About Us

The Lead for Literacy Center is a partnership among literacy experts, education leaders, university researchers, and technical assistance providers, with funding from the United States Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.

Our mission is to provide technical assistance to school and district leaders that builds their capacity to facilitate improved teacher implementation of evidence-based literacy practices for educating students with, or at risk for, literacy-related disabilities.

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Meet our Team

Hank Fien Ph.D

Hank Fien, Ph.D.

Hank Fien, Ph.D., Director of the Lead for Literacy Center, is an Associate Professor in the Special Education and Clinical Sciences department at the University of Oregon, and the Director of the Center on Teaching and Learning. His research is focused on the areas of early reading, adolescent reading, and early mathematics interventions for diverse learners in school settings. Dr. Fien’s most recent work is focused on scaling up evidence-based programs and practices.

Abby Foley

Abby Foley, M.Ed., PMP

Abby Foley, M.Ed., PMP, Deputy Director of the Lead for Literacy Center, is a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). In this role, she manages and delivers research-based training and technical assistance (TA) across three Office of Special Education projects, including L4L, the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII), and the Collaboration for Effective Educator Effectiveness, Accountability, and Reform Center (CEEDAR Center). Her areas of expertise include literacy, special education, and multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). Foley is a former special education teacher, and earned her master’s degree in special education from George Mason University.

Nancy J. Nelson Ph.D.

Nancy J. Nelson, Ph.D.

Nancy J. Nelson, Ph.D., is Co-Principal Investigator of the Lead for Literacy Center, a Research Assistant Professor at the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon, and the Director of Clinic and Outreach Services which houses the CTL Clinic. Dr. Nelson’s research focuses on developing and evaluating math and reading interventions for grades K-8. She is a nationally certified school psychologist, and a former middle and high school special education math teacher.

Lana Santoro, Ph.D.

Lana Santoro, Ph.D.

Lana Santoro, Ph.D., is Co-Principal Investigator of the Lead for Literacy Center, and is a research associate and curriculum developer with the UO College of Education’s Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL). Dr. Santoro is the Co-Principal Investigator on a series of research studies focused on classroom discourse, vocabulary, and comprehension of elementary grade students at-risk of reading failure, and has also worked with the Pennsylvania’s Technical Training and Assistance Network (PaTTAN) to design and implement professional development and technical assistance related to MTSS implementation in the areas of reading, writing and intensive intervention for students with dyslexia and language-based challenges in reading. Dr. Santoro also engages in advocacy work related to chronic pain and disability, and she currently serves on the Executive Board of the International Research Consortium for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Allison Gandhi, Ed.D.

Allison Gandhi, Ed.D.

Allison Gruner Gandhi, Ed.D., Co-Principal Investigator of the Lead for Literacy Center, is a Vice President in the Human Services Program at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Dr. Gandhi has extensive knowledge about special education policy and practice, especially around identifying and communicating about evidence-based practices to support improved outcomes for students with disabilities. Dr. Gandhi has published and presented extensively on the topic of multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) and evidence-based practices in special education. She received her master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University and a doctoral degree in education policy from Harvard University.

Carol Dissen

Carol Dissen

Carol Dissen is the Leader of Professional Development and Technical Assistance for the Lead for Literacy Center, and supports implementation of literacy grants and technical assistance projects at the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon. Carol’s work focuses on curriculum development, delivering professional development workshops, and providing in-building coaching and model lessons to support evidence-based practices to educators. Carol’s most recent work focuses on building strong Tier I and Tier II systems of instruction, intensification of interventions for non-responders, and building strong literacy leadership to support an effective Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS). She is a former elementary school educator.

Brian Gearin

Brian Gearin is the Leader of the Dissemination Team for the Lead for Literacy Center. Brian is a doctoral student in Educational Methodology, Policy, and Leadership and a graduate employee at the University of Oregon’s Center on Teaching and Learning. He is a former high school social studies and English teacher at a priority school in Delaware. Brian’s research is broadly focused on the translation of scientific research to educational policy and practice.
Stephanie Jackson, Ph.D

Stephanie Jackson, Ph.D.

Stephanie Jackson, Ph.D., Senior Advisor for the Lead for Literacy Center and Managing Research Analyst at American Institutes for Research (AIR), directs policy, technical assistance, and evaluation projects for Federal, and state policymakers. Dr. Jackson has more than 30 years of experience in a variety of educational environments, including general and special education settings, magnet schools, charter schools, and higher education. She has been recognized for her educational leadership in schools and her practical and realistic perspective to foster the learning of all students, including students with disabilities. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Jackson worked as a general education and special education teacher, a special education administrator, an elementary school principal, and associate director of a research institute in a large, urban university.

Lauren Artzi, Ph.D.

Lauren Artzi, Ph.D.

Lauren Artzi, Ph.D., is a Technical Assistance Coach for the Lead for Literacy Center and Senior Researcher at AIR. She brings sixteen years of experience in education; five as an ESL teacher, and eleven years of experience in education research and as a technical assistance and professional development provider. Dr. Artzi’s research and technical assistance activities focus on the areas of second language education, literacy instruction for English learners and students with disabilities, and multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). Dr. Artzi holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Maryland. Her publications include articles in Bilingual Research Journal, Reading and Writing Quarterly, Reading and Writing, Contemporary Educational Psychology, and Elementary School Journal.
Jess Surles

Jess Surles

Jess Surles is a Technical Assistance Coach for the Lead for Literacy Center. Jess has over thirteen years of experience in delivering classroom instruction, collaborating with educators and leadership to support program implementation, and designing professional development on literacy and educational practices. Currently, she works for the Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL) at the University of Oregon to develop curriculum and provide technical assistance to schools in Oregon and across the country with a focus on literacy and evidence-based practices. She partners with literacy experts and university researchers to integrate current research and professional development for educators, leadership, and educational agencies. Jess also has experience as a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), Title I Reading Specialist, instructor of English Language Learners, and classroom teacher.
Ursula Hill, Ed.D.

Ursula Hill, Ed.D.

Ursula Hill, Ed.D., Technical Assistance Coach for the Lead for Literacy Center, has more than 22 years of experience in public education as a as a school administrator, special educator, professional development trainer, and leadership coach with substantial knowledge and experience working with low-performing schools, Title I, school change initiatives, data analysis, and Special Education. In addition to her work on the lead for Literacy Center, Dr. Hill serves as the South Carolina State Manager for AIR's Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC) as well as supports other states within the SECC network. Additionally, Dr. Hill has served as an Onsite Coordinator (lead partner services), Leadership Coach, and Special Education Instructional Coach assisting school improvement efforts. Dr. Hill earned degrees from Virginia Union University, the University of Virginia, and received the Doctor of Education degree from The George Washington University.

David Fainstein

David Fainstein

David Fainstein is a doctoral candidate in the School Psychology program at the University of Oregon and works as a graduate employee at the Center on Teaching and Learning. He has experience working as a special education assistant and school psychologist in British Columbia, Canada, and has more recently served on projects in Oregon as an interventionist and data coach. Most recently, David secured a doctoral fellowship to research teacher coaching factors that improve student outcomes. His expanding research line includes the impact of coaching as professional development in an educational context, assessment for early identification of children at-risk for experiencing academic difficulty, and implementation science.

Lauren Rosenbauer

Lauren Rosenbauer is a Research Assistant at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). Part of her work includes providing support related to the dissemination team as well as product development for the Center. Lauren also contributes to the Professional Learning with Impact (PLI) project in their recruitment efforts and the National Center on Intensive Intervention (NCII). Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and International Relations from Colgate University in May of 2019.
Kim Griggs

Kimberly Griggs

Kim Griggs is the software developer and user interface designer for the Lead for Literacy Center and a member of the Dissemination Team. As a Senior Research Assistant at the University of Oregon, Kim serves as the Digital Content Coordinator and Software Engineer for the Center on Teaching and Learning (CTL) on many federally funded projects. Kim has a master's degree in Computer and Information Science from the University of Oregon.
Anna Ingram

Anna Ingram

Anna Ingram provides Administrative Support to the Lead for Literacy Center. Anna has a BA in English and Creative Writing from West Virginia University and has worked for the Center on Teaching and Learning at the University of Oregon as part of the administrative staff since 2004. She splits her time between Centers and the CTL Clinic which offers tutoring to elementary age students struggling with reading or math. Anna is also the parent of a child who struggles with dyslexia, and has a vested interest in evidence-based instruction for children struggling with reading.

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