Summer 2021 Newsletter

A Note From Our Dean 

Summer greetings,

The singing sounds of Brood X cicadas remind me that learning is long process of transformation. A lot happens below the surface, and 17 years spans a lifetime of development and growth.

On the surface, the School of Education spent spring semester responding to COVID by protecting wellness and creating powerful learning experiences. The semester’s end has been filled with inaugural celebrations and routine ceremonies that happened to look a bit different. We celebrated the first graduate of our Ed.D. program in District Leadership, applauded our first virtual award ceremonies, and cheered masked graduates from 2020 and 2021 as they walked across the stage at Freedom Hall. It was lovely to see your smiling eyes! Two new cognates in the MAED program, Trauma-Informed Practices and STEAM Education, completed their first full year of courses. We also had the pleasure of presenting the first Sister Rosalba Gatt Award to a faculty member in the School of Education, Dr. Christy McGee. This work requires us to be creative, leverage technology, and committed to lifting up the work of our students and colleagues.

Below the surface, we worked to push educators and education forward. As a unit, we reinforced our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and used the spring semester to think deeply about how this work supports our mission to “prepare caring, effective educators in the Catholic liberal arts tradition of Bellarmine University to teach and lead in diverse settings.” We brought this mission to life through a semester-long process of professional development, through programs that worked to expand curriculum, and through our stakeholders (ACE and BEST teams) who shared their thinking about anti-racism and implicit bias in educator preparation. This work requires reflection, attention and discernment—to do deep professional and personal development that supports educators and all of the students they serve.

As the summer commences, we remain committed to work at and below the surface because we know that’s what good teachers—Bellarmine teachers—do. I hope your summer offers you the rest, rejuvenation and inspiration you need to continue the transformative work of teaching and learning—on the surface and below. We look forward to seeing everyone again in the fall.

Elizabeth Dinkins, Ph.D.
Dean, Associate Professor
Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education

Students get teaching experience beyond walls

Over the past year, traditional college students on down are not the only ones who have seen their schooling disrupted: For Education students, the deprivation was twofold, as they had to adapt not only their learning but also their teaching.

Recently, several Education students were involved in a tutoring opportunity in support of the Beecher Terrace revitalization, which has seen residents of a longstanding public housing development in the Russell neighborhood displaced. Even though the billion-dollar plan predated the pandemic, it was yet another upheaval for the young people living there—and an opportunity for them to get some specialized attention with nontraditional instruction (NTI) and reading. Education students, already short of hours due to the abbreviated school days both in and out of class, were able to get some well-needed experience before embarking on their classroom careers that they hope will start in earnest this coming fall.

Hannah Nett saw the practice as a useful and empowering preview of her future. Even with experience, the recent Elementary Education graduate cannot apply for any positions until she receives her teaching license later this spring or early summer. She was already comfortable with the JCPS NTI platform, and this prepared her for her online sessions with a second-grader, whom she sees twice a week through the school year. “Doing NTI during student teaching made me more confident that I could virtually work with students on reading,” Nett says. “I also did a lot of reading work with students during NTI, so this exposed me to books and lessons I could use with my student.” It was challenging at times, however, as the weariness of the COVID confinement wore on her student; additionally, Nett and her Beecher Terrace Project cohort made it a priority to explore cultural humility and learn the history of the housing development and its residents before they even started. “I think the hardest part of the experience is just balancing student needs with making reading fun, [but] the best part is seeing [my student] excited about reading and the growth he has made not just academically, but in his confidence in himself.”

Jack Clines, who just graduated with degrees in Secondary Education and Mathematics, was matched with two older students through the Beecher Terrace Project. “It was all walks and all ages, whoever needed help,” he says. “It was great. It was challenging as heck, doing tutoring online, because I felt there was ways I could have grabbed their attention if it was in person.” He explains how the tutors got to play to their strengths as they worked with their middle schoolers. “I tutored them in math, but I had friends who tutored English, or they did the history while I did the math. That was fun.”

Liz Byron (Ph.D. ’20), who works with Bellarmine’s Center for Community Engagement and liaised between not only Bellarmine and organizations connected to Beecher Terrace but also Bellarmine and the Pathways program, where Clines also participated as a life skills mentor for college-bound high schoolers—all around the Kentuckiana area, both public and parochial. As she explains it, “The Pathways program connects undergraduate Bellarmine students with middle and high school students to share authentic dialogues on the lived experience of college and what success skills are necessary to persist and graduate.” Participating Bellarmine students had the option to participate as volunteers or work-study students, or for internship credit—but all received valuable experience and hours toward their pre-service teaching requirement.

Clines and three other mentors at a time workshopped lessons to introduce the teens to such real-world college situations as health and wellness, communication skills, identity, and time management and study skills; the group sessions took place during the teens’ free periods and in the evenings, with one topic at the center of conversation for each of eight weeks. Clines created a lesson on financial wellness—something that even as a math major he needed to study up on. (The Pathways mentors had the opportunity to get advice feedback from various Bellarmine experts, such as from the Counseling Center and the Office of Financial Aid.) “I had three other people co-teaching with me, so I always people backing me up,” he says.

Kate Lamb also did a stint as a Pathways mentor. Fresh off her May graduation, she currently is a student in the early-entry MAT program, which means she will have her master’s degree as soon as next spring and certified to teach high school English and history. She also had nothing but good things to say about Byron. “Dr. Byron is a wealth of knowledge, love and positivity on campus,” Lamb says. “This program has allowed me the space to reflect on my own experiences, in college and in high school, which has better prepared me for my future career in education. . . . I have worked with incredible people at Bellarmine.”

That commitment to Bellarmine worked both ways. Unlike many of their younger counterparts, the Pathways students largely had college in mind already—and many had already decided upon a life as Knights in veritatis amore. “They were a little burned out,” Clines admits, “but when we prompted them, they definitely were interested in our experiences.” The eight weeks culminated in a panel discussion where the high schoolers opened up a bit more about things they were eager to know. As for next year, the Bellarmine-Pathways partnership is looking at starting mentorships to middle schoolers for whom college is not even on the radar. “I’m excited about the future of the program,” Clines says.

Lamb seems even more deeply affected. “I am so grateful to have been part of the first Pathways team this year and to see the positive influence it has had on high schoolers in our community,” she says. “It has been immensely rewarding hearing from students that our lessons have better prepared them for the transition to college and that they looked forward to our meetings each week.”


Student and Alumni News

School of Education has big showing at annual research conference

Diane Courington presented virtually
Bellarmine’s in-house research conference, the Celebration of Student Research and Creativity, went online again this year. This break from tradition allowed for an extended period for Bellarmine students to present their research, including theses and dissertation projects, and for members of the university community (and beyond) to explore. Out of 47 presentations, six were from current or recently graduated School of Education students.

You can watch all 47 presentations, along with an introduction from Dr. Mark Wiegand, here.

Celebrating the Class of 2020–2021—apart, but together

Teams screenshot of School of Education virtual celebration
On the evening of April 13, the School of Education celebrated its most recent graduating class of Initial Certification, Ed.S., MAEd. and M.Ed. graduates. More than 70 students, faculty and staff attended virtually—and instead of with in-person hugs, attendees greeted one another with emojis, animated gifs, and spoken and chat-bar words. The safely distanced gathering still featured laughter and tears and a most unusual group photo. Dr. Elizabeth Dinkins told the assembled alumni-to-be, “Always remember that you’re a Bellarmine educator, trained to make a difference in the world.”

University awards

Award ceremony audience
We also recognize members of our graduating classes who earned accolades for their spirit and service to the School of Education and university at large.


  • Algernon Sydney Sullivan and Mary Mildred Sullivan Foundation Award: John Sparks 
  • Alumni Association Spirit of Saint Robert Bellarmine Award: Breya Matty 
  • Bellarmine University Faculty Merit Award: Breya Matty   
  • Msgr. Raymond J. Treece Senior Merit Award: Alyssa Durbin   
  • Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth A. Barker Distinguished Service Award: Breya Matty 

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education: 

  • Maureen R. Norris Faculty Merit Award in Undergraduate Education: Lexi Cox, C.J. Fleming and Mitchell Siefker 
  • Nancy Howard Faculty Merit Award In Graduate Education: Shonda Barnes, Cassidy Cook and Megan Oleksa 
  • M. Stephen Lilly Award in Special Education: Amanda Bader, Priscilla Cook and Gabby Phillips 
  • Outstanding Prospective Educator: Sierra Fields, Kyler Roman, Austin Sexton and Shanee Hardsaw  
  • Master of Arts In Education Faculty Merit Award: Trinity Shell 
  • Education Specialist Award (Ed.S.): Maggie Madrick 
  • Bernard M. Trager Scholarship: Sierra Fields, Cassie Kemper, Breya Matty and Grace Perkins 

Council for Exceptional Children members bring cheer and supplies

Members from Bellarmine’s chapter of the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children
Members from Bellarmine’s chapter of the Kentucky Council for Exceptional Children created over 40 sensory goody bags for the ECE students at Okolona Elementary for their Spring 2021 service learning project. L-R: Anna Holt (sophomore), Ava Vanderkoff (sophomore), Kayla Diersing (junior), Cayla Amshoff (junior) and Kailee Vittitow (junior).

As a reminder, current students and School of Education alumni can join or transfer their membership through the national CEC organization. Be sure to designate Bellarmine University as the chapter name and KY-0605 as the chapter number, then e-mail Dr. Ali Taylor with your CEC ID number so she has a record of your membership.

Mark your calendar…

Along with Bellarmine’s Kappa Delta Pi, Council for Exceptional Children, and Educators Rising chapters—in partnership with the Kentucky Psychological Association/Foundation—the School of Education will present “Reopening Schools, Re-Envisioning Success: A Virtual Symposium on Mental Health in Education.” All educators are invited to join this free virtual event on Tuesday, July 27, from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Please contact Dave Schroerlucke at for more information.

Congratulations to our new Ph.D.s (and especially to our first Ed.D.)!

Dissertation defense presentation
Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Social Change

  • Diane Courington: “Mask Off: Students’ of Color Traumatic Experiences in K-12 Education and Why Historically Black Colleges and Universities Make A Difference”
  • Alex Rogers: “Untold Stories: A Phenomenological Study of Parent and Educator Perspectives of Parental Engagement in Title One Elementary Schools”
  • Rev. Caitlin Simpson: “Trauma and Intersectionality in Trauma Informed Ministry”

Doctor of Philosophy in Leadership in Higher Education

  • Tamekka Cornelius: “Views from the Margins: A Multiple-Case Study of the Lived Experiences of Black Women Senior-Level Student Affairs Administrators”
  • Xavia Harrington-Chate: “From the Margins: Impact of Academic Advising on First-Generation Student Retention”
  • Lindsey Gilmore: “Navigating the Murky Middle: Understanding How Career Aspirations and Experiences Influence the Career Progression of Women Identifying, Student Affairs Middle Managers”
  • Benjamin Harris: “The Influence of Martial Arts on the Quality of Life of College Students”

Doctor of Education in K-12 District Leadership

  • Brittany Adkins: “Experience Between Mentors and Coaches: A Phenomenological Case Study to Examine Coaching Conditions”


Faculty and Staff News

DJ Mitchell named to Bingham Fellows Class of 2021

Donald "DJ" Mitchell, Jr., Ph.D. Dr. DJ Mitchell, outgoing Master of Education in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice chair and Chief Diversity Officer for the university, was named to the Bingham Fellows Class of 2021 in January. We are excited for the work he and his 47-person cohort will do as they explore this year’s topic, “Belonging: Building a Culture of Inclusivity,” and create a more inclusive Louisville.

You can read about the Fellows’ topic here.

A final word (for now)…

As we move into the summer, we remain hopeful for a return to full in-person activities—but we are mindful that the pandemic is not yet over. We ask you to continue wearing your mask, keep a safe distance from those not in your immediate household, and encourage friends and loved ones to get vaccinated and keep up responsible practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With this group effort, we look forward to a fall semester that looks more like those in years past, as well as a healthier 2022.