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2022 Course Instructors

Clayton Peoples, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Sociology

Clayton D. Peoples, Ph.D. (2005, Ohio State University), is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno. He loves both teaching and research. He teaches Introductory Sociology, Sociological Theory, Social Stratification, Social Psychology, and Social Movements, among other classes. His primary areas of research include campaign finance and the impact of donors on policy. He recently held a fellowship in the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, where he focused on the political factors that influenced the Global Financial Crisis. He is also author of the recently-published book, The Undermining of American Democracy: How Campaign Contributions Corrupt our System and Harm us All (Routledge, 2020).

Darren Ripley, Ph.D.
Instructor, Mathematics 

A Reno native who’s been working in the educational field for over 26 years, Dr. Ripley enjoys outdoor activities with his friends and his 17-year-old son. He has taught math at all levels of secondary education and all introductory levels of higher education, both at the community college and the university level. This is his fifteenth year at Davidson THINK Summer Institute; he also teaches at the Davidson Academy. His hobbies include, but aren’t limited to, mountain and road biking, snowboarding, playing the banjo and the piano, chess, and gardening. He teaches mathematics because it is the language of science, and feels that science will save the world.

Erin Keith, M.S.
Lecturer, Computer Science and Engineering

Erin Keith is a Lecturer with the Computer Science and Engineering department. With over five years of industry experience, Erin Keith has worked at many levels of the software engineering process, from testing through implementation to deployment. She has also been involved in providing education at many levels: as a tutor and supplemental instructor during her undergraduate studies, a National Science Foundation fellowship recipient in engineering education as a graduate student, and as a Letter of Appointment instructor at the University of Nevada, Reno while pursuing her software engineering career. Additionally, she’s volunteered within the community to promote technology education, earning multiple certificates of appreciation from the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows.

Gerold Dermid, MBA
Director, Larson Institute for Health Impact and Equity

Gerold Dermid, MBA is the Director of the Larson Institute for Health Impact and Equity, housed within the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno. Mr. Dermid has worked in the field of public health for the past 22 years, focused on quality improvement, workforce development, health communications, and community engagement. Mr. Dermid has provided leadership and strategic direction to communities throughout the world in communicable disease prevention, with a special focus on HIV/AIDS and COVID-19, chronic disease prevention, substance use prevention and treatment services, health equity, social justice, and international development. He currently manages research, training, and partnership programs locally, nationally, and internationally, with a special focus on the implementation and impact evaluation of interventions within traditionally underserved communities. Mr. Dermid is thrilled to be part of the THINK Summer Institute once again and provide practical knowledge and training to students that are committed to learning about improving the quality of life for all people throughout the world.

Jia Feng, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Geography

Jia Feng, Ph.D. is a Teaching Assistant Professor of Geography at UNR. He came to the program during the pandemic in 2020 and this is the first time he is teaching for the Davidson THINK Institute. As a human geographer, Jia’s research focuses on migration, marginality issues, urban enclaves, and recycling while he has a teaching interest in world regional geography, geospatial technology, and various GIS applications. After coming to Reno, he enjoys all kinds of outdoor activities around Sierra Nevada, exploring food from different countries in the world, and walking the city on foot.

Laura Crosswell, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, 

Laura Crosswell is an assistant professor in the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno. She also holds a joint appointment with the Nevada School of Medicine. As a media scholar focused on persuasive health communication, Laura enjoys exploring the implications of message framing in relation to citizenry, society, and human behavior. In 2018, she published her book, Politics, Propaganda, and Public Health: A Case Study in Health Communication and Public Trust; which focuses on new trends in pharmaceutical advertising and their impact on public health awareness efforts. Through interdisciplinary scholarship, Laura often concentrates on how communication strategies and marketing models in the digital age impact public trust and personal efficacy. Her research is published in peer-reviewed journals such as Critical Public Health, Perspectives in Public Health, and Journal of Health Communication. Laura’s work can also be found in the Handbook of Applied Communication Research and Risk & Health Communication in an Evolving Media Environment.

Laura earned her doctorate degree in Media & Public Affairs from the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University. She has a master’s degree in Communication from the College of Charleston and a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Media Studies from Clemson University.