Welcome to our newest employees! (2023)

As we prepare for the 2023-2024 school year, we’d like to officially welcome the talented new faculty and staff who have joined Team NCSSM, in both Durham and Morganton, since August 2022.

You may find contact information for NCSSM faculty and staff in our employee directory.  

Welcome to:  

James Alexander, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Durham
James Alexander joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Campus Safety Officer for our Durham campus. He brought with him nearly a decade of combined public safety, administrative, and residential life experience.  

Cassidy Allen, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Cassidy Allen joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Community Coordinator for the Durham campus. She was previously a middle school English teacher in Stokes County for three years, and was a passionate Battle of the Books coach. Cassidy loves reading, talking about books, and all things Disney. She is an avid traveler and is constantly seeking new places to visit.  

Rob Assadurian, Assistant Athletic Trainer, Physical Activity & Wellness
Rob Assadurian joined NCSSM as Assistant Athletic Trainer for our Durham campus in May 2023. A native of San Francisco, California, he earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis on athletic training and rehabilitation with a minor in athletic coaching from San Francisco State University. He holds a master’s degree in sports and fitness management from the University of San Francisco. Rob is a board certified and licensed athletic trainer. For more than 25 years, Rob has worked with a wide range of athletes at various levels – developmental, secondary, collegiate, and professional. While providing a high standard of comprehensive care, he organized and managed all medical records from insurance claims to treatment logs. In addition to his work in athletics, Rob has served in many roles as an administrator, educator, curriculum design/developer, coaches’ mentor, and athletic coach.   

Younes Baalla, Instructor of Engineering, Engineering & Computer Science
Younes Baalla joined NCSSM as an Instructor of Engineering on our Morganton campus in January 2023. Prior to NCSSM he taught mechanical engineering technology at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC. In addition to his work at NCSSM, he also serves as Instructor of Engineering for Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth, and is a developer of STEM projects. Younes also has experience as a mechanical, aerospace, and biomedical engineering research specialist at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma, and as a general engineer for the US Department of Defense Missile Defense Agency’s Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL. He earned his bachelor’s in aerospace engineering at the University of Tennessee, and master’s degrees in aviation systems/flight test engineering and in engineering science at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. Younes’ research interests include atmospheric science, aerodynamics, and airplanes and unmanned air systems performance.  

Tylisha Baber, Instructor of Chemistry, Science
Tylisha Baber joined NCSSM in August 2023 as an Instructor of Chemistry on our Durham campus. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from North Carolina State University, interning during that time at several chemical companies (including Eli Lilly and Exxon). She then earned a PhD in chemical engineering from Michigan State University, where she researched the conversion of biomass to fuel. Following her doctoral studies, Tylisha spent time as a fellow at the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education, an entity of the National Academies. She then continued post-doc research in biofuels at the University of Michigan. To fulfill a teaching credential, Tylisha earned a master’s degree in chemistry from UNC-Greensboro. She has many years of teaching experience at various institutions. Tylisha was born in Martinique, an island in the West Indies of the Caribbean Sea and a territory of France. She enjoys exercising, cooking, and watching reruns of shows from the 80s and 90s.  

Jonathan Browning, Instructor of Physical Activity & Wellness, Student Life
Jonathan Browning joined NCSSM in August 2023 as the Instructor of Physical Activity and Wellness and Intramural Coordinator for our Morganton campus. Prior to coming to NCSSM, Jonathan taught health and physical education in the Burke County Public Schools for over 23 years. During that time he also coached baseball, basketball, and football at both the middle and high school levels. Jonathan holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, participating in outdoor recreation activities, and working on his family farm.  

Kim Browning, Instructor of Chemistry, Science
Kim Browning joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Chemistry on our Morganton campus. She earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Central Florida, and her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Florida. Kim began her teaching career in 1992 as a chemistry instructor at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts and then also taught at the four-year and community college level. Most recently, she served for 15 years as science department chair at Catawba Valley Community College. She has taught a diverse offering of chemistry courses, including organic chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, and a chemistry course designed for visual artists, as well as geography. She has designed unique POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) activities and standards-based grading protocols to enhance her courses and student success. For many years, she has been an avid volunteer for multiple local living history sites and has served on the Hickory Regional Science Olympiad Planning Committee. Kim enjoys her spare time cooking, doing various textile arts, and spending time outdoors.  

Marilyn “Woody” Catherwood ’18, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Marilyn “Woody” Catherwood joined NCSSM in August 2022 as a Community Coordinator for the Durham campus. They graduated from NCSSM in 2018 and moved on to study history at UNC Asheville with a focus in Appalachian history. Throughout college, they worked as the Assistant Manager and Community Changemaker of Ben & Jerry’s, where they found a deep love for working with highschoolers. Woody applies this passion for working with teenagers by inspiring an open minded and intersectional approach to education and community building at NCSSM. In their free time, Woody enjoys gardening, beekeeping, cooking, and writing. They have a deep love for the ebb and flow of the environment and hope to invite students to find peace and appreciation in nature.  

Chris Collins, Instructor of Biology, Science
Chris Collins joined NCSSM as an Instructor of Biology on our Morganton campus. He came to us in 2022 as a temporary hire from Patton High School, and began as a permanent employee in July 2023. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology/secondary education from Appalachian State University, and a master’s degree in biology education/microbiology from Montana State University. At NCSSM, he has taught courses ranging from AP biology to online neuroscience and has served as the Science TA coordinator and assisted with Summer Research in Science. Chris’s community connections and prior experience led to his continued leadership in the Environmental Field Day, where NCSSM-Morganton and Patton High School students engaged Burke County fifth-graders in environmental science content. Morganton has been his home for many years and he considers the surrounding natural landscapes to be some of the best in the country. He and his wife spend their free time relaxing in their garden and enjoying the local wildlife. Chris is passionate about students, challenges, adventures, and science!  

Christy Davenport, Instructor of American Studies & Humanities, Humanities
Christy Davenport joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities on our Morganton campus. She teaches both sections of American Studies and enjoys creating challenging senior Humanities courses that often center around cultural and social American experiences. Christy was born and raised in northeast North Carolina and has traveled extensively throughout the southeast United States. She has lived in Savannah, New Orleans, and other coastal Southern areas. She did her graduate work at Mississippi State University where she completed her master’s in history. She is currently completing her doctorate through the writing of her dissertation entitled “From Sundown to Swamp: Finding Limited Freedom in the Great Dismal Swamp.” Her research interests include Southern US history, cultural history, enslaved culture, early and modern US History, and African American studies. Christy earned her bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education at Elizabeth City State University. She has several publications and has presented at national and international conferences. She is an avid baseball fan, loves the outdoors, is a proud plant and dog mom, and enjoys exploring the Morganton area.  

Hannah Davis, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Hannah Davis joined NCSSM in January 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Durham campus. She graduated from Catawba College in 2017 with a B.A. in communications and a double minor in environmental studies and creative writing. While in school, she was the editor-in-chief of her school newspaper and is always happy to give writing tips and edits. After college, Hannah worked in the IT and Environmental Education fields. Notably, she works as a contractor for the Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh for their large event days like Bugfest. Hannah has also been a part of a therapeutic wilderness camping program where she was able to canoe over 200 miles of the Neuse River and backpack over 50 miles of the Uwharrie National Forest with groups of teens. Her hobbies include whittling, video games, herping, baking, and identifying what weird critters her family member saw from the grainy photo they sent her. Hannah’s life-long goal is to be a part of the first colony on Mars.  

David Dry, Instructor of American Studies & Humanities, Humanities
David Dry joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities on our Morganton campus. Although originally hailing from Orlando, Florida, David has called North Carolina home since 2011. Prior to joining NCSSM, David worked as a full-time history instructor at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, and during the 2016-2017 academic year, he taught abroad in Kyrgyzstan as a Fulbright U.S. Scholar. David’s scholarly interests include 19th- and 20th-century Native American history. David is a proud citizen of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma, and his doctoral research examined Ottawa political traditions of using U.S. citizenship to oppose federal authority over tribal affairs. David’s other academic interests include oral history, public history, digital humanities, and the history of Western North Carolina. David earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history at the University of Florida; his master’s of education technology at Ottawa University; and his doctorate in history at UNC-Chapel Hill. Outside the classroom, he enjoys exploring new places with his wife and two daughters.  

Richard Eisenberg, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Morganton
Richard Eisenberg came to NCSSM in August 2022 as a Campus Safety Officer. A retired police lieutenant from New York, he moved with his family to North Carolina in the mid 2000s, and worked for the City of Hickory Police Department for several years prior to joining NCSSM. During his time with the HPD, he was assigned to the SALT Block in Hickory, which is home to the Catawba Science Center, Hickory Library, and Hickory Art Museum. If you visited the Catawba Science Center with your school or family during those years, you may have seen Richard on patrol in the area. His favorite movies are old, classic Godzilla movies, and he is still a loyal New York Jets fan.  

Mauricio Escobar Medina, Instructor of Physics, Science
Mauricio Escobar joined NCSSM in July 2023 as Instructor of Physics on our Morganton campus. Since 2002, Mauricio has taught high school and college physics and mathematics in Spanish and English. Mauricio attended the University of Puerto Rico where he earned his master’s degree in physics in 2009. In 2015, he earned his doctorate degree in physics from the University of Rhode Island where he conducted research in quantum gravitational spectroscopy. In 2015, he worked as visiting assistant professor of physics at University of Nebraska at Kearney, and between 2016 and 2023, Mauricio worked as associate lecturer of physics at the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts where he taught introductory and advanced physics courses. Mauricio thoroughly enjoys time-travel-related sci-fi, anime, reading and writing, and finding creative ways to teach physics.  

Billie Esteban, Electrician I, Plant Facilities
Billie Esteban joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an electrician on our Durham campus. He has several years of experience as a residential electrician. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his family and playing soccer on the weekends.  

Anna Fletcher, Digital Communication Specialist, Communications
As a Digital Communication Specialist, Anna Fletcher manages NCSSM’s primary social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. She is passionate about telling stories through unique, fun, authentic, and engaging content, especially when it involves eye-catching videos. Before coming to NCSSM in May 2023, Anna created sale-driving content for Spoonflower, a home decor brand under Shutterfly. Previous to that, she worked in Annual Giving with UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences. She has also spent nearly a decade managing and growing her own successful brands on social media. She earned her bachelor’s in public relations at Appalachian State University. When Anna isn’t scheduling social posts, she practices a slew of creative hobbies, such as sewing, costume design, digital art, gouache painting, and more. On a free day, you’ll find her cuddled up with her two cats, Mina and Opal, sipping on a strong cup of coffee and doodling whatever feels good.  

Richard Fowler, Network Administrator III, Information Technology Services
Richard Fowler joined NCSSM in June 2023 as a Network Administrator for our Morganton campus. Born in Greensboro, NC, he moved to McDowell County, NC, when he was 10 years old. He earned an associate’s degree from McDowell Technical Community College, and his bachelor’s degree from Appalachian State University. Prior to NCSSM, Richard worked in the North Carolina Community College System for more than 20 years as an IT analyst, a network manager, an adjunct instructor, and finally as a full-time instructor teaching CIT and network management. For the last four school years prior to coming to NCSSM, he taught at James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, NC. Richard has now proudly lived in the three great regions of North Carolina, the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Mountains! Richard enjoys spending time with his wife and children.  

Alexis R. Frady ’12, Business Manager, NCSSM Foundation
Alexis R. Frady is an NCSSM-Durham 2012 alumna and returned to the school in June 2022 as the NCSSM Foundation’s Business Manager. She is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations and administrative responsibilities of the Foundation team and Foundation Board of Directors. She also serves as the Foundation Attaché Coordinator. Prior to joining the NCSSM team, Alexis co-led a small team of Professional Organizers and also served in various positions including a two-year term with AmeriCorps and the NC State College Advising Corps. The College Advising Corps aims to increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, and first-generation college students from rural North Carolina who apply, enter, and complete college. In this role, she supported her hometown, East Bladen High School, as the in-house college access expert. Outside of work, Alexis enjoys cooking, baking, gardening, yoga, home renovation projects, and traveling with her husband and dog.  

Sasha Freeman, Administrative Associate, NCSSM-Morganton
Sasha Freeman joined NCSSM-Morganton in March 2023 as Administrative Support Associate. She was born and raised in Morganton and has always enjoyed working with children. Her career began as a cosmetologist, after which she was a stay-at-home mom for several years. Prior to NCSSM, she worked in a public charter school for 10 years as a teacher’s assistant in multiple grade levels, parent/teacher liaison, librarian and receptionist. Sasha lives in the Salem community with her husband, Justin, and their three children – Carter, Chesnie and Camlin. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling (especially to warm, tropical places), reading, and enjoying all things Morganton has to offer!  

William “Tandy” Grubbs, Instructor of Chemistry, Science
Tandy Grubbs joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Chemistry on our Morganton campus. Trained as a physical chemist, his expertise bridges the areas of experimental and computational chemistry and physics. Prior to joining NCSSM, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship within the Molecular Physics Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and subsequently joined the faculty at Stetson University (DeLand, FL) where he taught a variety of introductory and advanced chemistry courses. In 2010, he was selected to receive the American Chemical Society (ACS) Orlando Florida Section Outstanding College Teaching Award. Born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC, his current scholarly interests include computational modeling, neural networks for deep learning, environmental sustainability, laser interferometry, and 3D printing and prototyping. He earned his bachelor’s in chemistry from High Point University, and his doctorate in physical chemistry from Duke University. In his spare time, Tandy enjoys exploring the mountains of NC with his wife (Sue), running, and cooking.  

Ben Halligan, Academic Programs Facilitator, Engineering & Computer Science 
Ben Halligan joined NCSSM on the Morganton campus in November 2022 as an Academic Programs Facilitator. He previously worked for the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, supporting distance learning technology on the campus of UNC Asheville. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communication and a master’s in business administration from Western Carolina University. He enjoys being active in the outdoors, playing soccer, mountain biking, rock climbing, and paddling. Ben is an NC native from Asheboro who lived in Asheville from 2001 until 2021. There, he met his wife while playing in an adult soccer league. They have two cats, a dog, and one son, born in July 2020.  

Kristina Harmer, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Morganton
Kristina Harmer joined NCSSM in 2023 as a Campus Safety Officer based in Morganton. Prior to NCSSM, she worked as a bill pay specialist and as a direct support professional. Her hobbies include baking goodies for her friends, family and coworkers, making jewelry or gifts for people, and cooking with her husband. She also likes to go to the dog park with her husband and two dogs. Kristina’s favorite holiday is Halloween and her favorite movie is “Thirteen Ghosts.” She grew up in many different places but she calls Colorado her home state. Kristina is a high school graduate and has plans to return to school.  

Erin Hetrick ’05, Accounting Manager, Business Office
Erin Hetrick joined NCSSM in February 2023 as the Accounting Manager. She is a Certified Public Accountant and worked as an auditor with BDO USA prior to joining NCSSM. Erin is an alumna of NCSSM, a two-time graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as an alumna of Appalachian State University. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs.  

Chris Hopkins, Assistant Director of Campus Safety/Protection of Minors Coordinator, Campus Safety – Durham
Chris Hopkins came to NCSSM in April 2023 as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety for the Durham campus. Prior to coming to NCSSM, he spent a decade in law enforcement as a police officer, detective, and supervisor, having served with the Covington County (MS) Sheriff’s Department, University of Southern Mississippi Police Department, and the North Carolina State University Police Department. He also served in the U.S. Army and is an Operation Enduring Freedom veteran. He attended the University of Southern Mississippi where he received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in sociology. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family hiking, camping, or watching the Durham Bulls baseball team.  

Jared Jeffries, IT Analyst, Information Technology Services
Jared Jeffries joined NCSSM in March 2023 as an IT Analyst on our Morganton campus. He has called many places “home” including Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia, but his heart has always been in North Carolina. Jared graduated from South Caldwell High School in Hudson, NC, and went on to earn an associate’s degree from Florence Darlington Technical College in Florence, SC, and a bachelor’s of fine arts from the Art Institute of Atlanta where he specialized in Game Art and Design. He served five years as Senior Desktop Support Technician at Francis Marion University. Cat dad to four, he enjoys gaming, woodworking, and growing gourmet mushrooms in his free time.  

Jonathan Johnson, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Morganton
Jonathan D. Johnson joined NCSSM in October 2022 as a Campus Safety Officer on the Morganton campus. Prior to NCSSM, he served for 14 years as a correctional officer at Foothills Correctional Institution. Jonathan has an associate’s degree in commercial design from McDowell Technical College in Marion, NC. When not at work, he enjoys spending time with his family, especially his daughter, and friends. He has a love of going to see live music, plays, and anything that is fun. He is also a big fan of horror, monster and sci-fi movies, and comic books.  

Jason Joseph, Instructor of Mathematics, Mathematics
Jason Joseph joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Mathematics on our Morganton campus. After completing his undergraduate degree at Bates College, he taught at Manchester Central High School in his home state of New Hampshire. He continued to teach while earning his PhD at the University of Georgia, where he was able to spend a year visiting at the Max Planck Institute of Mathematics. After that he moved to Houston, Texas, where he taught and did research as a postdoctoral instructor at Rice University. Jason has taught a variety of courses, from precalculus to linear algebra and topology. He has also mentored students at Camp Euclid and the Directed Reading Programs at Rice and UGA. He especially enjoys knot theory and connections with algebra and other fields. To unwind, Jason enjoys lifting, running, and biking. He also loves hiking with his three dogs and partner Hannah, as well as listening to music and grilling on the porch.  

Neal Keesee, Instructor of American Studies & Humanities, Humanities
Neal Keesee joined NCSSM in July 2023 as Instructor of American Studies and Humanities on our Morganton campus. He teaches American Studies and senior humanities courses on topics that include Western thought and WWI. Neal came to us from the Christchurch School in Virginia where he served in various administrative roles, including as associate head of school and academic dean, and taught interdisciplinary humanities courses. He earned a PhD in theology from the University of Chicago and has expertise in philosophy, history of ideas, and pedagogy. His skills in woodworking and interest in teaching these skills to students exemplify his desire to bridge the gap between working with one’s hands and the life of the mind.  

Kevin King, Facilities Generalist, NCSSM-Morganton
Kevin King is a Facilities Generalist for NCSSM-Morganton, and was involved with the development of that campus even when it was just dirt, grass, and a plan. As part of the construction team chosen to build the Morganton campus, Kevin became the go-to person between NCSSM team members and the various building trades. He has extensive knowledge in construction, and specific knowledge of the Morganton site. He joined NCSSM-Morganton as a full-time team member in March 2023. Prior to his full-time employment with NCSSM, he served as supervisor for the Morganton housekeeping team, and joined the facilities staff part-time in 2022. Kevin is always smiling and greets everyone by name. He is a great asset to the facilities team in that there is nothing he can’t do or fix, and he is a great asset to the NCSSM community in that he is as dependable as a person gets.  

Leslie Knight, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Leslie Knight joined NCSSM as a Community Coordinator for the Durham campus in August 2023. Leslie grew up around the Durham area and attended school just a few miles from NCSSM’s campus before moving to Boone, NC, to earn her bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Education. During her time in Boone she worked in residence life. She came to NCSSM to return to her passion for residence life and working with high school students in residence halls to build strong communities and relationships that will last a lifetime. When she isn’t working, you can often find Leslie slacklining on a nice day, in a comfy chair with her nose in a book, singing along to musical soundtrack, or enjoying a Durham Bulls game with her family and friends during baseball season.  

Mareca Lodge, Instructor of Biology, Science
Mareca Lodge joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Biology on our Morganton campus. She is a native of rural Pennsylvania and earned her PhD in biochemistry from North Carolina State University, where she had the opportunity to mentor students in research projects (including a student from NCSSM-Durham!). Mareca’s research focused on biochemistry with an emphasis on physiology and immunology, specifically “Interpreting the role of fructose metabolism in acute and chronic exposure within macrophage subsets in the context of normal and inflammatory/fibrotic states of the liver.” Her work stemmed from understanding the progression of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, a progressive disease with multiple liver pathologies brought on by overconsumption of carbohydrates and fats with low physical exercise. Mareca is excited to continue her passion for nutrition and education by teaching Anatomy and Physiology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and online Neuroscience with an emphasis in biochemical principles. In her spare time she enjoys crafting, specifically crocheting and jewelry making, as well as doing anything in the kitchen.  

Kayla Lowdermilk, Office Manager, Student Life – Morganton
Kayla Lowdermilk joined NCSSM in November 2022 as Office Manager for Student Life on the Morganton campus. Prior to NCSSM she worked for Western Piedmont Community College for five years, advancing in various business office roles and working in the Educational Talent Search (TRIO) program as an educational resource facilitator assisting middle and high school students prepare for college. When she was younger she was a part of the TRIO program, so it is a program that is very special to her, and helped her develop a passion for helping students and watching them succeed. Prior to Western Piedmont Community College, she worked two years at WW Healthcare Consultants as a staff accountant. Kayla earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in business administration from University of North Carolina Pembroke. Outside of work she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, cooking, and crafting.  

Gretchen Lowman, Payroll Specialist, Business Office
Gretchen Lowman joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Payroll Specialist on our Morganton campus. She began her career with the State of North Carolina in 2008 and has worked in various roles, most recently with the North Carolina School for the Deaf as the administrative assistant to the school director and at Broughton Hospital as a timekeeper. Gretchen lives in Morganton and is a native of Casar, NC. She enjoys playing with several ukulele groups in the western NC area, and going to vintage camper rallies and gatherings with her vintage camper.  

Andre’ Lunsford, Housekeeping Supervisor, Housekeeping – Durham
André Lunsford joined NCSSM’s Durham campus as Housekeeping Supervisor in February 2023, bringing with him eight years of supervisory experience in environmental services for the State of North Carolina. André is a Durham native. He enjoys traveling and spending time with his family.  

Kevin Martinez Ramirez, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Kevin Ramirez joined NCSSM as a Community Coordinator for the Morganton campus in September 2022. He previously worked as a one-on-one teacher in a self-contained classroom. A native of Morganton, Kevin became well known as a local soccer and tennis coach. He began his coaching career at the age of 14 and coached at every school level by the age of 19. After graduating college, he returned to his hometown to continue coaching at his former high school. Besides sports, Kevin enjoys the arts — especially painting and music. At NCSSM Kevin works to help students learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and encourages them to keep moving forward no matter the circumstances.  

Kelse McAdon ’19, Community Coordinator, Student Services
An NCSSM-Durham alumnus, Kelse McAdon ’19 returned in July 2023 as a Community Coordinator for our Durham campus. While earning his bachelor’s degree in African, African American and Diaspora Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, he served as a resident advisor for three years. He discovered his love for mentoring teenagers and young adults while working as a summer camp counselor along the Eno River. Kelse believes strongly in using creative outlets to encourage inclusion and community immersion. In his free time, he enjoys drawing, painting, running, and identifying local plants and wildlife.   

Margaret “Maggie” McDowell, Instructor of American Studies & Humanities, Humanities
Maggie McDowell joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities on our Morganton campus. Originally from Indiana, she has called North Carolina home from mountains to sea since 2016. She has also lived for stints in France and Ireland, where she cultivated a taste for good bread, cheese, and tea. A longstanding fascination with the way the stories we tell reflect what makes us human led her to a Great Books program in undergrad and then to the Duke English and Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies departments. Her dissertation on asexual representation in American pop culture reflects her concern with inclusive representation and storytelling in a range of media forms (blogs, film, TV, podcasts, etc). Prior to NCSSM she has worked as a writing tutor, college advisor, and community college instructor. Maggie earned her bachelor’s degree in liberal studies at the University of Notre Dame, and her master’s and doctorate degrees in English and GSF at Duke University. When she’s not teaching she loves running, hiking, local produce, and spending time with her cats.   

Cristel Miller, Instructor of Chemistry, Science
Cristel Miller joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Chemistry on our Morganton campus. She came to us from California, where she taught multiple science disciplines at every level. Cristel holds a master’s degree in education/curriculum with an emphasis on neuroscience, classroom engagement, and cognitive response. Her professional and research experience includes time with Pfizer and Scripps Research Institute in the department of Molecular & Experimental Medicine, under the Division of Biochemistry. Cristel has worked in curriculum development/design at multiple levels, increasing science accessibility for students in various disciplines. She has been an advocate for science/data literacy, bringing application and attainability to increase student interest and understanding. Cristel has a love for all things at the intersection of science and science fiction, and she loves the outdoors, sports, and movie night.  

Nick Millikan, Network Administrator, Information Technology Services
Nick Millikan joined NCSSM in 2023 as a Network Administrator. Nick is a native of Randleman, NC, and earned an associate’s degree in network administration and security, as well as an associate’s in advertising and graphic design in 2006. In addition to his degrees, Nick has obtained certifications in Fortinet NSE, SonicWALL NSA, and Azure Fundamentals. Prior to employment with NCSSM, he was an early member of the start-up managed security services provider, Secure Designs Inc (SDI), which was later acquired by ADT Cybersecurity. During his 15 years with SDI, Nick served in many roles including network security engineer, infrastructure engineer, network administrator, and Global Management System engineer. Outside of work, Nick enjoys spending time with his wife and son, gaming, and growing Japanese maples in his greenhouse.  

Tess Nielsen, Instructor of Choral Music & Drama, Humanities
Tess Nielsen joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Choral Music and Drama on our Morganton campus. She is a choral and music theater educator with interests in music industry and digital media. Tess previously served as a performing arts director in independent and public schools. With a background in contemporary and classical music, her experience includes choral conducting, accompanying, recording, and producing. As a choral musician, Tess served as Continuo Arts Conducting Fellow, launched Rowan Community Music School chorus, and led Ranney School and Frederica Academy choral programs. As a music theater educator, she has directed over 25 school and community productions. Tess frequently serves as a choral clinician and adjudicator. She is active in The National Association for Music Education and holds Orff-Schulwerk certification. As a performer, she appeared in professional productions across the East Coast as well as Europe. When she’s not onstage or backstage, she and her family love the outdoors, animals, travel, and are on a quest to hear and make new songs.  

William Nessly, Instructor of American Studies & Asian-American Studies, Humanities
William Nessly (he/they) joined NCSSM in August 2023 as an Instructor of American Studies and Asian-American Studies on our Durham campus. He grew up in the Triangle as the mixed-race child of a Japanese mother and a European American father. He taught for 12 years as a professor of English at West Chester University in the Philadelphia area, specializing in Asian American literature, transnational American studies, and postcolonial and narrative theory. Prior to his work as a professor, he also taught high school English in Japan with the JET Program and in New Orleans at LE Rabouin Magnet High School with Teach For America. He earned his PhD in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and his bachelor’s degree at Swarthmore College, after graduating from William G. Enloe High School in Raleigh. William teaches about US imperialism, critical and cultural theory, and strategies for writing about the ideology of narrative form.  

Gabrielle Norfleet, Attendance Officer, Academic Programs
Gabrielle Norfleet (Gabbie) joined NCSSM in October 2022 as Attendance Officer, bringing with her many years of administrative experience. Prior to NCSSM, she served as an administrative assistant at Vance-Granville Community College in the College & Career Readiness department. Outside of work, she loves learning about new technologies, spending time with family and friends, traveling, watching TV, and dancing.

Vanessa Olgin, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Vee Olgin joined the NCSSM-Durham campus as a Community Coordinator in December of 2022. They earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Mills College, and have worked in various fields from college event programming to jewelry making to nannying young children. In their free time, Vee enjoys spending time outside exploring wild plants, baking, and dancing. As a Community Coordinator, Vee strives to create a safe as possible environment for students to express themselves and connect with one another as well as themselves.  

Grant Paramore, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Grant Paramore joined NCSSM in August 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Durham campus. A lifelong North Carolinian who hails from Wilmington, he is a recent graduate of Hampden-Sydney College, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy. During his time at Hampden-Sydney, he developed a strong passion for residence life through his experience working as a resident advisor for three years. Grant has also been a Don Lavoie Fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University, and completed a summer internship at the American Institute for Economic Research, where he presented his research on the political philosophy and monetary policy of 14th-century France. Outside of his academic interests, he also has a strong passion for mixed martial arts and Formula 1 competition. Grant is happy to use his residence life experience to make a positive impact as a community coordinator for NCSSM.  

Ronald Patten, Instructor of Mathematics, Mathematics
Ron Patten joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Mathematics on our Morganton campus. He grew up in Charlotte, NC, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at NC State University. Prior to NCSSM, Ron was an actuarial consultant and a retirement benefit specialist for Fortune 500 companies for nine years in Winston-Salem, NC, and Atlanta, GA. He is a National Board Certified Teacher who taught high school math for Lincoln County Public Schools from 2005 to 2023. Ron was the advisor for many clubs and committees, including the Chess Club, Quiz Bowl, and Scholarship Committee. Outside of school, Ron’s favorite pastimes include reading, playing tennis, travel, gardening, woodworking, biking, and cheering for the Wolfpack and Carolina Panthers.  

Wesley Pierron, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Wesley Pierron joined NCSSM in February 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Morganton campus. Wesley received his bachelor’s degree in disaster and healthcare management. Prior to becoming a CC, Wesley spent six months in Uganda as a humanitarian aid worker. Wesley worked in Residential Life and Housing for two years while at college and enjoys developing a personal relationship with students through his love of outdoor activities, board/video games, and sports. Some of his other hobbies include guitar, watching soccer, and dad jokes.  

Morgan Pittman, Instructional Designer & Curriculum Specialist, Extended Learning
Morgan Pittman joined NCSSM in September 2022 as Instructional Designer and Curriculum Specialist for Extended Learning at the Morganton campus. Prior to joining NCSSM, she worked for McDowell County Schools for 22 years. She served as lead teacher where she mentored and coached teachers, facilitated professional development, and specialized and modeled curriculum design and effective instructional methodologies. She also taught both middle school and elementary science and mathematics. Morgan specializes in a variety of instructional methods and practices that create learning environments that will yield high student engagement and personal growth. She has a passion to serve students and their families in the rural mountain communities of Western North Carolina. Morgan has micro-credentials in Blended Learning and Mentoring. Morgan earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Mars Hill University, her master’s at Appalachian State University, and her Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at Jones International University. She begins each day with an early morning run, strong coffee, and her daily devotional time. In her leisure time, she enjoys spending time with her family, kayaking the Catawba River, reading, writing inspirational books, and researching a wide variety of topics and concepts.   

Tracy Poole, Admissions Counselor & Web-Based Media Specialist, Admissions
Tracy Poole joined NCSSM as an Admissions Counselor and Web-Based Media Specialist for our Morganton campus in October 2022. She was born and raised in McDowell County and currently resides in Morganton. Prior to NCSSM, she completed an 11-year career as an elementary school teacher. She also has experience working in college admissions in Kansas City, MO, and graphic design in Asheville, NC. In her spare time, Tracy enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and all things sports (Go Canes!). One of her favorite hobbies is seeing live music performances, and she enjoys all genres except for country. When not at a dog park, sporting event, or concert you can usually find her musky fishing with her dad on a nearby lake.  

Greg Powell ’05, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Greg Powell joined NCSSM in March 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Durham campus. Greg was born in New Jersey but grew up in Monroe, NC, and graduated from NCSSM in 2005. He wore many hats during the 18 years between graduation and his return as a faculty member, some of which include a bicycle mechanic, conservation biologist, commercial fisherman, and human services director. Greg earned his bachelor’s degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology at NC State University. His favorite part of traveling and being amongst people is creating connections and fostering community, which is ultimately what led him back to Durham after spending a handful of years in the Midwest. Greg has a wide range of interests, but toward the top of the list are photography, bicycle touring, automotive/motorcycle mechanics, PC gaming, and searching for the best soft pretzel in town. He is a collector of stories and loves to share, so don’t hesitate to seek him out if you’re ever on campus.  

Michael Ptasienski, Chief Audit Officer, Chancellor’s Office
Michael Ptasienski joined the UNC System in October 2022 as Chief Audit Officer. He has over 25 years of experience in audit, risk management, operations, and project management in both the public and private sectors. Prior to joining the UNC System Office and NCSSM, he served more than three years as the Inspector General of the U.S. House of Representatives and was Deputy Inspector General for 10 years prior. Michael also worked in the private sector, including spending five years at Bank of America in Charlotte. He holds several professional credentials, including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA), Project Management Professional (PMP). Michael graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, with a B.A. degree in history. He and his wife, Alexandra, live in Raleigh with their daughter.  

Julia Rosemond, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Julia Rosemond joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Community Coordinator on the Morganton campus. Julia graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in communication studies, concentrating in public relations. At UNCG, Julia worked as a resident advisor and orientation leader. Julia enjoys traveling and hanging out with her family.  

Rachel Rueckeis ’88, Instructor of Physics, Science
An alumna of NCSSM-Durham, Rachel Rueckeis ’88 returned to NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Physics on our Morganton campus. She earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Stanford University and her master’s degree at the University of Texas at Austin. In Austin she performed research in quantum optics and on meteor scatter communication. In 1994 Rachel married her German husband and moved to Berlin, where, after receiving a German teaching degree from Lehramtsstudium und Staatsprüfungen für das Amt des Studienrats, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, taught physics in both German and English at various Berlin high schools for 22 years. She especially enjoys teaching modern physics and quantum mechanics, and has taken students on field trips to a nuclear reactor in Dubna, Russia, to the European Space Agency in Moscow, and to CERN in Geneva. In her spare time Rachel loves endurance sports, especially triathlons, and hopes to work with a triathlon team at NCSSM-Morganton.  

Meltem Şafak, Instructor of American Studies & Humanities, Humanities
Meltem Şafak joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of American Studies and Humanities on our Morganton campus. She earned her doctorate in the Department of Comparative Literature and Intercultural Studies at the University of Georgia with a focus on memory in Armenian and Turkish literatures. While at UGA, she taught a range of courses as a graduate teaching assistant and part-time instructor, including World Literature, Black Diaspora Literature, and Multiethnic American Literature. Her research interests include genocide studies, 19th- and 20th-century Ottoman history and literature, gender and identity studies, and diaspora studies. Meltem grew up in Turkey, and the multicultural nature of the region influenced her academic interests. She wrote about male hysteria in the 19th-century Ottoman novels, shared urban spaces of Ottoman-Muslim and Ottoman-Armenian communities, and the literary transformation of Armenian diasporic and Turkish national narratives. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Turkish language and literature at Boğaziçi University, her master’s degree in cultural studies at Istanbul Şehir University, and a second master’s in comparative history at Central European University. Meltem is an avid reader with a special interest in detective fiction. She also enjoys traveling, knitting, and painting.  

Hannah Schwartz, Instructor of Mathematics, Mathematics
Hannah Schwartz joined NCSSM in July 2023 as an Instructor of Mathematics on our Morganton campus. She earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Occidental College, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics from Bryn Mawr College, where she researched low dimensional topology. She then traveled to Germany for a research position at the Max Planck Institute of Math, followed by a second postdoc at Princeton University. There, she began to develop courses where students could explore higher mathematics in unexpected and creative ways, regardless of their background. Her favorites included a course for Princeton freshmen on the mathematics behind circus acts, and a course on mathematics in the courtroom for incarcerated students earning their bachelor’s degrees from Rutgers University. She is happy to be part of the NCSSM community where she enjoys sharing her love of mathematics, especially the aspects of her research that involve visualizing knots, surfaces, and four-dimensional spaces! She spends her time outside of work sitting on her front porch, cooking, hiking, gardening, and exploring with her three beautiful dogs and partner, Jason.   

Ryan Severance, Instructor of Mathematics, Mathematics
Ryan Severance joined the NCSSM faculty in January 2023 as an Instructor of Mathematics on our Durham campus. His experience in the classroom began in 2015 in Columbus, Ohio, and continued until he and his family moved to North Carolina in 2017. Ryan has taught a range of courses from Algebra I to AP Calculus AB/BC. He has also advised student organizations and coached soccer. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and integrated math education from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and a master’s degree in mathematical sciences from the University of West Florida. In his spare time, Ryan enjoys running, playing board games, and hanging out with his family. He also enjoys reading a wide range of books – everything from topology to Harry Potter to Winston Churchill.  

Bea Shanks, Copy Shop Supervisor & Textbook Manager, Academic Programs
As manager of the Copy Shop & Textbook Inventory on our Durham campus since November 2022, Bea Shanks provides integrated services for printed material, orchestrating textbook distribution and collection, and providing audio support for campus-wide events. With a background in people management, inventory management, and industrial level print production, Bea’s expertise serves a critical function for NCSSM. Her education is in fine and performing arts and she can be found working on her creative passions like sculpting, woodworking, or ceramics both on and off campus.  

Jay Singley, Library Assistant & Textbook Manager, Library
Jay Singley joined NCSSM’s Morganton campus as the Textbook Manager/Librarian in October 2022. Jay is a graduate of public schools in Morganton and brought with them six years of experience in public service, including in public and academic libraries and in support of LGBTQ+ youth. They are currently enrolled in a master’s in library and information science program. Jay’s knowledge and skills are a wonderful resource for meeting the information needs of students, staff, and faculty at NCSSM.  

Jada Smith, Travel & Personnel Associate, NCSSM-Morganton
Jada Smith joined the NCSSM team in January 2023 as the Travel and Personnel Associate on our Morganton campus. She credits much of her professional success to being a homeschooled student where leadership development, resource management and communication skills were central themes throughout her education. These skill sets led to works as a creative in video production along with administrative management. She continues to enjoy videography and photography year-round with a specific interest in fashion. Jada will gladly spend hours piecing together 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, and will usually complete them within a week. Cooking has always been a love language of hers, so if you see her, definitely ask what’s on the menu.  

Marcasia Smith, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Marcasia “Casia” Smith joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Morganton campus. Casia loves her Yorkie “Dior,” food, fashion, and cheerleading. A love for cheerleading, channeled strength, bountiful athleticism, coordination, and teamwork led Casia to focus more on what it took to become a collegiate cheerleader. She entered Winston-Salem State University “to learn” and is ready to “depart to serve.” With a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and coaching minor, she is eager to share her knowledge and build stronger student athlete programs as she earns a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Chowan University.   

Dana Squire ’05, Accounting Technician, Business Office
Dana Squire ’05 returned to NCSSM in December 2022 as Accounting Technician in our business office. A proud alumna, her experience as a student was so special that she feels right at home as an employee and is quite fortunate for the opportunity to work for both schools she attended. She also graduated with honors from NC State University with a B.A. degree in communication in 2009. Her former role as accounting technician for NC State’s engineering department provided her with a solid foundation for her current role. Dana has served in several financial, customer service and administrative roles in North Carolina and Texas over the past 12 years. Outside of work, she thoroughly enjoys spending time with her family and friends, finding quiet time out in nature and in libraries, and pursuing everything artistic including singing, writing poetry, interior design, painting, crafts, photography, film and theater.  

David Stevenson, Associate Director of Admissions, Admissions
David Stevenson, Jr. joined NCSSM in April 2023 as Associate Director of Admissions for our Morganton campus. He has experience with both private and public institutions in North Carolina, and has dedicated his career to filling the socioeconomic gaps within higher education. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology from Catawba College, and his master’s in organizational leadership from Regent University. He is currently working toward his doctorate in educational leadership. David is a native of Winston-Salem, NC, but resides in the Hickory area with his wife, Cierra, and their puppy, Stella. When he is not working to create transformative educational opportunities for NC students, you can find him spending time with friends and family, axe-throwing, or rewatching Harry Potter for the 90th time.  

Jessica Stroup, Director of Advising & Academic Operations, Academic Programs
Jessica Stroup joined NCSSM in January 2023 as Director of Advising and Academic Programs and is based on our Morganton campus. She is a graduate of Campbell University (’11) and East Carolina University (’13). Jessica’s academic career focused on public history and artifact conservation. During her graduate work she conserved artifacts from Blackbeard’s pirate ship Queen Anne’s Revenge, and CSS Neuse. She also has academic interest in paleontology and has assisted in the conservation of a Spinosaurus mandible and Smilodon skull. Jessica began her career in education in 2014 at Alleghany High School as the Assistant College Liaison. In 2015 she began her advising career at Western Piedmont Community College and transitioned to Mitchell Community College in 2018 where she was the Coordinator of Transfer Advising. Jessica is passionate about creating an environment of trust and accountability with students. Her career mission is to educate students to become active participants in their educational path and to be equipped to take full advantage of the many wonderful opportunities NCSSM has to offer. In her free time she enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading, traveling, and cooking.  

Chris Taylor, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Morganton
Chris Taylor joined NCSSM-Morganton in November of 2022 as a Campus Safety Officer. Prior to NCSSM he served for 11 years as a correctional officer at Foothills Correctional Institution. When not at work Chris enjoys spending time with his family and friends.  

Lindsey Taylor, Lab Manager, Science
Lindsey Taylor, a native of western North Carolina, joined NCSSM-Morganton as laboratory manager in February 2023. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a minor in biology. Lindsey has since returned to the mountains of western NC where she has gained experience as a laboratory technician at a nutritional testing laboratory and pursued her love of the outdoors. Lindsey enjoys hiking and exploring the Appalachian mountains with her dog, spending time with her family on the lake, and watching Tar Heel basketball.  

Matthew Taylor, Partnership & Student Support Specialist, Extended Learning
Joining NCSSM in 2023, Matthew Taylor works in the Extended Learning division as the Partnership and Student Support Specialist for NCSSM Connect. Matthew is a fervent advocate of education, with NC roots (Warren County, 252!) and branches across coasts. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and his master’s of sociology at California State University, Dominguez Hills​. Matthew has worked for more than a decade recruiting students for programming, mentoring, and supporting academic success. His commitment to providing access and social equity is displayed through teaching, political activism, community organizing, and event programming. Some of the hats Matthew has worn are program coordinator for an education nonprofit, high school social studies teacher, and youth poetry club facilitator. You are also likely to find him on stage somewhere performing spoken word, at a hip hop or jazz show, or at home binge-watching documentaries and anime.   

Timothy Taylor, Maintenance Mechanic, Plant Facilities
Tim Taylor joined NCSSM as Maintenance Mechanic for our Durham campus in May 2023. Prior to NCSSM, he worked in the residential and commercial glass industry for 17 years. A Durham native, Tim enjoys spending time with his family, friends and dogs. He likes helping others and interacting with people. When he isn’t working,Tim spends time at the coast, or works on home projects.  

Ashley Tharp, Instructor of Mathematics, Mathematics
Ashley Tharp joined NCSSM in August 2023 as Instructor of Mathematics for our Durham campus, shortly after defending her dissertation in mathematics at NC State University. She was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Houston. Upon moving to Raleigh for graduate school, she fell in love with North Carolina. While at NCSU, she spent much of her time outside of her own studies working to support students, both her own and her graduate student peers. She served as instructor of record for a variety of classes and as the math department’s first Graduate Support Resource TA; her work was recognized with honors from various institutions within the university. Ashley’s primary area of research is in algebraic combinatorics, though she has an ongoing project in graph theory and enumerative combinatorics, and she looks forward to exploring applications of pure mathematics to real-world problems with students at NCSSM. Outside of school, Ashley enjoys spending time with her cat and dog, going to concerts and music festivals with her partner, baking, and practicing yoga.  

Kevin Thomas, Campus Safety Officer, Campus Safety – Durham
Kevin Thomas joined NCSSM in December 2022 as a Campus Safety Officer. A Durham resident since 2006, he accumulated almost three decades of experience prior to coming to NCSSM, spending 15 years as a sergeant with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, 10 years as a Campus Safety Officer with Lynwood Unified School District in California, and two years with Pinkerton Security Aerospace Division. Outside of work, Kevin enjoys sports, and is an avid fan of the Cowboys, Dodgers, and Lakers.  

Jackson Thompson ’13, Head Athletic Trainer/PAW Instructor, Physical Activity & Wellness
Jackson Thompson ’13 joined NCSSM as Head Athletic Trainer and as an instructor for our Durham campus in August 2023. A native of Henderson, NC, and an NCSSM alumnus, he earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a concentration in athletic training from the University of North Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in athletic training from Illinois State University. Prior to NCSSM, he served as an assistant athletic trainer for a multitude of sports at Elon University and Western Carolina University. He is passionate about building relationships, collaborating with faculty and staff, teaching students, and mentoring young professionals. He has previously served on committees for enhancing student-athlete resources such as nutrition and mental health, and currently serves on the young professionals committee for NCATA. Outside of work, he enjoys spending time with family. His hobbies include collecting vinyl albums, music and sports trivia, and spending time outdoors.  

Kaesie Vang, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Kaesie Vang joined NCSSM in February 2023 as a Community Coordinator on the Morganton campus. Her former role as an administrative support specialist at NCSSM influenced her to develop meaningful relationships with the community. Kaesie has experience as a teacher assistant at The Speech Garden Institute, and as a craft instructor at AR Workshop. In her role as community coordinator, Kaesie aspires to support students in their personal and academic goals by fostering a healthy and safe environment. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders at Appalachian State University, and her interests include arts and crafts, hiking, photography, and exploring various coffee shops.  

Lauren Wagner ’03, Instructor of Biology, Science
Lauren Wagner ’03 returned to NCSSM in August 2022 as an Instructor of Biology. She has taught students from kindergarten to the graduate level and has received awards for her teaching and research. Lauren particularly enjoys research mentorship and is passionate about facilitating students’ ownership of their learning. As a graduate student, Lauren served as a US delegate to the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Medicine and Physiology in Lindau, Germany, a scientific meeting for undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, and Nobel laureates. Lauren conducted research in developmental glycobiology at the National Institutes of Health in the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. She received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Carleton College and her doctorate in chemistry (chemical biology) from the University of California, Berkeley. She has published research in JACS, Molecular Cell, and PNAS. She enjoys gardening, hiking, and exploring with her husband and two young children.  

Janie Wang ’18, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Janie Wang joined NCSSM in September 2022 as a Community Coordinator on our Durham campus. She graduated from NCSSM-Durham in 2018 and went on to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where she majored in communications with a minor in Korean. Throughout college, Janie worked in content creation and social media management at various internships and extracurriculars. She was also involved in programming and community building with UCLA Residential Life and other extracurricular clubs. Janie loves to work with people and remembers her own time at NCSSM fondly, and strives to apply her previous experiences in community building to support students in their personal and academic growth at NCSSM. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, dancing, listening to music, and scrolling through social media.  

Jenny Wang, Instructor of Chemistry, Science
Jenny Wang was born in Chapel Hill, although she spent most of her life in the Midwest before returning to NC. She joined the NCSSM community in January 2023 as an Instructor of Chemistry on our Durham campus. She has always enjoyed teaching and has worked with students of all ages (pre-K through college), teaching everything from swim lessons to reading skills to chemistry! She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Occidental College and her master’s in chemistry from Northwestern University, where she researched nanoscale materials. In her free time, she enjoys cooking and baking, playing video games, reading, and spending time with her partner Jon and their cats Ziti and Gnocchi.  

Qian Wang, Instructor of Chinese, Humanities
Qian Wang joined NCSSM in August 2023 as an instructor of Chinese on our Durham campus. She has taught Chinese to students of different age levels and diverse cultural backgrounds for over 14 years, in mainland China, Hong Kong, and the United States. She is also an expert in Chinese phonetics and has guided students to pass China’s national Putonghua Proficiency Test. Qian also used to work as a journalist in Hong Kong. She earned her bachelor’s in broadcasting and anchoring, and her master’s in linguistics and applied linguistics at Communication University of China. She earned her master’s of international journalism at Hong Kong Baptist University. When she isn’t working, Qian enjoys reading, cooking, watching movies, and traveling with her family.  

Robert Ward, Instructor of Computer Science, Engineering & Computer Science
Robert Ward joined NCSSM in August 2023 as an Instructor of Computer Science on our Durham campus. He has been teaching computer science for over 10 years, at Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii, at Everett Community College in Washington state where he developed and grew their computer science program, and most recently, at Radford University in Virginia. He established ACM student chapters at Washington State University, Everett Community College, and Radford University to help build a supportive and welcoming community for students of all backgrounds. He loves seeing students suddenly grasp a new concept that had been eluding them. Robert earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science at Washington State University (summa cum laude and Outstanding Senior in Computer Science); his master’s degree at the University of Hawaii, Manoa; and is currently working on his Ed.D. at Vanderbilt University, Outside of work, he enjoys playing video games, watching anime and science fiction and fantasy movies, and listening to audio books.  

Brian Wiggs, Director of Campus Safety, Campus Safety – Durham
Brian Wiggs joined NCSSM in September 2022 as Director of Campus Safety on our Durham campus, bringing both broad and specialized experience in law enforcement practice, having served with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and the North Carolina State University Police Department. He took on varying roles while at the NCSU PD, including supervising Patrol Squads, the Crime Prevention and Community Engagement Unit, the Criminal Investigations Division, and Special Units. He spent approximately four years developing police operations plans for major events on NCSU’s campus such as NCSU football games, ACC athletic sports competitions, dignitary visits, commencements, road races, and more. Brian strives to provide quality service through competent management, subject-matter expertise, and genuine engagement. He earned his bachelor’s degree in French language and literature and his master’s of public administration at North Carolina State University.  

Matt Wolf, Community Coordinator, Student Services
Matt Wolf joined NCSSM in July 2023 as a Community Coordinator on our Morganton campus. He grew up a few hours from the Canadian border in St. Albans, Vermont, and is a graduate of Champlain College. After finishing college, he made his way slowly down to North Carolina after spending a few years in Pennsylvania working in human resources. However, his passion to work in education won him over and led to his role at NCSSM. Having grown up in Vermont, Matt enjoys hiking different mountain and forest trails and kayaking. He grew up playing soccer and still loves to play a little here and there, while at the end of the day he is happy to get into reading a good book to complete the night.