About Us

Vision & Mission

The long-term vision for CSSR is to be a national leader in facilitating, conducting, and disseminating state of the art research on postsecondary access and success, leading to policies and practices that promote equity and lead to improved outcomes for underrepresented and understudied student populations.

The Center for Student Success Research (CSSR) facilitates research, evaluation, and organizational assessment aimed at promoting postsecondary access and success for underrepresented and understudied student populations. Social scientists associated with the CSSR utilize diverse methodological and theoretical perspectives to produce research identifying institutional and societal factors that limit or promote equitable pathways into and through higher education. Actionable findings and recommendations inform institutions, policymakers, and other change agents concerning ways to improve conditions for student success.


Center Leadership

Research Affiliates

Affiliated Students

Research Affiliates Outside of the College of Education


Dr. Genia Bettencourt

Dr. Genia Bettencourt is a Research Affiliate with the Center for Student Success Research (CSSR) at UMass Amherst and instructor with the Graduate Certificate in Higher Education Leadership and Administration. She earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education and a graduate certificate in Social Justice Education from UMass Amherst.

Dr. Joshua Bittinger

Dr. Joshua Bittinger is a Senior Principal on the Employee Experience research team within the Human Resources Practice at Gartner. His research focuses on the college-related experiences of students with disabilities, including: access and transition, financial aid, and disability identity.

Dr. Victoria K. Malaney Brown

Dr. Victoria K. Malaney Brown’s scholarship focuses on multiracial college students, intergroup dialogue, critical race theory (MultiCrit), and student activism. Victoria's background in student affairs has included residence education, social justice education, student conduct, student crisis intervention, and academic integrity. Victoria is also a new elect to the American College Personnel Association’s Governing Board where she serves as the Assembly Coordinator Elect, Coalitions & Networks.

Dr. Robert Feldman, Senior Scholar 

Dr. Robert S. Feldman is Senior Advisor to the Chancellor and Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He served as interim Dean of the College of Education in 2016-2017. To learn more about Dr. Feldman, click here.

Dr. Rachel E. Friedensen

Dr. Rachel Friedensen is an Assistant Professor in Higher Education Administration at St. Cloud State University. Her research focuses on how these pedagogical changes impact the development of engineering identity for undergraduate students. To learn more about, Dr. Friedensen, click here.

Dr. Emily Perlow

Dr. Emily Perlow is Assistant Dean of Students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she has worked with STEM students for 13 years. She earned her PhD in educational policy and leadership, higher education specialization, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Emily’s research interests include analyzing systems, processes and cultures that inhibit student success, enhancing the experiences of marginalized populations in the higher education STEM pipeline, and deviant behavior among college populations, particularly hazing, and masculine expression among college men. She is currently co-primary investigator on a $240,000 3-year grant funded project funded by the Davis Educational Foundation exploring ways to implement more equitable and effective teamwork among STEM students. Emily also teaches in the student development in higher education program at Central Connecticut State University. To learn more about Dr. Perlow, click here.

Dr. Yedalis Ruiz

Dr. Yedalis Ruiz is a first-generation, Puertorriqueña scholar/practitioner. Her research examines access to and equity in higher education for first-generation, underrepresented and BIPOC college aspirants and her work aims to bridge access to opportunities for college and career advancement through critical and collaborative community engagement frameworks and practice. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and is a Research Affiliate with the Center for Student Success Research (CSSR) and instructor with the Higher Education Leadership and Administration at UMass Amherst. She works as an educational research consultant for educational equity in community health in Springfield, MA. 

Dr. Ashley Woodman

Dr. Woodman is a Lecturer in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department and Program Director for the Undergraduate Specialization in Developmental Disabilities and Human Services at UMass Amherst. Her research focuses on the impact of a raising a child with a developmental disability on parent well-being as well as family factors that predict trajectories of growth in children, adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities across the lifespan. To learn more about Dr. Woodman, click here.