2022 - 2023 PIE Associates

Kristen Amaya

Department of Sociology

Kristen Amaya is a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include race/ethnicity, Latinx sociology, space, and identity. Her dissertation is focused on the experiences of Central American immigrants living in the United States amidst the present-day border crisis. Kristen received her BS in Sociology from Florida State in 2017, after which she began her graduate education in 2018, earning her MS in Sociology in 2020. Kristen has served as a teaching assistant for numerous sociology courses, such as Social Problems, Social Classes and Inequality, Methods of Social Research, and more. Independently, Kristen has taught Introduction to Sociology, Sociology of Marriage and Family, and Sociological Theory. Kristen is also designing a Latinx Sociology course for the Sociology department in order to broaden student understanding of Latinos in the U.S. As a PIE Associate, Kristen hopes to draw attention to the many inequalities college students face on a daily basis and learn strategies for mitigating these challenges in the classroom and beyond.

Chandler Blount

College of Music

Chandler Blount is a third-year PhD student in music theory at Florida State University, where he also completed the MM in 2018. He earned the Bachelor of Music in music theory and orchestral trombone performance from Stetson University in 2017. His dissertation research examines mappings between linguistic and musical structure in comedic Broadway music, popular song, and German Lieder. This is Chandler’s fifth year teaching at FSU; he currently serves as an assistant coordinator for the Cawthon Hall Living Learning Community, and has previously taught Music Theory I-IV, Aural Skills I-IV, and Music Theory Fundamentals. 

Domonique Caro-Rora

School of Teacher Education

Domonique is a second-year doctoral student in Mathematics Education. Domonique earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Florida in 2011, after which he worked as an elementary mathematics and science teacher for nine years in Gadsden and Leon Counties. During that time, he earned his Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Florida A&M University in 2018. His research interests include feedback, assessment, and understanding deficit narratives about students in mathematics classrooms. His career goal is to become a professor and work with pre-service elementary teachers.

Micaela Cuellar

Department of English

Micaela Cuellar (she/her) is a second-year PhD student in Rhetoric and Composition. Her research interests lie at the intersection of composition studies and trauma studies and consider the ways writing facilitates healing both at the individual level and for communities at large. Micaela is passionate about teaching writing in and outside of the classroom, as shown through her previous work at Healing Housing, a women's sober living home in Franklin, TN, in which she co-taught a Trauma Writing Workshop with women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. At Florida State, Micaela currently teaches First Year Composition courses and looks forward to teaching upper-level personal writing courses in the future. When not in the classroom, Micaela enjoys listening to live music, visiting the two places she calls home--San Antonio, TX and Nashville, TN, and frequently perusing the candle aisle at TJ Maxx. 

Tracy Ippolito

School of Communication 

Tracy Ippolito is a third-year doctoral student in the School of Communication. Her research and teaching interests focus on science/environmental communication and related topics associated with complex social issues. Tracy received her bachelor of science degree in Journalism and Communication from the University of Florida. She began her graduate studies at Florida State in 2016, earning her master’s degree in Media and Communication Studies. Prior to pursuing a PhD, Tracy worked at the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS) where she was involved in interdisciplinary research initiatives and coordinated the center’s communication and outreach efforts. As a doctoral student, she teaches a course in Media, Culture, and the Environment as well as courses in communication theory and advertising account planning. Tracy is passionate about service to her community and sees teaching as a way to encourage and empower others to explore and realize their own potential to serve.

Mahdi Khadem

Department of biological Science

Mahdi is a fourth-year PhD student in the Cell and Molecular Biology program in the Department of Biological Science. His research interests focus on understanding the biology of cancer and the genomic factors that contribute to cancer initiation and progression. Mahdi has a strong interest in teaching and has taught a variety of courses as a TA in his 9 semesters at FSU. When not working in the lab, he enjoys camping, cooking, and watching documentaries and films.  

Katie Morris

College of Health and Human Sciences

Katie Morris is a third-year doctoral student in the Marriage and Family Therapy program. Her research interests primarily include self-compassion and romantic relationships, particularly queer romantic relationships. Katie also works at the Center for Couple and Family Therapy where she enjoys helping clients learn how to treat themselves with compassion and gentleness. When she isn’t working on her schoolwork, you can almost always find Katie reading a book at the pool! During her time as a Teaching Assistant, Katie has had the opportunity to engage with learners in a variety of different courses. Her philosophy around teaching is that learning is a collaborative process between instructors and students. Effective teaching inspires students to learn more about the given topic. She is excited to be able to provide support to her department during the 22-23 school year!

Zachary Odermatt

Department of Philosophy

Zachary Odermatt is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Philosophy. His research interests circle mostly around virtue, action, and ethics—with a particular passion for education in these fields. Prior to attending FSU, he received his Bachelor's in Philosophy from Rice University in Houston, Texas. Beyond philosophy, he spends much of his free time reading fiction, hiking, and exploring Tallahassee.

Giancarlo ortiz

College of Music

Giancarlo Ortiz is a third-year Master’s student in String and Orchestra Performance at FSU. He received his BA in Cello Performance in 2020 from the University of Florida with the New World School of the Arts joint program. Giancarlo has taught and will continue to teach applied lessons for major and non-major students at FSU throughout the 2022-2023 school year. In addition, he will also be teaching cello pedagogy and music theory at the FAMU Developmental Research School following the upcoming school year. Outside of school, Giancarlo plays alongside the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra and Javacya’s Elite Orchestra. Throughout each summer, he participates in music festivals such as the Killington Music Festival, Eastern Music Festival, and as of summer 2022, the National Music Festival. In his free time, Giancarlo enjoys studying the Bible with other students and helping them grow spiritually, record and produce music, and play basketball.

Darius Robinson

College of Education

Darius Robinson is a PhD student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Colgate University, with academic focuses in educational studies and writing & rhetoric. Before attending graduate school, Darius worked for City Year Los Angeles, working as a mentor, tutor, and role model for kids in the Watts neighborhood. He also worked for the Episcopal Service Corps, rebuilding homes on Staten Island after Hurricane Sandy. After working with these organizations, Darius received his master’s degree in college student affairs at Rutgers University – New Brunswick. Prior to coming to FSU, he worked full-time at the University of Nevada, Reno. There, he worked with residential hall student government, large scale programming, and community development. Darius’ research focus is on the impact of leadership on students of color, with an emphasis on black male leadership. He is a graduate teaching assistant with the Leadership Learning Research Center (LLRC), working with classes on leadership theory, leadership & change, and black male leadership. He is passionate about using teaching and leadership as a vehicle to empower students to create change in the world through service.

elaine Hendriks Smith

School of Theatre

After a twenty-plus-year hiatus from school, Elaine Hendriks Smith returned to Wayne State University in 2018 to complete her BA in Theatre, then came to Florida State University where she obtained her MA in Theatre Studies. She is now a PhD student in Theatre and Performance Research at the School of Theatre. Prior to FSU, Elaine worked professionally in the performing arts working as an arts administrator, director, stage manager, event manager, production manager, lighting and projection designer, and youth mentor. Most recently, she served as the Director of The Berman Center for the Performing Arts (2011 – 2019) in West Bloomfield, MI; the Artistic Director of The Historic Gem & Century Theatres (2010 – 2011) in Detroit, MI; and the Deputy Director of Matrix Theatre Company (2004 – 2009) in Detroit, MI. She is also an alumnus of The Second City, Detroit. Elaine researches the intersection of theatre and anxiety and what this reveals about the surges in anxiety seen throughout society today.

Wenting Song

Department of Educational Psychology & Learning Systems

Wenting Song is a doctoral student in the Learning and Cognition program. She received a BA in English at Zhejiang Normal University in China and an MS in Foreign and Second Language Education at FSU. Her research interests include Chinese heritage language learners’ motivation, emotion, and identity development. During her first three years of working on her PhD, she taught the EDF 4210: Educational Psychology from 2019 to 2021 and then became the coordinator for this course, overseeing five other sections, after the second year of teaching. While serving as the coordinator, she also TA’ed for graduate-level courses, including EDF 5481: Methods of Educational Research and EDF 6755: Theory and Practical Issues in Education. She has teaching experience in face-to-face teaching, synchronous teaching through Zoom, and asynchronous online instruction. As a PIE associate, Wenting is excited to work with other TAs and help them make the best teaching experience for both instructors and students.