2017 K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Recipients

What is the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award?

PhD candidate, Literacy and Language Education, Purdue University

M.S., Education, Purdue University
M.A., English, University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras
B.A., English, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez

Ileana Cortes Santiago is a Ph.D. candidate in Literacy and Language Education (strand: English Education) and a research assistant in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University. In 2014-2015, she served as the Interim Program Director of Purdue’s Butler Center for Leadership Excellence. Ileana’s dissertation focuses on how Latino/a families and educators can address community needs through grass-roots initiatives. Her research, service, and teaching interconnect and include areas such as Latino/a family literacies and community engagement, English language learning, and literacy teacher education with an emphasis on equity and multiculturalism. She has co-presented her work in national and international settings (e.g., Teachers College, Columbia University, USA; Al-Akhawayn University, Morocco; University of Calabar, Nigeria). In addition, she co-led a series of educational workshops and roundtable conversations with teachers, students, and families at Foresight Schools in Ikom, Cross River State, Nigeria. Ileana’s work has been published in English Today, Gender and Education, Journal of Higher Education: Outreach and Engagement, among others.

Ileana has always had a profound commitment to the type of teaching and learning that goes hand-in-hand with service and collaboration. In 2011, she was awarded, with a friend and colleague and with the support of faculty members, a service-learning grant at Purdue, the first of three consecutive awards (2011 - 2013) to offer biliteracy and family engagement events in collaboration with local and state partners. She has also been the recipient of national educational research grants such as the Conference on English Education Research Initiative. In the community, she provides educational programming on multiculturalism and the experiences of underrepresented women as guest faculty for the non-profit organization Indiana Voices of Women while serving as a volunteer educator for the Girl Scouts-Troop 3800—the only Latina ensemble in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Ileana is also a community advocate and interpreter for Latino/a families in Greater Lafayette and an admin and content developer for a bilingual (English / Spanish) social media page dedicated to Latino/a families’ access to information on resources and education. The multiple literacies* and knowledge she has garnered as she meets and connects with vibrant communities have informed her work with the College of Education’s Office of Diversity Initiatives at Purdue, which includes the enhancement of the local Holmes Scholars Program (both as AACTE Holmes Diversity Scholar for three years and as scholar emeritus). Reading and engaging in social justice work while teaching about it in undergraduate courses (e.g., EDCI 285: Multiculturalism and education, EDCI 434: Secondary literacy) and publishing have made her professional journey all the more enriching.

As someone who has benefitted greatly from mentorship, Ileana believes in creating meaningful opportunities for and connections with (and among) local underrepresented students. Thus, she supports and collaborates with a group of local Latino/a youth—from middle school to college—to foster leadership skills and nurture access to academic and mentorship opportunities for them and their families. Ileana believes the future of education at the local and systemic levels includes a strong emphasis on advocacy, justice, and leadership advancement that helps increase the representation and voice of underserved groups in high tier positions.


PhD candidate, Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University (expected 2017)

M.S., Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University
B.E., Chemical Engineering, Vanderbilt University

Peter DelNero studies biomedical engineering at Cornell University, with a focus on microfluidic biomaterials and cancer. As a graduate student, Peter noticed a disconnect between laboratory scientists and the broader community; he felt that non-academic perspectives could enhance the quality of his research training. Peter helped establish a collaboration with a cancer support center, connecting scientists with people who are affected by cancer.

The patient-researcher partnership transformed Peter’s understanding of cancer. Whereas graduate training typically emphasizes technical skills and analytical thinking, the partnership affirmed the human dimensions of cancer. Research evolved from an academic career into something much more personal.

Through this experience, Peter grew increasingly attentive to the underlying culture of science and engineering, and the ways in which novices assimilate their professional identities. During his PhD, Peter pursued every opportunity to extend his understandings of the social functions of higher education and its relationship to external structures. Drawing from the public engagement discourse, Peter is an advocate for integrative approaches to engineering education.

Peter is an active citizen in his academic community.  He currently teaches a biomedical engineering seminar entitled Dimensions of Cancer, which guides students through public narrative projects in the local cancer ecosystem. Peter is a leader in multiple organizations related to engaged scholarship, future faculty development, and interdisciplinary cancer research. As an insatiable learner himself, Peter is passionate about advancing the quality and impact of higher education.


PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University (expected June 2017)

M.S. Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Arizona

Mona Eskandari is a Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, a Stanford Graduate Science and Engineering Fellow, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow, and a Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence (DARE) Doctoral Fellow.

Her area of expertise is computational modeling and experimental characterization of biological structures, specifically pulmonary tissue. She focuses on clinically inspired questions and explores how chronic endurance of lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD, lead to airway wall inflammation and constriction, causing eventual collapse of the passageways. Mona’s research seeks to establish the governing physiology of diseased and remodeled airways, and use patient-specific computational models to predict and optimize modes of treatment. Her experimental work documents, for the first time, the viscoelastic parameters and the anisotropic constitutive material response in various regions of the airway tree.

Mona’s Ph.D. minor is in education. She was involved in engineering education through the educating young STEM thinkers course series, employing Stanford's Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (d.school) methods; and prominently through leading I-Cubed: Inspectors, Inquirers, Inventors, a non-profit startup established by her and her Stanford peers for underrepresented student groups to gain exposure to STEM. Mona was a Preparing Future Professors Fellow, a joint program between San Jose State University and Stanford. Additionally, she has assisted in teaching several courses in mechanical engineering while at Stanford, utilizing active learning techniques. In 2015, she received the Early Engineering Educator Award from the national American Society for Engineering Education for innovative teaching. 


PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition, University of New Mexico (expected 2017)

M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Literary Arts, University of Alaska Anchorage
B.A. in English, Florida State University

Brian Hendrickson is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition and the Writing GA for the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico (UNM). His research explores integrative, engaging, and inclusive approaches to teaching and assessing writing in composition, technical communication, and across and beyond the curriculum. Brian’s scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in Across the Disciplines, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Mosaic, and WAC Journal. His dissertation, Invention, Integration, and Engagement With/In an Engineering Student Organization, involves a three-year study of how students develop rhetorical theories and practices in their attempts to construct wells in an indigenous territory in Bolivia and integrate their literate lives in and beyond the curriculum. In his dissertation, Brian works with the students to reinterpret writing and learning obstacles as opportunities for approaching interdisciplinary partnership building and curriculum reform as rhetorical engagement.

Over the course of his doctoral study, Brian has led a student-driven movement for inclusive excellence in writing instruction across the curriculum, cofounded a student-led community writing center, and advocated for vulnerable graduate student populations on UNM’s graduate student council. As a teacher and graduate writing program administrator, Brian is committed to exploring inclusive approaches to assessment in the writing classroom, and to emphasizing the roles of community engagement and reflective practice in teaching and learning, as evidenced in his scholarship. Brian is particularly passionate about improving writing instruction across the curriculum, as evidenced by his four-year teaching partnership in UNM’s Freshman Learning Communities program, and in his three years of service as Writing GA in UNM’s Anderson School of Management. Whether working with faculty to improve writing instruction in their own courses or coordinating college-wide assessments of written communication, Brian attempts to promote more integrative, engaging, and equitable writing pedagogies that reflect the values and aims of a twenty-first century liberal education.

In pursuing his commitment to mentorship and curriculum reform, Brian has assumed graduate student leadership positions in a number of national organizations, including the Council of Writing Program Administrators, International Network of Writing Across Curriculum Programs, and International Society for the Advancement of Writing Research, where he has led efforts to expand funding, mentorship, networking, and professional development opportunities for graduate students in writing studies.


PhD candidate in the History of Art and Architecture, Brown University

B.A., Art History and Archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis

Alexandra Collins Mathwig is a doctoral candidate in the History of Art and Architecture at Brown University. She studies the history of photography with a focus on contemporary American subjects and photography’s treatment in museums of art. Her dissertation examines John Szarkowski’s tenure as Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1962 to 1991, paying particular attention to his unique definition of photographic modernism and the critical reception his approach elicited. This research also reflects Alexandra’s broader interest in understanding the agency of individuals within institutional frameworks.

In addition to her research, Alexandra is committed to both pursuing pedagogical training for herself and supporting such training for her peers. As Head Teaching Consultant for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, she is responsible for overseeing a cohort of over 40 graduate student teaching consultants as they learn best practices for conducting classroom observations and for providing written and oral feedback. She has also completed each of the year-long pedagogical and professional development certificates offered by the center, and has sought out opportunities to design, facilitate, and lead these certificate programs, as well as individual workshops and discussion groups. In Summer 2016, for example, she helped to redesign the center’s TA orientation workshop to include training in inclusive pedagogical strategies. Workshops she has lead include Teaching for the First Time, Grading Strategies, and Developing Your Research Elevator Pitch. She regularly contributes to the center’s outreach program, giving presentations about the resources and offerings available to the graduate community at various program orientations and activities fairs. As a member of the Sheridan Center’s Advisory board, she has also helped shape the center’s programming by offering insight into the needs of the graduate community as they make the transition from students to young academics. 

Alexandra’s commitment to the areas of teaching and learning has also been demonstrated through her work at Brown’s Writing Center. As a Writing Center Associate she assists undergraduate and graduate students in developing their writing skills through hour-long, one-on-one sessions. She has also taken advantage of the Writing Center’s professional development offerings, including a certificate in working with English language learners.

Alexandra is an active member of Brown’s graduate community and served as Vice President of Advocacy for Brown’s Graduate Student Council in 2015. This position, which familiarized her with the work of university administration, enlarged her definition of both the responsibilities and rewards of an academic career. In this role, Alexandra advocated to administrators across campus for graduate student interests, such as the creation of a graduate student center and the implementation of more inclusive policies for international students. She also helped to organize and raise funds for Brown’s second annual Graduate Career Options Conference, a professional development conference designed to introduce graduate students to alternative career paths beyond academia. Her interest in academic administration was solidified through her participation in the 2016 Brown Executive Scholars Training Program, designed to prepare graduate students for future leadership roles in higher education.


Keri_Rodgers.jpgKERI L. RODGERS
Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Studies—Curriculum, Ball State University

M.A. Curriculum and Educational Technology, Ball State University
M.A. Spanish, The City University of New York at Herbert H. Lehman College
B.A. Spanish, Cornell University

Keri L. Rodgers is a Ph.D. candidate in Educational Studies at Ball State University Teachers College, specializing in Curriculum with cognates in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies (CEPS) and Educational Technology in addition to a Certificate in Diversity Studies and a Certificate in Autism.

A native of Central Ohio, Keri began her career as a New York City Teaching Fellow, Spanish teacher, and founding faculty member of a small school in the South Bronx, eventually adding bilingual science courses in addition to college and career counseling to her repertoire. She quickly became a leader in innovative, experimental, and collaborative teaching practices, spearheading successful applications for over $500,000 in grant funding and the implementation of iLearn/iZone 360 blended and online learning programs at her school. Her interdisciplinary work combined with her successful integration of humanistic education practices and technology led to her selection for participation in nationally competitive teacher development programs including the Fulbright-affiliated Toyota International Teacher Program in Costa Rica, U.S. Department of State supported Teachers for Global Classrooms in Ghana, and National Science Foundation funded PolarTREC Teacher Researcher Program as an embedded teacher scientist with a research team from Grand Valley State University as part of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX).

Keri received a Doctoral Teaching Fellowship upon commencing her studies at Ball State University. She has been awarded the Ball State University Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award, Bernadette H. Perham Scholarship, and Merrell Thomas Marshall Memorial Scholarship for her innovation in teaching and diversity efforts in the courses she teaches in the Department of Educational Studies, which include Concepts of Secondary Education and Multicultural Education. She has worked with several grant projects at Ball State University in the areas of international educational policy and disability initiatives, fostering inclusion of students with non-apparent disabilities in the postsecondary classroom, designing programs to increase interest in prospective teaching majors, and enhancing science opportunities for middle school girls. As part of one grant initiative, Keri served as the co-coordinator of the academic program, logistics, and student recruitment for the Eurasia Foundation Diversity in Education Grant, which facilitated a faculty and student cultural exchange to foster international collaboration in working with students with disabilities, in conjunction with Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University in Velikiy Novgorod, Russia. Keri has also served as a faculty mentor for the Interactive Learning Space Initiative through the Office of Educational Excellence and received a Diversity Associates Award in partnership with the Office of Disability Services and the Office of Institutional Diversity.

Keri’s foray into research began with the New York University affiliated Teachers Network Leadership Institute (TNLI) as she engaged in action research within her own classroom.  She has long sought to use technology as a tool to personalize instruction, forge global partnerships, help “level the playing field” for disadvantaged students, and prepare students to become leaders in the 21st century. Keri’s research interests include the intersectionalities of curriculum theory and democratic education, disability studies and global education, educational equity and multicultural education, and humanistic uses of learning spaces and technology in teacher education. Her dissertation is a mixed methods project seeking to define and determine the role of the co-facilitation program model she has created for preservice teachers in her classes at both Ball State University and Ivy Tech Community College.


PhD candidate in English, CUNY Graduate Center (expected 2018)

M.A, English, CUNY Graduate Center
B.A., English, Rutgers University

Danica Savonick is a PhD candidate in English and a Futures Initiative Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she studies the relationships among pedagogy, aesthetics, and social justice. Specifically, she examines how aesthetics fundamentally shaped classroom practices in the late twentieth century and how teaching in CUNY's free and open classrooms inspired important feminist and antiracist authors to produce some of the most powerful literature of the 1960s and 1970s. Through archival research on syllabi, lesson plans, and assignments alongside analysis of published literary texts, Danica’s research shows how pedagogy, poetics, and politics intersect in the work of Audre Lorde, Toni Cade Bambara, June Jordan, and Adrienne Rich. Her scholarship on pedagogy, social justice, and literature has appeared in Callaloo, Modern Fiction Studies, and American Literature (forthcoming).

In fall 2017 Danica will become Interim Assistant Director of the Futures Initiative and HASTAC@CUNY. With these organizations, Danica works to advance equity and innovation in education and promote reinvestment in higher education as a public good through advanced graduate training in pedagogy, peer mentorship programs for undergraduates, and public programming like The University Worth Fighting For. As a HASTAC Scholar and FI Fellow, Danica organized many public events including “Teaching as Social Justice,” “Tools for Pedagogical, Institutional, and Social Change,” and a post-election teach-in, all of which convened educators, artists, activists, librarians, journalists, and administrators to crowdsource strategies for empowering undergraduates, especially from low-income and minority backgrounds.

Danica practices the pedagogical mission she writes about in the courses she teaches in the Queens College English department on global literature, narrative, and “The Purpose of Education.” Students in these introductory courses play an active role in shaping the content, methods, and means by which their learning is assessed. They conduct archival research on the role of Queens College students in the Civil Rights movement; translate their learning and experiences into poetry, visual art, and film, all of which are shared publicly online; and have even published their co-authored research in one of the nation’s leading scholarly, peer-reviewed journals dedicated to pedagogical innovation. Recently, she was awarded a Teaching and Learning Center grant for this publishing assignment.

Much of Danica’s work leverages the affordances of digital technologies to promote public knowledge production, democratize learning, and materialize social justice. In addition to regularly blogging and publishing on pedagogy, Danica is lead author on “Gender Bias in Academe,” an online annotated bibliography of recent studies documenting gender bias, republished by the London School of Economics Impact of Social Sciences blog. Educators and administrators nationwide, including college presidents and provosts, have used this bibliography to ensure less biased decisions in their appointment, promotion, and tenure processes. As an editor of the Journal of Interactive Technology and Pedagogy, Danica also mentors educators, guiding them towards successful publication of their research on empowering approaches to teaching.



PhD candidate in Communication, emphasis in Rhetoric and Media and Technology Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

M.A. in Communication, Baylor University
B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies, Kansas State University

Heather Suzanne Woods is a doctoral researcher and teaching fellow at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where she investigates the relationship between technology and embodiment from a critical feminist perspective. Heather’s research focuses on rhetorics surrounding objects with artificial intelligence, including personal assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. She also analyzes the ways in which representations of AI are gendered in contemporary films such as Ex Machina and Her. Against discourses both academic and popular that propose the ephemerality and bodilessness of the digital, her current book-length project demonstrates that the body remains a significant cultural agent. Ultimately, the research shows that gendered representations of objects with artificial intelligence betray a simultaneous hopefulness and anxiety about the future. Heather’s work is manifestly attentive to conditions of power, structural inequity, and opportunities for collective engagement.

Heather mobilizes her research expertise towards building community both inside and outside of the academy. A strong advocate for collaborative research and teaching, Heather has collaboratively published both research and teaching materials in peer-reviewed outlets such as Feminist Media Studies, Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society, and Teaching Media Quarterly. Heather also serves as the Outreach and Assessment Coordinator for Project Vox, an online, open access digital humanities project which seeks to amplify the voices of female early modern philosophers who are excluded from the philosophy canon. This work is supported by a Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative Fellowship, underwritten by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Heather’s commitment to collaborative work compelled her to co-organize the NOW Retreat, an online, asynchronous writing workshop for junior scholars. The Retreat was funded by the National Communication Association’s Advancing the Discipline Grant and featured participants from around the globe. In addition, Heather was recently awarded the UNC Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) Graduate Student Fellowship, which provides funding and professional development training in collaboration, teaching and learning, research, and leadership.

In the classroom, Heather invites students to be active members of their communities and to leverage their educational capacities toward justice. A proponent of engaged, experiential learning, she fashions both instruction and assignments to include civic, community-minded work that connects students’ lived experiences inside and outside of the classroom. In the classroom, her focus on organic assessment merges with an emphasis on new and innovative teaching technologies. Heather also approaches teaching and learning collaboratively, sharing her experiences and teaching resources with graduate students informally in her home department and more formally as a co-facilitator of the UNC CFE Humanities Graduate Student Learning Community.

Ultimately, Heather’s commitment to civic engagement structures her orientation to the academy, which she understands to be a space of radical possibility for challenging inequality. Heather organizes her teaching, service, and research around community, collaboration, and connectivity as preconditions for making significant political change.