The Gemstone Program is made up from a variety of people throughout the university community.
Dr. Frank J. Coale serves as Director of the Gemstone Honors Program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland. Dr. Coale also is a Professor and Extension Specialist for agricultural nutrient management in the Department of Environmental Science & Technology at the University of Maryland.
Dr. Coale received his B.S. degree in Agronomy from the University of Maryland and his Masters’ degree in Crop Physiology and his Ph.D. in Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition from the University of Kentucky. After 7 years on the faculty at the University of Florida, Dr. Coale joined the faculty at the University of Maryland in 1993.
His research and extension programs concentrate on efficient agronomic and environmental management of applied nutrients and nutrient management policy development in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Dr. Coale has published 50 refereed journal articles and 167 Extension publications. He has delivered nearly 200 scientific presentations with published abstracts and has given over 500 Extension Education presentations. Dr. Coale has mentored 31 graduate students and has supported his programs with over $15 million in external grant funding.
Dr. Coale served as Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland for six years. He has received recognition awards for his contributions from his university, the State of Maryland, and federal agencies. Dr. Coale is Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy (2012) and Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (2014).
Dr. Kristan Cilente Skendall serves as Associate Director of the Gemstone Honors Program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland, where she teaches GEMS102 and co-teaches GEMS202. She works closely with the research teams, faculty mentors, and librarians. Dr. Skendall received her B.A. degree in Sociology and History from the College of William & Mary (VA), her M.A. degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Arizona, and her Ph.D. in College Student Personnel at the University of Maryland.
Dr. Skendall previously served as the Assistant Director for Orientation and Leadership Programs at Georgetown University and Senior Coordinator for Community Service-Learning at the University of Maryland, where she oversaw the development of the Alternative Breaks program on campus from 2005-2008. Additionally, Dr. Skendall has worked with the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs, ACPA-College Student Educators International, and the U.S. Department of Education with the Committee on Measures of Student Success.
Dr. Skendall’s research focus is primarily related to college student leadership and service-learning. Her dissertation, Socially Responsible Leadership: the Role of Participation in Short-term Service Immersion Programs, connected leadership outcomes with short-term service immersion programs and service-learning participation in general. Additionally, Dr. Skendall has published several articles and book chapters related to student leadership, alternative spring break, multiple identity development, and new professionals needs. Dr. Skendall has taught graduate-level courses on research methods, leadership, and student development in addition to undergraduate leadership courses and Gemstone courses.
Vickie Hill serves as Assistant Director of the Gemstone Honors Program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland. She has provided dedicated service for the Gemstone Honors Program for over 15 years.
Vickie received her B.S. degree in Criminology & Criminal Justice, and her Master’s in Education from the University of Maryland University College. She is currently a candidate for a Ph.D. in Leadership and Management from the Capella University conducting extensive research on diversity in leadership. All while pursuing higher education, Vickie has been with the University of Maryland campus community 30 years.
She currently coordinates activities for 35+ faculty mentors and purchasing activity for 35+ research teams. Vickie manages the day-to-day operations for all Gemstone Honors program to include financial services, course management, facilities and communication. Vickie provides guidance to the financial liaisons for 35+ research teams and under her leadership the Gemstone Honors program has successfully passed every financial audit for the past 15 years. She also supervises the Operation and Team Support program. Over her 30+ years at the University, Vickie has developed, mentored and influenced students from all walks of life.
She also serves as an Elder at Kingdom Harvest Ministries where she holds the position as Director overseeing the youth, women and singles’ ministries. She is also a christian educator instructor and provides guidance for youth church. She is the proud wife of Melvin Hill and she is the mother to three beautiful children.
Leah Tobin is the Assistant Director of Student Engagement for the Gemstone Program. In her role with the Program, Leah facilitates the First-Year experience, including two first-year seminars and coordinates the co-curricular opportunities which complement the students' four-year research project. Always interested in education, Leah majored in Elementary Education at American University and later received her Master’s Degree in Higher Education Administration with a concentration in Student Affairs Administration from The George Washington University. Originally from New Jersey, Leah has made the DC area her home since 2002 and is proud to be a Terp! She will begin her doctorate in Student Affairs in the Fall of 2015 and looks forward to engaging in the research process alongside Gemstone Students!
Jessica Lee serves as the Coordinator for Student Engagement for the Gemstone Honors Program in the Honors College at the University of Maryland, where she serves as the staff advisor for several Gemstone student leadership groups (Gemstone Council and Gems Camp Planning Committee) and an academic advisor. Jessica received her B.S. degree in Biological Sciences: Physiology & Neurobiology and minored in Linguistics at the University of Maryland.
Jessica is also an Honors College and Gemstone alumnus- member of Team RITALIN. Her team’s research focused on how prenatal nicotine exposure (linked to ADHD) affects inhibitory control governed by the prefrontal cortex of the brain. During her senior year, she traveled to San Diego, CA with some team members to present their research findings at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting. In addition to her involvement with Gemstone research, she was a research assistant for the Department of Linguistics Cognitive Neuroscience of Language lab and was a Baggett Summer Scholar, focusing on language acquisition and theory of mind
Jessica was also heavily involved in the Gemstone program and around campus. She served as a section leader for all of the GEMS courses as a section leader for all of the GEMS courses and president of the Gemstone Student Council. Additionally, Jessica was a committee head and tour guide for Maryland Images, a recruitment ambassador for the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and an intern for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.
Each Gemstone team has a mentor that works with them from the early stages of their research till their thesis writing and presentation. Mentors work closely with their team of students, meeting weekly to support the team through their research, and help ensure their success. Teams praise their mentors for the guidance that they offer and for their ability to support the research, while letting students take the lead. The commitment of these dedicated faculty members to their teams is integral to the functioning of the Gemstone Honors Program.
Gemstone Team Librarians are a wonderful resource provided for our teams!
Each Gemstone team is assigned a team librarian to assist and guide them in their quest for information relating to their research projects. These librarians volunteer to work with teams for the three years the teams are working on their project. The librarians are experts at finding information in all types of formats. They are also a part of a network of information professionals that they can utilize to help teams with their information needs. Librarians meet with their assigned team(s) or individual team members to help them navigate the University's libraries and the multitude of databases and information resources not accessible on campus. The team's librarian will help the team learn where to search for and locate the best information needed for team research projects.
View the list of librarians currently working with teams, or visit our Information for Librarians page.
The Gemstone students are the heart of the program. Learn more about our students and their projects on our Team Research page.