Ph.D. Program

Meet our Students

Dusty Allen

University of Texas at Arlington, Master of Exercise Physiology

University of Central Missouri, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): The effect of multiple sclerosis on thermoregulatory function at rest and during exercise.

Current research fellowship: Throughout my studies I will be aiding Dr. Scott Davis on his nationally funded grants looking at autonomic dysfunction in multiple sclerosis patients.  Our upcoming projects investigate the effect of multiple sclerosis on: endothelial function, orthostatic tolerance, and heat dissipation during exercise.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I completed an internship at Harvard University as a strength and conditioning coach and aided in the development of a sports performance academy in the Kansas City area.


Saler AxelSaler Axel

Pace University, Graduate

The University of Texas at Austin, Undergraduate

Research interest(s):  Setting performance standards on high stakes assessments

Current research fellowship:  Research in Mathematics Unit (RME), working on the Istation, Inc. Screener for Grades 2-8 Assessment Development project

Professional Experience:  I was teaching at the community college in the Education and Child Development program.


ConryJillian Conry

Southern Methodist University, Master of Liberal Studies

Texas A&M University, Bachelor of Arts in Spanish & International Studies

Research interest(s): Second-language acquisition, instructional technology, literacy, cross-linguistic transfer, bilingual education, cross-curricular instruction

Current research fellowship: Last year I worked with Dr. Doris Baker and Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba on Project ELVA, funded by IES (Goal 2), to develop software that uses voice recognition technology and an avatar teacher to teach 2nd-grade ELLs abstract vocabulary in science and social studies. Additionally, I worked with Dr. Al Otaiba on Project ELM, a longitudinal study funded by IES (Goal 5) and aimed at determining which literacy measures can be used as valid progress monitoring tools in Kindergarten. This year I continue my work on Project ELVA and have begun a new study with Dr. Paige Ware and Dr. Karla del Rosal to investigate technology-mediated mentoring between teachers and high school ELLs. 

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I served as a classroom teacher in Garland ISD for 8 years. During that time, I taught bilingual 3rd grade, bilingual 4th grade, and secondary Spanish levels I-V. I also worked as a high school cheerleading coach, curriculum writer, and bilingual/ESL GED program instructor for the district.

Research: The School Zone- Supporting After School and Summer Programming- AT&T and Momentous Institute, 


Molly Ellis

Southern Methodist University, Master of Education, Higher Education

Trinity University, Bachelor of Arts, Economics

Research interest(s): The nature of academic work and university relationships to their surround locales. 

Current research fellowship: I am a University Fellow and a Farris Simmons Scholar. I am currently working on projects related to faculty development and university leadership. 

Research: Prior to starting my studies in education at SMU, I worked as an analyst for a financial firm in San Antonio, TX.


DelaCruzVeronica Mellado De La Cruz

Southern Methodist University, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology

Research interest(s): Reading, assessment at the intersection of bilingualism and high-incidence disabilities (i.e., LD, EBD), research to extend evidence-based practices in data-based instruction to dual language learners, contributions of behavioral and psychosocial factors in learning.

Current research fellowship: Veronica is a National Center for Leadership in Intensive Intervention scholar (OSEP Grant #H325H140001; Veronica’s research fellowship under advisor Stephanie Al Otaiba has allowed her to engage in data collection and analysis, project meetings, presentations, writing, and other scholarly activities in support of Projects FOCUS, ELM, and Passport to Literacy (

Professional experience: Veronica returned to SMU after a seven-year career in early childhood intervention (Part C, IDEA). Her experience fostered two orientations: a strengths-based perspective in working with historically underserved populations; school-based services as a key entry-point for early intervention. Graduate coursework and research support as an interventionist to struggling readers helped Veronica broaden her knowledge and experience to the K-12 setting.

Ashley Moorshead Ashley Moorshead

Cal State, Dominguez; M.A. Special Education

Pitzer College, undergraduate

Research interest(s): I am interested in working with the special population of struggling readers, with an emphasis on the impact of school-based reading interventions that target adolescent learners in the area of discipline literacy.

Current research fellowship: I am working on Project Intensity with Jill Allor and Stephanie Al Otaiba, developing reading curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities. My role with this grant is project coordinator.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I acted as the Chair of Developmental Studies at the Community College of Aurora.


miriam ortizMiriam Ortiz

Florida State University, Graduate

Florida State University, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): I’m interested in special education and response to intervention for students in the secondary grades. I am also passionate about teaching teachers to use evidence-based practices and creating learning environments where ALL students can learn.

Current research fellowship: I’m working as Stephanie Al Otaiba’s graduate research assistant.

Professional experience: I taught math, science, and reading to 5th through 8th graders with emotional and behavioral disorders at an alternative school.

Research: The Development of a Supplemental Literacy Program Designed to Provide Extensive Practice with Multiple-Criteria Text for Students with Intellectual Disabilities- Project Intensity


PolancoPaul Polanco

University of Dallas - Master in Business Administration

Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Santiago, Dominican Republic) - Bachelor in Business Administration

Research interest(s): I am interested in exploring the benefits of different bilingual programs and general educational policies affecting bilingual students under the lens of economic outcomes.

Current research fellowship: I am working directly with Dr. Doris Baker and Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba on an English Language Vocabulary Acquisition (ELVA) Project. The purpose of this Goal 2 project funded by IES is to create a software that develops science and social studies vocabulary on 2nd-grade English Learners.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program I worked for 9 years as a Dallas Independent School District bilingual teacher mostly as a 5th-grade science bilingual teacher. There, I also served in various committees overseeing the annual progress of our school and developing training for bilingual teachers. Before working for Dallas ISD, I worked in banking and business development strategies.

Research: English Learner Vocabulary Acquisition (ELVA): Promoting the Vocabulary and Language Proficiency of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Second Grade, English Learner Vocabulary Acquisition 


Anthony Sparks

University of North Carolina at Greensboro-Masters of Education 

University of North Carolina at Greensboro-Bachelors of Arts, Mathematics

Research Interest(s): Implementing interventions to increase academic achievement and mathematical literacy among English language learners; Assessment practices for English language learners. 

Current research fellowship: Working with the Budd Center on interventions among school and nonprofits in the west Dallas neighborhood at the middle school level. 

Professional Experience: I have taught math for three years in North Carolina with two of those years targeting English language learners’ mathematical achievement. 

Research: Professional Learning Communities in the Nonprofit Sector- Budd Center 

Lauren Stevenson

Lauren Stevenson

University of California Los Angeles, Graduate

Louisiana State University, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): My primary research interest is on methods of professional development as they pertain to impacting the retention of effective high quality teachers in urban and suburban public school systems. This research interest stems from my background in secondary education mathematics, where I witnessed the detriment of work conditions to experiencing the full benefits of positively impactful professional development and tools to increase secondary mathematics achievement.

Current research fellowship: Currently, I am working with Dr. Patricia Mathes on the OSEP grant evaluating the most effective methods of coaching teachers and their correlation with student academic growth. My role as a research assistant is three-fold: developing and presenting writing strategies materials for practitioner use, analyzing previous literature to enhance program materials, and assessing students with special literacy needs.

Professional experience: I taught high school Algebra 1 - AP Calculus (some project-based learning) for 7 years while also doing curriculum writing and development for the district and outside sources.


Thom SuhyThom Suhy

University of Notre Dame, Graduate

University of Texas at Dallas, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): The impact of parent expectations on student academic outcomes

Current research fellowship: I am working on the Zero to Five project with Dr. Ware, Dr. Diffily, and Dr. Springer, and the Essilor Vision Foundation project with Dr. Springer.

Professional experience: I was a principal at St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School in West Dallas.


Danielle TyreeDanielle Tyree

The University of Georgia, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): I’m interested in international university partnerships, with a focus on factors that sustain successful study abroad collaborations. My background teaching and studying in China catalyzed an interest in how sociolinguistics can play a role in fostering these types of institutional relationships.

Current research fellowship: I’m working on the 0-5 Evaluation Grant that examines the efficacy of nonprofit preschools aimed at a low-income Hispanic population with the principal investigators Dr. Ken Springer, Dr. Paige Ware, and Dr. Deborah Diffily. My work includes administering the DESSA survey amongst kindergarten teachers assessing the socio-emotional preparedness of these children upon entering kindergarten and contributing to a literature review of school readiness.

Professional experience: I was teaching English at the tertiary level in southeastern China, providing educational consulting, assisting in educational research concerning creativity, and studying Mandarin in my spare time.



Andrew Bassey Udofa

Southern Methodist University, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): How footwear and prosthetic limb design influence the kinetics and kinematics of human locomotion.

Current research fellowship: My graduate studies are funded by the Fairess Simmons Graduate Fellowship. Currently, I am working under the mentorship of Dr. Peter Weyand in the Locomotor Performance Laboratory (LPL). His research is funded by the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center of the Department of Defense to investigate how the heavy loads that soldiers carry affect their speed and endurance. Within the LPL I also assist with projects that involve: maximum velocity sprint testing of international-caliber athletes, analysis of the impulse-momentum relationship of sports collisions, and translating biomechanical algorithms into wearable sensor-based technologies.

Professional experience: I was a PSTP Trainee with the STEMPREP Project since 8th grade and each subsequent summer I had wet bench research experiences at Temple University School of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute for Systems Biology, and University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. Prior to entering this doctoral program, I was an undergraduate researcher in the Locomotor Performance Laboratory for two years.

Research: Locomotion with Loads: practical techniques for predicting performance outcomes, DOD 

Dawn Woods

Southern Methodist University, Master of Education

Texas Christian University, Undergraduate

Research interest(s): My research interests focus on teacher learning and how pre-service and in-service mathematics teachers work together to take-up high-leverage practices that hold students accountable to learning goals that include conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, strategic competence and adaptive reasoning while developing productive dispositions.  

Current research fellowship: I work with Anne Garrison Wilhelm in understanding the experience and development of novice mathematics teachers and how their instructional practices, orientations towards teaching, and support networks develop during their formative years in the profession. 

Professional experience:  Prior to entering this program, I was a special education teacher, an early childhood educator, an elementary and middle school math and science teacher, and worked in educational research as an elementary mathematics specialist.  

Research: Project Motion Capture, University of Wisconsin Madison/The Guildhall at SMU/IES


Sumei Wu

Southern Methodist University, M.Ed. with Specialization in ESL Education

Hainan Normal University (in China), Bachelor of Arts in English & Japanese

Research interest(s): I am interested in working with English Language Learners and exploring evidence-based instructions to facilitate their second language acquisition and literacy development. I also have great passion for computer-assisted language learning, multimedia literacy, and teacher professional development via technology.

Current research fellowship: I am working as a research assistant for Dr. Paige Ware and Dr. Karla del Rosal. I am currently cooperating with Dr. Karla del Rosal and Dr. Annie Wilhelm on teacher social network and trust research. I am also participating in a telecollaborative project with Dr. Nancy Montgomery to involve our pre-service secondary teachers in an online partnership with teachers in Taiwan. The project aims to help develop our teachers’ multicultural communication competence and enhance their abilities to design appropriate instructions to address the needs of culturally diverse learners.

Professional experience: Prior to entering this program, I worked as an ESL instructor for two years in China and in Dallas for a year. I taught elementary ESL learners and secondary ESL learners. I also volunteered to teach adult ESL learners with Literacy Instruction for Texas. During my masters program at SMU, I served as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Paige Ware on creating the Project CONNECT website as an ongoing network for teachers and students with instructional resources.