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CoE Graduate Student Conference

Planning Committee


Praveen Chhikara

 Praveen is a second-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 perceive their instructional role in teaching abstract concepts. His research interest stems from his experience of teaching mathematics to undergraduate and graduate

students for around six years before joining the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He is one of the co-chairs serving on the College of Education Graduate Student Conference Planning Committee 2024.



Robin Jephthah Rajarathinam

Robin Jephthah Rajarathinam is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, DELTA program. His research focuses on Collaborative Learning, Learning Analytics, and human-centered design within STEM disciplines. His background is in mechanical engineering and education. He is specifically interested in using multimodal learning analytics to understand and develop meaningful collaborative learning experiences for students.



Committee Members

Aidana Sirgebayeva

Aidana is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a concentration in Higher Education. Aidana has a bachelor’s degree in Education and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She has more than nine years of work experience in the higher education institutions.

Aidana’s research interest is in Higher Education, Graduate Studies, and Public Policy. She is a Research Assistant in the Office of Community College Research and Leadership and a Teaching Assistant in the College of Education.


Fabian Zermeno

Fabian Zermeno is a 2nd year Masters student in the Department of Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership (EPOL). His research is centered around the retention and persistence of underrepresented populations such as Women, Black, and Latinx students in undergraduate Engineering majors. More specifically, looking at the implementation of summer bridge programs, pedagogy in the engineering classroom, mentorship, and practical experience

impacts these students as they enter and diversify the workforce or graduate schools. Currently, Fabian works full-time as an Academic Advisor in the Computer Science department serving undergraduate students and hopes to continue his education in a Ph.D. program next year.


Haeryun Kim

Haeryun Kim is a Ph.D. student in Education Policy, Organization and leadership with a concentration in Educational Administration & Leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Haeryun holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and English Education with a minor in Political Science and International Relations, and a master’s degree in Educational Policy & Educational Administration at Chung-Ang University, South Korea. Her research interests are school organizational structures required for equity-focused reform, with an emphasis on principal leadership, teacher labor markets, school finance, and district governance. Haeryun uses quantitative methods to study how to design school personnel policies, distribute school finance, and structure education governance with the goal of respecting learner diversity and ensuring the inclusion of all students. She is currently working on research about school staff hiring committee practices and equitable access for all students to computer science education.


Hye-in Yang

Hye-in Yang is a second-year master's student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, specializing in language and literacy. She completed her undergraduate studies majoring in history education, common social studies, and English education as a foreign language. Before pursuing her graduate studies, she invested four years in teaching English and worked as a teacher educator in South Korea. Her research interests include the development of heritage languages in bilingual students and children, language ideology, translanguaging, religious literacy, and teacher education.

Jae Jun Jong 

Jae Jun Jong is a Ph. D student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Previously, he worked as an elementary school teacher and taught various subjects, including English, science, and computer. Due to the previous experience as a teacher, Jae Jun became interested in conducting research on the motivation, attitude, and achievement of STEM students. His current interest includes the effect of language on STEM students’ motivation and attitude toward content. Jae Jun hopes to work in educational settings, to promote students’ learning in STEM by improving students’ attitudes and motivation towards STEM.


Jiadi Zhang

Jiadi Zhang is a Ph.D. student in the Language and Literacy Education program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. She is multilingual and speaks Mandarin, English, Korean, and Japanese. Zhang’s research interests include exploring Chinese-English translanguaging, bilingualism, critical bi-literacies, teacher education, Asian American children’s literature, and language ideologies. Her work is guided by a sociocultural perspective that acknowledges minoritized communities’ daily literacy and cultural practices conducted with different modes and across named languages as legitimate knowledge. She believes the cultural, linguistic and historical knowledge students bring into the classroom could leverage their learning, including academic performance.


Ngan Bich Vu

Ngan Bich Vu is a Ph.D. student in the Language and Literacy program in the Department of  Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests include biliteracy practices of Asian American emergent bilinguals, particularly those of

Southeast Asian Americans in diverse sociocultural contexts, ideological narratives around standardized assessments in K-5 classrooms, and teacher education. She also hopes to further

explore critical childhood studies to enhance her theoretical and methodological approaches to learning about minoritized, multilingual children's perspectives on their life experiences.

Pooja Roy

Pooja Roy is a second-year Master's student in the Mathematics, Science and Engineering program in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. From her previous experience as a science teacher in India, she grew interest in curriculum and instruction and broadening the scope of understanding science by addressing multiple ways of knowing. Her research focuses on the perspectives of teachers about multiple ways of knowing in science and how best can the teachers be supported through professional development programs, and developing integrative curricula. She has a particular focus on Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as another lens of knowing science, distinct from conventional Western scientific methods.

Qianhui (Sophie) Liu

Qianhui (Sophie) Liu is a third-year Ph.D. student in the DELTA program, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. She has been working on research projects involving educational data mining, learning analytics, AI in education, CS education, and educational games. With a background in information science, she loves to apply data science methods in educational settings to improve the efficiency of teaching and learning. She is currently investigating the implementation of Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) in education.



Shafagh Hadinezhad

Shafagh is a third-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. 




Shuai Xu

Shuai Xu is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Language and Literacy program within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests involve language ideologies, technology-supported language learning, and biliteracy development. Currently, she is focusing on translanguaging practices and the exploration of multilingual identities among transnational college students and children.


Sourabh Garg

Sourabh is a doctoral student in the Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching and Agency (DELTA) program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. His research interests span Digital Environments for Math Education, HCI, and Visual Communication. He delves into the intricate ways mathematics is communicated in digital settings, striving to create engaging and efficient learning experiences. Sourabh is passionate about leveraging technology to transform education, believing in its potential to make learning both enjoyable and effective. Despite the opportunities technology presents, he remains mindful of the emerging challenges. His work explores evolving communication modes, focusing on how interactions with technology shape learning connections in the human brain.


Weronika Kaczmarczyk-Smith

Weronika is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Language & Literacy. She has taught English in middle and high schools, as well as in extracurricular settings and has an academic background in Slavic languages and linguistics. Her research interests include language ideologies, heritage language development, and teacher education. Weronika seeks ways to incorporate multilingual ways of knowing in traditionally monolingual curricular settings to leverage students’ languages and cultures in the classroom.





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.