University Funding Propels Education Research at the Curry School of Education and Human Development

By Laura Hoxworth

Thanks to funding from UVA’s Strategic Investment Fund, eight recent faculty hires at the Curry School are working to take the school’s research portfolio to the next level.

With support from the University of Virginia’s Strategic Investment Fund, the Curry School of Education and Human Development has recently added eight new research faculty members to its ranks. This group of researchers will contribute directly to a variety of current and future sponsored research programs, with the ultimate goal of deepening and expanding the school’s already robust research portfolio.  

The Board of Visitors established the Strategic Investment Fund in 2016. Its core purpose is to serve as a funding source for initiatives that have the potential to transform a critical area of knowledge or operation within the university in one of four broad areas: research, access and affordability, research infrastructure and academic experience. Projects selected for investment must demonstrate measurable return on their stated goals and promise. The Board of Visitors approved the Curry proposal to fund this investment in a cohort of research faculty hires in December of 2016.

Together, these researchers bring a diverse range of experience and expertise to the Curry School. Working across multiple disciplines on a range of topics – including neuroscience, education policy, rural schools, statistics and more – they each collaborate with faculty and students, both within the Curry School and through partnerships with other UVA schools and units.

This investment supports a continually growing body of research at the Curry School. Research funding has grown over the past several years, despite declines in federal research and development funding. Currently, the Curry School generates more research-sponsored support per square foot of lab space than any other UVA school.

“We were thrilled to leverage the Strategic Investment Fund to make significant investments in our research program through the hire of this cohort of diverse, focused and collaborative new faculty members,” said Catherine Bradshaw, professor and associate dean for research and faculty development at the Curry School. “Many of these hires are embedded in one or more research centers, and have quickly connected faculty within the centers and across the school to foster additional multidisciplinary collaborations. I am excited to see so many grant proposals going out that include these new faculty members – this is a strong indicator of the return on these investments in research infrastructure.”


  • Tanya Evans

    Tanya Evans is a research assistant professor and a faculty affiliate of Curry’s Center for the Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL).

    As a developmental cognitive neuroscientist, she employs neuroscience methodology to examine how individual differences in learning relate to brain architecture and function, with the overarching goal of leveraging this knowledge to inform educational practice. More specifically, her research focuses on how children’s brains develop to acquire the skills necessary for success in the classroom, how this acquisition goes awry in those with learning difficulties and what can be done to successfully remediate these skills in struggling students. She has been collaborating with Curry faculty on investigating the neurobiological mechanisms underlying effective classroom interventions, and utilizing mobile measures and tools to assess physiological indicators of engagement and learning in the classroom. 

    Evans holds a doctorate in neuroscience from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Lehigh University. Prior to joining the Curry School, she completed a post-doc at the Stanford University School of Medicine in child and adolescent psychiatry.

    Learn More About Evans
  • Anna Markowitz

    Anna Markowitz recently joined the Curry faculty as a research assistant professor and a developmental psychologist at both CASTL and EdPolicyWorks

    Her research interest focus on how policies shape the contexts of human development, and in particular the links between policy, the skills and attitudes of the adults children interact with, and children’s development. She uses quantitative methods to explore how policy-alterable features of early childhood education programs impact children's experiences and thereby exacerbate or ameliorate income-based disparities in children’s development, with particular attention to social and emotional outcomes. She is presently exploring how teacher turnover is linked to children’s developmental outcomes, as well as how policy and practice conditions reduce teacher turnover in Head Start nationwide and in Louisiana specifically. Anna is also currently collaborating on a randomized control trial exploring the effect of full day preschool as compared to half day.  

    Markowitz completed her doctorate in psychology at Georgetown University in 2016. She also holds master’s degrees in both public policy and applied developmental and educational psychology. She recently completed a post-doc at EdPolicyWorks before starting her current faculty position.

  • Heather McDaniel

    Heather McDaniel is an assistant professor and a faculty affiliate of Youth-Nex.

    Her research interests are focused on promoting positive social, emotional, behavioral and academic outcomes for youth and families through the implementation of school mental health services and utilization of advanced quantitative methodologies. In school mental health, her interests specifically focus on the implementation of evidence-based practices and the promotion of family involvement. Her methodological interests focus on improving measurement, analysis of longitudinal data and research design as applicable to promoting positive outcomes for youth in school. She is collaborating with a number of Youth-Nex research teams to further leverage large datasets from ongoing and prior randomized trials to better understand what works for whom, and under what conditions.

    McDaniel received her doctorate in experimental psychology with a concentration in quantitative psychology and her master’s in school psychology from the University of South Carolina.

    Learn More About McDaniel
  • Anita McGinty

    Anita McGinty is a research associate professor and serves as the newly appointed Director/PI of the PALS office. PALS is a 20-year state-wide partnership between the Virginia Department of Education and UVA that supports the state’s legislative mandate (EIRI) to screen all children K-3 for signs of early reading difficulty and allocate state dollars toward early intervention.

    McGinty brings to PALS an expertise in young children’s language and literacy development and experience with applied developmental research. Her current emphasis is to support the transition of PALS from a primarily service-oriented state partnership to one of service and research. She is currently piloting a yearlong distance-learning course in data use for all K-3 teachers across two divisions in rural Virginia. She is also collaborating with researchers in education policy and reading to examine trends in children’s literacy skills. She is heavily involved in ensuring a strategic connection between PALS and the newly legislated expansion of Virginia’s kindergarten entry assessments, called Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP); VKRP is charged with expanding upon PALS to add a math, social-emotional and behavioral screening for young children in kindergarten (fall and spring) statewide by 2020.

    McGinty holds a doctoral degree in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science from UVA and is also a certified Speech/Language pathologist. She has worked across academic, non-profit, and consulting sectors.

    Learn More About McGinty
  • Kate Miller-Bains

    Kate Miller-Bains was recently hired as a research associate professor and a faculty affiliate at CASTL.

    Miller-Bains is interested in identifying the most effective ways to support teachers on a large scale, particularly through the many ways that educators can utilize rich student data to inform their instruction methods. Since 2013, as a doctoral student, Miller-Bains has worked closely with the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program research team to ensure its successful launch and expansion. In her new role, she will leverage her experience with the program to continue its research agenda, particularly during the mandated statewide expansion of the program throughout 2019 and 2020.

    Miller-Bains holds a bachelor’s in social welfare policy from Belmont University, a master’s in politics and education from Columbia University’s Teachers College and a doctorate from the Research, Statistics and Evaluation program at UVA’s Curry School of Education.

  • Amanda Nguyen

    Amanda Nguyen is an assistant professor and a faculty affiliate of Youth-Nex.

    Her primary research interests focus on partnering with community organizations to deliver and evaluate culturally appropriate mental and behavioral health programs for young people in low-resource settings, like rural schools. Her work leverages both qualitative and quantitative approaches to examine risk and protective factors, identify and describe psychosocial problems, validate assessment instruments and evaluate interventions. She currently collaborates on multiple research initiatives, including cross-cultural measurement of school climate, scientific evaluation of psychosocial support programs in humanitarian settings, and randomized controlled trials of interventions to reduce aggression among U.S. middle school students and to treat mental health problems of children affected by conflict in Myanmar. She also played a key role in UVA’s submission of a pan-University multi-million dollar application to the NIH, which deepens connections to rural communities through the UVA iTHRIV initiative.

    Nguyen holds a doctorate in public mental health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a master’s in psychology from the University of Denver. Prior to her current appointment, she was a post-doctoral research associate with Youth-Nex.

    Learn More About Nguyen
  • Benjamin Skinner

    Benjamin Skinner is a research assistant professor and a faculty affiliate of both EdPolicyWorks and the Nudge4 Solutions Lab.

    His research uses data science techniques to identify opportunities and strategies to improve college and workforce outcomes for students at community colleges and broad access universities. His recent work has focused on how students weigh factors like distance and cost when choosing a college. His current work uses clickstream data to investigate student practices in online classes associated with course completion and success, and on applying machine learning methods to administrative data to identify tailored course pathways that position students for educational and economic success. As part of the Nudge4 team, he has worked closely with numerous public agencies and organizations including the Virginia Community College System. 

    Skinner earned a doctorate in leadership and policy studies from Vanderbilt University in 2017, a master’s from the University of Chicago in 2008, and a bachelor’s from Vanderbilt in 2006.

    Learn More About Skinner
  • Yoi Tibbetts

    Yoi Tibbetts is an assistant professor of education and co-principal investigator at the Motivate Lab, a research lab based at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning (CASTL) that focuses on understanding the mindsets and motivations that promote learning, growth and well-being.

    Tibbetts’ research focuses on motivation and achievement, particularly the effects of social-psychological interventions in educational contexts. He is especially interested in promoting the performance and motivation of students who are underrepresented in higher education. His current projects include serving as PI and co-PI on collaborations with the University System of Georgia and the Tennessee Board of Regents to implement motivational-supportive practices across their 39 institutions of higher education. Tibbetts regularly publishes and gives keynotes on best practices related to serving populations underrepresented in higher education.

    He earned a doctorate in experimental social psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2017 and a bachelor’s from Swarthmore College in 2009.