Meet the Fall 2020 Minerva Scholars
Taylor Arnold (Public Health Education)
Taylor Arnold received his Bachelor’s degree with majors in Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Arkansas in 2011 and his Master’s degree in Medical Anthropology at the University of Memphis in 2015. During his graduate studies, he completed the Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP) at the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin, where he contributed to a health and safety training program for immigrant dairy workers. In Memphis, he worked on documenting the city’s rich environmental justice (EJ) history through a community-based project with local activists and organizing an EJ conference. For the past four years, Taylor has worked as a Project Manager in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In this role, he manages a longitudinal community-based participatory research study on the health and safety of hired Latinx child farmworkers in NC. He recently began work on a study examining the relationship between civic engagement and health and well-being among youth in several US cities. During his doctoral work at UNCG, he plans to continue community-engaged, policy relevant, research focused on occupational safety and health, particularly that of farmworker populations in NC. In his free time, he enjoys playing music, cycling, cooking, and being in the outdoors with his spouse, two young children, and dog.
Shamusideen Ayeni (Geography)
I was born and brought up in Lagos, Nigeria. I obtained my B.Sc. degree in Archaeology/Geography and
an M.Sc. degree in Geography (Hydrology and Water Resources Option), both from University of Ibadan,
Nigeria with flying colours. I am extremely glad to be honoured and recognized as a Minerva Scholar
throughout the pursuit of my PhD degree program in the Department of Geography, Environment and
Sustainability at University of North Carolina, Greensboro(UNCG) beginning from Fall 2020.
Over the last decade, I have worked as a part time high school teacher and research assistant in
geographical studies trying to understand the complexities of spatio temporal variations, relationships
and interactions of physical phenomena and processes affecting the environment at both micro and
macro levels using a multi-faceted and all-inclusive scientific approach. I have also been an advocate of
good governance and responsible leadership through publication of articles in the Nigerian national
daily newspaper. As a former branch coordinator of NYSC/MDGs Group in Niger State, Nigeria, I have
ample experience in youth organizing and mobilisation, local community services provisioning and
While at UNCG, I want to deepen my knowledge and understanding on how to apply quantitative
methods and geographic technologies in addressing issues in hydrology, fluvial geomorphology and
water resources management. I will also foster and maintain a high level of collaboration, interaction
and relationship with highly spirited and goal driven faculty members in order to have a fun filled and
rewarding academic experience at UNCG. I love meeting people, exploring nature, listening to Afrobeat
songs as well as watching football matches and playing table tennis.
Beth Bacon (Kinesiology)
Kim Barclift (Music Education)
Kim Barclift graduated from East Carolina University as a NC Teaching Fellow in 1999, with a B.M. in Music Education. In 2008, Mrs. Barclift received her National Board Certification in Music for Early Adolescents and Young Adults, and in 2018 renewed her certification for an additional 10 years. She earned her M.M. in Music Education from Boston University in 2012.
Mrs. Barclift’s teaching career began in 1999 and has been fortunate to be recognized as Teacher of the Year twice during her career. However, she is most proud of her students’ achievements as a result of their hard work and dedication. Throughout her career, her bands
have consistently received Superior ratings at the North Carolina Concert Band Music Performance Adjudication as well as marching band accolades.
In addition to teaching band, Mrs. Barclift has served as department chair, lead mentor for beginning teachers, and supervised university interns. Mrs. Barclift is an active adjudicator for concert and marching bands and regularly serves as a guest conductor for various honors
ensembles across the state of North Carolina.
Mrs. Barclift is honored to be a Minerva Scholar as she pursues her Ph.D. in Music Education. She is blessed to have the opportunity to learn from such outstanding peers, colleagues, and professors during this new chapter in her life. Kim is joined by her husband Jason and is the
proud mom of their son Elijah, a student at the UNC School of the Arts.
I am Shiva Batmanghelich. I born in Iran on 7th April 1993. I received my B.Sc. in applied chemistry field from Azad University, North Tehran branch. I started my M.Sc. in the Inorganic chemistry field in the chemistry department at Sharif University of Technology in 2016. I graduated from Sharif University of Technology in 2018 and accepted at UNCG in 2020.
Youselene Beauplan (Human Development and Family Studies)
Youselene Beauplan is a first-generation student and proud Haitian American. Youselene was raised in South Florida and later attended the University of Florida to pursue her undergraduate degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences. She is excited for the scenery in North Carolina and to experience growth in the Human Development Family Studies program. Her specific area of specialization is youth trauma and she hopes her research will develop trauma informed practices to serve those who have experienced traumatic events. She desires to dedicate her life to advocacy, specifically, regarding youth development of underrepresented minority groups.
Zoie Bunch (Medicinal Biochemistry)
I have lived in North Carolina for the past 17 years and received a BS in Biochemistry and a BA in Spanish from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in 2020. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Medicinal Biochemistry at UNCG. In my free time, I enjoy playing and teaching a variety of musical instruments and practicing martial arts.
Kate Burt (English)
Although she jumped around quite a bit between majors while in her undergraduate program at Winthrop University, Kate eventually settled on studying English because she realized she could read and write about anything. Kate is currently a first-year PhD student in English, and her research interests include food and body rhetorics, animal studies, and Victorian gothic novels. In her spare time, she enjoys applying her food science background to her baking experiments and running Dungeons & Dragons for friends.
Lisa Butterworth (Specialized Education)
I am a lifelong North Carolina native. I live in Greensboro with my husband and son who is a senior in high school. I am a grandmother to a wonderful grandson, Lincoln, who lives with his parent in Massachusetts. I earned my bachelors degree in Human Development and Family Studies from UNCG in 1993. I am excited to become a Spartan again as I start my PhD.
I have enjoyed my career teaching in early childhood programs, directing early childhood programs and in educational publishing. I am grateful for the opportunities I have had in my career to explore different ways to use my early childhood knowledge to promote quality early childhood programs. I have my next career goal set on higher education in early childhood. My inspiration comes from many of my first professors at UNCG. I will be studying the School of Education in the Special Education/Birth through Kindergarten program.
I enjoy spending time with my family. We love to try new local restaurants and attend sporting events and concerts. For relaxation, I enjoy long motorcycle rides as the passenger with my husband and camping which is more like glamping for us. The place I spend most of my time is in the kitchen. I enjoy baking and experimenting with new recipes. My family is always willing to taste test for me.
Tyler Clark (Educational Research Methodology)
Tyler Clark was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. She graduated from North Carolina Central University in 2018 with a B.S. in Criminal Justice and a B.A. in Psychology. In 2020, Clark graduated with an M.S. in Criminal Justice, also from NCCU. In 2019, she co-founded J.E.W.E.L.S., an all female criminal justice organization that focuses to empower future women leaders who seek professional and personal growth through mentorship, networking, and service. During her tenure at NCCU, Clark published an article in the Journal of Criminal Justice studying the impact of internships on preparation for the workforce. Her past research topics have also included open educational resources for college students and the effects of discrimination on employment. In the summer of 2019, Clark worked on a project conducting research for the Department of Homeland Security in which she worked to certify a FEMA course that mobilizes faith-based community organizations in preparing for disasters. She is currently enrolled in the Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation doctoral program with a concentration in Program Evaluation Methods. She is honored at being recognized as a Minerva Scholar and is looking forward to beginning her journey at UNCG!
Samantha DuBois (Kinesiology)
Samantha graduated from Swarthmore College in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and history. Upon her graduation, she began working as a clinical research assistant in the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department of the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During her time at Johns Hopkins, Samantha worked primarily in the Schizophrenia Center where she managed a longitudinal first episode psychosis study aimed at identifying biomarkers of early psychotic disease. This clinical research experience sparked Samantha’s interests in researching if and how physical activity can be used as a prevention or early intervention strategy to combat the cognitive declines that frequently accompany different mental health conditions. Pursuing these interests, Samantha completed her master’s in kinesiology with a concentration in sport and exercise psychology at UNCG in 2020. She is excited for the opportunity to remain at UNCG for her doctoral studies, through which she will continue to pursue her research interests in physical activity, cognition, and brain health.
Cia Elder (Human Development and Family Studies)
Cia Elder, originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, received her bachelor’s degree at Central Michigan University in 2018. There she majored in both child development and psychology along with minoring in cultural/global studies and leadership. Her passion for youth development stems from her work within the nonprofit sector. In Kalamazoo, Cia has had the opportunity to work within the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA and has continued to work at Pretty Lake Camp for the past 4 years. She wants to help youth and their families reach their fullest potential. She focuses on resiliency tactics, diverse families and child advocacy rights. Cia will enter the Master of Science in Human Development and Family Studies program and continue her studies into the Doctoral Track at UNCG. In her free time, Cia loves to listen to music, play basketball and travel when she gets the chance.
Jessica Garcia (Psychology)
My name is Jessica Garcia and I was born in a small town in Cuba. My parents immigrated to the United States when I was just 4 years old and settled in Miami, Florida. From a young age, my parents instilled in me the value of education and as a result, I have worked hard to both honor their sacrifices and to be in a position where I can contribute meaningfully to the field of psychology.
After graduating from Hialeah Senior High School, I enrolled in Brown University and moved to Rhode Island. To put this transition into context, I had never visited north of Orlando, Florida, let alone seen snow. While my experiences as a first-generation student at a prestigious university contributed to an expanded worldview and self-understanding, I decided to transfer to the University of Miami, where I completed my B.A. in Psychology with a Sociology Minor. As an undergraduate student, I volunteered in the Early Head Start Lab where I examined internalizing and externalizing behaviors in preschool children. Upon graduation, I worked with participants who had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a research assistant at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. As a research coordinator, I developed rapport with participants and upon hearing their stories, I wondered how their lives would be different had they grown up in nourishing environments, with better-equipped educators and access to mental health practitioners. The plethora of questions that arose from these observations has greatly contributed to the research topics I am keen on further exploring.
Presently, I am eager to apply the research and clinical skills I have acquired to advance my research endeavors at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Keane. I am extremely honored and thankful to be awarded the Minerva scholarship as I embark in my graduate studies. I hope to contribute to the field of psychology by exploring the myriad of variables that play a role in the development of psychopathology, particularly anxiety and mood disorders. As a native Spanish speaker I hope to help bridge the gap for Spanish-speaking populations to participate in research and access treatment.
Ashley Gilbert (History)
Ashley Gilbert is a Ph.D. student in the History Department, studying the politicizing of taverns in early America, with a focus on women’s involvement and ownership of these institutions. Before continuing her education at UNCG, she taught as a Lecturer of History at Longwood University. Ashley has also worked in the Public History field as an Educator and Park Ranger at Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier. Ashley received her BA from Longwood University and her MA in History from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jon Hunsberger (Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations)
Angela Jennings (Nursing)
Angela Jennings grew up in Danville, VA, but now resides in Burlington, NC. A veteran who
proudly served in the US Navy for eight years, working in healthcare as a Corpsman and Laboratory
Technician. In the Navy she discovered her passion for helping and caring for military members and their
families. Leaving the military landing a civilian laboratory technician position with no patient interaction
she longed to know the patient on the other side of the sample. This pivotal moment opened the door
to her nursing journey. Angela was a part of the first Veterans Access Program veterans to graduate
receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UNCG in 2017. After graduation she works at the
Department of Veterans affairs in Durham, as a Telemetry nurse. At the VA she was able to connect
with veterans and learn more about the geriatric population. This sparked an interest to further her
education. Angela is set to begin the Doctoral of Nursing for Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner in Fall
Angela loves volunteering at her church Mount Zion in Greensboro. There she gets to tap into
her passion for helping people whether health care related or encouraging them in life. She is an active
member of the hospitality, healthcare and young adult ministries. Playing basketball with her son and
spending time with her twin daughters, dancing and playing are her favorite things to do. She has
recently picked up a love for tennis and going to the park enjoying the trails. Angela also enjoys listening
to music and traveling with friends.
Angela is grateful for this new chapter in life. She is thankful to be a recipient of the Minerva
Scholarship as this is the highest honor. Excited about the future, the endless possibilities, and
opportunities, she plans to maximize them all!
Lawrency Jones (Nursing)
Brandi Kennedy (Educational Leadership)
Brandi Kennedy was born in Winston-Salem , NC and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Exercise & Sports Science with a minor in African American & Diaspora Studies. Following her undergraduate degree, Kennedy became a member of the Carolina College Advising Corps where she served as a college adviser within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, assisting students and their families as they navigated the college application and financial aid process. This experience fueled her passion for deconstructing barriers that make it difficult for many students to access higher education.
Having obtained her graduate degree at Masters’ of Student Affairs & Higher Education Administration at UNC Greensboro, Kennedy says she is “passionate about not only ensuring that students have access to college, but that they also have support from both faculty and staff as they transition and complete college.” She continues to serve the community within her role at a local nonprofit, Say Yes Guilford and has had experience at a variety of institutions including, Salem College and Elon University.
Kennedy is set to begin her Ph.D. program , Educational Leadership (Higher Education) at UNC Greensboro in fall 2020 . She looks forward to exploring her research interests, including: parent and familial engagement in the college application process, equity and inclusion, intrusive advising practices, college success, and first-generation college students.
Emily Krechel (Higher Education)
Emily (she/her/hers) is originally from Virginia Beach, VA. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from James Madison University and her master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Miami University (Ohio). Post graduate school Emily found herself serving as the Area Director for the First-Year Experience at Earlham College in rural Indiana. Soon after, she headed west to start a position in New Student Services at the University of California, Berkeley. She stayed at Berkeley for five years, ending her tenure there as the Associate Director of that office. It was her time in the Bay Area that inspired Emily’s love for the outdoors. She enjoys backpacking, camping, snowboarding, and being outside. Emily met her wife in California and in 2017 they moved back home to the east coast where they are both beginning their doctoral journey.
Emily is currently the Director of New Student and Transition Programs at Elon University and is set to begin her Ph.D. journey in Educational Studies with a concentration in Higher Education in the fall of 2020. She is passionate about topics and issues related to equity and inclusion with a focus on developing strategic ways to dismantle then rebuild power structures in the academy.
Joey Lavarias (Music)
Bassoonist Joey Lavarias is pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at UNCG, studying with Dr. Michael Burns. He received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from The Juilliard School in New York City, studying under Dr. Frank Morelli. Other teachers include Dr. Ashley Heintzen, former bassoon professor at Stetson University in Florida. He has participated in masterclasses led by Billy Short, Kristin Wolfe Jensen, and Barrick Stees.
Joey was a principal bassoonist of the Juilliard Orchestra and Opera for six years, playing under conductors like Marin Alsop, David Robertson, and Alan Gilbert. He has also played with The Chelsea Symphony, Chesapeake Orchestra, and the Bacau Philharmonic of Romania. Joey has performed at the New York String Orchestra Seminar, National Orchestral Institute (where he was featured on a Grammy-nominated album w/ the NOI Philharmonic), Miami Summer Music Festival, Alba Music Festival in Italy, and has participated in seminars led by the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony. He has been featured on radio and television programs such as CBS Sunday Morning and the 2019 BBC Proms.
Joey maintains a strong interest in academics both in and out of music. For four years, Joey was a Lead Teaching Fellow for the Juilliard Ear Training Department, working under Mrs. Rebecca Scott and Dr. Wayne Oquin. He has worked as a guest teaching artist across the country, and has been on the teaching staff at the stArt Summer Arts Intensive of Osceola County, FL, the Central Florida Road to College Workshop, and the Bocal Majority Northern California Summer Camp. He maintains private studios for bassoon and ear training/music theory, and works as a tutor in a multitude of non-musical subjects such as English, basic math up to calculus, and college prep.
Outside of music, Joey loves reading comic books and manga, playing all kinds of video games, and is an amateur cosplayer. He maintains a blog on his website, joeylavarias.com
Haeju Lee (Educational Research Methodology)
Haeju Lee is a graduate student in the Educational Research Methodology (ERM) at University of North Carolina Greensboro. She is currently studying for the Ph.D. program. Before enrolling at UNCG, she earned her master’s degree in the Research, Educational Measurement, and Psychometrics (REMP) from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019 and the Quantitative Psychology program from Sungkyunkwan University in 2014. She is interested in Item response theory, differential item functioning, equating, factor analysis, structural equation modeling, test validity, and large-scale assessment.
Joanna McCoskey (Music)
Fatima Mohammed (Information Systems and Supply Chain Management)
Fatima Mohammed is from Ghana, where is got her bachelor’s degree from Kwame Nkrumah University
of Science and Technology (KNUST). She has a Masters in Agribusiness and an MBA from Illinois State
She is looking forward to starting her Ph.D. in Information Systems at UNCG come Fall 2020. She is
currently a research assistant at the Katie School of Insurance (ISU) working on an index-based insurance
project for farmers in Ghana. She is core team member for Farm Wallet; a data-driven Fintech startup that
aims at increasing financial inclusion among small scale farmers in Ghana. Her expertise is in research,
data analysis and agribusiness supply chain operations. She aspires to be an academic researcher focusing
on using technology and data analytics to improve the welfare of people and solving environmental
problems. Her hobbies are cooking, reading, and hanging out with friends.
Elijah Motley (Dance)
Elijah started his dance career at Old Dominion University his sophomore year while working towards a Bachelors of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering. He became student choreographer for the University Dance Theatre three years consecutively. In 2015, Elijah joined a Hip Hop company called Baila Fusion where he began learning Breaking, Popping, House, and Krump. His studies took him to Israel for a summer semester to learn from Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and New York City to study Gaga movement under Ohad Naharin. After graduation he performed three seasons as a company dancer for Chicago Dance Crash and became a freelance performer/choreographer in the Chicago area. He has been commissioned to set choreography by various companies, taught at studio and public schools in Chicago, and co-founded a dance collective called Concepts Dances. While Elijah is attaining his MFA in Dance Choreography he will be playing guitar and watching Star Trek with his wife, Christina.
Megan Mouton (Nanoscience)
I graduated from High Point University with a double major in Mathematics and Physics and a minor in Computer Science. My undergrad research was in Physicochemical Modeling and Optimization of the Dissolution Kinetics of Prednisolone Loaded Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA) Films. I also did research in Using an IR camera to investigate power in simple DC circuits. I am working toward a PhD in Nanoscience starting in the fall of 2020. I will be working with Dr. Starobin.
Nathan Njaramba (Nursing)
My names are Nathan Gitau Njaramba. I was born in Kenya. In 2007 after high school I moved to the USA to attend college. For 9 years, I have worked as a Registered Nurse in many settings and I also teach nursing. I love being a RN and that love has always pushed me to be better in my patient care skills; every time I interact with patients and care team. I also strive to keep on understanding better, evidence based practices in which those skills are rooted. Hence, I have always striven to get more education. I acquired my ADN in 2011, BSN in 2015 and MSN in 2018. I am excited to start my PhD this Fall. I look forward to learning from the UNCG Nursing School Professors and rest of the team including fellow Minerva Scholars. I eagerly await to meet new peers, friends and mentors.
Peace Okpala (Community Health Education)
Peace Okpala was born and bred in Nigeria, she had her bachelor’s degree in Demography and Social Statistics from Covenant University, Nigeria. After her B.Sc. she worked with the World Health Organization in her community (Kaduna, Nigeria) as an evaluator for the vaccination of children under 5 years. She learned skills that form part of her experience such as: community engagement, cultural humility, data collection, program evaluation, and team building. She then proceeded to the United States to pursue her master’s degree in public health from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. While studying at UNC Greensboro, she also worked as a Graduate Assistant in Department of Public Health Education, UNCG. There she acquired invaluable skills which are needed for a successful public health career.
She is set to begin her Ph.D. program (Community Health Education) also in UNC Greensboro this Fall 2020. Her research interests include: Cardiovascular Disease prevention, HIV prevention, maternal & child health, and mental health. Her dream is to consistently add value to the field of public health by developing more effective and sustainable interventions that can solve public health issues.
Julie Orkis (Acting)
Julie Orkis (she/her/hers) – Julie was born in Odessa, Ukraine and raised in Brooklyn, New York. As an actor, her training includes the NYU Tisch Summer acting program in Paris, France, T. Schrieber Acting Studio and a BFA in Acting from CUNY Brooklyn College. Since graduating in 2015 summa cum laude, she has been performing with various theatre companies in New York City producing classical works, play festivals, theatre conventions, indie films, and readings of new works located in off-Broadway theaters, outdoor venues, parks, churches, office buildings, bars, basements and loft apartments. Since 2017 she has been an acting company member with Emit Theatre, creating immersive and interactive productions of Shakespearean and original works for learners of all ages and backgrounds. Her recent roles with Emit have included Antonio in The Tempest, Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and Maria in Twelfth Night. Other New York theatre credits include: Rosaline in Loves Labours Lost; Emilia, Cassio, Roderigo, Lodovico in an all-female Othello; Olivia, Orsino, Toby, Maria in Twelfth Night; Lorna in Big Mistake; Mother Hen in UPROOT. New York film credits include: Stacia in Kosmanavt; Denise in You’re Up; Shelly in Jimbo; Lana in J1.
She has experience as a junior professional athlete, playing tennis since the age of 5 and spending much of her childhood training and traveling to tournaments regionally, nationally and internationally. While at Brooklyn College, she was the captain of the women’s tennis team earning multiple accolades including Player of the Year four years in a row, NCAA Woman Athlete of the Year finalist, and Scholar Athlete of the Year for 2015. Over her lifetime she has used her tennis experience to teach others to play the sport. Most recently she held the position of supervisor and head coach of the junior development program at a tennis club in midtown Manhattan.
Julie is pursuing her MFA in Acting at UNCG, to focus further on physical storytelling, heightened language and learning about human nature through theatre. When performing for live audiences she hopes theatre goers will walk away with a sense of connection to the strangers around them and empathy for the lives they lead. She lives with her husband Chris, and their two cats Dahlia & Aster plus two dogs Brutus & Emilia. She loves farmers markets, swimming in big waves and camping.
Nick Rich (Music)
Nick Rich is a composer, songwriter, and performer who works at the intersections of musical traditions. With a family background in Rock, Folk, Country-Western, and Bluegrass, Nick performs regularly on guitar and mandolin. He is co-founder of progressive Folk band Winterbirds, whose debut album Shaker Songs sets the poetry of the Shakers to new music. As a composer, Nick works with both traditional chamber ensembles and electronic multimedia. His compositions often incorporate Folk idioms, combining traditional instruments and styles in experimental settings. Nick previously attended UNCG (B.M., 2012) and UNCSA (M.M., 2014).
Emilee Robbins (History)
Emilee Robbins is originally from Lafayette, Louisiana and moved back and forth from Louisiana
and Texas throughout her childhood. In 2013, she received her bachelor’s degree from
Mississippi College in Social Studies Education. After college, she moved to North Carolina and
worked for a year as a middle school teacher before pursuing her passion for academia. She
received a Master’s in History at UNCG and is now working toward her PhD in History,
researching narratives of women in the Atlantic World. In her free time, Emilee loves ice cream
and peanut butter, playing music, watching Disney movies, and traveling to exciting places. She
currently lives with her husband and adorable puppy in Hillsborough, North Carolina.
Rebekah Rodriguez (Psychology)
Originally from Houston, Rebekah Rodriguez graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2020 with undergraduate degrees in Cognitive Science and Art & Performance. Stemming from her research experiences in the Wig Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab and the Lab for Cognitive Research in Art History at the University of Vienna, Rebekah is excited to begin her doctoral studies in Psychology at UNCG. Her work with Dr. Paul Silvia will focus on exploring the psychology of arts and aesthetics.
Monique Saastamoinen (Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations)
“Who you learn with is as important as what you learn. Learning is a relationship, not just something that can be measured by outcomes or formal metrics.” – Anne Balsamo
This is something I became acutely aware of in secondary school after my placement in an alternative program for at-risk youth, and it is a theme that I see in pattern-like reoccurrence in organizations serving marginalized individuals. Learning is contingent on reciprocal human connection, and healing occurs when the two operate in tandem. In both my personal and professional experience, I’ve witnessed how attending to an individual’s socioemotional needs and healing can fertilize the buds of moral, civic, and intellectual growth and aid in developing kind, responsible, and insightful citizens. The notion that character development can be amplified with holistic practices and frameworks is a concept supported by educators, mental health practitioners, policy analysts, and researchers alike yet such practices and frameworks are not widely integrated into public schools. National data indicates that behavioral health issues in schools are at an all-time high, however limited district and school budgets for behavioral health counselors and increased pressure on teachers to focus on preparing students to meet test score minimums often result in student’s socioemotional needs taking a back seat to their academic performance. The increasing socioemotional and behavioral health needs of students necessitate the development of practical, low-cost interventions that can be easily implemented and adapted by schools. What interventions meet these needs, and accessibility criteria? These are the questions I hope to address, and very early on I knew that who I learned with, would be just as important as what I learned during the exploration of these interdisciplinary ideas—which led me to UNCG.
When I was researching graduate programs, I was captivated by the Education Department at UNCG and their evident commitment to keenly highlighting issues equity, social justice, and inclusion, as well as to identifying barriers and actively creating points of access for people with diverse perspectives and lived experiences. I felt confident that the ELC Program would promote my critical thinking and self-reflection, encourage my accountability, and provide the supportive mentorship I needed as a first-generation college student and woman of color—I was so confident in fact, that I confirmed my decision to attend before hearing back any other schools! I am both excited and honored to join the UNCG as a doctoral student and as a Minerva Scholar, and I look forward to working at the intersections of holistic wellbeing, healing, and teaching in the community.
Nicole Silverio (Counseling and Counselor Education)
Nicole Silverio was born and raised in Puerto Plata, a small town on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. At the age of 14, Nicole and her family migrated to Miami, FL, where she completed high school and an Associate’s degree from Miami-Dade College. In 2007, Nicole relocated to Orlando to pursue further educational goals at the University of Central Florida, including a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and a Master’s degree in mental health counseling, which she completed in 2011. After graduation, Nicole gained experience working with adults, children, couples, and individuals in a variety of settings, including community mental health agencies, private practice, and a university setting; she became a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in 2014 and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in 2017. In addition, Nicole is a certified PREP (Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program) facilitator. Most recently, Nicole worked as the Project Director for the University of Central Florida’s Marriage and Family Research Institute, helping with the implementation of a federal grant with the goal of providing healthy relationship skills to low-income families in the Central Florida community. Nicole is excited to be joining the 2020 Counselor Education cohort at UNCG.
Melanie Stadler (Environmental Health Science)
I grew up in the middle of Kansas, with incredible parents who encouraged my love of nature and wanting to learn about the world around me. While earning my bachelor’s degree in Biology from UNCG, I was lucky enough to be selected to participate in Ann Somers’ Biology of Sea Turtles class. I became a volunteer at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City and traveled to Costa Rica to participate in one of the longest-running sea turtle research programs in the world. Those experiences changed my life and set me on the path I continue on today. I earned an MS in Biology at Florida Atlantic University, studying the habitat and foraging ecology of juvenile green turtles on nearshore reefs in Florida. Prior to returning to North Carolina, I worked as a Sea Turtle Biologist in Florida for eight years where I supervised two nesting beach programs, participated in some amazing research projects, and managed the overhaul and daily operations of two sea turtle rehabilitation centers. I will be joining the Department of Biology in the Environmental Health Science PhD program in fall 2020. My research interests are centered around spatial ecology, ecological biogeography, and habitat connectivity. I plan to focus my PhD research on threatened bog turtles and their wetland habitat in North Carolina. I live with my husband, Brian, and our bearded dragon and two dog children in Greensboro. In my spare time, you will find me running or biking on one of our extraordinary local hiking trails, birdwatching, curled up with a good book, or in the kitchen experimenting with a new vegetarian recipe.
Uma Swamy (Consumer Apparel and Retail Studies)
I am a retail business analyst with over two decades experience in premium fashion and
grocery retail as well as a family business practitioner. After completing my
undergraduate studies in India, I moved to Kuwait and worked in Al Yasra Fashion, a
multinational retail chain, for 16 years. In 2013, I moved to Canada with my family to
pursue my MBA. Upon graduation, I joined Freson Bros., a grocery retail chain in
Alberta. While I have absorbed a lot of practical knowledge and in-depth understanding
of the retail industry, my curiosity regarding optimal business practices and studies
pertaining to small and medium businesses in fashion has driven me to pursue a PhD
here at UNCG. I’m hoping to garner a solid, in-depth understanding grounded in real-
My hobbies are crafting beautiful objects out of recycled materials and reading.
Benjamin Thornburg (Applied Economics)
Benjamin graduated summa cum laude in three years from UNCG with a BS in economics and minors in mathematics and philosophy. He spent most of his undergraduate working as a research assistant in the fields of health policy and healthcare economics, which, along with his predilection for the professors in the econ department, inspired him to join the applied economics Ma/Ph.D. program in the Fall. Benjamin’s fiancée will be finishing her last year of nursing school as he enters the first of his Ma/Ph.D.; he isn’t sure which he is more excited for. In his free time, Benjamin likes to mountain bike and invest time in side-projects tangentially related to his research assistantships.
Anthony Trofe (Nanoscience)
Anthony is originally from Morgantown, Pennsylvania. He received his B.S. in Physics from Susquehanna University with a minor in Mathematics. There he spent time researching Atomic, Molecular, and Optical physics. He will be joining the Nanoscience Ph.D. program at UNCG come fall 2020.
Luke Vitagliano (Counseling and Counselor Education)
Luke Vitagliano is originally from Port Chester, NY and has spent the last 4 years living in Denver, Colorado. Graduating from the University of Scranton with a Bachelors Degree in Counseling and Human Services in 2014 and a Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 2016, Luke has spent the past three and a half years working in community mental health specializing in working with adolescents in the juvenile justice system, as well as working with adult felony offenders. Luke became a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in 2017, a Licensed Professional Counselor in Colorado in 2019, and a Licensed Addictions Counselor in Colorado in 2020. Luke is also trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, working with some of the highest risk youth at his former place of employment. Luke has found his niche working with forensic populations with hopes to focus research on better incorporating mental health practices within the juvenile justice system. Luke is honored to be a Minerva Scholar and excited to move to Greensboro, North Carolina to get started at UNCG as he pursues his Ph.D. in Counseling and Counselor Education.
Huili Wang (Communication Sciences and Disorders)
Huili obtained her B.A in English and M.B.A in China. She had worked in an international NGO for four years, travel and event management industries for eleven years before she came to UNCG for her second master degree majored in speech and language pathology in 2017. She gets her permenant license as a speech and language pathologist in June 2020 after 9-month clinical fellowship practice. She will join the PhD program in Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in Fall 2020. Her research interests are auditory rehabilitation, neurocognition, early speech and language intervention for children from birth to three, autism, and childhood speech apraxia etc.
Virginia Weaver (English)
As an undergraduate, Virginia attended UNC Asheville, where she majored in English with a creative writing concentration, and studied philosophy and classics on the side. Her interests include prosody, memoir, and theory – especially radical feminism, and other interdisciplinary approaches. Virginia will be in her first year in the English MA to PhD program, in which she hopes to focus on theory, women’s studies, and poetry.
Madeline White (Psychology)
Madeline received her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she also completed a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Applied Statistics. She joins UNCG’s graduate student body in the Fall of 2020 as a member of Dr. Kari Eddington’s Depression Treatment and Research Program (DTRP lab). Currently, Madeline is interested in clinical research that examines how cognitive characteristics of the individual contribute to the experiencing of depression and related health or psychological issues. In particular, she is interested in exploring how cognitive distortions often associated with mental illness impact goal-related behavior and treatment success among affected individuals.
In her spare time, Madeline enjoys crafting and can often be found spending time with her cat (Dahlia) and dog (Charley). She also enjoys outdoor leisure activities that stem from her rural Arkansan upbringing and time spent living oceanside in Wilmington, NC.
Dom Witten (Creative Writing)
Dom was raised in Detroit, MI in a pink house her friend once described as the color of raw chicken. She remembers riding the DDOT bus home and never going past the red house on her bike. She enjoys drag shows and using emphasis on the wrong syllables. Dom writes about the fractals of worlds she experiences between the characters she meets. Because Dom struggles to remember things such as where she put her coat in the dead of winter; her poems serve as the snap shots she can’t seem to shake: the lingering moments. In her struggle to create a time capsule, she writes poetry. While earning her B.A. at the University of Michigan, Dom mentored generations of mentees she calls her children. Her children refer to her as Mom, Dad and of course Papa. (though Dom has no physical children, she does have six succulents who all have names). She co-mentored three generations of poetry club babies to be vigilant in making sure their voices are heard. Dom taught them that poetry has less to do with being crafty with language and more to do with being able to interrogate the bare truth of existence with an audience. Dom believes watching her children succeed in life to be her ultimate achievement. Although she leaves her children, family and friends in Michigan she is not worried. Her best friend taught her that distance can be easily overcome with long distance tic-tac-toe and remembering those lingering moments.
Xiaohuan Xue (Mathematics)
Xiaohuan is a graduate student in Mathematics and he graduated from Wake Forest University with a Master’s in Mathematics. He is often amazed by how beautiful Math and life could be. He hopes he could have the superpower of healing people so that we can make the world a better place together. He wants everybody, especially those in pain, to know that “you are precious, you are loved, and you are not alone”.
Amy Xin Yin (Music)
Yin is a skilled percussion performance major with significant performance and accompanist experience. She has performed as a soloist, member of various chamber groups and orchestras in China and the USA, at venues including National Centre for the Performing Arts, Harvard University, Beijing Concert Hall, and Zhongshan Park Music Hall. Yin has performed at different conferences, such as the upcoming 2020 PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition Winners Concert, TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Conference in San Antonio with the UNT Percussion Group in February 2020, with University of North Texas Wind Symphony in 2019, and CBDNA 2018 Southwestern Division Conference in Houston with Baylor Symphonic Band in 2018. While in attendance, Baylor Percussion Chamber Group won the second place of PASIC Percussion Chamber Competition.
Yin has taught individual and group students from different skill levels. Yin is a currently a Graduate Assistant at The University of North Carolina Greensboro, and a past Teaching Fellow from the University of North Texas where she taught a full-sized undergraduate studio, Percussion Methods class, and Freshman Percussion Ensemble. She also taught at Baylor University Summer Music Camp in 2017.
Yin is named a Minerva Scholar, the highest recognition awarded to a doctoral student at UNC Greensboro. Yin is also a past recipient of J. Kellis Memorial Scholarship and Public Education International Scholarship, Nancy Zeltsman Marimba Festival Scholarship, The Boston Conservatory Talent Scholarship and Excellence Returning Student Scholarship, Transfer Baylor Scholarship, President’s Excellence Scholarship, Larry Vanlandingham Scholarship, and Music Incentive Talent Scholarship.