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Graduate Student Conference

Planning Committee


Hanna Kim

Hanna is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Education, Policy, Organization, and Leadership (EPOL) with a concentration in Global Studies in Education (GSE). Her research focuses on the internationalization of higher education, specifically Korean doctoral students’ identity development. She is also interested in the perceptions of Americans about Asian American education in the United States. She currently serves as a Research Assistant as an Editorial Assistant for the Journal of Language, Identity, and Education (JLIE) as well as a Teaching Assistant for the Liberal Arts and Science. She also serves on the Graduate Student Advisory Committee (GSAC) in the EPOL program. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Cultural Studies with Early Childhood Education from SoonHyunHyang University, South Korea, and her Master of Arts in Applied Linguistics and TESOL from the University of Mississippi. Prior to joining this program, she worked for WorldVision Korea as a broadcasting filming coordinator for two years.


Judith Kom Nguiffo  

Judith is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in “Diversity & Equity in Education.” She received a dual Master’s degree in statistics and economics from the “Ecole National Supérieure de la Statistique et de l’Economie Appliquée” (ENSEA) in Côte d’Ivoire. She also holds a Certificate in Education Policy and Program Evaluation from Georgetown University. Judith has extensive experience working with education agencies, research centers, international organizations, and governments in the areas of program evaluation, survey design and delivery, and analysis using large datasets to support policymaking. Her current research focuses on access by minorities and students with disabilities to premium education programs in the US.


Committee Members

Adetutu Fabusoro

Adetutu is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education, Policy, Organization, and Leadership, with a concentration in Human Resource Development. Adetutu earns a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Communications and Language Arts and another master’s degree in Applied Linguistics (TESOL). She has more than 9 years of experience in the corporate sector and the media and 2 years of experience in higher education teaching. Adetutu’s research interest is in Corporate Sector Learning and Development, especially the area of Communicative Competence and Language Learning in Corporate America. She currently serves as a Teaching Assistant in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In her free time, she loves cooking and spending time with family.

Akash Kumar Saini

Akash is a Ph.D. student in the Learning Design and Leadership Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Prior to joining the Ph.D. program, he worked with multiple organizations (including UNESCO) and startups that concerns with harnessing new media and technology adapted for teaching-learning practices as well as policy advocacy for mainstream education. His research and practice focus on developing, designing, exploring, and testing digital tools (such as VR, AR, Games, etc.) to facilitate learning and assessment along with providing specialized instructions, training, and guidance for integrating such technologies into educational practices.


Amos Jeng

Amos is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Developmental Sciences division of the Educational Psychology department. He joined the program in the fall of 2020 after having previously obtained a B.A. in Cognitive Science and Philosophy from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He developed a passion for the field of educational psychology after taking relevant coursework, conducting human development research, interning for the Educational Testing Service, and working at an after-school academic program. Amos’s research primarily focuses on learning-oriented interactions in educational settings. He is especially interested in understanding and improving college students’ experiences with help-seeking and help-giving in introductory STEM course settings, as well as placing these interactive behaviors in a cultural context.


Cecilia Vaughn-Guy

Cecilia is a second-year Ph.D. student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership with dual concentrations in Human Resource Development and Diversity and Equity in Education. Prior to matriculation into this program, she worked as an occupational therapist in clinical, hospital-based, and academic settings. Her research interest centers on amplifying the voices of frontline healthcare workers, reimagining equitable and sustainable organizational hierarchy, and creating and sustaining organizational change through culture.


Dora Kourkoulou

Dora is an Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership doctoral candidate, teaching and research assistant, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She holds an MA in Classical Literature from the University of Athens, Greece, and an EdM in Human Resource Education from the University of Illinois. She has conducted ethnographic and interpretive research in, and about the design of virtual worlds. Her dissertation is examining narratives of resistance in and defection from video games, and their public pedagogical implications. Her interests lie in critical code and technology studies, and the intersections between AI computing, playfulness, and inclusive epistemologies in online spaces of action.

Edwin Camerino Monarrez 

Edwin is a first-generation American with Mexican Heritage. He grew up in Cicero, IL, and was the first in his family to attend and earn a bachelor’s degree in Special Education at Concordia University Chicago. He later attended graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, earning a master’s degree in Special Education via a grant Project PULSSE. He held a Special Education teaching position for seven years at a public high school in the northwest suburbs of the Chicago land area. During his teaching tenure, he was fortunate enough to teach in multiple contexts of Special Education with students aged range-14-from 22 years old. Currently, Edwin is in his second year of a doctoral program at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Completing his first year in the Special Education department and his second in the department of Education Policy and Organizational Leadership, Edwin will complete a Doctorate of Education in Diversity and Equity with a concentration on (Dis)ability and Public Education policy. His research focuses on Hispanic and Latine (Dis)ability Intersectionality through a Critical lens and a Community Participatory Action Research methodology. 


Jennifer Rowell

Jennifer is a second-year Ed.D. student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Learning Design and Leadership. She is currently working for the University of Illinois in New Student Programs, which is focused on creating a seamless and engaging first-year experience for new undergraduate students. She is also co-founder of Willow Grove International, a company that offers consulting and professional advisory services for local and global entities. Her research interests are in e-learning, international higher education, and global citizenship. 


Jewel Bourne

Jewel is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education and Community College Leadership.   A community college alum, her research, and professional service interests revolve around the promotion of access, persistence, and empowerment of underrepresented populations in higher education. With a focus on the experience of Black female identifying students who matriculate from community college to four-year institutions. 

Jewel’s professional experience revolves around student services and affairs including serving as an academic advisor and program coordinator assisting historically underrepresented populations to achieve and accomplish their transfer ambitions through the transfer sending and receptive culture frameworks. 


Kate Connor

Kate is a third-year Ph.D. student in Special Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include special education teacher attrition and the impact of sustained professional learning. This is her first year serving on the Graduate Student Conference committee. 




Lu Xu 

Lu is a third-year Ph.D. in the Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership program at the College of Education, University of Illinois, with a concentration in global studies in education. With a general interest in global study and education, her research mainly focuses on global teacher education, global citizenship, and online teaching. Currently, she is conducting research that aims to cultivate preservice teachers’ abilities to teach in a global context, including the capacity to use technology, the development of global citizenship, the adaptability to different cultures, etc. 


Nicole M. DelMastro-Jeffery

Nicole M. DelMastro-Jeffery is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership. Nicole’s research focuses on the intersection of community determinants of health and educational trajectories of marginalized collegians. Her quantitative approach to mapping proximity of educational institutions to quality basic needs, such as access to clean drinking water, is a genuine passion of hers. Over the past decade she has served in a variety of leadership roles across 2-year and 4-year colleges. Nicole is excited about the future upstream sustainable transdisciplinary approach to ensuring students’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing on their way to graduation.




Praveen Chhikara 

Praveen is a first-year Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction, at the College of Education, with a concentration on Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education. His research focuses on how university mathematics professors introduce abstract concepts. His research interest stems from his experience of teaching mathematics to undergraduate and graduate students for around six years. This is his second year serving on the Graduate Student Conference Planning Committee. 


Robin Jephthah Rajarathinam

Robin is a second-year Ph.D. student in the department of Curriculum and Instruction, DELTA program. His background is in mechanical engineering and education. His research interests broadly focus on collaborative learning in engineering classroom contexts. To this end, his primary focus is on how multimodal learning analytics can help understand and develop meaningful collaborative learning experiences for students.



Shafagh Hadinezhad

Shafagh is a second-year Ph.D. student in the department of Curriculum and Instruction, DELTA program, with a focus on educational technology. She has a background in industrial design and an interest in design for social justice and equity in education internationally. She is dedicated to designing diverse and inclusive learning environments through multisensory techniques considering individual differences of the learners and their access to technology. 



Taiylor Rayford

Taiylor is a third-year doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology. Broadly speaking, her research interests deal with a sense of belonging and identity development among Black and other students of color. More specifically, her research aims to understand two things, 1.  How Black graduate students understand and develop a sense of belonging and 2. How students’ expectations affect their understanding and experiences of belonging.


Her research interests stem from her personal experiences of belonging and identity throughout her educational journey. Beyond the academic realm, Taiylor is a music lover and enjoys watching football and spending time outside. 

Yiping Liu

Yiping is in her first year as a Ph.D. student in the education department and majoring in Education policy, organization and leadership. Her concentration is in global studies. Currently, she is focusing on education injustice in Chinese-American students broadly.







Karla Möller

Karla is the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the Graduate Student Services Office. Karla's research, teaching, and service coalesces around her interconnecting interests in cultural diversity and language, reading and response to literature, and issues related to social justice, educational equity, and children’s engagement and success in school. Her work connects three aspects of literacy and literature-based instruction through a focus on material availability and selection (e.g., What literature is available to use in schools? What can be done to improve availability of authentic culturally diverse materials?); on content (e.g., What literature do educators actually use and why? What is taught—or left out—with regards to literature within school-based instruction?) and on procedures (e.g., How is use of literature in schools organized? Who has access to literature-based instruction? What can be done to improve access for all students to opportunities for creative and critical thinking connected with reading literature?).


Lori Fuller

Lori Fuller has been working in the College of Education for over eight years with a total of 16 years of service at the university. She has been providing support to the Graduate Student Services Office since October 2021.




Additional Members

Angelica Taylor