Denise Tobin Airola

Ph.D., Director

Denise Tobin Airola is the Director of the Office of Innovation for Education at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Airola's work focuses on enabling and accelerating innovation to address barriers to educational progress, building capacity for improving instruction and leadership practices, and informing policy at the school, district and state levels. She has consulted with several state education agencies on the use of educational data to drive instructional systems change. Prior to her work as an educational statistician and research methodologist, Dr. Airola worked for 18 years in the K-12 public education system. Her education experience includes classroom teaching at the elementary, middle and secondary levels, designing and conducting professional development, curriculum, instruction and assessment alignment, as well as implementing and evaluating K-12 reform efforts.


Kelli Langan

Research Associate

Kelli Langan received her Ph.D. in educational statistics and research methods at the University of Arkansas. Prior to joining the University of Arkansas, she received a Bachelors of Education in Mathematics and Spanish secondary education as well as a Masters Degree in Mathematics at Pittsburg State University, KS. She spent four years in the classroom as a high school mathematics teacher before working as a research associate providing professional development for the National Office of Research on Measurement and Evaluation Systems (NORMES). Currently, Kelli is a research associate for the Office of Innovation in Education where her primary projects include work on school and teacher accountability measures. With the encouragement of her four children (all of whom have four legs), Ms. Langan is committed to researching practices that will lead to student success.


Jennifer Williams

Research Assistant

Jennifer Williams started working at the University of Arkansas in 2008. She began as an Administrative Assistant for NORMES for 6 years, and is now serving as Research Assistant for the Office of Innovation for Education. Jennifer assists with various research projects and she also serves as our receptionist.


Crystal M. Beshears, Ph.D.

School of Innovation Liaison

Combining 15 years of experience in a variety of educational settings, Crystal Beshears serves as a part-time School of Innovation Liaison for the Office of Innovation for Education at the U of A. Her diverse work includes: teaching social sciences to secondary students in the Arkansas Delta, supporting state and national school improvement efforts for the U of A and the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, and teaching personal development and yoga locally and abroad. From 2009-2014, Crystal led instruction in Lincoln, Arkansas, and considers Lincoln her teaching home. She recently returned to Arkansas after spending a year abroad in Europe with her youngest daughter, Sam, who is now a student at Fayetteville High School. Crystal's oldest daughter Val, is currently a U of A student pursuing Counseling, and is active in local youth organizations. Crystal's work at OIE includes passionately supporting Schools of Innovation and contributing to research dedicated to innovation.


Feng Jiang

Research Associate

Feng is a former Chinese high school physics teacher. He came to the U.S. in 2008 and got his Ph.D. in science education from University of Arkansas in 2012. After worked in New York University as a postdoc for two years, now he is back in Fayetteville working for OIE on data and research.


Kyle Cowan

Research Associate

Managed all facets of a multi-operating system network infrastructure, including RHEL, Windows Server 2003/2008, Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, VMware ESXi and Juniper devices. Strong knowledge of various UNIX technologies including, IPTables, Apparmor, Solaris ipf, EXIM, Postfix, Apache, MySQL, PostgreSQL, CVS, Nagios, Cacti, Puppet, NTP, SNMP, and Git. Responsibilities included purchasing and implementation of new technologies, project management, network administration, database administration, web administration, configuration management, network security, Active Directory management, VPN administration, SSL administration, automation scripting, performance tuning, remote administration, and 24x7 on-call conflict resolution. Installed and administered full SAS BI server suite on Solaris that provides access to over 1500 users spanning multiple states. Also provided SAS consulting to South Carolina Department of Education and Arkansas Department of Education. Implemented and administered numerous new technologies including iSCSI networking, Fibre channel storage systems, automation of disk and tape based backups and package and patch management, remote troubleshooting assistance, mobile device applications, environmental monitoring, and errorreporting and logging. Extensive experience with managing large amounts of secure and confidential data.


Santhosh S. Anand

Research Associate

In his current role Mr. Anand is responsible for developing web based solutions to fulfill the terms and deliverables described in the contract with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE). He will serve as a liaison with the ADE's Research and Technology personnel communicating with web developers and database managers at ADE to assist in building its data systems' capacities to meet the needs of educators and administrators in Arkansas's public school systems. He will model processes and procedure, develop prototypes, and research potential solutions. Mr. Anand has a Masters' degree in Computer Science from the University of Arkansas and a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Bangalore University, India.


Deena Rorie

Research Assistant

Deena Rorie is a doctoral candidate in Finance at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. She received her Master of Science degree in Finance from the University of Tulsa, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from the University of Arkansas. Deena currently provides research support on various projects for OIE.