Maricopa Institute for Learning Research Fellowship: 2018-2019 Cohort

Julie Holston, South Mountain Community College



Julie Holston is residential faculty in Theatre Arts at South Mountain Community College. In addition to academic settings, she freelances as a director with professional and community theatre companies. She holds an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and an MA in Theatre/Directing from Roosevelt University. Since 2013, she has served as the General Studies Faculty Representative for the district, and at SMCC she has served as a faculty mentor and as the Faculty Development Coordinator. Julie is a recipient of the SMCC Summit Award and the MCCCD Diversity Advisory Council Award of Excellence. She is a native of Arizona and was raised in Sedona.  

Understanding Factors that Influence Student and Faculty Engagement in a Compressed Length vs. a Traditional Length Course

This study extended existing research by providing a mixed methods exploration of student and faculty experiences and pedagogical practices in compressed-length courses, including both online and in-person formats. It focused on courses taught in the humanities, arts, and social sciences in a community college setting, where many Generation Z learners are completing their lower division general education courses. Additionally, it explored the relationship between student engagement in compressed-length courses and existing learning theory regarding Generation Z, and how knowledge of this population’s learning characteristics might influence faculty’s pedagogical choices. Data collected from faculty interviews, syllabi, and a student survey revealed three divergent perspectives where faculty perceptions and attitudes toward compressed length courses conflicted with student expectations and experiences.



Raji Lauffer, Paradise Valley Community College



Raji Lauffer will begin her sixth year as Residential Faculty in the Business/IT Division at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) in 2019-20, and her eighth year as a full-time faculty in higher education. At PVCC, she teaches courses in Computer Information Systems and Computer Science. She has an earned Ph.D. in Computer Science from Arizona State University. 

Student Success in Introductory Programming: An Analysis of Academic and Demographic Factors

This report presents an analysis of student success in a CS1 course, relative to various academic and demographic factors, at a community college
in the U.S. southwest. 


Teryl Sands, Mesa Community College



Teryl Sands is residential faculty in the Mesa Community College English Department where she teaches first-year composition and developmental writing courses in traditional, hybrid, and online environments. Teryl also serves as the Mesa CTL eVenture Coordinator for the eVenture Program. Teryl is involved in professional organizations focused on the teaching of writing, rhetoric, and effective use of technology in the classroom including Open Educational Resources. She holds a Ph.D. in Composition, Rhetoric, and Linguistics as well as a MA in TESL both from Arizona State University.  Outside of academia, Teryl enjoys spending time with her family as well as swimming, tennis, reading, movies, and travelling.

Assessing the Impact of Zero Cost Courses on Student Success

This study examined student learning, success, and persistence in courses that implement a zero cost for textbooks or Open Educational Resources. In particular, goal was to investigate the relationship between how students perform in these zero cost textbook courses and courses where student are required to purchase a textbook.

Ryan Senters, South Mountain Community College



Ryan Senters is a residential faculty member in psychology at South Mountain Community College.  He has a master’s degree in psychology and another master’s in leadership. He is completing his Ph.D. in performance psychology with a research focus on developing resilience, grit, and hope in at-risk youth and first-generation college students.  Ryan is the founder and the chairman of the board of a South Phoenix non-profit called the Anchor Mission. Ryan is also a foster care advocate and provides leadership to a local social service agency for foster children and people with disabilities.  Ryan and his wife Sara, live in Laveen with their 5 children. Ryan’s passions include helping students discover their passions and purpose and advocating for children in the foster care system.

The Role of Grit, Hope, and Academic Self-Efficacy on Predicting First Generation College Students’ Persistence Rates 

The purpose of this quantitative correlational study was to examine to what extent grit, hope, and academic self-efficacy predict first generation college students’ persistence rates at South Mountain Community College.  There are some implications that can be made from the study. The primary one is that first-generation college student are gritter than continuing-generation college students. Future directions for the study include replicating the study with other faculty and across multiple semesters. 

Shannon Smith, Glendale Community College



Shannon Smith is a residential faculty member in Food and Nutrition in the Department of Technology and Consumer Sciences. She has taught for over 12 years in the subject areas of nutrition, exercise science, and behavioral health. Prior to teaching, Shannon worked in clinical nutrition. Her degrees include a BS in Nutritional Sciences from Oklahoma State University, an MS in Exercise and Sports Nutrition from Texas Woman's University, and a Ph.D. in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness from Arizona State University.  Shannon is involved in the local nutrition and dietetics organization and served in leadership roles for the past four years. She enjoys exercise, music, reading, and traveling.

Exploring Opinions and Perceptions of Enhanced Resource Guides in a 200 Level Nutrition Course 

This study examined strategies to improve student engagement and participation. This mixed methods study included achievement data, surveys, and focus groups. .