Our Team

SSTAR Lab Staff

Kathryn Boonstra
Research Analyst
Jared Colston
Senior Data Scientist
Amberly Dziesinski
Research Analyst
Nicholas Hillman
Misti Jeffers
Research Analyst
Leslie Orrantia
Graduate Assistant
Corey Roseth
Graduate Assistant
Eunji You
Graduate Assistant
Qi Zheng
Graduate Assistant
Bonniejean Zitske
Associate Director

SSTAR Lab Affiliates

Ellie Bruecker
Research Affiliate
Gresham Collom
Research Affiliate
Kim Dancy
Graduate Student Affiliate
Elise Marifian
Graduate Student Affiliate
Viviana Rodriguez
Research Affiliate
Kate Westaby Meyer
Graduate Student Affiliate


The Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab is housed in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Office of Student Financial Aid in collaboration with Dr. Nicholas Hillman, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The Lab’s mission is to use applied academic research to guide, support, and partner with practitioners whose work aims to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for current and future college students.

We believe that better academic research on financial aid can expand college access and student success in lasting ways. We do this by collaborating with practitioners to develop and implement research studies addressing their specific needs and capacity constraints. We bring an equity-oriented and evidence-based approach to these partnerships, where our team collects, manages, and analyzes data with the goal of improving policies and practices to better promote student success – particularly for underrepresented students.


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