LDL Program Team

The Learning Design and Leadership concentration has a group of individuals to support you prior to, during, and after your graduate school experience.

Who to Contact

While you are welcome to contact your faculty advisor at anytime, it is likely that the LDL Program and Academic Advisor or Teaching Assistants can help you. If we are unable to assist you, we will refer you to your faculty advisor or another person within the College or department.

Dr. Kara Francis, Adjunct Faculty and LDL Program Advisor: Questions about the LDL program, program advising, including course selection, Exam-Dissertation Sequence, General questions or anytime you aren’t sure who to call

LDL Program TAs: Regular LDL Course-related questions, CGScholar questions

LDL Program Leaders and Faculty Advisors

Bill Cope is a Professor in the Department of Education Policy, Organization & Leadership, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include theories and practices of pedagogy, cultural and linguistic diversity, and new technologies of representation and communication. His and Mary Kalantzis’ recent research has focused on the development of digital writing and assessment technologies, with the support of a number of major grants from the US Department of Education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Foundation. The result has been the CGScholar multimodal writing and assessment environment.


Mary Kalantzis was from 2006 to 2016 Dean of the College of Education at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Before this, she was Dean of the Faculty of Education, Language and Community Services at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, and President of the Australian Council of Deans of Education. With Bill Cope, she has co-authored or co-edited: New Learning: Elements of a Science of Education, Cambridge University Press, 2008 (2nd edition, 2012); Ubiquitous Learning, University of Illinois Press, 2009; Towards a Semantic Web: Connecting Knowledge in Academic Research, Elsevier, 2009; Literacies, Cambridge University Press 2012 (2nd edition, 2016); A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies, Palgrave, 2016; and e-Learning Ecologies, Routledge, 2017.

Vania Castro is a Teaching Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She previously held the Werner Baer Post-Doctoral Position at the Lemann Center for Brazilian Studies at the University of Illinois from 2022 to 2023. She developed an innovative framework to support Brazilian teachers in implementing the new curriculum standards at schools. Dr. Castro completed her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG), Brazil, in May 2021. She was a visiting scholar with the CAPES/PrInt program at UIUC in 2019 and 2020 where she developed part of her doctoral studies. Her investigation centered on leveraging mobile devices to provide support to educators and students in underserved regions of Brazil. She was also a Fulbright scholar at Florida State University (FSU) from 2015-2016. Her current research interests include emerging technologies in education, mobile learning, multiliteracies, teacher education, and artificial intelligence.


LDL Program Advisor and Dissertation Instructor

Kara Francis earned her Doctorate of Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Learning Design and Leadership in February 2021. Her research focused on the relationship between sense of community and peer review for doctoral dissertation students.  She currently serves as the LDL program, academic, and dissertation advisor. She is your first point of contact for anything related to the LDL program, including course selection, forms, research topic exploration, or the exam-dissertation sequence. Kara co-teaches the exam-dissertation sequence. Kara is also a consultant who partners with organizations to implement social collaboration and learning solutions using online communities.  Sher earned her B.S. from Brigham Young University (BYU) and a Master’s from both the University of Illinois and also from the University of Minnesota. While born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, she has lived in Minnetonka, Minnesota for over twenty years. She enjoys stamping home-made cards, exploring the many bike trails throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, attending Minnesota Twins baseball and Gophers Women’s volleyball games, and spending time with her husband and young son.


College of Education Online Programs Advisor

Brianna Davis earned her Masters of Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in Learning Design and Leadership in 2021. She currently serves as the College of Education Online Programs Advisor. This position supports only online students across all College of Education online programs. We may occasionally refer you to Brianna for certain questions or requests.


LDL Program Teaching Assistants

LDL Courses:

Stuart L. Mattingly is in his 5th year as a Doctor of Education student in the Learning Design & Leadership program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Originally, he is from Louisville, Kentucky but currently lives in Tucson, Arizona with his awesome wife and son. His research interests center around authentic assessment, effective online pedagogy, and higher education policy change. In addition to teaching, Stuart enjoys flying small aircraft, pottery, cooking, guitar, travel, and home construction projects.


Akash Kumar Saini is a 1st year Ph.D. student in the Learning Design and Leadership Program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). His research and practice focus on developing, designing, exploring, and testing digital tools (such as Virtual Reality, Games, etc.) to facilitate learning and provide specialized instructions, training, and guidance for integrating such technologies in educational practices. He is also very keen to investigate the impact of new media and technology (especially Virtual and Augmented Reality) on the various domains of learning and explore the impact and benefits of visualizing mathematical concepts using Augmented Reality in school education.