Meet the Staff

Margaret Usdansky Staff Picture-decorative image

 

Margaret L. Usdansky, Ph.D.

Director
mlusdans@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Margaret L. Usdansky is the founding director of CLASS, which opened in 2017, and a Research Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Science in Falk College. A sociologist and demographer, Dr. Usdansky is interested in the sometimes surprising cognitive science research on how human learning does – and does not – work. She studies how academic support programs can help students use research-based study strategies to meet their academic goals, including in subject areas they’ve previously found challenging. Dr. Usdansky teaches an Honors seminar on using contemplative practice to get more out of your college education. She enjoys running, swimming, sailing, yoga, reading, cooking, and honing her math and Spanish skills.


Nadine Austin Portrait-decorative image

 

Nadine Austin, M.B.A.

Associate Director
nlaustin@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nadine Austin is the Associate Director for CLASS. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the center. She earned her M.B.A., with a concentration in Accounting and Finance from Southern New Hampshire University and her B.A. from Russell Sage College. Nadine has been at Syracuse University for twelve years. Prior to joining CLASS, she was the Director of Administration with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. She enjoys working with students and helping them mature into independent, young adults. Outside the office, when she’s not cheering on the SU Orange Men’s Basketball team, she can be found spending time traveling with her family to warmer climates!


Samantha Johnston Portrait

 

Samantha Johnston, M.A.

Assistant Director
sajohnst@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Samantha Narad Johnston is the Assistant Director of CLASS. She earned her MA in Math & Science Education at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a BS in Childhood Education from SUNY Oswego. She taught math in the K-12 sector and taught Foundations of Mathematics in the Real World at SUNY Oswego before becoming Math Skills Coordinator at Hood College in Maryland. She joined CLASS July of 2017 and hasn’t looked back! Samantha used her experience as a program reviewer for the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) to help CLASS earn recertification for their tutor training program. She is excited about the growth CLASS has experienced in such a short period of time. When not working, you can find her watching the latest horror movie or playing with her nieces.


 

Emily Perkins, Ph.D.

Program Coordinator
ecperkin@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dr. Emily C. Perkins is the Program Coordinator for CLASS at Syracuse University. She earned her Ph.D. in Education and M.S. in Childhood Education from the University of Rochester. Her doctoral work focused on how canine-assisted literacy programs help to promote children’s literacy development in educational contexts by providing students with social, emotional, and academic support. Prior to joining the SU community, Emily was the Writing Colleagues Program Coordinator at her undergraduate alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, where she also taught courses in the Writing & Rhetoric and Education departments. She remains passionate about promoting academic success in higher education and helping all students become confident, independent learners. When she’s not working, she enjoys exploring the outdoors with her Labrador retriever, Eli.


Richard Granato Portrait-decorative image

 

Rich Granato

Academic Learning Specialist
rgranato@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rich Granato is an Academic Learning Specialist for CLASS at Syracuse University. He graduated from Le Moyne College in 2017 with a B.A. in Mathematics, with a concentration in Actuarial Science, and is currently pursuing his Master’s in Applied Data Science here at Syracuse University. Before coming to SU, Rich was a CRLA certified tutor at Cayuga Community College (CCC), where he tutored college students in a wide variety of different math courses. In addition to his time dedicated to helping others, Rich has also spent a great deal of time participating in several different teams and clubs. Rich was Captain of the Varsity Tennis Team at his high school, President of Tutor Club at CCC, and an active participant in Math Club events at Le Moyne. Outside of the world of academics, Rich enjoys watching sports, playing music, and spending time with his girlfriend, Chrissy.


 

Saedra Blow

Academic Learning Specialist
mcblow@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Saedra Blow is an Academic Learning Specialist for CLASS at Syracuse University. They earned their B.A. in English from Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS). Prior to their work at SU, Saedra was a writing tutor for several years at HWS’s Center for Teaching and Learning and through the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP). Their experience as a writing tutor inspired them to work for CLASS, where they continue helping students succeed in higher education. They are passionate about equity in education and student well-being, especially as they relate to social justice. When they are away from the office, they can be found writing poetry and playing Pokemon GO.


 

Meghan Graham

Administrative Assistant
mgraha01@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Meghan Graham is the Administrative Assistant for CLASS at Syracuse University. Meghan earned a B.A. in English Literature from Lycoming College and taught high school English in Maryland and Louisiana, 9th grade being her favorite area to teach. After having her son, Meghan moved into Higher Ed positions in order stay in an academic environment where she could still enjoy relationships with students and faculty. Before joining the SU community, she worked at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and at the University of North Alabama. When she is not at work you can find her crafting, loving on her two dogs, playing Minecraft with her son, or cheering on her beloved Mets with her husband.


 

Linda Pesciotta, M.S.

Teaching Assistant
lrpescio@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Linda Pesciotta is a Master Level certified tutor, Supplemental Instruction leader, and assists with academic integrity cases at CLASS. She is in the third year of her Ph.D. in the College Science Teaching program here at Syracuse. Her research interests include effective teaching practices—namely active learning—and the role of motivation in undergraduate STEM student success and retention. Linda earned her M.S. in Biology from John Carroll University (outside of Cleveland, OH) and her B.A. in Biology (with a minor in Psychology) from the University of Rochester. Outside of SU, Linda has been teaching various undergraduate biology courses for majors and nonmajors since 2013. Between semesters, Linda enjoys spending time in the Finger Lakes with her husband Dan and their rescue dog Buddy. They are always open to new local restaurant suggestions and look forward to joining another bowling league—they have both bowled perfect 300 games!


 

Mirjakhon Turdiev, E.M.P.A.

Graduate Assistant
mturdiye@syr.edu

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mirjakhon Turdiev is a Graduate Assistant at the Center for Learning and Student Success (CLASS) at Syracuse University. He is a third-year PhD student at the School of Education, Syracuse University. His research interests include social meanings of disability, disability inclusive development, and a construction of disability discourse in Central Asian countries. He holds a BA in English Language from Karshi State University, Uzbekistan. In 2016, Mirjakhon received his Executive Master of Public Administration degree from Maxwell School, Syracuse University. In the past, he coordinated the SAT Preparation Courses Program for Say Yes to Education Syracuse, a partnership between Syracuse University and the Syracuse City School District that is committed to helping Syracuse area high school students on their pathway to college. His professional and research interests allow him to run his blog devoted to the issues of persons with disabilities living in Uzbekistan, where he is originally from. He looks forward to learning how to mountain climb at Syracuse University’s newly opened Barnes Center at the Arch.