Dr. Catherine Little serves as the Principal Investigator and Project Director. She is a Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. She oversees the project, coordinating all activities in support of the project objectives and supervising the project team. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership with emphasis in Gifted Education Administration from The College of William and Mary in 2001. She is currently also the Project Director for Project SPARK, which was funded by the Javits program in the 2014 competition. In addition to Project SPARK, Dr. Little previously worked on several other Javits grants, including serving as curriculum coordinator for Project Phoenix (social studies project, awarded 1998) and as Co-PI for the SEM-R in the Middle project (reading project, awarded 2008). She was also involved as a curriculum specialist in the early stages of Project Athena (language arts project, awarded 2003).
Rebecca Eckert, Ph.D serves as an Investigator on the project. Dr. Eckert currently serves as an Associate Clinical Professor in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut, supporting teacher preparation programs and facilitating partnerships with local schools. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education from the University of Connecticut in 2004. With her expertise in gifted education and teacher practice, in addition to recent work on discourse in culturally and linguistically diverse mathematics classrooms, she will add support to the development and review of lesson clusters and will support the implementation of the preservice teacher component of the project in Years 4-5. She will also support the project through writing and presentations.
Christopher Rhoads, Ph.D. serves as an Investigator on the project. Dr. Rhoads is an Associate Professor in Research Methods, Measurement, and Evaluation in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Rhoads received his Ph.D. in Statistics from Northwestern University and focuses his research on methodological and statistical approaches to improving causal inference in policy-relevant research. Dr. Rhoads is a member of research teams conducting evaluation and efficacy grants in the areas of educational technology and housing and child welfare, and he serves on the advisory boards for several IES, NSF, and foundation funded projects. He is co-PI for the National Center for Research on Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Rhoads will oversee the development and implementation of the research design for Project LIFT, including supervision of graduate assistant work, with attention to aspects of data management and data analysis.
Dr. Kelly Kearney serves as a Research Associate on Project LIFT. Dr. Kearney completed her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education at the University of Connecticut in 2014. Dr. Kearney’s background includes working with teachers and students in school-based and out-of-school programs, and her research has included focus on resilience in advanced learners from underserved populations. She has served as a Research Associate on Project SPARK, coordinating the efforts of multiple schools in project implementation, facilitating PD and data collection efforts, and supporting dissemination and writing. Dr. Kearney will coordinate project management and implementation for Project LIFT, including recruiting and communicating with school personnel, supervising graduate assistants, and reporting project progress and findings
Rebecca O’Brien, Ph.D. is Project LIFT’s Graduate Research Assistant. She obtained her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education in 2018. She has primarily worked with inner-city high ability middle school students as a math, science and robotics teacher. For Project LIFT, she is responsible for data management.
Shelby Little, M.A. is Project LIFT’s Graduate Research Assistant. She is a full-time doctoral student in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Sport Management. She obtained her Master’s from the University of Connecticut in 2017. Previously, Shelby worked as a Graduate Research Assistant on a project funded by the National Science Foundation, which looked at School Organization and Science Achievement (SOSA). For Project LIFT her responsibilities include scheduling, coordination, observations, and interviews.
Sarah Charbonneau, M.A. is a Graduate Research Assistant for Project LIFT. She is a full-time doctoral student in Educational Psychology with a concentration in School Psychology. She also conducts assessments and works with teachers to identify gifted behaviors for Project SPARK. Previously, she worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator in Neuropathology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. For Project LIFT, her responsibilities include teacher observations and interviews.
Clarisa Rodrigues is a Graduate Assistant for Project LIFT. She is a full-time Master’s student in Educational Psychology with a concentration in Special Education. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education from Southern Connecticut State University and was a special educator for two years. For Project LIFT, her responsibilities include interviewing teachers and observing classrooms.
Pam Peters is a Graduate Research Assistant on Project LIFT. Pam is in her third year of a doctoral program focusing on Gifted Education, Creativity, and Talent Development as well as Research Methods, Measurement, and Evaluation. Her personal research centers on issues of equity in both gifted and general education. Pam’s specific interests are in parent/school partnerships, pre-identification programs, and the nature, development, and measurement of imposter syndrome. Pam’s LIFT responsibilities include conducting interviews and classroom observations as well as data management.
Lisa Muller serves as the Executive Program Director for Project LIFT. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology in 2003 and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Connecticut. She has coordinated multiple previous grants through the Neag Center and the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, including Project SPARK and several other Javits grants. Her primary responsibilities include coordination and planning of project activities, including organizing project materials, arranging professional development efforts, and managing other logistical aspects of the project, as well as providing support for budget management.
Siamak Vahidi maintains the project’s shared online discussion space and provides assistance with technology. He also provides support for the collection and editing of video segments for professional development and research purposes.
Dr. Elizabeth Fogarty serves as a consultant on reading for high-potential students in the early grades. Dr. Fogarty is a Lecturer in Literacy Education at the University of Minnesota, and previously she served as an Associate Professor in Elementary Education at East Carolina University, where she also worked as the Academically/Intellectually Gifted Program Coordinator. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut in 2006
Dr. Janine Firmender serves as a consultant on mathematics for high-potential students in the early grades. Dr. Firmender is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, specializing in mathematicseducation in a preK-grade 4 certification program. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut in 2011.
Dr. Susan Carroll is a research methodologist with over 33 years of experience in program evaluation. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1981. As president and founder of Words & Numbers Research, Inc., Dr. Carroll has conducted hundreds of program evaluations. She has evaluated many national, multi-year projects in the field of education, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation. She will serve as the external evaluator and will survey stakeholders, conduct observations and interviews, and review other project data, providing objectivity in the interpretation of results.