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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

International Advisory Board

As the international presence and work of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition has changed and grown in the past decade, we are proud to introduce the International Advisory Board.

Similar to the National Advisory Board, this board of global scholars serves in a consultative role for the Center, giving advice and contributing suggestions for research topics, publications, marketing and funding strategies, and conference speakers, as well as authoring articles for Center publications and evaluating award nominees and grant proposals. These leaders and experts in higher education represent a variety of institutional types and resource centers from around the world. The International Advisory Board members provide unique perspectives and expertise. The Center hopes to benefit from this and provide resources that promote student success, learning, and development on a global level.

Abdulaziz Alfehaid

Abdulaziz Alfehaid

Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University
Saudi Arabia

Abdulaziz Alfehaid, Ph.D., is a professor of applied linguistics and TESOL in the Department of English Language at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University-IAU (formerly the University of Dammam) in Saudi Arabia. He has taught both undergraduate and postgraduate modules at IAU and other universities. Dr. Alfehaid is also the Dean of Preparatory Year & Supporting Studies at IAU, as well as the chairman of the department of English language. As dean, he has worked to mobilize faculty to support student achievement through professional development and student success initiatives, including revision of the preparatory year curriculum, a quality assurance system, pedagogical research and assessment, new learning support systems, and pedagogical innovation. Alfehaid is also the founder and the Secretary-General of the National Committee of Deans of Preparatory Year Programs in Saudi Universities sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

Previously, Alfehaid was the vice-dean of admission and registration at IAU and held responsibilities related to enrollment and student records. In 2015, he founded and chaired the first National Conference for Prep Year in Saudi Universities, a welcoming venue for researchers and other specialized scholars to work on improving the prep year experience in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has presented at a wide variety of educational conferences and symposiums (national, regional, and international) and is often invited to provide consultancy support on issues relating to first-year student linguistic challenges, academic achievement, and retention, the first-year curriculum, and transitional aspects. He is also a member of many national and international committees.

Alfehaid’s research focuses mainly on preparatory first-year student retention, English language education, English for academic purposes, developing and evaluating preparatory year curriculum and programs and student transitions.

Dr. Aziz earned his master’s and doctorate in applied linguistics and TESOL from the School of Education at the University of Leicester, England. 

Hala Al-Najjar

Hala Al-Najjar

American University of Kuwait

Hala Al-Najjar, M.Ed., is the program coordinator for the First Year Experience at the American University of Kuwait (AUK). During her time as coordinator, Dr. Al-Najjar has initiated and overseen significant program initiatives to develop a first-year curriculum that gives students social and academic foundations needed for success at a liberal arts university. Al-Najjar continues to research the educational, cultural, and social influences that are distinctive to Arab students in Kuwait and throughout the Gulf.

Recently, Al-Najjar spent summers at Harvard School of Education, studying and completing several certification programs on teaching in the 21st century. With a research interest on the impact of globalization in Kuwait, Al-Najjar has developed and led several professional development workshops: Effective Teaching Strategies for 21st Century Learning, The Effects of Globalization in Education, and The Role of Culture 21st Century Education.

Al-Najjar developed and continues to lead cultural sensitivity orientation workshops for expatriate educators teaching in Kuwait. She has been recognized for both her civic and professional accomplishments. Two awards that she is most proud of are those she received from her students at AUK: Most Supportive Faculty, 2013 and 2015; Carrier of the AUK Spirit Faculty Award, 2016. A member of several local clubs and organizations, Al-Najjar is active in promoting social justice in the community. She has started her own non-governmental organization (NGO) and is a founding member of the Soroptimist International group, a global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training they need to achieve economic power.

Dr. Al-Najjar earned her bachelor’s in sociology, minoring in psychology, from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She earned her master’s in education with a focus on cultural and linguistic awareness from Fitchburg State University, also in Massachusetts.

Christine Curtis

Christine Curtis

University of the Bahamas

Christine Curtis, Ed.D, serves as the coordinator of First Year Experience at the University of The Bahamas (UB), a premier institution with two major locations, one on the island of Grand Bahama and the other in New Providence.

Previously, Dr. Curtis served in various capacities at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as a senior counselor, program coordinator, behavioral intervention specialist, and quality assurance coordinator. Her passion and enthusiasm for at-risk student populations has led her to serve as an advisor for the Ministry of Education's Student ReFocus Support Program since 2016 and as a Board Member for Mount Pleasant Green Baptist Church.

Currently, Curtis is working on a research study to determine, “The Impact of Participation on First Year Students’ Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Learning at   University of The Bahamas.”

Dr. Curtis earned her bachelor’s and master’s in counseling and administration. She completed her doctorate in vocational, technical, and career education.

Robert Kenedy

Robert Kenedy

York University

Robert Kenedy, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at York University, Canada, where he has won four teaching awards, an award for his service to students, and the Senate of Canada Sesquicentennial Medal for service to the nation.

Currently, Dr. Kenedy’s research interests are in Jewish Diaspora; Immigration and Citizenship; Ethnic Identity; Social and Political Movements; and Qualitative Methodologies. Kenedy’s scholarly work examines cocurricular and curricular peer education, mentorship, and leadership, focusing on academic and social contributions to the post-secondary transition. Kenedy's research highlights integrating peer educators and leaders into courses and studying their impact on student learning. He specifically examines best practices for incorporating peer educators inside and outside the classroom as well as evaluating the pedagogical benefits for students in terms of critical thinking, writing, and other academic skills. For his pedagogical research, he has written articles on peer education, integrating critical thinking skills into courses, and the importance of supporting student learning through teaching partnerships. Kenedy has also been the guest editor of a special themed issue on peer education in the Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Dr. Kenedy completed his doctorate from York University.

Karen Nelson

Karen Nelson

University of Southern Queensland

Karen Nelson, PhD, PFHEA is a professor of higher education and deputy vice-chancellor (Academic) at the University of Southern Queensland.

Previously, Dr. Nelson was the pro vice-chancellor of students at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) from 2014-2018. Prior to joining USC, she held the roles of director, student success and retention and Director, First Year Experience at Queensland University of Technology, as well as senior academic roles.

Nelson adopts a research-led, evidence-based approach to her higher education leadership roles. Her research has focused on student learning engagement in higher education and the first-year experience. She has led a series of large, nationally funded projects in these areas. Major projects include developing a maturity model for student engagement retention and success and a social justice framework for higher education. In 2017 she led a third national project, Shaping the 21st Century Student Experience in Regional Universities, and she recently completed a report on completion rates for equity students for Australia's National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Dr. Nelson's contributions to higher education have been recognized by more than 10 institutional and national awards, including three Australian awards for university teaching. In 2016 she was awarded Principal Fellow Status of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA). In Australia, Nelson serves the higher education sector as the editor of Student Success, a journal exploring the experiences of students in tertiary education, and as co-chair of the annual STARS Conference.

Diane Nutt

Diane Nutt

European First-Year Experience Network (EFYE)

Diane Nutt, Ph.D., is an independent consultant and researcher in higher education in the United Kingdom. She is committed to exploring strategies to enhance the student experience, from the first year throughout the university journey. Dr. Nutt began the European First-Year Experience (EFYE) Network and is chair of the EFYE Conference Organizing Committee. She has presented at a wide variety of conferences and events and is often invited to speak or provide consultancy support on issues relating to retention, the first-year experience, and transitions.

Previously, Nutt worked at Teesside University, where she was the acting assistant director of the Learning and Teaching Department and head of the student retention team. She has been a lecturer in sociology and a staff developer and was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship at Teesside in 2006. During her tenure there, she initiated a project on study skills provision and became involved in work on the first-year experience. In 2003, she moved from sociology to a central learning and teaching leadership role, where she set up a retention team and completed a major European Social Fund (ESF) research project on the retention of nontraditional students (published in 2005). This was followed by a number of other projects, including setting up an institutional retention strategy, leading a further £250,000 ESF dissemination project, and representing Teesside as part of a more recent major national project funded by the Higher Education Funding Council, England (HEFCE) on postgraduate student experiences involving 11 institutions. Nutt was recently awarded a Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA). At Teesside, she was actively involved in a variety of committees and working groups, including chair of the Rough Guide editorial board, as well as being an author of two Rough Guides. In her role, Nutt worked closely with schools, program teams, and faculty in developing curricula.

Nutt has published a number of articles and chapters in her original discipline as well as on retention and student experience. She is co-author of the NRC monograph (with Denis Calderon) International Perspectives on the First Year Experience in Higher Education.

Dr. Nutt earned her bachelor’s in independent studies Lancaster University in England. She completed her doctorate in sociology, also from Lancaster. Her thesis was on childless women's social networks.

Annsilla Nyar

Annsilla Nyar

South African National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (SANRC)

Annsilla Nyar, Ph.D., is the Director of the South African National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (SANRC), where she is responsible for all the operational, strategic, and scholarly aspects of the work of the SANRC. Dr. Nyar is an academic and researcher with extensive experience in the higher education sector.

Prior to joining the SANRC, Nyar held the post of Manager, Research and Policy Analysis at the former Higher Education South Africa (HESA; now Universities South Africa), a coalition of 25 public universities in South Africa. Before HESA, she worked as Senior Researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory, a partnership between the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Johannesburg, and the Gauteng Provincial Government.

Nyar’s primary areas of interest are focused on development issues related to civil society, social justice, human rights, democracy, and governance. Her research record includes both quantitative and qualitative work and spans a range of applied and academic work. She has substantive experience in project management and research and information programs.

Dr. Nya earned her master’s in political science from the University of KwaZulu Natal and her doctorate in political science from the University of the Witwatersrand.

Pιnar Özbek

Pιnar Özbek

Koç University

Pιnar Özbek, M.A., is the Coordinator of Academic and Life Skills (ALIS 100), the experiential first-year program at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2017, she launched the FYE network in Turkey, which now has 200 members from 90 institutions. The inaugural FYE symposium in Turkey was organized in 2018 by her team at Koç U. Özbek serves as a consultant and conducts workshops for higher education professionals planning to implement FYE programs at Turkish universities. She is also a member of the Higher Education Initiative within the global Wellbeing Project.

Ms. Özbek teaches courses such as Academic and Life Skills, Transition to Professional Life, and Next Generation Leadership and Transformation at the undergraduate level at Koç University. She also offers life skills workshops and coaching to graduate students on work–life balance, public speaking, time management, and intercultural competence. Özbek co-authored the book University and Beyond: Life Skills for Young Adults, a manual for life skills instructors as well as a guide for college students. She is also the co-author of a book chapter, "Transition to Professional Life Through Experiential Learning," in the Palgrave Handbook of Experiential Learning in International Business. Her team received the Outstanding Service Award at Koç University in 2013, and she was a grantee of the Women's International Leadership Award at International House in New York in 2008. Özbek also served as the secretary-general and vice president of the Turkish Psychological Association since 2012.

Ms. Özbek earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Boğaziçi University in Turkey. She completed her M.A. and M.Ed. from Columbia University on a Fulbright scholarship.

Marisol Silva-Laya

Marisol Silva Laya

Ibero-American University

Marisol Silva Laya, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Research Institute for Educational Development (INIDE) and Head of the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at Universidad Iberoamericana. She recently concluded a six-year term as head of the INIDE and a visiting research fellowship at Bath University.

Dr. Silva Laya’s research work centers on equity and justice in education, higher education policy, quality, and evaluation of education, and the first year. Silva Laya is a member of Mexico’s National System of Researchers (SNI), Level 2. She is also a member of the Mexican Council of Educational Research (COMIE), of the Governing Board of Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM), and serves at several academic evaluation committees, including some of CONACYT, the UNAM Pablo Latapi Award, and the ANUIES Award to Best Thesis Dissertation.

Silva Laya serves on editorial committees of the following journals: Education Policy Analysis ArchivesPerfiles Educativos, Revista Mexicana de Investigación Educativa, and Revista Mexicana de la Educación Superior. She has actively participated in constructing educational policy deliberation and collaborated with organizations and public agencies oriented to the advancement of the educational system’s performance, including the Citizen Observatory of Education, the Technical Committee for the Diffusion and Utilization of Educational Evaluation Results at the National Institute for Educational Evaluation, and the National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions’ commission for the development of the initiative for the Law of Higher Education. Additionally, Silva Laya has published several articles, books, and book chapters with national and international publishers. Among her latest publications are Dilemas y desafíos de la equidad en la educación superior: El caso de la UACM (2021); Urban Poverty and Education: A systematic literature review (2020); and The pedagogical dimension of equity in higher education (2020).

Dr. Silva Laya earned her bachelor’s in education with an emphasis in pedagogical sciences, and her master’s in educational research and development, both from the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. She completed her doctorate in education from Universidad Iberoamericana.

Herman Van de Mosselaer

Herman Van de Mosselaer

Artesis Plantijn University College Antwerp

Herman Van de Mosselaer, Ph.D., has 40 years of experience in higher education in Flanders, Belgium, which includes 20 years as teacher and coordinator of the first year in a teacher training college. He spent an additional 20 years in other various positions, serving as department heads in both education and in education and research. Dr. Van de Mosselaer has experience as a chairman, secretary, and member of visitation committees for bachelor's and master's programs in Belgium and the Netherlands. Since his retirement in 2018, Van de Mosselaer remains professionally active on a number of his favorite themes, including the first-year experience and students in transition.

Previously, Van de Mosselaer was a member of the Quality Assurance working group of Vlhora, the Council of Flemish University Colleges, and of the steering committee for learning outcomes for higher education at the VLUHR, the Flemish Council of Universities and University Colleges. He coordinated international projects on topics such as access to higher education, retention and student success, and collaboration with the world of work. Van de Mosselaer was also a member of the EFYE Conference Organizing Committee.

Van de Mosselaer has expertise in several areas including curriculum development, problem-based learning, assessment for learning, learning competences, generic skills and 21st century skills, and study career guidance. He has published on topics such as democratic education, cooperative learning, assessment, ICT in teaching, learning competencies, and collaboration between higher education and the world of work.

Supporting and coaching the learning of first-year students has been and remains one of his major interests. In 2005, he started a first research project on this subject. This led to the development of Lemo, a self-assessment feedback and feed-forward tool on learning competences and motivation for first-year students. The tool is now used in many higher education institutions in Flanders and the Netherlands, along with adapted versions in high schools. Since 2016, this online tool is part of the mandatory entry test for students in all Flemish teacher training colleges. In 2018, a new version was implemented.

Dr. Van de Mosselaer earned degrees in psychology and educational sciences at Ghent University. He is influenced by positive psychology with a focus on appreciative inquiry and solution.

Jacques van der Meer

Jacques van der Meer

University of Otago
New Zealand

Jacques van der Meer, Ph.D., is an associate professor and works in both the Office of Student Success and College of Education at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Dr. van der Meer has also worked as academic director in student learning development as part of the Higher Education Development Centre at the University of Otago.

Previously, Van der Meer worked in a variety of educational settings, including as a teacher and guidance counselor in a secondary school and as a director of community education.

His research areas relate to student transition and induction into higher education, student engagement, peer learning, student wellbeing, and student leadership. He also has an interest in student retention and achievement, especially of underrepresented minorities.

In 2016, van der Meer recently received the Outstanding Supplemental Instruction Research award by the International Center for Supplemental Instruction and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The award was based on his co-authoring of a systematic review into the effectiveness of supplemental instruction that was published in the Review of Education Research.

Dr. van der Meer earned his master’s in counseling at Auckland University. He earned his doctorate in Higher Education and Higher Education Administration from the University of Otago.

Reiko Yamada

Reiko Yamada

Doshisha University

Reiko Yamada, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Higher Education and Student Research at Doshisha University (DU) in Kyoto, Japan. Dr. Yamada has long been interested in comparative higher education policy in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. More recently, she conducted the quantitative study for student development and is engaged in comparative student research between Japan, Korea, and the United States. Additionally, Yamada was the first president of the Japan Association of the First-Year Experience.

Previously, Yamada was a professor and dean of the Faculty of Social Studies in the Department of Education and Culture as well as the director of the Center for Higher Education and Student Research, both at DU. Yamada has also served as Director of the Center for Learning Support and Faculty Development and as Assistant Academic Provost at Doshisha and on the committee of the Central Council for Education in Japan.

Yamada has published extensively on student success and higher education policy, including on topics such as active learning, articulation from high school to college, international comparative education, measuring student learning outcomes, and productivity in higher education. Her most recent English publications include: “Generic Skills of Economics and Educational Science Students-Insights from a German-Japanese Study” (2020); “New Directions of STEM Research and Learning in the World Ranking Movement: A Comparative Perspective” (2018); “Impact of Higher Education Policy on Private Universities in Japan: Emergence of Inequality Issue of Educational Opportunities in Japan: An Analysis of Factors to Determine Opportunities for Higher Education” (2018).

Dr. Yamada earned her bachelor’s from Doshisha University and her master’s in education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She completed her doctorate in education, also from UCLA.


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