Access & Equity Mentoring

Access & Equity Mentoring (AEM) is a new peer mentoring program organized and administered by GSE Ed.D. program graduates. AEM supports the Graduate School of Education’s commitment to diversity, equity and social justice. While all students may participate in the AEM program, the focus is on supporting Ed.D. students from populations that have been traditionally under-served and underrepresented in higher education. During graduate school all students can experience feelings of stress, inadequacy, or uncertainty. The challenge can be especially daunting for traditionally underserved and underrepresented students. The purpose of the AEM program is to help students meet the challenges of doctoral study and develop adequate networks to navigate the complex terrain of higher education.

AEM Program Components

  • Mentors are volunteers.
  • Mentors commit to one year of service.
  • Interactions may occur virtually or in person.
  • Mentees should be open to learning from the mentors' experiences and respectful of their time.
  • AEM is not a subsitute for tutoring, counseling, or academic advising.

AEM Mentors

Mentors are typically GSE Ed.D. program graduates who commit to sharing the lessons they learned during their doctoral study and careers. Mentors assist mentees in three key ways:

1) building confidence,
2) problem-solving,
3) locating resources.

Mentors commit to being non-judgmental, empathetic, informative. Read our mentors' bios below:

Heba Abdo is an educational researcher, university lecturer of Teacher Education, former teacher and school leader,  and social activist. She received her B.A. and M.Ed. degrees at Rutgers University and recently completed the Rutgers Ed.D. Program in Teacher Leadership.  She also works at Rutgers University School System Improvement, a USDOE grant-based project that supports principals, teachers, and instructional coaches in many NJ charter schools. Heba has presented at many conferences and received two research awards.  Her research interests include teacher evaluation as a formative process, teacher self-reflection, instructional coaching, and teacher leadership.  She lives in Piscataway with her two daughters and her cat.

Chimaobi Amutah is the Manager of Data Analytics for the Regional Achievement Centers and the Program Director for School Improvement Grants at the New Jersey Department of Education. Prior to his work in school support Chimaobi taught math, social studies, English, and more for a variety of traditional public, public charter, and private educational districts and organizations. At the GSE, his dissertation research compared and contrasted parental advocacy methods in neighboring communities at significantly disparate income levels. A native of Trenton, Chimaobi holds a bachelor's degree in African and African American Studies from Harvard, a master's degree in education from the University of Mississippi, and recently received his doctorate in education in Education, Culture, & Society from Rutgers GSE.  

Keith Benson is the President-Elect of the Camden Education Association. His areas of expertise are in urban schooling and critical pedagogies, urban education reform policy, and school choice within contemporary urban redevelopment. Further, within a standpoint theory framework, he maintains an interest in highlighting the voices of forgotten urban community members impacted by both urban redevelopment and the education reforms that accompany it. Additionally, as an urban education researcher and activist, he is an active member of local activist civic groups Save Camden Public Schools, Black Lives Matter-Camden, New Jersey Communities United and the Camden County NAACP. He is the current President of the Camden Education Association, the local union for Camden's public school educators and support staff. He received his Ed.D. from Rutgers GSE. 

Related publications include: “It’s the worst place to live”: Urban youth and the challenge of school-based youth civic participation (Rubin, Hayes and Benson 2009), "Publishing as social capital: Building community with digital tools" (Danley, Dahan and Benson, January 2017) "Where y'all teachers at when we need you?" Expectations of city public school teachers beyond the schoolhouse (Benson, 2017); and chapter under review "They don't REALLY know Camden High: Student perspectives on their negatively viewed high school" in (Re) Savage Inequalities (Patton, Lewis, Rivers and Farmer-Hinton). 

Glenn Cassidy has 22 years of experience in education, all spent working in the inner city of Newark, New Jersey. While he has served in a variety of roles, he has spent most of this time working with students who come from challenging backgrounds and teaching students how to be effective leaders. Glenn currently oversees the intensive year-long orientation - middle school to high school transition - program at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School beginning with the “Freshman Overnight” and ending with the “Backpacking Project”.  Glenn works with many of the student leaders, teaching and advising them in their roles.

In addition to his school roles, Glenn frequently conducts social justice and diversity trainings for students and adults in both New Jersey and Virginia.

Glenn earned a Bachelor's in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a Master's in Education from St. Peter's College and is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Education with a concentration of Education, Culture and Society from Rutgers GSE.

Tieka Harris is currently the Director of the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Program at Hudson County Community College, responsible for developing short-term and long-term strategic initiatives for the program, and overseeing overall operations to ensure low-income, first-generation college students receive academic and financial support to pursue their educational goals.

Tieka’s background includes over 15 years of experience working with students, including as a high school English teacher, a college writing tutor and instructor, an out-of-school time program and youth advocacy director at a Baltimore non-profit organization, and an advisor for adult students at Centenary College, as well as EOF students at The College of New Jersey, and School of Communication and Information undergraduates at Rutgers University.

Tieka has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Education from Rutgers – New Brunswick, and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education in Education, Culture, and Society from the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. Her dissertation is focused on the college acclimation and navigation experiences of low-income, first-generation Black female undergraduate students who are not affiliated with opportunity programs.

Jennifer V. Jones received a B.A. (anthropology) from NYU, and doctoral degree (Ed.D.) from Rutgers GSE in 2012. Dr. Jones has been a mathematics and science elementary grades teacher, teacher leader and district coach (math & technology), local education association representative, and teacher-researcher in a NJ urban school district, special education mathematics teaching and learning specialist for the NYC public schools, and adjunct professor at TCNJ and WPU. As a doctoral fellow and research assistant, she worked with Rutgers GSE faculty to collect classroom data (videotaping, interviewing) for a large NSF-funded project (MetroMath) to study mathematics and affect. This led to her own research interest to examine the impact of affect on learning and teaching mathematics, and relationships between racial and mathematics identity co-construction that resulted in a mixed-methods qualitative dissertation entitled Case Stories of Mathematical and Racial Identity among Black Girls in a Small Urban School District.

During and after doctoral studies at the GSE (2009-2016), Dr. Jones worked at The Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education (CMSCE) on Busch campus, as project coordinator or director of The Center’s grant-funded MSP multi-year math and special education teacher professional development programs. During the 2016-2017 academic year she served as Clinical Faculty for Mathematics with Urban Teachers at the Johns Hopkins School of Education in Baltimore, M.D. (coursework and in-class coaching).

A NJ native, she has lived in North and Central urban and suburban locations, as well as Cambridge, M.A., and Baltimore, M.D., and now lives in West New York, N.J. to be close to her daughter, son-in-law, and young grandson.

Avani Rana is currently the Director of Leadership at The College of New Jersey.  Previously she worked at Rutgers University as the Assistant Director of Leadership and at Douglass College, the Women’s College at Rutgers.  She has extensive knowledge on creating and developing leadership programs and has overseen the development of an emerging leaders program, student professional development series, and student leaders conference. Avani has also worked with niche populations such as women,  transfer students, veterans, and non-traditional students.  In her new role at The College of NJ she has been working with a number of different offices to create leadership collaborations

Avani is a graduate of Douglass College, Rutgers University with a BA in Political Science.  She then attended the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University and received her masters in Higher Education Administration/Student Affairs.  Dr. Rana received her Doctorate of Education at The Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. Her research interests are student involvement and the ethnic identity of South Asian college students. She is currently the co-chair elect for the NASPA KC on Student Leadership Programs..

Ana C. Rodriguez uses her experiences as a first-generation college graduate, former EOF student, TRiO McNair Scholar, and resident of Camden County to understand and support low income first generation students in the TRiO SSS program who are working towards a bachelor’s degree at Rutgers University–Camden. Notable accomplishments include coordination of “LINK UP”, a peer mentoring program for new students, and the establishment of B1GS, a newly formed student centered organization that Bridges 1st Generation College Students on campus.  In addition, she contributed to writing a successful federal TRiO SSS grant which secured $1.1 million dollars to support TRiO SSS over a 5 year period at Rutgers Camden.

Ana Rodriguez received a B.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University, M.A. in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education, Culture, and Society at Rutgers Graduate School of Education.  In March 2014, Ana traveled to China and received 3 credits for an independent study project that focused on short term study abroad experiences among low-income first generation students.  She has completed all coursework and is immersed in the dissertation phase. Her research topic is “Understanding the Perspectives on Campus Racial and Ethnic Climate among Latino First Generation College Students at Rutgers Camden.

Request A Mentor

Applications will be reviewed on an on-going basis. To request a mentor, fill out the AEM Application Form (PDF) and email to, OR complete the Access & Equity Mentoring Request Form.

Join the Mentor Team

Interested in joining the mentor team? Contact