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.

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.

Sherri Braxton,

Senior Director, Instructional Technology
: University of Maryland, Baltimore County

At UMBC, Braxton is responsible for leading the Division of Information Technology’s strategy for end-user support of instructional technologies including online, hybrid, and traditional “face-to-face” technologies. Braxton has more than 20 years of experience in traditional classroom instruction and adult education strategies grounded in instructional design models and possesses more than 18 years of experience using learning technologies in higher education settings, including the design and facilitation of online and hybrid courses. As a result, she has extensive working knowledge of numerous learning management systems including Blackboard, Sakai, and Desire2Learn. As UMBC’s Quality Matters (QM) Coordinator, Braxton oversees efforts on campus to ensure both the hybrid and online courses offered at the institution are compliant with the nationally recognized standards identified in the QM Rubric.  She brings prior experience managing this process from Johns Hopkins University, where she served as the Director of Distance Education for their Engineering for Professionals program and led the program faculty through their first Quality Matters course reviews and certifications. Braxton earned a Doctor of Science in Computer Science with Minors in Educational Leadership and Management Science from the George Washington University, a Master of Science in Computer Science with a Math Minor from North Carolina State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Wake Forest University.

Christina Cestone,

Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning
: 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.

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. 

Mark Halsey,

Executive Director
: University System of Maryland at Hagerstown

Mark Halsey was named the Executive Director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown (USMH) in May of 2012. He is responsible for insuring that USMH, one of two regional higher education centers of the University System of Maryland, provides undergraduate and graduate academic programs which satisfy the interests of traditional and working adult students, and that advance the region's economic development.

Halsey has served in higher education administration and teaching for twenty-seven years, including as Associate Director of Virginia Tech's online Distance Learning initiative, as Regional Director of Distance Learning for Old Dominion University, and as a full-time faculty member for seventeen years at Eastern University, where he also served as a Department Chair and as the Director of three graduate programs.

Halsey began his career as a full-time management consultant, rising to Director with two different firms before entering academia. He continues to consult in the areas of nonprofit strategic planning and organizational development. He serves, or has served, on a number of nonprofit and corporate boards of directors, and has been an invited speaker, visiting professor or team leader of a higher education initiative in Bolivia, China, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, South Africa, and Vietnam.

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.

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.

Athena Kennedy,

Vice President of Digital Teaching and Learning
: University of Maryland Global Campus

At UMGC, Athena Kennedy’s portfolio includes the Course Development and Curriculum Design functions of Academic Affairs, as well as working with AccelerEd to create a best-in-class technology ecosystem to support UMGC’s digital teaching and learning strategy. Kennedy recently served as the Online Program Launch Director for Purdue University Online. She has also served as an online instructor, manager of instructional design, instructional technologist, researcher, and student services professional in higher education for nearly two decades at universities including Purdue University, Arizona State University, the University of Wyoming, California State University San Bernardino-Palm Desert Campus, and Colorado State University Online-Fort Collins and Laramie County Community College. She has taught college courses in content management, technical writing and digital media, communication, marketing, instructional design and higher education, GRE test preparation, first-year experience for college students, and indoor cycling. Additionally, Kennedy has corporate sales experience at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and United Chemicals of Belgium. Her passion can be seen through her work in creating engaging online education using high quality instructional design that employs the latest advances in technology. She values demonstrating instructor presence in online teaching, as well as conducting online education research. Kennedy earned a PhD in Higher Education Administration with a focus in online education from the University of Wyoming. She earned her MA in Communication, BA in Communication, and BA in Spanish, also from the University of Wyoming.

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.

Michael Mathias,

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
: Frostburg State University

Mike Mathias is a Professor of Philosophy at Frostburg State University where he currently serves as Interim Provost. He holds a doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Rochester and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in moral, political, and legal philosophy for 20 years. Prior to moving to the Provost’s Office, Mathias chaired FSU’s Philosophy Department. As chair of FSU’s General Education Program Review Committee, he coordinated student learning outcomes assessment in the GEP and initiated a comprehensive review and revision of the program. Mathias has led institutional efforts to scale high-impact educational practices, promote civic education and engagement, and foster academic integrity. 

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.

Rolande Murray,

Assistant Vice President for Academic Operations, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
: Coppin State University

Rolande Murray has been in higher education since 1996 after completing her doctoral training in personality/developmental psychology at Northeastern University in Boston. After receiving her degree, she accepted a three-year postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the area of Prevention Science. Murray joined Coppin State University in 1999, where she has served as faculty, department chair, and in other administrative roles. In addition to enjoying her faculty role, where she interacts with students on a daily basis, Murray has also found great satisfaction in working with colleagues on the Faculty Information Technology Committee (FITC). As a member of this committee, Murray has been able to introduce new cutting-edge technology that has transformed teaching and learning at Coppin.

Amin Qazi,

Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer
: University of Maryland Global Campus

Amin Qazi is Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer at University of Maryland Global Campus. He was most recently Principal at Amass, designing elegant solutions to guide leaders through change. He has led complex, global transformations that improve organizations, and implement bold actions. Amin was the founding Chief Executive Officer of Unizin, a university-owned consortium focused on data and analytics for digital education. Amin previously led teams to address key short- and long-term strategic and business objectives at KPMG LLC, JP Morgan Chase & Co., and Accenture. Amin has a Bachelors in Chemical Engineering from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Business Administration from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

Doris Santamaria-Makang,

Associate Professor, Educational Professions
: Frostburg State University

Doris Santamaria-Makang has been at Frostburg State University for 10 years. As Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, Santamaria-Makang oversees program review and development, academic affairs initiatives related to curriculum revision, outcomes assessment, and student learning. She also serves as the main FSU liaison to USM and the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC). As part of this liaison work, she coordinates FSU’s involvement in system-wide initiatives, such as digital badging, course redesign, and graduate outcomes assessment.

Prior to her role in the Provost’s office, she was a faculty member in the College of Education. While there, she focused on curriculum development for graduate programs, including the master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and the doctoral program in education and leadership. She was also the NCATE coordinator for the professional education unit and was responsible for the successful NCATE accreditation review in 2007. Santamaria-Makang earned an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in science education from Boston University. Her areas of interest/research include outcomes assessment, curriculum development, and educational leadership.

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.

Richard T. Wilkens,

Associate Provost
: Salisbury University

Since June 2016, Richard Wilkens has served as Associate Provost at Salisbury University. At Salisbury, Wilkens successfully led the effort to obtain University System of Maryland approval for a new College of Health and Human Services. Wilkens has also worked to strengthen external collaborations with partner institutions in Maryland, including community colleges and satellite centers.

Prior to his current position, he was Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Dowling College, a small private institution in New York. As Provost, Wilkens’s primary focus was curricular enhancement and improved efficiency in all areas of operation. Wilkens successfully steered Dowling College off warning for two MSCHE standards in Spring 2015 and succeeded in obtaining MSCHE approval for three Substantive Change Requests (July 2015) to allow curricular offerings at partner sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Nassau County. At Dowling, he was one of the major architects of a new initiative aimed at making experiential learning a required part of the college experience.

Wilkens earned his PhD in Biology at Binghamton University in 1994. He went on to a Post-Doctoral position at Dartmouth College followed by a second at the University of Connecticut. His research area is ecology with a focus on plant-insect herbivore interactions. Wilkens has also published work on the teaching of biological concepts. Currently, Wilkens holds a tenured full Professor line in the Biology Department of Salisbury University.  At Dowling College, he was a biology professor for 16 years, serving as Chair of Biology for seven years.  

Denise Yost,

Director, Graduate Certificate Programs and Extended Learning, Associate Research Professor:
: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Denise Yost is a research scientist formally trained in marine biology, genetics, physiology, and biochemistry, with additional expertise in academic administration and academic affairs advancements. Currently she serves as the Director of Graduate Certificate Programs and Extended Learning at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science where she leads strategic planning and implementation for new and existing programs. She brings a rich background in authentic leadership and administration to her work evolving the student experience at UMCES. Specifically, she developed, successfully implemented, led or co-led multiple university system-wide programs including, the Transformational Change Initiative for student success, and the Faculty Development program to support transformative learning practices, and the Provost's Leadership Academy, at Washington State University (WSU). In addition, at WSU, she served as Director for the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership, chair for the WSU Senate Faculty Affairs committee, and as an invited speaker and facilitator for statewide initiatives. Currently, she is a co-Principal Investigator on a northwest regional NSF ADVANCE grant focused on advancement of women in STEMM where she continues to advance equity and policy change. Yost has also won awards for online education and has published on transformational learning and authentic leadership in undergraduate, graduate, and faculty instruction and training. She works extensively in the private sector serving as a facilitator for private businesses and as a coach for business leaders. 

Dr. Yost’s scientific research focused on responses of reef-building corals to climate change and environmental stress. She has conducted coral field research in diverse locations around the world including American Samoa, Bermuda, Belize, French Polynesia (Moorea), Hawai’i, Japan (Okinawa), and Taiwan. Dr. Yost is an expert in organismal production and physiological function of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and developed novel methodologies for quantitatively measuring DMSP changes in reef-building corals and dinoflagellate algae. She has also studied the genetic diversity of algal symbionts using advanced pyrosequencing approaches to further understand adaptation and evolution of coral symbioses. She enjoys being an active contributor and was chair for the Effects of Ocean Acidification session at the Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology (PACON) Conference. She completed her post-doctoral research at the University of Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology with Dr. Ruth Gates. Dr. Yost holds a PhD from University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and a MS from Washington State University.