Holmes Scholars

Erica McCray

Welcome to the University of Florida Chapter of Holmes Scholars’ virtual home.
The Holmes Scholars are a group of diverse doctoral students from underrepresented communities committed to diversifying educational spaces. If you would like more information about the Holmes Scholars Program or are interested in becoming a Holmes Scholar, please contact Dr. Erica McCray by email at edm@coe.ufl.edu.

AACTE Holmes Scholars logo


The Holmes Scholars Program is sponsored by the American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE). The AACTE Holmes Scholars Program provides mentorship, peer support, and rich professional development opportunities to doctoral students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds who are pursuing careers in education. The program also aims to help AACTE member institutions develop an outstanding pool of diverse candidates for faculty and other leadership positions. Nearly 700 Scholars have benefited from the program since its inception by the Holmes Group in 1991. Many former Scholars are now in tenured faculty and leadership positions, and many have gone on to hire other Holmes Scholars alumni to faculty or administrative positions at their institutions.
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Advisory Group

Picture of Taryrn T.C. Brown

Taryrn T.C. Brown, Ph.D.

Clinical Assistant Professor of Teachers, Schools, and Society (TSS)

School of Teaching and Learning

Picture of Busey Christopher

Christopher L. Busey, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Critical Studies in Race, Ethnicity, & Culture

School of Teaching and Learning

Picture of Doctor Shaunte Duggins

Shaunté Duggins, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, New Worlds Reading Initiative

University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning

Picture of Doctor Erica McCray

Erica D. McCray, Ph.D. (Coordinator)

Director & Associate Professor of Special Education

School of Special Education, School Psychology, and Early Childhood Studies

Picture of Doctor Rose Pringle

Rose Pringle, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Science Education

School of Teaching and Learning



Lily Acosta

Lily Acosta is a 2nd year doctoral student in the School Psychology Program. She received her undergraduate degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences at the University of Florida. Her current research interests lie in clinical service provisions to underserved populations, as well as child and family social/emotional health assessment and intervention. Lily is passionate about access to mental health resources and working with linguistically diverse individuals. Outside of school, Lily enjoys spending time with family, cooking, and cuddling with her dog.

Ahmed Al Matani

Ahmed Al Matani is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an ESOL/Bilingual Education specialization. He has a Master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Missouri St. Louis. He has taught ESL, EFL, Critical Thinking, Public Speaking as well as Interpersonal Communication in Oman. His areas of expertise are accreditation, applied linguistics and assessment. His research interests include Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), curriculum development, educational leadership, social justice, and Critical Race Theory.

Gerardo Altamirano

Jasmaine Ataga

Jasmaine Ataga is a 1st year PhD student at the University of Florida in the Counseling and Counselor Education Program. Jasmaine is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Associate Professional Counselor in Georgia (APC). Her research agenda focuses on sexual trauma and utilizing expressive arts to promote meaning-making and posttraumatic growth. As a sexual assault counselor Jasmaine created sand-tray interventions, art-based techniques, and expressive art teen retreats for underserved individuals impacted by sexual trauma. Jasmaine also co-owns Unscripted Travel, a small business that creates and facilitates international outreach trips for counseling students, clinicians, and educators. Her trips focus on clinical outreach and cultural immersion experiences based in communities of Color abroad.

Priscilla Bell

Priscilla Bell is a doctoral candidate in the Teachers, Schools, and Society program. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Florida and a M.Ed. in Higher Education from Penn State. Priscilla worked in the field of college access and first-generation student support for several years before returning to UF to continue her studies. Toggling the K-12 and Higher Education boundaries, her research interests include supporting the access to and retention in higher education for first-generation, low-income, students of color.

Peijuan Cao

Peijuan Cao is a doctoral student specializing in Reading and Literacy Education. She is from China and has been living in the U.S. for six years. Peijuan obtained her master’s degree in English Education at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Peijuan is passionate about teaching and she gained extensive teaching experience, including teaching English as a second language in China and Colombia, teaching Chinese as a foreign language in the U.S. She has also been teaching graduate courses on topics of reading assessment and intervention as well as an undergraduate level reading course in the Elementary ProTeach program at UF. Her research interests include oral reading behavior, early literacy instruction, reading teacher preparation and second language acquisition.

Matthew P. Cowley

Matthew P. Cowley is a doctoral candidate in the Teachers, Schools, and Society program. His research and scholarship examine the intersections of race and higher education policy, curriculum, and outcomes. Matthew deeply desires for his scholarship to contribute to equitable postsecondary outcomes for racially marginalized students and the development of anti-racist citizens through higher education curriculum and pedagogy.

Agenia Delouche

Agenia Delouche is a 3rd year PhD student pursuing a degree in School Psychology. She is also a McKnight Doctoral Fellow. Her research and practice experiences are with children and adolescents in both school and clinical settings.
Her Bachelor of Arts is from the University of Miami, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a major in Psychology and minors in Education and Human & Social Development. Her current areas of interest include culturally and linguistically diverse learners, family engagement, and early childhood.

Alexis Freeman

Alexis Freeman, a former elementary school teacher in New York City, is a Ph.D. student in special education. Although she was in the classroom for what felt like a short period of time, she has been an educator all her life. Alexis earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in education, as well as a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Florida. Her research interest includes literacy and language, examining the achievement of students of color, specifically their use of Black English/Language/Literacy through the tenets of critical race theory and critical methodologies. Alexis is supported by Project TIER, a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) leadership grant, and is a research assistant on the James Patterson Literacy Challenge.

Huan Gao

Huan Gao is a Ph.D. student specializing in Literacy Education. She obtained her master’s degree in Translating and Interpreting from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Before starting her doctoral studies, Huan had taught English as a foreign language in China and taught Chinese as a foreign language in the U.S. to learners at different levels for a few years. She was involved in a research project for Teaching Students to Become Expert Information Seekers. Her current research interests center around digital literacies/multiliteracies, and literacy development of immigrant youths.

Jiameng Gao

Jiameng Gao is a doctoral student specialized in ESOL/Bilingual Education. She is from Beijing, China. She received a bachelor’s degree in Teaching Chinese as Foreign Language (TCFL) from Beijing International Studies University and a master’s degree in Teaching English to the Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Pennsylvania. She has extensive working experience with young emergent bilinguals in the U.S. She is particularly interested in bilingual children’s identity and language development.

Jan Gay

Jan Gay is a 1st year Ph.D. student at the University of Florida in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program. Jan has a background in school counseling and clinical social work. Jan Gay is currently licensed as a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a Professional School Counselor and a Licensed Independent Certified Social Worker (LICSW). Jan serves as a member of the AMCD Ethics Committee and AMCD Ethics Committee Graduate Student Liaison. She is a Florida Association of Counselor Education and Supervision Emerging Leader. Jan is a Dove Self Esteem Project Confident Me Cadre Trainer and provides training and information on the body confidence curriculum geared towards students 10-13 years old. Her research interest includes school counselor competency and development, multiculturalism, social justice, and advocacy.

Hyojong Sohn

Hyojong Sohn is a doctoral student in special education. Before pursuing doctoral studies, she worked as an elementary school teacher in South Korea and a special education teacher in Minnesota. Also, she earned her master’s degree in special education and teaching licenses in learning disabilities and elementaryn education from St. Cloud State University. She is interested in measures of teacher effectiveness, professional development, teacher diversity, literacy interventions, and educational policy.

Lissette Tolentino

Lissette Tolentino is a Ph.D. student specializing in research and evaluation methodology. Her research interests are in psychometrics, large-scale and standardized testing, and issues regarding validity and reliability. She is currently
teaching measurement and evaluation in education for undergraduate students and a research fellow at the Center for Public Interest Communications. Currently, she is researching communication practices within the psychometric field. When not researching or teaching, you can find her cooking, volunteering, and traveling.

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson is a doctoral student in the Leadership in Educational Administration Doctorate (LEAD) Program. He earned his undergraduate degree in Philosophy from Duke University and his Masters of Science in Physical Education and Athletic Administration from North Carolina Central University. His current research interests include Diversity in Leadership, Nascent Leadership, Revenue Generation, Experiential Innovation, Ideation, and Critical Race Theory in Sport. Kevin’s professional experience includes leadership positions at emerging Division-II
institutions, Football Bowl Subdivision, and Historically Black College & Universities. He is passionate about leadership opportunities for all and helping others realizescholarship through sport. He is also the proud father of two boys, Kendrick and Knox and dedicates his doctoral journey to his wife, Dr. S. Lavi Wilson, who impacts students daily as an Assistant professor of Social Work.

Jie Li

Jie Li is currently a Ph.D. student specializing in ESOL and Bilingual Education. She obtained her MS degree in TESOL from the University of Rochester, and her BA degree in Chinese Language and Literature from China Jiliang University. As a teacher, she believes everyone has potential. Being a good teacher and a good teacher educator need to fully prepare herself to tap into the students’ potentials. As a scholar, she has broad research interests, including ESL and Bilingual teacher preparation, internationally collaborative teacher preparation, NNEST preparation, critical pedagogy, and women studies. Jie has great passion in conducting research to explore the educational issues across the nations. She advocates humanizing education globally and aims to promote equity, social justice and international collaboration in education.

Mengfei Liu

Mengfei Liu is a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in ESOL/Bilingual Education. She has a M.Ed. from Vanderbilt University. She is passionate about making education an enjoyable and meaningful experience for all. Mengfei has the experiences of working in multiple educational settings and with students of different age groups. Her interests include preparing all teachers to work with linguistically diverse students, bi/multilingualism, and teacher educator development.

Jia Ma

Jia Ma is a doctoral student in special education. Originally from China, she earned her master’s degree and credential in Special Education and taught for two years in California. As a Resource Specialist, Jia provided specialized academic instruction and coordinated special education services to meet middle school students’ identified needs with a focus on self-advocacy and regulation skills through self-direct IEPs. Her current research interests include effective behavior prevention strategies, goal-setting interventions, executive functions, self-regulation, social-emotional learning, and high-leverage and evidence-based practices.

Manuel Marichal

Manuel Marichal is a doctoral student in the School Psychology program. He received his bachelor’s degree in Politics and a certificate in Latin American Studies from Princeton University. After college, Manuel moved to New York City where he worked as a teacher and an administrator at a charter school in Washington Heights. He later worked as an ESOL paraprofessional in Gainesville. His current research interests include the family engagement of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families, CLD assessment practices, and the professional training of bilingual school psychologists. Outside of work and school, Manuel enjoys singing, making music, playing basketball and running.

Jordan Mike

Jordan Mike is a Ph.D. student in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program. He is originally from The Bahamas and earned a B.S. in psychology and creative writing from Mercer University. Jordan also holds an M.S. in clinical mental health counseling from Georgia State University. He is currently licensed as a National Certified Counselor (NCC). Jordan serves as a graduate student liaison of the AMCD Communications Committee. He is the Florida Association of Counselor Education and Supervision Graduate Student Representative. Jordan’s research interest includes internationalization of counseling, multiculturalism, mentorship, social justice, and advocacy.

D’Annette Mullen

D’Annette Mullen, a former high school special education teacher and leader, is a doctoral student in special education. She has experience writing and supervising a 21st Century Grant at a New York City public school. Her research interests include racial discrepancies in school discipline, the impacts of various forms of restorative justice in schools, and school leadership. D’Annette is supported by Project TIER, a U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) leadership grant.

Masashi Otani

Masashi Otani, a former assistant professor in Japan, is currently a PhD student in ESOL/Bilingual Education and an instructor in the teacher education program. Masashi is passionate about advocating for multilingual learners in U.S. PK-12 contexts recognizing language is an important aspect of identity. His current research interests include: bilingual teacher education, linguistic minority students, and Japanese as a heritage language learners.

Takeshia Pierre

Takeshia Pierre, MPH, is a first-generation Haitian-American Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education. Takeshia was born and raised in Miami, Florida and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. She considers her faith, family, and education as the makings of her being. She attributes her lived experiences as a public health practitioner in community health and her transition to education as the direct influence on her approach for improving science education for underrepresented minority (URM) students. Her research interests include examinations of socioemotional and resilience training for URM middle school students, STEM mentorship, and culturally responsive pedagogy, through a critical race theory lens.

Leighann Puig

Leighann Puig is a Ph.D. student in School Psychology. Before pursuing graduate study, she worked in many instructional and support positions over her ten years with Hillsborough County Public Schools. Leighann worked as a paraprofessional with adult English language learners, Pre-K, and students with low- incidence disabilities. She graduated with her bachelor’s in Exceptional Student Education with additional study in Reading Intervention from St. Petersburg College. Leighann’s research interests include intervention adaptations, special education eligibility and identification, and the use of culturally responsive practices.

Theos Rizos

Theos Rizos is currently pursuing an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Educational Technology specialization. He has a B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Florida, and a M.S. in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. He has taught Reading, English Language Arts as a 2014 Teach for America Corps Member in Jacksonville, FL. His current research interests include gamification, student retention, access, and designing inclusive learning environments.

Tresha Robinson

Tresha Robinson is a doctoral student in the Higher Education Administration program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and master’s degree in English Education from the University of Florida, as well as a master’s degree in higher education from New York University. Her research interests include recruitment and retention of students of color at PWIs, student activism, and social justice.

Tredina D. Sheppard

Tredina D. Sheppard is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Science Education. She has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. Tredina has been a secondary science teacher for 7 years where her focus has been on improving her practice and growing professionally. Her research interests include inquiry-based science teaching practices, science teacher professional development, and STEM integration.

Tatianna Zambrano

Tatianna Zambrano is a doctoral student in School Psychology. She is from Tuscaloosa, AL where, as a first-generation college student, she received her B.S. in Psychology at The University of Alabama. Tatianna is interested in research regarding ASD and middle school mental health. She is particularly interested in helping families of individuals with ASD through clinical services and educational supports. During her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, painting, and reading.

Huibin Zhang

Huibin Zhang is a doctoral student in the Research and Evaluation Methodology program. He is originally from China and got a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Beijing Institute of Technology. However, his passion for education and psychology drove him to change his career path. In 2016 earned a M.Ed. and Ed.S. in Counselor Education at the University of Florida. His current research interests are to statistically examine psychological and educational interventions’ effectiveness on students’ well-being, and statistical properties of educational assessment.

Recent Graduates

Valentina Contesse, Ph.D.
Special Education (August 2021)

Tiana Dowie-Chin, Ph.D.
Curriculum & Instruction: Teachers, Schools, & Society (August 2021)

Michael Poole
Instructor, Language Arts Education

Alexandria Harvey Ph.D.
Special Education (May 2021)

Hyunjin Jinna Kim, Ph.D.
Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL/Bilingual Education (August 2021)

Brittany LaBelle, Ph.D.
School Psychology (August 2021)

Patrice Leopold, Ph.D.
Counselor Education (May 2020)

Mercy Machado, Ph.D
Counselor Education (August 2021)

Shalaunda Reeves, Ph.D.
Curriculum & Instruction: Educational Technology (August 2020)

Huseyin Uysal, Ph.D.
Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL/ Bilingual Education (December 2021)