Meet the Team

Jenny Steiner, Ph.D

Jenny Steiner

SASS Coordinator
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Jenny is the Coordinator for Student Academic Success Services, overseeing the LASK course curriculum, academic skills coaching services, and the SASS instructor team. Jenny is passionate about the work in SASS and is excited to help students identify effective and efficient systems and strategies for reaching heightened levels of academic success.  Originally from Michigan, Jenny has spent some time living in Ohio, Wisconsin, and now Minnesota and affectionately refers to her life as the "Tour de Midwest." Jenny loves anything musical theater, running, reading, and spending time with loved ones.

Kelly Collins, M.A.

Kelly Collins, M.A.

Kelly Collins Graduate Instructor
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Kelly Collins is a doctoral student in the University of Minnesota's OLPD Higher Education program. She currently serves as an Academic Skills Coach and course instructor with the U of M Student Counseling Services department. Additionally, Kelly teaches a class for first-year student athletes for the University of Minnesota Lindahl Academic Center. Her research interests include college access and retention for low-income and first-generation students. Kelly loves to cook, read, bike, and meditate.

Nisma Elias, M.A.

Nisma Elias, M.A.

Nisma Elias, M.A.

Graduate Instructor
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Nisma is a doctoral student in Comparative International Development Education program in the Organizational Leadership & Policy Development Department. Before moving to Minnesota, Nisma had been living and working in Zanzibar, Tanzania where she was engaged as an economist for the Ministry for Education. Previous to that she worked for the Education Group at the World Bank in Washington D.C. Having worked on global education issues for a number of years, she is excited to to work with students through SASS on an individual level to help them navigate the social and academic expectations of college, and to a healthy and successful career after. 

Lisa Kaler, M.A.

Lisa Kaler, M.A.

Lisa KalerGraduate Instructor
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Lisa is a Ph.D. student in the department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Her focus is on higher education, and her research interests are primarily concerned with college student mental health. Lisa previously worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was a student conduct officer and member of the office of the Dean of Students. Lisa originally hails from Virginia. She is an Italian citizen, a dog lover, and a mother of one. Lisa holds a bachelor of arts from the University of Virginia and a master of arts from the University of Minnesota.  

Julio Vega Cedeno, M.A.

Julio Vega Cedeno, M.A.

Graduate Instructor
Pronouns: He/Him/His

Julio Vega Cedeno, M.AJulio is a Ph.D student in the Culture and Teaching program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. He works with SASS as the Graduate Instructor and Academic Skills Coach. As a native Puerto Rican his research interest include the critical analysis of diverse manifestations of popular culture. More specifically, latin urban music like reggaeton and latin trap. His work dives into how intersections of identity are represented and how they both resist and perpetuate structures of power. Julio enjoys staying active by weightlifting and doing basic boxing training. In his spare time Julio likes to explore the Twin Cities in order to immerse himself within the Latinx community. He also enjoys dancing, video games, comic books movies, science fiction and reading young adult novels. As an educator, Julio is passionate about the integration of popular culture into his teaching practice.  

Shakita Thomas Kpetay, M.A.

Shakita Thomas Kpetay, M.A.

Shakita Thomas, M.A.

Graduate Instructor
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

Shakita is a Ph.D student in the Culture and Teaching program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She works with SASS as the Graduate Instructor and Academic Skills Coach. As a native of Chicago, Il and a first generation college graduate, her research interests include: Black education, college access and success, and urban school restructuring. Recognizing inequality within education systems, Shakita enjoys working with individuals wherever they are in their academic journeys and providing knowledge and resources to assist them along the way. When she is not working or studying, she spends time in her garden and with her family and dog. 

finn schneider, M.Ed.

finn schneider, M.Ed.

finn schneider, M.Ed.

Graduate Instructor
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs

finn is a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota and studies higher education in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Originally from Michigan, finn moved to Duluth, Minnesota for college and fell in love with Lake Superior. finn has lived in Vermont and California and often misses the mountains and the ocean but is happy to be back in the Midwest. In their spare time, finn enjoys being outside doing such activities as hiking, gardening, kayaking, backpacking, and trail running. finn loves dogs and would be happy to tell you about their dog, Sprout. The topics which finn likes to explore in their research include anti-racist teaching and the experiences of queer and transgender students on college campuses. Teaching LASk courses is one of finn's favorite aspects of their work on campus - do not hesitate to contact finn if you have any questions about their approach to teaching or want to know more about taking a class with them.