CET Director

Lisa Hooper

Lisa Hooper

Email: lisa.hooper@uni.edu
Phone: (319) 273-3124

Dr. Lisa Hooper has served as an educator, scholar, researcher, mentor, supervisor, and leader for the past 18 years, since receiving her Ph.D. from George Washington University. Early in her career she served as an investigator, project director, and research instructor at Georgetown University School of Medicine, and later as a tenured professor at the University of Alabama and the University of Louisville directing research focused on the intersection among systems (e.g., school, family, neighborhood, community, health care) and race, ethnicity, and culture. She has had four major lines of psychology and education research:

(a) the influence of family-of-origin factors (e.g., parentification, differentiation of self, attachment style) on the wellbeing and psychopathology of adolescents, adults, and families;

(b) comorbidity research (i.e., influence of common medical conditions on mental health);

(c) the link among family, teacher, and student factors on culturally responsive schools, cultural competence, leadership in school systems, and academic achievement; and

(d) minority health and health disparities related to family systems-focused cultural competence, culturally-tailored care (e.g., diagnosis, measurement and assessment equivalence, treatment).

Dr. Hooper’s research constitutes a collaborative, integrative, approach to ecological systems, psychology, education, and whole-person outcomes (e.g., academic, emotional, mental, and physical). The idea of systems and whole-person care has applicability to individuals from cradle to grave, including K-20 populations, and transportability among diverse ecological systems, including schools and health agencies.

For the past 20 years, Dr. Hooper has investigated the process and outcomes of parentification. 

Dr. Hooper has procured and led grants funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the National Institute of Mental Health, and most recently the Jefferson County Public School System (Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Programs Division) in Louisville, Kentucky. Since 2005, she has served as a NIH Health Disparities Scholar. Currently, she is collaborating with the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create an educational initiative focused on cultural and linguistic competency.

Visit Dr. Hooper's profiles here: 

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CET Professional Staff

Lisa Hooper

Diana Marcela Galvez Bohorquez

Diana serves as researcher and data analyst in the Center of Educational Transformation. She Joined CET in July 2021. Diana holds bachelors’ degrees in psychology and industrial engineering and earned her master’s in education from the University of Iowa. She is graduating from her doctoral program in educational policy and leadership studies from the University of Iowa in Fall 2021. 

Diana’s research examines how schools’ social systems, educational practices, and policies shape educational opportunities for students from diverse socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. She draws on diverse disciplines, including sociology, and psychology to address the current challenges in K-20 education. Particularly, Diana is interested in understanding the structure of opportunity in high school curricular placement and college access. Diana is committed to identifying and removing barriers to an inclusive K-20 system and promoting more equitable schools that better serve students from diverse backgrounds, especially students of color and those from low-income families. Her research and teaching interest include sociology of education, social stratification, social psychology, research methods, and applied statistics. She has a multi-faceted expertise in quantitative as well as qualitative research methods to address education questions.

Her primary responsibilities include: (1) identifying and addressing research and evaluation needs; (2) designing and conducting research studies; (3) communicating and disseminating research work through presentations, reports, and publications; (4) providing support and training to research fellows, students, staff, and external partners; and, (5) providing technical assistance in the development and submission of grant proposals.

 Click here to view Diana's vita.

Research Associates and Assistants

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Allison Pleggenkuhle 

Allison Pleggenkuhle serves as a graduate research assistant in the Center for Educational Transformation. She joined CET in May 2021. Allison graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She is currently attending the University of Northern Iowa as she pursues a Master of Arts in school counseling. She spent four years working as a shelter services coordinator and a youth services coordinator at the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City. Additionally, she spent two years working as a teacher at Community United Child Care Center in Cedar Falls. 

Allison is excited to provide assistance to the Center for Educational Transformation and begin building relationships within the community. She hopes to develop her understanding and skills within the field of research as well.

Click here to view Allison's vita.


Umar Chohan

Umar Chohan

Umar Chohan is a graduate student working toward his MSW at the University of Northern Iowa. Growing up in New Jersey, he developed a passion for integrating the arts into therapeutic and healing spaces. After graduating with his B.S. in Marketing at Rutgers University, Umar was sure that he was more passionate about the work he was doing minoring in Social justice than as a Marketing student. Informed by his passion for mental health as well as his experience at Rutgers, Umar spent most of his free time working with artists creating music focused around social injustices/mental health as well as creating video content centered around similar themes. With his background in music/video production and his aspirations of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, he plans on incorporating aspects of artistic expression in his approach toward mental health.

Umar is working as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center of Educational Transformation. By contributing his competencies as well as broadening his experience in research and development, he hopes to gain new skills in his journey of becoming a mental health professional as well as provide a unique perspective in the field of research.

Click here to view Umar's vita.


Research & Development Emerging Scholars

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Alex Joens

Email: alexander.joens@uni.edu

Alex Joens serves as a Center for Educational Transformation research & development emerging researcher. He has expertise in creating a variety of different digital content. Alex joined the CET during his last year of high school, although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down his involvement until July 2020. Currently, Alex attends Hawkeye Community College and majors in Web Design and Development.

Alex is responsible for providing development and oversight of different virtual and technological modalities that can be used in the conduct of research. Currently, he is working on several projects.

Click here to view Alex's vita.


Research & Development Faculty Scholars

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Taraneh Matloob Haghanikar

Taraneh Matloob is an assistant professor of literacy education at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI). She embraces teaching multicultural children’s literature as a viable way to promote culturally inclusive pedagogies in early childhood and middle teacher education. Dr. Matloob’s research interests include multicultural children’s literature, and emerging educational technology such as virtual reality and augmented reality. In the field of multicultural children’s literature, she seeks out intersectional approaches to explore how literary elements in multicultural texts are different from literary devices in mainstream children’s literature. Regarding emerging educational technology, she is interested in using VR technology to investigate the utility and transportability of viewing VR stories about cultural-specific characteristics, characters, and factors among preservice teachers and their awareness, thinking, and behaviors.

Click here to view Taraneh's vita.


High School Interns

Research & Development Intern

Beau Smith

Beau Smith

Beau Smith serves as a research and development intern for the Center for Educational Transformation. He is currently a senior in high school and is planning to study Computer Science in college. Beau joined the CET in September 2021 as part of the Waterloo Career Center's work-based learning program. He has experience using many common programming languages and is working to become a Unity Certified User. He is very excited to use his skills to help the Center for Educational Transformation, and he hopes to learn many more valuable things.

Click here to view Beau's vita.




Chloe O'Brien

Chloe O'Brien serves as a Research and Development Intern at the Center for Education Transformation. She joined in October 2021. She is a senior at Waterloo East High School and is in the International Baccalaureate Program. She has been in the National Honor Society for two years. She has worked in the laboratory at UnityPoint Health doing lab work. She is an active community member by being in Teen Trust with the Community Foundation and has done lots of community service such as working with schools, organizations, and being active in school. She is excited to gain experience in research and work with members of the community to solve issues in the community.

Click here to view Chole's vita.


Research and Practice Partners and Affiliates

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Judyta Borchet, International Visiting Scholar, Research Partner

Judyta Borchet works as a research and teaching assistant at the University of Gdańsk (UG), Institute of Psychology, Department of Family Studies and Quality of Life. She graduated from psychology at UG, and currently, she continues her studies as a Ph.D. student there. In her dissertation, she conducts family studies about the contexts of the parentification process within the family subsystems and its intergenerational transmission.

Judyta is an award-winning researcher. Her work was awarded the University of Gdańsk Rector's 3rd-degree Award (2018), and the Narodowe Centrum Nauki - NCN [Polish National Science Centre] Etiuda 7 scholarship (2019, grant number: 2019/32/T/HS6/00084) that allowed her to have a three months visit at CET in 2020.

Her main interests include family psychology, cultural psychology, social psychology, methodology, and data analysis.

Click here to view Judyta's vita.


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Jamie DeCoster, Senior Scientist Affiliate

Dr. DeCoster has over 20 years of experience working as a statistician and methodologist. He has consulted and collaborated with researchers from many different fields, providing him with a broad range of statistical and methodological experiences. He has been a co-investigator on 19 grants from the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and several private foundations. He has worked as a statistical consultant since 1996, both in person and online through his own free Internet statistical consulting service. Dr. DeCoster has been an author on over 90 peer-reviewed research articles, and his work has been cited over 11,000 times. He regularly publishes articles in high-impact journals including first-author publications in Personality and Social Psychology Review (IF = 7.571), Psychological Methods (IF = 7.338), and American Psychologist (IF = 6.681). Dr. DeCoster’s personal research focuses on discovering ways to make the methods practiced by scientists more accurate, flexible, and efficient.

Click here to view Jamie's vita.


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Wei Schneider, Data Analyst, Research Partner

Email: wei.schneider@uni.edu

Phone: 319-273-3145

Wei Schneider works as a data analyst for the Center for Educational Transformation. Additionally, she is in her final year as a PhD candidate in the Educational Measurement and Statistics program at the University of Iowa. While pursuing her doctorate, she has been teaching statistics courses at the graduate level as well as conducting research under the umbrella of the Iowa Testing Programs. 

Wei joined the Center for Educational Transformation in early January 2020. Her primary responsibilities include providing research, data analytic, and evaluation support to the Center for Educational Transformation. Other responsibilities include assisting with developing grants, designing research, and developing data collection instruments. An important aspect of this work is the presentation of research findings to practice, policy, and research communities. She also contributes to new research ideas and developing new inventories. The diversity of the projects at the Center offers great opportunities for her to use and expand her advanced statistical skills. As the data analyst, Wei Schneider is in a critical role and adds to the culturally responsive research being conducted in the Center for Educational Transformation.

Click here to view Wei's vita.


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Sara Tomek, Senior Scientist Affiliate

Sara Tomek is an Associate Professor of Quantitative Methods at Baylor University and a senior scientist affiliated with the Center for Educational Transformation (CET). She has significant training in research methodology, longitudinal design and analysis, and complex data analytic procedures as she earned her doctorate in Quantitative Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, while also receiving a master’s degree in statistics from the same institution. Dr. Tomek spent four years post-degree working as a statistical consultant and research associate at both University of Kansas in the Research Design and Analysis Unit and the University of Georgia in the Georgia Center for Assessment, during which time she collaborated on large scale grants and research spanning multiple disciplines (e.g., education, psychology, sociology, and medicine). Dr. Tomek’s primary statistical focus is in the utilization of longitudinal growth models. The theme of much of Dr. Tomek’s research focuses on adolescent risk behaviors and the psychological, social, and behavioral outcomes associated with them. Tomek has published over 50 research articles, book chapters, technical reports, encyclopedia entries, and one book. Tomek is an award-winning researcher who has collaborated with the CET for the past 2 years.

Click here to view Sara's vita.


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Gina Weekley, Cultural Broker and Practice Partner Affiliate

Gina Weekley is a nonprofit and youth development professional with over 15 years’ experience increasing the capacity of youth serving organizations and programs to develop and deliver high quality educational enrichment activities. Gina currently serves as an At Risk Student Supports Coordinator and District Summer Program Coordinator for the Waterloo Community School. Gina has extensive experience collaborating with organizational leadership and direct service staff around designing and evaluating mission-driven programming that incorporates youth voice. She has served as the keynote speaker at the Cedar Valley LGBTQ Workplace Summit and on many other panels and college classrooms.  Gina has extensive experience in nonprofit administration and program management and has served on several community boards and committees, and provided on-going support for a number of nonprofits throughout the City of Waterloo. She has coached educators, youth workers, college volunteers/interns, and community members to create and implement researched based intentional programs for young people and their families. Gina holds both a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Development and Bachelors in Liberal Studies from the University of Northern Iowa. Gina resides in Waterloo, Iowa with her wife and their family. 

Click here to view Gina's vita.


Armeda Wojciak

Armeda Wojciak, Senior Scientist Affiliate

Armeda Wojciak is an associate professor and program director of the Couple and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Wojciak's work focuses on improving outcomes of those who have experienced trauma and adverse childhood experiences within the education and child welfare systems. Dr. Wojciak has used community based participatory research to co-create We Can! Building Relationships and Resilience, a year-long trauma informed training for school personnel. Dr. Wojciak is excited about working with the Waterloo community to culturally tailor We Can! to work within Waterloo Community School District and to co-create with Waterloo parents a We Can! for parents.


Former Research Associates and Assistants

Graduate Research Associate

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Steven Parker

Email: coe-parkesaf@uni.edu

Steven D. Parker is a multicultural, interdisciplinary professional in post – secondary education from Chicago, IL. Through theoretical approaches, best practice, and assessment strategies, Steven focuses on diversity, equity, inclusivity, anti-racism, social justice, and advocacy within education. Prior to joining the Center for Educational Transformation, Steven served as the Assistant Dean of Intercultural Education at Bates College. Steven earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work (St. Cloud State University), Master of Arts in Leadership (University of Colorado Colorado Springs) and is currently earning his doctorate. Steven is also a licensed social worker in the state of Iowa and continues to practice with individuals living with intellectual dis/Abilities.

Steven Parker is currently the Campus Diversity Officer at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, Minnesota.

Click here to view Steven's vita.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

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Carolyn Pham

Carolyn Pham is an undergraduate studio art and psychology student. She was awarded the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Donald and Gudrun Fruehling Summer 2019 Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Carolyn plans to attend graduate school for social psychology after completing her undergraduate programs in May 2020.

Carolyn joined the Center for Educational Transformation in Spring Semester 2019. Working at the Center for Educational Transformation will prepare her for graduate school by helping her stand out as a candidate in her applications through having research experience in her undergraduate career. Her research interests include racial discrimination from the perspective of those in the racial minority and majority and internalized racism.

Carolyn Pham is currently a Doctoral Candidate in the Industrial-Organizational Psychology Program at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. 

Click here to view Carolyn's vita.


Graduate Research Assistants


Diego Saavedra Rojas

Email: diego.saavedra@uni.edu

Diego Saavedra Rojas is a civil industrial engineer and received his Masters of Technology Management from the University of Northern Iowa. During his previous positions in Arica, Chile, he served as the sub manager of operations and worked on public projects. Informed by these projects, Diego published a review about rural community tourism, agritourism, and management. Some of his research interests include leadership, forecasting, quality management, and innovation.

Diego joined the Center for Educational Transformation in Spring Semester 2019. Working at the Center for Educational Transformation will allow Diego to refine his research skills and to hone his extensive data management, analysis, and technological knowledge and skills. Importantly, working at the Center for Educational Transformation will enable Diego to translate his training and experiences in the Center for Educational Transformation to future projects helping diverse communities and entrepreneurs.

Diego Saavedra Rojas is currently a Data Analyst & Graduate Funding Coordinator at the University of Northern Iowa.

Click here to view Diego's vita and here to check out his personal website.


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Samantha Habinck

Samantha Habinck is a graduate student in the health education department. Samantha developed her interests in public and global health while she was an undergraduate at University of Northern Iowa. Her coursework in international health, epidemiology, and work as a Community Health Case Manager in Colorado, influenced her decision to focus on health disparities in underserved populations.

Samantha joined the Center for Educational Transformation in Fall Semester 2019. Working at the Center for Educational Transformation will allow Samantha to enhance her research skills given the trans disciplinary nature of the Center along with the focus on equity and the intersection of education, health, and culture. Importantly, the Center for Educational Transformation will have a substantial impact for Samantha’s future projects in investigating and managing public health concerns in local communities and around the world.

Samantha Habinck is due to complete her Master of Public Health Education from the University of Northern Iowa in May 2021. 

Click here to view Samantha's vita.




Organizational Chart

cet organizational chart