Maricopa Institute for Learning Research Fellowship: 2017-2018 Cohort

Dori DiPietro, Mesa Community College



Dori DiPietro LCSW, ACSW CEAP, E-RYT500 has over thirty years of experience as a social worker with a thriving clinical private practice specializing in stress reduction and well-being. She is Faculty at Mesa Community College, Director of the Social Work Program, and a Faculty Associate at ASU School of Social Work. Dori created and teaches SWU250, Mindfulness for Stress Management, at MCC where it has been very well received by students as a “life-changing class”.
Dori is a practitioner and teacher of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for over thirty years and has earned high recognition as a yoga teacher, including the E-RYT500.  She presents workshops and training on yoga-mindfulness related topics as well as health, wellness and work-life balance to organizations and conferences across the country.  Helping to heal those who serve others is her area of passion and expertise.

Contemplative Pedagogy to Mitigate the Impact of Student Stress and Life Adversity for Success in College

Mindfulness and other forms of contemplative pedagogy are being used in educational classrooms to increase cognitive and academic performance and decrease stress from pre-school to graduate school.  This study first looks at the prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) in a community college setting over a six-year period of time surveying over 750 students enrolled in SWU171, Introduction to Social Welfare.  Although these students are primarily social work majors it is also a required class for the administration of justice, recreation and hotel management, and non-profit leadership; most all students surveyed are going into a helping profession involving human and public service. The study further uses a quantitative study in two classes of SWU171, measuring their ACE and undergraduate stress and then offering the treatment class low lecture and high contemplative pedagogy teaching while the control class received low contemplative pedagogy and high lecture teaching.  Both classes were compared for outcomes related to persistence and grades with no significant difference.  Of significance in the treatment, class were student reports of increased self-awareness, empathy and compassion as well as bonding and relationship with the instructor, concluding that mindfulness and other forms of contemplative pedagogy are transformative in ways that testing and grading may not capture.   

Cheryl Hebert, Estrella Mountain Community College



Dr. Hebert is Communication Faculty at Estrella Mountain Community College. She takes an active learning approach that facilitates student engagement with the course content.  Therefore, what students study can become applicable to their lives, jobs, and educational pursuits. Cheryl is astute to the diverse learning needs of every student and tries to assist students with developing active learning strategies so that they can ultimately take responsibility for their own learning. Keeping this in mind, the classroom (whether F2F, hybrid, or online) is always a safe and productive learning environment that helps all students become successful in their academic pursuits.

Engaging Students Using mLearning:
An Experiment using “Structured Text Messaging” in the College Classroom to Measure Learning Outcomes and Student Retention

This study was an experimental design with the main goal of discovering if structured texting exercises in class after the lecture (lessons), engaged students in their own learning and further impacted student learning outcomes.  Secondary goals included measuring engagement, quiz grades after lectures, final grades, and retention in both the control and the treatment groups. The last goal was to examine the relationship between first semester data with the exact same experiment second semester so that a larger sample and further credibility could be established. The results of the study indicated smartphones can be a valuable instructional aid. The use of smartphones increased participation in course activities. 

Cynthia Kiefer, Scottsdale Community College



Dr. Cynthia Kiefer is a twenty-year plus teaching veteran, currently serving on the English Faculty at Scottsdale Community College teaching composition and reading courses.

"Digital Rhetors" Cross Rhetorical Thresholds through In-process Reflection

This study examined how and in what ways consistently written reflection during the process of developing a visual argument supported student rhetorical awareness and competence as measured in pre- and post-assessments and the written argument final assessment rubric.



James Rubin, Paradise Valley Community College



James Rubin, Ph.D. has worked for over 20 years as Counseling faculty at Paradise Valley Community College. He provides counseling, teaches leadership development courses, and is PVCC's Counseling Division Chair.

Incorporating Kingian Nonviolence Principles into Leadership Courses

The purpose of this study was to examine the leadership skill development of student alumni of multi-level leadership courses at a large community college in Phoenix. Former students were interviewed to explore their leadership beliefs before and after their undergraduate career. Results and findings indicate that program alumni have a greater appreciation for personal and group leadership traits and behaviors because of their involvement in leadership development program(s).


Jennifer Ussery, Phoenix College



Jeni Ussery is a member of the Reading faculty at Phoenix College.  She holds Masters Degrees in English Literature and Literacy Education and expects to defend her Doctoral Dissertation in Developmental Education Administration in Fall of 2019.  She is passionate about helping faculty build relationships with their students, helping students embrace literacy as a life-long learning process, and becoming a more effective teacher.

Student Success in a Yearlong Literacy Learning Community

The efficacy of Learning Communities in helping students feel like they belong at an institution is well established.  However, the effect of Learning Communities on student grade point average (GPA) and retention is less clear.  This mixed-methods study examined a yearlong Literacy Learning Community that began with a Summer Bridge program.  The research was guided by two central questions: (1) to what extent do students enrolled in a yearlong literacy Learning Community have better student outcomes (GPA and retention) than students who take the same courses separately? and (2) what are the experiences of students enrolled in a yearlong Literacy Learning Community?  While the students’ retention rate and GPA were slightly lower than comparable students not enrolled in the Literacy Learning Community (reflecting the tepid results of earlier studies), the qualitative data revealed that students perceived the Literacy Learning Community as an important part of their experience as college students.