Research Personnel

Principal Investigators


Tim OdegardTim Odegard, Ph.D.

Tim Odegard leads the research efforts of the laboratory. He is a professor of psychology and holds the Katherine Davis Murfree Chair of Excellence in Dyslexic Studies at Middle Tennessee State University, leading the efforts of the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia. He completed his B.A. in psychology at Hendrix College, his M.A. and Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville, and his NICHD sponsored postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Texas Arlington. He is also a trained educator who has worked with students with reading disabilities and completed a two-year dyslexia specialist training program at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas. He serves as an Editor-in-Chief of Annals of Dyslexia. Also, he served on the editorial board of Perspectives on Language and Literacy. He also served as a member of the Understood Parent Advisory Committee and currently serves on the AIM Scientific Advisory Board. He received the Luke Waites ALTA Award of Service in recognition of significant contributions to improving services for individuals with dyslexia and the IMSLEC Innovator Award as an outstanding MSLE professional. As a developmental cognitive psychologist, his research focuses on memory and language. His reading research focuses on three areas: identification of children who struggle with reading, intervention for students who struggle to read, and teacher training.


Emily Farris, Ph.D.

Emily Farris is the Assistant Director for Educational Services and Research Initiatives at the Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia at Middle Tennessee State University. She co-leads many of the research activities within the laboratory and serves as adjunct graduate faculty. She completed her B.A. in psychology and  M.A. in clinical/counseling psychology from Midwestern State University, her Ph.D. in experimental psychology at the University of Texas Arlington, and her postdoctoral fellowship in psychiatry and neuroscience at the University of California San Francisco under the mentorship of Dr. Fumiko Hoeft. She also serves as a consulting editor for Annals of Dyslexia. While an assistant professor of psychology she received the Golden Windmill award from the La Mancha Society at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in recognition of completed intellectual contributions and pursuit of new research projects. She is a developmental cognitive psychologist, who specializes in cognitive neuroscience. Much of her research focuses on enhancing our understanding of reading difficulties with the ultimate goal of improving our ability to identify individuals with reading difficulties and develop treatment programs that are tailored to suit the individual’s needs in order to enhance every person’s ability to learn to read. She pursues these interests using a variety of behavioral, cognitive, and neuroimaging methodologies and statistical analysis techniques. Over the past 15 years her research efforts and many of her subsequent publications have focused on (a) understanding cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying foundational literacy skills and reading disabilities, (b) reading resilience, and (c) changes in these skills and mechanisms over time or in response to intervention, as well as (d) aspects of classification and identification models of dyslexia, (e) legislative efforts to aid in the identification of dyslexia, and (f) teacher knowledge of literacy.


Research Affiliates


Margie Gillis

Stuart Bernstein, Ph.D.

Stuart Bernstein is a professor in the psychology department at Middle Tennessee State University. He received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology at Michigan State University under the direction of Dr. Thomas Carr, with specialization in the cognitive processes that underlie reading and spelling. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in spelling development at Wayne State University under the direction of Dr. Rebecca Treiman. Dr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience teaching undergraduate and graduate classes, publishing research, and conducting community service projects in literacy. Awards he has received include Outstanding Faculty in Experiental Learning, the Educator of the Year Award from the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, Stones River Chapter, and Community Volunteer of the Year award from Read to Succeed. Dr. Bernstein has published research articles on reading development, spelling development, dyslexia, and health literacy, and was coauthor on a book chapter about dyslexia. Dr. Bernstein has served on the board of Read to Succeed, a community adult literacy organization, for the past 15 years.

Margie GillisMargie B. Gillis, Ed.D.

Margie B. Gillis is a Research Affiliate at Fairfield University and Haskins Laboratories, a Certified Dyslexia Therapist, an Academic Language Therapist and the founder and president of Literacy How, Inc. of North Haven, CT. She became interested in reading while at the University of Connecticut where she studied with Isabelle Liberman. Subsequently, she received her Doctorate of Education from the University of Louisville in special education where she began her work training teachers of reading. As president of Literacy How and as a research affiliate at both Fairfield University and Haskins Laboratories, Dr. Gillis creates new opportunities to empower teaching excellence. In 2010, she founded the Anne E. Fowler Foundation to continue the work of her mentor Anne Fowler. The Foundation supports scholarships for teachers to earn their Masters or Sixth Year degree in Reading and Language Development at Fairfield University. In 2012, Dr. Gillis co-founded the Early Language and Literacy Initiative with Rhonda Kiest, the President of Stepping Stones Museum for Children. Dr. Gillis has also worked at the policy level with the CT state legislature and the Connecticut State Department of Education to pass bills that support evidence-based reading instruction as well as policies that support the identification and treatment of dyslexia. She is the co-founder and former president of Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities, the former president of the CT Branch of the International Dyslexia Society, and a board member of the Dyslexia Society of CT and the New Alliance Foundation. She is also a professional adviser for the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction (IFERI), Read Works and Dr. Gillis and her team of Mentors provide professional development opportunities for teachers on how best to implement evidence-based reading practices in the classroom.

Anna MiddletonAnna Middleton, Ph.D., CALT

Anna Middleton is the Research Scientist in the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas, TX. She earned her Ph.D. in communication sciences and disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas, with a focus on neurolinguistics, language development, and literacy. She earned her M.A. in psychology at San Diego State University in 2010, focusing on cognitive and linguistic development, and she earned her B.A. in psychology in 2006 at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and has provided intervention therapies to children with dyslexia since 2007. She also serves as a consulting editor for Annals of Dyslexia. Her research interests include improving student outcomes by optimizing treatment efficacy, characterizing treatment resistance, and better understanding the psychological and neurological mechanisms underlying specific learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia.

Jeremiah Ring

Jeremiah Ring, Ph.D.

Jeremiah Ring is a Research Scientist in the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders at the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. He completed a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder with a focus on basic reading processes and the identification of and intervention for dyslexia. He joined the Luke Waites Center in 2000 and contributed to the development of the hospital’s curriculum for treating children with dyslexia. Dr. Ring’s current research interests include the neuroscience of reading, the continuing development of innovative approaches to intervention, and the study of individual differences in response to treatment for reading disabilities.

Lab Coordinator

Denise Ealy, B.S., MSc.

Denise Ealy is a second year student in the M. A. experimental psychology program. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia in psychology with an emphasis in neuroscience and a master's in cognitive and clinical neuroscience from Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research interests include creativity, cognitive aging, and the development of cognitive processes.


Graduate Student Members


Jessica Dainty, M.F.A., ABD

Jessica Dainty is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She has worked as a special education teacher specializing in reading intervention, particularly in secondary students, and now works as a district-wide consulting teacher to K-12 resource teachers in Putnam County. She has a Bachelor’s degree from UT Knoxville in English and an M.F.A. from Lesley University in creative writing. She is an award-winning author with a 2016 debut novel from Pandamoon Publishing (THE SHAPE OF THE ATMOSPHERE). She also serves on the executive board for the Tennessee branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Her research interests are in the areas of morphology, early literacy skills, and methodological differences in teaching foundational skills to secondary students who are emerging readers.

Denise Ealy, B.S., MSc.

See brief bio above. Denise serves as the lab coordinator.

Lauren Hunsicker, B.S.

Lauren Hunsicker is a second year student in the M.A. school psychology program. She received her Bachelor's degree from MTSU in psychology with an emphasis in mental health services. Her research interests are related to school psychology, specifically how educational experiences and socioemotional factors impact reading ability and mental health. She aims to become a school psychologist for a public school district in Middle Tennessee. Lauren previously served as the lab coordinator and is currently a graduate assistant at the Center.

Katy Kloberdanz, M.Ed., LDT, CALT

Katy Kloberdanz is a first year Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She is a Certified Academic Language Therapist and a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist in the state of Texas, and working towards becoming a Qualified Instructor. She most recently served as an Education Consultant for Dyslexia and Related Disorders at Education Service Center – Region 20 in San Antonio, Texas, where she provided technical assistance and training for 91 districts and charter schools in 19 counties of central and south Texas. Her direct feedback was incorporated into the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, 2021 Update, helping shape the state’s dyslexia guidance document. Having taught in both private and public school settings, Katy has worked with diverse student populations and served in a variety of roles. She has worked as a classroom teacher, instructional specialist, data analyst, and dyslexia specialist, and she served as the dyslexia coordinator of a large urban district. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of North Texas and a M.Ed. in educational administration from Lamar University. Her research interests center around early dyslexia screening and identification, particularly for English Learners and twice exceptional students.

Shonna Phelps, M.Ed., ABD

Shonna Donovan Phelps is advanced Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She worked as a high school English teacher and RTI Coordinator. She is now an ELA Academic Consultant for the Southwest region of Tennessee. She has a Bachelor's degree from Belmont University and a M.Ed. from MTSU in curriculum and instruction. Her research interests include online versus traditional face-to-face literacy training for teachers as well as literacy leadership roles and responsibilities for K - 12 schools.

Ifeoluwa Popoola, M.Ed.

Ifeoluwaluwa Ayokunmi Popoola is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She has a bachelor's degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, ile- Ife, Nigeria and a M.Ed. from University of Lagos in physics education. Her research interest is identifying students with reading difficulties among races where these traits are undermined and proffering both short- and long-term remedies. 

Susan Porter, M.Ed., ABD

Susan Porter is a fifth year Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She has worked as a classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy coach in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She is currently an Instructional Specialist and MTSS Academic Team Lead in a Pre K – 4 school in Nashville. She has a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary education K-8 from Lipscomb University, and a M.Ed. in reading education from Vanderbilt University. She is an ex-officio member of the Tennessee Dyslexia Advisory Council. Her research interests include teacher knowledge of reading, identification and intervention for students with dyslexia, and effective response to intervention frameworks.

Pamela Shewalter, M.A.

Pamela Shewalter is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the literacy studies program. She has worked as a special education teacher in a K-8 school where she served as a reading interventionist and case manager.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in special education from MTSU in 2011 and a M.A. from Ball State University in autism and applied behavior analysis in 2016.  Her research interests are testing validity in struggling readers, best practices for interventions, and generalization of intervention methods. 


Undergraduate Student Members


Madalyn Dye

Madalyn is a junior majoring in psychology with minors in neuroscience and honors.

Lab Alumni

First & Last Name Role While Active in the Lab Years
K. Melissa McMahan      Graduate Assistant 2016-2019
Anne Phillips Graduate Assistant 2016-2020
Theodore Cristan II Graduate Assistant 2018-2019
Curtis Rookard Graduate Student Biostatistics Intern      2020
Kaitlyn Berry URECA Scholar 2019-2020
Robyn Sessler URECA Scholar 2019-2020
David Hughes Undergraduate Student 2019
Sarah Pope Undergraduate Student 2019
Hannah Johnson Morley    Graduate Assistant 2019-2021
Esmeralda Ramirez URECA Assistant 2020-2021
Erika Allen Undergraduate Student 2021-2022
Jayden Cottam Undergraduate Student 2022
Adam Dockery Undergraduate Student 2020-2022
Samantha Eisenberg-Godsey       Graduate Student 2020-2022
Tammy Hutchings Graduate Assistant 2017-2022
Sarah Jenkins Graduate Assistant 2021-2022
Kellie Payne Graduate Assistant 2018-2022
Dara Zwemer URECA Scholar 2020-2022


MTSU Students Interested in Joining our Research Team

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