SACRAMENTO, CA, August 1, 2020 – Learning Lab announced a new cohort of advisors for 2020-21. These advisors were selected for the breadth of experience in the California Community Colleges, California State University, and University of California systems, and higher education generally. Collectively, they represent deep expertise in the science of human learning, higher-education administration and institutional change, racial and gender equity, and the potential of 21st century education technology.
Learning Lab’s new advisors are:
Estela Bensimon – Dean’s Professor in Educational Equity & University Professor, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California
Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon is President of Bensimon & Associates, continuing her lifelong commitment to normalizing racial equity—helping higher education leaders, faculty, organizations, and staff feel empowered to make effective changes leading to improved outcomes for racially minoritized students. Known for her creation of the term “equity-minded,” Dr. Bensimon has published extensively about racial equity, organizational learning, practitioner inquiry, and change. As Founding Director of the Center for Urban Education, which Dr. Bensimon created in 1999 and led until its merging in 2020 with the USC Race and Equity Center, she developed the Equity Scorecard—a process for using inquiry to drive changes in institutional practice and culture, increasing racial equity in higher education outcomes. University Professor Emerita at USC, Dr. Bensimon currently serves on several boards, including the Campaign for College Opportunity and Complete College America. She is an elected member to the National Academy of Education and received the 2017 Social Justice in Education Award from the American Educational Research Association. Her most recent book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk: Expanding Practitioner Knowledge for Racial Justice in Higher Education, co-authored with Tia Brown McNair and Lindsey Malcom-Piqueux, was published in 2020. Dr. Bensimon earned her doctorate in higher education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Jonathan Brack – Director of Collaborative Impact Programs, Foundation for California Community Colleges
Jonathan Brack is the Director of Collaborative Impact Programs at the Foundation for California Community Colleges. Through this program, Brack leads the Foundation’s efforts to incubate, scale, and sustain creative endeavors to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for all Californians. For the past 20 years, Brack has worked at the intersection of youth development, education, and workforce development throughout California. Brack began his career in higher education as the founding director of the long-term, academic mentoring program Berkeley Scholars at Stiles Hall. He then served as Director of Workforce Development at the California School-Age Consortium (CalSAC) and was also on the founding team of CODE2040, a San Francisco based nonprofit focused on removing barriers preventing Black and Latinx people from participation in the innovation economy. Most recently, Brack served as the Capacity Building Manager at Tipping Point Community, where he led the organization’s efforts to provide talent management and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) resources to the nonprofits that Tipping Point supports.
Sonya Christian – President, Bakersfield College
Dr. Sonya Christian became president of Bakersfield College (BC) in 2013. An advocate for continued education across social and economic boundaries, Dr. Christian has shepherded BC through an exciting phase of expanded opportunities for current and future students. In recognition of her accomplishments at Bakersfield College, Christian was named the 2016 “Woman of the Year” by Californian Assemblyman Rudy Salas. She was also named Woman of the Year by the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (2016) and educator of the year by the Delano Chamber of Commerce (2018). Christian began her three-decade career in education at BC in 1991, first as a math faculty member and later as division chair, then Dean of Science, Engineering, Allied Health and Mathematics. Christian earned her bachelor of science degree from University of Kerala in Kerala, India; a master of science in applied mathematics from University of Southern California; and her doctorate from University of California, Los Angeles.
Michael Dennin – Dean of Undergraduate Education, Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of California, Irvine
Dr. Michael Dennin has been a professor of Physics and Astronomy at UC Irvine (UCI) since 1997 and was appointed as the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning & Dean of the Division of Undergraduate Education in May 2015. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Physics from Princeton University, and his PhD and Masters in Physics from UCSB. He is a recipient of UC Irvine’s Senate awards in all three categories: Distinguished Mid-Career Award for Service, Distinguished Faculty Award for Teaching, and Distinguished Assistant Professor Award for Research. Professor Dennin has been very active in translating educational research to practical applications within the university. He is dedicated to public outreach in the area of science – teaching a number of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), including co-teaching one based on the AMC television program The Walking Dead. He has also appeared on numerous television programs, including Science of Superman, Spider-man Tech, Batman Tech, Star Wars Tech, and Ancient Aliens. Recently, he published a science outreach book on the intersection between science and faith called Divine Science: Finding Reason at the Heart of Faith, from Franciscan Media.
James T. Minor – Assistant Vice Chancellor & Senior Strategist, CSU Office of the Chancellor
Dr. James T. Minor serves as the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Senior Strategist in the Office of the Chancellor at the California State University (CSU). He provides leadership to advance the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, which focuses on dramatically increasing student success and eliminating equity gaps. Minor is a recognized thought leader on minority-serving institutions, higher education policy development, and issues related to improving degree completion nationally. His scholarly work focuses on academic governance and improving institutional performance. He previously served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, as the Director of Higher Education Programs at the Southern Education Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia and as an associate professor of higher education policy at Michigan State University. A native of Detroit, Minor earned his B.A. in sociology from Jackson State University, M.A. in sociology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Ph.D. in educational policy analysis and leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Wayne Skipper – Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Concentric Sky Co-Founder, Light At Play
Wayne is an engineer and artist with over 30 years experience working in technology. His background spans the gamut from circuit design to software architecture. He’s passionate about education and emerging technologies, with a focus on real-world applications of machine learning and AI. Wayne’s team leads the development of several open technology standards in education, helping to create an open ecosystem that facilitates real-time connections between skills development and employment. Wayne has contributed to standards development at W3C, IEEE, and IMS Global, and his team at Concentric Sky is the creator of Badgr, one of the world’s leading platforms for digital badges and micro-credentials. In his spare time, Wayne designs and builds interactive lighting installations that visualize the beauty of complex information systems. His work has been displayed at The Smithsonian and The National Academy of Sciences.
Candace Thille – Director of Learning Science, Amazon.com, Inc. and Member, ETS Board of Trustees
Dr. Candace Thille was the founding director of the Open Learning Initiative (OLI) at Carnegie Mellon University and at Stanford University. At Stanford University, she was also an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education, faculty in the Neurosciences Interdepartmental Program, and a Research Fellow in the Office of the Vice Provost for Online Learning. Her focus is in applying the results from research in the science of learning to the design and evaluation of technology mediated learning environments and in using those environments to conduct research at the intersection of human learning and machine learning. Candace has served on the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities; as a fellow of the International Society for Design and Development in Education; on the Assessment 2020 Task Force of the American Board of Internal Medicine; on the advisory council for the Association of American Universities STEM initiative; and on the advisory council for the National Science Foundation Directorate for Education and Human Resources. She served on the working group of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) that produced the Engage to Excel report and on the U.S. Department of Education working groups, co-authoring the 2010 and 2015 National Education Technology Plans. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley; a master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.
Previous advisors to the Learning Lab have included Nobel Laureate and Stanford University physicist Carl Wieman; UC Berkeley’s Biology Scholars Program Co-founder and Director John Matsui; Science Education Partnership and Assessment Laboratory (SEPAL) Director and San Francisco State University Professor Kimberly Tanner; Founding Director of Cal State LA’s Minority Opportunities in Research Programs and Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Carlos Gutierrez; College of the Canyons Professor of Mathematics and California Acceleration Project Team Member Kathy Kubo; Minerva Schools’ Founding Dean and Chief Academic Officer Stephen Kosslyn; and Chan Zuckerberg Vice President of Learning Science Bror Saxberg.