The 2015 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Winners


Anya AdairAnya Adair, English Language and Literature, Yale University
(PhD expected 2017)

Bachelor of Laws, University of Melbourne
Master of Arts, University of Melbourne
Master of Studies, University of Oxford
Master of Arts, Yale University
Master of Philosophy, Yale University

Anya Adair is a doctoral candidate at Yale University; her research focus is early medieval English language and literature.  She has just begun working on her dissertation, which examines the intersections of law and literature from Old to Early Modern English.  Anya has published work on the Old English Advent Lyrics and the vocabulary of Beowulf, and is currently working on projects in late medieval paleography, early medieval emotional vocabulary, and the pronoun choices of Jonathan Swift – a common thread in all her research being her fascination with language and its complexities and potentials.

This fascination informs and enlivens Anya’s classroom practice: she is ready at a moment’s notice to take the class on a winding digression through the history of some obscure point of grammar.  (Her students don’t seem to mind.)  Anya’s teaching work has included undergraduate creative writing, gothic fiction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Old English poetry, Chaucer, medieval romance and romantic poetry.  Last year, she developed and taught an intensive writing seminar on the theme “Fantasy Worlds,” in which she cunningly hid essay-writing drills behind Disney movies.  She lectures on Old English and Old Norse language and grammar in weekly reading groups, and works with international students at the Yale College Writing Center.

Anya’s experience in university education has convinced her that three things are necessary for really great teaching: a deep knowledge of one’s field, the conviction that this knowledge is worthwhile, and an urgent desire to share it with one’s students.  To develop strategies for effectively sharing her own knowledge, Anya has undertaken professional development workshops as part of Yale’s Certificate of College Teaching Preparation and several graduate subjects in pedagogy, and gives guest seminars under the observation of any professor who will let her.  She currently holds a research post in a project that aims to develop digital teaching resources from the materials in Yale’s Beinecke library.  The hard work involved in combining the roles of researcher, teacher, and sympathetic supporter of learning, she considers, is fully compensated for by the fact that an undergraduate once called her description of the Old English weak adjective “fascinating,” and seemed to mean it.


Rebecca ChristensenRebecca Christensen, Higher Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
(PhD expected 2015)

M.A., Ed.M., Psychological Counseling, Teachers College, Columbia University
B.A., Psychology and Social Behavior, University of California, Irvine

Rebecca Christensen is a Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education, with a concentration in Academic Affairs and Student Development, at the University of Michigan (U-M), Ann Arbor. She studies issues related to equity, inclusion, diversity, and social justice in colleges and universities. Her dissertation is a mixed-methods study focused on the influence of a residential learning community on first-year college students’ social justice conceptualizations, attitudes, and behaviors. Rebecca’s dissertation proposal was recently selected as a finalist for the Paul P. Fidler Research Grant from the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. During her time at U-M, she has been strongly committed to educating and preparing undergraduate and graduate students to become active citizens and future leaders in our diverse, global society.

Rebecca has been actively involved with the Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) for the past few years in several different roles including a facilitator for the National Dialogue Institute and CommonGround program. She also served as a Graduate Student Instructor for the IGR training and practicum courses for undergraduate student dialogue facilitators. She has also promoted the social justice engagement of first-year students and student leaders in the Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP), a residential learning community focused on community service, social justice, and academic excellence. As part of Rebecca’s involvement with MCSP, she created and implemented a dialogue program to promote intergroup relations within the MCSP community, and has coordinated dialogues for MCSP during the past three years.

In order to develop her own skill-sets related to promoting teaching and learning in the area of social justice education, Rebecca obtained a certificate in Multicultural Classroom Facilitation provided by the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning (CRLT) and is currently an Engaged Pedagogy Initiative Fellow through the Center of Engaged Academic Learning at U-M. Rebecca has also been involved with several leadership roles at U-M including acting as a committee member for the United Coalition for Racial Justice, serving on student advisory boards for the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and training her fellow graduate student instructors on promoting inclusive teaching in their classrooms during CRLT orientations.

Prior to beginning her graduate studies at U-M, she was a career counselor at UC Berkeley. In this role, she helped to create a multicultural initiative to support underrepresented students, and developed and co-taught a multicultural career development course that was offered through the Ethnic Studies department. She is very passionate about educating students on issues related to power, privilege, and oppression, and creating an inclusive campus climate so that students from diverse backgrounds feel valued, supported, and respected during their time in college. She hopes to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education as both an educator and administrator in the future.


Neil ConnerNeil Conner, Geography, University of Tennessee
(PhD expected 2015)

M.A., International Studies, Old Dominion University
B.A., Education and History, University of Arizona

Neil Conner is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee where he studies the intersections between political and cultural geography. His dissertation research explores the politics of national identity, migration, and religion in Dublin, Ireland by examining the growing tensions between native-born Irish citizens and recently arrived immigrants.  Additionally, he is also interested in geographic education and has conducted research on instructional strategies in introductory-level college courses concerning the dynamics of globalization.

Before returning to graduate school, Neil was a high school social studies teacher for five years – teaching World Regional Geography, AP Human Geography, and US Government. Additionally, he was also a tour leader for the People to People Student Ambassador Program. This organization promotes international travel for middle and high school students in order to advance global awareness and to create global citizens. His experience and success with K-12 education, both formal and informal, has been instrumental in his transition into teaching at the college level.

At the University of Tennessee, Neil has taught World Geography and Human Geography for the past three years. Both of these courses cover a wide variety of topics including human population and migration, ethnicity and race, economic development, the nation-state system, international relations, world religions, popular culture, and human-environmental interactions. These courses average over 100 students per semester and in addition to being requirements for the major, they also serve as general education classes for the University at large. Here, Neil has been extremely successful in recruiting non-geography students into the major.

For his commitment to teaching, Neil has received both a Departmental Teaching Award as well as a Chancellor’s Award for Graduate Student Teacher of the Year at the University of Tennessee.


Victoria H. FebrerVictoria Hortensia Febrer, Visual Arts, Stony Brook University
(MFA expected 2016)

B.F.A. The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art

Victoria Febrer is a fine artist and educator based in New York City. Her artwork has been exhibited in the United States, Spain, Belgium, Ireland, and Japan, with solo exhibitions in New York, Valencia, and Madrid. Victoria’s exhibition record includes a wide range of educational, public, and alternative venues she has pursued in order to ensure that her work reaches diverse audiences and communities. Her interest in visual images centers around the relationship of the universal and the personal, and the way that repeated images and icons have influenced our understandings of our place in the world. Her most recent work strives to encourage the viewer to reconsider the cultural traditions and mythologies that have contributed to defining a woman’s role in society. She works in a variety of media including paint, film projection, and red wine (through a process of her own invention called vinography).

Victoria is committed to the vital role of visual art education as a force for lasting positive social change, particularly for underserved communities and marginalized groups. She believes that a critical arts practice empowers us by helping us not only to explore and appreciate the world we live in, but also to share our unique discoveries and points of view with our communities. She has taught courses and workshops for youth, children, and families through various non-profit organizations including the Covenant House Crisis Center, the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian National Design Museum, Free Arts NYC, the 92nd Street Y, and the Center for Arts Education. She has also taught at Stony Brook University, Nassau Community College, and the Cooper Union. Many of her teaching endeavors have focused on empowering students to become teachers and leaders in their own right. Victoria worked with the Covenant House Crisis Center for homeless youth to develop mural projects where the residents played an active role in the creation of the final work of art through workshops she designed. At the Cooper Union Saturday Program, she mentored and trained a team of undergraduate instructors who taught a class of high school students alongside her. With Free Arts NYC, Victoria now leads a team of volunteers in teaching Parents and Children Together (PACT) Art sessions.

Through this diverse teaching practice, Victoria has discovered that outside of the conservatory model, an education in the arts can provide students with creative and analytical thinking skills that will inform and enhance their approach to solving problems in their chosen field, and also help them develop effective ways to explain their findings to others and enhance cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural collaboration. Reflecting on the outcomes of her teaching, Victoria began to explore the possibilities for research that could measure the effects of an arts curriculum on levels of civic engagement and participation. This has led to a research collaboration with Professor Peter Aronow of Yale University’s Department of Political Science. Through Free Arts NYC and the Center for Arts Education, Victoria also actively participates in roundtable sessions and teaching salons which explore different arts education approaches that help individuals develop skills that will have positive effects on their lives and their communities.


Carolyn FisherCarolyn Fisher, Biochemistry, Molecular, & Cell Biology, Cornell University
(PhD Candidate)

B.S. Biology, St. John Fisher College
B.S. Chemistry, with a concentration in Biochemistry, St. John Fisher College

Carolyn Fisher is a doctoral student studying biochemistry in the department of Molecular Biology & Genetics at Cornell University. Her multi-disciplinary dissertation research project integrates her passions for chemistry and biology as she seeks to understand the complex molecular signaling mechanisms of the amyloid precursor protein (APP), and its proteolytic processing events, and its implications for Alzheimer's Disease manifestation, progression, and potential treatment.

Carolyn is a recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship and a strong advocate for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education. She has been involved in several outreach opportunities as part of the GEEKS (Graduate students Employing Empathy, Knowledge, & Service) professional student service-focused organization that she co-founded at Cornell University. She has led a “Reverse Your Tastebuds!” biochemistry workshop for middle and high school students in the Ithaca community through The Learning Web to encourage the students to pursue STEM education and career options. She has led this same biochemistry workshop in the annual Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) conference at Cornell University. The EYH conference targets 7th-9th grade middle school girls with the goal of piquing interest for STEM fields in their future education. She has enjoyed being a TA for both graduate and undergraduate-level biochemistry courses at Cornell for six semesters and will be continuing to TA in the spring semester of 2015.

Her passion for teaching has been recognized through various TA awards and fellowships including the CALS Outstanding TA award, the Joseph Calvo Teaching Award, the Graduate Research Teaching Fellowship (GRTF), and the Graduate Teaching Assistant Fellowship (GTAF). Upon receiving a Graduate Resident Fellowship (GRF) for the West Campus Housing System at Cornell University, she is presently serving as a community leader, mentor, and role model for undergraduate students.

As a biochemistry doctoral student, Carolyn understands the value of encouraging students to pursue STEM education and careers. As an enthusiastic mentor, community leader, and TA, she is excited to lead the next generation of STEM scholars in their pursuit of professional and personal greatness, and to have a lasting impact on the science leaders of tomorrow.


Jacob GrohsJacob Grohs, Educational Psychology, Virginia Tech
(PhD expected 2015)

B.S. Engineering Science and Mechanics, Virginia Tech
M.S. Engineering Mechanics, Virginia Tech
M.A. , Curriculum and Instruction, Virginia Tech

Jacob Grohs is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction (Educational Psychology) studying how individuals reason through complex ill-structured problems.  As problems grow in complexity (e.g., wicked problems as described in the problem-solving literature), exceptional technical skills no longer are sufficient for reaching viable solutions; social, economic, political, environmental, and community contexts must also be taken into consideration. His dissertation develops a scenario-based tool designed to serve as a more direct measure of systems thinking competency that can be used across disciplines in a higher education setting.  Throughout his PhD program, Jake has also been a part of the graduate school’s Preparing the Future Professoriate and Global Perspectives Programs which he considers one the most inspiring and thought-provoking educational opportunities of his academic career.  

Jake believes that higher education faculty are entrusted with developing means for exploring, interpreting, problem solving, and improving the world in which we live. Rooted in this broader context, his scholarly inquiry is motivated and shaped by the belief that, at its best, education is not about technical competence or employability alone, but rather empowering students to draw upon integrated knowledge from an array of courses, experiential learning opportunities, and daily life in order to address the most pressing challenges facing society.  In the future, he hopes to continue his research on complex problem solving while also exploring facets of learning and development through which students become reflective, proactive regulators of their own engagement and learning.  

Aside from his role as a doctoral student, Jake serves as a full-time Instructor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics teaching large sections of Statics and Mechanics of Deformable Bodies.  In a prior role as the Associate Director for Engaged Learning and Scholarship for VT Engage: The Community Learning Collaborative, he was the lead faculty member for the SERVE Living Learning Community at Virginia Tech and taught the associated LDRS 1015-1016: Exploring Citizen Leadership course series.  Jake is a committed partner and proud father to family Courtney, Jude, and Crosby. He is also a casual coffee-roaster, pizza-maker, and home-renovator. 


Rebekah LeRebekah Le, Developmental Biology, University of California, Irvine 
(PhD Candidate)

B.A., Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles

Rebekah Le is a doctoral candidate in the department of Developmental and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine. Rebekah’s research focuses on how cells acquire a specific developmental fate, the endodermal fate, which has strong implications for the treatment of human disease – particularly in the field of regenerative medicine.

Rebekah believes that having an understanding of how scientific research is carried out – and how it relates to everyday life – is a critical component to being an informed citizen, and this passion has driven her growing career in teaching. Her extensive involvement in large enrollment biology courses has driven her interest in developing active learning techniques that can be incorporated into different size classes. Passionate about training the next generation of scientists, she co-created and teaches a discussion-based upper division elective course focusing on the critical analysis and evaluation of primary scientific literature. The development of this course sparked her interest in understanding how students learn, which led Rebekah to become involved in research studies examining learning gains and student attitudes towards scientific research.

Rebekah is also strongly committed to the development of students as biology educators and future scientific leaders. She has taken a leadership role in training teaching assistants as discussion leaders, provided professional development opportunities for graduate students through her upper division course in the form of guest research seminars, and mentored researchers in the laboratory. Rebekah is also active on campus and in the broader education community, organizing symposiums for undergraduates and graduate students, co-presenting workshops to help students improve their scientific communication skills, serving on departmental and graduate school committees, and attending and presenting at national education conferences.

Based on her commitment to teaching, Rebekah was awarded the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) fellowship, and was honored with the University of California, Irvine Ayala School of Biological Sciences’ Edward Steinhaus Teaching Award in 2014.


Hannah MillerHannah Miller, Teacher Education, Michigan State University
(PhD Candidate)

B.A. in Biology, Rhodes College
M.A. in Environmental Education, Goshen College
Ed.S in Curriculum and Instruction, University of Florida

Hannah K. Miller is a doctoral candidate in Michigan State University’s Department of Teacher Education. Her research interests are in the area of socio-cultural perspectives in science education, with a focus on environmental, sustainability, and climate change education. Her dissertation examines how the cultural and historical contexts of undergraduate students enrolled in a “sustainability semester” contribute to their models of agency and structural change with respect to sustainability.

As a graduate student, Hannah teaches elementary and secondary science methods courses in MSU’s teacher preparation program. In her teaching, Hannah aims to support teacher candidates in critically examining what it means to reach all learners in diverse science classrooms, and how to use their students’ thinking and identity to inform their own pedagogy. As a graduate research assistant, Hannah also serves as the project director for an environmental literacy NSF-funded research project called Carbon TIME (Carbon: Transformations in Matter and Energy). In her work for Carbon TIME, Hannah develops materials and assessments for a curriculum that focuses on global carbon cycling, and researches how K-12 teachers and students teach and learn about matter and energy in socio-ecological systems.

Before attending MSU, Hannah earned a B.A. in biology (Rhodes College), an M.A. in environmental education (Goshen College), and an Ed.S. in science curriculum and instruction (University of Florida). Before returning to the U.S. for graduate school, Hannah lived in China from 2001-2009 where she taught science and English in K-12 schools. Through her work with Shanghai Roots & Shoots and as an elementary science teacher, Hannah became interested in urban gardening, environmental justice, and science education, which are interests she continues to pursue in her current graduate work. In her spare time Hannah enjoys spending time outside, birding, and trying (and mostly failing) to take pictures of rare birds that migrate through the Midwestern United States each spring and fall.


Naghme Naseri MorlockNaghme Naseri Morlock, Sociology, University of Colorado Boulder
(PhD expected Summer 2015)

M.A., Sociology, Illinois State University
B.A., Sociology with a minor in Psychology, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Naghme Morlock is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is a sociologists with expertise in the scholarship of teaching and learning, gender, trauma, and human rights. In her dissertation, Naghme investigates how gender shapes the ways in which members of the Baha’í faith experience, respond to, and cope with the trauma of persecution, the experience of exile and the challenge of religious preservation in the aftermath of mass trauma. She has significant leadership experience and eight years of classroom experience assisting with and teaching a wide range of courses. In addition, she has a longstanding service record in the larger professional community, her university, department, and local community.

As a graduate instructor, Naghme has developed and taught on-campus, online, and hybrid courses on a variety of topics that range in level and size. She has been honored for her teaching and mentoring work with the The Best Should Teach Silver Award and the Betsy Moen Feminist Scholars in Sociology Award. In addition, Naghme was asked to serve as the Lead Graduate Teacher for her department this year. In this position, she acts as a liaison between the university-wide Graduate Teacher Program and the Department of Sociology. Last year she served as the coordinator for the New Assistant Professor Program, which is a part of the Faculty Teaching Excellence Program at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her commitment to scholarly teaching and the dissemination of knowledge on pedagogy is evidenced in her co-authored work with McKinney, which has been published in two peer reviewed outlets, including Teaching Sociology.

Finally, Naghme is equally commitment to service work, both in academia and throughout her community. She believes that—as university teachers—we are in a privileged position which allows us to not only teach civic responsibility, but also to lead our students by example. At the national level, Naghme is actively involved in the American Sociological Association section on Teaching and Learning. In the past she has served as the graduate student representative for the section and this year is serving as part of the Graduate Student’s Concerns Committee. More locally, Naghme has held numerous service positions within her department. Outside of the university, she has worked with refugee survivors of religious persecution, conducts fundraising for a local Special Education Program, and presents in high schools across the country on Human Rights topics.


Erin Marie RentschlerErin Marie Rentschler, English, Duquesne University
(PhD Candidate)

BA in English and Secondary Education, Wheaton College, Norton
MA in English Literature, Duquesne University

Erin M. Rentschler is currently a doctoral candidate in the department of English at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Her studies center on 20th   and 21st century American literature and narratives of war. Specifically, her dissertation examines novels of the Vietnam War told from the perspective of people of color in the United States.

Her project suggests that these narratives illuminate fissures between individual and collective memories of the war, thereby posing important questions about what, how, and whom we remember. To that end, the dissertation explores the role of storytelling in making sense of the trauma of war, particularly with respect to those groups of people whose voices have generally been silenced by mainstream Vietnam War representation. By examining the tensions between lived experience and imaginative narratives, this project draws attention to the physical, emotional, and psychological suffering that pervades both racial or ethnic conflict and war. It ultimately offer these stories as a point of access through which readers can enter into the pain and suffering of an “other” and develop the capacity for the kind of empathetic understanding that underpins cross-cultural communities of healing. She hopes that her project will contribute both to the critical discussion of fiction representing a particular historical moment and to conversations about teaching controversial and sensitive topics such as war, race, and ethnicity. 

In teaching literature, Erin often works with her students to examine the roles that narratives (and their readers) play in memorializing, commemorating, and documenting life in the context of complex historical moments such as war or cultural conflict. She fosters an environment that allows students to reflect on their roles and responsibilities as individual citizens who dialogue with the myriad narratives that they encounter and who have the potential to shape how current events are remembered and how diverse groups perceive and interact with one another.

Since 2011, Erin has been working in the field of faculty and graduate student development through the Center for Teaching Excellence at Duquesne. In her roles as an instructional consultant and now program manager, Erin has enjoyed collaborating with others to create workshops about teaching and learning and provide consultation services. Of particular interest is working with graduate students to prepare job market materials, develop confidence in their teaching, and balance their multiple roles as teachers, students, researchers alongside their lives outside of the academy.