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Cohort 2 Fellows

CCPI-STEM Welcomes its Second Cohort of Fellows

The fellowship is one of several initiatives of the Community College Presidents’ Initiative in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (CCPI-STEM) that aim to strengthen community college faculty and administrators and nurture their leadership skills in order to grow and diversify the STEM technician workforce.

All the individuals in this second cohort of CCPI-STEM Fellows are pursuing graduate degrees and conducting research related to STEM education and workforce development at community colleges. The seven Fellows are:

Jason Boehm, St. Louis Community College, St. Louis, MO

Jason is the son of an educator. His undergraduate degree was in education, and he received state certification to teach math grades 5-12. After two years teaching middle school and one year teaching high school, he decided to get an M.A. in Mathematics. Two years after graduating and teaching full-time in high school and part-time in the evenings at various higher education institutions, he landed a full-time job at St. Louis Community College. To aid in his advancement at the college, he decided upon an Ed.D. program in Higher Education Leadership to one day transition out of the classroom and into a more administrative role. He started this transition in the summer of 2021 when he became the department chair for the math department. This role at the college nearly splits his workload with half being in the classroom and half for administrative duties within the department. His dean at the time had come out of the math department a few years before and took him under his wing and started sharing some insights about the dean role. Two years later, he applied and was offered the role of interim STEM dean at one of the STLCC campuses. He has been serving in that role since August 2023 and will continue until the end of June 2024. He is excited to have been selected as a CCPI – STEM Fellow and look forward to learning more from my assigned mentor while continuing to serve as an administrator and finish his doctoral program. On a more personal note, his lovely wife is a professional pastry chef and owns her own bakery and they have two kids, Max (3 years) and Ruth (1 year).

Karen Bridges, Howard Community College, Columbia, MD

Karen is the department chair and an associate professor of physical sciences at Howard Community College (HCC) in Columbia, Maryland, where she has taught since 2010. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in geology from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, Karen worked in an environmental chemistry laboratory before entering a master’s program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. While there, she investigated the geochemical and petrological relationships among cinder cones in an Arizona volcanic field. Upon completion, she spent several years working as a geologist at an environmental consulting company. Karen segued into her academic career in 2001; after teaching one geology course Karen discovered the college classroom brought her both personal and professional satisfaction. In addition to serving as chair, Karen also develops curricula and teaches courses including environmental geology, oceanography, and soil science. For two years, Karen was the lead faculty of an HCC honors STEM research course, and she has served as the assistant director of HCC’s Bermuda study abroad program since 2013. Karen is currently working towards her doctorate in education from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, in the Community College Leadership Program. Her dissertation will explore the impact COVID-19 isolation may have had on the success rates of community college students in online and face-to-face introductory general education science courses.

Laurel Carpenter, Holyoke Community College, Holyoke, MA

Laurel is a Professor of Environmental Science at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke Massachusetts and has served as the Environmental Science Department Chair since 2021. Laurel is a life-long learner and strives to bring an interdisciplinary approach to science education at the higher education level. She is a Professional Wetland Scientist, holds an M.S. in Wildlife Conservation, an M.A.T in Secondary Science Education and is currently a Ph.D. student in the Math, Science and Learning Technology program in the College of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is particularly interested in studying the intersections of community college student retention in STEM, science identity development and inclusive pedagogies including service learning, universal design for learning and culturally responsive pedagogy. In 2019 Laurel co-wrote a successfully awarded S-STEM NSF grant titled STEM Scholars’ 2.0 SCoRE: STEM Cohorts for Research and Engagement (2030890) that supports students in an intensive program of financial assistance, cohort experiences, advising, mentoring, undergraduate research/community engagement support, and culturally responsive pedagogy. In that program she has co-taught a STEM seminar that functions as an “anchor” for the other program interventions and has mentored five students who have together completed four community service projects. Formerly, Laurel was a wildlife field technician, wildlife biologist, lead educator and environmental interpreter for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for over ten years.

LaToya Chandler, Santa Fe College, Gainesville, FL

LaToya served as an interdisciplinary science faculty member for the Guitars Rocketry and Robotics Advanced Technological Education (GRRATE) program at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. Her work in education with the GRRATE program is centered on increasing STEM engagement through project-based pedagogy in Guitar Building, Robots and Rocketry. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences from Florida A&M University and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida with a specialization in Education Technology. She is a graduate research assistant in the Creative Technology Research Laboratory at the University of Florida. Her community work focused on strengthening rural student identities and attitudes toward STEM through informal K-8 grade STEM camp experiences with the Summer Youth Impact project in Starke, Florida. Her current research is focused on leveraging technology to support computational problem solving in K-12 STEM as an early pathway to develop 21st century workforce skills.

Allison Foster, Columbus State Community College, Columbus, OH

Dr. Foster (Allison) is an Assistant Professor in Anatomy & Physiology at Columbus State Community College (Ohio). She holds a bachelor’s in Exercise Science and a master’s and doctorate in Human Anatomy. Her doctoral research was focused on advancing STEM educational practices through the design and implementation of blended active learning methods for undergraduate and professional Anatomy students. Allison contributes to workforce development by serving as the Principal Investigator for the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Choose Ohio First (COF) grant, which holistically supports students pursuing high-demand STEM professions. Allison is currently pursuing an Educational Specialist degree in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs at Kent State University, Ohio.

Diane Rhodes, Red Rocks Community College, Lakewood, CO

Diane  a seasoned IT professional passionate about shaping the next generation of technology leaders, holds the Associate Professor of Computer Science role at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado. Additionally, she lends her expertise to Metropolitan State University in Denver, integrating courses into her schedule.

Originating from the vibrant neighborhoods of the Bronx, New York, and Long Island, Diane’s journey led her to Colorado, where she earned her associate degree in Mathematics at Red Rocks Community College. Juggling a full-time job, she pursued and achieved a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems from Metropolitan State College in Denver. Diane’s professional trajectory includes valuable stints at Cablevision, New York City’s leading cable provider, and Holland and Hart, Colorado’s largest law firm in the Rocky Mountain region. She has also contributed her skills to the State of Colorado IT Departments and the Arabian Horse Association, a Denver-based non-profit organization. Before becoming an educator full-time, she spent the last 11 years as an IT Director for Colorado Lending Source, a non-profit certified development company.  In 1999, Diane accomplished a milestone by attaining her master’s degree in computer science from Colorado Technical University while working full-time at Perot Systems as a Systems Analyst. Undeterred by challenges, she is currently on track to completing her doctoral degree in community college leadership in December 2024, a testament to her commitment to academic excellence. Beyond her professional endeavors, Diane takes pride in being a Navy Mom to her son, Alexander, who is stationed on Coronado Island, CA. Nestled in Lakewood, Colorado, she shares her life with her husband, Chris, alongside their lively household of two dogs and cats. Diane Rhodes exemplifies resilience, dedication, and a profound commitment to her family and the advancement of technology education.

Mitchell Sweet, Scottsdale CC, Scottsdale, AZ

Mitchell (Mitch) was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, and earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and a master’s in Wood and Fiber Science from the University of Wisconsin. After relocating to Phoenix, Arizona, Mitch began his teaching career in public high schools and is now in his fifth year teaching at a community college. Mitch is a full-time faculty member at Scottsdale Community College, where he teaches introductory and general chemistry classes. Mitch is actively involved with the American Modeling Teachers Association, a grassroots organization of science educators looking to promote Modeling Instruction, a student-centered, guided-inquiry approach to teaching science. He has led professional development courses for other high school and college instructors since 2016. Mitch is pursuing his Doctorate of Education in the Community College Leadership Program at Kansas State University as part of the Maricopa cohort. Because of his interest in Modeling Instruction, his planned dissertation research involves comparing the effect of teaching pedagogy on improving understanding of chemistry concepts and successful course completion outcomes for college chemistry courses, particularly among underrepresented minority students. Mitch lives in Phoenix, and in his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife Tammy and their three dogs and pursuing his hobbies of woodworking and baking.