About: Center Staff

MJ Bishop, Ed.D.,

Associate Vice Chancellor and Director

Dr. MJ Bishop is the inaugural director of the University System of Maryland's Center for Academic Innovation, which was established in 2013 to enhance and promote USM's position as a national leader in higher education academic innovations. The Center conducts research on best practices, disseminates findings, offers professional development opportunities for institutional faculty and administrators, and supports the 14 public institutions that are part of the system as they continue to expand innovative academic practices.

Prior to coming to USM, Dr. Bishop was Associate Professor and Director of the Lehigh University College of Education's Teaching, Learning, and Technology Program where, in addition to being responsible for the institution's graduate programs in instructional technology, she also played a leadership role in guiding the general and special education teacher preparation programs through a curricular overhaul to address the new Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) guidelines for teacher certification.

While at Lehigh, Dr. Bishop received several awards for her research and teaching including the 2013 Stabler Award for Excellence in Teaching for leading students to "excellence in their chosen field" as well as "excellence as human beings and as leaders of society." In addition to her teaching, MJ was project director and a Co-PI of the Clipper Project, a 5-year Andrew Mellon funded research project aimed at evaluating the short- and long-term costs and benefits associated with offering Web-based courses to high-school seniors who had been "pre-admitted" to the university.

Prior to Lehigh, MJ was a software development project manager and Vice President for Operations on the Multimedia Thinking Skills (MMTS) project (funded by CAETI and National Science Foundation under subcontracts from George Mason University) where she was principally responsible for the daily management of the MMTS project, including formative and summative evaluation of the modules developed.

Author of numerous national and international articles, Dr. Bishop's research interests include exploring how various instructional media and delivery systems might be designed and used more effectively to improve learning and teaching. MJ holds a doctorate in instructional design and development from Lehigh, a master's in English from Millersville University and a bachelor's in political science and English from Lebanon Valley College.

Nancy O'Neill, M.A., M.Ed.,

Associate Director

Nancy O'Neill joined the Kirwan Center in February 2016 and has served as the Associate Director since April 2016. She currently leads a project on taking high-impact educational practices (HIPs) to scale that involves four USM institutions and helps to lead the Kirwan Center’s system-wide digital badging initiative, Badging Essential Skills for Transitions (B.E.S.T.). She also convenes the General Education directors from across the system to strategize and share best practices. Prior to being at USM, she served as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Technology at the University of Baltimore from 2012 to 2016. While at UB, her work focused on supporting faculty innovation in teaching as well as curriculum development and alignment, student learning assessment, and institutional effectiveness. She ran a faculty learning communities program from 2013 to 2016, which engaged more than 60 faculty in semester- and year-long cohorts focused on pedagogical innovation and student success. She also developed community-building events, including an annual teaching and learning day that attracted 75+ faculty/year and drew participants from across the USM. In her last year at UB, she helped guide the University’s general education reform and institutional assessment efforts. This included leading large-scale rubrics assessment and engaging all student affairs and enrollment management functional areas in the development of learning outcomes for the student-facing programs and services.

Before moving to Baltimore in 2012, Nancy spent a decade at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), contributing to national projects related to high-impact practices, undergraduate curriculum and quality, assessment, institutional renewal, and diversity and equity initiatives. Highlights include managing the implementation and dissemination phases of a grant-funded project involving 23 colleges and universities focused on educating students for personal and social responsibility (PSR), and supporting campus change projects involving institutional leadership teams through consultations, institutes, and project meetings. She was involved in the piloting and launching of a campus climate survey within the consortium and ultimately shepherded three research reports, an administrator’s guide, and a user’s guide to publication. Also within that project, she organized a crosswalk of new national data provided by leading educational researchers, leading to another publication. Earlier in her tenure at AAC&U, she guided to publication a series of research reports focused on building campus capacity to evaluate diversity efforts, part of the dissemination phase of a grant-funded project involving a consortium of California colleges and universities.

Nancy earned a master's degree in American Studies and a master's degree in College Student Personnel from the University of Maryland, and a bachelor's in journalism and social criticism from the University of Buffalo. She is currently a doctoral student in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania.

Paul Walsh,

Program Director, USMx

Paul Walsh is the Program Director for USMx and works with the University System of Maryland's institutions to expand access to affordable, high-quality educational opportunities via the edX platform. Through USMx courses and programs, Paul collaborates with system institutions to conduct groundbreaking research, instill a culture of innovation, and promote workforce development.

Before taking on his current role, Paul was Assistant Vice President for Academic Innovation and Instructional Support at the University of Baltimore. In this role, Paul had oversight of the Office of Academic Innovation, which included UB's Honors program, Experiential Learning, Instructional Technologies, and the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, and Technology (CELTT).

Paul has developed e-Learning courses of all types, as well as policy and strategic plans for online growth and course quality. He serves on several non-profit and local school boards and lives in Timonium with his wife and two daughters.

Julie Halick,

USMx Program Manager

Dr. Julie Ann Halick is the Program Manager and Senior Instructional Designer for USMx.  Julie advances the Kirwan Center’s mission in innovation and online learning through USM’s edX initiative.  Her management, design, and QA work with Massive Open Online Classes includes 6 institutions, 6 MicroMasters programs, 8 Professional Certificate Programs, 50+ courses, and represents 200,000+ learners from over 95 countries.

Prior to USM, Julie worked for Veterans Upward Bound at Prince George’s Community College developing workshops and eLearning programs in collegiate and career readiness. Julie brings over 20 years in education, including her work with the instructional design program at Johns Hopkins University. She is the former National Director of Change Management and Training for One, Inc. Consulting. She led her team through process improvements, software upgrades, and change management for telecom, healthcare, and charitable industries, such as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.  In addition, Julie was a special education teacher and department chair in Tampa, Florida.  She holds an advanced K12 teaching certificate in Maryland. Her experience with special needs programs guides her passion for learner driven and ADA compliant pedagogy. 

Dr. Halick earned her Doctorate in Communications Design from the University of Baltimore, a Masters in Applied Technology, Training and Development from the University of North Texas, a Masters in Higher Education Leadership and Administration from Purdue University, and a Bachelor of Science in Education from Elmhurst College.  Her international studies include: Utrecht University in Holland, University of Madrid in Spain, and an intense study in Mixed Ability Grouping in K12 settings from Regents College in England. Julie has a Project Management Professional Certification and is currently working on a book which combines her experience in project management and eLearning design.

Catherine Hanssens-Passeri,

USMx Instructional Designer

Cathy Passeri joined the USMx team in March 2020 as the Instructional Designer. Cathy works with the University System of Maryland institutions to assist with designing and building MOOCs & SPOCs on the edX platform.

Before this position, Cathy was the Instructional Technologist and then the Interim Director for the Center of Instructional Technology and Online Learning at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES). While Interim Director, Cathy was the instructional designer who worked to put UMES as the first HBCU to develop a MOOC on the edX platform.

Cathy earned a master's degree in Instructional Systems Development from the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and a bachelor's in Multi-Media Web Technology from the University of Maryland University College (Global Campus). She also has a bachelor's equivalency in Fashion from Australia. She has been working in training and development in higher education for over 16 years, and another 15 years before in Corporate.