Rita was a member the research team for the Foundational Learner Project and Project Spectrum funded by the Apollo Group. The projects used a design thinking process using qualitative and quantitative data to explore the student’s experiences in the UOP on-ground and online classrooms with the goal of surfacing issues and challenges and generating initiatives to improve the learning environment for students. Currently, she is working on a qualitative analysis research project exploring socio-cultural approach to generating educational change framed within the empathetic design-thinking model. She has presented at the Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Conference, World AI (Appreciative Inquiry) Conference, and several of the Technology, College, and Community Worldwide Online Conferences.
As an educator focused on mathematics and science education, Rita was a member of the Arizona Department of Education Task Force to facilitate with the implementation of math skills into classroom practice. She was co-director of two grant-funded projects, Science and Mathematics for Indian Learners and Educators and Science and Mathematics for Arizona’s Rural Teachers) designed to implement mathematics and science education and staff development opportunities for rural teachers throughout Arizona. During her years as a public school educator, Rita was a school principal, a K-12 teacher specializing in mathematics, science, and reading, a staff development leader, a curriculum developer, and an instructional coordinator. Rita was an adjunct faculty at Northern Arizona University and part of the University of Arizona Math Co-op Program.
Rita is actively involved in Pet Partners of Southern Arizona, a dog therapy group with over 100 members in the Tucson area. The teams visit various facilities and events, such as hospitals, assisted living facilities, children’s shelters, the prison, University of Arizona and Pima College during exam week, and many more. The purpose of the visits is to bring the unconditional love of a dog to those in the community. She also volunteers at Southern Arizona Community Food Bank, and works on projects devoted to Humane Education in K-12 school settings.