NSF Noyce Track 4 Grant Award to Jeanna Wieselmann Makes Examination of Integrated STEM Instruction Possible

Assistant Professor Jeanna Weiselmann, Ph.D., Department of Teaching and Learning

Assistant Professor Jeanna Wieselmann, Ph.D., heads up a collaborative research team investigating how elementary teachers integrate their instruction of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  The project, Research on Integrated STEM Self-Efficacy (RISE), will examine the STEM integration of 700 elementary teachers who experienced ten different teacher preparation programs across the U.S.

According to Wieselmann, quality integrated STEM instruction requires teachers to attend to the unique aspects of each discipline while also bringing them together in authentic learning opportunities for students, and this can be challenging. The aim is to support the national need to develop and retain highly effective elementary school teachers.

“Elementary teachers are often expected to teach integrated STEM, but teacher preparation programs have been slow to incorporate experiences that prepare teachers for this type of instruction, instead of focusing on mathematics and science as completely separate disciplines. ” she says. “Our project will explore how we can better support early-career elementary teachers to build their confidence and effectiveness in teaching integrated STEM lessons, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of instruction students experience.”

Wieselmann, a faculty member in Simmons’ Department of Teaching and Learning, is the principal investigator of the project’s National Science Foundation Noyce Track 4 research grant (DUE-2151045) totaling $1.3 million. Additional principal investigators include Deepika Menon, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), Sarah Haines, Ph.D. (Towson University), and Sumreen Asim. Ph.D. (Indiana University Southeast).




NAEd/Spencer Foundation Awards Dominique Baker Postdoctoral and Dissertation Fellowship

Dominique J. Baker, PhD, Department of Education Policy and Leadership

DALLAS (SMU) –Dominique J. Baker, a nationally recognized expert on education policy in SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, was one of the recipients of the 2022 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowships.


Baker and 24 other pre-tenure scholars will receive a $70,000 award to further their research in areas addressing critical national and international issues in education. The award provides funding for fellows to focus on research and attend professional development retreats.


With this award, Baker will explore the links between race, racism, and how student loan policies are covered in the media. She will be analyzing more than 90,000 newspaper articles from eight outlets to determine how often, if at all, news media outlets use words or phrases that convey ideas about race and racism when writing about student loans.


She’ll use SMU’s high-performance computing cluster to do the research.


Earlier this year, the Russell Sage Foundation, in partnership with the Economic Mobility and Opportunity program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also awarded Baker a $30,000 grant to look into the same issue.


Her research focuses on the way that education policy affects and shapes the access and success of minoritized students in higher education. She primarily investigates student financial aid, affirmative action and admissions policies, and policies that influence the ability to create an inclusive and equitable campus climate. Baker is the 2021 recipient of the Association for Education Finance & Policy’s Early Career Award and the Association for the Study of Higher Education’s Excellence in Public Policy Award.


For more on her research, see the following:


CORE partners with the Walton Family Foundation on Fellowship for Evaluators in Philanthropy

CORE is engaged with the Walton Family Foundation to launch The Advancing Evaluation in Philanthropy Fellowship program to help support the next generation of evaluators working in philanthropy. The two-year-long fellowships will focus on developing professionals of color and utilizing more culturally responsive evaluation designs. With the support of the Walton Family Foundation, CORE will be able to help Fellows gain rigorous and real-world experience in research and evaluation in philanthropy.   Read more here.

Dominique Baker Receives Grant to Examine If Media Coverage of Student Debt Impacts the Narrative

DALLAS (SMU) Dominique J. Baker, a nationally recognized expert on education policy in SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has received an emerging scholars pipeline grant to explore the links between race, racism, and how student loan policies are covered in media.

The $30,000 grant is from the Russell Sage Foundation (RSF), in partnership with the Economic Mobility and Opportunity program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Using SMU’s high performance computing cluster, Baker will analyze more than 90,000 newspaper articles from eight outlets to determine how often, if at all, news media outlets use words or phrases that convey ideas about race and racism when writing about student loans. She will explore both what the articles communicated and how words and phrases were used within the articles.

Words matter, Baker said, because “media discourse on student loans, including the way that race, racism, and student loans intersect in the framing of the issue, plays a significant role in the public and policy actors’ understanding of student loans’ challenges and potential solutions.”

“Focusing on policy communication through the media will help to ensure that the public and policy actors do not rely on decontextualized and race-neutral understandings of student loan debt,” she said.

Americans owe a record-breaking $1.7 trillion in student loan debt. Multiple studies, including research done by Baker, have shown that black college students are especially hard hit by student debt, in part because they are more likely to take on higher amounts of debt while earning less than their peers. Reasons for that are many, including labor market discrimination and inequities in students’ and families’ ability to afford college due to centuries of deliberate policymaking decisions in the United States, Baker said.

Baker was one of 23 professors who received the RSF-Gates Pipeline Grant, which is designed to support early- and mid-career tenure-track scholars who are underrepresented in the social sciences and to promote diversity broadly, including racial, ethnic, gender, disciplinary, institutional, and geographic diversity.


Ketterlin Geller’s $8M Grant from Dept. of Education Is the Largest Single-Year Research Award at SMU

DALLAS (SMU) – Renowned mathematics researcher Leanne Ketterlin Geller, Texas Instruments Endowed Chair in Education in the Simmons School of Education and Human Development, has been awarded the largest single-year research award in SMU history.

The nearly $8 million research award from the U.S. Department of Education will allow her team to adapt for use through grade 8 a program originally developed for fourth-graders. The intervention is aimed at helping better prepare students for high school algebra – the “make-or-break” prerequisite for higher math studies that students need for college and/or STEM careers.

The grant will support randomized controlled trials across two states among students in grades 4-8 to determine the effectiveness of a program called “Fraction Face-Off.” The trials will measure success among a diverse group of students experiencing math difficulties across urban, suburban and rural geographies, and will include comparisons between in-person and virtual training of interventionists.

“Many students experience difficulty with fractions in elementary school and then continue to have difficulty as they move through middle school,” said Ketterlin Geller. “When they start algebra, this difficulty becomes increasingly problematic because proficiency in fractions is highly related to algebraic readiness.”

Fraction Face-Off has shown evidence of effectiveness at Grade 4. But Ketterlin Geller points out that the original studies were done with smaller samples in one geographic region of the country.

“We seek to extend this original research with much larger diverse populations in two different states,” she said. “We will then test the effectiveness of this intervention for students in upper elementary and middle schools who need more intensive instructional support to be ready for algebra.”

Ketterlin Geller is director of Research in Mathematics Education in the Simmons School. Her research is informed by her previous experience in K-12 education, having taught high school science in public schools and trained as a K-12 administrator. If the research team is able to demonstrate effectiveness with a larger, more diverse group, Ketterlin Geller said, she hopes usage of the program will expand and student outcomes will improve.

Ketterlin Geller and SMU will take the lead in working with investigators from the American Institute for Research, University of Texas – Austin and University of Missouri. The $7.99 million award for research over a five-year period will be processed this fiscal year.


American Institute for Research Center for Education Equity Awards Grant to Pavlakis, Richards and Roberts

Dr. Meredith Richards, Dr. Alex Pavlakis, and Dr. Kessa Roberts (L to R)

Education Policy and Leadership faculty members Alex Pavlakis and Meredith Richards, and postdoctorate fellow Kessa Roberts, have been awarded an American Institute for Research Center for Education Equity Mini-Research grant.

The grant, “Compound Trauma and Resilience Amid Crisis: Student Homelessness in the Context of COVID-19 and Natural Disasters” totals $24,985. Simmons Higher Education master’s student, Maria Jose Hernandez, will also contribute to the research.

American Heart Association Awards Fellowship to Applied Physiology’s Ph.D. Student Claire Trotter

The American Heart Association (AHA) recently awarded its highly competitive Predoctoral Fellowship to Claire Trotter, a PhD candidate in Applied Physiology. The $32,036 fellowship award allows her to finish the final year of her doctoral program with a stipend and project support for her research.

Trotter’s area of inquiry is multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which alters their normal signaling patterns. MS affects nearly one million Americans, and 75 percent of them are women.

Claire Trotter, PhD student, Applied Physiology

Her dissertation, Alterations to Cardiovascular Control in Females with Multiple Sclerosis at Rest and During Stress, looks at how women with the disease may be more vulnerable to cardiovascular problems than healthy women. “We know that females with MS are at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease in comparison to healthy females and to male counterparts who have MS,” Trotter said.

“I am specifically interested in studying how blood pressure may be regulated differently in females with MS compared to females who do not have MS. My hope is that we can identify targets that can be treated to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease.”

Trotter has been researching MS since she was an SMU undergraduate and worked with Associate Professor Scott Davis, director of the Integrative Physiology Laboratory. “This is a tremendous accomplishment for Claire and well-deserved as a graduate student researcher. She has been exceptional in every way,” Davis said. “This award not only sets up Claire for continued success in her academic career but it is also an important foundation that will impact the potential for future research funding in my laboratory as well as training opportunities for graduate students that follow Claire.”

After graduating from SMU in 2016, she pursued a Master’s degree in Biology from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and returned to SMU for her PhD.

In addition to the AHA fellowship, Trotter has received funding from SMU’s University PhD Fellowship ($5,000 annually), and grants from the Texas American College of Sports Medicine ($2,000), and the National American College of Sports Medicine ($4,960).

She believes strong faculty support is essential to the success of PhD students. “Specifically for this grant, Dr. Davis gave me full support and without his support and guidance, I would not be receiving these awards,” she said.

Baker Joins the Ranks of Top 200 Education Scholars Influencing Public Discourse


Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy in Simmons, is one of 200 top education scholars who move ideas from academic journals into the public sphere. The designation is part of the 2022 RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, posted annually by Frederich M. Hess, an Education Week blogger, and director of the American Enterprise Institute’s education policy studies.

According to Hess, the scholars must excel in five areas:  disciplinary scholarship, policy analysis and popular writing, convening and shepherding collaborations, providing incisive media commentary, and speaking in the public square.

“This year, two junior faculty made the top 200: Harvard’s Anthony A. Jack, at 159, and Southern Methodist’s Dominique Baker, at 187. Given that the exercise, by design, favors scholars who’ve built bodies of work and had a sustained impact, these two are deserving of particular notice,” he said.

The Simmons School congratulates Baker for her high accomplishment.

Dept. of Education Awards Ketterlin Geller $8M for Math Intervention Project

The US Department of Education’s FY 2021 Education Innovation and Research Competition awarded Professor Leanne Ketterlin Geller an $8 million grant to enhance instructional practices to meet the high needs of students experiencing math difficulties in grades 4-8. The grant is the largest single-year research award in SMU’s history.
Ketterlin Geller and three co-PI’s, Sarah Powell, Ph.D., the University of Texas at Austin, Erica Lembke, Ph.D., the University of Missouri, and Andrew Swanlund, Ph.D., American Institutes for Research, will examine the effectiveness of an intervention, Fraction Face-Off, which has demonstrated positive impact on mathematics achievement. They will address the need to accelerate learning for these students and find cost-effective ways to scale up the practice so students’ understanding of fractions and general mathematics can prepare them for algebra.

SMU Simmons, UT Austin, and University of Missouri Collaborate to Support Ph.D. Candidates Focusing on Mathematics in Learning Disabilities

LIME (Leaders Investigating Mathematics Evidence) is a project funded by the Office of Special Education Programs to create the next generation of researchers and leaders with Ph.D.s in special education with a focus on mathematics. It will provide tuition and stipend support, travel to conferences, and research support for twelve scholars for four years of doctoral studies. The program will be hosted at three universities: University of Texas, Austin; Southern Methodist University; and the University of Missouri.

Sarah Powell, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Special Education at UT Austin, co-authored the grant along with Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, Ph.D., Simmons professor in the Department of Education Policy & Leadership at SMU, and Erica Lembke, Ph.D., professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri. Additional team members from SMU Simmons include professors Amy Rouse and Annie Wilhelm, Department of Teaching and Learning.

Read more.