Executive Director & Co-Founder
(Curriculum Vitae)

DeLeon Gray is an Assistant Professor of Educational Psychology in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. He has previously held appointments at the Association for Psychological Science, the American Institutes for Research, and the National Institutes of Health. His research focuses on the ways in which students’ achievement motivation and in-school behavior may be traced back to interpretations of their own social encounters. His research program has been recognized by the receipt of prestigious honors including the Research on Socially and Economically Underrepresented Populations Award (RiSE-UP) from the Association for Psychological Science, and dissertation fellowships from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation and the American Education Research Association (AERA). Most recently, he received the AERA Division E 2013 Outstanding Dissertation Award in Human Development and the 2013 Loadman Outstanding Dissertation Award in Educational Psychology and Philosophy from The Ohio State University. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) (B.A., Interdisciplinary Studies) and The Ohio State University (M.A., Quantitative Research, Evaluation, and Measurement; Ph.D., Educational Psychology). His work appears in Contemporary Educational Psychology, Journal of Research on Adolescence, and Educational Psychology Review, and other peer-reviewed outlets. DeLeon enjoys bowling, karaoke, performing stand-up comedy, and having a winning fantasy football team.

Director of Innovation and Evaluation
&
Co-Founder

(Curriculum Vitae)

Lauren is the Director of Innovation and Evaluation with The SMART Collaborative and a Research Scholar at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State.  As a SMART Collaborative team member, she works to conceptualize and design motivation research and engages in data collection, analysis, and publication of findings in a manner that provides opportunities for growth for all team members.  She facilitates partnerships and research efforts with local educators and like-minded researchers.  Currently, she leads the PROMOT project, a collaboration with local educators to collect data on student motivation and use that data to make changes in classroom practice.  She is also leading the development of a framework applying a utilization focus to motivation research, in order to create one pathway for the field of motivation to demonstrate its relevance in education.  In her role at the Friday Institute, she is currently a project lead on the evaluation of the implementation of North Carolina’s Race to the Top grant, serves as a project manager on the North Carolina Digital Learning Plan project, and works with an interdisciplinary team at the Hunt Library on a project investigating interactive virtual learning environments in library settings.  Her background is in achievement motivation, individual differences, and educational research methodologies, including innovative evaluation methods such as scale and developmental evaluation.  Before coming to NC State, she received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Virginia Tech, where she also received her Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees.  Lauren enjoys yoga, walking her dogs, and North Carolina microbrews.

 

Pre-Doctoral Fellow

Mauriell H. Amechi is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the SMART Collaborative and Ph.D. candidate at UW-Madison in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (concentration in Higher Education). The overarching goal of his research is to understand how colleges and universities create educational environments that enhance learning, affirm cultural identity, and inspire achievement among minoritized groups in order to improve their access, persistence, and educational attainment. Amechi examines issues of equity, identity, and student engagement among historically underserved student populations, with a special emphasis on the college transitions of foster youth. In a second, related strand of research he explores strategies employed by colleges and universities to cultivate inclusive and optimal learning environments for all students. To date, the ACPA Foundation and the National Association for Campus Activities have funded his research.
 
Amechi’s most recent publications appear in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education and the edited volume, Advancing Black male student success from preschool through Ph.D. His forthcoming publications will appear in the Journal of African American Men in Education and The Review of Higher Education.
 
A native of Chicago, Amechi received his B.A. with highest distinction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and went on to study at Ohio State University, where he earned a M.A. in higher education and student affairs.
 
 

Graduate Student Member

Jason Wornoff is a Ph.D. student in NC State’s Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, with a focus in Educational Psychology. His research aims to understand the influence of students’ social encounters on academic motivation, and physiological bio-markers of wellness. His analytical skills and research interest have been refined through several appointments, serving the United States Department of Defense (DoDEA), and the United States Army – North Carolina National Guard. As a federal servant, his unwavering efforts to deliver students effective instructional interventions have been recognized by receipt of the prestigious Department of Defense Judith Gilliam Award. His research dissemination efforts include a conference presentation at the American Educational Research Association (AERA), as well as his role as a co-author on multiple book chapters. Lending his research efforts to active scholarship, Jason’s interest in bridging theory to practice meet reality as a member of the SMART Collaborative—serving the unique needs of local school districts, facilitating college readiness workshops on NC State’s campus, and helping to disseminate research findings to teachers. Jason received a B.S. in Human Development and Family Science (Magna Cum Laude) from The Ohio State University, and his M.S. in Curriculum, Instruction, and Counselor Education (Educational Psychology Concentration) from NC State. In his free time, Jason enjoys writing and recording music, and discovering new sounds with his band, The Quarry.

Graduate Student Member

Erin Huggins is a Ph.D. student in Education Research and Policy Analysis (K-12) at North Carolina State University. She received her B.A in English Literature, her M.A.T. in Special Education (K-12), and she has over 12 years of combined teaching experience in public and private schools as well as abroad in Asia. Erin’s research interests include student assessment and achievement for general and special education (K-12), teacher quality and motivation in public schools, along with distance education, online learning, and education technology. As an elementary school teacher, Erin was nominated for Teacher of the Year twice and was top ten and top five nationally for Nobel Learning Communities.  She believes that all children have the capacity to learn and be successful, and she has a drive and passion to ensure the best possible educational outcomes for all students she serves. As a member of the SMART Collaborative, Erin brings a wealth of practical knowledge about classroom and teaching experiences. In her free time, Erin enjoys visiting museums and state parks with her two children, taking walks with her family, independent cinema & documentaries, aromatherapy, swimming, cooking, and playing tennis.

Graduate Student Member

 
Tamika McElveen is a Ph.D. student in NC State’s Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, with a focus in Educational Psychology.  As a research assistant for the SMART Collaborative, Tamika engages in grant implementation, data collection, and data analysis for several research projects.  Her research interests aim to utilize motivation research and practice to impact academically under-performing students and schools.  As a School Counselor in Wake County Public Schools and as a community mental health provider in Wake, Harnett, and Johnston counties, Tamika understands the importance of quality schools, teachers, and parental and family involvement.  Tamika received a B.A. in Psychology and M.Ed in School Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Tamika seeks to strike a work-life balance and enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.  Tamika also enjoys reading, puzzles, and video games.
 

Graduate Student Member

Malinda Pennington is a Curriculum and Instruction Ph.D. student in NC State’s Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences. Her research interests include development of effective training and support models to prepare teachers to meet the needs of students with autism. As a member of the SMART Collaborative, she brings over 25 years experience teaching in public schools and providing educator professional development to team efforts to work with local school districts. Professionally, she is a National Board Certified Teacher and was recognized as the 2012 NC North Central Region Teacher of the Year.  She is a TEACCH Autism Program Certified Professional Consultant and has provided school trainings and consultations on evidence-based practices for students with autism in many states and internationally.  In 2013, she assisted her district in obtaining a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation to start the Wilson Autism Spectrum Disorders Academy, a laboratory school and training program in partnership with Barton College and ECU, to educate pre-service and in-service teachers about strategies for working with students with autism.  Her scholarly research efforts have already received recognition.  She published an article, Defining autism: Variability in state education agency definitions and evaluations for autism spectrum disorders and co-authored a chapter in Handbook of Classroom Management: Research, Practice, and Contemporary Issues.  She has also been a presenter and poster session participant at multiple national conferences for the Council for Exceptional Children. When at home, Malinda enjoys spending time with her family, playing board games, crocheting, and digging in the garden. 
 

Undergraduate Student Member

David, a current Psychology major, serves as an undergraduate team member for the SMART Collaborative and works to ensure the team’s effectiveness and success. Particularly, his research interests embrace wide ranging aspects of motivation research. David’s current research fascination zooms into human interactions and investigates how people can use practical psychological principles to empower people socially, and individually. Essentially, he aims his research focus on development and application of practical psychology research to empower others and enrich life quality for all. During his free time, David immerses himself in music compositions, martial arts, reading, and anything else that further strengthens his already wide ranging capabilities. David is a proud native of Durham NC and lives his unwavering commitment to continuously enhance himself so that others can realize their visions. With iron clad commitment, he sees to it that the benevolent visions of the world are realized.

Undergraduate Student Member

Katherine is a Junior in English with a concentration in Education at NC State. Katherine is an undergraduate member of the SMART Collaborative and she loves the mentorship-oriented attitude of the research team and assists the team in any way she can from preparing data sets and making PowerPoints to seeking first-hand engagement in local schools.  Katherine is involved in many aspects of campus; when she is not working with the SMART Collaborative, she is working at the Case Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. Ever since her arrival at NC State as a CHASS Dean’s Scholar, Katherine has worked for the NC State newspaper, The Technician, as a designer, staff reporter, and columnist. Katherine is a member of the University Scholars Program and the English Honors Program and always seeks educationally challenging and enriching opportunities.  Outside of The SMART Collaborative, Katherine endeavors to quench her travel bug sustained after a stint studying abroad in Italy. You can also find her at local school, Timber Drive Elementary, where she has formed and facilitates a newspaper written by students called The Timber Talker. 

Undergraduate Student Member

Mike James is a senior majoring in Education and Psychology. A native of Magnolia, NC,  currently serves as the co-orgnizer and committee member for a newly initiated program through the College of Education entitled Brothers United In Leadership Development (B.U.I.L.D). Mike is currently the Student Senator for the College of Education. He also serves on the student panel and interview committee for the College of Education. He is a proud member of W.E.B DuBois Honor Society and the Fundraising Chair for the Peer Mentor Program at NC State. In addition to serving as a mentor, Mike dedicates his time to his community back home with helping high schools students prepare for college. He is currently serving as an intern in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. In the fall of 2017 I will be attending Johns Hopkins University studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling.
 
 

Undergraduate Student Member

Carlos McClaney is a Senior majoring in Technology, Design, and Engineering Education. Outside of the SMART Collaborative, Carlos serves as a committee member for Brothers United in Leadership Development (BUILD). Carlos has also served as an AYA Ambassador for the African American Cultural Center and been involved in many organization on campus such as African Student Union and Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN). Carlos is also a student teacher at Davis Drive Middle School and plans to become a public school teacher in the Wake County Public School system upon graduation. After teaching, Carlos hopes to return to graduate school and earn his doctorate in the field of Education..
 
 

Undergraduate Student Member

 
Briana is, a senior in Business and Marketing Education. Upon graduation, she aspires to become a middle grades teacher in Durham Public Schools. She is passionate about the holistic well-being and success of underrepresented groups of students and dedicate her academic and non-academic efforts to changing the (often pre-written) narrative for students. She serves as President of Multicultural Young Educators Network (MYEN), a student organization on NC State's campus with the purpose to provide diverse students with a platform in which to collaborate, address challenges in education paradigms, and develop as culturally competent 21st century educators through social programming and community service activities. In her experience as a middle grades Career and Technical student teacher in Durham Public Schools and middle grades math teacher for Student U-Durham, her interests for mentorship and scholarly exposure for students have developed into a potential career pathway. 

Undergraduate Student Member

Lexi is a sophomore from Raleigh, North Carolina majoring in Elementary Education with a minor in Nonprofit Studies. She plans to teach for a few years before returning to school to earn a law degree so she can advocate for education reform, or become a professor at a university. Lexi is involved in many different organizations around campus including the University Scholars Program, DanceLife, and an assortment of education and professional development clubs. She serves as a research assistant for the SMART Collaborative Research Team, where she studies different types of motivational support in middle school students in Durham, North Carolina.  Lexi is also a Caldwell Fellow, a program that encourages servant leadership and thinking big. This summer, through the Caldwell Program, Lexi had the opportunity to participate in two experiential learning trips. One included backpacking through Utah, while the other involved serving a small community in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. Being a Caldwell Fellow has been a life changing opportunity, and Lexi is excited to tell you all more about the program and the memorable experiences she has had while being a NC State.