Leadership Team


Nicole McNeil is the director of ESS, a professor of psychology, and director of Notre Dame’s CLAD (Cognition, Learning, and Development) Lab. She studies cognitive development with a primary focus on how children think, learn, and solve problems in mathematics. Professor McNeil is the recipient of many awards, including the Boyd McCandless Award from the American Psychological Association, the Christ the Teacher Award from the ACE Teaching Fellows program, and Elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. Email Nicole McNeil.


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Maria McKenna is senior associate director of ESS and professor of the practice for both ESS and Africana Studies. Her research and teaching focus on the social contexts of American education, educational care, and the experience of minorities in K-12 public schools. The winner of the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the NAACP Peter’s Image Award, Professor McKenna teaches several courses for ESS, including Education, Schooling, and Society; Contemporary Thinking in the Philosophy of Education; Landscapes of Urban Education; and Youth Empowerment, Literacy, and Urban Schools. Email Maria McKenna.

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Ann Primus Berends is associate director of ESS. As such, she serves as the program administrator, director of undergraduate studies, and primary student advisor. Additionally, she serves as a research editor for publications on the sociology of education. Primus Berends has written and edited several works in the fields of education, spirituality, and business. Recent publications include The Handbook of Research on School Choice – 2nd Edition (Routledge, 2020), the “Five Minutes” series (Ave Maria Press, 2011, 2014, 2017), and Seeking God (ACE Press, 2015). Email Ann Primus Berends.

Teaching ESS Courses 


Alex Ambrose is the director of learning research and founder of the Research & Assessment for Learning (ReAL) Design Lab at the Kaneb Center. A professor of the practice with appointments in ESS and the Computing & Digital Technologies departments, Professor Ambrose studies applied learning research, design, and evaluation. He has earned the Campus Technology Innovator Award and recognition by Google, IBM, USAID, and the Bill and Melinda Gates and National Science Foundations. For ESS, he teaches Learning, Design, and Technology, and Creativity and Innovation in Education Today. Email Alex Ambrose.



Andrea Christensen is a professor of psychology. She teaches several core courses and electives in the ESS minor, the psychology department, and the ACE Teaching Fellows program. These include Educational Psychology; Developmental Psychology; Education, Schooling, and Society; Educational Effectiveness; CBL: Literacy Development and Children; and Seminar Educational Research. Her research focuses on effective teacher instruction and classroom practices that support student motivation. Professor Christensen is the recipient of one of Notre Dame’s prestigious Presidential Fellowships and a Kaneb Center teaching award. Email Andrea Christensen.



Brian Collier is the director of the American Indian Catholic Schools Network and faculty member of ESS, American Studies, and the Alliance for Catholic Education. He is the winner of several honors, including the Favorite Professor Award for outstanding contributions in the classroom at Notre Dame, and the Award of Merit for outstanding service to the field of Western History and to the Western History Association. In the ESS program, Professor Collier teaches the History of American Education, the History of Native American Education, and the Indian School and American Culture.  His research interests include American Indian education, race, class, and gender. Email Brian Collier.


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Rachel Fulcher Dawson is an associate director at the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), where she leads research operations. As an adjunct professor in the ESS program, she teaches Early Childhood Education Policy and Seminar Educational Research. She has spent much of her professional career doing social policy analysis, evaluation and education research. Her research and policy interests focus on early childhood education and childcare, K-12 education reform and translating research for policy. Email Rachel Fulcher Dawson.



Matt Kloser is the founding director of the Center for STEM Education and a faculty member of ESS and the Alliance for Catholic Education. His research focuses on issues of teaching, learning, and assessment in science classrooms with a special focus on biology education. The former high school physics and math teacher received the Journal in Science Teaching Outstanding Paper Award from the National Association of Research in Science Teaching; the organization also recognized him with a “Research Worth Reading” selection. Professor Kloser teaches Science Education: Policy and Practices for ESS. Email Matt Kloser.



Erin Lemrow is a faculty member for ESS, the Institute for Latino Studies, and Gender Studies, and serves as a guest lecturer with the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures. Her research interests include the intersections of language, literacy and identity, multiraciality in higher education, and critical multiculturalism and multilingualism. The winner of several fellowships, and a selected participant of the American Educational Research Association’s Division G (Social Contexts of Education) Early Career Scholars Mentorship Program, Professor Lemrow teaches Latinos, Literacy and Gender in the ESS program. Email Erin Lemrow.


Kati Macaluso

Kati Macaluso is the director of ACE Advocates, which is charged with the strategic engagement of ACE graduates, and a faculty member of ESS and the Alliance for Catholic Education. For ESS, she teaches Education, Schooling, and Society, and Language, Literacy/ies, and Pedagogy in 21st Century Schooling and Society. An expert in curriculum, instruction, and teacher education, Professor Macaluso’s research investigates issues in English education and curriculum studies, including what it means to prepare teachers to teach English Language Arts in a 21st-century context. Email Kati Macaluso.


Mike Macaluso

Mike Macaluso serves as a faculty member of ESS and the Alliance for Catholic Education. In this role, he teaches Education, Schooling, and Society; Language, Literacy/ies, and Pedagogy in 21st Century Schooling and Society; and Diversity in Young Adult Literature. He also supervises and visits ACE Teaching Fellows around the country, including Tampa, Washington, D.C., and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Professor Macaluso’s primary research focuses on critical approaches in English education, including how notions of religiosity are embedded in English classrooms and pedagogies. Email Mike Macaluso.


Nancy Masters

Nancy Masters is the associate director of Inclusionary Practices Program as well as associate director of licensing with the Alliance for Catholic Education. Formerly she taught pre-kindergarten through middle school in South Bend diocesan schools. From 2006-2010, she was  a Teacher-in-Residence, providing instructional coaching to the University of Notre Dame Magnificat schools. Professor Masters currently teaches Tutoring in the Community for ESS. Email Nancy Masters.


Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell is a professor of English, Coyle Professor in Literacy Education, and director of the Center for Literacy Education. An award-winning author and teacher, he was listed in the Annual EdWeek RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings among the top 100 university-based education scholars in 2015, 2016, and 2017. His research areas focus on the teaching of English, the African Diaspora, postcolonial studies, media and popular culture, and literature for children. Professor Morrell cross-lists several courses between ESS, English, and Africana Studies, including Critical Pedagogy and Pop Culture. Email Ernest Morrell.



Jodene Morrell is a teaching professor and associate director of the Center for Literacy Education. The former elementary and middle school teacher is a literacy specialist whose research focuses on pedagogy in K-8 classrooms, the role of multicultural and diverse children’s literature for making literacy engaging and accessible for all students, and teachers as scholars and researchers. In the ESS program, Professor Morrell teaches CBL: Literacy at the Library and Childhood, Faith, and Family in Children’s Literature. Email Jodene Morrell.



John Schoenig is senior director of teacher formation and education policy for the Alliance for Catholic Education. As such, he leads the ACE Teaching Fellows program and the Program for Educational Access, an advocacy and leadership formation enterprise that helps develop and implement policy that expands financial access to faith-based schools. With a JD from the Notre Dame Law School, Professor Schoenig teaches Education Law and Policy for ESS. Email John Schoenig.



John Staud is the executive director of the Alliance for Catholic Education. Professor Staud teaches courses on American literature for ESS and the English department. The recipient of the Rev. William A. Toohey, CSC Award for Social Justice, the Joyce Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the Kaneb Teaching Award, he teaches Shakespeare and Tolkien: Literature in the Classroom. Email John Staud.



Gina Svarovsky is an associate professor of engineering education and member of the Center for STEM Education. She holds a joint appointment in the Alliance for Catholic Education and the College of Engineering. Her research interests are focused on exploring how youth from traditionally underrepresented populations in engineering are able to develop engineering skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking in both formal and informal learning environments.  Professor Svarovsky teaches Learning in Informal Environments for ESS. Email Gina Svarovsky.



Chrissy Trinter is an assistant professor of mathematics education and member of the Center for STEM Education. Her work focuses on teacher development, with research in teacher leadership and curriculum studies in mathematics education. She is especially interested in elements of curriculum and instruction that fall within the intersection of creativity and mathematics education. The former middle and high school math teacher now teaches several classes for the Alliance for Catholic Education and Data Visualization, Society, and Student Learning for ESS. Email Chrissy Trinter.