2020 Research Fellows

Left to right: Tawny McCleon, Terri Hernandez, Dari Jigjidsuren, Izzy Pellegrine, and Ben Porter

Tawny McCleon

Tawny McCleon, NCSP is currently an associate professor in the School Psychology Program in the Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations. She serves as the Graduate and Program Director for the School Psychology Programs, the Director of the Assessment Clinic in the School Psychology Services Center, and the Field-based Placement Coordinator. She completed her graduate studies at Mississippi State University in which she earned a M.S. in school psychology/psychometry and a Ph.D. in educational psychology with an emphasis in school psychology (APA-accredited; NASP approved), and she completed her pre-doctoral training at Houston Independent School District in Houston, Texas (APA-accredited) which was the fourth largest school district within the U.S at the time of completion. McCleon joined the SSRC as a part of the Social Relations Collaborative in 2015 as a co- primary investigator with the School Safety Project funded by the National Institute of Justice. Her research interests include crisis prevention and intervention, school violence, academic assessment, emotional and behavior disorders, multicultural issues in assessment, and social skills training.

Terri Hernandez

Terri Hernandez received a Ph.D. from the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. She is currently a tenure-track assistant professor at MSU in the Department of Communication. Hernandez’s research interests include intergroup relations, branding, consumer behavior, and social and digital media. In addition, she runs the student-led public relations & integrated student media (PRISM) agency. PRISM is a full-service media/marketing agency, that provides full-service communication packages to local businesses. PRISM helped the SSRC develop the Evaluation & Research Group’s logo, website, and information brochure and the Gender Impacts Lab’s logo and website design.

Dari Jigjidsuren

Dari Jigjidsuren has earned her PhD and Master’s degrees in Social Work and Public Health from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. After graduation Jigjidsuren worked as an evaluation specialist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill where she collected and analyzed data on child and teacher outcomes for the North Carolina state school system. Her research experience is mainly focused on interventions to ensure early childhood well-being with a particular focus on marginalized populations. She also has expertise in community practice, and program development and evaluation. The last three years Dari lived in Mongolia where she conducted research including the baseline study on domestic violence among young children, established a nonprofit to advocate for Mongolian patients with rare diseases, and served as an advisor to the Mongolian disability portal “We Can Do MN”. In the future, Dari is looking forward to conducting research to improve the outcomes for children in marginalized rural communities.

Izzy Pellegrine

Izzy Pellegrine began working at the Social Science Research Center as an undergraduate research assistant in 2008 with the Family and Children’s Research Unit under the direction of Linda Southward. After completing her bachelors’ degrees in Sociology and in Social Work, Pellegrine joined the Survey Research laboratory team in 2012 as a graduate research assistant. Following the completion of her MS in Sociology, she has stayed on at the SSRC moving into the position of Research Associate and then Project Manager and sharing time between the Survey Research Laboratory and the Family and Children’s Research Unit. Pellegrine is also pursuing a PhD in Sociology and is ABD in the Department of Sociology at MSU. Her work in the department focuses on critical race and sexuality studies with an emphasis on sexuality education. Through the department, Pellegrine was also named a primary investigator – along with co-PI’s Melanie Walsh and Amanda Gochanour – on a statewide Needs Assessment of LGBTQ populations in Mississippi, which is the first statewide academic study in Mississippi to focus on this marginalized group. Moving forward, she is developing an ethnographic study of sex education for her dissertation work.

Ben Porter

Ben Porter completed his Ph.D. studying social psychology with a minor in data analysis at University of Houston. His graduate work examined how principles of Self-Determination Theory are associated with positive functioning within romantic relationship. After graduation, he began examining how exposures and experiences of military service affect the health and well-being of service members and Veterans. Porter continues to serve as a biostatistician and Head of the Veterans Health Research Area for the Millennium Cohort Study, the largest prospective cohort study of military personnel collected to date. Generally, his work has focused on Veterans within this study, but he has writing on an eclectic range of topics from PTSD to physical health functioning to psychometrics.