Faculty & Staff Directory
Dionne Nicole Champion
Research Assistant Professor
Center for Arts in Medicine/STEM and Arts Integration, STEAM Making (Learning through Dance Makerspaces), Embodiment and Learning, Dance Physics, Communicating Identity through Movement

Dionne's work has focused on the design and ethnographic study of learning environments that blend STEM and creative embodied learning activities, particularly for children who have experienced feelings of marginalization in STEM education settings (e.g. African Americans, girls).  She is interested in understanding the ways these populations draw on their everyday practices and use their bodies as resources.  She explores STEM engagement through making and embodied experienceto construct broader conceptualizations of cognition that substantively intertwine STEM learning and development, attending to the affective, social and emotional while broadening STEM knowledge and understanding.  

Dionne is an engineer, dancer, arts educator, and education researcher. Her background and experiences give her a unique perspective for understanding issues related to STEM and children from communities of color as well as an informed perspective on the intersections of arts and sciences, informal and school settings, theory and practice.  Trained primarily as a qualitative researcher, she has developed a toolkit that includes video ethnography, participant observation, video and artifact elicitation interview, clinical interview and multimodal analysis.

She is founder of DancExcel, a creative arts center in Gary, Indiana.  Her experience running that program include designing and implementing educational programming that infuses science, math, writing and history into music and dance activities.  This work has deepend her appreciation for the fact that context matters, that cognition is complex and that understandings are often demonstrated but left unspoken. It also deepened her commitment to exploring both STEM and making opportunities for children of color, thinking not only about how to broaden participation, but also about how to understand, respect, and shed light on the ways in which children already engage, and the strengths that they bring to the table.  Dionne is currently developing a research program that studies ways to engage children in authentic STEM experiences and that interrogates and complicates the ways we think about sense-making, particularly within informal learning environments like Makerspaces where STEM is not just STEM, movement can be more than “just” movement, and the pathways to understanding are not linear, normative, or even always predictable.


PhD, Northwestern University (2018), Learning Sciences, School of Education and Social Policy (SESP), Evanston, IL

Dissertation:The STEAM Dance Makerspace: A Context for Integration: An Investigation of Learning at the Intersections of STEM, Art, Making & Embodiment

(Committee: Dr. Reed Stevens (chair), Dr. Carol Lee, Dr. Shirin Vossoughi

M. Ed., Temple University (2003), Dance Education, Boyer College of Music and Dance, Philadelphia, PA

Thesis:Dance as a key to boosting brainpower and self-confidence in African American children (Advisor: Dr. Kariamu Welsh Asante)

B.S., Florida A&M University (1998), Chemical Engineering, Cum Laude, FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, Tallahassee, FL 

Previous Work Experience

Founder and Artistic Director, DancExcel, Champion Center for Creative Arts Education, Gary, IN (2004-Present)

DancExcel is a creative arts center founded in the belief that movement and dance-centered learning can help children acquire the skills, discipline, and confidence to achieve academic success. As director, job responsibilities included teaching dance classes (for ages 2-adult), overseeing the staff while developing and implementing the program curriculum, create dance and arts-infused programming, and producing and directing major educational performance events. I also provided and facilitated educational workshops for area schools, teachers and administrators. 

* Creator ofThe Spirit of the Baobab Treeproduction, a DancExcel “dance-umentary” designed to use music and dance to teach cast members and audiences about African American history.  I co-authored the corresponding children’s story book (ISBN-10: 1436378419) and a curriculum guide based on the Indiana State Academic Standards for reading, language arts, social studies, writing and dance that are also used as supplemental teaching tools. 

Teacher, Roosevelt High School, Gary, IN (2008-2010) 

Taught dance classes for high school students as a Physical Education elective. 

Teacher, Boston Renaissance Charter School, Boston, MA (2002-2004) 

*Massachusetts Educators License, 2003

Taught dance for primary and elementary school students as part of the school's arts programing. Developed a curriculum that integrated what students were learning in language arts, math and science classes with the dance class activities. 

Development Engineer, Eastman Kodak Company

Designed experiments to test new film product formulations and coating processes for manufacture.  

Current Projects 

Constellation of Projects that integrate STEM, Making, Art and Embodiment

  • MUScLE (Movement for Understanding Science Learning and Engagment)
  • Making Hip Hop: Using Culturally Sustaining STEM+C Learning Environments to Explore Computational Learning and Identity
  • Embodied Physics
  • Re-Making STEM
  • Ethnography of Bikes not Bombs: Making through a Trauma Informed Creative Curriculum
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