University of Maryland, she directed the Mid-Atlantic Equity Center at The George Washington University where she spearheaded the development of the Equity Planning Tool, a research-based instrument designed to assist districts to assess equity. At the Harvard Civil Rights Project (CRP), she was lead researcher on a five-year study examining the implementation of No Child Left Behind and how this legislation influenced educational change in states and school districts. Dr. Sunderman has served as expert consultant on educational disparities for the U.S. Department of Justice and other organizations. She is a former Fulbright scholar to Afghanistan and received her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. 

Robert Croninger
Robert G. Croninger is the Research Associate for the Maryland Equity Project. He is the associate chair in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership in the College of Education and an adjunct associate professor in the Joint Program on Survey Methods at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dr. Croninger teaches courses in education policy and quantitative methods, including courses in mixed methods and multilevel modeling. Prior to taking a position at the University of Maryland, Dr. Croninger was an associate director for the Programs for Educational Opportunity at the University of Michigan, where he worked with school districts and communities to implement desegregation plans and to address race-, gender-, and language-based inequities in schools. His current research focuses on the challenges of studying teaching and identifying instructional practices that affect learning, particularly for students who have been historically disadvantaged in elementary and secondary schools. His latest publications include “Equitable Public Education: Getting Lost in the Shuffle” with Kathleen Hoyer in Charting Reform, Achieving Equity in a Diverse Society, edited by Gail Sunderman, and a special issue of Teachers College Record, entitled “Researching quality in teaching: Enduring and emerging challenges” edited with Linda Valli and Marilyn Chambliss. 

Cierra Kaler-Jones

Cierra Kaler-Jones
Cierra Kaler-Jones is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and first year ​Ph.D. student in the ​minority and urban education program in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership​. She received her M.A. in education and human development from The George Washington University with a focus on curriculum & instruction for elementary education. She earned her B.A. in social work from Rutgers University, with concentrations in women's studies and race studies. Her research interest focuses on arts-based curriculum as a tool to empower girls of color to be change makers and leaders through mindfulness and movement. Outside of researching current trends in education, Cierra is a professional dancer, teaching artist, and freelance writer.

Samantha Shimer

Samantha Shimer
Samantha Shimer is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and a first year master’s student in Public Policy. Samantha specializes in education policy with specific interests in poverty alleviation through education equity and providing opportunities to migrant communities. She received her B.A. in International Relations from West Virginia University, where she specialized in international development policy. Samantha is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, and has conducted statistical research on the cultural representations of African countries on social media. Her research focuses on the social and political impact of media coverage.

Shilpa Bista headshot

Shilpa Bista

Shilpa Bista is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and a first year Ph.D. student in the education policy program in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. She received her M.A. in Economics and International Development from Vanderbilt University. Her research interests relate to the changing notions of citizenship education and national identity in less developed countries, and particularly, the implications for historically excluded groups. She is also interested in studying how educational equity- and rights-based discourses and policies are transferred, appropriated and practiced by different local actors.

Erin Janulis headshot

Erin Janulis

Erin Janulis is a research assistant with the Maryland Equity Project and a third year doctoral student in the Education Policy Studies Program in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership. Prior to joining the Equity Project she spent five years teaching middle and high school English and social studies in high poverty schools throughout Colorado. Her research focuses largely on policies and issues related to teacher retention and recruitment in high poverty schools. Erin received her B.A. in English and political science and M.A. in communication from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. 


David Casalaspi
David Casalaspi is an intern with the Maryland Equity Project and a third-year doctoral student in Michigan State University’s Educational Policy Program. Before beginning his graduate studies, David attended the University of Virginia, where he received his B.A. in History and spent his senior year completing a significant thesis on cheating scandals and the rise of federal accountability policy between 1989 and 2002. Additionally, while at UVA, David designed and taught a two-credit seminar for undergraduates on the political history of the American education system and also received some practical experience with policymaking through work with the City Council of Charlottesville, VA. His current research analyzes education issues through a multidisciplinary lens combining insights from political science, history, and education philosophy.