Student Experience Research Network
2021 Virtual Funder Briefing

From Understanding to Action

December 13, 2021

12:00pm-3:00pm ET (9:00am-12:00pm PT)

Welcome! The funder briefing will take place on Zoom. Please use the “Join” buttons below to access the opening session and the breakout sessions of your choice.

Below the agenda, you can find speaker and discussant bios and additional resources for each session, instructions for the closing session, and information about technical support.



12:00pm ET
(9:00am PT)

Grounding changemaking in new insights from research

JoinLightning talks: Illuminating the structures that shape student experience across K-12 and postsecondary contexts

12:55pm ET
(9:55am PT)

Transition and break

1:00pm ET
(10:00am PT)

Building instructional and institutional leaders’ capacity to promote inclusion
Please click the “Join” button for the breakout session of your choice.

JoinConditions for transformation in K-12 education

JoinConditions for transformation in postsecondary education


1:50pm ET
(10:50am PT)

Transition and break 

2:00pm ET
(11:00am PT)

Initiating and sustaining progress toward equitable learning environments
Please click the “Join” button for the breakout session of your choice. Both sessions will cover K-12 and postsecondary perspectives.

JoinNarrative and legal strategies for protecting educational equity

JoinStudent, family, and community leadership within educational institutions


2:50pm ET
(11:50am PT)

Event closing
The event closing will take place in the same Zoom meeting as the final breakout session you attend. Click here to participate in the closing activity.



Dr. Mesmin Destin, Associate Professor, Northwestern University
Dr. Mesmin Destin is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in addition to a fellow of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. He completed his PhD in social psychology at the University of Michigan in 2010. Destin uses experiments and other methods to investigate factors shaping the experiences and outcomes of students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. He received the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution in 2019 and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2021.

Dr. Yasmiyn Irizarry, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Yasmiyn Irizarry is an assistant professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and faculty affiliate in the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a quantitative sociologist by training, who uses critical quantitative methods to examine factors that produce and reinforce social inequality. Her research, which has been featured in been featured in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Scientific American, focuses on (1) racial inequality in elementary and high school contexts, with a focus on STEM trajectories, (2) racial identity and the quantitative measurement of race, and (3) social attitudes, prejudice, and discrimination.

Dr. Tia C. Madkins, Assistant Professor, The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Tia C. Madkins is an assistant professor in the STEM Education Program and a faculty research affiliate with the Population Research Center and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at The University of Texas at Austin and a faculty affiliate with Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on supporting PK-16 educators to design inclusive STEAM+ computing classrooms and engage equity-focused teaching practices to transform learning environments for minoritized learners, especially Black girls.

Dr. Jamaal Sharif Matthews, Associate Professor, School of Education, University of Michigan
Dr. Jamaal Sharif Matthews is an associate professor in Educational Studies and the Combined Program in Education and Psychology at the University of Michigan. Born and raised in Harlem, New York, Dr. Matthews’ research interests are grounded in his experiences as a middle school mathematics teacher in The Bronx. His research focuses on achievement motivation during adolescence and motivation in mathematics specifically. His work addresses how race, teacher pedagogy, and the sociopolitical context shape students’ beliefs about their abilities in and value of mathematics. He also applies a critical race perspective on the psychological processes that undergird adaptive and healthy school functioning for Black American and Latinx adolescents in urban schools.


The following resources are recommended to supplement the session discussion.



Brenda Fonseca, Middle School Mathematics Teacher, Walsh Elementary, Chicago Public Schools
Brenda Fonseca is a seasoned educator with more than 20 years of teaching experience at Walsh Elementary. In her current position as a middle school mathematics teacher, Brenda aims to facilitate content through developing relationships with all stakeholders, and uplifting student voice. Brenda has been a part of several partnerships within Chicago Public Schools: Transformative Teaching Cohort, Midwest Network through the National Equity Project, Chicago Collaborative with Leading Educators, Chicago Semester, and the Algebra Initiative. Brenda holds an MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Illinois at Chicago, MS in middle school mathematics from DePaul University, and a BA in elementary education from Elmhurst College.

Chong-Hao Fu, Chief Executive Officer, Leading Educators
Chong-Hao works to expand teachers’ access to high-impact, curriculum specific professional learning support, building a national movement to ensure all students have the opportunity to succeed in school and life. Chong-Hao is a national thought leader on teacher leadership and professional learning and has presented to the Council of Chief State School Officers, American Federation of Teachers, the Aspen Institute, and the Department of Education. In his previous role as Chief Learning Officer, Chong-Hao led Leading Educators’ partnership, thought leadership, and district consulting teams. Before his time at Leading Educators, Chong-Hao was the founding principal at KIPP Sharpstown in Houston, Texas and a middle and high school mathematics teacher in Houston and Greenville, Mississippi. He holds a BA from Yale University and an MEd from National Louis University.

Patricia Harper Reynolds, Principal, Walsh Elementary, Chicago Public Schools
Patricia Harper Reynolds was named principal of Walsh Elementary in July of 2018. She is recognized as an informed instructional leader with a deep knowledge of designing and implementing successful strategies that build capacity and effectively guide schools towards continuous instructional improvement. She believes that there is a need to establish expectations of incorporating student voice, equity and excellence, and that results are achieved when there is distributive leadership that works to find the best solutions for children. Engaging school leaders and teachers to educate and motivate students has strengthened her passion for problem solving and for developing systems and processes that advance student achievement. Mrs. Reynolds holds a BA in communications from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an MA in secondary education from Roosevelt University, an MA in school leadership from Concordia University, and is working towards her EdD in school leadership at Concordia University.

Dr. Dave Paunesku, Executive Director, PERTS
Dr. Dave Paunesku is the founding director of PERTS, a nonprofit R&D institute started at Stanford University. PERTS translates insights from the psychological sciences into scalable tools, measures, and recommendations that educators use to cultivate academic engagement and equitable learning outcomes. Hundreds of schools and colleges use PERTS’ free, evidence-based resources, reaching over 100,000 students a year. Paunesku’s research has been published in leading academic journals, including Nature, Psychological Science, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It has also been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Education Week, Atlantic, USA Today, and The College Dropout Scandal.

Dr. Sonja Santelises, Chief Executive Officer, Baltimore City Public Schools
Dr. Sonja Santelises is the chief executive officer of Baltimore City Public Schools. Previously, she served as the vice president for K-12 policy and practice at The Education Trust, providing strategic direction for the organization’s K-12 research, practice, and policy work. Before joining The Education Trust, Sonja was the chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools. Sonja came to Baltimore City Schools from Boston, where she served as assistant superintendent for pilot schools and assistant superintendent for teaching and learning/professional development. Sonja began her career in education as director of professional development and teacher placement with Teach for America, New York, followed by stints at a year-round school in Brooklyn where she was a founder, teacher, and curriculum specialist.


Dr. Jennifer L. Husbands, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Dr. Jennifer L. Husbands is a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she manages the Community of Practice for the Networks for School Improvement. Throughout her career, her focus has been on adult learning, including roles such as executive director of Schools That Can Chicago, where she convened a cross-sector network of schools to share best practices; director of the AUSL Institute, where she built a consulting practice that delivered advisory services to organizations interested in AUSL’s approach to turning around low-performing schools; and director of school incubation at Chicago Public Schools, where she provided resources and training to charter schools during their start-up phase. She also led the nation’s first charter school-based, state-approved teacher certification program at High Tech High, a network of high-performing, project-based learning-focused charter schools in San Diego. She earned her PhD from Stanford University’s School of Education and her BA from the University of Virginia.


The following resources are recommended to supplement the session discussion.


Dr. Denise Bartell, Associate Vice Provost for Student Success, The University of Toledo
Dr. Denise Bartell is associate vice provost for student success at The University of Toledo, where she leads strategic initiatives related to retention, completion and student success with a focus on improving equitable outcomes for historically underserved students. Her scholarly work takes a holistic and systemic approach, most recently exploring a reconceptualization of faculty development to utilize principles of high impact, applied learning and authentic engagement to create faculty communities of transformation in support of equitable student outcomes.

Dr. Royel M. Johnson, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Associate Director, Center for the Study of Higher Education, The Pennsylvania State University
Dr. Royel M. Johnson is assistant professor of higher education at The Pennsylvania State University, where he is also associate director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education. However, he will join the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California as associate professor of higher education January 1, 2022. Dr. Johnson is a nationally recognized scholar, whose interdisciplinary research addresses issues of educational access, racial equity, and student success. His work has an unapologetic focus on racially/ethnically minoritized and other institutionally marginalized populations including young people with foster care experience and justice-involved youth.

Dr. Krysti Ryan, Director of Research, College Transition Collaborative
Dr. Krysti Ryan is director of research at the College Transition Collaborative (CTC), where she leads the design, development, and management of CTC’s research approach. She also oversees the development and testing of evidence-based tools and resources that leverage social-psychological principles, research findings, and practitioner expertise to create higher education learning environments that foster equitable student experiences and academic outcomes. Krysti earned her doctorate in sociology from University of California, Davis, and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Willamette University.

Dr. Christopher Smith, Executive Director, College Transition Collaborative
Dr. Christopher Smith is the executive director of the College Transition Collaborative (CTC), which focuses on elevating students’ experience of college as a central lens for understanding and improving postsecondary completion, by acting as a bridge between research and practice. CTC’s work helps schools better understand how their students experience moments of transition or difficulty, and how psychologically-informed practices – messages, policies, behaviors, and programs – can convey to all students they are valued, respected, and can excel. He received his doctorate from Fordham University in applied developmental psychology, and earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in English literature.


Shawn Whalen, Program Director, College Futures Foundation
Shawn Whalen is the program director at the College Futures Foundation and leads the development and implementation of the Foundation’s grantmaking strategy promoting student-centric practices. Shawn has extensive experience as both a faculty member and university administrator. Prior to joining the Foundation, he was the chief of staff at San Francisco State University, where he advised the president on academic policy, student success, and strategic planning. Shawn is professor emeritus of communication studies at San Francisco State University. As a faculty member, he was active in university governance and served three terms as chair of the Academic Senate. Shawn is a public member of the WASC Senior College and University Commission and began his term in July 2020.


The following resources are recommended to supplement the session discussion.



Ashley Burns Nascimento, Director, RALLY
Ashley leverages her unique communication skills and experience to help drive progress for racial and/or gender equity in education, health, housing, economic empowerment and other social issues. From listening sessions with community matriarchs to focus groups in rural communities, Ashley’s work across the country helps fuel positive change through capacity building, community engagement, and messaging analysis. In short, she helps organizations and coalitions refine their voice to break through “noisy” landscapes and reach ambivalent audiences in unexpected ways. Prior to RALLY, Ashley led communications strategy and media events for international product launches for Microsoft, Minecraft Education, Skype in the Classroom, LEGO, NASA, and various startups.

David Hinojosa, Director of Educational Opportunities Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
David is recognized as a national leading litigator, thought leader and advocate in the area of civil rights, specializing in educational impact litigation and policy. He currently spearheads the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s cutting-edge racial justice work in education, including the organization’s national work in confronting anti-diversity and inclusion laws. David’s wide-ranging civil rights litigation, policy, and advocacy work has helped: preserve affirmative action, desegregate schools, improve school finance systems, cultivate English Learner programs, and preserve the Texas DREAM Act. He has argued historic cases before the First and Fifth Circuits, and the Supreme Courts of Colorado and Texas, and is well-published. 

Jennifer Warner, Executive of Organizing and Campaigns, Stand for Children
Jennifer Warner joined Stand for Children Leadership Center in March of 2018 bringing over 11 years of state and national organizing experience in both legislative and electoral campaigns. As the vice president of family engagement and organizing, she soon added elections to her portfolio. Earlier this year she became executive of organizing and campaigns for Stand for Children. Prior to joining Stand for Children, Jennifer worked on President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. In 2016 she was the coordinated campaign director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.


Tyler Sussman, Senior Program Officer, Education Policy & Partnerships, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Tyler Sussman is a senior program officer on the Education Policy and Partnerships team at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), where he supports a portfolio of grantees working to advance equity centered education policies to address the comprehensive developmental needs of K-12 students and spearheads CZI’s collaboration with other education philanthropies. Previously, Tyler was a co-founder at Summit Learning – a personalized learning school redesign initiative – where he led the team’s engagement with state education agencies, local education agencies, and other education non-profits. Tyler began his career as a high school history teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area and also served as an instructional coach.


The following resources are recommended to supplement the session discussion.


Dr. Jill Baker, Superintendent of Schools, Long Beach Unified School District
Dr. Jill Baker was unanimously selected by the Board of Education as superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) effective August 1, 2020. The school district is California’s fourth largest, with about 70,000 students. Prior to her appointment as superintendent, Dr. Baker worked for 28 years at LBUSD as a successful teacher, principal and central office administrator. Her leadership contributed to increased student achievement, the development of multiple districtwide initiatives and systems, and a culture of continuous improvement. A Long Beach resident, Dr. Baker has worked closely with community groups such as Californians for Justice and the California Conference for Equality and Justice to include student voices in the development of programs and policies that focus on excellence, equity and inclusion. 

Dr. Jonathan E. Collins, Assistant Professor of Education, Political Science, and International and Public Affairs, Brown University
Dr. Jonathan E. Collins is an assistant professor of education, political science, and international and public affairs at Brown University. During the 2021-22 academic year, he is a visiting research fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation. At Brown, he holds affiliations with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy. His research focuses on race and ethnic politics, urban politics, state and local politics, education politics and policy, and questions of democracy. He holds a PhD in political science and an MA in African American studies from the University of California-Los Angeles as well as a BA in English from Morehouse College.

Taryn Ishida, Executive Director, Californians for Justice
As executive director of Californians for Justice (CFJ), Taryn leads the organization to actualize its mission of racial justice by building the power of youth, communities of color, immigrants, low-income and LGBQ, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming communities. She provides leadership in program strategy, alliance building and policy, and organizational and fund development. She started as a volunteer in 2002, and has since supported youth leaders to win local and state campaigns that have improved school climate, access to social emotional learning, strengthened equity and engagement in school funding, and increased civic participation among youth of color. Prior to CFJ she spent eight years in philanthropy at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, Associate Vice Provost, Faculty Development & Professor, Center for the Study of Higher Education, University of Arizona
Dr. Judy Marquez Kiyama serves as the associate vice provost, faculty development within the Office of Faculty Affairs at the University of Arizona. In this role she implements efforts that further the aims of the University of Arizona to excel in its Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation through increasing institutional capacity among faculty. This includes developing equity-focused recruitment, hiring, and retention practices; and developing faculty capacity in research, teaching and curriculum, and service. Judy is a professor in the Center for the Study of Higher Education, Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice.


Ambika Kapur, Program Officer, National Program, Carnegie Corporation of New York
Ambika Kapur is a program officer within the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Education program where she manages the Public Understanding portfolio. Kapur oversees grantmaking aimed at engaging parents, communities, teachers, and policymakers in understanding and demanding changes in education that ensure that all students develop the knowledge, skills, and dispositions they need for future success. Kapur was born in Calcutta. She has a BA in international relations from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in international education development from Columbia University.


The following resources are recommended to supplement the session discussion.


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