Core Staff

Rachel Kennison, MSW, Ph.D.

Interim Director of CEILS
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Academic Administrator, Life Sciences Core Education Department

Administrative Co-Leader, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA)
Director, Faculty Learning Program (FLP)
Program Manager, Life Science Majors Career Development Initiative
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 current CEILS Senior Associate Director for Instructional and Professional Development 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 diversity, equity, and inclusion. Along with co-facilitating and administering the suite of CEILS programming aimed at supporting faculty, including UCLA’s Faculty Learning Program (FLP), a year-long teacher training program for UCLA and regional Community College STEM faculty, Dr. Kennison is the instructor of the innovative career development course for Life Science undergraduate majors, LS 110: Career Exploration in the Life Sciences. She is also 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. 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 Assistant Adjunct Professor position in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has a son who is a sophomore in College and a very friendly pup named Luna who loves to come to office hours.

Erin Sanders O’Leary, Ph.D.

Founding Director of CEILS

Inaugural Executive Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)


For full Bio & current CV, please click here.

Dr. Erin Sanders O’Leary is 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.

Shanna Shaked, M.A.T., Ph.D.

Senior Associate Director of CEILS
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.

Jess Gregg, ED.M. & M.A.

Associate Director of CEILS for Educational Development
Academic Coordinator, Life Sciences Core Education Department

Co-PI, NSF INCLUDES Aspire Award

Project Lead for the California Regional Collaborative

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

Jess Gregg 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. In her role as Associate Director at UCLA’s Center for Education Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS), she facilitates many educational programs and training workshops targeting faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars. With expertise in instructional design, educational development, and educational counseling she provides individual support to faculty including observation of teaching, consultation on course design and active learning, and training on educational technology implementation. She additional works with groups and departments to implement initiatives such as peer observation of teaching.  She is a Co-PI on the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Award, leading regional and national collaborative efforts to increase diversity in the STEM professoriate across 2- and 4-year institutions.

Jess holds Master of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Teachers College, Columbia University in Counseling Psychology with emphasis on multicultural competence in organizations and institutions. Her interests include group dynamics, active learning pedagogy, educational research and assessment, educational technology including virtual reality, and cultivating equitable and inclusive classrooms.

Katie Dixie, Ph.D.

Assistant Director of Teaching Development Pathways for 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!

PwintPhyu Nandar

Administrative Assistant for CEILS


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 spends her time gardening and propagating succulents.

Seanna Shutta-Morgan

Work Study Student


Phone: (808)854-7545

Seanna Shutta-Morgan moved to California, from her home state of Hawaii, in 2016 to pursue her dream of attending UCLA. She has graduated with an associates degree in political science from Pasadena City College, and is currently a third year transfer student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in political science at UCLA. Ultimately, she hopes to attend the UCLA School of Law, and work as a human rights lawyer wherein she will advocate for equal access to education. She is very passionate about equity for all and the power education. Seanna currently provides administrative support for CEILS.

Summer Graduate Student Researchers

Kiana Foxx

Summer Graduate Student Researcher

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

Summer Graduate Student Researcher

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

Summer Graduate Student Researcher

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.