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Washington State University
College of Education

WSU ROAR Staff and Faculty

The glue that holds it together.

Our WSU ROAR staff and faculty mentors are a vital component of the program’s success and ultimately, student success. They work tirelessly to create engaging educational experience… the kind of life-altering positive experiences that our students will remember forever, as well as prepare them for the future.


Katie Hirschfelder



About the director

Katie joined the WSU ROAR staff in 2018 after six years of teaching special education. For two years, she led digital literacy classes and was an integral part of WSU ROAR leadership and decision-making. She was elevated to its director for Fall 2020.

Katie has taught high school students in both Arizona and Colorado before moving to Washington. Her passion for special education was ignited by her mother who is also an educator. Katie grew up in a small town in Illinois where she lived until graduating from college.

During her free time, Katie enjoys traveling, working out, and cooking. During the summertime she enjoys camping and adventuring in National Parks, her goal someday is to visit all of them.

Faculty Mentors

Don McMahon

Program implementation, audit classes, & digital literacy

In addition to his normal duties as an associate professor of Special Education, Don McMahon has played an integral part of WSU ROAR, which he helped co-found. Don’s work is focused on Universal Design for Learning, Assistive Technology, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Wearable devices, Mobile Devices, Mobile Learning, and Instructional technology. At WSU Don McMahon coordinates the VR2GO Lab, which specializes in assistive technology research.

He graduated from the Special Education Ph.D. program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. While at the University of Tennessee Don was on the program staff of a postsecondary education program similar to ROAR where he designed and taught courses in digital citizenship for students with disabilities.

Kira Carbonneau

Kira Carbonneau smiling at camera.

Assistive Living Advisors (ALAs) and Peer Ally activities

Kira Carbonneau is an associate professor of Educational Psychology of and a graduate from the University of New Mexico. Her research examines issues at the intersection of cognitive theory and classroom application and includes interests associated with: cognitive principles of instructional methods, instructional manipulatives in early childhood education, mathematics education, executive functioning, self-regulation, and embodiment.

Kira’s most recent research assesses the efficacy of manipulative-based instructional strategies within elementary classrooms.

Marcus Poppen


Employment services; career and professional planning class

Marcus Poppen’s research and scholarship is broadly focused on supporting career development and transition outcomes for youth and young adults with disabilities. His interests include understanding the unique paths of career development for youth and young adults with disabilities, including those involved in the juvenile justice system, foster care system, and/or living with mental health concerns; collaborative school-based transition programs that are designed to facilitate the coordination and delivery of pre-employment transition services; and, program evaluation and capacity building efforts that support data-based decision making.

Holly Whittenburg

Holly Whittenburg standing with hands in pockets

Independent living class

Holly Whittenburg’s research focuses on improving employment outcomes for transition-aged students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability. Work is an important part of growing up for most young adults, but students with disabilities often face significant barriers to employment. In her work, Dr. Whittenburg examines interventions to teach employment-related skills, investigates approaches to creating more opportunities for inclusive work experiences, and considers how special education and vocational rehabilitation law and policies affect the transition experiences of students with disabilities.

Lauren Bruno

Lauren Bruno standing in front of the Education Addition, hands on hips.

Health, wellness, and sexual education class

Dr. Bruno teaches courses in special education and creates engaging learning environments by using the principles of UDL across all of her courses – giving students opportunities to apply what they learn to their future professions. She is dedicated to the development of pre-service teachers to use evidence-based practices and create inclusive learning environments. Dr. Bruno has experience teaching students with low-incidence disabilities at the high school level, which has influenced her interest in providing all students the greatest opportunities for transition.

Graduate Assistants/Instructor

Genna Kieper

Genna is a graduate student in the college’s Educational Psychology program. She joined the university in the Fall of 2019, after earning her B.A. in Psychology at the University of Kentucky. She has a background in behavioral therapy, as well as extensive research experience exploring discrimination in educational settings. Her passions are advocacy and equity in education, making programs like ROAR very near and dear to her. She joined the ROAR Program in 2019 as a peer ally volunteer, and is excited to become more involved as a member of the ROAR staff. In her free time, Genna enjoys playing with her dog, Romi, hiking, cooking, and kayaking!

Kathryn Sherdian-Steifel

One of Kathryn’s favorite things about WSU is the ROAR program, and she is so excited to be a part of it! Kathryn is a doctoral student in Special Education whose research interests include Universal Design for Learning (UDL), the continuum of special education services, and supports for students with emotional and behavioral challenges. She is a certified elementary and special educator, and earned her M.Ed. from Lesley University in 2018. Originally from Massachusetts, Kathryn worked as a middle school paraprofessional and special education teacher in the Metrowest area for five years. Kathryn values empowerment and equity in her instruction and research. In her leisure time, Kathryn enjoys reading, making arts and crafts, and spending time outdoors. She can also be found drinking coffee and enjoying the company of her husband, dog, and two cats.

Kelley Wilds

Kelley is excited to join the ROAR team! She graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2015 with her undergraduate focus in Kinesiology and Public Health. During her undergrad, she also worked as a peer ally with UT’s post secondary program, FUTURE. Kelley has always had a passion for health and education. For the past four years, she has worked as a Health Educator for the Knox County Health Department in Knoxville, TN. During her free time, Kelley enjoys hiking and being outside. She is excited to live in Pullman and start her graduate career as a Coug!

Assistive Living Advisors (ALAs)

Xingyao Chen

Xingyao is an Educational Psychology master’s student and comes from a small city in the center of China. Being a ROAR ALA is not only a professional challenge but also an opportunity for him. He wants to apply his academic knowledge and volunteer experience with students with ASD in the real world. Xingyao has been a school counselor in his local junior high school. In his free time, he likes to spend time swimming, watching movies, and listening to music. His goal one day is to take a road trip to California by himself.