Photo of Rachel Dennison Rachel Kennison, MSW, Ph.D. (she/her)

Executive Director, CEILS
Associate Teaching Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Administrative Co-Leader, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA)
Director, Faculty Learning Program (FLP)
Co-PI, NSF INCLUDES Aspire Award

Office Location: 226 Hershey Hall

For current CV, please click here.

Rachel Kennison is an advocate for the persistence and retention of all undergraduates in STEM education. As a member of the CEILS team since 2015 and as the CEILS Executive Director she is engaged in the development of courses and initiatives to improve and transform undergraduate STEM education by using evidence-based practices that are driven by the principles and values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. Along with co-facilitating and administering the suite of CEILS programming aimed at supporting faculty, Dr. Kennison is the Institutional Administrative Co-Leader of UCLA’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA), providing certification in scientific teaching and professional development for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and serves on the CIRTL national Network Leadership Team. Dr. Kennison is the instructor of the innovative career development course for Life Science undergraduate majors, LS 110: Career Exploration in the Life Sciences and co-teaches the graduate level CIRTL Teaching as Research course.  Dr. Kennison earned her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, M.S. in Clinical Social Work from Columbia University and her Ph.D. in Biology from UCLA in 2008, advised and mentored by Dr. Peggy Fong.  She currently holds an Associate Teaching Professor position in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has a son who is a senior in College and a very friendly pup named Luna who loves to come to the office and accompany her to the beach and the mountains.

Shanna Shaked, M.A.T., Ph.D. (she/her)

Senior Associate Director, CEILS
Assistant Professor, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
Academic Administrator, Life Sciences Core Education Department

Director, Learning Assistants (LA) Program for the Sciences
Co-Director, Faculty Learning Program (FLP)

Office Location: Young Hall 3077C
(310) 825-4009

Shanna Shaked is a leader at UCLA in the use of evidence-based teaching techniques, particularly those that aid in the retention of underrepresented groups. She has also pioneered a range of interdisciplinary teaching collaborations with faculty across the UCLA Physical and Life Sciences. After earning her B.S. and B.A. in Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics from the University of Arizona, she received a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from the University of Michigan and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Ithaca College.  Her research experience ranges across astrophysics, biophysics, environmental physics, pollutant modeling, sustainability, and ultimately physics education research.

At UCLA, Dr. Shaked has initiated a range of evidence-based teaching techniques, including co-founding and directing UCLA’s interdisciplinary undergraduate Learning Assistant program to promote active learning and inclusivity in large lecture courses. She is also the co-director of UCLA’s “Faculty Learning Program”, which provides intensive year-long professional development for faculty wanting to incorporate more inclusive and effective teaching practices. Dr. Shaked is an HHMI/National Academies Summer Institute Fellow and Facilitator and a regular participant and presenter in national and regional STEM education conferences. She has also facilitated curricular transformations in introductory physics, mathematics and chemistry curricula at UCLA.

Through teaching introductory physics and other courses, Dr. Shaked has extensive experience with the following classroom technologies and activities: clickers with peer instruction, pre-lecture assignments and interactive videos, collaborative workshop discussions, weekly quizzes, real world application group projects, online discussion forums, collaborative office hours, and mid-quarter student feedback. Dr. Shaked is also an expert in the implementation of pre- and post-tests and surveys to assess the effectiveness of such educational interventions. Building on her training and experience in teaching middle and high school science, Dr. Shaked has worked with other faculty and in her own courses to mentor UCLA undergraduates to present science to more than 2,000 K-12 and community college students and at multiple outreach events per year. She has also aided faculty in successfully designing broader impact components for NSF grants, integrating faculty research into effective outreach activities.

The overall focus of Dr. Shaked’s efforts in CEILS is to identify and address the educational needs and interests of STEM faculty, and in so doing, support the academic success of all UCLA students.

Photo of Jess GreggJess Gregg, MA, EdM, LMFT (she/her)

Senior Associate Director, CEILS
Academic Coordinator, Life Sciences Core Education Department


Office Location: 222B Hershey Hall
(310) 825-6694

Jess works on multiple initiatives involving the use of data analytics to inform curricular improvements and drive conversations with faculty and college leadership around student success. She has been part of UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS) since 2016, and designs and facilitates many educational programs and training workshops targeting faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. With expertise in instructional design, educational development, and counseling psychology she provides individual support to faculty including observation of teaching, consultation on course design and active learning, and training on educational technology implementation.

Jess has a Masters of Arts and Masters of Education in Counseling Psychology from Teachers College Columbia University, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Wesleyan University, and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of California. After years of working as a mental health therapist in San Francisco, she shifted careers and started working in 2010 in instructional design and then educational development.  Over the past decade she has collaborated with professionals and instructors at various organizations, community colleges, and 4-year universities to develop workshops, facilitate trainings, and design courses for varying modes of delivery. While professional roles have differed in many ways throughout her career, the common thread has been helping individuals and groups build community and create authentic and meaningful learning experiences.  Her interests include group dynamics, active learning pedagogy, educational research and assessment, online learning, and cultivating equitable and inclusive classrooms.

Jess is a PI on the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Award, leading regional collaborative efforts to increase diversity in the STEM professoriate across 2- and 4-year institutions and collaborating with national partners. Through this initiative UCLA’s graduate students and postdocs receive support and coaching on how to successful obtain regional teaching positions. Additionally, UCLA strives to serve as a hub and connector to regional institutions and organizations that promote equity and increasing the diversity in higher education through internship experiences, professional development, and other regional learning communities and events.

Outside of work: Jess grew up in New Jersey and has lived in New York, Copenhagen, San Francisco, Vancouver (Canada), Washington DC, and now lives in Santa Monica. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Nathan, their young kids Henry and Charlotte, and cat Izzy. Jess’s favorite things include – Maine, tacos, Korean BBQ, boba tea, coffee, binge-watching dramas, beaches.

View CV here.

picture of K. SupriyaK. Supriya, Ph.D. (she/her)

Associate Director for Student Success, CEILS

Office Location: Hershey Hall 222

Dr. K. Supriya is a biology education researcher and an evolutionary biologist. She cares deeply about centering social justice in science education and research, as well as improving scientific teaching and research by drawing upon and honoring a plurality of knowledge systems and cultural practices. She grew up in New Delhi, India and came to the U.S. to pursue a PhD in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago. For her PhD, she studied competition between birds and ants for arthropod prey and nesting spaces in the eastern Himalaya. Over the course of her PhD, she became interested in inclusive pedagogy and the field of education research and went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Biology Education Research lab at Arizona State University. As a postdoctoral researcher, she studied how assessments at the undergraduate level, particularly high-stakes exams, contribute to disparities in student grades by social identities and worked on a needs assessment of students in the online biology degree program.

Katie Ingraham Dixie, Ph.D. (she/her)

Assistant Director of Teaching Development Pathways, CEILS
Program Coordinator for the Southern California Regional Collaborative and Aspire Internship Programs
Communications Coordinator, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA)
Lecturer, Life Sciences

Office Location: Hershey Hall 222

Katie received her PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology PhD  at UCLA, but during her graduate career she discovered her true passion for STEM education. Katie currently works with future faculty (graduate students and postdocs) interested in pedagogy across campus in several capacities; she is an instructor for the LS495 TA training course, the Communications Coordinator for the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL), and the Program Coordinator for the California Regional Collaborative and Aspire Internship Program, all of which are run out of CEILS. In her work with future faculty, Katie hopes to help instill the importance of inclusive and equitable teaching in her students and to stimulate passion and interest in the joys of teaching.

As a graduate student, Katie was involved in several of the programs she runs today. As a graduate student, she helped redevelop the TA training course for graduate students in her department and conducted a small Teaching as Research project on the effectiveness of these changes on TA use of pedagogical practices and confidence and self-efficacy as educators. She was also highly involved in CIRTL@UCLA, and became an official CIRTL Scholar by presenting this work at several conferences. Due in part to her work with future faculty, she was also awarded the 2019 UCLA Distinguished Teaching Assistant award. In addition, she was the inaugural Aspire2Lead intern. As an Aspire2Lead intern she was able to participate in several conferences with 2-year college faculty across the state and meet many of the members of the Southern California collaborative, with whom she is excited to continue working with!

Photo of Katie HealeyKatie Healey, Ph.D. (she/her)

Associate Director for Collaborative Initiatives in Faculty Development, CEILS

Office Location: Hershey Hall 222

Dr. Katie Healey earned her PhD from Yale University in the Program for the History of Science and Medicine in 2019. Her research examines the intersections of disability, deception, and technology during twentieth-century warfare. She was Visiting Assistant Professor in the department of Science, Technology, and Society at Rochester Institute of Technology from 2019-2021, where she taught courses in environmental studies; science, technology, and gender; biomedical issues and epidemic disease; and social consequences of technology.

As an historian of disability, sound, and the senses, she confronts the historical discipline’s long-standing ocularcentrism. She believes that careful engagement of multiple senses provides a more complete reconstruction of the past and also honors learner variability. She is a champion of Universal Design for Learning, an instructional framework that reduces educational barriers for all students through flexible instruction and assessment. As Associate Director for Collaborative Initiatives in Faculty Development at UCLA, she is excited to collaborate with instructors on accessible and equitable instruction and is dedicated to promoting a more inclusive academy.

Headshot of JoAnn RobertsJoAnn S. Roberts, Ph.D. (she/her)

Office Location: Hershey Hall 222

Dr. JoAnn Roberts has a passion for people which is evident in her teaching, mentorship, and service. She has a STEM background and received her doctorate in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology from the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Roberts has teaching experience as an adjunct Biology professor in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD), mentors as part of the UCLA Academic Supports Program: Ujima, and has led the development of a virtual teaching collaboration (Topic: Science Literacy) with Historically Black College & University (HBCU) partner institutions. Dr. Roberts is also a CIRTL Scholar and published a teaching tool for integrating metacognitive regulation in the online classroom using student-developed learning plans (JMBE, 2021).

In her current role with CEILS, Dr. Roberts works on the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Initiative which seeks to develop inclusive and diverse STEM faculty. She implements programming to support and connect current faculty at regional colleges and universities and helps to develop a sustainable model for supporting regional graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and other working professionals interested in teaching and academic leadership.

One of Dr. Roberts’ favorite quotes by author and activist James Baldwin is that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” She says “It reminds and encourages me to maintain a posture of growth and boldness. The world does not improve, technology does not advance, and relationships do not heal, if we do not critically examine our past and our present and have the courage to act.”

PwintPhyu Nandar (she/her)

Administrative Assistant, CEILS

Office Location: Hershey Hall 222

PwintPhyu Nandar graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science in 2019. As an undergraduate, she advocated for the retention and outreach of underrepresented students. She is passionate about equity and diversity in the sciences.

Due to her previous experiences working in university settings, Pwint is adept at collaborating across multiple departments to write grants and program large events.

As the Administrative Assistant for CEILS, Pwint supports the team with scheduling and website maintenance. She provides insight on the student perspective. She also contributes suggestions about the marketing and promotion of CEILS events and materials.

In her free time, Pwint gardens and propagates succulents.

Megan B. Lebre, M.Ed. (she/her)

Communications Manager, CEILS


Megan Lebre serves as the CEILS Communications Manager. With expertise managing mass communications and creative marketing, Megan understands the importance of strategic communication and building relationships to grow and elevate the stories of an organization. Previously, Megan served as the Academic Advisor & Program Coordinator for the UCLA Undergraduate Neuroscience IDP for 5 years and most recently served as the Academic Coordinator for the UCLA Center for Community Engagement and Undergraduate Education Initiatives. She thrives in roles where she can be innovative and creative using various digital tools to help communicate ideas, programs, and events. In addition, she manages two growing and active websites and social media accounts: one that shares the joy of supporting South Bay local and small businesses and events ( and @thesouthbaybuzz) and one that gives voice to the complexities of grief ( and @growaroundgrief). 

Graduate Student Researchers

Nadeeka Karunaratne

Nadeeka Karunaratne

Nadeeka Karunaratne is a Ph.D. candidate in the Higher Education & Organizational Change program at UCLA. She conducts research on issues of campus sexual and relationship violence, exploring the experiences of minoritized survivors with a focus on healing. She also serves as an Adjunct Instructor in California Lutheran University’s Department of Counselor Education. She previously worked in the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California, in the Cross-Cultural Center at UC Irvine, and in UC Irvine’s Campus Assault Resources & Education office. She has a master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University and a bachelor’s in Chemistry from UC Berkeley. She is also a trauma-informed yoga instructor.

Sonya Brooks

Sonya Brooks

Sonya Brooks is a Ph.D. student in the Urban Schooling division at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Her research interests lie at the intersections of education policy, law, and urban schools in an effort to design frameworks to build better educational trajectories for students, specifically Black girls. Brooks is a passionate advocate for the health and well-being of girls in PK-12, the advisor for Beautiful Brown Girls – a community-based program in the Bay Area— and is the recipient of the 2021 Center for the Study of Women Black Feminism Initiative Award for her research on Black women and empowerment.  After graduating from UCLA in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in History and Brown University in 2021 with a Master’s in Urban Education Policy, Sonya has been invited to speak about her work with Black girls and ways of dismantling the challenges they experience in academic and healthcare spaces. Currently, Sonya’s areas of research include the historical importance of intergenerational narratives and storytelling and its impact on the health, well-being, and educational opportunities for girls. In her spare time, Sonya loves roller skating, reading, writing, and spending time with her children doing everything or nothing at all.

Former Graduate Student Researchers

Gadise Regassa

Gadise Regassa is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Higher Education and Organizational Change program and is working on her dissertation research around academic burnout, anti-black racism, and the pandemic. During her first four years at UCLA, Gadise worked as a Graduate Ambassador for the Graduate Division Diversity, Inclusion, and Admissions Office, co-founded an academic support group for Black women graduate students, and was a graduate researcher for an EDI and Spencer-funded youth participatory action research project called UCLA BEST. In addition to being a student, Gadise works on the side as an Educational Consultant and just finished a project with Youtube. Before starting her doctoral program, Gadise worked as a Program Administrator for the NYU Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, received her Masters from The Ohio State University in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and graduated with honors from UCSB with a degree in Black Studies and Sociology.

Kiana Foxx

Kiana is a second-year doctoral student in the Higher Education and Organizational Change (HEOC) program. She researches underrepresented student experience with a focus on access and equity and is looking forward to helping develop equity-focused curriculum.

Benjamin Hà

Benjamin Hà, a CIRTL@UCLA STAR fellow, is going to be a 4th year PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and has experience working with students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented minorities. He is excited to join and support CEILS as a GSR to help learn more equitable and anti-racist teaching strategies.

Samantha Theresa Mensah

Samantha Theresa Mensah is a graduate student in the department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. She works under Professors Anne Andrews and Paul Weiss working into field-effect transistor based sensors for neurotransmitters. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, playing banjo, and trapeze.

Headshot of Emma Tran, GSR for CEILSEmma Tran

Emma is a PhD student in the Community Health Sciences department at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. As a CEILS GSR, she is supporting team efforts to develop and facilitate anti-racism teaching workshops among UCLA faculty. Emma’s research draws on critical race and feminist theories to understand how interlocking forms of structural racism manifest in health disparities. She is especially interested in a theory of relational formations of race to clarify how communities not only passively experience health but also oscillate between exercising agency to resist white supremacy and weaponizing ourselves in the pursuit of anti-Blackness and racial capitalism.

As an MPH student at Yale, Emma helped to develop curricula for social justice and health courses both at the School of Public Health and undergraduate College. She is excited to bring lessons from her experiences as a facilitator in the classroom to continue learning how to re-center minoritized voices with her work at CEILS!

CEILS Founding Director

Erin Sanders O’Leary, Ph.D.

Founding Director of CEILS (2014 – 2020); Currently the Inaugural Executive Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at University of Illinois at Chicago


For full Bio & current CV, please click here.

Dr. Erin Sanders O’Leary was the founding Director of UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation & Learning in the Sciences (CEILS), Associate Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics (MIMG), and Academic Administrator in the Life Science Core Education Department (LS Core). She is also the Coordinator for the NIH IRACDA program called UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT) and the Administrative Co-Leader for UCLA’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) program; the latter both provide training opportunities for graduate students and/or postdocs in support of their academic career development.

After earning her PhD in Biological Chemistry at UCLA, she went on to develop and teach an innovative laboratory curriculum involving course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) for Life Science majors in MIMG. She currently works closely with UCLA’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching (CAT) to train graduate student Teaching Assistant (TA) Consultants campuswide and co-teaches Preparation for College-Level Teaching in the Life Sciences (course 495), providing pedagogy training for all TAs in the Life Science Division. Dr. Sanders O’Leary also teaches LS7A, a large-enrollment (>300 students per section) freshman biology course called Cell and Molecular Biology. In her primary role as CEILS Director, she works in collaboration with faculty across the campus, including members of the Cross-Campus Teaching Innovations Group (CTIG), to inspire pedagogical change and provide resources to support transformation of the teaching culture.

In the last decade, in collaboration with many colleagues at UCLA, Dr. Sanders O’Leary has been awarded millions of dollars in federal and foundation grants to support educational initiatives aimed at making UCLA’s teaching culture more innovative, inclusive, and student-centered. She is a published author and research scholar in science education. She was recently awarded a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award by UCLA’s Academic Senate for her extraordinary leadership and commitment to diversity initiatives that strengthen the teaching community and support the academic success of students historically underrepresented and underserved in higher education.

The CEILS team and the UCLA community are forever grateful for Dr. O’Leary’s work to grow and make permanent a thriving STEM center for our campus.