Educational Sustainability Doctoral Alumni Bios

Michael Aprill, Ed.D. '20
Michael Aprill, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Ojibwe Culture and Knowledge of Climate Change in Fourth-Grade Curricula at Wisconsin Public Elementary Schools
Plymouth, Wisconsin

Abstract: The first purpose of this study was to provide recommendations for educators to update their fourth-grade social-studies and science curricula by including more accurate and thorough representation of Ojibwe knowledge about climate change. My second purpose was to enrich curricula by including better information about Ojibwe culture, ecology, and knowledge. I also learned how Ojibwe people were impacted by climate disruption, and how Ojibwe Elders related to and talked about climate. During this study, I observed and participated in a Climate Strong! Professional Development Institute that featured presentations by selected Ojibwe Elders. I conducted ten interviews with Ojibwe Elders of both the Red Cliff and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa. I also interviewed three fourth-grade teachers from three schools and two extension educators who worked within tribal communities. I analyzed content and discourse in fourth-grade science and social-studies curricula, specifically on topics of climate disruption and Ojibwe culture. I recommend that educators include more accurate and thorough representations of Ojibwe knowledge about climate change in curricula and instruction.

Bio: Michael Aprill has always been interested in our connection with nature, but through a series of events, he gradually became more and more intrigued by climate change - most notable with his work with sea turtles. While completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP), Michael spent time in Costa Rica and Hawaii where he studied sea turtle depredation, making recommendations for sustainable education initiatives including research on predator control that he presented at the 14th Annual Symposium on Sea Turtle Biology and Conservation. In 1998, his research on safe, effective, and humane forms of field euthanasia was published to assist educating National Park Service (NPS) staff. Each night he stepped onto the beach, it would be reshaped by the weather. Michael saw first-hand, the effects of severe weather events and the fact that a species could potentially go extinct from one climate related event. Ever since this seminal moment in his life, he has been studying and working in the field of science and climate education with a focus on how human impact changes the physical world. More significant to this complex, “wicked” problem emerged when he became critically conscious to how much climate change is a social justice problem, affecting people everywhere, including his hometown of Plymouth and the city of Sheboygan where he has taught the last two years.

Michael is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) that has been teaching earth science courses for 17 years – integrating climate education along the way. He has spent thirteen years as adjunct faculty at Lakeshore Technical College (LTC). In the rural school District of Random Lake, he devoted his time to transforming the students, school, and community into an eco-friendly environment. He obtained grants, lead the district’s energy committee, and secured a 50-kilowatt wind turbine. He organized a recycling program that educated students on climate change and kept over 20,000 items out of landfills. He coordinated several fairs in which his students presented interactive projects illustrating the connections of green living and health/wellness. It is his calling to enact change in the world one student at a time and through engaged citizenry.

In a program coordinated with the Global Environmental Teachers (GET) and the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education program (WCEE), Michael traveled to Taiwan to educate teachers of Taiwan about energy education. In 2011, he was named “Formal Energy Educator of the Year” by the K-12 Energy Education Program (KEEP) at UWSP. In 2013, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) named him one of Wisconsin’s educators of the year.

Michael plans to focus his Educational Sustainability doctoral studies through leadership and education in climate change, climate change policy, and on marginalized populations. The "wicked" problem of climate change must be addressed locally to solve globally. In 2016, after observing a huge housing shortage, he and his spouse started a company that now focuses on helping revitalize the city of Sheboygan and helps marginalized families obtain affordable housing that is sustainable and efficient. He realizes social justice and climate change are inextricably linked. His ultimate goal is to help students, families, and communities become resilient to climate related events and to foster active citizenry for all people.
Bo DeDeker, Ed.D. '20
Bo DeDeker, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: A Data Driven Triple-Bottom-Line Conceptual Sustainable Balanced Reporting Framework for Small Municipalities
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: This purpose of this study was to create a sustainable reporting framework for small communities within the United States based on a triple bottom line theory. To create this framework, a mixed methods research was conducted that analyzed current reporting frameworks, inventoried, and analyzed available metrics defining community sustainability, and conducted personal interviews with local sustainable experts. The major conclusion based on findings from this research identified a basic reporting framework broken down into the perspectives of community rejuvenation, basic community support, social, environment, and economic, with each perspective containing a basic level of sustainable defining metrics. Subsequently, using the basic framework created by the study, recommendations were made for a reporting and management program to create a management model for smaller communities within the United States of America. 

MBA: Human Resources (UW-Oshkosh)

BS: Accounting (UW-Stevens Point)
Certified Public Accountant: State of Wisconsin

Bo currently is a lecturer of accounting at UW-Stevens Point, teaching courses in Cost Management, Corporate and Individual Taxation, and General Accounting. He is also employed by Upper Iowa University as an accounting professor in their bachelor's degree program for adult returning students.

Prior to his current academic appointments at UW-Stevens Point and Upper Iowa, Bo has held CFO positions in several different organizations; Northcentral Technical College (community college), Portage County, Wisconsin (county government), and Heartland Farms Inc, (large Midwest potato farm). He has also held a controllership at UW-Stevens Point, and worked at Cohen and Associates CPA as a municipal auditor.

These positions created Bo's primary research interests of business management and how the merger of sustainable initiatives can supplement the operations of organizations. During his tenure at Portage County, Bo was instrumental in making sustainable changes to the solid waste program including implementing a county wide recycling program, and implementing the county's first comprehensive no-kill humane society program. At Heartland Farm, he experienced a sustainable agricultural operation that invested heavily in initiatives like variable rate irrigation systems, alternative energy generation, and data analytics to reduce the need for chemical application, water usage, and the use of petroleum products on the farm. All of these experiences developed a curiosty that lead to his desire to enter the educational sustainability doctorate at UW-Stevens Point.

Bo resides in Stevens Point and is an avid cycler and naturalist working in environmental improvement related to Wisconsin fisheries.
Jess Gaffney, Ed.D. '20
Jess Gaffney, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Your Story is Your Strength: Developing an Ethic of Care Through Transformative Learning
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: The purpose of this study was to explore how transformative-learning theory supported the development of an ethics of care among seven students participating in a women’s leadership development program and how their learning can foster sustainability. Through a leadership program designed to infuse the development of an ethics of care into a general-education curriculum with transformative and feminist pedagogical techniques, participants were challenged to explore how their own experiences influence the ways that they acquire knowledge and practiced care for others and the natural world. Data were collected through a process of narrative inquiry using a semi-structured interview format. Themes emerged through the use of storytelling that could help educators and administrators understand how to develop educational programs for women that support and value their unique experiences fostered by women’s ways of knowing. Full Publication:

M.S.: Counseling with Higher Education emphasis (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater) 

B.S.: Communicative Disorders (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)

National Certified Counselor (NCC) 
Jess Gaffney currently serves as the assistant provost for evening, weekend & online operations and retention for seven Lakeland University adult education centers throughout the state of Wisconsin.

In her role, she believes learning systems need to be both relevant and collaborative within society in order to foster sustainability. With this and as demand for increased online presence in adult learning and higher education grows, Jess continues to work alongside leaders to create rigorous and engaging programs that are applicable and sustainable for adult learners. Currently, she is working to develop a credit for prior learning experience and exploring experiential learning opportunities available within the program. These programs will allow adult learners to engage in strong analysis and demonstration of competencies earned through life experiences through a self-reflective process. This process will allow students to see things differently in the world around them and impact the environments in which they work and live.

Prior to her role at Lakeland University, Jess served as the director of student success at Northcentral Technical College, worked for a TRiO Student Support Services grant and additionally held a variety of positions within the Center for Students with Disabilities at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She is a certified Title IX investigator and serves on an InterDisciplinary Studies Steering committee. In spring 2017, she had the opportunity to present on Critical Thinking and the CORE curriculum for adult students, helping reiterate the importance of relevancy, social justice and holistic learning as it relates to adult learning.   

Jess lives in Stevens Point with her husband, John, two children Noah (15) and Ireland (7). She enjoys being outdoors and close to the water. She is happiest when her household is full of energy, family and friends.   
Aaron Kadoch '20
Aaron Kadoch '20
Dissertation Title: Information Architecture: Concepts for an Eco-Language of Mind, Matter, and Media
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

M. Arch. (The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Scottsdale, Arizona)

B.A. Fine Arts (Davidson College, N.C.; Minor in International Studies)

Aaron Kadoch is a practicing educator and architect and currently holds the position of associate professor and department chair in interior architecture. His background and experience is in a diversity of design and art disciplines including painting and photography, graphics and web design, architecture, construction, landscape architecture, and urban planning.

His experiences while learning and living in the design community of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin has helped formulate a contemporary organic approach to teaching and creating meaningful, community specific works of art and architecture. His current projects focus on the links between virtual and physical architectures and his community development work has been presented at international conferences of the Association of People Environment Studies (IAPS) among other international teaching and learning conferences.

Aaron has design work published in the Archivos de Arquitectura Antillana and “1000 Architectural Details: Selection of the World’s Most Interesting Building Elements,” for residential architecture design with Michael Singer. His shelter design work has also been featured in the New York Times article, “Dust-Up In the Desert.” Aaron has created The Organic Architecture Guild to promote and highlight projects and best practices in sustainable community development. His doctoral focus is centered on applied organic architecture, which includes learning systems, to the research and development of resilient eco-communities of the future.
Branden Lewis, Ed.D. '20
Branden Lewis, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Culinary Sustainability Education: A Culinary Education As Sustainability
Providence, Rhode Island

Dissertation Abstract: Critics have observed that modern culinary education still adheres to the traditions that emerged during the feudal era as well as the modernist values of power, hierarchy, reductionism, and dualist worldviews. More recently, a critical postmodern view of modern culinary education and the corresponding culinary industry reveals the industry is environmentally unsustainable in the way they think, operate, educate, and enculture learners into the profession and in their impact on the food industry at large. For sustainability to have a chance, transformative changes to culinary education can assist in reorienting student learning toward sustainable ways of being and acting—education that is about, for and as sustainability (Sterling, 2001). The study presented ten propositions derived from the literature review as a vision for culinary sustainability education (CSE). Then, through a multi-faceted thematic case study, involving interviews with three different case groups—scholar informants, food workshop participants, and culinary graduates of  a sustainability concentration in culinary education—findings were derived that explored the transformation process for transitioning a program toward culinary sustainability education as well as the outcomes and barriers that were experienced by learners. Triangulated through participant observation and autoethnographic storytelling, the study concludes that the ten propositions to CSE are largely valid with small modifications and are useful as principles for adoption into culinary curriculums. Further, study participants identified current organizational patterns of power and exclusion, the thinking patterns of modernism such as mechanist and dualist views, and the vocational status of culinary education as problematic to sustainability culinary education. To assist the transformation toward sustainability, findings profiled the potential of chefs as change agents within the culinary industry, food system, and broader community. Finally, the study identified pedagogical approaches that can best foster sustainability and break down current problematic patterns. This study concludes that CSE should be adopted by culinary schools to break the negative feedback loop of unsustainability in culinary arts and help foster a more sustainable future for humanity.

MBA: International Organizational Leadership (Johnson & Wales University)

BS: Culinary Arts (Johnson & Wales University)

AAS: Culinary Arts (Johnson & Wales University)

Branden Lewis, assistant professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation and a specialist in international cuisines and sustainable food systems. He believes sustainability topics should be incorporated into culinary education since chefs can have a tremendous influence on the food system through sourcing ingredients, cultivating relationships, and advocating for sustainable practices.

Since returning to his ala mater, Branden has joined a team of faculty to develop the school’s Wellness & Sustainability Concentration. Through this curriculum, he helps students explore their food web by employing innovative experiential education methodology.

In 2008, he was named one of Edible Rhody Magazine's “Food Heroes” for his work serving immigrant and refugee communities. In 2013, he was showcased in the Rhode Island episode of Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern which focused on local sustainably caught seafood. As a faculty member at Johnson & Wales, he has been selected for numerous awards and recognition, including the Distinguished Scholarship Award, Outstanding Service Award, Advisor of the Year, and Robert M. Nograd Teacher of the Year.

Branden’s interest in sustainable food systems continues as he researches the following question: What sustainability topics should be taught in culinary education—and how?
Lynn Payne, Ed.D. '20
Lynn Payne, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Regenerative Selves: Yoga as a Pedagogy for Cultivating Relationality
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: This study explored whether and in what ways Yoga could cultivate relationality among practitioners and enable them to live sustainably and regeneratively through creating regenerative selves. It examined whether and how practitioners used Yoga as a tool to cultivate relationality in the continuum between interiority and exteriority. The study explored relationality and meaning-making experiences of female Yoga practitioners at a Yoga studio located in Wisconsin. Its design included both the teachers and students for an expansive view of relationality within yoga practices. Themes were drawn for further research and recommendations for the fields of Yoga, transformative learning, and regenerative education. Full Publication:

M.S., Continuing and Vocational Education - University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004

Bachelor of Liberal Science, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, 2000

Lynn works for Lawrence University in business administration and has been an adjunct faculty member for the past 17 years in the social science and business technology departments for the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). While working in this capacity, much of her attention has been focused on marginalized populations, including displaced workers, and diverse groups. 

Lynn obtained her Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a minor in business administration and emphasis in psychology. She earned her Master of Science in Continuing and Vocational Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an emphasis in human ecology and community development. During her graduate career at UW-Madison, she received the Advanced Opportunity Fellowship awarded to first-generation, low-income, high-achieving students. Her qualitative research, Learning to be Active About Social Issues, examined the transformative learning experiences of adults involved in social justice.

Lynn’s studies led her to grow as an activist and leader serving within her community where she connected her health and wellness business and collaborative efforts within the community focusing on alternative paths to healing through education. She immerses herself in facilitating educational programs to improve overall spiritual, emotional and physical wellbeing both at the community level and in higher education. Some of her dedicated passions include serving as a LaLeche Leader promoting breastfeeding and overall health and wellness and extended travels, with her children by her side, in a Costa Rican community to study the human rights and social justice perspectives of sustainability through the experiences of a coffee plantation farmer. 

Lynn’s focus is connecting people in non-formal and informal educational community settings enacting health and wellness aspects of sustainability into adult community programing. As a first-generation college student, she embodies the belief of transformative experiences in learning as a means to bringing students of disparate communities together in safe learning spaces. These learning spaces allow the student a way to explore the individual, their perspective community and society as a whole.

Lynn plans to focus her educational sustainability doctoral studies in social justice, community and higher education through the lens of whole-person intersectionality to include personal, professional and spiritual aspects of the learner with the hope to help make connections for transformative sustainability learning experiences.
Liz Potter-Nelson, Ed.D. '20
Liz Potter-Nelson, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Sustainability Literacy Competencies in Coursework for Preservice Teachers
Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of four categories of sustainability literacy competencies; sustainability knowledge; systems thinking; social justice; and futures thinking, throughout coursework in a teacher preparation program. A mixed-methods case study was conducted in four courses at one university to identify the prevalence of these categories and the role they had on preservice teachers’ reported understanding of sustainability literacy. Data were collected in the form of faculty surveys, faculty interviews, course materials, and student surveys and analyzed using a sustainability literacy framework. Although the courses were not designed as sustainability courses, findings indicated the prevalence of at least one sustainability literacy category in each course. In addition, findings also showed that student participants recognized sustainability literacy categories in their coursework. A major conclusion was that the prevalence of at least one sustainability literacy category in each course has potential to serve as a leverage point where sustainability education could be readily integrated into teacher education. Recommendations were made for future conversations on this topic and policy changes in teacher education.

Administrative Certification in Educational Leadership (Aurora University)

M.A.T. in Science Education (Iowa State University)

B.S. in Physics with a minor in Astronomy (Iowa State University)

Liz currently works for the Stevens Point Area Public School District as a technology integration specialist. In this role, she works to assist educators and others within the district to achieve their technology goals.

Prior to her current role, Liz was a science educator for 11 years. Her classroom was an engaging environment where students worked to understand every day phenomenon through guided-inquiry experiences to develop their own understanding and appreciation for physics and chemistry. While teaching, Liz spent five years as a science department chair. During this time she worked with teachers to help make data-driven decisions that would ultimately have a positive impact on student learning. Through her experience as a department chair, she began to develop a passion in working with new teachers. Through a sustainability lens, Liz is interested in studying teacher preparation programs. 

Liz has presented at regional and national conferences through the National Science Teachers Association. She has been published in the Iowa Science Teachers Journal and as a research scientist on the topics of astronomy and solid oxide fuel cells. Liz’s experiences as a department chair will be shared through vignettes in the forthcoming book Building the Science Department (2017, in press).
Belinda Rudinger, Ed.D. '20
Belinda Rudinger, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Beyond Access: Technology, Blindness, and Self-Determination
Dallas, Texas

Dissertation Abstract: This mixed-methods study sought to examine the user experience of technology related to self-determination from the perspective of persons with visual impairments. Connections between assistive technology and self-determination theory’s (SDT) three basic needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness were explored (Deci & Ryan, 2002). The study was designed within the frameworks of post-phenomenology and positive technology, with a population of clients from Computers for the Blind, a non-profit organization that offered computers with screen reading and screen magnification software. The TENS-Interface, a recent SDT based instrument (Peters, Calvo, & Ryan, 2018), was administered, followed by qualitative interviews and observations called Technology Biographies (Blythe, Monk, & Park 2002). Findings showed evidence of some correlations and qualitative corroborations related to the user experience of technology related to self-determination. This study makes recommendations for further research and improvement in practices for serving persons with visual impairments. Full Publication:

M.Ed.: Special Education, Specializing in Autism Intervention & Behavior Analysis (University of North Texas)

Graduate Certificate: Education of Students with Visual Impairments (Stephen F. Austin)

B.A.: Literature (University of North Texas)

As a doctoral student in the field of educational sustainability and a teacher of students with visual impairments, Belinda Rudinger’s professional interests lie at the confluence between braille, assistive technology, and socio-ecological sustainability. From a strong sustainability standpoint, technology has the power to do both harm and good, and the discernment of how best to harness its power and influence involves both asking the right questions and evaluating options. She takes a systems analysis perspective and questions how technology can serve to facilitate empowerment, well-being, connection and community to develop a resilient society.

Professionally, Belinda teaches students with visual impairments and serves on the interdisciplinary Assistive Technology team for the Grand Prairie Independent School District. She is a member of the Bookshare Advisory Board and the Global Division Taskforce of the National Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Belinda presents regionally, statewide, and nationally on topics related to assistive technology and visual impairment, most recently at the Closing the Gap conference in Minneapolis, and the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in Orlando. She was the co-investigator for a study, presentation, and upcoming publication on teaching assistive technology competencies to pre-service teachers.

In 2017, Belinda received the Sammie K. Rankin award from the Texas Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (TAER), as an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to services for persons who are blind or visually impaired in Texas.
Kim Wahl, Ed.D. '20
Kim Wahl, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Defying Gravity: A Photovoice Lens on Affective Learning in a Transformative Sustainability Doctoral Cohort Program
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: The purpose of this study was to understand the learning experiences and the role of affect for students in a transformative sustainability education doctoral program. My research questions reflected the purpose of this study: How do adults experience learning in a transformative sustainability education doctoral program? How does affective learning play a role in adult learner experiences in a transformative sustainability education doctoral program? How do affect and emotions play a role in transformative learning? Through participatory action research utilizing a photovoice method and built upon a transformative sustainability theoretical framework, I explore affect and learning experiences in a cohort doctoral program. The results of this study indicate that students experience ongoing learning with positive affect when they feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to self, others, and/or nature. When students experience a lack of belonging/connectedness, they work to re-establish connections. Network connections, dynamic balance, and feedback loops are key in establishing a sense of belonging to support ongoing and meaningful learning in a transformative sustainability education program.

M.S. in Education in Biology (UW-Stevens Point)

BSE in Education (UW-Whitewater)
Kim Wahl is the Director of Education for the Wisconsin Green Schools Network (WGSN). Prior to working for WGSN, she taught high school science for 17 years. Fourteen of those years were spent in Wisconsin and Illinois teaching biology, environmental science and earth science while three of those years she spent in the Pacific Northwest teaching oceanography and biology. She has also taught workshops focused on earth science, environmental science, forestry and biology.

After teaching high school, Kim took her current position with WGSN as a field biology educator, coach for teachers and as an administrator. She works with students of all ages on field-based and place-based learning, both of which are addressed in her co-authored article in the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, Learning Rooted in Place. In addition to her work with WGSN, Kim is an adjunct professor for UW-Stevens Point and teaches for the Wisconsin LEAF forestry education program for K-12 teachers. She has been a presenter at statewide and Midwest conference events and she has spoken at the National Green Schools Conference on sustainability initiatives in schools.  
Kim has a great love of teaching and for helping others create curriculum while using the environment as a context for learning. In addition to her current work with schools, her professional interests include focusing on K-12 educational sustainability and accountability measures for schools in Wisconsin.  She is continually inspired by her work and especially by her family. An entire family deeply connected with nature, it is not unusual to find herself, husband, and their two kids in the outdoors or on some experiential adventure! She hopes to continue to learn new ways built on the foundation of sound theories about how to foster a love for learning and the natural world as she begins her exciting new doctoral studies in educational sustainability at UW-Stevens Point.  
Xee Yang, Ed.D. '20
Xee Yang, Ed.D. '20
Dissertation Title: Equity in the Education of English Learners of Hmong Descent
Menasha, Wisconsin

Dissertation Abstract: This research was a case study of one school using dual-language-immersion in Hmong. Eighty-eight percent of students were of Hmong descent. The purpose of this study was to examine the education of these English learners by collecting interview and observation data during a summer term. Analysis sought identified how theories of educational equity were instantiated in this bilingual El program. Equity was defined in this study as equitable distribution, responsiveness, relevance of resources, and differentiation to meet students’ diverse needs. Two themes and eighteen subthemes emerged from coded data. Full Publication:

M.S.: Curriculum and Instruction (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh)

B.S.: Elementary Ed. 1-8; ELL Education 1-8; Bilingual Education 1-8 (University of Wisconsin Oshkosh)

Xee Yang is an educator of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the K-12 public school system and an instructor of undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Her passion in education began in 2000 when she began working with ELLs. This experience reminded Xee of her youth, where she and her mother struggled with her school system. That reminder urged her to continue her education in the pursuit of helping English Language Learners gain equal access to the curriculum and aid parents in understanding the resources available to them.

Xee's passion doesn't end there. She recently co-authored the book "The Literacy Club, Effective Instruction and Intervention for Linguistically Diverse Learners" with Kathryn Henn-Reinke. Her motivation to publish came from her work in helping other educators understand the diverse needs of ELLs. Xee's hope is to continue the work she has started and make a difference in the lives of families and students of English language learners.
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