Our Team

Our team comes from across campus and includes members of the Center for Academic Innovation, the Center for Research on Teaching and Learning, the National Center for Institutional Diversity, the Department of Physics, and the Department of Astronomy.

Eric Bell

Eric Bell received his Bachelors in Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, Scotland, and PhD in Physics at Durham University, England. After a postdoctoral position at the University of Arizona working with Rob Kennicutt, he became a staff scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomie, Heidelberg, Germany. He joined the faculty at the University of Michigan in 2009, and is now a Professor of Astronomy. Between 2017 and 2020, he had a joint appointment in the Honors College. Since 2020, he has been the Associate Chair of the Department of Astronomy. He has received the Heinz Maier Leibniz Prize, awarded to promising young German scientists, and the John Dewey Undergraduate Teaching Award and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professorship, both awarded for faculty making outstanding contributions to undergraduate education at the University of Michigan.

Carson Byrd

Dr. W. Carson Byrd is currently a senior fellow-in-residence at the National Center for Institutional Diversity. He is also a member of the 2021 cohort of William T. Grant Advanced Quantitative and Computational Scholars for the Institute in Critical Quantitative, Computational, and Mixed Methodologies. As a sociologist, his research uncovers and links the manifestations of racialization within educational environments to broader patterns of social inequalities in society by elaborating how educational institutions, especially colleges and universities, can simultaneously amplify and reduce inequalities. The complicated relationship between education and racial inequality has led him to explore the racialized experiences of college students including the associations of inter- and intraracial interactions with students’ identities and racial ideologies, and their navigation of different degree pathways that often result in disparate academic and social outcomes. His work also explores the racialization of science and knowledge production, including discussions of genetics, genomics, and inequality, that can influence what students learn in STEM classrooms, what they view as a viable career path, and why inequalities exist on-campus and in their communities. He has published extensively on race, education, and inequality in peer-review journals, edited volumes, and in public forums such as Washington Post, Inside Higher Ed, The Chronicle of Higher Education. His first book, Poison in the Ivy: Race Relations and the Reproduction of Inequality on Elite College Campuses (Rutgers UP), examines college students’ interactions with one another and how these social interactions influence what they believe about race and inequality. He also recently co-edited a collection of empirically-based intersectional analyses of college campuses, Intersectionality and Higher Education: Identity and Inequality on College Campuses (Rutgers UP). Turning now to his most recent text and this book talk, which centers on Behind the Diversity Numbers: Achieving Racial Equity on Campus (Harvard Education Press), the book explores how the framing of racial inequality in conjunction with an overreliance of quantitative methods for diversity, equity, and inclusion can shift universities away from tackling racism as a systemic issue that requires organizational change to individualizing inequality as the deficits of people.

Susan Cheng

Susan J. Cheng earned her B.A. in Environmental Science at Columbia University and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, where she was also a graduate student mentor for the Program in Biology. Her research interests fall into intertwined strands of scholarship: Understanding how ecology shapes Earth’s climate and how classroom climate shapes student learning. In support of equity and inclusion in higher education and STEM, Susan has served on the leadership of 500 Women Scientists, Cornell University’s Graduate School Diversity Advisory Council, the American Geophysical Union’s Education Section, and Nature Springer’s U.S. Research Advisory Council. At CRLT, Susan works with the Foundational Course Initiative as a data analytics and course assessment consultant to better understand student success in large, introductory courses.

Holly Derry

Holly Derry is the Associate Director of Behavioral Science at the Center for Academic Innovation. The Behavioral Science team incorporates behavior change strategies across our entire portfolio, from Tools to Teach-Outs. We apply theory, research, communication techniques, and technology to improve habits and behaviors of the learners who use our digital pedagogical tools and platforms. For example, we develop tailored interventions to help residential students study smarter or work better in teams. We help MOOC teams think about how to draw in different kinds of learners or motivate learners to engage differently with course content. We help structure Teach-Out content to focus on desired behaviors and calls to action. 

Cait Hayward

Cait manages the research and development portfolio at Academic Innovation, with a focus on ensuring that our projects are taking advantage of the vast amount of data available to them to inform design, iteration, and prioritization. In her role, she manages the data science, user experience research, and educational research teams, and provides data analysis, research design, and creative problem-solving to initiatives at all stages across Academic Innovation. Prior to her role at the Office of Academic Innovation, Cait co-founded and led the development of the GradeCraft platform.

Becky Matz

Becky Matz is a Research Scientist on the Research & Development team at the Center for Academic Innovation (CAI). She directs and supports research projects across CAI’s portfolio of educational technologies. Becky has research experience in assessing the efficacy of software tools that support student learning and success, analyzing quantitative equity disparities in STEM courses across institutions, and developing interdisciplinary activities for introductory chemistry and biology courses. Becky earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois and her Ph.D. in Chemistry and M.S. in Educational Studies from the University of Michigan. Google scholar page: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=YbtpAakAAAAJ&hl=en

Ben Koester

Ben Koester is a data scientist specializing in the field of learning analytics, where he analyzes large student administrative data sets to characterize undergraduate education and to address specific questions about student outcomes. He collaborates across the University of Michigan campus with several researchers interested in using data to examine course outcomes and evaluate learning communities, often through the lens of equity and inclusion. He also works with teams in Academic Innovation to analyze the effectiveness of large-scale classroom interventions, electronic coaching systems (ECoach), and to develop deliverable analytical tools adapted to the needs of researchers. 

Ben is involved nationally in inter-institutional efforts, including the Mellon Foundation’s College and Beyond II, where he lead the collection and organization of administrative data from member institutions and develop data-driven metrics aimed at elucidating components of a liberal arts education from transcript data. Likewise, he lead an effort among the 10 institutions of the Sloan Equity and Inclusion in STEM Introductory Courses (SEISMIC) project to measure and address systemic disparities in student outcomes in STEM gateway courses common to these institutions.

Heather Rypkema

Heather Rypkema has been working with the Foundational Course Initiative (FCI) as an Assessment & Analytics specialist since before the launch of its first Cohort in 2018. She earned a B.A. in Chemistry and Physics, M.A. in Chemistry, and Ph.D. in Chemical Physics, all from Harvard University. After her postdoc at Stanford University, Heather held faculty appointments at University of Louisville (Chemistry), Purdue University (Chemistry), and University of Michigan (CLASP). She has more than 20 years of experience as an instructor in higher education, having taught as an undergraduate, graduate student, postdoc, and faculty member.

Nick Young

Nick is an education data science postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Academic Innovation at the University of Michigan. He earned his PhD in physics education research & computational mathematics science and engineering at Michigan State University. His dissertation was on the graduate admissions process in physics.