J Jacob Kirksey

TURTLE Research Team

J. Jacob Kirksey,
Principal Investigator

Dr. Kirksey’s scholarship is broadly focused on issues at the nexus of education and other areas of public policy, including immigration policy, child and family policy, and health policy. His work stresses a holistic approach to policymaking by drawing attention to knowledge gaps in how changes made in and outside of schools interact with dynamic educational contexts. The goal of his research is to foster data-driven decision making in local, state, and federal policy to forge win-win public policies that reduce inequity in schools. He has published extensively on topics related to student absenteeism and truancy, inclusion and special education, the ripple effects of immigration enforcement, and the teacher workforce.

Download Jacob’s CV here.

Jessica Gottlieb, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Jessica Gottlieb is an Assistant Professor in the department of Educational Psychology, Leadership, & Counseling. She earned her doctorate in Policy Studies in Urban Education from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Most recently, she was a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for STEM Education at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Gottlieb previously worked as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles, CA. Her research focuses on how educational policy can be used to increase equity and access of high-quality STEM education opportunities. Her current projects include examining the effects of longitudinal professional development on STEM teachers’ identity as teacher leaders, identifying factors related to student persistence in STEM occupations, and the use of accountability-based measures in STEM teacher preparation.

Download Jessica’s CV here.

Raegan Higgins, Co-Principal Investigator

Raegan Higgins, Ph.D., is an assistant vice provost for Faculty Success. She develops initiatives, programs, and opportunities specific to inclusion and equity, mentorship, and professional development in this role. Higgins joined the Office of the Provost in 2021 as a Faculty Fellow, where her work focused on barriers to faculty advancement. As an associate professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Higgins teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in analysis, differential equations, and the calculus of time scales. Higgins’ research focuses on oscillation criteria for dynamic equations on time scales and modeling prostate cancer treatment using the theory of time scales. While also interested in fractional calculus applications, she has a keen interest in increasing the number of women, especially those underrepresented, in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). Higgins is a proud alumna of Xavier University of Louisiana, where she graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Mathematics. In 2008, Dr. Higgins was among the first two African Americans to earn a doctoral degree in Mathematics from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Download Raegan’s CV here.

Jessica Spott, Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Jessica Spott is the Director for the STEM Center for Outreach, Research & Education (STEM CORE). She graduated from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and Spanish and a master’s degree in Communication Studies. She earned her PhD in Educational Psychology, looking at female faculty mothers within STEM disciplines and how they develop their careers through personal and educational experiences. She has worked with undergraduate researchers for many years, supporting their involvement in various STEM grant programs. Jessica is passionate about encouraging women and underrepresented groups to pursue STEM fields and careers and about creating an environment on campus which is conducive to being empowered and developing success. At STEM CORE, she is deeply involved in hosting programs which introduce women and underrepresented students into STEM disciplines, specifically targeting their persistence and retention. As a person who loves to travel around the world, she has spent time cultivating knowledge for unique cultures, languages, and cuisines. She builds upon these experiences to continue to motivate her to advocate and promote equity within STEM disciplines and higher education. She enjoys bringing her husband and three kids along on her adventures.

Download to Jessica’s CV here.

Levi Johnson, Co-Principal Investigator

Levi currently serves as the Director of the TTU Center for Transformative Undergraduate Experiences (TrUE) and is a PhD candidate in the Educational Leadership Policy program at Texas Tech University. His research interests focus on evaluating the impact of accelerated educational experiences such as Texas College and Career Readiness School Models in K-12 and undergraduate research experiences in higher education. He holds B.A. and M.S. degrees in mathematics and has more than 10 years of experience connecting Texas PK-12 schools with higher education through a range of STEM outreach and community-engagement initiatives. He is passionate about leveraging the power of big data to make smarter and more impactful education policies.

Download Levi’s CV here.

TURTLE Graduate Students

Angela Crevar

Angela has over 30 years of educational experience in both the public and private sectors in and around the southeast United States. She holds a BS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia, and a Masters in Reading from University of West Georgia. Angela is a Writing Fellow at Kennesaw State University and serves as the principal of a hybrid school while pursuing her PhD. She founded and oversees both the Career Technology and Orton-Gillingham programs at the hybrid school where she serves as principal. Angela also serves as the Family Readiness Liaison for the 4th LogCap Army Reserve Battalion, while her husband serves in the Army Reserves. Her research interests include career and technical education and community college and workforce pathways.

Download Angela’s CV here.

Jennifer Freeman

Jennifer Freeman is a Ph.D. student in the Education Policy Division at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests lie in two areas of education policy: (1) nontraditional pathways into college and careers in STEM fields; and (2) special education policy. Jennifer’s research is motivated by her experiences as a community college transfer student in a STEM field and her experiences as an educator for students with disabilities. She holds a B.S. in Zoology and an M.A. in Education from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

As a National Science Foundation Graduate Student Research Fellow, Jennifer is currently examining the impact of faculty-mentored undergraduate research experiences for community college transfer students in STEM fields. Some of her other work includes estimating the postsecondary effects of high school STEM-focused career and technical education for students with disabilities and exploring which student, family, and school factors explain gender gaps in historically gender-imbalanced STEM fields.

Download Jennifer’s CV here.

Teresa Lansford

Teresa Lansford is a Ph.D. student in the Educational Leadership Policy program at Texas Tech University. Her research interests lie primarily in the use of Makerspaces to enhance instruction and the impact of school libraries on learning. Teresa Lansford is a National Board Certified Teacher with an M.L.I.S. from the University of Oklahoma and was a finalist for the 2019 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year. She has presented at the local, state, and national level on inquiry learning, Makerspaces, and using data to drive instruction and has written for the publications Knowledge Quest and School Library Connection.  

Download Teresa’s CV here.

TURTLE Advisory Board

Erin Dolan, Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and Georgia Athletic Association Professor of Innovative Science Education at the University of Georgia

Gina Svarovsky, Associate Professor of Practice, Center for STEM Education, University of Notre Dame

Josephine Seddon, Independent Evaluation Consultant