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Student Biographies - Ph.D. Higher Education

Our PhD students hail from around the country as well as internationally. Their diverse personal and professional backgrounds contribute importantly to the learning environment and provide unique opportunities to build strong and lasting networks.

Our Students
Jason Bergeron

Jason Bergeron

I am thrilled to move through my Doctoral journey in the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies program. I currently serve as the Director of the Center for Fraternity & Sorority Life at the University of Houston, a role I have held since August 2009. I earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering and French from Ohio Northern University and a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel from Kent State University. I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors (http://www.afa1976.org), am the Vice President for the Center for Fraternity/Sorority Research, and am a Co-Lead Facilitator for The LeaderShape Institute (http://www.leadershape.org). In my spare time I enjoy distance running and have run 7 marathons. My research interests include outcomes measurements for undergraduate education and institutional effectiveness. jberger@uh.edu

Rickey Frierson

Rickey Frierson

I am a doctoral student in the UH Educational Leadership and Policy Study program. I once was a military brat, that had the opportunity to experience many states within the US and countries like Germany, Mexico, and Ghana.  I pursued my BS in Business Management with emphasis in Entrepreneurship at Kansas State University.  I received a MS in Organizational Development at Friends University in Wichita, KS.  Following college, I worked as a Multicultural Recruiter and Diversity/Inclusion Chair at Butler Community College.  My research interests center around the role and responsibilities of the Chief Diversity Officer in higher education institutions.  I am also interested in minority males success programs and mentoring. In my free time, I am enjoying working out, spending time with family, and watching sports.  rfrierson@uh.edu

 Andrew Kapral

Andrew Kapral

I am doctoral student in the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies program. I started my career as a classroom science teacher in Houston ISD and currently serve as the Director of the STEM Teaching Equity Project, a UH College of Education outreach program providing training and support to K12 science teachers in Houston. I am interested in learning how to best equip teachers with the tools they need to inspire and prepare the next generation of STEM students. My past research has examined STEM teaching and learning in settings ranging from elementary to graduate schools.  Currently, I am working on projects related to key leakage points in the STEM education pipeline including middle school and the transition from high school to college. I grew up in Lake County, Illinois and attended college at Illinois Wesleyan University. I also hold a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Houston. When I manage to get away from work and the big city lights, I love to hike national parks with my wife Jen and stare at the stars through my telescope.  ajkapral@uh.edu or @ScienceEquity

 Brandon Mack

Brandon Mack

I am a doctoral student at the University of Houston in the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies program.  This program was an excellent fit for me because of the faculty’s commitment to producing higher education leaders committed to social justice and the transformational nature of higher education.  While I am working as the Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Rice University, the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies Ph.D. will help me achieve my goal to be a professor and administrator who works with college access and support services for students from diverse populations.

 Sly Mata

Sly Mata

Before enrolling at the University of Houston, I worked at Cornell University where I assisted in Title IX cases and was a member of the Crisis Management team providing support to students in need. Additionally, I worked within the College of Architecture, Art and Planning creating diversity initiatives to increase the academic and personal success of underrepresented students, LGBTQ, first generation and low income students. Before extending my career at Cornell University, I attended the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University where I received my Masters of Public Administration, and prior to that, I received my Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University. My current research is focused on efficient higher education finance models. Specifically, I am interested on possible effects it produces in regards to positive student outcomes (enrollment, retention, and graduation) within first generation and low income student populations.  smata3@uh.edu

 Trang Phan

Trang Phan

I am originally from Vietnam, but Houston has been my home for over thirty years.  Having already earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Master of Education in Historical, Social and Cultural Foundations of Education from the University of Houston, I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue a doctorate in Higher Education and Policy Studies alongside an amazing cohort of thinkers, and the accomplished faculty of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.  My broad research interests include issues of access, social justice, immigration, identity formation and social theory in education, as well as cultural and philosophical underpinnings of education. Presently, I am exploring issues of educational access and identity formation in immigrant populations.  In addition to my research interests, I also enjoy other means of exploration such as cooking, running, traveling and shopping for mid century furniture and collectibles at thrift stores and vintage shops.  trangphan@uh.edu

 Toni Templeton

Toni Templeton

I'm a student in the Higher Education and Leadership Policy Studies program.  After receiving a Bachelor's degree in Neurobiology from the University of Texas and a teaching certificate from Huston Tillotson University, I taught science at a dropout recovery high school in Austin. Promoted to an administrator after earning my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix, I developed a particular interest in accountability and school finance. This interest was further developed when I accepted a position as a data and policy analyst for an education advocacy group. Working in Texas education policy for 5 years, I welcomed the opportunity to return to academia here at the University of Houston and am eager to find new ways to infuse education policy with academic work to close the gaps in college access and persistence.  tbtempleton@uh.edu 

 Maria Luna Torres

Maria Luna Torres

My research interests focus on college affordability and its effect on college access and degree completion. Early in my professional career, I served as a financial aid counselor where I learned first-hand about the numerous opportunities for improving the alignment between students’ financial needs with state and federal student aid program funding. My research goals are to conduct meaningful research that will help inform and shape student financial aid policy so that students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education have access to an affordable college education.  As I begin my candidacy work, I look forward to exploring the profile of student borrowers at community colleges and examining the relationship between their borrowing debt levels and their educational outcomes.  I grew up in Harlingen which is located in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. I earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, and a Master’s of Science in Higher Education Administration from Texas A&M University in College Station. Currently I work full-time as Director of Public Policy & Advocacy at Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation (TG) in Austin. mlluna-torres@uh.edu

 Kathryn Wheatley

Kathryn Wheatley

I am a student in the Higher Education Leadership and Policy Studies doctoral program. My research interests are in the areas of low-income and transfer student retention and attrition, success of undeserved student populations, and access to and influences of financial aid on undergraduate student success. I grew up in Sugar Land, TX and earned B.A. and M.S. Ed. degrees from Baylor University. Prior to becoming a full-time graduate student and part-time research assistant, I worked at The University of Houston for seven years, serving in the Division of Student Affairs and in the C. T. Bauer College of Business. I have the pleasure of being involved with undergraduate leadership development when my schedule allows. Outside of school, I’m an avid reader, a singer, and an occasional chef. I would be pleased to speak with any prospective students about my experiences in the program and about UH in general! kpwheatley@uh.edu