Core Staff

Erin Sanders O’Leary, Ph.D.

Director of CEILS
Associate Adjunct Professor, Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics
Academic Administrator, Life Sciences Core Education Department

Program Coordinator, UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT), NIH IRACDA Program
Administrative Co-Leader, UCLA’s Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA)
Implementation Leader, Summer Institute on Scientific Teaching

Office Location: 228 Hershey Hall
(310) 825-1783

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 Office of Instructional Development to train graduate student Teaching Assistant (TA) Consultants campuswide and co-teaches the TA training course for all LS Core TAs. 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 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 nationally recognized 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.

Rachel Kennison, MSW, Ph.D.

Associate Director of CEILS for Professional Development and Student Engagement
Academic Administrator, Life Sciences Core Education Department

Program Coordinator, Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL@UCLA)
Program Co-Coordinator, UCLA Postdocs’ Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT), NIH IRACDA Program
Director, Faculty Learning Program (FLP)
Program Manager, Life Science Majors Career Development Initiative

Office Location: 226 Hershey Hall

Office Phone: 310-825-6126

Rachel Kennison is an advocate for retention and persistence of all undergraduates and particularly underrepresented groups in STEM education. She is active in the development of courses and initiatives to improve undergraduate STEM education and provides professional development and training to graduate students, post doctorate scholars and faculty in evidence based teaching practices, mentoring and teaching through diversity. 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. Her research interests were in the structure and function of southern California estuaries.

As Associate Director for Professional Development and Student Engagement in the Center for Education, Innovation and Learning in the Sciences (CEILS), Dr. Kennison embraces active learning strategies as the instructor of LS 110: Career Exploration in the Life Sciences. Dr. Kennison is also the Coordinator for the UCLA@CIRTL program (Center for the Integration or Research, Teaching and Learning), facilitating learning communities for graduate students and post doctoral scholars learning about evidence-based teaching practices and conducting Teaching-as-Research projects. Dr. Kennison is the Director of UCLA’s Faculty Learning Program (FLP), a professional development opportunity for UCLA and regional Community College STEM faculty to transform their college lectures. Previously, Dr. Kennison was Co-Director for the Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence-West and Assistant Director of the Undergraduate Research Center in the Sciences at UCLA, where she created the Santa Monica College/UCLA Summer Scholars Research Program and the Grand Challenges Undergraduate Research Scholars Program.

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 Southern California Regional Collaborative Initiative

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.

Shaquita Humphrey-Pressley, M.Ed.

Program Representative II, CEILS

Regional Program Coordinator, California Regional Collaborative

Office Location: 222 Hershey Hall
 (310) 206-2068

Shaquita joins our team as the Regional Program Coordinator and will work on the NSF INCLUDES Aspire Award. Her focus is on building communication channels that strengthen professional relationships among Southern California’s 2 and 4 year institutions and coordinating the launch of a regional internship program for graduate students and other working professionals interested in teaching at a community college.

Shaquita received her Associate’s Degree with an emphasis in Philosophy from Highline College in Des Moines, WA. She then moved on to the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) and completed a Bachelor’s Degree double majoring in Ethnic, Gender, & Labor Studies and Psychology. As a student at UWT she took on numerous campus and club leadership roles and contributed to many diversity & inclusion initiatives. Her increasing passion for education and enhancing experiences for underrepresented college students led her to pursue a Master’s Degree in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs at the University of Southern California.

Shaquita is deeply committed to advancing diversity in education and recently served as the Interim Director of the Center for Equity and Inclusion at her alma mater, UWT. There she initiated numerous programs and services that aimed to create a more inclusive campus climate for students. She also facilitated diversity & inclusion workshops and training’s for faculty, staff, and students that addressed topics like, students’ sense of belonging, racism, gender identity and expression, and class.

Stephy Lao, B.A.

Administrative Assistant for CEILS

Program Assistant, UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT)

Office Location: 222 Hershey Hall
 (310) 825-6695

Stephy graduated with Bachelor’s degree in International Studies-Economics at University of California, San Diego.

Stephy has years of experience working in a professional academic environment, demonstrating direct customer interfacing experience and administrative support role.

Gwyneth Talley, MA, ABD

Teaching Fellow

Office Location: 222 Hershey Hall or 351B Haines Hall

Gwyneth Talley is currently a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UCLA. She is a National Geographic Explorer and Fulbright Alumni and an avid equestrian. Her research looks at the intersection of gender, kinship, human-animal relationships in Moroccan equestrian sports.

As a participant in the Graduate Writing Pedagogy certificate program and CIRTL program, her pedagogical interests include creating inclusive classrooms, active learning pedagogy, writing pedagogy, and multi-modal projects.

Saba Pasha Dorostkar

CEILS Work Study Student

Office Location: 222 Hershey Hall

Saba Pasha Dorostkar emigrated from Iran 7 years ago to pursue her goals in the United States. She transferred from Santa Monica College with an Associates of Arts degree, as a junior transfer and has completed her first year at UCLA with a psychology major. Saba plans to continue her educate beyond obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in hopes entering a PhD. Program in Health and Medical Psychology.

Saba provides administrative support for the CEILS office. She assists with preparing and setting up for CEILS events and provides administrative support for the undergraduate Learning Assistant (LA) program.