The UMass Amherst STEM Ambassadors Program (STEM AP) is a support network for undergraduate STEM majors at UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, and Holyoke Community College. Through mentoring, early research experiences, service learning/outreach opportunities, and professional skills development workshops, STEM AP aims to increase STEM interest, engagement, and retention, and to increase the number of students who enroll in graduate studies and pursue careers in STEM fields. 


Undergraduate students majoring in STEM disciplines are invited to join the program and become members of a community of scholars who share a passion for all things STEM. We particularly encourage students who are traditionally marginalized in STEM including first generation students, students who are Pell Grant eligible, and students of color to apply. STEM AP provides a supportive academic and social community that embraces student diverse identities, interests and experiences.  

STEM AP was initially funded through the University of Massachusetts President’s Enhancement Funding Program from June 2014 through June 2017. It is currently funded by a 3-year grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

For more information about the program, email us at



Dr. Margaret (Peg) Riley is STEM AP’s Principal Investigator.  Peg is a biology professor at UMass Amherst with research interests in Microbial Molecular Evolution and Ecology; Gene Trees, Genomics and a Microbial Species Concept; Evolution of Antibiotic Resistance; and Evolution of Microbial Defense Systems.  In 2008, Peg created the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences (MAS), a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase levels of civic science literacy.  Under her leadership, the MAS went from a nascent idea to a full-fledged STEM outreach organization with over 400 dues paying members and 70 Science Fellows, representing the Commonwealth’s leading STEM researchers, educators and outreach specialists.  Dr. Riley recently appeared on the MAS Fellow Bill Nye’s Netflix series, Bill Nye Saves the World.  Learn more about Dr. Riley at

Principal Investigator

Dr. Margaret (Peg) Riley

Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) McEneaney is the Co-Principal Investigator on the STEM AP’s NSF grant.  Betsy is an associate professor in the department of Teacher Education & Curriculum Studies at UMass Amherst, College of Education.  Her professional interests are in sociology of education, program evaluation and the use of data by school administrators and teachers, educational policy, urban education, the charter school movement, the role of community and non-profit organizations in supporting schooling and child well-being, authentic assessment, research methods and statistics. Learn more about Dr. McEneaney at

Co-Principal Investigator

Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) McEneaney

Dr. Carolyn Gardner-Thomas is STEM AP’s Program Director.  She is also the assistant director for the Mathematics for Teaching Program at the Harvard Extension School. Carolyn lectures in mathematics education at both UMass Amherst and Harvard University.  Her research interests include the construction of STEM identity through mathematics teacher noticing, and engineering education.  A former chemical engineer and an award-winning mathematics educator, Carolyn is passionate about her work with mathematics teachers, and a staunch advocate for equitable classroom spaces and inclusive pedagogy in STEM disciplines. Learn more about Dr. Gardner at

Program Director

Dr. Carolyn Gardner-Thomas

Dr. Sonji Johnson-Anderson is the Assistant Director at STEM AP.  Sonji’s research interests sit at the intersection of Black Feminist Epistemology, Critical Race Theory and Performance Ethnography.  Her work focuses on the experiences of students and families who are marginalized in public domains, primarily educational institutions. A gifted educator and public speaker, Sonji brings decades of teaching experience and a deep commitment to critical and culturally relevant pedagogy.  Sonji has taught in K-12 classrooms, as well as higher education contexts in Western Massachusetts, New York City and Jamaica, and currently lectures in world literature at Westfield State University.  Dr. Johnson-Anderson develops and teaches/facilitates courses, workshops, lectures, trainings, public events, and performances.

Assistant Director

Dr. Sonji Johnson-Anderson

Dr. Connie Chow is the STEM AP consultant at UMass Boston.  Connie is an associate lecturer in the Honors College at UMass Boston.  She leads the STEM AP club at UMass Boston. Connie is also the founder and director at the Exploratory, an initiative oriented to empower educators and inspire students to be curious, courageous and community-minded, by making their experience of STEM relevant, joyful, collaborative and equitable.  Dr. Chow is passionate about creating a world that is more joyful, more fair, and where more people can live up to their full potential.

UMass Boston Consultant

Dr. Connie Chow

Dr. Ileana Vasu is the STEM AP consultant at Holyoke Community College (HCC).  Ileana chairs the mathematics department at HCC, and was the 2016 recipient of the Elaine Marieb Faculty Chair for Teaching Excellence Award.  Her work as faculty advisor for the NSF grant funded S-STEM scholars program and the DHE grant funded STEM Starter Academy at HCC is notable for its support of students who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM.  Dr. Vasu has conducted extensive research on multiple representations of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, and the implication for gender inclusion in mathematics teaching and learning.

HCC Consultant

Dr. Ileana Vasu

Tova Rubenoff is STEM AP’s Special Projects Coordinator.  Tova is a fourth-year UMass Honors student majoring in nutrition.  Tova oversees the Middle School Mentoring and Service Learning/Outreach Programs at STEM AP.  As peer-advisor and teaching assistant for the nutrition department, Tova assists students with academic planning and field experience placements.  Among her many accomplishments, Tova is a recipient of the Dean’s scholarship, and the Dean’s List Award for every semester she’s been enrolled at UMass.

Special Projects Coordinator

Tova Rubenoff

Sandrine Jabbour is the office assistant and media specialist at STEM AP.  Sandrine is a fourth-year pre-med student majoring in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology and minoring in French and Psychology & Brain Sciences. For anything media related at STEM AP, Sandrine is our Go-To!  She is also STEM AP’s near-peer mentoring expert at the office.  Besides academics, Sandrine is a French tutor, a Teaching Assistant, and volunteers at Horizons for Homeless Children. 

Office Assistant & Media Specialist

Sandrine Jabbour



STEM Ambassadors Program