Impact – Summer 2019

About the Authors

Roberta D. Baer is a professor in the anthropology department at the University of South Florida and specializes in applied medical and nutritional anthropology. She has been conducting dietary and other studies among refugees in west central Florida for eight years. She also serves on the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, and has co-edited a book of oral histories of local refugees (American Stories, Hillsborough County School Board), currently being used nationally and locally in refugee ESL classes.

Janet Blair is a regional community liaison for the state of Florida’s Refugee Services program administered through the Department of Children & Families. In this role, Janet facilitates the Tampa Bay Refugee Task Force, an umbrella coalition that brings together non-profit service providers, university faculty and students, faith communities, civic organizations, and local, state and federal government agencies to create collaborative networks that serve newly arriving refugee populations. This Task Force has been recognized locally and nationally for excellence in programming and partnerships. Janet holds a B.A. in Human Development from Eckerd College, an M.A. in Sociology from the University of South Florida, and is currently completing her Certificate in Public Management through Florida State University.

Sheila Cordner teaches in the Humanities Division of Boston University College of General Studies. Since 2009, she has incorporated community-based learning into her classes. Her students have partnered with organizations such as the Prison Book Program, Hale House Nursing Home, 826 Boston, Boston Public Library’s Adult Conversation Circle, Boston Public Schools, Hearth (Ending Elder Homelessness), and an educational program for Sudanese refugees. She has been invited by Boston University Center for Teaching and Learning to give workshops for faculty and to develop university-wide guides on community-based learning. Her passion is to share her love of the classics with a broad audience. She has written a book on authors’ innovative ideas about education, Exclusion as Innovation: Education in Nineteenth-Century British Literature (Routledge 2016), and has presented her research at national and international conferences. She believes we are never too young—or too old!—to appreciate great works of literature, and bring diverse new ones to light. Her forthcoming children’s book Who’s Hiding in This Book? Meet Ten Classic Authors! (Pierce Press, September 2019) aims to spread this message.

Ronald Cruz has been an educator for the past 16 years. He started as a physics teacher at the University of the Philippines Integrated School and migrated to the United States to teach Mathematics at Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida. In 2003, he was awarded the title of PRISM Teacher of Excellence in Secondary Mathematics. He then continued his work to serve students as a peer evaluator, conducting over 1,000 observations of math, science, and adult education teachers throughout the district. His work allowed teachers to receive feedback on how to improve their craft, increase engagement, and boost their students’ performance. In 2013, Mr. Cruz was appointed coordinator of the CARIBE Refugee Program, where he was charged with managing federal funds to serve the educational needs of over 15,000 adult refugees and asylees in Hillsborough County. His work with CARIBE focused on improving the quality education for refugees and accelerating their career pathways through teacher empowerment, relevant curriculum and a student-centered learning environment. His tenure as coordinator inspired CARIBE teachers, staff, and students to earn many recognitions from the district and the state, making CARIBE the highest performing adult education program in Hillsborough County.

Shlomit Flaisher-Grinberg is an assistant professor of psychology and co-coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Minor at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. She teaches classes such as “Biological Psychology,” “Learning,” and “Psychopharmacology,” and maintains an active research lab which investigates the biological basis of anxiety and mood disorders. Her research has been published in various peer-review journals, and presented in local, national and international conferences. She is a member of the “Society for Neuroscience” and a reviewer for multiple journals and book publishers. In 2018, she was awarded the Saint Francis University’s “Honor Society Distinguished Faculty Award” for her distinguished model classroom teaching; the “Gerald and Helen Swatsworth Award,” which recognizes excellence in teaching, research, and service; and the “Become that Someone” Community Engagement Award for her work with the community in the context of partnership and reciprocity. She is passionate about service learning and community engagement, avenues which allows her to invite the community into her classroom and take the students out of the classroom – and into the local community.

Kristi Girdharry is an assistant professor of English at Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island where she teaches courses on writing, research, communication, and digital literacies. Stemming from her dissertation research on archival work following the Boston Marathon bombings, she is currently piloting an oral history project titled “Community Resilience and Homicide in Boston” in collaboration with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute. She is also a series editor for Best of the Journals in Rhetoric and Composition (Parlor Press) and serves on the board for the Boston Rhetoric and Writing Network.

Emily Holbrook is a master’s student at the University South Florida in the Department of Applied Anthropology. She is pursuing a degree in applied medical anthropology with a concentration in bio-cultural medical anthropology. Emily received a B.A. in interdisciplinary anthropology from the University of Akron. She is a member of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Society for Medical Anthropology, and the American Anthropological Association. Her research interests include the health and nutrition of resettled refugee populations living in the United States and the development of ESL educational curriculum for these populations. Other research interests include food and foodways, migration, policy, and community-based research and programming.

Charisse S. Iglesias is a PhD student at the University of Arizona studying rhetoric, composition, and the teaching of English. Her research interests include: critical service learning, community-based research, and program assessment and design. Applying her Peace Corps community-oriented background, Charisse’s current project examines how institutions of higher education support their service learning initiatives. She was just selected as one of ten first-time presenter recipients of the 2019 CCCC Scholars for the Dream Travel Awards.

Alex Knott joined the Omprakash team in 2017. Her assortment of academic studies, work positions, hobbies, and life experiences in general might be considered “eclectic.” Growing up between England, South Africa and Singapore, movement and exploration became her default mode from a young age. Since leaving home, she has taught English in Cambodia and China, conducted ethnographic research in Mexico and Greece, studied in Turkey, supported local NGOs in Kenya and Argentina, and worked with IOM in Costa Rica. After completing her self-designed BA at UBC in Vancouver, she returned to England for her MA in anthropology of development at SOAS, University of London. Her thesis focused on how everyday interactions between international volunteers and asylum seekers in refugee camps on the Greek Aegean Islands can unintentionally reinforce macro-level structures and racialized hierarchies. Besides thinking about international development and volunteering, she enjoys learning about languages, quantum and astrophysics, and spiritual or religious beliefs and practices.

Cyndy Leard, PhD is an independent science education consultant. She has been involved in the science education enterprise for more than thirty years. Her experience spans both formal and informal education institutions. She has a broad range of experience including classroom teacher, outdoor education program director, university curriculum specialist, science center education director and business owner. Her experience also includes acting as a liaison between scientists, educators, and the general public for both publicly and privately funded programs. Her current research interests involve scientist and educator communication and community engagement models.

Willy Oppenheim is an educator, a researcher, and the leader of a social enterprise working to make international volunteering more ethical and impactful. Willy came up with the initial idea for Omprakash ( at the age of eighteen, after serving as a volunteer English teacher in northern India in 2004. The basic premise was to create a platform connecting volunteers with social impact opportunities around the world. He then attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he completed a self-designed major in religion, education, and anthropology. In 2009, he received a Rhodes Scholarship and went on to earn his doctorate in Education from Oxford University. His PhD research focused on demand for girls’ schooling in rural Pakistan. His broader research interests concern the ways in which ideas and norms pertaining to justice and ‘development’ are produced and contested through formal and informal processes of education. Willy has worked in classrooms in the United States, India, Pakistan, and China, and in the wilderness as a faculty member at the National Outdoor Leadership School. He currently teaches at the University of Washington and continues to lead Omprakash and its newest initiative, Omprakash EdGE, which is an online pre-departure volunteer training program intended to help university students enrich their international learning and impact.

Melanie Ramsey is the director of youth and children’s services at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library in Pennsylvania, a position she has held for the past eighteen years. She researches, schedules and supervises programming; connects and partners with community organizations; and provides outreach to under-served populations in the Hollidaysburg area. Melanie is certified in education K-12 in the state of Pennsylvania and has five years of public-school teaching experience. Through library programming, Melanie promotes a love of learning and a strengthening of community. Her poster session presentations at PA Library Association Conferences have included the topics of NASA Educational Programming, YMCA Community Partnerships, Conservation District Partnerships, Financial Literacy for Children, and most recently Ukuleles In Your Public Library, a topic on which and Ukulele Magazine specifically mentioned the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and its programming. She serves on local public boards including the Altoona Symphony, Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance, and the Saint Francis University Community Advisory Board. Melanie has twice been nominated for WISE Women of Blair County (nonprofit category) and is the author of a published book chapter, “Rooted in the Community: Small and Rural Library Outreach” with co-author Michelle A. McIntyre (2012).

Barbara S. Spector, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Fellow of the National Institute for Science Education, has been a consultant to federal, state, and local education agencies, professional associations, and business/industry. Recognized as a pioneer in the science/technology/society interaction reform movement (now STEM) and leadership in marine education, she has tested variations of flipped classrooms while teaching preservice and inservice K-12 teachers of science for three decades. She introduced constructivist approaches for online platforms in hybrid and distance learning classes and pioneered the use of qualitative research in science education. Her recent book titled The Unorthodox Professor Surviving and Thriving as a Change Agent in Education (Brill Sense, 2017) describes her experiences, many of which were supported by 72 grants for more than 7.5 million dollars.

Debbi Stone is vice president of education at The Florida Aquarium. Starting her career as a middle school educator, she transitioned to informal science education at Mystic Aquarium (CT) before relocating to Florida in 2000. Endorsed by the National Association of Interpretation (NAI) as a Certified Interpretive Guide and Trainer (CIG, CIT), Debbi is a frequent speaker at local, state, and national conferences. She serves on the Advisory Committee for Tampa Bay STEM Network (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), community leaders who expand, enhance, and promote STEM learning. Debbi was selected as one of 21 national LEAD STEM Fellows in 2018, engaging in leadership development for National STEM Learning Ecosystems. A Past-President of Florida Marine Science Educators Association and current Vice Chair of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums Conservation Education Committee, she is active in the community through Little Kids/Big Minds (early childhood literacy), Boards for AMIkids Tampa and Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network, and is Past President of Learning Gate Community School Board.