The Lynch School welcomes three new assistant professors this year: Emily Gates, a scholar and practitioner of evaluation; Betty Lai, a clinical psychologist studying the effects of stressors on childhood health and education; and Raquel Muñiz, who researches trauma-informed teaching and equity in education.
Assistant Professor, Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics and Assessment Department
As Emily Gates explains it, “I try to do evaluation in a way that helps organizations learn and improve.” Working at a youth shelter (while earning a bachelor’s degree at the New College of Florida) sparked her interest in evaluation. “I wanted to know, How do we know we’re actually helping youth?” she says. Since then, she has focused on “ways to improve evaluation theory—which examines the roles evaluation plays in society—and evaluation practice to address the complexity of programs and social change initiatives.”
Gates has served as a fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as an external evaluation associate for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Science Foundation, where she was the graduate lead for a five-year program to improve STEM teaching in Illinois. For her Ph.D. dissertation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she wrote three journal articles that “re-examined the implications of systems thinking for evaluation.” Gates is teaching Program Evaluation I at the Lynch School this fall.
Assistant Professor, Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, Betty Lai was teaching math and science at a middle school in New York City’s Washington Heights when she realized that her “students were coming in with issues of trauma, but there wasn’t a space to talk about it.” That sparked a career in studying how stressors—including domestic and community violence, peer victimization, natural disasters, and war—affect youths’ psychological distress symptoms, health behaviors, and health outcomes.
Lai earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Miami, and specializes in biostatistics, which enables her to “combine data across many studies to understand the effects of different types of traumas across different age ranges,” she said. For example, “We’ve found that children who suffer early in the wake of trauma tend to be most likely to suffer months or a year later. So early intervention is essential.”
Lai joins Boston College from Georgia State University, where she spent the past five years as an assistant professor in the division of epidemiology and biostatistics. On maternity leave in the fall, she will be teaching The Impact of Psychosocial Issues on Learning in spring 2019.
Assistant Professor, Education Leadership and Higher Education Department
Liaison, Boston College Law School
Raquel Muñiz studies “how the legal system and the policies that subsist within it create equitable or inequitable systems and how to improve the latter to further student success.” Growing up in one of the poorest cities in Texas, Muñiz says she “witnessed a lot of injustices and difficulties, and became a passionate child advocate very early.” After earning her bachelor’s in mathematics from Texas A&M International University, she completed a joint Ph.D. (Educational Theory and Policy) and J.D. program at Penn State University in four years, writing her dissertation on policy implementation of “socio-emotional learning opportunities in Upward Bound.”
She’s currently examining flagship universities to determine whether and how the higher education system is inclusive and supportive of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, and researching how the court systems interpret the phrase “reasonable medical certainty” in high-stakes child abuse cases, which impact student outcomes.
This semester Muñiz is teaching Education Law and Public Policy, a course in the law and curriculum instruction dual-degree (J.D./M.Ed.) program, but open to other departments.
—By Zak Jason