Melinda K. Adams, University of the Incarnate Word (United States)

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Melinda Adams has been adding experiential learning projects slowly to her courses. She has seen how these projects impact a students’ learning and really make a difference in what they get out of a project or a class. With this research project, she wants to share and learn more about how meaningful learning has worked and the students’ experience. She also wants to work to develop ways that this can be incorporated into higher education and why it is important to student learning.


Breana Bayraktar, Northern Virginia Community College (United States)

Breana Bayraktar is an Associate Professor of English as a Second Language, and Lead Faculty Mentor with the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been teaching adult English language learners and working in curriculum development, assessment, and teacher preparation for almost 20 years. Her current role as faculty mentor allows her to work with large and small groups of faculty to help them think through questions about their teaching practice. Her research interests include faculty professional development, integrating reading and writing across the curriculum, and exploring how small but meaningful instructional changes can impact student success and persistence.

Mimi Benjamin, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (United States)

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Mimi Benjamin is Associate Professor of Student Affairs in Higher Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Her primary research interests include student co-curricular learning outcomes through experiences such as on-campus employment and campus involvement; learning communities, with a specific interest in living-learning communities and features that lead to student success; and faculty experiences, particularly those of new faculty members and higher education/student affairs administrators who transition to faculty roles. For this seminar, the condition for meaningful learning of “Meaningful relationships, including substantive interaction with faculty/staff mentors and peers, and development of diverse networks” is of interest, especially as it relates to peer mentoring programs.

Sasha Billbe, Arizona State University (United States)

headshot of Sasha Billbe

Sasha Billbe holds a Doctorate of Education from Arizona State University’s Leadership and Innovation program. As a Program Manager for Barrett, the Honors College at ASU’s West Campus, Dr. Billbe oversees retention strategies, housing, and student engagement for Barrett students. An advocate for self-compassion, Dr. Billbe’s research and professional interests are dedicated to exploring conditions for holistic student success, with a particular emphasis placed upon arts-based engagement strategies.

Dr. Billbe is excited about participating in the research seminar on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experience in order to more closely examine the impact of meaningful relationships and the integration of students’ prior learning and experiences and ultimately to develop meaningful strategies to curate both of these opportunities.

Aysha Divan, University of Leeds (United Kingdom)

Aysha Divan is currently an Associate Professor and acting the Director of Student Education within the Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, UK. The latter role involves learning and teaching responsibility for undergraduate and Masters programmes and students (approximately 40 programmes delivered to over 2000 students). She has been involved in SoTL for over 10 years in curriculum development and training for and within the workplace. She is most interested in the theme “Connections to broader contexts, including practice in real-world applications of students’ developing knowledge and skills”. Linked to this theme, she is particularly interested in examining conditions that foster equitable access to e.g. work-integrated learning, community-based learning and other similar practices that support application of learning to real-life contexts, for all student groups.

Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, Purdue University (United States)

Dr. Jennifer Dobbs-Oates is a clinical associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN). Her philosophy of teaching is rooted in three of the conditions for meaningful learning to be investigated in this research seminar. That philosophy is:  experiences connected to broader contexts, paired with opportunities for reflection, provided in the context of meaningful relationships, lead to lasting learning. That philosophy guides all of her work, including a) teaching social service helping skills to students through role play exercises and service-learning projects; b) co-directing an internship program highlighted by strong supervisory relationships and repeated, multimodal reflection; and c) enhancing the climate and supports for effective teaching on my campus.

Peter Felten, Elon University (United States)

Peter Felten is executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, assistant provost for teaching and learning, and professor of history at Elon University. His books include the forthcoming, with co-author Leo Lambert, Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020), and also The Undergraduate Experience (Jossey-Bass, 2016) and Engaging Students as Partners in Learning and Teaching (Jossey-Bass, 2014). He has served as president of ISSOTL, the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning,  and also of the POD Network, the U.S. professional society for faculty developers. He is co-editor of the International Journal for Academic Development and a fellow of the Gardner Institute, a foundation that works to advance equity in higher education.

Rachel Forsyth, Manchester Metropolitan University (United Kingdom)

Rachel Forsyth is Head of the University Teaching Academy at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK, leading a multi-professional team which focuses on academic development. She began her career teaching undergraduate physics and then moved into learning technology and then educational development. At the moment, her research interests are focused on inclusion in curriculum design and assessment in higher education; these are areas she hopes to explore further with colleagues in the seminar, in particular, how scalable change in curriculum and assessment practices can be achieved. She teaches on the compulsory qualification for those new to teaching in higher education and on a national programme for external examining. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Anne Ellen Geller, St. John’s University (United States)

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Anne Ellen Geller is Professor of English and Director of Writing Across Communities at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She teaches undergraduate and graduate English courses, mentors undergraduate writing coordinators with a students-as-partners philosophy, and provides support across disciplines and professional programs to St. John’s faculty who teach with writing. She is co-author of The Meaningful Writing Project: Learning, Teaching, and Writing in Higher Education (Utah State University Press 2016; The Meaningful Writing Project). She is also a co-author of The Everyday Writing Center (Utah State University Press 2007) and the co-editor of Working With Faculty Writers (Utah State University Press 2013). Beyond St. John’s, Dr. Geller is a mentor with Visible Ink at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital. She is interested in learning and teaching that occurs through meaningful relationships, as well as through connections to broader contexts, including practice in real-world applications of learners’ developing knowledge and skills, prior learning, and experiences. She is also committed to turning attention to the institutionalized structures and conditions that impede students’ (and faculty members’) meaningful learning and writing experiences.

Claire Hamshire, Manchester Metropolitan University (United Kingdom)

headshot of Claire Hamshire

Claire Hamshire is a Professor of Higher Education and the Head of Education for the Faculty of Health, Psychology and Social Care at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK; combining a faculty role with a cross-institutional contribution to pedagogical research. She is also a UK HEA National Teaching Fellow, HEA Principle Fellow and the Vice-President for the European Region of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (ISSOTL). Within the university, Claire has been instrumental in ensuring that the institution puts students’ perspectives at the centre of our teaching and research developments, with the goal of facilitating their development as professionals who will go on to make a difference in people’s lives. Her research interests include first- generation students’ experiences, peer-assisted learning, student engagement and learning transitions and she has published and presented research about students’ learning experiences for the last decade.

Sarah Hansen, University of Iowa (United States)

Sarah Hansen is the Vice President for Student Life at the University of Iowa, where she leads 13 departments focused on student success and drives change in critical areas such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), health and well-being, and student development. In her previous role within the Provost’s office at Iowa, she led the university’s strategic planning process and the implementation of the DEI action plan. Sarah also served as the Associate Vice President in the Division of Student Life at The University of Iowa, where she led Division and University-wide student success initiatives. Sarah’s research interests revolve around reflection and integration of learning across contexts. In this arena, she is the creator of the nationally recognized IOWA GROW® (Guided Reflection on Work) student employment intervention and has worked with over 150 institutions in the U.S., Canada, and abroad to adopt IOWA GROW® on their campuses.  She has presented at multiple national conferences and authored or co-authored chapters on student employment as a high-impact practice and cultivating habits of reflection in students. IOWA GROW® has appeared in many publications including Felten and Schroeder’s The Undergraduate Experience, Kuh’s work on high-impact practices, The New YorkerInside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. Sarah has collaborated with NASPA on a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation investigation of high-impact student employment.

Jody Jessup-Anger, Marquette University (United States)

Jody Jessup-Anger is associate professor of higher education and program coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program at Marquette University. Her research explores how the collegiate environment can facilitate or impede student learning and development. She is particularly interested in how the conditions of high impact practices (particularly the intersection of curricular and cocurricular initiatives) facilitate connections to broader contexts. Dr. Jessup-Anger is co-author (with Karen Inkelas, Mimi Benjamin, and Matthew Wawrzynski) of Living-Learning Communities that Work: A Research-Based Model for Design, Delivery and Assessment (Stylus 2018) and co-editor (with Keith Edwards) of Addressing Sexual Violence in Student Affairs and Higher Education (New Directions for Student Services 2018)She co-led with the Elon University Center for Engaged Learning 2017-2019 Research Seminar on Residential Learning CommunitiesIn Fall 2017, she served as scholar-in-residence for Workshop Architects, a firm specializing in the design of campus spaces.

Stacey L. MacKinnon, University of Prince Edward Island (Canada)

Stacey L. MacKinnon is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Prince Edward Island (Charlottetown, PE, Canada), the designer/coordinator of First-Year Inquiry Studies, Faculty of Education Graduate Research Supervisor and Chair of the UPEI Senate Committee on the Enhancement of Teaching. She uses qualitative and quantitative methods to research curiosity, inquiry, trust and risk. She developed “The Curiosity Project” (MacKinnon, 2017; Boyle & MacKinnon, 2016), to reignite students’ intrinsic motivation and desire to inquire. She redesigned UPEI’s First Year Inquiry Studies course to meet students where they are in their inquiry skills/attitudes and adapting the course to bring them “where they need to be”. She is currently researching trust between students, professors and the process within higher education inquiry-based learning (MacKinnon & Archer-Kuhn, in prep). She received the 2012 Hessian Award for Excellence in Teaching, the 2012 President’s Award for Teaching Excellence and was 2016’s UPEI Faculty of the Year.

Melissa Meeks, Eli Review  (United States)

Melissa Graham Meeks is the Director of Professional Development for Eli Review, a peer learning app developed by Michigan State University writing professors Jeff Grabill and Bill Hart-Davidson. Melissa leads faculty in designing formative feedback cycles and using Eli’s student engagement and performance metrics. With Bill, she wrote a chapter on the feedback analytics they’ve built for frequency, intensity, and quality; it is in the forthcoming collection, Improving Outcomes: Disciplinary Writing, Local Assessment, and the Aim of Fairness, edited by Norbert Elliot and Diane Kelly-Riley.

Nichole L. Powell, Emory University (United States)

Nichole L. Powell is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Oxford College of Emory University. Her research interests include the incorporation of scientific inquiry into the first and second-year curriculum and the investigation of ways for improving the teaching and learning of chemistry. She is interested in examining how opportunities for reflection may affect student learning, student identity, and their immediate and future success in multiple dimensions. An advocate for science literacy and diversity initiatives, she serves as the Chair of the Minority Affairs Committee – Georgia Section of the American Chemical Society and is also involved in efforts at Emory University related to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. She has received recognition for excellence in teaching and exceptional contribution to the education of Oxford College students.

Kiruthika Ragupathi, National University of Singapore (Singapore)

Kiruthika is an Associate Director with the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning at the National University of Singapore. She co-leads the professional development programmes at the centre and oversees the centralised teaching quality instruments at the university—student feedback and peer review. Her research work focuses on assessment, academic development, student living-learning experiences, and technology-enhanced learning.  In this seminar, her interest lies not only in supporting faculty to create an appropriate climate for meaningful learning to happen, but also in educating students to recognise and use feedback. She is also a student with the PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement programme at Lancaster University, UK.

Alan Soong, National University of Singapore (Singapore)

Alan SOONG is Associate Director at the Centre for Development of Teaching and LearningNational University of Singapore. He is also serving as a Resident Fellow at the Prince George’s Park House (PGP House), a living-learning community formed in 2017 at NUS. With the support from the Office of Student Affairs, Alan initiated the Peer Mentorship Programme together with the PGP House Management Team. The programme was piloted in 2016 with 23 peer mentors and fully launched in 2017 with 43 peer mentors. Freshmen in PGP House has the opportunity to join mentoring groups led by peer mentors (sophomores, juniors and seniors) who excel academically and who are able to provide student life-related guidance. Alan is most interested in investigating on meaningful relationships, specifically mentorship relationships between peer mentors, mentees (freshmen) and other mentors (e.g. undergraduates, university teachers, other university staff and externals outside the University) within a living-learning community.

Kathryn Sutherland, Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand)

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Dr. Kathryn Sutherland is an academic (faculty) developer in the Centre for Academic Development at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She is an award winning teacher and researcher whose research and practice has three main areas of focus: the experiences of early career academics; holistic academic development; and working in partnership with students to improve teaching and learning. Recent publications in each of these areas include the book Early career academics in New Zealand universities (2018), the provocative extended editorial Holistic academic development (2018), which received the Distinguished Contribution to the Scholarship of Educational Development award, and numerous book chapters on student-staff partnership written with students, including Chapter 5 in the recently published Center for Engaged Learning book, The Power of Partnership (2020). Kathryn is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, was co-editor of the International Journal for Academic Development for ten years, and is a keen but slow runner.

Katherine A. Troyer, Trinity University (United States)

Katherine A. Troyer is the assistant director of The Collaborative for Teaching and Learning at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She holds a PhD in Humanities from the University of Louisville, where she analyzed the horror genre at the intersections of identity studies and humanist geography. Her shelves reflect the diversity of her work: books on horror sit aside books on pedagogy. Yet this seemingly odd combination actually reflects a singular fascination with how—whether found in a horror film or the classroom—anxieties and fears shape our thoughts and ideas. Delighted to be part of the 2020-2022 CEL Research Seminar, she hopes to dig deeper into conditions of meaningful relationships and frequent feedback because she sees both as vital for transforming a learning experience into a genuine conversation, one in which all participants are able and willing to contribute—to both speak and be heard—in significant ways.