About: Academic Transformation Advisory Council

Shortly after its founding in 2013, the Kirwan Center convened the Academic Transformation Advisory Council (ATAC) to help guide the Center’s initiatives and serve as liaisons and advocates for their institutions and the Center. Drawn from senior academic leadership, ATAC members meet each semester to generate ideas, discover points of collaboration, inform the Kirwan Center’s agenda, advance innovative programs and projects, and disseminate information back to their institutions.

Eileen Abel,

Executive Director
: University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland

Eileen Abel has served as Executive Director of the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland, the regional higher education center located in California, MD, in St Mary's County, since December, 2020. Prior to that appointment, she was Vice President of Academic Affairs at the College of Southern Maryland from 2015-2020 and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Raritan Valley Community College in Somerville, NJ, from 2010-2015. Other appointments include Dean of Faculty at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, CA, Associate Dean of Humanities at Bluegrass Community and Technical College in Lexington, KY, and professor of English, Women's Studies, and Native American Literature at BCTC for 15 years.

Brian Bergen-Aurand,

Director of Center for Instructional Technology & Online Learning
: University of Maryland, Eastern Shore

In his capacity as Director of CITOL at UMES, Brian Bergen-Aurand focuses on issues of flexibility, equity, accessibility, privacy, and safety in digital teaching and learning. Brian is a certified Quality Matters course reviewer and received his certificate in instructional design from Oregon State University in 2019. He has been an Instructional Designer specializing in quality standards since 2001. Brian has also taught screen studies, disability studies, philosophy, and analytical design at various colleges and universities around the world since 1989. He has travelled extensively and worked with institutions and organizations in Singapore, Berlin, Chicago, and Istanbul. He completed a PhD in comparative literature with a specialty in screen studies at the University of Maryland College Park, a Master's Degree in literature at Salisbury University, and a Bachelor's Degree in English and history at Purdue University. Prior to assuming his current position, Brian was an instructor and instructional designer at Bellevue College, Washington, where he specialized in quality standards and course review. Most recently, he is the author of a blog series entitled: What to Read When You’re (Not) Teaching, which reviews new publications in digital pedagogy.

MJ Bishop,

Vice President for Integrative Learning Design
: University of Maryland Global Campus

Dr. M.J. Bishop is Vice President for Integrative Learning Design at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) where she leads the evidence-based design and development of learning experiences across disciplines, delivery modalities, and global boundaries. Prior to UMGC, she was Associate Vice Chancellor and inaugural director of the University System of Maryland’s William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, where she led major statewide initiatives in the areas of open educational resources, online education, comprehensive learner records, alternative credentials, and adaptive learning.

Prior to USM, Dr. Bishop was Associate Professor and Director of Lehigh University’s Teaching, Learning, and Technology Program where she led the institution’s graduate programs in instructional design and technology, taught graduate level courses, and mentored master’s and doctoral students. MJ’s research interests include understanding the psychology behind instructional media to discover their pedagogical capabilities and to devise more effective ways to design instructional technologies to enhance learning.

Christina Cestone,

Assistant Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs
: University of Maryland, Baltimore

Christina Cestone received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, where she conducted research on faculty learning communities, instructional methods, motivation, and interprofessional education. Prior to leaving industry for higher education, she earned a Master’s degree in Human and Organizational Learning from The George Washington University.

Her interests are in program evaluation, assessment, and curriculum and instructional development involving active learning methods. She presents her scholarly work nationally, with recent publications in Medical Science Educator; the Journal of Best Practices in Health Professions Diversity: Research, Education and Policy.  Cestone is active in the American Education Research Association (AERA), Division I, Education in the Professions.

Prior to University of Maryland, Cestone spent the last eight years in medical education, recently as Associate Dean of Assessment and Evaluation for Drexel University, College of Medicine, where she was responsible for overseeing medical student assessment, and course and curriculum evaluation in an integrated medical curriculum for 1,100 medical students.

John Chapin,

Director of Faculty & Academic Support
: University of Baltimore

John Chapin serves on the Leadership Team of the Robert L. Bogomolny Library, which is the home of faculty development, online learning, and academic support at the University of Baltimore. As Director of Faculty & Academic Support, John is the head of the Bank of America Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Technology and the Academic Success Programs, which include the UB Writing Center, the  Math & Statistics Center, and Tutoring and Coaching Services. He began been working in writing centers and composition and rhetoric in 1993. John has provided leadership at UB on the General Education Council, the First Year Task Force, the Writing Advisory Group, and UB’s Staff Senate. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University and a BA in Anthropology and English from the University of Virginia.

Jessica Clark,

Associate professor in Biological Sciences and Assistant Provost of Faculty Success.
: Salisbury University

Jessica Kennett Clark is an associate professor in Biological Sciences at Salisbury University where she currently serves as Assistant Provost of Faculty Success. Jessica earned her doctorate in Neurobiology from Florida State University in 2009, and in 2014 completed her postdoctoral work at the University of Virginia. From there, Jessica joined the Department of Biological Sciences at Salisbury University, where she has taught undergraduate courses in anatomy and physiology, vertebrate physiology, and neurobiology. Her teaching expands beyond the classroom into her research lab where she has mentored numerous students, resulting in their authorship in publications, presentations, awards, and fellowships. In 2019, she was awarded SU’s Outstanding Research Mentor award for her dedication to her students’ success. Previously, Jessica co-directed the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creativity, where she had the opportunity to help promote undergraduate research as a high-impact practice, and helped build a diverse peer-ambassador program to promote inclusion in this important realm of the undergraduate experience. Jessica is also a co-PI on a National Science Foundation grant aimed at increasing diversity in the professoriate across the USM, and out of that, helped build a mentoring program at Salisbury to facilitate the retention and success of incoming faculty.

Matthew Crosston,

Director of Academic Transformation
: Bowie State University

Crosston is an acclaimed author and international educator who consults with governments, media organizations, and academic institutions on a range of issues covering education innovation, change leadership, peace mediation, human rights conflicts, resource dilemmas, intelligence, and cyber. He serves as Senior Research Fellow at the seminal Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Israel and on the Advisory Board of the influential International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Additionally, he is Senior Advisor for the Research Institute for European and American Studies in Athens, Greece,  Senior Fellow at the China Eurasia Council for Political and Strategic Research in Nanjing, China, Executive Vice Chairman of ModernDiplomacy.eu, and was the first American invited to conduct a political analysis blog for the Russian International Affairs Council in Moscow, Russia. He also advised and helped develop four new doctoral programs at St. Johns University, the American Military University, and North Carolina State University, in Homeland Security Management, Global Security, Strategic Intelligence, and International Security, respectively. He has published top-tier research that has impacted real world decision-making in the US and beyond. Overall, he has over 150 articles, analytical editorials, and commissioned opinion pieces that have been translated into Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Farsi, Greek, and Uzbek.  He has held professorial/administrative leadership appointments at Clemson University, the Virginia Military Institute, Bellevue University, and the American Military University, launching new degree programs at the bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels (residential, hybrid, and online modalities), facilitating new faculty development initiatives, and fostering student scholarship to external publication. He has a BA from Colgate University, MA from the University of London, PhD from Brown University, and completed a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto. 

Michael Eismeier ,

Interim CIO
: University System of Maryland

Michael Eismeier is Interim CIO for the University System of Maryland and has nearly 10 years of direct higher education experience. In his current role, Michael helps to facilitate coordinated IT strategy across the System and collaborates with System institutions to implement the strategy. Prior to coming to higher education, Michael spent 15 years leading technology implementations, mostly in geographic information systems, in local, state and federal government. He also served nearly 5 years as Director of Strategic Planning, Major Project Oversight and IT Procurement Oversight for State of Maryland Department of IT. Michael is a product of USM, graduating with a BS from Salisbury (State) University in 1994.

Rose Jackson-Speiser,

Research and Data Coordinator
: The Universities at Shady Grove

Rose Jackson-Speiser is the Research and Data Coordinator for the Universities at Shady Grove. Jackson-Speiser acts as project lead for the USG Digital Badging effort. Additionally, she coordinates and analyzes USG wide assessments and many executive office programs including Student Research Day and a Policy Repository. Jackson-Speiser is also engaged in leadership programming across USG. Jackson-Speiser received her M.A. in higher education administration from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Linda Hodges,

Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs & Director of Faculty Development Center
: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Linda C. Hodges, Director of the Faculty Development Center, was Director of the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Center for Teaching and Learning at Princeton University from 2003-2009 before retiring to Maryland. She holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Kentucky and was a faculty member for over 20 years before transitioning into faculty development. Prior to coming to the McGraw Center in 2001 she was the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Agnes Scott College near Atlanta, Georgia. During her faculty tenure at two different institutions she taught a wide range of courses, participated in faculty governance, and served as department chair. In 1999 she was one of 28 faculty chosen nationally to study and assess new pedagogical approaches as a Carnegie Scholar of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She has published widely on her work in faculty development, engaged student learning, and effective teaching practices. Her special interests are in pedagogies of engagement and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Kerrie L. Kephart,

Associate Director for Pedagogical Innovation, Research, and Assessment
: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Kerrie Kephart is Associate Director for Pedagogical Innovation, Research, and Assessment in the Faculty Development Center, supporting faculty to innovate in their teaching and investigate issues of teaching and learning in their classrooms and disciplines. Her interests in faculty development include the scholarship of teaching and learning, pedagogies of reflection such as journaling and portfolio development, active learning and inquiry-based pedagogies, writing across the curriculum/in the disciplines, and discourses of teaching and learning. She holds a doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a specialization in advanced academic literacy development. Prior to joining the FDC staff, she was Director of the Engineering Communication Program at the University of Washington, Seattle, and prior to that, she was Assistant Professor of ESL/Bilingual Education at the University of Texas at El Paso. In her previous positions, she conducted research studies in innovative teaching methods in the STEM fields and presented a workshop series in writing across the curriculum for faculty across all disciplines. She has also taught a variety of courses in language and literacy development, including academic writing for educators, writing the scientific article, technical communication, English as a second language pedagogy, principles of bilingual education, and discourse analysis.

Mary Lang,

Chief Strategy Officer and Chief of Staff
: The Universities at Shady Grove

Mary Lang is the Chief Strategy Officer and Chief of Staff at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG). USG is a University System of Maryland (USM) regional higher education center; a partnership of nine, public degree-granting institutions that gathers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs from across the state to one campus in Montgomery County. From the time she joined USG in 2005, as the Director of Planning/Chief of Staff, she has been responsible for creating and implementing strategic plans for current operations and growth plans for USG that incorporate developing and nurturing critical relationships with academic partners, community organizations and the USG Board of Advisors and the businesses and organizations they represent.  USG has become nationally recognized for its innovation academic/instructional model, one that is predicated on effective partnering among USM institutions, area community colleges and K-12, and regional employers.  In her role, Lang’s focus has been to support and expand pathways to affordable, innovative, high-quality public higher education that meet the distinctive needs of the region and are designed to support workforce and economic development in the state. Lang chairs USG’s Committee for Interprofessional and Interdisciplinary Education Strategies and is the primary professional support for the USG Board of Advisors, USG’s Academic and Programs Advisory Committee, and the Shady Grove Governing Council. She is also a member of the Workforce Investment Board for Montgomery County. Lang earned an MBA from George Mason University and a BA in Economics from the College of William and Mary.

Darragh McNally,

Assistant Vice Provost, Center for Innovation in Learning and Student Success
: University of Maryland Global Campus

Darragh McNally brings over a decade of higher ed experience to the role of Assistant Vice Provost at CILSS. Dr McNally specializes in social science research and program evaluation. He previously served as the Director of Evaluation and Research Design at CILSS. Prior to coming to UMGC, he worked as a lecturer and researcher at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught classes on political theory and research design. He has also worked for the Federal Voting Assistance Program and the Department of Defense's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, where he designed survey questionnaires for international research projects and wrote research reports for public release.

McNally spent three years as the Associate Director of an undergraduate living learning program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He also taught courses on international relations and democracy for the program. His substantive knowledge is in program evaluation and research design to improve outcomes in higher education. He is also interested in the use of analytics and data science in higher ed, academic integrity, survey design, and all issues surrounding comparative politics and political corruption.

McNally holds a PhD in political science from the University of Maryland, College Park and an MA in philosophy from University College Cork, Ireland. His research appears in Online Learning and Politics and Policy.

Benjamin Norris,

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Interim Associate Provost
: Frostburg State University

Benjamin Norris is an associate professor of Chemistry and Frostburg State University’s Interim Associate Provost. As Interim Associate Provost, he is responsible for providing leadership in faculty affairs and student success and facilitating key academic initiatives. Prior to joining the Office of the Provost at FSU, Norris was one of two institutional liaisons leading FSU’s participation in the Charter Cohort of the Excellence in Academic Advising project with NACADA and the Gardner Institute. As a faculty member, he has served in many shared governance roles at FSU, including Chair of the Faculty. Norris received BS in Chemistry from FSU and his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh. He has taught numerous chemistry courses over the past 17 years, and his current teaching interests include organic chemistry, medicinal chemistry, research methods, and biostatistics. His research interests include sustainable chemical synthesis, conjugated chemosensors and sequenced polymers, and academic advising as an agent for institutional change.

Marcio Oliveira,

Assistant Vice President for Academic Technology and Innovation
: University of Maryland, College Park

Marcio A. Oliveira is the Assistant Vice President for Academic Technology and Innovation within the Division of Information Technology and also the Executive Director of the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center within the Division of Academic Affairs. In both of these roles, he fosters effective, engaging, efficient, and equitable teaching and learning by guiding strategic institutional vision, pace, and priorities. Dr. Oliveira has been at UMD since 2004. His scholarship and teaching focus on cognitive and motor neuroscience. He is currently responsible for implementing innovative technology-enhanced pedagogical practices and collaborative learning environments and for encouraging educational innovation and experiential learning, all to foster student success.

Andrew K. Pace,

Executive Director
: University System of Maryland & Affiliated Institutions (USMAI) Library Consortium

Andrew Pace leads the consortium of 19 academic libraries across the state of Maryland, centrally hosting management, discovery, and resource sharing applications for millions of print, licensed, and open access resources across the consortium. Before joining USM, Andrew held Executive Director positions at OCLC, Inc., the world's largest not-for-profit library services cooperative, where he managed cloud-based application development and later led a research team focused on data science and applied research efforts. Prior to OCLC, he was Head of Information Technology at North Carolina State University Libraries. He is a Past President of Core, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and was a member of the ALA Executive Board from 2016-2019. He has presented at dozens of conferences and is the author two monographs and several book chapters and articles dealing with library technology, product and project management, and community building. He holds a Master of Science in Library Science from The Catholic University of America and a BA in Rhetoric & Communication Studies from the University of Virginia.

Jack Suess,

Vice President of Information Technology
: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Jack Suess is the Vice President of Information Technology at UMBC. The Vice President of Information Technology is the university's Chief Information Officer (CIO).  As Vice President, he provides university leadership for information technology at UMBC and serves on the executive leadership team of the university. He is responsible for providing information technology services in support of teaching and scholarship, research computing, and administrative support. Reporting directly to the President, he is responsible for strategic planning and implementation, coordination, budget, personnel, and policy related to information technology at UMBC.

Suess is an alum of UMBC and has worked there since 1981. He holds a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Operations Analysis. Throughout the years, he has taught a number of courses at UMBC, including Computer Organization and Assembly Programming, Unix System Administration, and Computers and Society. He has led UMBC information technology since 1997 and was appointed UMBC CIO in 2000. During his tenure, UMBC has been recognized as a leader in the use of information technology.

Becky Verzinski,

Assistant Vice President for Assessment
: Bowie State University

Since February 2012, Becky Verzinski has served as the Assistant Vice President for Assessment at Bowie State University (BSU) where she is responsible for the assessment of academic programs, program reviews, and the assessment of the General Education Program (GEP). She is BSU's principal investigator for the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s (MHEC) One Step Away Grant (OSA) Initiative that helps near-completer students to graduate. Since 2013, she has graduated 19 students under the OSA initiative. Previously, she was responsible for the assessment of the GEP at Morgan State University from 2008-2012. From 1998-2008, Verzinski served as an assistant director in the student affairs division at Towson University. She has 20 years of experience in higher education and also teaches graduate courses in organizational communications at Bowie State.

While in Maryland, she has been active in many professional organizations. From 2009-2011, she served as the treasurer for the Women in Maryland Higher Education Executive (WIMHE) Board. As part of the Mid-Atlantic College and University Housing Officers (MACUHO) executive board, she served as treasurer (2007-2008) and also as the 2003 co-chair for the annual professional conference held in Baltimore.

Verzinski was awarded the University System of Maryland Women’s Forum Professional Development Grant (2008) and also the Distinguished Alumni Award (2008) from the Department of Student Affairs in Higher Education at IUP. Additionally, she was given the 2007 Outstanding Research Award by the College Student Educators International (ACPA) for her dissertation research on Impacting College Students’ Attitudes toward Mental Illness.

She earned her doctorate degree in Urban Educational Leadership from Morgan State University, her master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and her bachelor’s degree in Journalism/Public Relations also from IUP. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and daughter.

Patricia Westerman,

Assistant Provost for the Faculty Academic Center of Excellence at Towson
: Towson University

Patricia Westerman joined the Towson University community in June 2019 as the inaugural Assistant Provost for the Faculty Academic Center of Excellence and as a tenured professor in the Psychology Department. Before starting at Towson University, she served in a number of academic, administrative, and leadership roles, while teaching for 22 years at Bowie State University (BSU). She served as Director of the BSU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, as co-Chair of the BSU Middle States Self-Study Steering Committee, and as BSU Faculty Senate Chair.  Most recently, she served as Chair of the Council of University System Faculty (CUSF) for the University System of Maryland. Westerman conducts research on innovation in higher education teaching and learning, as well as higher education leadership and mentoring.