Our Faculty

Higher Education and Student Affairs Names New Program Director

The Neag School’s Department of Educational Leadership welcomes Kari B. Taylor as the new program director for Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA). She begins her new appointment as the HESA program director and as an assistant professor-in-residence on July 31.

Kari B. Taylor joins the Neag School as the Higher Education and Student Affairs program director.
Kari B. Taylor joins the Neag School as the Higher Education and Student Affairs program director. (Photo Credit: Shawn Kornegay/Neag School)

Taylor joins the Neag School after most recently having earned her Ph.D. in higher education and student affairs at The Ohio State University (OSU), where she conducted research into the process of developmental growth among undergraduate and graduate students who participated in an international service-learning experience. Her dissertation focused on how a service-learning course helped students develop critical consciousness, which represents a complex way of making meaning of one’s self in relation to one’s social world. In her third year as a doctoral student, she received the Porterfield-Dickens Graduate Research Support Award in support of her dissertation research.

Rising Up the Ranks

Taylor’s interest in the learning and development of students in higher education was ignited during her second year as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, where she served as a peer advisor for the Freshman Interest Groups, an immersive living-learning experience that creates cohesive communities where students study, take classes, and live together. At the time, Taylor, who majored in journalism and biological sciences, was also working for a local newspaper. While she enjoyed her work as a reporter, she says she always found herself eager to return to her advisees at the end of the day, ultimately prompting her to pursue graduate study in the realm of higher education and student affairs.

“[Kari] deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here.”

— Milagros Castillo-Montoya, assistant professor and former interim HESA director

Going on to complete a master’s of science degree in college student personnel at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 2006, Taylor began serving as assistant director for academic and co-curricular support at Miami University’s Honors and Academic Scholars programs. In this position, Taylor provided holistic advising for a large group of high-ability students; developed academic, social, and community service student programming; worked with the university’s Office of Residence Life to oversee the Honors Living Learning Community; and assisted in recruiting, training, and supervising instructors for the introductory honors seminar.

By 2011, she had been promoted to senior associate director, developing and supervising academic support policies and procedures for the university’s Honors Plan for Liberal Education, which allows honors students to meet general education requirements through an outcomes-based framework. She also supervised assistant directors; facilitated ongoing refinement of the program’s electronic portfolio process; and implemented training modules for academic advisors as chair of the professional development subcommittee of Miami’s Undergraduate Academic Advising Council.

It was this commitment to student learning and development that led Taylor to her Ph.D. program at OSU. Describing her work as “bringing passion to practice,” Taylor says she looks forward to being a heavily involved leader and mentor for the HESA program.

“I was drawn to the program at UConn because of the sense of community and the opportunity to work specifically with master’s students,” says Taylor, a native of Topeka, Kan. “I was very interested in the system of graduate assistantships and practicums that HESA offers, and am excited to assist graduate students in their development as educational leaders.”

Practitioner and Scholar

“We are excited to welcome Kari Taylor to the HESA program and to the department. She brings a blend of practitioner and scholarly experience with her, as well as a focus on issues of equity that will be a great fit,” says Jennifer McGarry, professor and head of the Department of Educational Leadership.

Taylor succeeds Neag School assistant professor Milagros Castillo-Montoya, who served as HESA’s interim director this past year.

“Kari brings expertise and experience that will be a strong value to the program,” says Castillo-Montoya. “She also deeply cares about students and their development, which will make a meaningful contribution to the experience that our students have here and the strong reputation we have as a program for supporting the development of higher education and student affairs administrators.”

Spring 2017 Teaching Excellence Honorees

Congratulations to the following Spring 2017 EDLR Faculty who received the Teaching Excellence Honor by the University Provost's Office:

Teaching excellence honoree, Erica Fernandez

Sandy Bell

Laura Burton

Miguel Cardona

Cathy Cocks

Joseph Cooper

Justin Evanovich

Erica Fernández

Robin Grenier

Kimberly LeChasseur

Jennifer Michno

Blanca Rincón

John Settlage

Jennie Weiner

Sarah Woulfin

Based on recent teaching evaluations, these individuals are among a select group of faculty who excel in teaching, which involves successfully engaging students and facilitates an environment of learning around a spirit of inquiry and intellectual curiosity. These educators are innovative and are consistently seeking new ways to improve as teachers.
Congratulations on this success as you continue to serve as a model for the students and peers within the department, keep up the outstanding work!

Dr. Rincón to Serve in Upcoming Leadership Capacities

Head shot of assistant professor Blanca RinconThis past fall she was named co-principal investigator for a five-year $3.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant dedicated to expanding diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics field. Most recently, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Blanca Rincón, has been elected to serve on the directorate for the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Professional Preparation (CPP), and as a programming committee member for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Division-J.

As a scholar and researcher, Dr. Rincón continuously shows dedication and passion for higher education, and student affairs. She has a Ph.D. in Education Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with areas of expertise in underrepresented minority students in STEM, diversity in higher education, and Latinxs in education. She is most looking forward to serving with ACPA’s CPP and AERA’s Division-J because both have been systems of support and encouragement for her as she transitioned into her role as a new faculty member in higher education and student affairs. She is especially excited to continue her work with AERA’s Division-J. She had previously served as a graduate student representative for two years.

The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Professional Preparation is a program committed to student affairs professional preparation through a diverse directorate that creates opportunities that embrace critical values of the profession including, development of the whole student, diversity and ethics; and pursues the professional development of faculty in higher education through collaborative efforts for networking, scholarship and service with colleagues. As a member of the CPP directorate, Dr. Rincón will serve a three-year term where she will represent the interests and concerns of faculty and staff involved in the professional preparation of student affairs professionals. Some of the resources provided through CPP’s directorate include: a clearinghouse for syllabi and teaching materials, networking opportunities, faculty grants, and awards.

The American Educational Research Association Division-J, is aimed at encouraging the advancement of research, policy, and practice in various areas of post-secondary education. It is made up of policy makers, faculty, graduate students, and researchers from around the world. Dr. Rincón will be co-chairing the college student access section—one of the largest in Division-J. Part of her responsibilities will include coordinating reviewer panels and helping to shape the Division J program for the AERA Annual Meeting 2018 in New York City. She is extremely thankful for this opportunity, and humbled to be selected to serve in such a capacity with Dr. Ana Martínez Alemán of Lynch School of Education at Boston College, as Vice President.

Through her research, involvement, and clear concern for the field of higher education, Blanca Rincón is making great strides in achieving her goal, and helping others achieve theirs. We look forward to seeing Dr. Rincón take on these new positions within the ACPA and AERA Division-J, and to continue her development as a higher education professional, leader, and advocate for change. With her new responsibilities also comes new learning opportunities, and a chance to enact change at the University and beyond.