The         Lab

Examining Technology, Race, Equity, and Ethics in Education

The TREE Lab

People

We are a diverse group of university students, faculty, and community members. Read more about our faculty, students, and collaborators below.

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Sepehr Vakil

Director

Dr. Sepehr Vakil is the Principal Investigator and Director of the Technology Race Ethics and Equity in Education (TREE) Lab in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, where he is currently an assistant professor of Learning Sciences.

Previously he was Assistant Professor of STEM Education and the Associate Director of Equity & Inclusion in the Center for STEM Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Vakil’s current research projects span three broad thematic areas of focus: (a) ethics, learning, and technology, (b) participatory design and community-engaged research methodologies, and (c) historical and sociopolitical analyses of engineering education across global contexts.

Dr. Vakil recently received the National Science Foundation’s early CAREER award, as well as the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral fellowship. He received his PhD in the Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology program at UC Berkeley, and his B.S and M.S in Electrical Engineering from UCLA.

Projects

Educational Resources CS Ethics Course YPRPT
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Sarah Van Wart

Senior Research Associate

Dr. Sarah Van Wart is a Senior Research Associate of the TREE Lab. She is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in the Department of Computer Science at Northwestern University, where she teaches courses in HCI, web design / development, introductory programming, and ethics.

Prior to academia, she spent about a decade developing and maintaining data and communication infrastructures to support public accountability and transparency within city and regional planning efforts. She later pursued her PhD in Information Science at UC Berkeley, where she studied the role of data and computing in supporting civic participation and advocacy among young people.

Her current research examines two broad themes: (1) the possibilities and limits of data-centric approaches to grassroots civic advocacy; and (2) how to design inclusive learning environments that foster robust computing and data literacies.

Projects

Educational Resources CS Ethics Course
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Raphael Nash

YPRPT Co-Founder

Co-Founder of YPRPT, Raphael Nash, is an award-winning independent film producer, video director, and adjunct professor at DePaul University and The University of Illinois at Chicago. After receiving his MFA in Film & Media Arts from Temple University in 2011, his academic focus has been on teaching courses centered in the representation of race & ethnicity in film, and leading under-represented communities into the world of film production.

He is also the owner of Endangered Peace Productions, a full-service corporate video, and independent film production house. Their most recently produced work is the critically acclaimed feature film “Saint Frances”.

Projects

YPRPT
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Natalie Melo

PhD Student Researcher

Natalie Melo is a first-year graduate student in the Computer Science and Learning Sciences PhD program at Northwestern University. She is co-advised by Dr. Sepehr Vakil and Dr. Marcelo Worsley. Natalie grew up attending Malden (MA) Public Schools and graduated with a degree in Computer Science at the University of Pennsylvania as a Questbridge and Janey Scholar. Motivated by her personal and professional experiences, Natalie’s current interests lie in critical theory and technology studies, as well as in examining notions of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the field of computer science.

In her free time, Natalie enjoys chances to celebrate life with family and friends, as well as making brigadeiros (Brazilian chocolates), reading, running, dancing, karaoke-ing, and more.

Projects

Educational Resources CS Ethics Course YPRPT
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Shai Moore

PhD Student Researcher

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Ally Reith

PhD Student Researcher

Ally is a PhD student and graduate worker studying Learning Sciences in the School of Education and Social Policy, and a 2019 and 2020 NSF-NRT IDEAS Integrated Data Science Fellow. She serves on the student advisory board for Northwestern’s Office of Equity in addition to Northwestern’s Community Safety Advisory Board. In her work with TREE Lab, she aims to disentangle the complex sociopolitical and ethical dimensions of AI-based ed-tech and other technologies in learning spaces. Looking forward, her dissertation work will explore what school districts mean (and what implications arise) when they describe decision-making as “data-driven”, and how data, broadly construed, is conceptualized, operationalized, and politicized in schools.

Projects

Educational Resources YPRPT
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Charles Logan

PhD Student Researcher

Charles is a second-year PhD student in the Learning Sciences program. A former high school English teacher and university educational technologist, his research interests include critical digital pedagogy, co-authoring counter-narratives to oppose sociotechnical and ed-tech imaginaries, and designing learning experiences to support educational dignity.

Outside the TREE Lab, Charles can be found running along Lake Michigan or building elaborate forts with his two children.

Projects

Educational Resources YPRPT
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Cortez Watson

Researcher

Professor Watson has 22 years of youth development experience in a variety of formal and informal educational settings. Cortez is the founder of an educational consultancy titled The Hip-Hop F.I.R.M. Cortez Watson, Jr. is an educator, youth developer and budding learning scientist Professor. The Hip-Hop F.I.R.M. (The Firm) is a collective of educational architects revisioning and building the next generation of educational EXPERIENCE at the academic intersections of Black Youth Development, The Hip-Hop Phenomenon and Critical Race Theory. Cortez's client list includes the Obama Foundation, The Black Star Project, The Archdiocese of Chicago, Northwestern University, Illinois Public School District 65 to name a few. Cortez holds a B.A. in Urban Planning and Theology/Religion and a Master of Education in Youth Development. Cortez is also an educator in Goodwin College of Education at Northeastern Illinois University. As an adjunct professor, Mr. Watson teaches Psychology of Instruction and Learning. Lastly, Cortez is a father of a Beautiful Black American/Asian American daughter named Scarlett and states that it’s his number one job and she is his greatest accomplishment.

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Temitope Sonuyi

Senior Tech Advisor

Temitope Sonuyi is a technology professional, yoga instructor, and entrepreneur. He serves as a senior tech advisor to the TREE lab. In Summer 2019, Temitope was lead designer of the GeoMedia system, a social media surveillance tool developed specifically for educational purposes for the YPRPT students.


Alums

Akansha Raj

Bijal Mehta

Caryl Henry

Gregory Voelkel

  • Undergraduate Student Researcher
  • Worked on: YPRPT

Jessica Rodriguez

  • Undergraduate Student Researcher
  • Worked on: YPRPT

Katherine Johns

Kimani Isaac

Mary Truong

Olivia Gallager

Rhea Ramaiya

Thomas Young

Titobi Williams

Jessica Marshall

  • PhD Student Researcher
  • Worked on: YPRPT