We are pleased to welcome seven new faculty members to the GSE academic community. From learning sciences, school psychology, higher education, educational leadership and educational equity, our new faculty members bring an impressive range of specialties and experience to our school.
Blythe Anderson, an assistant professor, comes to the Department of Learning and Instruction after earning her PhD this spring in curriculum, instruction, and teacher education from Michigan State University. She specializes in language and literacy education. A former first-grade teacher and district literacy coordinator, her research focuses on instructional practices, professional development and curriculum to promote spoken language and vocabulary development. She’s interested in approaches that promote independent learning and curiosity about words. She’s looking forward to the year ahead at UB for herself and her 3-year-old daughter, Myra, who is newly enrolled in the Early Childhood Research Center’s preschool.
Gwendolyn Baxley, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, comes from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she graduated with a PhD in educational leadership in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in 2019. She chose UB because of GSE’s increasing focus on justice and community engagement. Her research interests include educational leadership, community-schoolfamily partnerships, Black youth and families, multi-method research, and race and anti- Blackness. Baxley also is a poet. Last spring/summer, she created and hosted a free online poetry series for students, educators, researchers and other poetry fanatics to share their poetry in a virtual place with a focus on expression, healing, consciousness-raising and freedom dreaming amid COVID, anti-Blackness and police brutality. Baxley’s “Get Free: Poetry For the People, By the People” was done in partnership with the Jersey City Public Library.
Virginia J. Flood, an assistant professor, comes to the Department of Learning and Instruction after earning her PhD in learning sciences at the University of California, Berkeley, this spring. In her research, Flood investigates multimodal communication, like hand gestures, and the role the body plays in teaching and learning mathematics and other STEM disciplines. She is especially interested in peer and student-teacher interactions with new educational technologies. Originally from Acton, Maine, Flood worked as a farmer before graduate school, and attended both the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine. She chose GSE because of its strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, its growing learning sciences program and its strong ties to the community. She is also thrilled to be back in the Northeast!
Ashley Grant comes to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy from Johns Hopkins University, where she earned her PhD in education in 2020. She is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Research Center on the First Generation College Student Experience and was drawn to UB to work on advancing equity in education through research, programs and practices. She will examine interventions designed to help first-generation college students succeed in postsecondary education. Her prior research focuses on restorative practices—community-building approaches to school discipline and culture—and how it can reduce teacher turnover in hard-to-staff schools. A first-gen student herself, she was also a teacher for three years in Philadelphia and is a devotee of yoga, painting and Maggie, her Russian Blue cat. She also is a #coronabride—i.e., she got married this fall.
Kamontá Heidelburg is an assistant professor in the Department of Counseling, School and Educational Psychology. He is a three-time graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where he earned his BA in psychology, MEd in applied behavior analysis, and, most recently, a PhD in school psychology this spring. His research examines interventions that support the positive behavioral and academic development of African American students, particularly African American males. He chose GSE because he wanted to contribute to a researchintensive public institution committed to equity, diversity and inclusion. One day he would like his work to inform state and national educational policies. Fun fact: Heidelburg has recently become a “dog dad” and has a new puppy, a terrier mix named Jelani.
Chris Proctor, an assistant professor in the Department of Learning and Instruction, earned his PhD in learning sciences this spring from Stanford University, where he also finished an MS in computer science with a concentration in artificial intelligence and humancomputer interaction. Proctor’s research explores identity in digital worlds and the ways young people can use computer science to understand and respond to oppression. Proctor is the lead developer and researcher of Unfold Studio, a web application for interactive storytelling. He is proud to join GSE and have the opportunity to work at a public university that is a national leader in research and student social mobility outcomes. A former English and computer science teacher, he is helping design UB’s new computer science teacher preparation program. He is a former whitewater rafting guide who has led trips down the Grand Canyon and through Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.
Stephen Santa-Ramirez, an assistant professor of higher education, comes to the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy after working as a research and teaching associate and earning his PhD in educational policy and evaluation from Arizona State University in 2020. His research and scholarship interests include race and racism on college campuses, first-generation students’ sense of belonging, and the various ways race, ethnicity, and im/migration inform the educational experiences of Latinx undocu/DACAmented students. Santa-Ramirez chose GSE because of its focus on social and racial justice. He has lived in six states in the past 10 years and enjoys salsa dancing in his spare time.
Leisha Gordon, the assistant to the LAI chair, comes to GSE after a banking career, working as a First Niagara Bank vice president and a director at TIAA-CREF Trust in St. Louis. A College of New Rochelle alumna, she came home to Buffalo to be close to family, including her eldest son, a graduate of Buffalo State College’s students with disabilities program. Her youngest son, a lawyer in Omaha, Neb., once lived in Panama and Argentina, igniting his mother’s interest in world travel.
Michelle Kearns, senior editor, earned a journalism master’s from Boston University and joined the communications and marketing team after a career as an award-winning journalist and editor at Maine newspapers, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe and The Buffalo News. She recently taught storytelling and led Villa Maria College’s new bachelor’s degree digital media and communication program that she designed. As the daughter of UB retired philosophy chair John Kearns, she says it has been rewarding to write about GSE’s people and the UB community that shaped her family’s life.