FAQ icon

Need Answers?

Directory Icon

Email, Phone, and Addresses

Graduation cap icon

Explore Degrees

Collage of new faculty members' portraits

Meet Our New Faculty Members

The Marsal School welcomes seven scholars to our community

April Baker-Bell
April Baker-Bell

Dr. April Baker-Bell 

Associate Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. April Baker-Bell is a prominent scholar engaged in leading research on just and equitable language, culture, and justice in education. Her scholarship is focused on Black language education, Black language, and its historical and sociopolitical roots in anti-Black racism, bringing together theory and empirical research to show the multiple ways that normative school practice advances a view of Black language as incorrect. As a powerful corrective to such views, Baker-Bell makes visible the linguistic structure and richness of the historical language of Black Americans.

In addition to numerous articles, Baker-Bell is the author of the award-winning book Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy, which provides ethnographic snapshots of how Black students navigate and negotiate their linguistic and racial identities across multiple contexts. An influential scholar, she has received many awards that showcase her position in her field, including the Coalition for Community Writing Outstanding Book Award (2021); the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowship (2021); Michigan State University’s Community Engagement Scholarship Award (2021) and Distinguished Partnership Award for Community-Engaged Creative Activity (2021); and the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) George Orwell Award for Distinguished Contribution to Honesty and Clarity in Public Language (2020). 

Baker-Bell joins the Marsal School from Michigan State University, where, in addition to her appointment in the Department of English, she was also faculty in the Department of African American and African Studies, and an adjunct associate professor at MSU’s Center for Bioethics and Social Justice in the College of Human Medicine.

One of your recent research projects involved collaborating with health care scholars and researchers. What led to this project and how does it dovetail with your research on racial and linguistic justice in education?

In February 2020, I was contacted by a team of medical researchers who read an article I wrote about anti-Black linguistic racism and anti-racist pedagogy. The research team was looking for a scholar with a unique scholastic expertise at the intersections of anti-Black racism awareness and anti-racist pedagogy development and assessment, an expertise that is critically missing in the field of medicine and medical education, to support them with piloting an anti-racist workshop series for their health care leaders that would support their hospital’s strategic vision of becoming an anti-racist organization. This interaction led to me being the lead researcher on a cross-disciplinary research project that involved collaborating with health care scholars and researchers to develop, implement, and evaluate an anti-racist medical curriculum intervention that supported health care professionals with developing an anti-racist praxis for confronting and reducing racial bias and anti-Black racism in medical and health care institutions.

As a teacher and researcher, how do you also view your work as activism?

One of my favorite Black feminist teacher-activists is bell hooks, who believed that teaching/learning was activism. According to hooks, activist teaching involves a revolutionary pedagogy of resistance—a way of thinking about pedagogy in relation to the practice of freedom (1994). A revolutionary pedagogy of resistance is foundational to my research and teaching on linguistic justice. The end goal of Linguistic Justice is Black liberation. Linguistic Justice is an anti-racist approach that seeks to dismantle anti-Black linguistic racism in classrooms and in the world.

Can you tell us about #BlackLanguageSyllabus and what inspired you to develop it as an open-access resource?

I developed the #BlackLanguageSyllabus in community with my academic sister, Dr. Carmen Kynard. We recognize that anti-Blackness and anti-Black linguistic racism are ubiquitous in schools and society, so we created the #BlackLanguageSyllabus as a space for political discussions and praxis of Black Language as guided by the work of teacher-researcher-activists in classrooms and communities who stand against institutions that seek to annihilate Black Language + Black Life. The #BlackLanguageSyllabus is an open-access resource created outside traditional academe to reshape how knowledge is produced, affirmed, and accessed. 


Natalie R. Davis
Natalie R. Davis

Dr. Natalie R. Davis

Assistant Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Natalie Davis’s (PhD ’17) research explores the relationship between justice-oriented learning environments and sociopolitical development of children from minoritized communities. She is particularly interested in pedagogical practices and sociocultural processes that facilitate and/or constrain Black youths’ critical readings of self and of historical and contemporary issues of (in)justice inside and outside schools. 

A National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Davis has received an Early Career Fellowship in Middle Childhood and Education from the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and Society of Research on Child Development (SRCD); a Distinguished Dissertation Award from Division G (Social Context of Education) of AERA; and the Dimond Dissertation Award from the U-M Marsal Family School of Education.

Davis practices an ethic of working and being in community, developing research products that speak to academic and public audiences and practice intergenerational kinship, such as her creation of The Teacher Dreaming, Design & Learning Lab, an educator collective and research project that is focused on explorations of (professional) learning, pedagogical imagination, justice, and childhood. 

A former third grade teacher, Davis earned her PhD in Educational Studies with a focus on Educational Foundations and Policy from the Marsal School in 2017. She then worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University. Davis returns to U-M from Georgia State University, where she was an assistant professor in the department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education and the Master of Arts in Creative and Innovative Education.

What tenets of community-engaged research do you hope to advance through your teaching and mentorship? 

Rather than a set of practices, community-oriented scholarship starts as an ethos, a commitment to the continual process of learning how to be well together. Being in proximity isn’t the same as being with the people there. The latter involves intellectual humility, patience, and an openness to seeing the beauty and complexity of the spaces people occupy. Good intentions and sharp scholarly ideas don’t erase histories of power, exploitation, and violence. I’m excited to support students as they explore possibilities for community-engaged work. 

Can you tell us more about the practice of dreaming as it pertains to the Teacher Dreaming, Design, & Learning Lab?

I’ve noticed a tendency in the field to emphasize educational justice pursuits that involve people fighting and resisting with less consideration of how the seeds of beautiful, necessary social change are sown through dreaming and imagining what isn’t yet but what might one day be. Educators need spaces where they are supported in connecting dreams with childhoods, critical learning, and design. These are some of the things we are exploring in conceptualizing the lab as a dreamspace. 

How does it feel to return to your alma mater, U-M?

It was meant to be! I’m still in awe about how all fell in place with the perfect timing. I  remember feeling overwhelmed as a doctoral student, wondering if/how I could be successful while bringing my full self to this work. I’ve received so much love and guidance in this transition. I’m excited for all the ways I’ve grown and everything I’ll be able to accomplish in this new but familiar space. This homecoming is special.


Erin Flynn
Erin Flynn

Dr. Erin Flynn

Associate Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Erin Elizabeth Flynn’s (PhD ’13) scholarship focuses on language and literacy development during the early childhood years. Specifically, she studies early childhood language and classroom interaction in multilingual settings to enhance teachers’ expectations of economically marginalized children by disrupting the dominant discourse that they are not ready for high-level learning. Her recent research also explores teachers’ knowledge of and attitudes toward children’s language and stories. Using qualitative research approaches like systemic functional linguistics, her work illuminates the diversity and sophistication of young children's storytelling in multicultural, multilingual preschool classrooms, thus advancing strengths-based teaching and learning while rejecting deficit conceptualizations of young children. 

A skilled teacher and program leader, Flynn comes to the Marsal School with deep experience teaching courses focused on child, youth, and family studies and educator preparation across diverse program areas at all levels. She approaches her work through strength-based, liberatory, and trauma-informed practices. Her teaching practice is rooted in identity, organized to develop reciprocity with students, and centers the intellectual contributions of scholars with non-dominant identities. She is also a dedicated advisor and mentor, particularly for first-generation students. 

Flynn earned a doctorate in Educational Studies with a focus on Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Michigan. This fall, she returns to the Marsal School from her position as an associate professor of child, youth, and family studies at Portland State University. 

What led you to focus on children’s stories in your research?

My research is an outgrowth of my time teaching Head Start in multicultural, multilingual classrooms. As a doctoral student, vivid memories of the centrality of story in the way that children made meaning through language, drawing, writing, and play suggested that storytelling could be leveraged for language learning in ways that are child-driven, rather than teacher-prescribed.

Could you tell us more about your qualitative research approaches?

The primary approach that I use draws on systemic functional linguistics to demonstrate the multiple, varied patterns that children employ when storying their experience. Fine-grained linguistic analysis can help tune teachers’ attention to predictable ways of using language, not just in children’s stories, but in the written texts that children encounter in schools. Discourse analysis of this kind is ideal for making tacit knowledge explicit so that it can be shared.

Is there a figure you encountered during the course of your academic preparation who became a model for your own practice as a mentor?

In early childhood education, care and education are viewed as inextricably linked. Increasingly, care is viewed as a radical antidote to education’s individualistic and competitive imperatives. Mary Schleppegrell is not an early childhood scholar, but more than most Mary has been a powerful model for me of how to mentor others into a deep sense of care for meaning-making as well as the people that we make meaning with. 


Sharim Hannegan-Martinez
Sharim Hannegan-Martinez

Dr. Sharim Hannegan-Martinez

Assistant Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Sharim Hannegan-Martinez’s teaching-informed research examines the relationship between trauma and healing, loving pedagogies, literacy, and student wellness, particularly as it relates to Students of Color. Embedded in her research is an understanding of trauma as structural, and inherently tied to racism and other forms of oppression that disproportionately affect Students and Communities of Color. 

Before pursuing her PhD at the University of California, Los Angeles, Hannegan-Martinez was a high school English teacher in East Oakland where she received multiple teaching awards including the Teacher of the Year Award from Teachers for Social Justice. As a university instructor, she has taught courses including Composition for Teachers, Literacy Across the Disciplines, Trauma-Informed and Healing Centered Pedagogies, and Pedagogical Theory and Foundations. At the Marsal School, she will teach courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a course on trauma-informed and healing-centered pedagogies. She will also teach in and run the Race and Social Justice Institute.

Hannegan-Martinez received the 2022 Dissertation of the Year Award from Division G (Social Context of Education) of the American Educational Research Association. She was also recently named a 2022–2024 Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Fellow by the National Council of English Teachers. In addition to her research and teaching, she is a founding member of the People’s Education Movement, Bay Area and a part of the Education for Liberation network. She comes to the Marsal School from the University of Kentucky, where she was an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education.

Can you tell us about loving pedagogies?

My work on loving pedagogies really emerged as a result of my research on trauma and healing. While the data for child trauma is staggering, the research was also clear that loving relationships can serve as a protective barrier and as a vehicle for healing and so I became committed to figuring out what love looks and feels like in the context of the classroom. To conceptualize love, I draw heavily from Women of Color feminists and Indigenous communities and worked alongside my former students to develop a framework for love. Ultimately, we argue that love is imperative for our survival, healing, wellness, and sustainability.

How did your years as a high school English teacher inform your research agenda?

The lessons I learned from the young people I had the privilege to teach continue to guide everything that I do as a community member, researcher, and university professor. Specifically, my work challenges pathologies of trauma and focuses on the love and healing that I know is possible in our classrooms—because I’ve experienced it. Everything that I believe is possible in schools and in the world, I believe because the young people I have taught have shown it to be true.

As a founding member of the People’s Education Movement, Bay Area, what organizing practices do you bring to your research and classroom?

So much of what I learned about research and teaching, I learned from organizing. In addition to criticality and a commitment to fighting for the world we deserve, some of the primary lessons I carry with me are about the importance of being in authentic community, centering the voices of those who are most marginalized, decentering myself, and the importance of true interdependence—that we cannot be free or well if we are not all free, all well. As Gwendolyn Brooks said, “we are each other’s magnitude and bond.”


Vanessa Louis
Vanessa Louis

Dr. Vanessa Louis

Clinical Assistant Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Vanessa Louis’s research interests include abolitionist teaching, anti-racist pedagogies, research-practice partnerships, community cultural wealth, teacher residencies and fellowships, and culturally relevant science education. 

Louis served for six years as a middle and high school science teacher and for two years as an administrator and instructional coach. During her doctoral journey, she utilized abolitionist teaching and emancipatory pedagogies to assist early career science teachers in developing cultural competence as part of the NSF-funded project Developing STEM Professionals as Educators and Teacher Leaders (DSPETL). As a graduate research assistant, Louis engaged in a research-practice partnership to address problems of practice surrounding STEM literacy in Black and Brown communities. She also collaborated with the CREATE Teacher Residency Program to examine the experiences of Black teacher fellows as they navigate a social justice-oriented program.

Louis earned her PhD at Georgia State University (GSU), focusing on teaching and learning with a concentration in science education. She received the Outstanding PhD Student Award from GSU and was named a Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education Fellow by the National Science Foundation. 

At the Marsal School, Louis will teach graduate and undergraduate students in the science methods course in the Secondary Teacher Education Program. She will also teach a multicultural education and a field instructor course in the Elementary Teacher Education Program.

What originally fueled your interest in STEM education?

In sixth grade, the words “Vanessa is a horrible science student” were scrawled across my progress report. I was crushed because I loved science and wanted it to love me back. I took high-level science courses, pursued a biology degree, and became a science teacher. As a science teacher, I aimed to make sure all Black and Brown students felt and knew they belonged in science classrooms and were scientists.

In terms of your research agenda, what drew you to the Marsal School?

The Marsal Family School of Education provides a space and context to engage in research pertaining to teacher preparation and teacher development that addresses issues of race and racism while also engaging in teaching strategies, and exploring new practices, to challenge the current structures that are harming marginalized groups.

What communities and activities do you look forward to connecting with in Ann Arbor?

I grew up on a college campus and cannot wait for football season! I’m also excited about concerts, fairs, and shopping. I look forward to also engaging with communities outside of Ann Arbor. The Detroit community has been inviting and provided many opportunities to network.

Alaina Neal-Jackson
Alaina Neal-Jackson


Dr. Alaina Neal-Jackson

Clinical Assistant Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Alaina Neal-Jackson’s (AM ’12, PhD ’18) research is centered on race and gender in schooling—part of a larger interest in the health and welfare of Black students particularly, but not singularly, in underserved contexts. Drawing upon sociological frames and critical race and gender theories, Neal-Jackson examines how schools, as social institutions, structure Black girls’ and women’s experiences and opportunities, and in what ways this structuring reproduces social inequalities along raced, gendered, and classed lines. 

Neal-Jackson earned her bachelor’s degree in Rhetoric, Narrative, and Image from the University of California, Berkeley before pursuing her studies at the Marsal Family School of Education. She completed a master’s with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy and a doctorate in Educational Studies. Her scholarship has been published in the Review of Educational Research, Teachers' College Record, The Journal of College Student Development, and The Journal of Educational Administration and History

While completing her dissertation, Neal-Jackson co-led a school-based restorative justice center, which ignited a passion for expanding the transformative potential of restorative practices within teacher education and preK-12 educational spaces. Neal-Jackson previously served as the Educational Culture and Justice Coordinator for the Marsal School’s Detroit P-20 Partnership, where she worked closely with the community at The School at Marygrove to build a culture where social justice is seen and felt in policies and everyday practice.

What led you to focus your research on race and gender in schooling? 

As an undergraduate at Berkeley, I observed classes where Black girls were hypervisible to teachers; their every move was scrutinized and read as disruptive or disrespectful. Yet they remained invisible because the harm that resulted from this hyper focus and pejorative labeling was never acknowledged. These observations felt very familiar. When I explored the educational literature to see how scholars made sense of this, I found a disturbing silence on the specific ways that schools structured Black girls’ experiences. 

What courses do you look forward to teaching at the Marsal School?

I am looking forward to teaching courses where we focus on anti-racism as a way of “being” in the world. Rather than just asking our students to critically interrogate what they do in the classroom (e.g. particular teaching practices), I am excited to push them to pair that with how they show up out of the classroom through everyday acts of anti-racism.

What books are on your academic and non-academic reading list?

Academically speaking, I am reading Strong Black Girls: Reclaiming Schools in Their Own Image edited by Danielle Apugo, Lynnette Mawhinney, and Afiya Mbilishaka, as well as Cultivating Joyful Learning Spaces for Black Girls: Insights into Interrupting School Pushout by Monique Morris. Non-academically, I am diving into Rest Is Resistance by Tricia Hersey.


Jon Wargo
Jon Wargo

Dr. Jon Wargo

Associate Professor, Educational Studies

Dr. Jon Wargo’s research reconceptualizes the role of media and technology as it comes to intersect with critical literacy learning by children and youth. Leveraging young peoples’ ingenuity as sights and signs for learning, his teaching and scholarship focus on understanding and sustaining the heterogeneity of human sensemaking in the contexts of community inquiry and social change. His scholarship explores how race, gender, sexuality, and other discourses of difference are taken up in teacher preparation and examines the impact of doing this work with pre-service and in-service teachers. An interdisciplinary scholar, he has also investigated topics related to teacher education, digital culture, educational policy, and qualitative research methods. 

An award-winning researcher and nationally recognized scholar, Wargo won early career achievement awards from the Literacy Research Association and the Children’s Literature Assembly in 2021. In 2020, he was named an NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. In addition to book chapters and public scholarship, including blogs and videos, his work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Research in the Teaching of English, Learning, Media and Technology, Mind, Culture, and Activity, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, and the Journal of Literacy Research. He has received distinguished article awards from the National Council for Teachers of English and the American Educational Research Association Queer Studies Special Interest Group.

A former kindergarten teacher, Wargo earned a PhD in Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education from Michigan State University in 2016. Upon receiving his PhD, he was appointed as an assistant professor in the Wayne State University College of Education. He joins the Marsal School from Boston College, where he served as an assistant professor in the Lynch School of Education and Human Development.  

With a particular focus on sound, your work in literacy studies highlights the affordances of multimodal composition. Why sound? 

Sound is a felt technology. Through my work, I’ve tried to highlight how sound becomes a communicative resource to amplify issues of injustice (e.g., gentrification, climate precarity). When children and youth write with sound, they rethink purpose, performance, and audience, core concepts in composition. Sound invites listeners to hear problems in new and complex ways.

How has your research on discourses of difference in teacher education influenced your own practice in the classroom?

As a multiethnic first-generation college graduate and gay cisgender man, I know I am one of the first course texts my students encounter. As such, it is critically important to engage how multiple axes of difference, power, and oppression come to inform our work in teacher education. Through sustained partnerships with area schools that leveraged and built horizontal expertise, my work examines how particular domains of power (e.g., cultural, disciplinary, structural) shape how educators advance anti-bias, anti-racist (ABAR) pedagogy. This learning, in turn, has informed what and who I center in my classroom.

What are you looking forward to as you return to the state of Michigan?

Community. Since graduating from Michigan State in 2016, I’ve worked to sustain relationships with classroom teachers, community partners, and a range of collaborators here in Michigan. I am absolutely thrilled to return to a space that has always felt like home.

MORE FROM Fall 2023

Angela Calabrese Barton’s research shows the impact STEM education in informal learning environments can have on communities and the world
The Indigenous Youth Education Collective is a youth participatory action research project led by—and for—Anishinaabe scholars, community members, and students
As the minor serves students across the university, minor students serve the local community
After a pandemic pause, CSHPE experiential learning trips return
A new series of online courses has the potential to reach future learning experience designers everywhere
Champions for Education