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University of Phoenix Leadership Join Proceedings of 2024 Massachusetts PKAL Regional Network Winter Conference

By Michele Mitchum

Associate Dean Jacquelyn Kelly, Ph.D., Dianna Gielstra, Ph.D., instructor, and Tomáš J. Oberding, Ph.D., instructor will present strategies to transform online STEM education 

University of Phoenix is pleased to share that College of General Studies Associate Dean Jacquelyn Kelly, Ph.D., Dianna Gielstra, Ph.D., instructor, and Tomáš J. Oberding, Ph.D., instructor, will join the proceedings of the 2024 Massachusetts PKAL Regional Network Winter Conference, a virtual event hosted by Salem State University. The conference, themed "(Re)Engaging in Passionate STEM Teaching and Learning," takes place on January 10, 2024, from 9:00 AM to 3:30 PM ET.

The 2024 Massachusetts PKAL Regional Network Winter Conference will focus on exploring ways to re-engage in passionate STEM teaching and learning, supporting both students and faculty. Higher education professionals will come together to exchange ideas and celebrate creative and effective approaches for the next generation of scientists, mathematicians, and STEM professionals.

"I am immensely proud of the dedication and expertise demonstrated by Dr. Kelly and her esteemed colleagues in their commitment to serving our adult learners and advancing STEM education at University of Phoenix," shares Vice Provost of Colleges, Assessment and Curriculum, Doris Savron. “Their research, publications and classroom practice provide a strong foundation for delivering career-relevant and transformative education. I am confident that their contributions will not only resonate within the conference but will exemplify our university's ongoing commitment to empowering learners and shaping the future of education."

Kelly, Gielstra and Oberding will lead the University of Phoenix presentation titled, “The Power of Compassion: Four Strategies to Transform Your Undergraduate Online STEM Classroom.” The session will focus on strategies for transforming undergraduate online STEM classrooms through the power of compassion. The presenters will offer practical approaches to help engage students, use varied learning modalities, appreciate diverse perspectives and promote equitable outcomes. The session will also address practical ways to foster compassion through language and leadership strategies. 

"As champions of adult learners and advocates for advancing STEM education, we are thrilled to participate in the PKAL Conference,” shares Kelly. “I am deeply convinced of the impact that compassion can have in an online classroom. In our upcoming session, we won't just present practical strategies; we will immerse ourselves in exploring the benefits of fostering a compassionate learning environment.”

Kelly has more than 15 years of experience in science and math education. Her expertise is in translating STEM education research into practice at institutions of higher education. Kelly earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Science Education from Arizona State University. Her master's degree is in Materials Science and Engineering from Arizona State University. Her undergraduate degree is in Physics and Chemistry from California State University, San Marcos. She has been principal investigator and co-principal investigator of multiple federal grant projects to develop science education support for rural area K-12 teachers and to develop student government science officer roles in K-12. Kelly’s previous positions include science teaching, teacher evaluator for the county education service agency, and program director for professional development programs for science and math educators.

Gielstra is a biogeographer, course designer and an instructor for the University of Phoenix College of General Studies Environmental Science program. Their research interests are in human and environmental connections, geography, polar, mountain, and riparian environments. Their research work includes the use of technologies to engage K-12 learners in geoscience education through virtual reality and is a team member and content contributor to GeoEPIC.

Oberding is a coastal ecologist, course designer and an instructor for the University of Phoenix College of General Studies Environmental Science program. His work has taken him from the UNESCO world heritage site of HaLong Bay in VietNam to the Permian oilfield of New Mexico.  His research interests are in the fields of hydrology, mariculture, coral ecology, and environmental remediation.

Learn more here about research from University of Phoenix College of General Studies.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is dedicated to innovating education to help working adults enhance their careers and develop skills in a rapidly changing world. The university offers flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and skills-mapped curriculum for bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, along with a Career Services for Life® commitment. For more information, visit