Nominated by their colleagues, Staff Spotlights shine a light of appreciation on the amazing people working within the Division of Student Affairs. Staff are nominated for accomplishments such as presenting at conferences, winning awards, excellence in supporting students, and exhibiting behaviors or character worth mentioning.
Please join us in celebrating this month's Staff Spotlights!
Maureen O’Donnell joined Counseling and Psychological Services staff in 2017, and she provides individual therapy and is also the group leader for Understanding Self and Others and Post-Traumatic Growth Groups. She also supervises interns seeking their licensing in professional counseling. She is also the first person (voted unanimously) to respond to any outreach or workshop requests from the KSU campus community at large. She also regularly attends HEAL team meetings to coordinate care for students who present with eating and/or body image concerns. During the pandemic, Maureen served as our official DJ for a short Microsoft Teams Friday afternoon Dance Party. She loves music and is the only staff member that holds a bachelor's in music therapy. She previously taught flute lessons and loves concerts. She also enjoys hiking and would regularly send our CPS fun and fitness GroupMe pictures of her hiking scenery and her forehead. Yep, just her forehead! We are very happy with the positive energy Maureen O’Donnell brings to our office!
Previous Staff Spotlights
Melissa has always been our hardworking office manager and makes our jobs easier to manage in the process. She works behind the scenes, ensuring that we have the administrative support that we need to keep our office running smoothly. She has taken on more responsibilities with our outreach services, managing campus presentations and tabling events. She coordinated our recent Send Silence Packing event, providing a meaningful event and opportunity for discussion with students, giving staff the resources, time, and space to be present for the students. She is very solution-focused, looking for ways to make things work to provide more streamlined services for the students. And she makes Pinterest-worthy treats!
Dr. Rifkin joined Counseling and Psychological Services staff in 2010, and he meets all the characteristics of a true Renaissance person! His educational background includes training in forensic psychology, and he has experience working in a variety of settings including private practice, inpatient hospitals, and now KSU CPS! He is the only staff member that splits his time between individual therapy appointments and providing academic enrichment to the KSU community by teaching psychology courses every semester. He is a favorite amongst the students that take his psychology classes! Dr. Rifkin steps in whenever and wherever needed and is always ready to offer his expertise. Stepping into his carefully curated office is like stepping into a museum of all his many interests. He enjoys travel and astronomy. He can usually be spotted with a kind smile on his face, coffee cup and briefcase in hand, a matching ensemble including a hat and tie, and always being dressed to the nines! We are grateful to have him as part of our team!
Karen has been the backbone of the Student Leadership and Service Department. She does an excellent job helping our staff and supporting our students. We recognize her dedication to seeing our students succeed and that her work does not go unnoticed. She is the glue that keeps us together and the leader we look up to, she encourages us to be our best selves, and demonstrates how to show up for students in our respective roles.
Brandon is a hardworking and dedicated Student Affairs professional. He works tirelessly to support the Sports and Recreation facilities and his colleagues even if it means staying late or coming in on a weekend. Brandon often goes out of his way to make sure that activities and events run smoothly, and he helps raise the spirits of those around him with his positive attitude and smile.
Since joining our team, Phuong has continuously sought out opportunities to contribute to our team. She has shown a great amount of initiative and has gone above and beyond to support our students and staff. Phuong has been ceaselessly willing to learn and grow and has rapidly become an essential part of our team. Phuong's eagerness to support staff and students has contributed to her building strong relationships and rapport across the university.
Afton joined our staff in 2018 and serves as our counseling center’s only Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). She has provided our department with a variety new first time group offerings including Ready for Success which helps support our graduating seniors, and she also provides couple’s counseling. She is also newly overseeing our Student Advisory Board of seven students. This involves matching students with staff mentors as well as planning, organizing, and implementing outreach to the KSU community. Afton spends most of her day providing individual therapy and has made a tremendous impact on students working through family dynamics, body image concerns, and trauma. We are so glad to have her on our team!!!
Chuck has done a great job with bringing all three Student Media organizations together. Chuck works with these organizations to create opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in media and to learn about industry in an exciting environment. Chuck has worked diligently with his students to bring KSU’s student media outlets back stronger than they were before COVID-19. Chuck is great at developing meaningful relationships with his students; they are constantly stopping by the office to see him and talk through their roles. He is a wonderful Advisor! His new role as part-time instructor in the School of Communications speaks volumes about his ability to use his background in journalism to create meaningful applied learning opportunities for his students, both in the classroom and in Student Media.
Elisheva joined our staff in 2018 and has been overseeing the Professional Development Committee for staff members since her arrival. We are so lucky and appreciative to have received in-house training on a multitude of topics including eating disorder assessments, ADHD comorbidities, Contemporary Psychodynamic Therapy, Introduction to Cognitive Processing Therapy, Humor Therapy, Working with Anger, Forensic Psychology, and Guideposts for Wholehearted Living among other relevant topics to help each one of us in our work with students. Elisheva serves as a supervisor for our training program and is an Understanding Self and Others group leader, however, most of her work is providing individual therapy. One of her clients shared “The feedback that I get from Elisheva I keep very dear to my heart. That's what improves my life.” I know this sentiment would ring true for all the students she works with. Elisheva has established a partnership with the Writing Center and helps facilitate Write and Be Well workshops. As one our QPR certified instructors, she provides training to our campus community. We are very appreciative of all the ways Elisheva brings her talents to our office!
Dr. Nisha Chande is the one and only Psychiatrist serving our entire student body at KSU. Dr. Chande consults with the medical doctors at Student Health Services and our Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, offering her expertise, to ensure that students' medication management needs are met. Dr. Chande is a resource to our entire Staff, as well as our university's eating disorder treatment team (HEAL), as a collaborative practitioner in supporting student wellbeing. Dr. Chande manages a high-volume case load. Despite this, she offers individualized attention and support to each student. Our students consistently have positive feedback about working with Dr. Chande, commenting on her responsiveness, partnership, warmth, and attentiveness. Dr. Chande is a light within our office. It is impossible to be around her without being touched by her positivity, laughter, joy, and humor. Dr. Chande is the best balance of wisdom, seriousness, silliness, and ease. She really does seem to just float through the office, leaving brightness in her wake. Our hope is that Dr. Chande knows just how special she is to our students and staff. We are the luckiest to have her time and talent at KSU!
Jenny joined our staff in January 2020, and she continues to be a wonderful asset to our team. Most of her work involves providing individual therapy for our KSU students, and she is very thorough and thoughtful in her work. Every other week, our staff meet in small groups where we discuss complex clinical presentations, and I’ve enjoyed hearing her unique perspectives and case formulations. No stone is left unturned with Jenny! She has also offered bereavement group therapy every semester since she joined our staff, and this has been an invaluable resource for our students. She is dedicated!
Amy continually presents and personally implements creative ways to support the KSU community. Whenever she recognizes a need for services, she starts to plan programming around that need. She currently serves as the liaison with Housing and Residence Life. Most recently, she is working on spearheading an RA support group. She also offered unique group therapy opportunities such as Surviving the First Year and Cognitive Processing Therapy for trauma patients as well as provided multiple QPR trainings to the campus community. She brought cheer to our office for several years by serving as social chair. We are very appreciative of the “outside the box” and innovative thinking Amy brings to our office! She is inspiring!
As a Testing Coordinator for Student Disability Services, Danielle provides an invaluable service that supports the retention and progression of students with disabilities. Her job consists of scheduling testing appointments, reaching out to faculty to collect and deliver exams, and working with students to provide appropriate accommodations, including assistive software and equipment. As SDS proctors thousands of exams per semester, Danielle rarely has a slow day in the office. Despite all the responsibilities she manages, Danielle is always willing to step in and support the office with other duties. Her presence exudes kindness, warmth, and genuine compassion towards everyone she encounters. She is truly a wonderful colleague and definitely worthy of recognition!
In his short time with Sports & Rec, Luke has reinvigorated and strengthened the Competitive Sports Athletic Training program in tremendous ways. He has worked diligently to review and update EAPs for our Club teams and has established working relationships with other DSA and Campus entities such as SDS and Student Health to ensure seamless referral processes. Luke is impactful not only in the athletic training room but has a willingness to step in and assist at games. Recently Luke supported an opposing team through a rash of injuries and the opposing team’s director commented on the high degree of professionalism, aplomb, and compassion Luke exhibited. We are very lucky to have Luke and are grateful for his willingness to provide quality care to all Club athletes.
Alissa’s ability to juggle multiple roles with such thoroughness, timeliness, and compassion is intriguing. We have a staff of over 20, and for a few months, she single-handedly provided rapid case management services for all our psychiatry and counseling staff. This includes a wide range of services such as assisting with follow up care/ higher level of care needed for our students, patient assistance paperwork, managing medical records, and academic coaching. Alissa also most recently served as the facilitator for Healthy Eating and Living Team (HEAL) and ACT. She continues to provide supervision to new trainees every year while continuing to pursue her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. She seamlessly does all the above while maintaining her own caseload of clients. Alissa is truly a gem, and we are grateful for her voice and her ideas. She has had a hand in all the ways our department has grown in the past several years. Alissa is magical!
Amy went above and beyond to assist our department with a critical issue that we needed administrative support to resolve. The director of our department reached out to Amy for help, and she gladly stepped up. Amy was not only quick, proficient, and professional, she was also a joy to work with. She took the time to follow the process straight through to the end, ensuring that everything was taken care of properly and that our needs were met so that we could serve our students to the best of our ability. Amy is an exceptional team player, and DSA is lucky to have her! When someone steps out of their job to contribute meaningfully to our job, that shows a person values their colleagues, understands the mission of KSU and DSA, and most importantly, truly cares about the students we're here to serve. Amy is one whose efforts show just that about her. She is a gem, and our department couldn't be more grateful for her willingness to share her skills and knowledge with us!
In the spirit of Student Affairs Profession Month, Semline is the quintessential model. Semline is dedicated to students, creative in her work, diligent in her efforts, and school spirited. She is always wearing a smile and sharing positive energy that reverberates throughout campus. Semline deserves this recognition as a result of her year round commitment to success, but also, she just completed 2021 Constitution Week which was a great success. Through Semline's efforts, students have been civically engaged and the institution has been nationally recognized. She is a quality person and a joy to work with.
Lonna Bowman has worked extra hard this past year picking up some additional sport responsibilities as we were down a staff member, and then after losing another staff member at the end of spring she cheerfully picked up some additional responsibilities. She is a very positive personality in the office and has just the right balance between encouragement and accountability and when dealing with her student-athletes. She answered lots of questions from new students and new coaches this summer and did so with grace and patience. Lonna also asks great questions and looks for ways to improve processes; her critical thinking skills are appreciated! She is a great ambassador and worthy of recognition for the DSA Spotlight!
Jessica McDaniel is a loyal and responsive team player with the ability to praise, motivate, and collaborate with others. Her professional values include the pursuit of excellence and getting to yes interwoven with integrity and inclusion. Jessica is a double graduate of KSU, who recently graduated with her Master's degree in American Studies. With the recent turnover in staff at the Center, Jessica has willingly and graciously stepped into multiple roles, providing strong leadership and support for the team. As Interim Assistant Director, Jessica continues to use her analytical skills to assess and evaluate Center programs in conjunction with her work and leadership in recovery science research. As a former alumnus of the collegiate recovery community, she is instrumental in providing recovery informed services and support to the student community. Jessica's commitment to her professional growth has been evident during the past few years as she makes the time to meet with her KSU mentor and learn from the experience and expertise of others. Jessica is not only a consummate professional, but she is also an extraordinary colleague and mentor to so many.
Emily brings enthusiasm and positivity to everything that she does while also being hard-working and reliable. She is EXCEPTIONAL at is recognizing others for their good work; having submitted several Staff Spotlights for other people and I think it's time to recognize her! I appreciate her ability to make others feel appreciated and valuable, especially at a time when things are challenging.
As the marketing coordinator for the department Brittany handles many aspects in the department from managing the website and social media, creating all marketing material to advertise the department and the programs within each unit, creates all the promotional designs and orders the promo items. Brittany also participates in several committees across the division and campus to include Week of Welcome and Strategic Communications work group. She is a crucial member of this department and to Kennesaw State University.
Teresa is one of the MOST helpful people at KSU. She goes above and beyond in her job to help others, and make sure everyone feels like they belong. She is always willing to help and works hard to get the answer as quickly as possible. Teresa is so kind to everyone she meets and welcomes all to make them feel comfortable and like they belonged here. She explains processes in ways that are easy to understand. Teresa is such an integral part of Student Affairs!
Since Brian has joined KSU he has proven to be an outstanding member of our team! Brian's work with Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) has been innovative and refreshing. He exemplifies those qualities through the monthly workshops he conducts for students and advisors, to his commitment to making resources more accessible and user-friendly for RSOs. Outside of working with Registered Student Organizations, Brian serves on the DSA Diversity Council, volunteers at events outside of Student Activities, and strives to be an active on-campus resource for the KSU chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Karen is one of the most incredible people. She helps raise everyone around her, both colleagues and students. Students come to Karen for help in school, leadership info, and just to talk. Karen makes everyone feel welcome and never gives up on people. Her dedication to KSU students is unmatched! During COVID Karen created many events both in-person and online so students could connect with each other as well as with staff. Karen gives her all to KSU and our students, and it shows in how much our students love her.
Cheryl is a passionate, student-focused employee that continues to seek out ways to grow the Aquatics program. Even during the campus closures, Cheryl challenged herself to find creative ways to serve our patrons. One of the most innovative programs was the development of the virtual aquatic safety lessons. She developed eight lesson topics with options for children and adults. This inventive approach earned the attention of Campus Rec Magazine, which featured a story on the program. Additionally, Cheryl applied for and earned her third Swimming Saves Lives Grant for 2021 which allows OwlAquatics to provide six private swim lessons to facility members in need of foundational swimming skills at no additional charge. Cheryl does a wonderful job balancing the needs of all user groups while offering a variety of in-house aquatics programming including youth and adult swim lessons, special events, and instructional programs. Thank you for all your hard work Cheryl!
Nikki is a rock star. Her commitment to our students is impeccable and is reflected in the customer service she delivers. She can consistently be observed giving every student she speaks with space to share their concerns and be heard. Furthermore, one wouldn't know our office is a staff member down because she's effortlessly jumped in to make sure the extra work gets done. We couldn't run the SCAI office without her. If that's not enough, she recently completed her doctoral coursework not two weeks ago and already has an internship lined up for this fall. Student conduct work is almost always a thankless job. There couldn't be a better candidate for this spotlight.
Bonna goes above and beyond in her position with SDS as Deaf and Hard if Hearing Services Manager. During the 5 days of commencement ceremonies - morning and evening Bonna was there for all ceremonies making sure everything was in place and running smoothly. She meet each of her co-workers that were working the event and guided them to were they needed to go. Bonna she is always so willing to help and is a rock star.
Carrie builds up an entire team of interns at least twice a year to provide unparalleled case management to students experiencing homelessness, on the verge of homelessness, in crisis, and/or recovering from the foster care system. During the times when every other staff person is able to take a breath and recharge for the upcoming semester, Carrie takes on each and every student's case with the same level of care, concern and professionalism they receive throughout the semester while also excelling in her day to day responsibilities. The level of support she's providing to these students with little or no assistance is admirable and deserving of every award!
Savana Alexander has really stood out in the last few months in doing her job and taking on additional responsibility. Savana is a learning specialist that works with our student-athletes, and she has a very full caseload of students she works with. In addition to her regular students, Savana has taken on students who needed her help and also stepped in to be our tutor coordinator the past few months. She spends hours and hours each day on zoom patiently working with students who need help with organization, time management, and study skills. Every athletic team was competing this spring, so balancing schedules, assignments, and expectations have been tough. Earlier in the semester Savana took on the responsibility of scheduling for the tutoring sessions and ensured things were running smoothly with tutoring. She is always looking for ways to improve our processes and is also the resident Excel and PDF expert in our office helping with everything from spreadsheets to flyers! Savana has been very valuable and works behind the scenes to help our student-athletes succeed and deserves to be recognized for her hard work!
Dalida Brown has great enthusiasm and dedication to the field of public health and this is evident in her work in Health Promotion and Wellness. She does a great job planning, implementing, and evaluating health education programs. She is a great team player and is well regarded by colleagues and students. She treats others with respect, is courteous, acknowledges the contributions of others, and seen by peers and her supervisor as someone they can rely on. She takes initiative on projects and addresses any concerns in a timely and professional manner. She contributes to a positive work environment and maintains a positive attitude even during challenging times. Dalida is a strong supporter of student well-being and this is visible in the student programs she currently manages including the Peer Health Outreach and Wellness Leaders (OWLs) and the Wellness Peer Mentors. Dalida achieves the goals she sets for herself and the department. Her professionalism and integrity make her a great colleague as well as a great advocate and educator for student health and wellness.
Cindy Butson has demonstrated her commitment to the Division of Student Affairs and student success. Her permanent position is with the Student Affairs Marietta team, where, in addition to ensuring that we have all the tools needed to support our students and their engagement activities, she has overseen the student assistants at our front desk. She has done everything for the student affairs team at Marietta and has always demonstrated a high level of professionalism with everyone she encounters. She is very quick to complete her work and we are always looking at ways she can support beyond those areas in her role. Last year Cindy was recommended to support our Vice President for Student Affairs and the senior leadership team by moving to Kennesaw Hall. In this transition to support a larger group in a different location she has had to learn the style of three new senior leaders and she has done that very well. She has been a great asset to all of us and while we miss not having her here at Marietta, we know she is learning a lot. Cindy is a true team player, she keeps calm in times of stress, and asks questions to ensure she is doing what we need. She is a strong supporter of KSU and a very dedicated to supporting our staff in order to ensure our students are successful.
Lindsay is an excellent example of exactly what one would hope for in a colleague. She is continuously willing to be of service, whether that is to KSU students, our staff here at CYAAR, collaborating departments, or community constituents to the university. During the past year she has navigated ways to serve students through the pandemic in innovative and exciting ways. She stepped in and took a lead with promoting the 1000 programs DSA accomplished in the fall while being one of the DSA professionals putting the programs on; only to turn around and do the same thing in the spring! She serves on numerous committees around campus, including leading the ATOD Coalition and serving on staff senate. She is such an integral part of our team here at CYAAR and even more so for our division and university.
Norman Reid shows his commitment to the Division of Student Affairs and our students in a host of ways. His professional demeanor when working in a team environment is notable as he confidently seeks collaborative solutions to enhance the student experience. His advocacy for the Esports program and the students he represents rises above his job responsibilities, and he continues to patiently educate KSU staff, faculty, and administrators on best practices in this field. Norman is always professional and supportive when interacting with colleagues. He is also able to hold his own, demonstrating a unique blend of humility and confidence as he advocates for more resources and state of the art technology for the Esports program. If you have not met Norman, you may want to take the opportunity to introduce yourself and learn more about his expertise and passion.
Jennifer has been a full-time employee at KSU since 2011 and she is a proud graduate of our institution. Her love for KSU is evident in how she brings her son and family to KSU football games and other student activities like our Marietta Pumpkin Launch. However, her work is what brings her to be recognized as a divisional employee. Jennifer takes much pride in the work she was doing as manager of the Wilson Student Center at Marietta and always looking for ways to enhance the facility so that students, faculty, and staff find their sense of belonging on our campus. In her role as manager of student centers she has been able to develop student assistant positions that provide a career progression with clearly identified leadership development and professional development skills that are transferrable to any career, and thus contributing to students' career readiness. She holds her staff accountable and has high expectations, particularly as it relates to offer the best customer service experience to all who visit the student centers. Jennifer is a dedicated professional, committed to student success, and someone who understands that our student centers are the living room of campus and everyone should feel at home and safe in those places. She is open to new ideas, is innovative in her approach, and is always looking for the next challenge or how best to support our divisional efforts. She is a young mid-manager in our division who is eager and hungry to learn new things and is always looking for ways to develop as a manager, supervisor, and leader in higher education.
Sean Brinkley, Jr.
Sean is extremely dedicated to his students and to KSU. He is an alumni who has a strong passion for helping students along their journey to find their true selves. Sean goes above and beyond leading his student groups, he learned how to host a virtual conference for students in leadership. He is always pushing his limits to learn and grow as a professional and personally. I have seen Sean create new and exciting ways to connect with students, including using Play-Doh! Sean doesn't stop at the end of the work day, he stops when the job is done. He inspires his students, and staff around him to go that extra mile for KSU.
Alan Hall maintains the highest level of commitment to the Department of Sports and Recreation. He always maintains a positive attitude and disposition, while working to meet and exceed expectations. In addition to quickly responding to the needs of the patrons, Alan makes it a priority to allot time to work alongside student assistants to support them in completing their daily duties and assigned projects. He takes initiative to support his colleagues in ways that are not his direct responsibility. For instance, he happily hangs items in their offices, picks up trash and water bottles on the tennis courts, and even lends a hand with moving equipment between facilities. Alan's selfless persona, strong work ethic and desire to support the department and division makes him a pleasure to work and a significant asset to Kennesaw State University.
Aaron is a hardworking and dedicated Student Affairs professional. In the relatively short amount of time that he has worked with us he has produced tremendous growth in the fitness programs, including the staff. When the Sports and Recreation facilities closed in March of 2020, Aaron and his fitness team had to work quickly to find creative ways to serve the patrons. They developed a “Workout with OwlFit at Home” series and he quickly modified existing programs to continue to serve patrons such as virtual small group coaching and personal training. He and his team are regular contributors to the Division of Student Affairs Health and Wellbeing Newsletter and they continually innovate new programs such as the Wake-Up Workout Challenge. He is well respected and liked by his peers and subordinates. Aaron shows a genuine passion for personal and student learning. He is a wonderful strategic planner and flexible in an ever-changing environment. He continues to seek ways to improve his program areas through thoughtful, intentional priorities and goal setting.
Simeon Stoyanov takes care and time with each client he serves. He is kind, supportive and a strong collaborator. Simeon provides incredible IT support to the DSA and has done so for years. He is selfless, committed and highly knowledgeable. Simeon responds to each request he receives quickly, efficiently and as if it is the only request he has that day. Simeon's ability to problem solve, think critically and make thoughtful decisions are key characteristics of his management style. Simeon is a strong project manager who balances the needs of the individual with the overarching needs of the division. His work ethic is outstanding and his sense of humor is greatly appreciated.
Jessica has evolved into being one of the very most vital members of our division. Having started at KSU as a student, Jessica manifests her passions into successful traditions and practices that make us all better! She has pivoted seamlessly from overseeing advocacy services for GLBTIQ students (a program that she built to its current momentum), to an assessment savant! She is able to manage and manipulate Owl Life software to develop meaningful and useful assessment tools for the division, which is appreciated. Jessica's contribution to the division have opened up the ways in which many of us can understand data collection and put it to good use for making informed decisions for our departments.
Tonya Baker McPherson
Dr. McPherson provides strong leadership, direction, and guidance for the department of Student Activities and the individual staff members within it. In addition to her job responsibilities, Dr. McPherson is also leading the efforts to engage students on campus through Homecoming, Weeks of Welcome, and 2,000+ programs in the spring semester. Dr. McPherson gives space for the staff to get creative with the tasks at hand to encourage us to take ownership and try out new opportunities to get students connected on campus. The success of the department's fall and spring programming wouldn't have been possible without Dr. McPherson, from the planning to the execution. She leads by example constantly, showing that no task is too big or too small. From picking up trash after an event to moving boxes to storage, Dr. McPherson is always with her staff. She has an impressive ability to check in with the staff and allow them to express their thoughts and feelings in an open and constructive manner.
Jenna goes above and beyond to help students and student organizations with space reservations on campus. Jenna demonstrates excellent customer service and always provides solutions to students' questions and challenges. Jenna's strong interpersonal skills, especially when working with campus partners to coordinate student organization events, including Event and Venue Management, Facilities, Sports and Recreation, and Environmental Health and Safety are impressive. Even while working temporarily with the KSU Contact Tracing team in the fall semester and now once per week in the spring semester, Jenna still assists the Department of Student Activities and communicates with clients. Jenna does all this with a positive, upbeat attitude that is contagious in our office!
Melissa is committed to her students, position, and Kennesaw State University. As an alumni of KSU, Melissa shows deep pride for her alma mater in everything she does as a full-time professional. Even with all of her previous experience as a student leader, Melissa centers the experiences and growth of her students on the Kennesaw Activities Board (KAB). Melissa is always an advocate for students' needs and wants within our department and the division. Melissa is often the last person to leave work because of her evening programs to accommodate student schedules. Melissa is truly a student-centered professional who her students and colleagues adore and respect.