2023 - 2024 PIE Associates

Anisha Das - statistics 

Anisha Das (she/her/hers) is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Statistics. Before coming to USA, she worked at the Indian Statistical Institute (India) as a Visiting Scholar, where she got an opportunity to be an instructor at the Six Sigma & Data Science Program held at the Coal India Limited. This was her first teaching experience after she completed her BS (Statistics) and MS (Biostatistics) from India. For her doctoral degree, she is working on multi-scale genome wide association studies (GWAS), where she mostly focuses on analyses related to MRI images of the human brain. She got an opportunity to be in the core committee of the Indian Students' Association at FSU (a leading RSO) through which she was able to connect with several people across the university. She is really enthusiastic about exploring modern approaches to teaching and reaching out to a greater circle in a more innovative way. She joined FSU in Fall 2020, and right from the beginning she was able to get a Teaching Assistantship in her department, where she has been primarily teaching undergraduate courses on Applied Statistics. She has a strong interest in improving and promoting integrity and diversity in graduate teaching, which she believes begins with introducing creative alterations at the institutional level. She is really looking forward to providing support to her colleagues in her department, and as a PIE Teaching associate, she is also eager to have the opportunity for sharing the best teaching practices with her colleagues across FSU.

gwen niekamp - english

Gwen Niekamp is a third-year doctoral student in English/Creative Writing at Florida State University. She holds a BA from Vassar College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, where she won the 2019–2020 Senior Teaching Fellowship in Nonfiction Writing. In 2022, one of her personal essays—an excerpt from her dissertation project—won the Black Warrior Review’s Nonfiction Prize and was named a finalist for the 2022 Robert and Adele Schiff Awards. Gwen’s work has also appeared in Boulevard, Essay Daily, and elsewhere. In addition to writing, Gwen is passionate about teaching literature and creative writing. She’s the proud recipient of several teaching awards, including PIE’s 2022–2023 Outstanding TA Awards. In her down time, Gwen enjoys running, cooking, and exploring Tallahassee’s nature trails with her dog.

johnnie allen jr. - education

Johnnie L. Allen Jr. (he/him/his) is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education program at Florida State University (FSU), where he is a Graduate Research & Teaching Assistant and Instructor in the Leadership Learning Research Center (LLRC). He works with classes on Black male leadership, leadership & change, leadership theory, and contemporary issues in leadership. Johnnie is a two-time alum of Indiana University (IU). He received his Bachelor of Science in Community Health and Public Health and a Master of Science in Education with a certificate in college pedagogy from the Indiana University Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program. His research interest examines how productive masculinity in Black male leadership affects leadership engagement through a cross-sectional approach/lens with Black men at HBCUs and PWIs. Johnnie is a McKnight Doctoral Fellow and incoming Doctoral Chair for the Higher Education Student Association (HESA). Johnnie is excited to serve in this capacity as a PIE Teaching Associate to support his department! 

katherine bilodeau - biology

Katherine Bilodeau is a fourth-year PhD candidate in the Cell and Molecular Biology program in the Department of Biological Science, and a student in the Masters in STEM Teaching program. She received her AA from Indian River State College in 2018, before transferring to FSU to complete her BS in Biology in 2020. Katherine’s graduate research broadly focuses on the symbiosis between leguminous plants and rhizobial bacteria. She has served as a teaching assistant throughout her graduate work, teaching introductory biology labs for majors, as well as assisting with genetics and microbiology. When she’s not working she enjoys reading, crafting, and climbing.

rachel flemming - modern languages & linguistics

Rachel is a doctoral candidate in Spanish Linguistics in the Department of Modern Language and Linguistics. Her dissertation research focuses on second language acquisition, exploring how psycholinguistics can inform language teaching methodologies. She has been a graduate instructor of record at FSU for several years, teaching Spanish and recently Applied Linguistics to undergraduate students. Previously, she has worked alongside of the Directors of the Spanish Basic Language Program as a course-level coordinator to design course objectives, rubrics, and assessments. As a passionate teacher who finds her time in the classroom to be one of the most rewarding aspects of her graduate career, Rachel was awarded the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2020. She is eager not only to employ effective teaching methods, but also to help her students take ownership or their education and to develop a robust view of their learning experience. She is grateful for the chance to work as a PIE Associate and to learn how to better empower other graduate students to be effective and dynamic instructors. When not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading classic literature, hiking, and baking cakes. 

randy smookler - history

Randy is a sixth year doctoral candidate in the Department of History. Her area of concentration is Modern Germany and her research interests include gender, race, the Holocaust, and historical memory. Her dissertation focuses on German women from the state of Hesse in central Germany who were activists in the nascent National Socialist Party. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Randy earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh, and prior to moving to Tallahassee, she spent many fulfilling years as a high school Social Studies teacher. Randy served as a teaching assistant for the following courses: “Twentieth-Century European History through Film” and “World History since 1815.” Randy was the recipient of the Department of History’s Joe Richardson Excellence in Teaching Award for 2022 and 2023. As a PIE Associate, Randy hopes her knowledge and experience in teaching will assist new teaching assistants in having a positive classroom experience.

rebecca curran - theatre

Rebecca Curran is a PhD student in the School of Theatre. Her research focuses on Northern Irish funerary ritual and ghost stories/folklore. She received her Master’s in Dramaturgy from the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theatre Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University and still enjoys working on productions outside of her research and teaching. While at FSU, she has loved teaching and assisting in classes from performance to play analysis. In addition to her teaching work at FSU, she has also taught high school theatre and continues to assist with courses in performance, directing, and public speaking for Harvard Summer School.    

sunah lee - communication

Sunah Lee is a third-year doctoral student in the School of Communication. Her research focuses on the political economy of media industries, including media ownership, media labor, independent media, and journalism. She is especially interested in the increasing precarity of media workers today. As a doctoral student, she has taught the Political Economy of Media and has served as a teaching assistant for several communication courses, including Public Speaking, Writing Media Criticism, Media, Culture, and Environment, and Media Techniques. She thinks of herself as a curator toward new ways of thinking rather than delivering information one way. She is from South Korea and worked at a South Korean 24-hour cable news network for 13 years before transitioning to academia. As a mother of two children, Sunah is passionate about providing caring, supportive, and inspiring learning experiences to students. She values every student in the classroom as they are and, as a student herself, tries her best to be an empathetic instructor.

sunshine jacobs - sociology

Sunshine Jacobs is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Sociology with a Demography focus. She received her Interdisciplinary Social Science degree from Florida State University. Her research areas of interest include racial and ethnic identity formation, as well as climate migration with a focus on vulnerable populations and demographic consequences for origins and destinations of multiple climatic hazards, including sea-level rise, wildfires, and heat events. She is active in FSU’s International Honor Society of Sociology, Alpha Delta Kappa, and Tallahassee’s Sociologists for Women in Society chapter, and she is a founding member and active representative in the Indigenous Peoples and Native Nations Section of the American Sociological Association. Sunshine is passionate about creating accessible collaborative learning spaces that challenge students to engage critically with the world around them. She has a wide variety of teaching experiences as she has taught every level from preschool to university over the last two decades in subjects that range from physics and math to art and Spanish. She is humbled by the incredibly thoughtful and hardworking undergraduate students at Florida State University who rise to the challenges she presents in her classes every week.

tara lesick - psychology

Tara Lesick is a third-year graduate student in the Department of Psychology, with a focus in social psychology. Her research interests include race relations and racial disparities across many domains, such as the criminal justice system, emotion perception, and threat perception. She received her BA in Psychology and Pre-Law from William Peace University, where she tutored fellow undergraduates in both psychology and pre-law classes. After, Tara received her MA in General Psychology from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. There she was the teaching assistant for general psychology and both undergraduate- and graduate-level statistics classes. Since being at FSU, Tara has been a teaching assistant for the Research Method’s Lab. Tara plans to seek more teaching-focused academia jobs once she graduates with her Ph.D. in Social Psychology.

trinity johnston - health & human sciences

Trinity Johnston is a doctoral student in the Human Development and Family Science program. Her research interests primarily consider the influence of positive psychology and various stressors on well-being, particularly in families. She received her BS degree in Psychology from FSU and her MS in Human Development and Family Science from FSU (Go Noles!). Trinity has experience assisting and teaching in a variety of different psychology courses, and she has a passion for using her experiences as a student to be a supportive and engaging source for undergraduate students. She also works for Charlie Health, where she enjoys facilitating therapeutic spaces for clients to receive support and kindness. When she is not working on her computer, Trinity enjoys spending time outside with her friends and son, Bubba the Black Labrador. She is excited to work with her colleagues to provide support for both instructors and students! 

zach lloyd - music theory & composition 

Zachary Lloyd is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in Music Theory at Florida State University’s College of Music, though he has previously taught at Michigan State University and Appalachian State University where he earned his Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees respectively. His dissertation examines the musical representations of race, gender, and sexuality in the musical theater scores by Jeanine Tesori, though other research interests include musical form and rhythm & meter studies as they relate to both popular music and musical theater. Zachary is also incredibly passionate about pedagogy and is particularly interested in how assessments are created and implemented in the classroom.