ESED Class of 2020

May 27, 2020

Congratulations to the ESED Class of 2020, our largest one to date! Drs. Dennis Lee, Paran Norton, Khushi Patel, Victoria Sellers, and Shannon Stefl join a distinguished group of ESED alumni who are out in the world doing good things.  We know that you are facing a challenging time as the pandemic has engulfed us, but you are well prepared to continue developing your superpowers of patience, persistence, kindness and gratitude that you showed us all.  Each one of you have added tremendous value to our time together.

Dr. Dennis Lee taught us that nearly everything can use a few hits from the epistemology hammer! Dennis shared a playful sense of humor but also revealed his depth of understanding of his subject areas and passion for student learning in biology. His ability to mentor his colleagues (graduate students and faculty!) has been a force for good. His experience as a faculty member at Tri-County Technical College and graduate work in molecular biology provided a richness that he willingly shared with others. He lent his expertise to several research projects across ESED involving engineering students and STEM faculty.  He was awarded a 2019-2020 ESED Outstanding Graduate Researcher Award and a Best Paper Award from the Student Division of the American Society for Engineering Education in 2017.  His dissertation work, “Argument as a Context to Understand Students’ Biology Epistemology,” allows recognition of how STEM students use what they know about science and how they know it when engaged in active learning.

Dr. Paran Norton believes in preparing future STEM generations.  Her calm, cool and collected presence makes statistics and calculus approachable to many math-shy students.  Among her activities, Paran has hosted a group of middle school students every year she has been part of ESED to demonstrate that a STEM career is fun and possible.  She also served as the lead for the Clemson Society for STEM Education (C-STEMEd), which was established by ESED graduate students as a student chapter of the American Society for Engineering Education.  Paran has contributed to several research projects along with her advisor, Karen High, dedicated to understanding student success in calculus.  She contributed to qualitative research that explored the student-advisor relationship from the perspective of underrepresented PhD students in chemistry.  Her dissertation, “Exploring the Relationship between Course Structures and Student Motivation in Introductory College Calculus: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective,” used a sequential explanatory mixed-methods approach to understand student motivation in the context of three different levels of student-centered instruction.  In 2017, her work was recognized with a Best Paper Award from the Mathematics Division of the American Society for Engineering Education.  Currently Paran is a lecturer and STAT 2300 course coordinator for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences at Clemson.  We are glad she is still a Tiger!

Dr. Khushi Patel is a chemist passionate about facilitating learning and caring for her students and colleagues.  During her time with ESED, Khushi has taken advantage of as many opportunities as she could.  For example, Khushi was the first ESED PhD student to reach the finals of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition at Clemson.  Her articulate explanation of her dissertation research on how beginning college chemistry students conceptualize stoichiometry earned her a place with the top graduate researchers at Clemson.  Her experience as a co-leader of the Friday Lunch & Learn and as a senator for Graduate Student Government also sharpened her leadership skills.  Khushi was one of the first two ESED Teaching Scholars that enabled her to take advantage of the full range of her experience, from the K-12 world to her work as a teaching assistant in chemistry at Tennessee State and Clemson and as an instructor for the Clemson Summer Scholars program.  Teaching two semesters of General Chemistry I has prepared her well for the next steps in her career.  Her dissertation, “Student Conceptualization of Stoichiometry,” reported on how students navigate their way through a fundamental concept that is important to success in learning chemistry.

Dr. Victoria Sellers rocks!  Victoria is a geologist with a passion for introducing more people to the geosciences, especially by showing them geology in the field.  Victoria has led field trips for attendees of the Hydrogeology Symposium to the Seneca Fault and for others through virtual reality to the Grand Canyon.  Victoria was the 2019 winner of the Frankie O. Felder Graduate Student Award of Excellence from the Clemson University Graduate School.  She worked with Lisa Benson, Stephen Moysey, and Kelly Lazar during her graduate work.  Her research for her dissertation, “Assessment of Affective Responses to Classroom, Outdoor, and Virtual Geology Field Experiences,” used a concurrent triangulation mixed methods multiple-case study design to compare virtual experiences with classroom activities and a trip to the field.  The field trip to a local geological feature was the most effective at influencing student feelings about geoscience in part due to it being a novel experience for the participants.  The virtual experience with the Grand Canyon was the least positive but Victoria identified specific features of the experience that can be improved in future work.


Dr. Shannon Stefl has had a big impact at Clemson.  Her discipline, physics, led to her involvement in outreach to the hundreds of students and visitors for the 2017 total solar eclipse.  As a physics graduate student, Shannon won the Outstanding Teaching Assistant for the college.  She was also honored as the Outstanding Graduate Student in 2019 by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.  She contributed to several research studies focused on engineering students and faculty conducted by her co-advisors, Julie Martin and Karen High.  Shannon was instrumental to two NSF-sponsored workshops held at Clemson and focused on developing research agendas about inclusion in engineering and STEM faculty development.  Shannon through her dissertation research (“Women Engineering Faculty Well-Being: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis”) revealed important themes through interviewing seven tenured women.  “Their experiences illustrate the subtle and overt ways faculty identities and success may be marginalized by immediate colleagues and how a faculty member may ensure her own success and well-being through seeking positive relationships in external spaces.”  She has been working with the Office of Teaching Effectiveness and Innovation at Clemson University, continuing to contribute to faculty development.