Meet The Team
Levon T. Esters, Ph.D. Project Director
Dr. Levon Esters, Project Director, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education at Purdue University. He has degrees in Agricultural Business (B.S., Florida A&M University), Agricultural Education (M.S., North Carolina A&T State University) and Agricultural & Extension Education (Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University). Dr. Esters’ research expertise focuses on the STEM career development of underrepresented minorities (URMs), and the mentoring and human capacity development of women & URMs in Science, Technology, Engineering, Agriculture & Math (STEAM) disciplines. A major goal of Dr. Esters' research is to develop the career readiness of the STEM workforce pipeline for the STEM-based agricultural and life sciences industry.
Mentoring@Purdue - MAP Director
Associate Professor Youth Development & Agricultural Education
Email Dr Levon Esters
Neil A. Knobloch, Ph.D.
Dr. Neil Knobloch, Project Co-Director
Dr. Neil Knobloch, Project Co-Director, is an Associate Professor of Agricultural and Life Science Education at Purdue University. He is chair of the Graduate Program in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education. He teaches Research Design for Social Sciences and Methods of Integrated STEM Education. He develops teachers, graduate students, and professors and helps them transition their teaching strategies to be more engaging for their students. Using the learner-centered teaching model, he studies student learning and motivation. He has conducted curriculum and faculty development projects to enhance human capacity at Land-grant Universities (LGUs) and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and has served as project director or co-project director of 42 grant-funded projects (cumulative amount of $7.4 million). He is passionate about helping faculty and students develop more engaging educational experiences that will enhance the STEM education and career pipeline.
Mentoring@Purdue - MAP Co-Director
Associate Professor Extension Education
Torrie A. Cropps is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Agricultural Science Education and Communication at Purdue University. She received her Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Economics and her Master of Science in Agricultural Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Torrie has four years of professional experience in education. She taught secondary Agricultural Education courses for one year and taught science at the middle and high school levels for three years. She also has eight years of experience working with various summer enrichment programs. As Educational Outreach Coordinator, Torrie coordinates M@P's Summer Scholars Program and Peer Mentor Program. Torrie's research interests focus on the mentoring of Black women in STEM-based agricultural and life science disciplines, critical qualitative research, and the career development of graduate students in STEM.
Mentoring @ Purdue - Educational Outreach Coordinator
Brandon is a third year doctoral student in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education at Purdue University. His research interests include Higher Education Policy, diversity and inclusion, and 1890 Land Grants Universities. Brandon serves as the Social Media and Marketing Coordinator for M@P Program. He has presented at conferences on evaluations of the M@P program workshops and seminars and on diversity and inclusion mechanisms in higher education. Additionally, he serves as President of Tecumseh Club Toastmasters International, served on the planning team that developed the course "Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Social Justice and Inclusion" and currently teaches AGR 201 online course "Communicating Across Cultures."
Mentoring@Purdue - Social Media and Marketing Coordinator
Quintana “Quincy” Clark
Quincy Clark is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication at Purdue University. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Management of Information Systems from the University of San Francisco and Master of Science Degree in Technology Education from Purdue University. Quincy has several years of professional experience with STEM programs at higher educational institutions where she developed and managed STEM programs, recruitment activities, and mentoring initiatives. Currently, she serves as a Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) for a National Science Foundation (NSF) project titled, “Modeling Agri-Life Sciences through STEM-Integration.” Quincy also serves as a Scholar Mentor for the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP), a National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative used to significantly increase the number of domestic students persisting to doctoral degrees in STEM. Quincy’s research focuses on the integration of STEM into teaching and learning, and the intersection of cognitive load, motivation, and mentoring. She is currently investigating STEM learning experiences of middle school students. In particular, she is helping develop open-ended, real-world learning activities through model-eliciting activities (MEAs) that will connect students to their community through agricultural life sciences (AgLS) contexts. Quincy is also investigating the impact that STEM intervention/mentoring programs have on enhancing underrepresented students’ preparedness for, and persistence in, graduate school.
Mentoring@Purdue - Coordinator of Research Initiatives
Liz Alexander is a first year Master student in the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Sciences from Purdue University. Previously serving as an informal agricultural educator at Conner Prairie, Liz has experience mentoring youth and peers. Liz has several years of leadership and mentoring experience through a variety of Purdue organizations, including the College of Agriculture Dean’s Scholars Peer Mentor program and Boiler Gold Rush Orientation Program. Liz’s research interests include informal adult education, community engagement, women in agriculture, international food security, and sustainable agriculture.
Mentoring@Purdue – Campus Activities Coordinator
Ulyssa Hester, a native of Atlanta, GA, is a 1st year Ph.D. student in ASEC. She earned her B.S. in Biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and went on to earn her M.S. in Biogeochemistry here at Purdue University. Ulyssa currently serves as a Program Assistant for M@P and Graduate Assistant in the Civic Engagement & Leadership Development office where she helps to coordinate service days and programming that facilitates students' leadership development. She is also an executive board member of the Black Graduate Student Association. Ulyssa also co-coordinates the M@P Peer Mentor Program. Her research interests include student development, underserved student experiences in higher education, outreach and engagement.
Mentoring@Purdue - Program Assistant
Ryan Kornegay is a first year Master’s Student in the Department of Youth Development and Agricultural Education. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) with a degree in Food Science. As a previous USDA1890 Scholar, Ryan has had over four years’ worth of summer internship experiences with the USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture in the Institute of Food Safety & Nutrition. , his time at FAMU he also worked with the Cooperative Extension Program as an Ag-Discovery Counselor & EFNEP Student Assistant. His research interests include Food Security in Rural Communities, Food Safety Education, Human & Community Capacity Development through Agriculture.
Mentoring@Purdue - Program Assistant
Jessica Merzdorf is a second-year Master’s degree student in the Agricultural Science Education and Communication department and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences. As the M@P Editor, she writes, edits, and designs publications and flyers for the team and helped to develop “M@P-ping Out Your Future: The Mentoring@Purdue Resource Guide” for undergraduates planning to apply to graduate school. Jessica served on the leadership teams for several organizations as an undergraduate, including the Purdue chapters of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Spanish Honor Society, and the Student Academy of Audiology. Her research interests focus on the ways that our social and cultural identities affect our understanding of science news and media.
Mentoring@Purdue - Editor
Zachary Brown is first year doctoral student in the Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication. He hails from Missouri City, Texas. He received his B.S. in Agricultural Sciences with a focus in Animal Science from Southern University A&M College in Louisiana. After attending Southern, he obtained his M.S. in Agricultural Education from Iowa State University. Zachary has spent the past few years working with the George Washington Carver Summer Internship Program and MANRRS chapter at Iowa State University. He hopes to continue working with diverse populations as he progresses in academia. Zachary enjoys learning about new technology, riding his motorcycle, and reading books of all genre.