RC 20/20

Departmental Action Teams (DATs): Sustaining Change in Undergraduate Education

Joel Corbo, Senior Research Associate in the Center for STEM Learning, University of Colorado at Boulder

Mary Pilgrim, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Mathematics Learning Center, Colorado State University

Karen Falkenberg, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), Colorado State University

Courtney Ngai, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Mathematics, Colorado State University

Gina Quan, Research Associate for the Center for STEM Learning, University of Colorado Boulder

Daniel Reinholz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics, San Diego State University

Sarah Wise, STEM Departmental Change Agent on the Academic Technology Design Team, University of Colorado Boulder

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Daniel Reinholz

Dr. Reinholz specializes in STEM education transformation with the aim of increasing equity and diversity in STEM fields. His work is grounded in a holistic design perspective, which draws on research in disciplinary learning, equity, and organizational change. At the classroom level, he focuses on how reflection and peer feedback can deepen disciplinary learning. Beyond the classroom, he studies how cultural and structural features of higher education can support and inhibit meaningful transformation. Through his leadership in the Access Network (www.accessnetwork.org), he works to improve access to meaningful STEM learning across the US.


Karen Falkenberg

Karen Falkenberg is an Instructional Designer with the Institute for Learning and Teaching at Colorado State University where she consults with faculty on a wide range of pedagogical and curricular enhancements and supports individuals' and groups' work on culture, diversity and group process skills. She has over 37 years of experience in STEM and education beginning with her work as a research chemical engineer. Her education research has focused on educators' creativity and innovation and on students' self-efficacy and cultural competencies. Karen has numerous accomplishments that include a patent for solar cell technology and acting as a contributing author to the National Academy of Engineering's publication Technically Speaking: Why all Americans need to know more about technology (2002). She was the Undergraduate Education Director for the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta and acted as a consultant to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to infuse STEM into the traditional Buddhist curriculum; Karen has taught over 1000 practicing and pre-service teachers, and has individually coached or mentored over 125 emerging leaders.

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Gina Quan

Gina graduated in 2017 from the University of Maryland, College Park in physics. Her interests include understanding community and identity formation, cultivating reflective communities that holistically support members, and understanding institutional change. Currently Gina is working on a project studying departmental change in undergraduate education through facilitated Departmental Action Teams (DATs). She is also a founding member of the Access Network, a research-practice community dedicated to fostering supportive communities in undergraduate physics departments.


Chris Geanious

Chris Geanious has worked with TILT as an Instructional Designer since January 2012. Most of this time has been spent working with faculty redesigning or enhancing face-to-face courses. In addition to this work, Chris is involved with the integration of 3D printing technologies into courses as well as in the development and integration of mobile apps for academic use. Chris has been supporting faculty in higher education for over 20 years. His MEd course work was focused in Curriculum and Instruction and he also worked on a NSF funded project involving developing Environmental Science curriculum in a simulation environment. Chris's areas of expertise include instructional design, multi-media production, advanced instructional technology, online learning and active learning strategies.

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Mary Pilgrim

Mary E. Pilgrim is Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Mathematics Learning Center at San Diego State University. She was previously Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Colorado State University and conducts research in mathematics education, specifically studying students who are at risk of failing (DFW) Calculus I. She has done pedagogical and curriculum intervention research with Calculus I students, and currently she is part of a research team that is applying Zimmerman’s (2000) self-regulated learning model in conjunction with learning analytics to more deeply understand the learning behaviors of Calculus I students - especially those who are at risk.

In addition, Dr. Pilgrim is part of the staff of the Park City Mathematics Institute Teacher Leadership Program, which supports the professional growth of elementary and secondary teachers. Dr Pilgrim is also an active member of the Mathematical Association of America and serves on the MAA Committee on the Undergraduate Program in Mathematics.


Courtney Ngai

Courtney is a postdoctoral researcher at Colorado State University. She completed her graduate work at University of Massachusetts Boston, and previous work at UMB includes research into understanding and characterizing how students classify and differentiate substances. Courtney also worked on a collaboration with science and chemistry teachers affiliated with Boston Public Schools to assess and foster students’ chemical thinking. Outside of research, Courtney volunteers for i-Trek, a nonprofit organization seeking to increase diversity in STEM by providing underrepresented students with research opportunities. Currently, Courtney serves as both a facilitator and researcher for DATs at CSU.

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Sarah Wise

Sarah Wise is a STEM Departmental Change Agent working with the Departmental Action Team project, which is an NSF-funded collaboration between the ATDT and the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado Boulder. In her prior positions on campus, Sarah conducted educational research for ASSETT, worked with faculty to transform courses with the Science Education Initiative, surveyed teachers to understand how they engage students in learning about climate change and evolution with CIRES Education and Outreach, and earned a PhD in Evolutionary Developmental Biology in the EBIO Department.

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Joel Corbo

Joel earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT in 2004 and a Ph.D. in physics from UC Berkeley in 2013. While at Berkeley, he studied ultracold atomic gases using quantum Monte Carlo simulation techniques as a member of the Whaley group. Joel also co-founded the Berkeley Compass Project, a student-run organization dedicated to supporting underrepresented students in physics through building community and engaging in authentic science. Currently, he co-leads the Access Network, a national network of student-centered equity programs inspired by Compass.

After Berkeley, Joel started a postdoc at CU with the Center for STEM Learning and the Physics Education Research group, and he is transitioning to working on projects funded under his own grants. His current work at CU focuses on implementing and studying mechanisms that align with the institutional change literature for improving undergraduate education in STEM departments. He is also beginning to research issues of equity and inclusion in physics, in particular the views of white male physicists about race and gender.


Noah Finkelstein

Noah Finkelstein is a Professor of Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and conducts research in physics education. He serves as a director of the Physics Education Research (PER) group at Colorado. Finkelstein is also a Director of the national-scale Center for STEM Learning at CU-Boulder, which has become one of eight national demonstration sites for the Association of American Universities’ STEM Education Initiative. He is in charge of a new initiative designed to create and study a national network of STEM education.

Finkelstein’s research focuses on studying the conditions that support students’ interest and ability in physics – developing models of context. These research projects range from the specifics of student learning particular concepts, to the departmental and institutional scales of sustainable educational transformation. This research has resulted in over 100 publications.

He is increasingly involved in education policy. In 2010, he testified before the US Congress on the state of STEM education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He serves on many national boards including chairing the American Physical Society’s Committee on Education and PER Topical Group. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the Higher Learning Commission, and since 2011 is a Technical Advisor to the Association of American University’s STEM Education Initiative. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and a Presidential Teaching Scholar for the University of Colorado system.