The National Dropout Prevention Center Research Fellows contribute to the National Dropout Prevention Center’s mission of reducing the incidence of dropout and increase high school graduation rates nationwide through research and evidence-based solutions.
In their roles with NDPC, Research Fellows have the opportunity to engage in and publish dropout prevention research, present their work at national conferences, and serve as content experts for NDPC initiatives.
Dr. Sandy Bales graduated from North Georgia College (currently University of North Georgia) in Dahlonega, Georgia, with a BS in Chemistry. She completed a Master of Science in Secondary Science Education at the University of Georgia and was awarded a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a focus on curriculum from Nova Southeastern University in Miami, Florida.
Dr. Bales began her career teaching secondary level physical science courses. While in the classroom, she wrote and facilitated a senior-level chemistry course based on active learning to drive students’ continuous growth and independence. The success of that early work continues to inspire Dr. Bales’ work today in leading teachers in their STEM strategies instructional growth.
Dr. Bales also served as a high school administrator before transitioning to a Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) as a consultant and school improvement specialist to fourteen traditional and one nontraditional school systems. She has worked with several Mathematics Science Partnership (MSP) grants, including writing, implementation, and evaluation. She has written and evaluated multiple 21st Century Afterschool Program grants and currently provides grant review services for the Pioneer RESA districts in Georgia.
In addition, Dr. Bales has written and implemented multiple endorsement programs— K-5 Mathematics, K-5 Science, and STEM Education— and provided science and mathematics professional learning for K-12 mathematics and science educators. She currently serves as a Pioneer RESA Mathematics Mentor and works through the Georgia Office of School Improvement as Program Manager for the School Improvement Resources Initiative (SIRI). In this role, Dr. Bales leads the development of a professional learning inventory that will be available for all Georgia RESA consultants to use as they work with districts and schools statewide. She has completed a National Institute for STEM Education (NISE) STEM Certification Program and currently serves as a NISE STEM Certification Coach. Responsibilities with NISE also include professional learning development. Dr. Bales works extensively with the National Dropout Prevention Center Program Assessment and Review (PAR) process to provide guidance in improving graduation rate based on the research- and evidence-based 15 Effective Strategies for Dropout Prevention.
Beverly Cross is the Morrie and Lillian Moss Chair of Excellence in Urban Education in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. She received her BS degree from Alabama A&M University and her MA and PhD degrees from The Ohio State University. During her professional service in education over the past 38 years, she worked in Ohio as a high school teacher and state department of education supervisor. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee she co-led an innovative program to prepare teacher leaders for urban schools. Since arriving in Memphis 12 years ago, she has designed a Graduate Certificate in Urban Education, created The Center for Urban Interdisciplinary Research and Engagement), and coordinated the Johnson Scholars Program that develops exceptional urban educators for Shelby County Schools.
Her research focuses on equity in education, urban education, and teacher education. Her research has appeared in national scholarly journals such as the International Journal of Educational Reform, Educational Leadership, the Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy and Education Studies. She guest edited a special issue of the journal, Theory Into Practice, focused on urban education. In addition to numerous book chapters, she co-edited two books: A Look Inside Social Justice Practices: A Primer for Social Justice and Teacher Lives in the Bluff City: Voices and Perspectives from Classrooms.
She was recently served as co-PI on a grant entitled the African and African American Institute that engages an interdisciplinary group of faculty, university students, and classroom teachers in learning abroad in Ghana. This experience is used to offer a summer institute for area high school students to enable them to make strong connections between African and African history, arts, and culture (proven to enhance academic achievement). She enjoys and dedicates her extensive work with teachers and district leaders.
Recently she contributed to the new design for teacher preparation at the University of Memphis that focuses on preparing teachers who are: grounded in urban education, trained to teach with culturally relevance, steeped in their content knowledge, and all hail from the local Memphis area and can bridge community to education.
Randy Heinrich, DM is a retired soldier and former educator who resides with his wife, Terri, and their dogs in sunny and mountainous Arizona. He earned his doctorate in organizational leadership at the University of Phoenix in 2004, as well completed graduate studies in education, counseling, business administration, education administration, and international relations at Chapman University, Northern Arizona University, and Boston University. He served in the Army as an intelligence analyst across the United States, Central America, and Europe. After retiring from the service, he served in teaching and administrative roles in support of at-risk and special needs youth in a rural school district, and taught a number of courses for colleges and universities primarily in leadership, research, education, and psychology, and supervised teacher candidates during practica. He remains active in alternative school and dropout prevention research, as well as support for youth through advocacy initiatives. He serves as referee for the Journal of At-Risk Issues, and co-authored Do Children Drop Out of School in Kindergarten? A Reflective, Systems-based Approach for Promoting Deep Change. He has served as faculty for graduate and doctoral research for Argosy University, National University, and Walden University, and currently is a faculty member at Concordia University-Portland.
Dr. Eurmon Hervey is National Vice President and Superintendent of Schools for Catapult Learning. He is an accomplished educational executive with a comprehensive blend of non-profit, government, and academic management experience. He has served in senior leadership positions in colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern geographical regions. In Washington DC, he served as Assistant State Superintendent and Deputy Chief State School Officer, where he worked directly with District of Columbia Public Schools. Dr. Hervey earned the Doctor of Education from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University and the Master of Education from Harvard University. He also earned two degrees in pure mathematics; the Master of Science from Clark Atlanta University and the Bachelor of Science from Edward Waters College.
Dr. Greg Hickman served as a referee for The Journal of At-Risk Issues (JARI) from 2004 to 2008 and as an assistant or associate editor from 2008 to 2016 before becoming editor of JARI in 2017. Dr. Hickman has won numerous teaching and research awards. His research interests include program evaluation, ed-psych, developmental psychology, family science, and for-profit education. Greg has taught courses related to methods of research, statistics, assessment, life span development, adolescent development, and civic leadership. He has served as chair and methodologist on numerous student dissertations. The Journal of At-Risk Issues is a biannual, scholarly journal that has been published by the National Dropout Prevention Center since 1994. It is an important vehicle for dissemination of research for practitioners, policymakers, and other researchers in the field of at-risk issues. Through the networks and collaborative work of the NDPC Research Fellows, the journal should continue to grow and bring new perspectives to these issues.
Dr. Randy B. Nelson currently serves as the Program Director for the Bethune Cookman University Criminal Justice Administration Graduate Program. Dr. Nelson’s educational background includes a B.A. degree in Sociology from Eckerd College, a M.A. degree in Criminology from the University of South Florida, and Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Florida State University. His academic and professional career has focused on developing and evaluating delinquency prevention methodologies designed to address the problems negatively impacting disadvantaged communities. Dr. Nelson has an extensive history of working with non-profit faith- and community-based social service organizations to develop and effectively achieve their programmatic and outcome goals. Dr. Nelson is the Founder of the Situational Environmental Circumstances (SEC) Mentoring Model which was designed to meet the unique educational, social, emotional needs of high-risk Black males. The SEC Mentoring Program has been implemented at each of Florida’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities, as well as Florida State University, University of Florida, and the University of Central Florida. Dr. Nelson has presented at various state and national conferences on effective engagement strategies for young Black males and authored numerous reports and publications on the disproportionate representation of minority youth in Florida’s juvenile justice system. Dr. Nelson has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Florida A & M University and Florida State University where he was responsible for the instruction and evaluation of undergraduate and graduate criminal justice students. His work experience includes employment with the Florida Departments of Corrections and Juvenile Justice. Dr. Nelson is a nationally recognized law enforcement trainer in the areas of community policing and engagement strategies.
My primary duties at Kent State University are to coordinate teacher education programs in Career-Technical Education. The program prepares teachers for secondary education teaching and we also offer an endorsement for teachers with academic licenses who wish to work with students identified as dropout potential. In addition, my scholarly interests are in workforce and economic development especially the role of literacy and life-long learning. As employers demand more of employees, students must be better prepared to meet the demands of the current and future workforce.
I view both areas as contributing to keeping students in school. Career-Technical Education has a long history of appealing to students who prefer more contextual types of learning. And, as the workforce becomes more sophisticated, entering employees will need greater academic skills which require improved literacy. We have infused instruction for Career-Technical teachers in how to support their student’s reading and academic abilities.
Dr. Dina Pacis is a faculty member and Department Chair for Educational Administration School Counseling and Psychology at the Sanford College of Education at National University. In addition to Educational Administration, School Counseling and School Psychology, Dr. Pacis oversees the Higher Education Administration and Applied Behavior Analysis programs. Dr. Pacis is a former PK-12 educator who spent almost 20 years as a public school administrator, peer coach/staff developer, and teacher. Her research interests include program evaluation, women in leadership, diversity, and social justice. She has taught courses related to methods of teaching and research, clinical practice for administrators and teachers, supervision of teachers, education law, and curriculum and instruction.The Journal of At-Risk Issues is a biannual, scholarly journal that has been published by the National Dropout Prevention Center since 1994. It is an important vehicle for dissemination of research for practitioners, policymakers, and other researchers in the field of at-risk issues. Through the networks and collaborative work of the NDPC Research Fellows, the journal will continue to grow and bring new perspectives to these issues.
Dr. Nicole Pyle is an Associate Professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University in the area of adolescent literacy. Dr. Pyle serves as an Institute Fellow in The Dropout Prevention Institute at The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk at the University of Texas at Austin and as a Research Fellow at the National Dropout Prevention Center/Successful Practices Network. Her research interests include interventions for youth at-risk in secondary education, adolescent literacy, dropout prevention, college readiness, effective instructional practices, multi-tiered interventions, and inclusion. Dr. Pyle partners with comprehensive high schools and alternative high schools to design and deliver interventions aimed to reduce dropout risk indicators and improve diverse learners’ college readiness, ACT preparation, and reading comprehension of informational texts to ultimately graduate from high school prepared to access and succeed in postsecondary education.
Little did I know more than 40 years ago when I started as a Reading Teacher at a high school in L.A. County working with students who were poor readers and hated school that I would spend the majority of my educational career dealing with all kinds of initiatives involved in dropout prevention and school change. I was involved with the Career Education movement in the 1970s and 1980s, the experiential education movement in higher ed/k-12 as Director of Field Studies at UCLA (and as a board member for the National Society for Internships and Experiential Education), and later as Director of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse at the University of Minnesota.
Professionally, I am currently a Research Associate/Adjunct Professor at the University of Minnesota where I have taught courses on service-learning, experiential education, vocational and technical education, curriculum, and participatory evaluation. I am currently serving as the lead internal evaluator for the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education at the University of Louisville, have conducted more than 30 research studies on various topics, from service-learning and national service, to intergenerational programs, civic engagement initiatives, career and technical education, and youth led evaluation. I have published several books and more than 50 book chapters, articles, and monographs on a multitude of topics.
Almost all of my work has centered on two themes: student engagement and community connected learning. Overall, these are two of the most important topics related to dropout prevention and student retention in school and college. So, after all these years, I’m still working in the same issues I did when I began: making learning interesting, exciting, and meaningful for both students and the larger society.
The academic success of students depends on the early foundations of education that take place in the preschool years. Research continually shows that children who engage in quality early childhood programs are more likely to succeed in their later academic efforts, particularly young children from low-SES homes or homes that are experiencing parental and life stressors. One of the 15 strategies for dropout prevention is early childhood education, and this strategy helps to set the stage for success in school attendance, school success, and long-term economic gains for both the student and society.
Ms. Withington holds an M.A. in Economics from the University of South Carolina, specializing in the economics of human capital and education; and a B.A. in English from the College of Charleston. Her professional work has focused on the educational pipeline, supporting students and teachers/faculty for success, as well as process and program efficiency and improvement. She was employed by the National Dropout Prevention Center in 2006, beginning as a Research Assistant then later as Assistant Academic Director for Research, Evaluation, and Public Relations. During that time, she was a grant writer, researcher, and evaluator, and she oversaw Web resources and public relations for the Center. She was also a key investigator on two major studies by the Center: one involving research on career-focused education, “A Longitudinal Study of the South Carolina Personal Pathways to Success Initiative,” and the other focused on dropout prevention strategies, “A Meta-Analysis of Dropout Prevention Outcomes and Strategies.” Her current work as Director of Program Review and Effectiveness for the Graduate School at Clemson University, Clemson, SC, continues a career focused on educational program improvement and support for enhanced quality benefiting both educators and students.