Team and Biographies

Dr. Crystal Lee
PI, Project Director 

Crystal Lee, Ed. D.
Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D., is an assistant professor of English language arts and literacy in the College of Education at North Carolina State University. Her research lies at the nexus of literacy, currently underserved youth and community organizations. Formerly, she worked extensively with urban teachers and students as a doctoral research fellow for Teaching Residents at Teachers College (TR@TC) and as a Zankel Urban Fellow at the Center for Professional Education of Teachers (CPET) at Columbia University. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, and she has published in books and journal articles such as Teaching and Teacher Education and the International Journal of Educational Research. Dr. Lee began her teaching experience as a high school English teacher in New Jersey and a literacy instructor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Montclair State University. In addition to her teaching, she has also served as an International Leadership Fellow in the United States Congress and an education intern at International Justice Mission, a non-profit organization focused on human rights, law, and law enforcement. She received her Ed.D. in curriculum and teaching from Columbia University. Her dissertation, “Critical Literacy as Common Ground: The Possibilities of African Immigrant Girls in New York City Schools and Community-Based Organizations,” was selected to receive the American Association of University Women (AAUW) American Dissertation Fellowship, Teachers College’s Provost Dissertation Award, and Dean’s Dissertation Fellowship. In 2018, her dissertation won the AERA Research in Women and Education SIG Selma Greenberg Outstanding Dissertation Award.

Dr. Jose Picart
Co-PI, Co-Project Director

Dr. Jose Picart
Dr. Jose Picart serves as a senior faculty fellow at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University.  He also serves as a professor of counselor education in the College of Education and as the executive director of the Wake Promise. The Wake Promise is a cross-sector community collaborative in Wake County with the mission to help increase the number of under-resourced youth in Wake County who graduate from high school and earn a postsecondary credential. Dr. Jose Picart completed his undergraduate degree at West Point, the United States Military Academy, where he majored in engineering and humanities.  Following his graduation from West Point, Dr. Picart served his country as a commissioned military officer for 28 years, rising through various command and staff positions to the rank of colonel. He earned his master of science and doctoral degrees in experimental cognitive psychology from the University of Oklahoma in Norman. In addition to his distinguished service in the field Army, Dr. Picart served for over 16 years on the faculty in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point, culminating with his appointment as the director of psychology studies. In 1994, Dr. Picart was the recipient of a prestigious American Council on Education (ACE) fellowship. At NC State University, Dr. Picart has served in various leadership positions including the vice provost for academic programs and services, vice provost for diversity and inclusion, interim dean of the College of Education, and special assistant to the provost for university outreach and engagement. In 2015, Dr. Picart was recognized as a professor emeritus and distinguished faculty alumnus in a ceremony at West Point. His current research and writings are focused on intrinsic motivation, self-determination theory, and leadership for campus diversity.

Jennifer C. Mann
Graduate Research Assistant

Jennifer C. Mann
Jennifer Mann is a doctoral student in the Literacy and English Language Arts Education program at NC State. She received her M.A. in Reading Education from East Carolina University and her B.A. in English Education and Biblical Studies from Southeastern College at Wake Forest, where she received a distinguished award for being “The Most Outstanding Teacher in the Teacher Education Program.” In 2012, she became a National Board Certified Teacher. She has spent 14 years teaching students ranging from kindergarten to college, spending the majority of that time as a high school English Language Arts teacher, specializing in instruction to culturally and linguistically diverse learners. As a doctoral student, her research includes critical literacy, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and the social emotional well-being of marginalized students. She works as the lead graduate research assistant of LCI where she develops curriculum, provides writing instruction, participates in publishing student writing, and researches concepts pertaining to student writing, community-based organizations, and student empowerment.

Caitlin Donovan
Graduate Research Assistant

Caitlin Donovan
Caitlin Donovan is a graduate student and research assistant in the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences program at NC State, focusing on writing as advocacy, new media literacies, and humanities teacher preparation. She is a National Board Certified educator, teaching middle and high school in Durham Public Schools where her curriculum spanned English/Language Arts, creative writing, and social studies. She is a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill’s English Department/Teaching Fellows Program and Duke University’s M.A. in Teaching Program. She is an alumna of Fulbright Korea.

Katie B. Peachey
Graduate Research Assistant

Katie B. Peachy
Katie Peachey is a first-year doctoral student in the Literacy and English Language Arts PhD program at NC State University. Before starting graduate school, she taught 8th grade and 12th grade English in a small public school in Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education and English from Bloomsburg University. She also obtained her ESL certification and minored in Spanish during her undergraduate studies. While teaching, Katie also obtained her Master of Education in Literacy from Wilkes University. Katie’s research interests include: English Language Learners in the ELA classroom, writing and student voice, student wellness/SEL, and linguistic diversity. Katie is serving as the program coordinator at both CORRAL locations this year.

Joselyn Diaz
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Joselyn Diaz
Joselyn Diaz is an undergraduate senior at NC State in the secondary English education program. She is originally from Fort Worth, Texas and has a passion for critical literacies and empowering student voices through writing. Joselyn currently works as an undergraduate research assistant for the Literacy and Community Initiative and teaches writing at Refugee Hope Partners.

Ellie Williamson
Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ellie Williamson
Ellie Williamson is an undergraduate senior at NC State University in the secondary English education program. Originally from Currituck, NC, Ellie developed a passion for lifelong learning, teaching, and exploring through private, public, and homeschooled education which led her on a quest to help serve and prepare the next generation of world changers. Ellie currently works as an undergraduate research assistant for the Literacy and Community Initiative and teaches writing at Refugee Hope Partners.

Ellen Denning
Undergraduate Research Assistant


Ellen currently works as an undergraduate research assistant for the Literacy and Community Initiative and teaches writing at Refugee Hope Partners.