WHO WE ARE
A PASSIONATE TEAM OF EDUCATORS & RESEARCHERS AT TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
MEET THE TEAM
Our extraordinary team of researchers, educators, data analysts, and education technology specialists bring together years of teaching and course management experience to support the program’s design, implementation, maintenance, and sustainable growth as we expand our program offerings in the future.
PROFESSOR, AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR, AND ACTIVIST
Amra Sabic-El-Rayess is a professor, award-winning author and researcher who grew up in Bihać, Bosnia and Herzegovina. After surviving the Bosnian Genocide, she emigrated to the United States in 1996. By December 1999, she earned a B.A. in Economics from Brown University. Later, she obtained two Master's degrees and a Doctorate from Columbia University. Currently, she is a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College working on understanding how and why societies fall apart and what role education can play in unifying communities. She has published on education-related issues and has delivered 100+ invited lectures around the world to adult and adolescent audiences. Her award-winning memoir, The Cat | Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival (Bloomsbury, 2020) was published to critical acclaim. Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess was awarded a 2021 Finalist Medal for Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction by the American Library Association and Best Book recognition by School Library Journal, Malala Fund, Capitol Choices, and Children’s Center for Literature for her memoir -- a defining text on resilience to hate and empowerment through education. Her next nonfiction contribution, Three Summers (Macmillan Publishers-FSG, April 9, 2024), is a story of resilience and sisterhood in the three years leading up to the Bosnian Genocide. Sabic-El-Rayess is currently President of the Brown Alumni Association and a member of The Corporation of Brown University.
TEAM LEAD, PROGRAM DESIGN, RESEARCH, AND STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
Vik Joshi is a Doctoral Student in the Philosophy and Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. He holds a B.A in Philosophy and Literature from Bard College (U.S) and an M.A in Biography and Creative Non-Fiction from the University of East Anglia (U.K). He has served on the faculty of the Bard Prison Initiative, teaching and advising in maximum and medium security prison in Up-State New York; taught as part of the Philosophy faculty at Fordham University; and held fellowships at the Center for Justice at Columbia University and within the inaugural cohort of Mr. Harry Belafonte's The Gathering for Justice. His research, which builds on Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess' novel theory of Educational Displacement, seeks to offer a robust philosophical account of resilience in schools alongside protective factors against violence such as belonging and storytelling. Inspired by Project Belonging's mission to build connected, compassionate, and caring student leaders who will unify their communities, Vik hopes to design a thoughtful learning experience for all our participants and build strong partnerships with organizations that seek to cultivate belonging in classrooms and schools.
TEAM LEAD, TECHNOLOGY, MEDIA, AND CREATIVE
Tina Keswani is currently a master’s student at Teachers College, Columbia University studying Communications, Media, and Learning Technologies Design with a concentration in Computing in Education. She is also Director for Technology and Media Strategy at the International Interfaith Research Lab at Teachers College. Since 2013, she has been working in the ed-tech industry with globally recognized universities to scale, support, and improve learning outcomes by creating innovative online degree programs. She has partnered with hundreds of faculty to design their online courses, continuously striving for the right balance between vision, curriculum, and technology. Prior to that, she worked as a video producer for Fortune 500 companies with a focus on social responsibility campaigns. Her current interests lie in creating digital learning experiences using genuinely inclusive and collaborative interactions that create a sense of belonging in all classrooms, physical and virtual. She has a B.S. from NYU's Stern School of Business.
GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, PROGRAM DESIGN AND COORDINATION
Emily Glovin is a master's student in Education Policy with a concentration in K-12 Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a B.A. in American Studies and Sociology from Brandeis University, as well as a M.A.T. in Secondary English (6-12) and English as a Second Language (PK-12) from Relay Graduate School of Education. Prior to enrolling at Teachers College, Emily spent three years teaching middle school English in Nashville and in New York City. As a former teacher, she is passionate about uplifting student voices. She is excited to guide students through Project Belonging as they develop the knowledge and skills to become leaders in their communities.
GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
Sophia Acquisto is a New York elementary teacher pursuing an M.A. in Computing in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 2022, she graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a B.S. in Early Childhood and Childhood Education with a history concentration. Sophia aims to engage students with inclusive history lessons and increase learners' sense of belonging by integrating their local history and culture into traditional classroom narratives. Since 2020, she has been building a digital history map to uplift the Hudson Valley's diverse stories for students and educators. She received three research grants from SUNY New Paltz and the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence for her contributions to New York's public history. Project Belonging shares Sophia’s commitment to working to help every student feel seen, celebrated, and respected by their peers, teachers, and school community.
GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, STATISTICS AND EVALUATION
Samriddhi Soni is a master's student in Applied Statistics at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her focus on Project Belonging is on maximizing the effect of the program through quantitative modeling and statistical analysis. She is passionate about Project Belonging's mission to counter othering within and beyond educational institutions through our innovative and interactive learning experience that supports the creation of cultures of belonging among children and young adults.
GRADUATE RESEARCH ASSISTANT, IMMERSIVE LEARNING TECHNOLOGY
Amany Alkhayat is a doctoral student in the Instructional Technology and Media Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She received her first MA degree in TEFL from the American University in Cairo and her second MA in Instructional Technology and Media program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Amany is the social events committee Chair at the immersive learning research network where she spearheaded several Virtual Reality initiatives. She also founded the VirtuaTELL annual conference at NYS TESOL in 2021 that brings together educators, practitioners, researchers, and passionate enthusiasts to work together to integrate emerging technologies into education. Her research interests include conversational AI and Extended Reality for education. Through her academic pursuits and practical experience, she is thrilled to contribute to Project Belonging, where immersive learning fosters a sense of empowerment, engagement, and well-being, supporting students to thrive and reach their fullest potential.