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CAST Welcomes Three ASPIRE Scholars

Monday, April 26, 2021

This spring, CAST welcomes three ASPIRE Scholars for internships with our research and development teams.

ASPIRE is a leadership program for students “designed to prepare special educators who are well-qualified for, and can act effectively in, leadership positions as researchers and preparers of special educators in institutions of higher education.”

Hosted by George Mason University (GMU), the ASPIRE program is led by two prominent researchers in the field of special education, Margaret King-Sears, PhD, and Anya S. Evmenova, PhD, both of GMU.

The scholars are:

Photo of Roba Hrisseh

Roba Hrisseh, MEd, began working in the special education field in Detroit, MI with students with high-incidence disabilities in the nonprofit sector. She also spent time working as an educational technology teacher for students with autism in Boston, MA. Among her research interests is designing technology responsive to students’ needs, particularly using a universal design for learning approach. Roba plans to focus her PhD research at George Mason University on assistive technology and international special education. She will be working on CAST’s Center on Inclusive Technology and Education Systems (CITES), an effort to create comprehensive and sustainable uses of technology to serve students with disabilities.

Photo of Reagan Mergen

Reagan L. Mergen, MS, has experience as both a special and general educator teaching K-12+ students with a range of high-incidence disabilities in a variety of settings, including social-emotional learning programs. Reagan’s PhD research interests at George Mason University include Universal Design for Learning (UDL), evidence-based practices in inclusive settings, self-management, self-regulation, and mathematics interventions, and instructional and assistive technologies. An interest is preparing teachers to educate learners with high-incidence disabilities across educational settings. Reagan is currently working as a graduate research assistant on the WEGO-RIITE project, which is examining the effects of a technology-based graphic organizer on students writing. She is also part of a team working on a metaanalysis investigating the impact of UDL interventions on students’ learning. She will be working on CAST’s Project COOL, which aims to create a scalable UDL coaching model.

Photo of Reagan Murnan

Reagan Murnan, MEd, taught middle school students with high-incidence disabilities in a suburban school in Loudoun County, VA. She also served as her school's special education department chair. Her major PhD research interests at George Mason University involve writing interventions, reading evidence-based practices, and universal design for learning. Currently, Reagan is co-authoring a book chapter titled, “Creating a Culture of Care Through Mindfulness in Teaching and Learning.” She is also participating in research on a writing intervention involving a technology-based graphic organizer that also involves teacher professional development centered on data-driven decision-making. She is working with a colleague on a practitioner-friendly manuscript involving adolescent's self-regulation in the writing process. Lastly, Reagan is constructing a learning disability-focused manuscript involving universal design for online learning. Reagan will work on CAST's Writer’s Workbench, a project to create a professional learning ecosystem to support teachers of 7th and 8th grade students in delivering high-quality writing instruction.

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