Ph.D. Concentration

Student Profiles

The Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Literacy Studies prepares individuals who aspire to become university professors which requires research training and theory exploration.

Although our doctoral students have diverse backgrounds and experiences, they share common interests in the following aspects of literacy studies: literacy theoretical models and processes, struggling students, literature and content texts, critical literacy, multi-media literacies, literacy teacher education.

Below, we have included brief biographies of some of our current students.

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Anne Anderson
Anne draws on her backgrounds in journalism, creative writing, business management, drama production, and support services in education in her approach to Literacy Studies. Her academic publications include chapters in The Inside, Outside, and Upside Downs of Children’s Literature (2016, USF Scholar Commons), The Early Reader in Children’s Literature and Culture (2016, Routledge), and in Toward a Spiritual Research Paradigm: Exploring New Ways of Knowing, Researching, and Being (2016, Information Age Publishing).

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Jennifer Barreto
As a former K-5 teacher in Tampa, Florida, Jennifer's research interests include English Language Learners and language acquisition through the use of literacy. She is a doctoral student in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Literacy Studies with a focus on Educational Psychology.

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Matthew Blankenship
Matthew was a high school reading, English and AP Human Geography teacher before coming to USF, Matthew was recognized by his peers and the community as a Polk County Teacher of the Year Finalist. Matthew's research interests include Education Policy, Teacher Professional Development and Adolescent Literacy.

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Stephanie Branson
As a former K-5 teacher in Atlanta, Georgia and a gifted teacher in Tampa, Florida, Stephanie’s research interests and specializations include how digital literacies are enacted in and out of the classroom, the development of digital and media literacy competencies and dispositions, alternative and global field experiences to develop preservice teachers, and professional development practices across the lifespan. Stephanie is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction with a dual specialization in Literacy Studies and Elementary Education.

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Gretchen Dodson
Gretchen Dodson taught for 11 years at Berry College Elementary and Middle School in Rome, GA.  Because the school is a laboratory school, Gretchen worked with pre-service teachers and education professors along with her younger students.  She left the classroom in 2016 to begin studying for a Ph.D. at USF. She has a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education. She also studied at the Second City Theater Training Center in Chicago. Gretchen’s research interests include storytelling, process drama, content area literacy, and young adult literature.

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Brian Flores
Brian is a doctoral candidate in the Literacy Studies program. As an elementary school teacher he spent a majority of his career as a first grade teacher where he focused on emergent language acquisition for diverse populations in high needs environments. His research interests include discourse analysis, pre-service teacher identity, emergent language acquisition, and urban education.

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Aimee Frier
Drawing from the fields of literacy and special education, Aimee’s research focuses on pre-service teacher education, multiliteracies, and diverse learners. She is currently working on her dissertation related to the digital literacy practices of struggling readers. Prior to working on her doctorate at USF, Aimee taught 2nd and 3rd grade students.

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Melanie Griffin
Melanie is a Special Collections librarian at the University of South Florida and curator of the children’s and young adult literature collections. Her research interests include 20th century American children’s literature and children’s fantasy. Her dissertation research investigates methods for macroscopic analysis of large corpora of children’s literature texts.

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Lesley Noel
Throughout her career as a special needs elementary school teacher, Lesley specialized in language and literacy development of students with high-incident reading disabilities. Her research interests include critical pedagogy, the effect of educational policies on marginalized populations, and the equitable conceptualization of students with disabilities.

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Csaba Osvath
Csaba’s research explores the epistemological and pedagogical roles/functions of artmaking in the context of literacy education. His current project is the creation of a mixed media collage technique and a methodological artistic process for knowledge acquisition and knowledge production in educational settings. Csaba grew up and studied theology and horticulture in Hungary, prior to his graduate studies and service as an artist and educator in the United States.

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Allison Papke
Allison taught middle school science, high school remedial reading, and she served as the tech specialist in grades K-10. She also has experience as a technology coach at USF supporting preschool and elementary teachers and USF interns with technology integration in their classrooms. Her research interests include digital literacy, social justice and children’s literature, and the development of global competencies for pre-service teachers. Her dissertation research focuses on children’s digital literacies in an urban elementary school classroom.

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Lindsay Persohn
Lindsay's experience in children's literature, art history, qualitative research methods, library science, and elementary education provide context for her literacy research. Her publications include Exploring time-lapse photography as a means for qualitative data collection (2015, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education), a contribution to The Inside, Outside, and Upside Downs of Children's Literature (2016, USF Scholar Commons), and many children's book reviews (2010-present, School Library Journal). Her dissertation work analyzes themes in illustration from 111 editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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Barbara Peterson
Barbara’s interdisciplinary background encompasses the fields of biology and health sciences, speech/language pathology, special education, and language/literacy education. Her research interests include emergent literacy and language development, culturally responsive teaching, and classroom discourses and literacy interactions that promote the development of conceptual knowledge and academic language. Barbara’s dissertation research focuses on preschooler’s meaning making and composing practices with digital photography.

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Rebecca Lovering Powell
Rebecca is a faculty member at Florida Southern College in the School of Education. Her experiences as an elementary school teacher, a reading coach at the elementary and high school level, and a reading coordinator for the Florida Department of Education influence her approach to Literacy Studies. Her publications include research related to pre-service teacher education, social justice, children’s literature, and disciplinary literacy. Rebecca’s dissertation research focuses on elementary teachers’ integration of literacy and social studies.

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Natasha Swann
Natasha Swann is an international doctoral student in the Literacy Studies program. She worked as a teacher educator at the University of the Bahamas for six years before pursuing her a doctoral degree at USF. Her research interests include adolescent literacy, risky behavior of adolescents, process drama, and critical theory.

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Sherridon Sweeney
Sherridon taught elementary school in Hillsborough County, Florida for seven years before leaving the classroom in 2016 to pursue her Ph.D. in Literacy Studies. Her research interests include global partnerships, critical literacy, and teacher discourse. In addition to pursuing her Ph.D. full-time, Sherridon currently works as a literacy instructor and the Literacy Content Coach for the USF Urban Teacher Residency Partnership Program (UTRPP).