Meet the Team

This image is photo of Dr. Cassandra McCall.

Cassandra McCall, PhD

Post-Doctoral Researcher
Engineering Education
Virginia Tech

Bio: Dr. McCall, a civil engineer and engineering educator with Stargardt’s Disease, conducts research that explores how student experiences and relationships influence how they become civil engineers.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I want to help create inclusive classroom environments that integrate a variety of perspectives and human experiences to effectively prepare students for their future careers in engineering.”

This image is a photo of Dr. Lisa McNair.

Lisa McNair, PhD

Professor
Engineering Education
Virginia Tech

Bio: Dr. McNair’s research explores and supports contexts of interdisciplinarity with the goal of increasing the diversity of perspectives in engineering contexts.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I am interested in this project because it holds the promise of privileging alternative perspectives and discovering ways to create inclusive learning environments in engineering and beyond.”

This image is a photo of Dr. Marie Paretti.

Marie Paretti, PhD

Professor
Engineering Education
Virginia Tech

Bio: Dr. Paretti’s research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I believe strongly in equity in education and in creating classrooms, curricula, and campuses that are accessible and open. Creating such spaces means listening to and partnering with people from all kinds of backgrounds to understand needs, interests, wants, expectations, and more. As someone with scoliosis and related biomechanical challenges, I’m particularly sensitive to the ways in which residential campuses can be challenging to navigate physically, and those challenges have raised questions for me about the ways other people experience and engage with the spaces, structures, and systems of the university.”

This image is a photo of Dr. Denise Simmons.

Denise Simmons, PhD, PE, M.ASCE

Associate Professor
Civil & Oceanic Engineering
University of Florida

Bio: Dr. Simmons’ research contributes to the advancement of labor and personnel issues in civil engineering broadly and specifically in the construction industry with an emphasis on understanding difference and disparity.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I am a civil engineer who seeks evidence-based practices to fully engage all persons in the civil engineering profession.”

This image is a close-up photo of a large cat with multi-colored sunglasses.

Ashley Shew, PhD

Assistant Professor
Science & Technology in Society
Virginia Tech

Bio: Dr. Shew, a hard-of-hearing amputee, works in philosophy of technology with interests in emerging tech and disability studies. She studies narratives about technology, particularly the ones the disability community offers that differ from typical media portrayals.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I want to work with others to create inclusive educational spaces because designs (and our future technological systems!) benefit from including multiple perspectives.”

This image is a photo of Courtney Zongrone.

Courtney Zongrone

Graduate Research Assistant
Counselor Education & Supervision
Virginia Tech

Bio: Courtney Zongrone is a second year doctoral student at Virginia Tech in the Counselor Education and Supervision program. She has professional clinical experience providing counseling services to individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “This research is important to me because I believe advocacy is one of the most important skills a helping professional can possess, and in academia, advocacy happens through research. This study can be integral in illuminating the experiences had by individuals who may struggle with a disability and its findings will help create a more inclusive environment for this student population.”

Meet the Advisory Board

This image is a photo of Dr. Ellen Samuels.

Ellen Samuels, PhD

Associate Professor
Gender & Women’s Studies and English
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bio: Ellen Samuels is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she is also Director of the Disability Studies Initiative. Her critical writing on disability has appeared in numerous publications, including Signs, Feminist Disability Studies, The Disability Studies Reader, GLQ, Disability Studies Quarterly, Disability Media Studies and Negotiating Disability: Disclosure and Higher Education, and she is the author of Fantasies of Identification: Disability, Gender, Race (NYU Press, 2014). She previously held the Ed Roberts Postdoctoral Fellowship in Disability Studies at the University of California-Berkeley, and she currently co-edits the series Crip: New Directions in Disability Studies for New York University Press.

Why are you interested in doing this research? “I am interested in this project as a disabled person and an advocate for disability access and inclusion in higher education. I am particularly interested in the obstacles that disabled students encounter as they seek to transition from undergraduate to graduate and professional programs, and into the professional workforce in STEAM fields. I also have a special interest in the experiences of students with nonvisible disabilities and chronic illnesses and students who identify as non-neurotypical.”

This image is a photo of Dr. Yvette Pearson.

Yvette Pearson, PhD, PE, F.ASCE

Associate Dean for Accreditation, Assessment, & Strategic Initiatives
George R. Brown School of Engineering
Rice University

Bio: Dr. Pearson’s research focuses on improving opportunities for students from excluded identities in STEM. One of her projects is an investigation of the efficacy of an audio-based method of teaching and assessing mathematics called Process-Driven-Math (PDM). PDM was developed by a team at Auburn University at Montgomery to ensure mathematics accessibility for students with visual and other print disabilities; a visually-adapted version has shown promise for a broad range of learners with and without disabilities. Dr. Pearson is Vice Chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE’s) Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and was recently named the 2018 recipient of ASCE’s Professional Practice Ethics and Leadership Award “for her role in the development of Canon 8 of the ASCE Code of Ethics and for emphasizing ethics education and mentoring throughout her career, her embodiment of professional ethics, and service to the civil engineering profession.”

Why are you interested in doing this research? “When I was a child, I spent a great deal of time on the campus of the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired where my aunt was a teacher and my grandmother was a dormitory mother. I discovered then that most of the students there could do everything I could do – except see. As a Black woman engineer with a disability (I have cerebral palsy and some other not-so-fun stuff), I realized that I can give voice to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion that few people can. I joined this project as an advisor to support the success of engineering students with disabilities. Those of us who are disabled have to solve problems daily just to navigate life. We need that kind of ingenuity on design teams, and I believe this project is one important piece of the puzzle to remove barriers and bring about much needed change.”

Meet our Sponsor

This image is a a logo for the National Science Foundation.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)

About: The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense.”

Click here to visit NSF’s website