Current VEST fellows are participating in either the 4-Year Program or 2-Year Program. Learn more about VEST Alumni.
The VEST 4-Year Program has graduate students from the School of Education and Human Development's Ph.D programs of either Education Policy or Educational Psychology-Applied Development Sciences.
The VEST 2-year Program has graduate students later in their academic program from U.Va.'s Department of Economics, Psychology Department, and/or Sociology Department.
The VEST program is committed to creating a community of educational researchers. We value mentorship and support our fellows in their professional development. Our faculty and students met socially a couple times a year to celebrate the success of the program. Our students also regularly support each other socially and work together on projects and in classes.
5th Year Fellows
Walter Herring - [email protected]
Walter Herring is an IES pre-doctoral fellow in the Education Policy PhD program. He holds an MPP from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and a BA in Public Policy from Stanford University. Prior to enrolling at UVA, Walter worked as an Algebra 1 teacher in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, and later as a data analyst for an education non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Walter’s research explores how policymakers can leverage emerging data in grades K through 2 to better support students in the early elementary years. His current projects assess (1) how stakeholders can combine data in the early grades with predictive analytics to more accurately identify children for literacy intervention and (2) whether schools' contributions to student learning differ in the upper and lower elementary grades. Walter is currently on the job market, and you can learn more about his interests at www.walterherring.com.
4th Year Fellows
Miray Seward - [email protected]
Miray Seward is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program at the School of Education and Human Development. Miray received her B.A. in psychology and human development from Duke University. Prior to starting her doctoral studies, Miray spent a year as a project/research coordinator in the Motivate Lab and two years as a lab manager in the Language Development Lab and Wilbourn Infant Lab at Duke University.
Miray’s research examines the educational experiences of Black girls and women. In particular, her dissertation work examines the experiences of Black women student-athletes. In addition to her dissertation research, her other major research projects include (1) exploring how middle school students learn and talk about race, and (2) examining the role of school counselors for Black male student-athletes development. More information can be found about her on her website: https://mirayseward.com.
Karen Kehoe - [email protected]
Karen Kehoe is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science program at the School of Education. She earned a B.A. in American Studies and French from the University of Notre Dame and an Ed.M. in Language and Literacy from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Before coming to UVa, Karen worked as an elementary school and special needs classroom teacher, reading specialist, curriculum developer, and program coordinator in local government and non-profit settings.
Karen’s research focuses on the development of literacy skills across early childhood, with a particular emphasis on supporting at-risk readers. She is passionate about work that advances the goals of economically-vulnerable children, families, and communities. Karen works with Dr. Anita McGinty at the UVA PALS Office.
Shoronda Matthews - [email protected]
Shoronda Matthews is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science Doctoral Program at the School of Education and Human Development. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Scranton and her M.A. in General Psychology from Adelphi University. During her undergrad years, Shoronda worked at a clinic where she helped to set up and run their Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. Before coming to UVA, she was a Research Assistant in the Cognitive Development Lab and the Child and Adolescent Research (CARE) Lab at Adelphi University. Her research explores how to teach science through digital learning, using narrative text. She works with Dr. Jamie Jirout in the Research in Education and Learning Lab.
Melissa Lucas - [email protected]
Melissa Lucas is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program at the School of Education and Human Development. Melissa received a B.S. in Psychology and Sociology from Virginia Commonwealth University. During her undergraduate career and prior to starting her doctoral studies, Melissa worked three years as a Research Assistant with the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development at VCU. Currently, she is working with Dr. Natalia Palacios.
Melissa's research focuses on the socioemotional development of minoritized populations and considers the role of context, especially teacher-child relationships, to foster nurturing classroom environments. She aims to reduce vulnerabilities Latinx and multilingual students might encounter as they navigate (un)supportive school environments, highlighting the consequences of biases and the importance of supportive student-teacher relationships. Her work hopes to expand our understanding of school factors that encourage/discourage culturally resilient identities in Latinx and multilingual early childhood students.
Deiby Mayaris Cubides Mateus - [email protected]
Mayaris is a pre-doctoral affiliate fellow in the Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Sciences program. Mayaris obtained a B.A. and a MSc in Economics, both at Universidad del Rosario in Colombia. Prior to join UVA, she worked as a research fellow in the Social Sector at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC, and as a consultant in the Ministry of Labor in Colombia. From those job experiences, she gained insights into the design and implementation of public policies aimed at young people and children.
Mayaris will be working with Dr. Jennifer LoCasale Crouch. She is interested in the design of better education policies for early childhood from a comprehensive point of view that addresses the development of children as the result of experiences that in turn are determined by a large number of factors.
Edward Scott - [email protected]
Edward Scott Jr. is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral affiliate fellow in the School's Educational Psychology and Applied Developmental Science program. Prior to doctoral study, Edward served students and families as a social worker in an urban school district, facilitating the expansion of trauma-informed care practices and school culture improvement initiatives. His professional background includes clinical mental health services, youth program development, and management consulting. He earned a B.A. in psychology from William Jewell College, an MSW in clinical social work from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA in organizational development and leadership from the Rockhurst University Helzberg School of Management. Edward is interested in adolescent leadership identity and sociopolitical development research. Under the mentorship of Drs. Nancy Deutsch and Chauncey Smith, Edward will begin exploring the relational and organizational contexts that effectively promote youth leadership, activism, civic engagement, and psycho-social wellbeing.
Arielle Boguslav - [email protected]
Arielle Boguslav is an IES pre-doctoral fellow in the Education Policy program at the School of Education. She holds an MPP from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and a BA in Archeology and Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. Arielle initially worked in innovation consulting before shifting to the field of education. Her six years of teaching experience include middle school English Language Arts in a Title I school and teaching English as a foreign language to adults in Russia. Arielle’s research interests primarily relate to pre-service and in-service teacher education and how to design experiences and programs that support teacher development.
3rd Year Fellows
Kelsey Clayback - [email protected]
Kelsey Clayback is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral affiliate fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program at the School of Education and Human Development. Kelsey earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Dayton, where she worked on research examining executive function, math skills, and classroom quality in preschool settings. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Kelsey earned her M.Ed. in Clinical and Developmental Research from Vanderbilt University. At Vanderbilt, Kelsey worked on a variety of projects involving social and emotional development, early math development, and depression prevention. During her master’s, Kelsey also conducted independent research on teacher well-being, support, and discipline practices in early childhood education.
At UVA, Kelsey is working with Dr. Amanda Williford. Kelsey is particularly interested in early childhood education and ways to promote social and emotional development in school settings. She is also interested in teacher well-being and determining how to best support educators to facilitate positive outcomes for themselves and their students. More information can be found on her website: https://kelseyclayback.com/.
2nd Year Fellows
Todd Hall - [email protected]
Todd Hall is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the dual Education Policy PhD/MPP program. He studies large-scale policy efforts to improve early childhood education and discipline in both early childhood and K-12 settings. After earning a BA in Political Economy from Williams College, Todd joined the research network J-PAL North America. There he provided technical assistance to policymakers seeking to launch randomized evaluations of anti-poverty programs. Most recently, Todd worked for the nonprofit ed-tech platform Empatico, analyzing data and scaling user support.
1st Year Fellows
Analia Marzoratti - [email protected]
Analia Marzoratti is a first year student in the Educational Psychology- Applied Developmental Science PhD program, and received her B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas. She worked over three years as a research assistant in the university’s Developmental Neurolinguistics Lab, examining the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and neural correlates of early language learning using EEG.
At UVA Analia works with developmental cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Tanya Evans, using fMRI to study the neural systems and cognitive processes underlying success in early learning of school subjects like math and reading. Analia is particularly interested in examining how SES-based differences in early environment affect these patterns of neural functioning, and using this to inform curriculum and policy in early childhood education.
Liz Nigro - [email protected]
Liz Nigro is a first-year in the Education Policy PhD/MPP program through the School of Education and the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. In her undergraduate career, at the University of Richmond, Liz majored in Politics, Philosophy, Economics, and Law (PPEL), with minors in Education Policy and Italian Studies. Following graduation, Liz taught for 4 years in DC Public and Public Charter Schools, as a general and special education teacher, primarily in grades 1-3. In this time, she also earned an MS Ed from Johns Hopkins University in Elementary Education. Her research interests include: creating mechanisms for school integration and fostering civic competencies.
Erica Sachs - [email protected]
Ryan Burke - [email protected]
Ryan Burke is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program at the School of Education and Human Development. Ryan earned a B.S. in Psychology from Lafayette College and a M.Ed. in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia. During his time at UVA, he was a member of the Motivate Lab and assisted with projects examining mindset interventions in community college students and worked with the Jefferson Education Exchange to evaluate the rigor and methodology of research conducted in Ed Tech. Prior to starting his doctoral studies, Ryan worked as a Research Associate at WestEd for 4 years leading small to large scale Ed Tech evaluations and worked/managed studies examining science curricula and the integration of motivation into the NGSS. At UVA, Ryan’s research includes examining curiosity and motivation in early science education through digital or Ed Tech spaces.
Allison Ward-Seidel - [email protected]
Allison Rae Ward-Seidel is an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow in the Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science program at the UVA School of Education and Human Development. Allison earned her B.S. and M.A.T in Early Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas. She taught first and fourth grades for 6 years in a Title I public school in Springdale, Arkansas as well as a charter school in Dallas, Texas. Allison returned to graduate education, earning a M.Ed. in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Pursuing research in equity and social emotional learning brought Allison to Rutgers University where she worked with Dr. Anne Gregory. As a research project director, Allison coordinated a randomized control trial studying a schoolwide restorative practices, social emotional learning, and racial equity initiative and the impacts on closing the racial discipline gap.
At UVA, Allison is working with Sara Rimm-Kaufman studying social emotional learning initiatives and schoolwide models of improving school climate. Allison’s research interests include studying transformative social emotional development in educators and students toward improving socially justice oriented school climate.
John Wang - [email protected]
John Wang is a first-year IES pre-doctoral fellow in the dual PhD/MPP program through the School of Education and Human Development as well as the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Originally from Georgia, he graduated from Emory University in May 2018 with a BA in Economics & Mathematics and a BS in Quantitative Sciences. Prior to starting his PhD/MPP, John received his MAT from Mercer University and taught mathematics in high need schools as a Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellow. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he aims to both advance scholarship on topics of educational quality, accountability, and equity as well as forge policies that will ultimately prepare students for 21st-century college and career readiness.
Suchi Akmanchi - [email protected]
C. Lee Williams - [email protected]
Lee Williams is a two-year Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow. He is currently a fourth-year PhD student in the Social area of the Psychology Department at the University of Virginia. Lee received both his BSEd (Youth & Social Innovation and Psychology) and his MA (Social Psychology) from UVA. Prior to beginning his doctoral program, he worked as a research assistant with the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program and Motivate Lab.
Lee’s research focuses on the development, maintenance, and promotion of students’ sense of belonging in secondary and postsecondary educational settings. Of particular interest are targeted social psychological interventions that support students’ belonging by reframing their interpretation of the academic environment. He studies these topics using a range of quantitative and qualitative methods, including statistical modeling, randomized controlled trials, laboratory experiments, and focus groups.