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About the Researchers

Kennedy Institute

About the Researchers

Douglas H. Clements, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning

Doug ClementsDouglas H. Clements is a Kennedy Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Learning; Executive Director, Marsico Institute for Early Learning and Literacy; and Professor at the Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver. He was previously a SUNY Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Buffalo, SUNY. Previously a preschool and kindergarten teacher, his present research interests are in the areas of the learning and teaching of early mathematics and computer applications. He has published over 100 research studies, 8 books, 50 chapters, and 250 additional publications. His latest books detail research-based learning trajectories in early mathematics education: Early childhood mathematics education research: Learning trajectories for young children and a companion book, Learning and teaching early math: The learning trajectories approach (Routledge). Dr. Clements has directed 20 projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Dept. of Educations, Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Currently, Dr. Clements is Principal Investigator on two large-scale randomized cluster trial projects (IES). He is also working with colleagues to study and refine learning trajectories in measurement (NSF). Dr. Clements was a member of President Bush's National Math Advisory Panel, convened to advise the administration on the best use of scientifically based research to advance the teaching and learning of mathematics and coauthor of the panel's report. He was also a member of the National Research Council's Committee on Early Mathematics and co-author of their report. He is one of the authors of NCTM's Principles and Standards in School Mathematics and Curriculum Focal Points. Dr. Clements teaches courses on early childhood mathematics, early childhood educational technology, and the cognitive foundations of early childhood education. In addition, he works with over 350 teachers in three current projects that include professional development and collaborative research.




Julie Sarama, Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Technology

sarama and clements Julie Sarama is the Kennedy Endowed Chair in Innovative Technology and Professor at the University of Denver. She was previously a Professor of Mathematics Education at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). She conducts research on young children's development of mathematical concepts and competencies, implementation and scale-up of educational reform, professional development models and their influence on student learning, and implementation and effects of her own software environments in mathematics classrooms, published in more than 50 refereed articles, 4 books, 30 chapters, and 60 additional publications. She has been Principal or Co-Principal Investigator on five projects funded by the National Science Foundation, including Building Blocks—Foundations for Mathematical Thinking, Pre-kindergarten to Grade 2: Research-based Materials Development and Planning for Professional Development in Pre-School Mathematics: Meeting the Challenge of Standards 2000. She is co-directing two large-scale studies funded by the U.S. Education Department's Institute of Educational Studies (IES). The first is a Phase II project, Scaling Up TRIAD: Teaching Early Mathematics for Understanding with Trajectories and Technologies was just awarded by the IES. The second is Increasing the Efficacy of an Early Mathematics Curriculum with Scaffolding Designed to Promote Self-Regulation. Sarama was previously the lead co-PI at the Buffalo site on another IES-funded project, A Longitudinal study of the Effects of a Pre-Kindergarten Mathematics Curriculum on Low-Income Children's Mathematical Knowledge (IES). This is one of seven national projects conducted simultaneously at the local and national levels (combined data) as part of the IES's Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research project. Dr. Sarama has taught secondary mathematics and computer science, gifted math at the middle school level, preschool and kindergarten mathematics enrichment classes, and mathematics methods and content courses for elementary to secondary teachers. She designed and programmed over 50 published computer programs, including her version of Logo and Logo-based software activities (Turtle Math, which was awarded Technology & Learning Software of the Year award, 1995, in the category "Math").



Graduate Research Assistants

danica balslev

Danica Balslev

Danica is currently a fourth-year student at the University of Denver where she is studying Psychology and Sociology. She is passionate about learning about people and applying her knowledge to improve life situations for everyone. She has been doing her work study at the Marsico Institute for the past 3 years where she has been working as a Junior Operations Assistant. She is Danish-American and lived in Denmark for 8 years. She is lucky to say she has been able to travel to over 10 countries. Because of that, she has fallen in love with traveling and experiencing different cultures, art, foods, and the experience as a whole. As she moves forward, she hopes to find a place within management and human resources where she can apply her skills that she has developed at Marsico and from her studies and experiences at the University of Denver.

Victor Carrasco

Victor CarrascoVictor Carrasco is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program and a graduate of New Mexico State University's master's program. Victor has worked in outpatient and inpatient mental health services. His past research has focused on social determinants of health, Latina/o populations, masculinity, integrated behavioral health, and burnout in the medical field. Victor has worked in the k-12 school system as a counselor. At New Mexico State University, Victor taught undergraduate classes in multiculturalism, introductory counseling, and freshman seminars. At the Marsico Institute, Victor is currently a research team member of the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories [LT]2 project.

Becky chance

Becky Chance

Becky Chance is a second-year doctoral candidate in the Educational Curriculum and Instruction Program (Ed.D) with a concentration in ELLs and Special Education.  She holds a BS in Applied Learning and Development (UT Austin) and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction (TX State University).  Becky has held a successful career in EC-5 Title 1 public schools (TX) as an ESL classroom teacher, special education teacher, reading specialist, and special education instructional coach.  Her research interests involve working with ECE- 8th second language learners, students with learning and behavior/emotional disabilities, and underprivileged populations.  Becky is currently working on the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network grant. 

Menglong cong

Menglong CongMenglong (Jason) Cong is a second-year doctoral student in the Research Method and Statistics at the University of Denver and is currently a member of the team working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. Menglong holds a B.S. degree in Applied Psychology and a M.A. degree in Educational Psychology. During his educational psychology graduate program, Menglong worked for two years as an Evaluation and Research Assistant at a program evaluation center at California State University, Long Beach. Additionally, he has served as a clinical psychological counselor and special educator in China. His research interest includes student achievement in higher education, international students' acculturation, and program evaluation in higher education.

mary ann davis

Mary Ann DavisMary Ann Davis has a B.A. in American Studies from Brown University and a M.Ed. from Regis University, where her thesis focused on the role of family engagement in elementary mathematics learning. She has taught Kindergarten, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. As a former Title I mathematics teacher and interventionist in grades K through 6, she is passionate about teaching children with disabilities, gifted children, and emergent bilingual children in inclusive, diverse classrooms. Mary Ann's interests include professional development based on learning progressions, pedagogy that prioritizes equity and social justice, and the design of multi-sensory math interventions for children who struggle with mathematics, especially those with dyscalculia and dyslexia. At the Marsico Institute, Mary Ann is currently working on the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project.

Yixiao dong

Yixiao DongYixiao Dong is a third-year doctoral student in the Research Methods and Statistics program at the University of Denver. He holds a B.S. in Applied Psychology and an M.A. in Educational Psychology. Yixiao's research interests include cultural and linguistic issues in assessment as well as other studies regarding measurement validity. Before Yixiao came to DU, he worked at a charter school with a full-inclusive program at Denver Public School district. He is currently working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project and DREME.


Danica Drapela

 Danica DrapelaDanica Drapela is a first year Ed.S. student in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program and is the Operations Assistant at the Mariso Institute. Danica received her B.S. in Psychology at Western Oregon University. In her time at Western she was a research assistant studying current and past students' career expectations and paths. Before moving to Denver, Danica was a youth rowing coach for two years and loved being able to work outdoors and with youth. Danica is passionate about making a positive impact in students' academic journeys and is ecstatic to become a School Psychologist.


lee-andre garvin

Lee-Andre GarvinLee-Andre Garvin is a first year M.A. in the counseling psychology program. Born and raised in Savannah Georgia, he graduated from the University of Georgia where he double majored in Psychology and Communications Studies. In his free time Lee-Andre enjoys art, playing music, doing stand up comedy, reading, and playing video games. At the Marsico Institute Lee-Andre works on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project which focuses on learning trajectories in mathematics for young children.


Emily Hanrehan

Emily Hanrehan

Emily is a second year undergraduate student at The University of Denver. She will be assisting Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project and the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories [LT]2 project as a work-study student, while working towards her TEP Dual degree in the Morgridge College of Education. She is interested in learning about the research that contributes to curriculum creation rather than just the teaching component. In her senior year of high school Emily student taught in a second grade classroom through the Quest K-8 School in Aurora, Colorado. 


Aaron Hudyma

Aaron Hudyma

Aaron Hudyma is a Ph.D. student in the Counseling Psychology program. He received an M.S. in Counseling from South Dakota State University and a B.A. in Psychology from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Prior to attending DU he worked in web development, digital marketing, and college counseling. His clinical experience includes college counseling centers, private practice, forensic settings, and neuropsychological assessment. His main areas of scholarship are college student mental health and well-being, career decision making, and anxiety disorders. Aaron is currently supporting technology and application development across a range of our projects. He has previously worked on the CREMAT Project and the Children's Measurement Project.  

Ellen Joseph

Ellen Shupe

Ellen Joseph is a second-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. She is interested in pursuing a career in integrated care, where she can support clients with the intersectionality between physical and mental health. Her research interests include the impact of positive psychology interventions on women's health issues and the career development process for cancer survivors. Ellen has clinical experience working in community mental health, university counseling centers, and integrated health settings with adolescent and adult clients with a wide range of presenting concerns. Prior to pursuing her doctoral degree, Ellen worked for four years at an elementary charter school in Washington, D.C. as a special education teacher and special education coordinator. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently a member of the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project, where she is involved in evaluating the effectiveness of learning trajectories on early childhood mathematics instruction.

Becky kelleman

Kayanne Klipka

 Becky Kelleman is a first-year doctoral student in the Research Methods and Statistics program. Becky has earned a Master's of Public Policy from Rutgers University and a Bachelor's of Arts in International Studies from The College of New Jersey. Becky is interested in supporting nonprofit organizations in building data literacy, evaluating social programs, and providing recommendations for improving implementation. Becky has most recently worked with the Marsico Institute on the evaluation of the JeffCo Prosperity Project and Lyrics 2 Learn. This upcoming Fall, Becky will be continuing with the DREME project as a support for its data coding and analysis needs.


Sarah o'neil

Sarah O'Neil

Sarah O'Neil is a second-year Master's student in the Research Methods and Statistics program. She is currently working on the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. Sarah moved to Denver after spending three years on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota working for Saint Francis Indian School and the Boys and Girls Club of Rosebud. She is interested in program evaluation and data driven education.




Aleis Pugia

Aleis Pugia

Aleis Pugia is a second year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program. She is interested in working with underserved clients and providing greater access to multicultural therapy for diverse, low income families. Aleis worked in education for five years prior to coming to DU, teaching middle school and coaching first and second year teachers. She also has her M.Ed. in Secondary Education and her MA in Counseling Psychology. At the Marsico Institute, she is currently working on the Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories (LT2) project to create an interactive website for teachers, parents, and children. The website focuses on providing a research-based teacher preparation and professional development tool for educators who teach mathematics to young children.

Julia ratchford

Julia Ratchford

 Julia Ratchford is a first-year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program and a graduate of DU's Counseling Psychology Master's program. After completing her MA, Julia worked as an outpatient therapist with severe and persistent mental health populations in a community mental health setting. Broadly, her research focuses on the intersection of health psychology and social justice, with a primary interest in cultural responsiveness among providers in integrated health care settings. Prior to her graduate education, Julia obtained her undergraduate degree in Educational Studies from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, where she interned as a teaching assistant in a third grade classroom. Additionally, Julia has worked with early childhood learners and toddlers in other professional capacities throughout her educational experiences. At the Marsico Institute, Julia is currently a research team member of the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. In her free time, she enjoys live music, cooking and baking, all things outdoors, college and NFL football (Go Panthers!) and riding dirt bikes with her partner. 

Taryn Robertson

Taryn RobertsonTaryn Robertson is a third-year doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction program, focusing on English Language Learners. She holds a B.A. in Secondary English Education from Southwestern University, and a M.Ed. in Advanced Literacy and Reading Comprehension from Concordia University. As a graduate research assistant in the Marsico Institute, Taryn is a member of the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project. Taryn taught 11th and 12th grade English, and secondary ESL exclusively in Title 1 schools in Fort Worth and Midland, Texas before moving to Colorado to pursue her doctorate. Taryn's research interests revolve around how culturally responsive pedagogy can impact second language acquisition for secondary English Language Learners. Upon completion of her doctoral program, Taryn hopes to pursue an academic career working in teacher education. In her free time, Taryn enjoys hiking, being with her dog Harrison, running, riding bikes, reading, traveling, and attempting to re-create Tex-Mex!

Yvonne sell

Yvonne Sell

Yvonne Sell is in her final semester for the Law School and the MS for Legal Administration here at DU. She has a BA in Political Science from the University of Saint Mary, Leavenworth, KS and my AA from Morgan Community College, Fort Morgan, CO. Yvonne has worked as an intern for a solo practitioner in education law with a focus on children with disabilities, and a solo practitioner in family law, who is a Respondent Parent's Counsel in Dependency and Neglect cases, as a law student. After she graduates, she hopes to open her own law firm with an intellectual property, or real property, focus. At the Marsico Institute, Yvonne supports the process and logistics of the Marsico Institute as the Operations Assistant. 

Jackie Shi

Jackie ShiJackie Shi is a doctoral student in Research Methods and Statistics program at Morgridge College of Education. Prior to her Ph.D. study Jackie has been an IT consultant and Data Analyst for a number of non-profit organizations in the Washington, DC area. She's got her master's degree in Communications & Technology from Georgetown University. Jackie is assisting Learning and Teaching with Learning Trajectories [LT]2, CREMAT and REMA with IT coordination. She's driven by technology and numbers with a cause. Her current research interests include mix methods research on public opinion, new media and entrepreneurship. She enjoys arts, culture and spending time with her family and two beautiful dogs.

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni

Marisa Simoni is a doctoral student in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program with a concentration in Early Childhood. Marisa has previously attended Grand Valley State University and received a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology. During her time in Michigan and during her first two years in Colorado, Marisa worked with school psychologists in Grand Rapids and Denver school districts where her work in assessment and data analysis focused on early childhood and middle school students. Marisa is currently working for the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) with high needs populations that include social/emotional needs along with learning and developmental disabilities doing brief therapy, curbside consults, and assessment. Her interests involve working with youth who have developmental disabilities and youth from underprivileged populations, specifically in early education. Marisa is currently working on the Development and Research in Early Mathematics and Education (DREME) Network grant. She works on the mathematics and executive function project, paying critical attention to the role of executive function in mathematics and how executive function and math are linked to a wide range of important, long-term academic outcomes. 

Ariel stenger

Ariel StengerAriel Stenger is a second year M.A. student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies focusing on International Security and Water Management. After teaching in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, Ariel became passionate about rural education and the necessity for sustainable resource management. Then through a Fulbright grant to Thailand, Ariel worked with a variety of students from regional Hill Tribes (Hmong, Lisu, Karen) and with Burmese refugees. Combining these experiences with her current studies in the International school at the University of Denver, she will be working with the Evaluating the Efficacy of Learning Trajectories in Early Mathematics project at Marsico and is excited to support innovative math instruction. After graduation next year, Ariel hopes to join the U.S. Foreign Service as a Cultural Affairs Officer for the Department of State working to support educational and resource management initiatives globally.

cesar villalobos

Cesar VillalobosCesar is pursuing the Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) degree in the Child, Family, and School Psychology program at DU. He received his Bachelor from North Central College in Illinois, with a major in Psychology and a minor in Wellness. In undergrad, Cesar was involved in research, mentoring, and community partnerships. Before pursuing his graduate degree, Cesar worked as a Team Leader in Illinois where he served adults with developmental disabilities. He helped the clients integrate into the community and live as independently as possible. Ultimately, Cesar wishes to obtain his Ph.D. and become a faculty member at a School Psychology program, helping future school psychology practitioners become well-rounded and culturally-responsive professionals--promoting a deeper understanding between a student's situational factors and academic success. Cesar feels this is very important to avoid giving future students improper labels that may affect their personal and academic trajectories. At Marsico, Cesar will be involved in many projects including DREME, REMA, and CREMAT. His hobbies include having deep conversations, mentoring others, learning about different cultures, playing soccer, exploring nature, and traveling to new places.