Our Team


James A. Reffel, Ph.D., Director

Dr Reffel

Dr. James A. Reffel has been involved in gifted education for many years. In 1982, he studied with Dr. George Betts at the University of Northern Colorado and was a counselor for the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) for gifted learners. He served as Academic Dean for the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University (Maryland). In 2004, Dr. Reffel facilitated the Education Minor for Georgia Governor's Honors Students. He also served as a Primary Teacher Leader for the World Leadership Forum (WLF) in Washington, D.C. WLF is one branch of the People to People leadership programs for gifted middle school students. He has also studied with Dr. Bonnie Cramond. She is a professor and the director of the Torrance Center for Creative Studies and Talent Development in the Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology at UGA.

Dr. Reffel has given numerous presentations and published on several aspects of gifted learners including leadership, creativity, perfectionism, and wisdom. Presentations on gifted learners were given to national audiences at the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) and international audiences at the ISEC 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland (presentation - A24), the 18th Biennial World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (2009), the 11th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness in Sydney, Australia (2010), and the 19th Biennial World Conference on Gifted and Talented Children in Prague, Czech Republic (2011).

G&T interview featuring Dr. James A. Reffel (My Q&A part begins at 1:45). My daughter (Suzanne) made this video for her Human Exceptionalities Course at Stetson University (Spring, 2012) - enjoy.

Dr. Reffel may be reached by email at jareffel@valdosta.edu.

David M. Monetti, Ph.D.Dr. Monetti

Dr. David M. Monetti is a professor of educational psychology at Valdosta State University.  He became interested in gifted education because of a desire to see all students succeed.  He has heard the "myth: gifted students don’t need help; they’ll do fine on their own." Those types of attitudes clarify that additional work and advocacy is necessary to help this group of students have sufficient opportunity for growth. 

Teaching in the modern classroom is a demanding enterprise that requires considerable knowledge, decision making, and preparation.  One of the defining features of a modern classroom is the variety of student learning needs that have to be addressed simultaneously.  "Gifted students receive less attention," as teachers focus on the majority of children in the class.  Dr. Monetti enjoys teaching the courses offered for the gifted endorsement because they afford him the chance to work with teachers trying to better understand the needs, instructional methods, and materials appropriate for the gifted.

Given his background and experience in secondary education, Dr. Monetti has collaborated with Dr. Julie Halter to create an annual Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI) that trains teachers in the skills necessary to successfully offer an Advanced Placement high school course.  These institutes have been offered for four years and they continue to demonstrate how important it is for high school students to have the opportunity to be exposed to high caliber, challenging Advanced Placement curriculum.

Dr. Monetti is also very interested in sharing and exchanging ideas.  He recently co-authored a book with Bruce Tuckman at The Ohio State University entitled “Educational Psychology through Wadsworth Publishers.  A new version of the book will be released later this fall that includes a new feature called “Virtual Psychology Labs.”  In these labs, teacher preparation students see course concepts brought to life through direct experience in web-based research simulations.  After participating in these labs inspired by classic experiments in psychology, students receive immediate feedback and explanations.

Dr. Monetti may be reached by email at dmmonett@valdosta.edu.

Katharine S. Adams, Ph.D.Dr. Adams

Dr. Katharine S. Adams received her BS degree from the University of Florida, MS degree from Valdosta State University, and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and School Psychology from Florida State University. Her professional experiences include elementary and middle-school education and psychological assessment and counseling. She is a licensed psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Valdosta State University. Her current research interests include the social-emotional adjustment and academic success of both high and low achieving students as well as the social stigma associated with disability.

Dr. Adams may be reached by email at ksadams@valdosta.edu. 

Larry D. Hilgert, Ph.D.Dr. Hilgert

Dr. Hilgert received his BS degree from Indiana University; MS and Ph.D. degrees from Ball State University. He has been a Georgia licensed psychologist since 1988 and holds certification as a school psychologist at both the state and national levels. Through Valdosta State University he has served families requesting evaluation of their children for placement in academically gifted programs, families and children in Head Start, in group homes for displaced children and adults, in migrant farm clinics, and in specialized care facilities for individuals with a variety of challenges, severe disabilities, and traumatic brain injury, and [soon] in Mexico. His varied responsibilities currently include undergraduate instruction in introductory psychology and graduate course instruction as a university supervisor for practicum and internship in school, clinical and research settings. He is a member of the National Association of School Psychologists

Dr. Hilgert may be reached by email at lhilgert@valdosta.edu.

Jen Breneiser, Ph.D.

Dr. Breneiser

Dr. Jen Breneiser is an associate professor of cognitive psychology at Valdosta State University. Dr. Breneiser’s current research interests center on applying theory in cognitive psychology to practice in the educational setting. One specific research interest relates to how learning and memory processes unfold for gifted learners in self-study as well as in the larger classroom setting. 

Dr. Breneiser may be reached by email at jebreneiser@valdosta.edu.

Natalie Spencer, Ph.D.


Dr. Natalie Spencer received her B.A. in English and M.Ed. in School Counseling from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Ph.D. from North Carolina State University. Her professional experiences include experience as a high school counselor and licensed professional counselor in North Carolina. Dr. Spencer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling at Valdosta State University. Her current research interests include the academic and personal/social experiences of gifted minority students, multi-cultural counseling, social justice and advocacy in school counseling.

You can reach Dr. Spencer at nfspencer@valdosta.edu

Lee Grimes, Ph.D.

Dr. Grimes

Dr. Lee Edmondson Grimes received her B.A. degree in English from Valdosta State University, M.S. degree in Counseling from the University of Georgia, and Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Personnel Services from the University of Georgia.  As a practitioner in the public school setting, Lee began her career as a high school English teacher and then worked as a school counselor at each level - elementary, middle, and high school.  Lee is a national certified counselor, licensed professional counselor, and certified school counselor.

Lee’s research focuses on rural education including the practices of rural school counselors to meet student, family, and community needs through STEM career awareness and social justice advocacy. 

Dr. Grimes may be reached by email at legrimes@valdosta.edu.

Graduate Assistants

Brenda Brunston
Haley Dowling