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Ph.D. Learning Sciences

The Doctor of Philosophy in learning sciences is a research degree intended to advance the understanding of how people learn by examining the context, approaches, and attributes of learners in a variety of learning environments. This program is designed for individuals who seek practical and theoretical training as tenure-track faculty, research scientists, developers, instructional designers and practitioners in professional, non-profit and academic settings. Our world-class faculty have expertise in a broad range of topics related to learning technologies, educational psychology, and advanced research methodologies. 

Program Overview

  • Overview

    Students within the learning sciences program may seek answers to questions regarding best strategies for ensuring that students excel across a variety of subject domains. They may explore the underlying processes that support learning, the multiple contextual and social influences on learners, the use of digital media to accomplish cognitive tasks or create innovative environments for learning, and the diversity of methods for systematically studying complex learning in a variety of settings. Graduates may pursue employment in higher education, Fortune 500 companies, school settings, the military or a host of other industries, working in research and development, school administration, curriculum design, program evaluation, assessment design, or digital media and game development.

    The interdisciplinary nature of the learning sciences Ph.D. program offers students flexibility to customize a program of study tailored to meet their learning or career goals. Our graduate program builds on the rich experiences and expertise of faculty and students to provide an educational environment in which both groups share in research, exploration and inquiry. The result of this synergy is impact — on our community and beyond.

  • Program Goals

    Students in the Doctor of Philosophy program in learning sciences will:

    • develop, deliver, revise and evaluate effective learning experiences;
    • gain scholarly expertise through rigorous training in quantitative, qualitative and mixed method research;
    • design and implement rigorous research studies in areas related to the learning sciences;
    • analyze existing research and participate in scholarly discourse in the field; and
    • apply leadership skills in areas such as academia, business, government or health care.
  • Admission Requirements

    Admission to the Program
    The Learning Sciences doctoral program admits students for a fall entrance term. Only complete applications are considered for admission. To ensure consideration for an assistantship or University Fellowship, applicants are encouraged to apply by the priority deadline.

    Application Deadlines
    All application materials must be submitted by the following deadlines:

    • January 15, priority deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed and considered for assistantships
    • April 1, traditional deadline
      • Applications will be reviewed, but assistantships may or may not be available

    Application Requirements
    To be considered for the program, applicants must:

    • Have completed a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or a recognized international university with a baccalaureate degree equivalent to a US bachelors.
      • A master's degree is preferred, but not required. Master's applicants with a GPA of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale;
      • GPA exceptions are considered for applicants with extremely rigorous academic programs.
    • Submit a Graduate School application which requires:
      • Unofficial transcripts (Official transcripts will be required if you are accepted into the program.)
      • Competitive GRE or GMAT scores
      • A current resume
      • Two letters of recommendation
      • Letter of intent – Writing sample that communicates the applicant's professional philosophy and goals, research interests and purpose for seeking the doctorate. The letter should be two to three pages in length.
      • Official TOEFL/IELTS scores for international students
    • Participate in an on-campus or Skype interview (meritorious applications only)

    Additional information concerning supporting materials can be found at:

  • Program Requirements

    For more detailed program information, please refer to the program handbook.

    Learning Sciences Ph.D. (60 credit hours minimum):

    Core Courses (12 credit hours): 

    Two doctoral seminars: 

    EDF 9010 Seminar in the Learning Sciences I – fall, 3 credits 
    EDF 9020 Seminar in the Learning Sciences II – spring, 3 credits 

    Two doctoral-level Learning Theory Courses – approved by committee 

    EDLT 9000 Sociocultural Theories of Learning 
    EDF 9300 Bioecological Perspectives on Development and Learning 
    EDF 9550 Theoretical Bases of Instruction

    Cognate Courses (minimum 18 credit hours): 

    Cognate courses will be selected from the following programs: Architecture; Communication Studies; Computer Science; Digital Production Arts; Education; Early Childhood Education; Elementary Education; Educational Foundations; Educational Leadership; Literacy; Middle Level Education; Secondary Education; Special Education; Family and Community Studies; Graphic Communications; Health, Education, and Human Development; Human-Centered Computing; Psychology; Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design; and Sociology.

    Research Courses (minimum 12 credit hours): 

    EDF 9270 Quantitative Research Designs and Statistics for Educational Contexts 
    EDF 9770 Multiple Regression/General Linear Model in Educational Research 
    EDF 9790 Qualitative Research in Education 

    One advanced research methods course – approved by committee

    Dissertation course (minimum 18 credit hours)

    EDF 9910 Doctoral Dissertation Research

  • Financial

    Tuition and Fees

    Explore information on tuition and fees using the Student Financial Services’ tuition and fee calculator. ( Be sure to choose the ‘graduate’ tab at the top of the page.)

    Financial Aid

    For information regarding Financial Aid, please contact the office of Student Financial Aid.


    A limited number of graduate assistantships are available each year through the department, and they tend to be competitive. Assistantships are available to full-time students (enrolled in at least nine credit hours per semester) and typically require a 20-hour per week work commitment. To be considered for an assistantship, we encourage applicants to submit their applications by the priority deadline.

  • Find Out More

    For more information regarding the program please contact Dr. Faiza Jamil at For questions associated with applying to this program, please contact Julie Jones at or 864-656-5096.


  • Faculty

    Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens 

    Arastoopour Irgens (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin) is an assistant professor of learning sciences at Clemson University. She is a former middle school computer science and high school mathematics teacher. Her research focuses on (1) designing immersive, inclusive digital learning environments with a focus on engineering and computer science and (2) using learning analytics to investigate how learners make cognitive and socio-emotional connections. In her design-based research, she engages in participatory methods that actively involve teachers, students, and community partners working together to co-design digital learning environments that serve their communities. In her learning analytics work, she uses quantitative ethnography, computational linguistics, and discourse networks to make sense of how learners engage with digital technologies. Golnaz’s work has been published in several journals including the Journal of Women and Minorities in Education, the International Journal of Engineering Education, and the Journal of Science Education and Technology. She also serves as a consulting editor for the Journal of Experimental Education and is a member of the Society of Learning Analytics Research (SoLAR) Inclusion Committee.


    Heather R. Brooker Heather R. Brooker

    Heather R. Brooker (Ph.D., Clemson University) is a lecturer of educational psychology and assessment at Clemson University. Heather teaches educational psychology, classroom assessment, learning and motivation in context, and contemporary issues in assessment. Dr. Brooker’s research and service interests are in the relationship between assessment and student engagement and reflection within a backward design approach to instructional planning. In particular, how these relationships can guide and promote the use of Universal Design principles and differentiated instructional practices in the classroom.


    Christy Brown Christy Brown

    Christy Brown (Ph.D., University of Georgia) is a clinical assistant professor of quantitative methodology at Clemson University. She joined the Learning Sciences faculty in 2019 and will teach courses in statistics for educational contexts and provide statistical support to educational researchers. Prior appointments include teaching AP Statistics to high school students (2004-2008) and coordinating the Statistical Methods course in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson University (2013-2019), where she received the 2018 College of Science Excellence in Teaching award. Her research interests are in applying psychometric models in educational contexts and in mathematics and statistics education. She is a member of the College Board's AP Statistics Instructional Design Team, where she contributed to the updated course and exam description released in 2019 and created teacher resources for AP Statistics Institutes.


    Eliza Gallagher, Ph.D., Clemson University Eliza Gallagher

    Eliza Gallagher (Ph.D., Clemson University) is an assistant professor of engineering and science education, education and human development, and mathematical sciences at Clemson University. Eliza teaches graduate research methods courses in two departments, and math courses for preservice elementary and secondary teachers in the third department. Her research includes undergraduate mathematical cognition, instructional practice to support retention of STEM-intending students, and the development of teacher identity among STEM graduate teaching assistants. She has two current NSF-funded projects related to mathematical preparation for success in STEM degrees. Since 2013, she has been a Digital Faculty Consultant and Subject Matter Expert for McGraw-Hill Higher Education, serving as a resource for mathematics department around the nation as they implement blended and hybrid instructional models for introductory collegiate mathematics courses.


    Danielle Herro Danielle Herro

    Danielle Herro (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison) is an Associate Professor of Digital Media and Learning in the Department of Education and Human Development. Dani teaches Learning Sciences Seminar courses, as well as courses on social media, games and emerging technologies. At Clemson, she co-designed and opened the Digital Media and Learning and Gaming Labs in the College of Education. Her current research interests involve exploring the efficacy of teacher professional development towards integrating digital media, ways to foster computational thinking practices in adolescents, game-based learning, and STEAM instruction and learning in schools. She has more than 30 published articles in journals such as Journal of Research on Technology in Education, the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education (JDLTE) , Theory into Practice, TechTrends, Professional Development in Education, School Science and Mathematics, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, and the Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching – and she recently co-authored a book on STEAM Education. She serves on the editorial review board for the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education and JDLTE, and is the lead editor for a book series on digital media and learning.


    Faiza Jamil Faiza Jamil

    Faiza M. Jamil (Ph.D., University of Virginia) is an associate professor of child development at Clemson University and the founder of the  Child Learning and Development Lab. Her research follows two complementary strands: 1) understanding the underlying psychological processes – cognitive, social, and emotional – that influence teachers’ classroom behaviors and career decisions, and 2) understanding the ways in which teacher-child interactions influence children’s learning and development. More specifically, Dr. Jamil conducts research that leverages her expertise in measurement, assessment, and professional development to better understand and improve the educational experiences of teachers and students within these two broad strands, with a focus on issues of educational equity. Dr. Jamil teaches courses related to human development in Clemson’s Learning Sciences Doctoral Program and Undergraduate Teacher Education Program, to which she brings her own experiences as a K-12 teacher in three countries. During her time at Clemson, she has published in journals such as Elementary School Journal, Child Development, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, and Teaching and Teacher Education. She also serves on the editorial review panel of The Education Forum. 


    Matthew J. Madison Matthew J. Madison

    Matthew J. Madison (Ph.D., University of Georgia) is an assistant professor of quantitative methodology at Clemson University. He joined Clemson University in 2018 and teaches courses in statistics and research methodology. Dr. Madison’s research focuses on the development and application of psychometric models in educational contexts, with a particular focus on diagnostic measurement models. He has substantive interests in mathematics and science education. His recent research has focused on longitudinal psychometrics methods for assessing growth and evaluating instructional intervention effects. Dr. Madison has published in journals such as Journal of Educational Measurement, Psychometrika, and Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice


    Meihua Qian Meihua Qian

    Meihua Qian is an assistant professor of educational psychology at Clemson University. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology and inquiry methodology (dual majors) from Indiana University at Bloomington. She joined Clemson University in 2013, and teaches courses on educational psychology, assessment and statistics. Her current research focuses on creativity assessment, gifted education, technology, descriptive and explanatory multi-level item response theory models, and multiple level modeling. She has published her research in several highly ranked journals, including Creativity Research Journal, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts (PACA), Journal of Creative Behavior, Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment and Psychology and Marketing. With her expertise in creativity and statistics, she has been serving as a reviewer for PACA since 2011. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including several research fellowships from Indiana University and Travel Award from the American Psychological Association. In 2013, she received the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Outstanding Doctoral Student Award. This highly competitive award recognizes recent graduates of programs in gifted education, who have demonstrated exemplary work in research, publications and educational service, and have outstanding potential for future scholarship.


    Luke Rappa Luke Rapa

    Luke J. Rapa (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is an assistant professor of adolescent development at Clemson University. Rapa's research rests at the intersection of developmental and educational psychologies. Broadly, Rapa studies how contextual, sociocultural, and sociopolitical factors—including socioeconomic disadvantage, structural constraints, and societal inequality—shape key developmental and psychological processes and promote or constrain adolescents’ development and academic success. More specifically, Rapa's program of research examines (1) how adolescents critically analyze societal inequities and develop the motivation and agency to redress such inequities, or develop “critical consciousness”; (2) how youth navigate structural constraints or marginalizing systems (e.g., institutional racism, discrimination, stereotypes in school) to achieve academic success and well-being; and (3) how social identity threats shape development and how and social-psychological interventions can bolster academic performance and promote well-being. Rapa’s recent research has been published in journals such as Child Development, Child Development Perspectives, and Developmental Psychology, among others. Rapa is also co-PI of the College of Education’s recently-established Center for the Recruitment and Retention of Diverse Educators.


    Debi SwitzerDebi Switzer

    Debi Switzer is a professor of education at Clemson University. She teaches educational psychology courses, including learning and motivation theory, and tests and measurements. She spent the first nine years of her career as a secondary mathematics and computer science teacher. She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology (quantitative and evaluative research methodology) from the University of Illinois Urbana. She has been at Clemson University since 1990. In 2000 she was named a Distinguished Professor by the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and in 2003 she received the Prince Award for Innovation in Teaching presented by the Clemson University student government. She served as a consulting editor for the Journal of Educational Research for two terms. In research projects she has collaborated with faculty in engineering, psychology, education, recreation, counseling, public health and business, supplying expertise in assessment and experimental design. In 2000, she received the Harold E. Mitzel Award for Meritorious Contribution to Educational Practice Through Research. Her interests in motivation, assessment and research design include the instructional benefits of virtual worlds and other technologies.


    Ryan Visser Ryan Visser

    Ryan Visser is a faculty member of Digital Media and Learning (DML) within the College of Education at Clemson University. Ryan serves as Director of the SC Center of DML and teaches DML and 21st Century literacies. Ryan's research interests include examining the relationship between technology and cognition, social media and its impact on education, the technology competencies of teacher educators, and how artificial intelligence can be used in qualitative research. Since 2007, Adobe has selected Ryan to be a member of their Adobe Educational Leader team, which is comprised of educators who are uniquely using technology in education.


Affiliated Faculty

  • Affiliated Faculty


    Nicole BannisterNicole Bannister

    Nicole Bannister (Ph.D., University of Washington) is an assistant professor of mathematics education jointly appointed in the Colleges of Education and Science at Clemson University. Nicole teaches content and education courses for pre-service mathematics teachers and doctoral seminar courses in learning sciences and mathematics education. Nicole’s research addresses how mathematics teachers develop an asset-orientation to the profession, specifically focusing on communities of practice as robust settings for learning strengths-based practices. Her research demonstrates that teacher learning is better understood from sociocultural perspectives and thus interpreted as a process of becoming a member of a community that involves transformation of both of person and social world. Nicole’s research has been published in venues such as Journal of the Learning Sciences (JLS), International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (ijCSCL), Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE), Journal for Research in Mathematics Education (JRME), Cultural Studies in Science Education (CSSE), among others. Nicole received special recognition in 2014 as an AMTEService, Teaching, and Research (STaR)Fellow, was the 2012-2013 recipient of the School of Education Excellence in Teaching Award, and is consistently acknowledged by teachers and administrators in local partnership schools for excellence in prospective preparation and in-service teacher professional development. 


    Mikel Cole Mikel Cole

    Cole's areas of interest include English language learners in K-12 settings, equitable and effective pedagogies for emergent bilinguals, the preparation of teachers to work with culturally and linguistically diverse students, and the intersection of language policy and practice in schools and classrooms. He is an associate professor in Literacy, Language and Culture.


    Alison LeonardAlison Leonard

    Alison E. Leonard, Associate Professor of Arts and Creativity, teaches courses on arts education and qualitative research. You will most often find Dr. Leonard in Godfrey Hall in the College of Education’s Arts and Creativity Lab. Her research interests involve 1) the role of the arts in teacher education, 2) dance and embodied forms of inquiry, and 3) issues of community, equity, and social justice in schools. She recently worked on a project called VEnvI (Virtual Environment Interactions, sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation, that created a virtual platform to teach computational thinking to upper elementary and middle school students using dance choreography. This work has been publicized in various journals and conference proceedings, such as Technology, Knowledge, and Learning, the Journal of Language and Literacy Education, SIGCSE, IEEE VR, among others, also receiving national and international press. In a “former life," she worked as an arts/dance instructor and danced professionally. She still dances today and believes that we are all dancers—just watch her TEDxYouth talk…but these days she is usually dancing and typing at her laptop.


    Phil WilderPhil Wilder

    Phillip Wilder is an assistant professor in adolescent literacy at Clemson University. He received his Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2013. While at Illinois from 2007-2013, his work in a school-university partnership through the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities used collaborative practitioner inquiry to design responsive teaching practices, which expand notions of literacy and learning in secondary schools. Now at Clemson University, his primary research involves partnering with schools to improve responsive teaching practices and the disciplinary literacies of adolescents.


    Sociology and Anthropology

    Melissa VogelMelissa Vogel, associate professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

    Dr. Melissa Vogel is an anthropology professor with dual specializations in applied anthropology and Latin American archaeology. Dr. Vogel is committed to taking anthropology out of the ivory tower, demonstrating its relevance to everyday life, and using it to improve cross-cultural understanding. In her applied work, she has conducted consumer research for several brands, and evaluated after school programming for Los Angeles Unified School District. Gender is one of Dr. Vogel’s research specialties and a focus of her activism, thus she serves as an Associate Director of the Tigers ADVANCE program, a National Science Foundation funded initiative to promote gender equity and inclusiveness among Clemson faculty. Dr. Vogel is also currently developing a Business Anthropology program that would give Clemson students the skills to succeed in the modern job market, in which global knowledge is a necessity. From 1999-2016, Dr. Vogel directed field research on the development of urbanism in prehistoric Peru, which is published in my two books: The Casma Capital City of El Purgatorio and Frontier Life in Ancient Peru. Dr. Vogel has also published 16 articles in academic journals and books.



    June PilcherJune Pilcher,  Alumni Distinguished Professor of Psychology

    June Pilcher’s, Ph.D., research interests include the effects of stress and fatigue in educational and workplace settings. She is interested in many types of potential stress in modern society including sleep loss, poor sleep habits, cold or hot temperature exposure, lack of self-regulation and sedentary behavior. Her research team has recently started a FitDesk (stationary bicycle with a desk top) initiative on campus that is expanding to K-12 educational settings where students, faculty and staff can use the FitDesk to remain active while working. Please see Pilcher’s  web page for more information/publications.


    School of Computing

    Kelly CaineKelly Caine , associate professor, School of Computing

    Kelly Caine is director of the  Humans and Technology Lab and assistant professor in the Human-Centered Computing Division of the School of Computing at Clemson University. Her current research interests include the psychology of privacy, and usable privacy and security with a focus on human factors issues related to designing privacy-enhanced systems. She is the recipient of grants the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, and awards from the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, Product Design and Marketing Association, American Public Health Association and GVU Center. Prior to joining Clemson, she was principal research scientist in the School of Computing at Indiana University and a UX researcher at Google. She holds degrees from the University of South Carolina (B.A.) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (M.S. and Ph.D.).


    Graphic Communications

    Suzanne Edlein Suzanne Edlein , visiting lecturer, Graphic Communications

    Suzanne Edlein’s career in the printing industry has been spent predominantly in teaching. She is an alumni of the Clemson graphic communications program, graduating in 1991, after which she continued her work at Clemson for six years running technical symposia, conducting industry research and teaching hands-on print training classes to industry clients through the Print/Con Center and the GC Industry Training Program. She spent the following seven years as a training specialist and consultant to the flexography print segment. Suzanne returned to Clemson as a visiting lecturer, working primarily as lead instructor in the introductory graphic communications classes where she gives students the opportunity to experience screen printing, lithography and flexography first hand.


    Nona WoolbrightNona Woolbright, associate professor, Graphic Communications

    Nona Woolbright, Ph.D., has been a faculty member at Clemson University since 2002 and has over 20 total years of teaching experience. She is currently lead instructor for Senior Seminar and Advanced Flexography. She is also co-instructor for Computer Art and CAD Foundations. Over the past six years, Woolbright has coordinated the Phoenix Challenge college team – an international competition for flexographic printing where her team has won multiple awards. Recently, she developed the department’s first study abroad program which it is now in it’s third successful year. Past classes she has taught includes Planning and Controlling Printing Functions and Introduction to Graphic Communications. She has also been a judge for the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), as well as served on several FTA committees. Woolbright is also the department’s graduate studies coordinator and has been appointed to a number of other departmental and University-wide committees over the years. She has a strong interest in management and personnel practices for the printing industry, as well as developing creative problem solving techniques for teaching package printing and design.



    Dr. Joseph MazerJoseph P. Mazer, assistant professor, Department of Communication

    Joseph P. Mazer, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Clemson University. He is also the director of the Social Media Listening Center, an interdisciplinary research lab and teaching facility that provides a platform to listen, measure and engage in more than 650 million sources of social media conversations across the web by capturing publicly available data from Facebook, Twitter, blogs, online communities and mainstream news outlets. His scholarly interests are in instructional communication, new communication technologies/social media, interpersonal/family communication and quantitative research methods. Mazer’s research has encompassed a range of topics including effective teacher communication behaviors, emotion in teaching and learning, teachers’ use of social media to engage students, college student academic support, effective communication practices between parents and teachers at the K-12 level, communication trait predictors of social media usage, and measurement and data analytic issues and trends in communication research. Mazer is listed among the top 1 percent of prolific scholars in the discipline of communication studies spanning 2007-2011, according to a study published in the October 2012 issue of Communication, a national journal published by the National Communication Association. His research has been recognized through top paper and panel awards from the National Communication Association and Central States Communication Association, as well as the Lightsey Fellowship and Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from Clemson University’s College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. He joins William Seiler and Melissa Beall as a member of the authorship team for Communication: Making Connections, an introductory communication course textbook (in its 9th edition) published by Pearson. He has received international, regional, University-wide and departmental recognition for outstanding teaching. Mazer is an active member of the National Communication Association and Central States Communication Association where he has held several leadership roles.



    Cynthia HaynesCynthia Haynes, professor of English, Department of English

    Cynthia Haynes is Director of First-Year Composition and Professor of English. Her research interests are rhetoric, composition, multimodal pedagogy, virtual worlds, critical theory, computer games studies, serious design, and the rhetoric of war and terrorism. With Jan Rune Holmevik she co-chairs the RCID PhD program Serious Games Colloquium. Her book, The Home/Sick Phonebook: Addressing Rhetorics in the Age of Perpetual Conflict, is forthcoming in Oct 2016 from Southern Illinois University Press.


    Dr. Sean WilliamsSean D. Williams, professor of professional communication, Department of English

    Sean D. Williams, Ph.D., is professor of professional communication and Spiro Faculty Fellow at Clemson University where his research considers user experience design (UXD) and its implications for humanizing technology, specifically within startup businesses. His most recent research investigates the role that affective and design issues play in online usability and learning, particularly in 3D virtual worlds, and the possibilities for creating a more expansive communication practice in this new medium. He also publishes on communication issues for entrepreneurship strategy, manages multiple communication consulting and contracting projects and has been a co-founder of three ventures. His thoughts have appeared in trade magazines, trade journals, academic journals, professional books and academic books.



  • Doctoral Students

    ‘dara Abimbade‘dara Abimbade
    Advisor: Meihua Qian

    Dara is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program. His research focuses on designing innovative brain-based pedagogies for students with learning or memory deficits (short and long term). Also, integrating technology into teaching and learning to develop learners’ social, emotional, cognitive and non-cognitive intelligences. Prior to graduate school, ‘dara worked at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He taught courses in the science and technology education department such as learning system design and evaluation of educational media and instructional system development.


    Abby BakerAbby Baker
    Advisor: Dani Herro

    Abby is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program, with an emphasis in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, & math) Education and remixing spaces for learning that allow students to explore their own passions and interests within a Place-Based Education model within a community center. When Abby is not working on her doctoral studies, she serves as an Executive Director to a local nonprofit community center focused on Appalachian Arts and Culture. The nonprofit includes a STEAM lab Abby has helped build, a School of Mountain Arts, and a Preschool serving 2, 3, and 4-year-olds.


    Amanda Bennett Amanda Bennett
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil

    Amanda is a doctoral candidate in the Learning Sciences program with a focus on early childhood learning and development and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts/humanities, mathematics) education. Amanda's research interests include social-emotional learning in early childhood and the impact of STEAM education on the development of these skills. Additionally, she examines the role of teachers and parents in supporting young children's development of social-emotional skills. Amanda's higher education teaching experience includes Child Growth and Development for Clemson's pre-service teachers. Prior to graduate school, Amanda taught early childhood education for five years in Virginia and Pennsylvania.


    cj-bolding.jpg Candice "CJ" Bolding
    Advisor: Eliza Gallagher & Luke Rapa

    CJ is a doctoral student in learning sciences, interested in exploring systemic/institutional factors impacting psychosocial and academic outcomes of marginalized students in higher education pursuing STEM degrees. She currently works serving undergraduate students and as Student Services Manager in the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences. As a new learning sciences student, CJ’s research focuses on how varying levels of Critical Consciousness affect the experiences and outcomes of marginalized students in higher education STEM programs.


    Cari Brooks Cari Brooks
    Advisor: Luke Rapa

    Cari is interested in social justice, social empathy, and access to higher education. Cari has over twenty years of experience teaching general education English courses, with a focus on first-year composition curriculum design. She also has served students as a writing center director, academic coach, and academic advisor. She currently works as the Director of Undergraduate Student Services in the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities, where she oversees academic advising, global engagement, and recruiting. Cari looks to develop research focused on increasing both access to and the quality of college education for student populations historically marginalized by higher education.


    deonte-brown.jpgDeOnte Brown
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil

    DeOnte is a doctoral student in the learning sciences with an emphasis on human development through schooling. DeOnte’s research interests are the academic skill development and learning experiences of adolescents and emerging adults that identify as a person of color. Primarily this research is in the context of social learning environments at the collegiate level. DeOnte’s current work focuses on understanding the use of peer groups as academic support spaces for the development of self-regulated learning skills in black college students. Additionally, he works with peer mentoring programs that aide in the college transition for students of color which also supports his research agenda. DeOnte has prior experience working with adolescents through a high school college access program.


    sharetta m buffordSharetta M. Bufford
    Advisor: Eliza Gallagher & Luke Rapa

    Sharetta is interested in the adolescent development of African American students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and their ability to tap into resources that could enhance their mathematics learning outcomes. Specifically, she would like to study the effects of this population’s access to resources to see whether their learning outcomes will improve. If learning outcomes improve, Sharetta would like to know if these students would be affected by stereotype threat in higher level mathematics courses where they succumb to the stereotype that students of color are not intelligent. Sharetta’s interest in this population is tied to that of her own identity and upbringing as a young student who loved mathematics. She knows that if students are not prepared for college level calculus, they will not be able to take required classes until later in their college career and will spend more money overtime; money that a student from a low-socioeconomic background does not have readily available to spend. Other interests are social justice in mathematics, teacher voting patterns, ethnomathematics, and culturally relevant mathematics pedagogy. Sharetta currently recruits undergraduate and graduate students, as well as, manages a first-year peer support program where upperclassmen from similar backgrounds assist underrepresented (African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American/Indigenous, or Mixed Race) freshmen in the College of Science at Clemson University with their college transition.


    Keri Crist-WagnerKeri Crist-Wagner
    Advisor: Dani Herro

    Keri is a doctoral student in the learning sciences with a focus on instructional design, digital media, and connected learning. Her research interests include the use of comic books and graphic novels in college classrooms, intersectional and critical pedagogy, and curricular infusion of popular culture.


    Penny S. EdwardsPenny S. Edwards
    Advisor: Matthew Madison and Heather Brooker

    Penny is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program. Her research interests include investigating institutional approaches to holistically support higher education faculty, exploring changes in professional identity as faculty move from novice to master teachers, and applying blended and hybrid instructional practices to faculty development. These research interests stem from more than ten years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education and her previous graduate training in clinical health psychology. In addition to her work in the learning sciences, Penny teaches various psychology courses in the Social Sciences Department at Tri-County Technical College.


    Katherine FreemanKatherine Freeman
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil 

    Katherine is a doctoral student in the learning sciences. Her research interests include STEM education, science identity formation, and students’ perceived self-efficacy within STEM. Particularly, she would like to focus on underrepresented populations within the sciences. Katherine has a background in genetics and is currently an instructor at the CU Life Sciences Outreach Center where she teaches STEM labs to K-12 students in an informal setting.


    Anne GrantAnne Grant
    Advisor: Dani Herro

    Anne Grant is a doctoral student in learning sciences with a focus on teacher education for academic librarians. Anne’s research interests include learning communities, professional development for librarians, and transformative learning. Anne has been a librarian at Clemson for 10 years and has been teaching in higher education for 17 years. She has a background in medieval history and library and information science.


    Shuyu HuangShuyu Huang
    Advisor: Meihua Qian

    Shuyu is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program, interested in learning and creativity. Shuyu’s current work focuses on the creative process research and teachers' impact on students' creativity. Shuyu has three years of prior experience teaching educational psychology and developmental psychology at the college level in China.


    Georgia McKown Georgia McKown
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil

    Georgia's research focuses on the development of military-connected students under her Chair, Faiza Jamil. Georgia currently works as a graduate assistant for the Dean's Office, helping with accreditation of Clemson's teacher education programs. Additionally, Georgia's higher education teaching experience includes Foundations of Digital Media and Technology for Clemson's pre-service teachers. Prior to graduate school, Georgia was an elementary school teacher in Virginia Beach and a reading teacher with the Institute of Reading Development.


    Joseph MyerJoseph Myer
    Advisor: Meihua Qian

    Joseph is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program. His research interests include assessment design as well as online learning communication. He currently works as a graduate assistant performing data assessment and also as a teaching assistant for assessment classes. He has 20 years of teaching experience in secondary mathematics.


    Robert O’Hara Robert O'Hara
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil

    Robert is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program with a focus on examining the relationship between sense of belonging and the learning/achievement process for undergraduate students and how factors influence this relationship. Currently, Robert is working as a graduate research assistant with automotive engineering focusing on evaluation and assessment for the THINKER NRT program funded through NSF. THINKER is a graduate program looking at technology-human integration, hierarchical teamwork and collaboration. Prior to starting the Learning Sciences program, Robert, worked as a student affairs professional in higher education focusing on residential curriculum, social justice advocacy and awareness, and Intergroup Dialogue.


    April PeltApril Pelt
    Advisor: Dani Herro

    April Pelt is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program. Her research interests—which draw on her background in literary studies, feminist cultural studies, and online learning—include developing a feminist framework for instructional design, improving the quality of instructor and student engagement in online learning environments, and incorporating student-led digital media and makerspace projects as a mode of critical analysis in literature classrooms. In addition to her work in the learning sciences, April currently serves as a Digital Learning Strategist for Clemson Online and teaches courses on worldbuilding and imaginary friendships in fiction and film for Clemson’s Honors College.


    Hazel Vega QuesadaHazel Vega Quesada
    Advisor: Golnaz Arastoopour Irgens 

    Hazel is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program with an emphasis on digital technologies and critical pedagogy in language learning. She is particularly interested in looking at how pre-service teachers develop their critical pedagogies as they interrogate language ideologies and critically integrate digital technologies in the classroom. Her research is situated in the context of teacher education programs in second or foreign language teaching. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, Hazel worked with in-service and pre-service teachers and taught English as a foreign language to adult learners for over 15 years in Costa Rica. In Clemson, her teaching experience includes classes on TESOL principles, learning theories, and assessment at undergraduate and graduate levels.


    Abby Stephan Abby Stephan
    Advisor: Faiza Jamil

    Abby is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program. Broadly, her research interests include intergenerational learning in informal settings, self-directed learning, and cultural influences on the learning process. Abby currently works as a graduate assistant for the General Engineering Learning Community (GELC), a program that supports first-year engineering students in their development of self-regulation and time management skills, effective learning strategies, and positive habits of mind. Prior to graduate school, Abby worked at Clemson's Academic Success Center as a student employee in course support programs while obtaining a B.A. in language and international trade with a minor in cultural anthropology.


    Kathryn WilhiteKathryn Wilhite
    Advisor: Luke Rapa 

    Kathryn is a doctoral student in the learning sciences program with an emphasis in exploring the role of communication in learning environments. Primarily, her research interest is in understanding how communication supports agency and self-efficacy for students in the college environment. Kathryn is currently a graduate assistant for the department of Education and Human Development. She holds a Master’s degree in First-Year Studies. Prior to the program, Kathryn worked in higher education administration coordinating transition and first-year programs including student leader development and first-year seminar instruction and design.  


    Allyson Wilcox Allyson Wilcox
    Advisor: Dani Herro

    Allyson’s research primarily investigates informal learning environments. Specifically, she examines how activism serves as an informal learning environment for youth. Using case study methodology, she studies how social media can be used toward social justice. Currently, Allyson is studying youth activists fighting for gun safety laws.


    Samuel Wilkes Samuel Thomas Wilkes
    Advisor: Luke Rapa

    Samuel's research focus centers around understanding how tokenism becomes an embodied experience for African Americans in higher education. This involves interrogating the ways that numerical underrepresentation causes members of minoritized groups to consciously experience their bodies physically and existentially. He has secondary interests in African American language, Hip Hop and Urban studies, writing center pedagogy, and culturally responsive learning environments.


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Clemson PHD in Learning Sciences


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