Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research and Education in Sensory Disabilities Staff List
Dr. Nora Griffin-Shirley – Director of the Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research
and Education in Sensory Disabilities, Coordinator of the Orientation and Mobility
Dr. Griffin-Shirley is the Director of the Sowell Center as well as the coordinator for the Orientation and Mobility program and the TTU Graduate School Certificate in Sensory Impairments and Autism. Dr. Griffin-Shirley is a Co-Principal Investigator on the Reach Across Texas grant, Project CAT-SI, and Project SASI.
Dr. Leigh Kackley – Coordinator of the Teacher of Students who are Deaf and Hard of
Dr. Kackley received her doctorate degree from TTU in 2013. Since that time she has served as a Research Associate teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Special Education Program as well as in the Curriculum and Instruction Department. In addition she has also been an instructor in the AVID Program. Dr. Kackley became coordinator of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in 2015, and is a co-investigator for Project CAT-SI.
Dr. Rona Pogrund – Coordinator of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments
Program, Coordinator of the Teacher of Students with Deafblindness Program
Dr. Pogrund is the coordinator of the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments Program, and has been appointed the temporary coordinator of the Teacher of Students with Deafblindness Program. She is also the Co-Principal Investigator for the Reach Across Texas grant, Project CAT-SI, and Project SASI. Dr. Pogrund has her office at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin and teaches classes there and online.
Dr. Phoebe Okungu – Coordinator of the Teachers of Students who are Deafblind
Dr. Phoebe Okungu received her doctorate from TTU in 2014. Since that time she has been an assistant professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in the Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments Program and the Orientation and Mobility Program for two years. In Fall 2016 Dr. Okungu became the Coordinator of the Teachers of Students who are Deafblind. Prior to coming to TTU Dr. Okungu was a faculty member at the Kenya Institute of Special Education teaching in a personnel preparation program to train special education teachers. She has had extensive experience teaching individuals with visual impairment, deafblindness and special needs in Africa.
Additionally, she received an M.Phil. from Norway in special education with an emphasis in teacher of students with visual impairments.
Gabriella Davis – Program Coordinator
The Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research and Education in Sensory Disabilities has hired Gabriella Davis to be the Program Coordinator for both the Office of Special Education Programs grant; Project CAT-SI, and the Reach Across Texas Program (RATP). Gabriella coordinates the scholarships, students, and budgets for both Project CAT-SI and RATP as well as manages the technology and Blackboard courses for the Sowell Center. Gabriella began working with the Sowell Center in 2014, as a technology assistant and course developer for Project SASI and graduated from TTU in 2015.
Sandra Lara – Administrative Business Assistant
Sandra is a part-time administrative business assistant for the Reach Across Texas Program who maintains the student data base, prepares grant reports, and assists Dr. Pogrund with a variety of program tasks at TSBVI in Austin. She has worked for the program since 2012.
Pam Lindell – Business Assistant
Pam is the business assistant for Project SASI and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program. Pam assists Barbara Hargrove with coordinating students in the grant and purchasing and distributing grant materials. Pam also assists with course development in Blackboard and assists and advises students in the program. Pam began working for the Sowell Center as a temporary research assistant in 2005.
Anita Page – Internship Coordinator
Anita is a Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist who assists with online and face-to-face courses in the O&M and TVI programs. As the Internship Coordinator, Anita coordinates and places interns for the O&M programs as well as supervises interns. Anita also works with admissions and advisement for students in the vision programs and has been working at the Sowell Center since 2001. Anita graduated from Texas Tech University with her Master's Degree in special education with a specialization in Orientation and Mobility.
Jenelle Racher – Research Assistant
Jenelle is a part-time research assistant who assists Dr. Pogrund in Austin with course- and grant-related tasks and research projects. She has worked for the program since 2014.
The Nguyen - Research Assistant
My name is The Nguyen. I am a research assistant for the Sensory Impairment Program. I was born in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This is a coastal country in South East Asia. Right now I am in my second year in the Curriculum and Instruction Program in College of Education. I am filled with hope that later I will be able to integrate service learning, research skills, and diversity into curriculum to increase students' experiences, knowledge as well as life skills to get ready for the real working environment and be more responsible for the community.
Vitalis Omondi Othuon - Research Aide
My name is Vitalis Omondi Othuon from Kenya. I am an alumni of the University of Nairobi with a bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance and a Master's degree in Economics. Currently I am pursuing PhD in Agricultural and Applied Economics at Texas Tech University, having arrived in the USA on August 13th 2018, with my three children to join my wife, already a Ph.D. student in Agricultural Communications. I have had the privilege of working in senior government positions, initially at the Department of Defense, based at Moi Airbase and being the head of the Internal Audit Division at the National Water Conservation and Pipeline Corporation. I am currently a lecturer at the Technical University of Kenya, Department of Economics and Resource Management. My research interests includes the financial sector, rural development and food security to leverage public policy and enhance the welfare of the people who are disadvantaged in society. I am therefore thrilled to be part of this great team at Virginia Murray Sowell Center for Research and Education in Sensory Disabilities.