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New Faculty Bring Diverse Experiences, Research to the Classroom

New faculty photos

The University of Kentucky College of Education’s newest faculty members bring diverse perspectives, experiences, and research interests to a team of distinguished researchers and educators addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.

Department of Curriculum and Instruction 

Photo of Jennifer Doyle Jennifer Doyle, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor 
Dr. Jennifer L. Doyle’s activist-oriented research focuses on issues of race, equity, and educational justice through a critical social theoretical lens. Her current research uses youth participatory action research (YPAR) methods to situate Black, Indigenous, Youth of Color (BIYOC) as experts in community-based racial justice work, while her critical race autoethnographic research examines the role of white folx in the fight for racial justice. As a high school English teacher, she conducted her doctoral research facilitating book clubs with students who were incarcerated, examining the role of teachers in the school-to-prison nexus – from the perspective of students. Prior to her time at UK, she was a teacher-educator at her alma mater, the University of South Carolina, where she also served as a Professional Development Schools (PDS) university liaison at two local high schools. Her PDS work focused on (re)imagining models of school-university partnerships to center communities and dismantle racism. Doyle currently serves as the Program Faculty Chair for the MIC English program. She is a scholar-activist, local community member, and a new mother.

Department of Early Childhood, Special Education, and Counselor Education

Photo of Sam Choo Sam Choo, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Dr. Sam Choo received his doctoral degree in special education with an assistive technology graduate certificate from UK, his master’s degree in special education with a focus on Learning Disabilities (LD) from the University of Kansas, and his bachelor’s degree in special education from Daegu University in South Korea. He previously worked as a special education teacher and a para-professional for students with various disabilities in both resource and inclusive classrooms for seven years. He served as a special education department chair and a lead teacher to support fellow teachers as well.
Photo of Andrea Hampton Hall Andrea Hampton Hall, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Dr. Andrea Hampton Hall has 8 years of experience working as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and director in community and agency settings. Dr. Hampton Hall worked as the director of vocational services for the Arkansas PROMISE Grant, which allowed her to work with multiple government agencies and stakeholders throughout the state to provide employment opportunities and resources to transition-age youth with disabilities. Dr. Hampton Hall’s research interests include qualitative approaches to understanding the experiences of individuals with multiple marginalized identities. Her most recent research focused on high-achieving Black women, their clinical mental health needs, and how identity shifts impact their mental health. Additionally, Dr. Hampton Hall works with colleagues on research that explores the experiences of those who have experienced opioid addiction and how the transition from opioids to THC/CBD to manage pain has impacted their physical and mental health.

Department of Educational Leadership Studies

Photo of Dr. Dixson Adrienne Dixson, Ph.D.
Professor and Executive Director, Education and Civil Right Initiative in Collaboration with the NAACP 
Dr. Adrienne Dixson’s research primarily focuses on how race, class, and gender intersect and impact educational equity in urban schooling contexts. She locates her research within two theoretical frameworks: Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Black feminist theories. Dixson and her colleague, Celia K. Rousseau-Anderson, edited CRT in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song (2006, Routledge), one of the first book-length texts on CRT in education. She is also a co-editor with Marvin Lynn of the Handbook of Critical Race Theory and Education. Most recently, Dr. Dixson has been interested in how educational equity is mediated by school reform policies in the urban south. Specifically, she is interested in school reform in post-Katrina New Orleans, how local actors make sense of and experience those reform policies, and how those policies become, or are “racialized.” Her research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, and the National Science Foundation. Dr. Dixson is the recipient of multiple awards and honors for her research on CRT. In 2021, she was inducted as an American Educational Research Association Fellow. For the 2022-23 academic year, Dr. Dixson will be on leave from the University of Kentucky to serve as a program director at the National Science Foundation in the Racial Equity Program Description and the NSF INCLUDES Program.
Photo of Kristina Hains Kristina Hains, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Dr. Kristina Hains is acting program chair for the Leadership for Community Education & Human Development (LCE) undergraduate major in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies and a leadership development specialist for the UK Cooperative Extension Service.  In addition, she is also co-founder of the Community Innovation Lab (CIL), a social sciences research lab with a strong focus on innovative community education and leadership research/practices. Dr. Hains served as Editor of the Journal of the International Agricultural & Extension Education (JIAEE) for 6 years. Within the realm of Extension, Dr. Hains has worked extensively to encourage cultural and leadership development and continues to stress the importance of effective community education on both domestic and international fronts. Dr. Hains’ research and programming interests include intrapersonal leadership skill development, the importance of social, emotional and cultural skills for community engagement, and community leadership development. Finally, Dr. Hains has a strong belief in the importance of international and cultural exposure for students and community members, through research and professional/student international study experiences.

Department of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation

Photo of Sy Bridenbaugh Sy Bridenbaugh, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor 
Dr. Sy Bridenbaugh’s research focuses on student success, pedagogy, motivation, and self-efficacy in relation to the first-year experience. Particularly, he concentrates on the importance of engagement for first-year students while building academic and social strategies that will enhance and assist the transition from high school to college. Dr. Bridenbaugh has worked in many different areas of higher education and, as an amputee, is also a motivational speaker. From his personal experiences, Dr. Bridenbaugh understands the importance of representation, equity, and inclusion as a central aspect of a successful college experience.
Photo of Amy Jones Haug

Amy Jones Haug, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar

Dr. Amy Jones Haug is a sociologist, an ethnographer of race, law and public health, who researches the effect of different racial incorporation practices (such as diversity in place of affirmative action) upheld by the Supreme Court on the health outcomes of Black Americans. Her current work challenges the notion that diversity policies bring about the social justice they claim; instead, she advocates for more equitable racial incorporation practices. She is working on the development of a Diversity-Work Scale that will aim to measure the mental health effects of doing diversity-work on Black students. Dr. Jones Haug holds a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University in Cognitive Science and Sociology, and a Master’s of Science and Doctoral degree in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin Madison. She also held a postdoctoral fellowship at Teachers College Columbia University.


Photo of Neal H. Hutchens Neal H. Hutchens, J.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Neal H. Hutchens’ research centers on law and policy issues in higher education, including an emphasis on issues of academic freedom and free speech and expression. He is a member of the Authors’ Committee for West’s Education Law Reporter and is an editorial board member for the Journal of College and University Law, Innovative Higher Education, and Education Law & Policy Review. Among his publications, Dr. Hutchens is a member of the author team—along with William A. Kaplin, Barbara A. Lee, and Jacob H. Rooksby—for the sixth edition of The Law of Higher Education, a leading higher education legal treatise. He was the 2015 recipient of the William A. Kaplin Award from the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law. He serves on the Litigation Committee for the American Association of University Professors. Dr. Hutchens’ scholarship has appeared in publications that include the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Journal of College and University Law, Counselor Education and Supervision, Kentucky Law Journal, West’s Education Law Reporter, Journal of Law and Education, and Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.
Photo of Patrick Valdez Patrick Valdez, Ph.D.
Visiting Professor

Dr. Patrick L. Valdez is an accomplished higher education executive with 25 years of experience in developing and executing academic and student success programs. Dr. Valdez is currently serving as a Visiting Professor at the University of Kentucky’s College of Education and Program Chair of the Senior Diversity Officer Certificate Program. He is a former Chancellor and Professor of Education at The University of New Mexico – Taos, and he has held senior level positions at the College of Mount St. Vincent in New York City, The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and Lehman College, CUNY —developing and executing academic and student success programs—and is a recipient of the Rackham Merit Fellowship from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education (CSHPE) at the University of Michigan. Dr. Valdez is Chair of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) Board of Directors, a member of the NSF Includes Accelerate Latinx Representation in STEM Education (ALRISE) Advisory Board, and a member of the American Council on Education (ACE) equity-minded leadership advisory committee. Dr. Valdez has conducted research and practice on the challenges and obstacles first-generation college students, given presentations on executive leadership, African American faculty experience at a tier one university, increasing the number of underrepresented students in STEM, and bridging the gap between higher education and the community. His current research focuses on the policy formation of Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) legislation and the role that HSIs will play in educating the nation’s fastest growing student population. He is a graduate of St. Edward’s University with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies, a master’s degree in student personnel administration from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a doctorate in higher education administration from The University of Texas at Austin.

Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion

Photo of Rasheed Flowers Rasheed Flowers, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Dr. Rasheed Flowers received his Ph.D. in Higher Education with a concentration in Sport Leadership from the University of Kentucky in 2022. He teaches several undergraduate courses, including management of sport; psychology and sociology of physical education and sport; and history and philosophy of physical education and sport. Dr. Flowers is involved in the Lexington community through volunteering with various organizations and coaching wrestling and track at local high schools. He has served in various athletic roles, including administration, coaching, and management. Most recently, he completed an internship with the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA). He was a varsity wrestler at The Ohio State University, where he received a B.S. in Sport Industry with a minor in business in 2017. Dr. Flowers continued his education by serving as a teaching assistant for two years in the UK College of Education Department of Kinesiology and Health promotion while earning a M.S. in Sports Leadership (2019).
Photo of Hildi Nicksic Hildi Nicksic, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
 Dr. Hildi Nicksic – teacher, reader, runner, nature-lover – is a native Oregonian who spent 16 years in Texas prior to moving to Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Health Behavior and Health Education from The University of Texas at Austin, and taught for seven years in the health division at Texas A&M University in College Station. With over ten years of experience as a public school classroom teacher in grades ranging from kindergarten through seventh, Dr. Nicksic is passionate about teaching and strives to provide students with meaningful learning experiences that facilitate critical thinking and application of content to real life. Her primary interest is classroom physical activity, which refers to student engagement in movement within the general education classroom as facilitated by the classroom teacher. As a member of the Department of Health and Kinesiology, Dr. Nicksic serves as the Program Faculty Chair for Health Education and is delighted to be preparing UK students to teach and support holistic wellness!
Photo of Shemeka Thorpe Shemeka Thorpe, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe (she/her) received her Ph.D. in Community Health Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is an award-winning sexuality educator and researcher. Her research interests are the sexual well-being and reproductive health of Black women using intimate justice and sex positive frameworks. With over a decade of experience as a sexuality educator, Dr. Thorpe strives to make research relevant for Black communities by integrating sex research and community health education through the use of social media. She is currently a Co-I on a project funded by NIMHD and co-led The Big Sex Study, a mixed method, community-based participatory action research project investigating Black sexual wellness. She is the PI of the Pain and Pleasure Study, the first study to focus on Black women’s sexual experiences of sexual pain. She was listed as Buzzfeed’s Top 25 Black sexologists to follow as well as voted #11 in the Top 100 Sexperts for 2021 list by PleazeMe. She is on the editorial board for the American Journal of Sexuality Education andFthorp The Journal of Sexual Wellness and Counseling Sexology. 
Photo of Jack Watson Jack Watson, Ph.D.
Visiting Scholar

Dr. Jack Watson is serving as a fellow with the American Council on Education for the 2022-23 academic year. Through his fellowship, Dr. Watson will be working with the offices of Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, the Provost, and the Vice President for Student Success. Dr. Watson is a Professor of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology at West Virginia University and most recently served as Dean of the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences. His primary research interests focus on the role of professional ethics in the practice of applied sport psychology. Secondary research areas focus on supervision and mentorship in applied sport psychology.