Our research team is focused on educational supports for students with learning disabilities, particularly in the area of reading. The questions that drive our work center around how best to support students’ reading development. Dr. Toste is specifically interested in methods for intensifying and individualizing interventions for students with reading disabilities (including dyslexia).

Dr. Toste will be accepting new doctoral students for fall 2022. Please reach out for more information or visit the Department of Special Education website.

Current PhD Advisees


Elizabeth Brown

PhD Student


Elizabeth (she/her) received her master’s in behavior disorders and positive behavior supports at Texas State University. Prior to beginning her PhD at UT Austin, she led a behavior inclusion program in San Marcos CISD. She aims to conduct research that will improve screening and interventions that target the emotional and academic effects of trauma. Elizabeth is a doctoral scholar with the National Center for Leadership on Intensive Intervention (NCLII-2) and works on the SDLMI-Reading project.


Beth Feuer

PhD Student

GoKAR! & Project EXPERT

Erica (she/her) received her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies

Beth (she/her) received her B.A. in Education and Child Study from Smith College. She graduated from the University of Washington with an M.Ed. with a concentration in Low Incidence Disabilities. She worked for five years as a secondary special education teacher before embarking on her PhD journey. Beth is currently a doctoral student in the Equity and Diversity in Special Education program at UT Austin. She works on both GoKAR! (Kids Against Racism) and Project EXPERT. Her research is focused on culturally responsive and equitable practices within special education.


Erica Fry

PhD Student

Project EXPERT

Erica (she/her) received her B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies

from Texas State University where she studied Special Education. She graduated from New York University with an M.A. in Sociology of Education with a policy concentration. She worked in schools for 23 years as a special education teacher and administrator. Erica is a doctoral student in the LD/BD program at UT Austin. She works on Project EXPERT, and her research is focused on professional development for teachers of students with disabilities.


Zainab A. Umar

PhD Candidate

Zainab (she/her) graduated with her B.A. in Public Administration from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. She went on to get a post-graduate diploma in education from the Nigerian Teachers' Institute Kaduna, and her master’s in Early Childhood Special Education at UT Austin. Zainab has worked as an elementary teacher and supervised student teachers. Her research is focused on reading instruction and student outcomes in Africa, particularly Nigeria. She currently works as a field supervisor in the special education teacher preparation program.

Team Members


David Furjanic, PhD

Project Coordinator

Project EXPERT

Dave (he/him) is the coordinator for Project EXPERT. He graduated from the University of Oregon with a PhD in school psychology and MS in special education in June. He completed a predoctoral internship at the University of South Florida where he split his time between analyzing assessment data with the Rightpath Research and Innovation Center and building professional learning resources with Florida’s Problem-Solving/Response to Intervention Project. Dave is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP), having completed a master’s at Millersville University and an internship in a Pennsylvania Department of Education-approved MTSS/RTI service model at Derry Township School District in Hershey, PA. His research interests focus on data-based decision-making, coaching, and capacity building.


Mona Maclay

Project Coordinator


Mona (she/her) is the coordinator for the SDLMI-Reading project. She earned her MEd at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Educational Psychology, Youth Development. Mona has previously worked as a tutoring coordinator for America Reads – UIC. She has also worked as a lab manager, research assistant, and teaching assistant.  She is interested in how social and emotional processes can support positive educational and developmental outcomes in youth.