The STEM Education Innovation Lab is led by educators and doctoral students from Mercer's Tift College of Education.

STEM Education

Dr. H. Justin Ballenger, Executive Director

Dr. H. Justin Ballenger is an Assistant Professor of STEM Education in Mercer University's Tift College of Education.  He has extensive experience with the implementation of programming that supports the academic development of youth from under-served populations.  Dr. Ballenger is the Executive Director of the STEM Education Innovation Lab or SEI Lab on Mercer’s Atlanta Campus.  He also serves as a team member on Mercer’s Education Initiative in the Dominican Republic where he directs the AgSTEM Project (DR).

Dr. Ballenger’s research agenda is focused on the academic achievement of under-served populations and pathways for students from under-served backgrounds to pursue STEM careers both in the United States and abroad.  As a component of this research he also investigates teaching practices and teacher preparation programs for STEM educators.

Dr. Ballenger is a published author and regularly presents at national and international conferences on issues related to STEM Education, Access and Equity, Teacher Preparation, and Community Engagement. Dr. Ballenger is engaged with a number of STEM outreach and teacher preparation programs locally, nationally, and internationally. Dr. Ballenger is a fellow with the Urban Leadership Fellowship, a Southern Region Education Board (SREB) fellow, an African Scientific Institute Fellow, he is recognized as a Master Teacher and mentor with the Call Me MiSTER Program, and is a National Board Certified Science Teacher.   His public community engagement includes serving as the Board Chair for STEM Initiatives with Africa Diaspora Nations and an executive board member for Real I.M.P.A.C.T Center, Inc.

STEM Education

Dr. Elaine H. Thurmond, Senior Instructional Specialist

Dr. Elaine Thurmond has served 31 years in public education as a classroom teacher, Instructional Liaison Specialist, Instructional Support Specialist and Assistant Principal. During her 3 years with the Georgia Department of Education, she trained several schools on instructional strategies. She served as an administrator at the first middle school in Cobb County to receive local, state and AdvancED STEM certifications. Her experiences in higher education spread over three universities during the past eleven years as a Faculty Member, Adjunct Professor, Online Facilitator, Dissertation Committee Member and College Supervisor for Field Experiences. She holds the following Georgia certifications: Early Childhood Education, Instructional Supervision, Administration and Supervision, Teacher Support Specialist and ESOL.

Dr. Thurmond enjoys teaching in the undergraduate and graduate degree programs as well as supporting students while taking part in their field experiences. At Mercer, she has taught the following classes: STEM for the Youngest Learner, Science for All Learners, Exploration of Learning through the Creative Arts, Teaching Social Studies for Early Childhood Educators, Preparing the Early Childhood Environment and Health, Nutrition and Safety, Foundation of Education, Culture & Education Responsive Pedagogy, Professional Practicum and Student Teaching. Dr. Thurmond is passionate about her work in developing future teachers to ensure that they are prepared to be successful in any learning environment. She has presented at several local, regional, national conferences.

Dr. J. Friedrich

Dr. Jami C. Friedrich, Lead Researcher

Jami C. Friedrich is completing her Ph.D. studies in Curriculum and Instruction at Mercer University’s Tift College of Education (Atlanta). She  has experience as a secondary mathematics teacher and instructional coach. Friedrich’s research agenda is focused on mathematics education of underserved populations and pathways from underserved backgrounds, with a focus on the Latinx community. As a component of this research, she also investigates culturally relevant pedagogy.

Friedrich presents at local and national conferences on issues related to mathematics, English Language Learners, and culturally relevant pedagogy.

STEM Education

Caitlin Hochuli, Ed.S., Graduate Researcher

Caitlin Hochuli is a ninth grade science teacher at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, GA, and she is currently teaching environmental science and ecology.  She earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science at Rochester Institute of Technology.  She continued her studies into education by being awarded the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship and attended Mercer University for a Master’s in Art of Teaching in Secondary STEM Education, and  continued with her Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction with Piedmont University.

Hochuli is entering the Ph.D. program of Curriculum and Instruction at Mercer University’s Tift College of Education in Atlanta.  Hochuli’s research interests include environmental education and equitable access to educational support.  She wishes to foster environmental awareness to students in low-income areas and connect students to STEM career fields through mentorship and experiential learning.  She is interested in building community and connections with students from different backgrounds to develop a sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship as they move into their career paths.

STEM Education

Tynetta Jenkins, M. Ed., Graduate Researcher

Tynetta Jenkins is a fourth grade teacher at Episcopal Day School in Augusta, Ga, where she teaches 4th grade math and science. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Secondary Education from Augusta University. She has a substantial amount of experience teaching high school biology and environmental science, developing district-wide science curriculum, and facilitating district-wide professional development opportunities related to the implementation of science curriculum and innovative pedagogy in the science classroom.

Jenkins is a second year Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction at Mercer University’s Tift College of Education in Atlanta. Her main research interest centers on the underrepresentation of African Americans in STEM fields. She wishes to understand the obstacles African American students face, and how these obstacles affect their matriculation into STEM programs in college. She is also interested in understanding resilience, especially as it relates to African Americans pursuing STEM in higher education.

STEM Education

Stacey Young Rivers, MSM, Graduate Researcher

Stacey Young Rivers is the Director of Tech Human Capital Management for the Global Technology Operations Division at WarnerMedia (formerly Turner Broadcasting). With expertise in developing strategies to close skills gaps and building talent pipelines, she is also mom, author, and an avid blogger.

Rivers is a Ph.D. Candidate in Educational Leadership with a focus on Higher Education in Mercer University’s Tift College of Education (Atlanta). Rivers’ research interests are Industry and Academia collaborations for solving skills gaps, and working with underserved youth and other demographics to bridge skills gaps utilizing Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Rivers earned a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management from Clayton State University, and a Master of Science in Management focusing on Leadership & Organizational Effectiveness from Troy University.