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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

National Advisory Board

As part of our mission to improve student learning and transitions, the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition created an advisory board to bring together a global community of scholars who are dedicated to promoting student success, learning, and development. 

Board members serve in a consultative role for the National Resource Center, giving advice and contributing suggestions for publications, marketing and funding strategies, research topics, and conference speakers, as well as authoring articles for Center publications and evaluating nominees and grant proposals for the Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award and Paul P. Fidler Research Grant, respectively. Members include leaders and experts in higher education representing a variety of institutional types, professional associations, and research centers. The contributions of these individuals have been and continue to be vital to the Center’s work in improving the lives of students.


Board Members

Baldwin headshot

Amy Baldwin

University of Central Arkansas
Appointed in 2019


Amy Baldwin, Ed.D., is currently a Senior Lecturer and Chair of Literacy and Academic Success in Student Transitions at the University of Central Arkansas. In 2020, she received the Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate Award from the National Resource Center for First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Previously, Dr. Baldwin was the Director of Student Transitions at University of Central Arkansas. She also served as the chair of College Studies and faculty member at University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College. Additionally, Baldwin was the state project director for the Arkansas CCA grant from 2011- 2013.

Baldwin writes on student success topics for Collegiate ParentNBC Toolkit, and Higher Ed Parent. Baldwin’s scholarship is focused on first-generation, at-risk, and first-year college students. Her most current student text is the OpenStax book College Success (2020). She wrote the first student success book for the community college market for Pearson, The Community College Experience. She has authored and co-authored additional student success texts including The College Experience, The College Experience Compact, and The First-Generation College Experience. She is also a co-author of Promoting Belonging, Growth Mindset, and Resilience to Foster Student Success, a book published by the National Resource Center for First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. A chapter on growth mindset appeared in the summer 2019 issue of New Directions for Student Leadership: Leadership Development Through Campus Employment.

Dr. Baldwin earned her bachelor's in English literature at Rhodes College in Memphis and a master’s in British literature from Washington University in St. Louis. She completed her doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Denise Bartell Headshot

Denise Bartell

University of Toledo
Appointed in 2018

Denise Bartell, Ph.D., is the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at Kent State University, a students-first, research university, with over 33,000 students spread across an eight-campus system, dedicated to providing an education where students thrive, belong, graduate and become engaged lifelong learners committed to a life of impact. In her position at Kent State, Denise supports institutional efforts to become a national leader as an access-focused research university, helping to design the infrastructure and initiatives needed to ensure the retention and success of students from pre-college through degree completion, with a particular focus on improving equity of access and experience for students historically underserved by higher education.

Previously, Denise was the Associate Vice Provost for Student Success at the University of Toledo, where she worked with a collaborative team to design the national best-practice model Equity Champions faculty community of practice, and before that the founding director of Student Success & Engagement at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. While at UW-Green Bay, she developed a first-year seminar program that is a national best-practices model for improving engagement, retention, and graduation. She procured more than $600,000 in grant funding for projects to create emergency financial grants, early alert capacities, learning communities and other high-impact practices, and peer mentor programs on campus. She also developed an assets-focused, intensive first-year learning experience for historically underserved students, the Phoenix GPS Program, which improved retention through Year 4 by more than 18% and four-year graduation rates by 11% and supported the development of more equity-minded and asset-focused teaching by faculty who participated.

In addition to over fifteen years of efforts to develop institutional infrastructure in support of student success and equity of outcomes, Denise serves as the strategic advisor on postsecondary policy for the Raikes Foundation, consults with colleges and universities to support the development of equity-focused faculty communities of practice and effective, high-impact educational experiences.

Denise’s scholarly work focuses on taking a holistic, equity-minded, assets-focused approach to supporting student and faculty success. Her motivation for this work is a foundational belief in higher education as a public good to which all should have equal access, and a commitment to advance educational opportunities for all students, especially those for whom structural inequities have historically limited access to higher education. Bartell’s most recent scholarly work explores a reconceptualization of traditional faculty development models to improve capacities to work with underserved populations by using principles of high impact, applied learning and authentic engagement.

Dr. Bartell earned her bachelor's in human development and family studies from Cornell University and a master's and doctorate in human development and family sciences from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryce Bunting Headshot

Bryce Bunting

Brigham Young University
Appointed in 2019

Bryce Bunting, Ph.D., is the Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education and Director of the First-Year Experience at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah.  Bryce is a former member of the directorate board for ACPA’s Commission on Admissions, Orientation, and the First-Year Experience and past editor of the Journal of Peer Learning.  He is also deeply involved with the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (NRC) as a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, as well as in an affiliated scholar role with specific responsibilities for helping to administer the NRC’s International Survey of Peer Leaders.

Before his current administrative assignments at BYU, Bunting taught classes on deep learning and student success and advised students in academic recovery.  Prior to his faculty appointment he served as the associate director of the Office of First-Year Experience; managed and supervised BYU’s nationally renowned undergraduate peer mentor program; served as the director of new student orientation; coordinated BYU’s first-year seminar courses; and helped develop BYU’s summer bridge programming for student-athletes. He is also the founder of the Utah First-Year Experience Consortium. Bunting’s work focuses on helping students, faculty, staff, and others become better learners.

Bunting’s scholarship focuses on exploring the elements of transformative learning experiences and peer education as an emerging high-impact practice. He is also engaged in scholarly work aimed at broadening the theorizing around transitions in higher education, as well as the ways institutions can more effectively support students (particularly first-year students) in developing productive learning mindsets. Bunting has delivered more than 75 national and international presentations, workshops, and keynote addresses focused on his research.  His scholarship has been published in About Campus, the Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, Journal of College Orientation and Transition, E-Source for College Transitions, Mentoring and Tutoring, and the Journal of Peer Learning. He is the co-author of the book Promoting Belonging, Growth Mindset, and Resilience to Foster Student Success, published by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience. 

Dr. Bunting earned his bachelor’s in exercise science and his master’s in instructional design at Brigham Young University. He completed his doctorate in educational psychology also from BYU and holds the rank of Associate Clinical Professor.

Darnell Cole Headshot

Darnell Cole

University of Southern California
Appointed in 2019

Darnell Cole, Ph.D., is a Professor of Higher Education and Education Psychology and is co-director for the Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice. In addition to his faculty appointment, Dr. Cole is a Fulbright Specialist and is interested in contributing to how institutions focus on increasing both the quality and workforce development goals for minorities and women in STEM fields. Cole’s areas of research include race/ethnicity, diversity, college student experiences, and learning.

Previously, Cole was an associate professor in the department of Educational Administration at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa and was also a faculty member at Marquette University. Cole was also a visiting scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a research scholar in Residence for the Centre of Transcultural Studies at Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore.

Cole’s work is featured in major journals for higher education and other related fields including Journal of Classroom BehaviorJournal of College Student DevelopmentJournal of Creative Behavior, JSARPJournal of Higher Education, Journal of Negro Education, and Kasetsart Journal of Social Sciences. One of his most recent articles is a co-authored piece titled “The Role of Academic Validation in Developing Mattering and Academic Success,” which appears in Research in Higher Education. Another publication, Islamophobia in Higher Education: Combating Discrimination and Creating Understanding, co-edited with Professor Shafiqa Ahmadi, critically engages current laws and policies that institutionalize Islamophobia and affect the intersectionality and diversity within the Muslim community. It includes multidisciplinary voices, such as an international human rights attorney, a civil rights attorney, a criminal law attorney, student affairs practitioners, and research faculty whose work on this marginalized student population are traditionally not recognized within academic settings; and brings the voices of female Muslim scholars to the fore.

Dr. Cole earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and completed his master's and doctorate from Indiana University Bloomington.

Traci Freeman

Colorado College
Appointed in 2017


Traci Freeman is the Dean of the Endicott Center for Teaching & Learning and an Associate Professor of English. At Endicott, Dr. Freeman oversees services in support of teaching excellence and student access, persistence, and success. Prior to coming to Endicott, Dr. Freeman was the Executive Director of the Colket Center for Academic Excellence at Colorado College, where she directed academic support services, contributed to faculty development, and taught courses in Education and the FYE Program. Dr. Freeman also previously served as the Director of the Center for Writing Excellence and Assistant Professor Attendant at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) and taught courses in writing and rhetoric UCCS, UC Berkeley, and the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Freeman currently serves as the Vice President of the International Block and Intensive Learning & Teaching Association. She is a reviewer for the Writing Center Journal. Her research focuses on topics related to teaching, learning, and academic administration, with an emphasis in writing studies and writing centers. She has published chapters in a number of edited collections and in the National Teaching & Learning Forum. She has forthcoming articles in the Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice and the Writing Center Journal. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.A. and PhD. in Women, Gender, and Literature from The University of Texas at Austin.

Steven Girardot

Steven Girardot

Georgia Institute of Technology
Appointed in 2017

Dr. Steven P. Girardot, vice provost for undergraduate education, has over twenty years of higher education experience and is a proud Tech alumnus, having earned both a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Chemistry from Georgia Tech. He completed his doctorate in Chemistry at Emory University, and a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Epidemiology from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. His research was at the interface of chemistry and environmental health.

As vice provost, Steven manages the operations and administration of the Office of Undergraduate Education, including budget oversight, human resources, communication, strategic planning, assessment, accreditation, and related administrative policies and procedures. Dr. Girardot oversees the co-curricular and academic success programs and units within OUE, including Tutoring and Academic Support Programs, Undergraduate Advising and Transition, Pre-Professional and Pre-Graduate Advising, the Career Center, and High-Impact Learning Initiatives (which includes undergraduate research, student innovation, living learning communities, the co-op program, and internships). He also oversees campuswide undergraduate initiatives such as Complete College Georgia (CCG)/Momentum Year (MY) and serves on the USG General Education Council. Finally, Dr. Girardot chairs or co-chairs special task forces and committees. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he finds time to teach First-Year Seminar (GT1000) and General Chemistry, and he has developed and taught an Honors Program seminar in Public Health and Epidemiology.

Prior to his current position, Dr. Girardot was the founding director of the center for academic success (CAS) and worked to develop and implement many of Tech’s tutoring and academic support programs. He also served as the director of the office of success programs (which included FASET Orientation, GT1000 First-Year Seminar, Sophomore Programs, and Tutoring and Academic Support programs). In this role, he also successfully re-launched the first-year common reading program and oversaw significant enhancements to and expansion of GT1000. In addition, he served as the assistant director for TA and graduate student programs at Tech's Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL) and a program coordinator at Tech's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing (CEISMC), where he managed tutoring programs that linked Tech students to local elementary schools. He regularly presents on topics related to first-year programs and student success and participates on several advisory boards and national organizations. These have included serving as the 2019 President of the North American Association of Summer Sessions (NAASS) and as an advisory board member for the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

In his free time, Dr. Girardot enjoys spending time with his friends, family, and daughter, his two Boston Terriers, Pete and Oscar; running (where he has completed six marathons to date); playing tennis; and enjoying Atlanta's great restaurants.

Yancey Gulley

Needham Yancey Gulley

Western Carolina University
Appointed in 2018

Needham Yancey Gulley, Ph.D., is an associate professor and program director of the Higher Education Student Affairs at Western Carolina University (WCU). He has also served as program director of the Leadership Minor at WCU and is Chair-Elect for the university’s Faculty Senate. Gulley also teaches in the Educational Leadership doctoral program. His research and scholarship focus broadly in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education; both in relation to humans within the system and the institutions which serve them.

Previously, Gulley spent 15 years as a college administrator, primarily in the two-year college setting. Much of his administrative career was in the area of student affairs at several institutions around the country including Louisburg College, North Carolina State University (NC State), Long Beach City College, University of Georgia, and Athens Technical College. Gulley’s first tenure-track faculty appointment was at Morgan State University where he taught in the Community College Leadership doctoral program within the department of Advanced Studies, Leadership, and Policy.

Gulley has a long history of advocating for social justice within the educational context through his scholarship, teaching, publications, presentations, trainings, and volunteer endeavors. Past research contributes to the scholarly conversation in higher education and student affairs, leading to changes in the academy including the opening of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) resource center at NC State. In 2010, Gulley was named as a Grand Marshal of Atlanta Pride as part of the Top 40 LGBTQ Educators in Georgia. His first book was published in 2017, an edited volume entitled Using the CAS Professional Standards: Diverse Examples of Practice; the first book jointly published by NASPA, ACPA, & CAS. His second book, Multiple Perspectives on College Students: Needs, Challenges, and Opportunities, was published by Routledge in August of 2022. Yancey Gulley was honored by ACPA College Student Educators International by being named at 2019 Diamond Honoree for his contributions to the field of student affairs and the impact of his research, teaching, and service on student development. His largest research project to date focused on the nature of collaboration between academic and student affairs units in the community college setting. Other projects include writing several chapters on methodological and theoretical topics within higher education. He has presented his scholarship locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally and frequently collaborates with educators, scholars, and activists in and out of his field, even serving as an associate editor for the Journal, Leisure Sciences.

Dr. Yancey Gulley earned his associate’s degree from Louisburg College, his bachelor’s in communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and his master’s in higher education administration from North Carolina State University. He completed his doctorate in college student affairs administration from the University of Georgia.

Nia Haydel Headshot

Nia Haydel

Complete College America
Appointed in 2022

Nia Woods Haydel, Ph.D., serves as the Vice President for Alliance Engagement and Institutional Transformation at Complete College America (CCA). In this role, she provides leadership on initiatives focusing on strengthening partnerships with alliance members, developing strategies to build on existing college completion policy initiatives, and conceptualizing CCA’s work around institutional transformation. Prior to her current position, she dedicated over 20 years on college campuses envisioning, planning, and executing strategic initiatives designed to elevate the student experience through tenures in Academic Affairs, Enrollment Management, Intercultural Relations, and Student Affairs as both a faculty member and administrator.

While at Dillard University, she served as the inaugural Dean for University College and the Director of the Thompson/Cook Honors Program. In this position, Dr. Haydel led the institution’s retention and student success initiatives, created a first-year experience program, redesigned the academic advising model to complement the new learning community framework, and oversaw the implementation of the institution’s predictive analytics platform. She has also held several positions at Georgia State University, Oxford of Emory University, and Texas A&M University. During her tenure at Georgia State University, she directed the first-year experience program and led the launch of the acclaimed Panther Retention grant, which has served as a national model for higher education emergency aid programs.

Her diverse experiences have influenced her commitment to crafting learning environments that address the holistic needs of students thereby increasing their propensity for success particularly for populations who have been excluded from full participation in higher education. Dr. Haydel’s research interests are in the areas of social justice and education specifically focusing on power and privilege, and the responsibility of higher education to educate the community on social injustice (higher education as a public good). She earned a B.S. in Psychology from the University of New Orleans, M.S. in Higher Education Administration from Texas A & M University, and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from Georgia State University. She resides in New Orleans, LA with her husband, Chase, and has 3 children, Issis, Chase, and Noelle.

Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee

University of Arizona
Appointed in 2018


Jenny J. Lee, Ph.D., is a professor at the Center for the Study of Higher Education and College of Education Dean's Fellow for Internationalization at the University of Arizona (UA). Dr. Lee is also the Vice President for Division J: Postsecondary Education for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and is co-editor of the book series, Studies in Global Higher Education.

Previously, Lee served as a NAFSA Senior Fellow, US Fulbright Scholar to South Africa, the Chair for the Council of International Higher Education and Board of Directors for the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE). She has participated as a distinguished Global Professor at Korea University and as an international visiting scholar at City University of London, the University of Pretoria, and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Lee's research examines how migration policies, geopolitics, and social forces shape inequities in higher education, in the US and abroad. Professor Lee has investigated university internationalization and partnerships, student and scholar mobility, and scientific collaboration, to name some. Based on her comparative research in the US, Southern Africa, and East Asia, she has introduced widely cited critical frameworks, such as neo-racism and neo-nationalism, to the field. In addition, Dr. Lee’s expertise is regularly sought by national and international news outlets. Nature, Science, the New York Times, ABC News, Al Jazeera, and the Chronicle of Higher Education are among the prominent news networks that have quoted Professor Lee and featured her research.

Lee’s latest research focuses on the geopolitics of global science, which is covered in her edited book, “U.S. Power in International Higher Education,” published by Rutgers University Press in 2021. Currently, she is undergoing two major studies, one funded by NSF (with PhD student John Haupt) and another in partnership with the Committee of 100 (with PhD student Xiaojie Li), on how international research collaboration can overcome current US-China tensions and the racial profiling of Chinese scientists and students in the US.

Dr. Lee earned her bachelor’s degree in social ecology from the University of California, Irvine and her master’s in higher education and organizational change, from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She also completed her doctorate in higher education from UCLA.

Janet L. Marling

National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students (NISTS)
Appointed in 2022

Janet L. Marling, Ph.D. has been affiliated with NISTS since its establishment in 2002 and was named executive director in 2011. In this role and through her extensive speaking, training, and consulting activities, Dr. Marling works with individuals, higher education institutions and associations, state agencies, foundations, and legislative bodies to improve transfer policy, practice, and research. She edited the New Directions for Higher Education volume titled, Collegiate Transfer: Navigating the New Normal, published by Jossey-Bass, and has been involved as a project director and/or co-principal investigator for multiple research grants focusing on transfer student success. 

Dr. Marling is a past appointed Board Member for the National Association for College Counseling  (NACAC) and an affiliate member of the Council for Standards in Higher Education (CAS) board of directors where she acted as the lead content expert in the collaborative effort to develop the Standards for Transfer Student Programs and Services.  Dr. Marling has previously served as vice president of student affairs and held professional positions in orientation and new student programs, personal and career counseling, peer mentoring, leadership, and learning support. Dr. Marling holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of North Texas, an M.S. in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a B.S. in psychology from Texas Christian University.

Jodi Koslow Martin

Jodi Koslow Martin

Triton College
Appointed in 2017

Jodi Koslow Martin, Ph.D., is the vice president of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at Triton College, a Hispanic-serving community college near Chicago with an enrollment of more than 11,000 students. Her portfolio includes admissions, financial aid, advising, student life, the first-year experience, athletics, library services, and academic support. Koslow Martin is an active member of the Peer Corps for the Higher Learning Commission. Dr. Koslow Martin regularly travels to higher education institutions for accreditation visits. She has served on national boards and review committees and has been a conference presenter on student success and retention.

Previously, Koslow Martin was the vice president for Student Engagement at North Park University in Chicago for more than five years. In this role, she was the chief student affairs officer, providing leadership in creating environments for student success. Before her time at North Park University, Koslow Martin spent 14 years at Aurora University in several roles including assistant provost, dean of first-year students, and interim dean of the College of Professional Studies.

Dr. Koslow Martin earned her bachelor's with a double major in English and communication from St. Norbert College. She earned a master's in education from Ohio University and completed her doctorate in higher education from Loyola University Chicago, where her dissertation research focused on first-year student expectations.

Rosemary Perez Headshot

Rosemary Perez

Iowa State University
Appointed in 2019


Rosemary (Rosie) Perez, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. Dr. Perez’s work explores the tensions between structure and agency, and how power, privilege, and oppression affect individuals and groups within higher education. Perez’s teaching, research, and praxis reflect her commitment to empowering individuals and communities to create a more equitable and just society.

Previously, Perez was an assistant professor in the School of Education at Iowa State University. Prior to pursuing her doctoral work, Perez was a student affairs practitioner and her experiences in the field have strongly shaped her research agenda. Specifically, she leverages the strengths of student development and organizational theories to explore individual and organizational learning and development in collegiate contexts.

Perez has engaged in projects funded by the National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, and ACPA-College Student Educators International and has published in venues such as Journal of College Student Development, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, and The Review of Higher Education. Her contributions to higher education and student affairs were recognized with a 2017-2019 ACPA-College Student Educators International Emerging Scholars Award and 2020 Diamond Honoree Award. She is also the recipient of the 2019 Iowa State University College of Human Sciences Early Achievement in Teaching Award, the 2016 Iowa State University Multicultural Student Affairs Faculty/Staff Change Agent Award, and the 2021-2022 University of Michigan School of Education Faculty Diversity, Inclusion, Justice, and Equity (DIJE) Award. In 2020, a book she co-edited, Case Studies for Student Development Theory: Advancing Social Justice and Inclusion in Higher Education (2019), was awarded the 2020 NASPA Faculty Council Outstanding Publication Award.

Dr. Perez earned her bachelor's in biological sciences and psychology at Carnegie Mellon University and her master's in higher education and student affairs from The University of Vermont. She completed her doctorate in higher education from the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education from the University of Michigan.

Scott Peska

Scott Peska

Waubonsee Community College
Appointed in 2017

Scott Peska, Ed.D., is the assistant vice president of Student Services and Alumni Relations at Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove, Illinois. He is responsible for athletics, alumni relations, financial aid, registration & records, access center for disability resources and the Campus Assessment Team.

Previously, Dr. Peska worked at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in multiple roles within student affairs. There, as associate director for Orientation & First-Year Experience, he coordinated more than 90 sections of the first-year seminar, UNIV 101/201 courses, a faculty–student mentoring program, a peer calling retention initiative, and a first-year success series. After a tragic shooting on NIU's campus in 2008, Peska was asked to lead and establish the Office of Support & Advocacy, a unit designed to provide holistic support to individuals directly affected by the shooting. He also established and served as director of the Military Student Services department, providing financial benefits, counseling, and social support programming to the more than 800 military students at NIU.

Peska speaks publicly on a variety of topics, including how communities can move forward after tragedies, overcoming adversity, strategies for student equity and success, action-oriented motivation, therapeutic benefits of laughter, engaging leadership development, and juggling multiple priorities.

Dr. Peska earned his bachelor's and master's in communication from Illinois State University. He completed his doctorate in higher education administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, with his research emphasis on the adjustment of community college transfer students to four-year universities.

Hope Rivers

Piedmont Technical College
Appointed in 2022

Hope E. Rivers, Ph.D., was named 3rd President of Piedmont Technical College in November 2020 and began her tenure in January 2021. The college serves the largest area in South Carolina’s technical college system - Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Newberry, and Saluda counties. The college offers credit curriculum programs along with a wide variety of on-demand training options to business, industry, and organizations through its Economic Development and Continuing Education Division. Dr. Rivers serves on several high-profile governing boards, including the South Carolina Governor’s School for Agriculture at John de la Howe, Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, Greenwood Together, Laurens County Development Corporation, South Carolina Department of Commerce Upper Savannah Regional Education Center Advisory, Ten at the Top, Upstate Alliance, and Vision Greenwood. She also serves on the advisory board for the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Under Dr. Rivers’s leadership, Piedmont Technical College has experienced consistent enrollment growth, surpassing enrollment numbers that it had not seen in nearly eight years. Additionally, Dr. Rivers has increased funding allocated to the college through grants and other appropriations. The college has received over $20 million to renovate, repair, or replace its Health Science Building and Conference Center, along with additional funding to build a new advanced manufacturing center in Edgefield. Before her arrival at PTC, Dr. Rivers worked alongside the SC Technical College System President, State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education, Technical and Community College Presidents, and the South Carolina Technical College System’s Executive Staff on legislative and governmental affairs. She was principal advisor to the System President on educational programs, internal/ external relations, and system advocacy. Additionally, she oversaw daily operations for the System in areas related to academic affairs, student affairs, institutional research, accountability, dual enrollment, academic partnerships, and grant management. She engineered statewide transfer and articulation agreements with numerous colleges and universities, including Lander, Newberry, Clemson, University of South Carolina, South Carolina State, Claflin, Medical University of South Carolina, Coastal Carolina, and others. Dr. Rivers played an active role in the System’s budgeting process, often fielding questions or testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Finance Committee, House Education Committee, Senate Education Committee, and the Executive Budget Office (i.e., Governor’s Office). Dr. Rivers worked tirelessly with the legislative staff on the creation of the state’s Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SCWINS). This unprecedented scholarship provides funding to students majoring in technical areas that are critically important to the state’s economic growth. 

Dr. Rivers holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of South Carolina. She is a Riley Fellow (Furman University’s Diversity Leaders Initiative) and a graduate of Leadership SC and Leadership Columbia. She received the 2019 SC Woman on the Move Award from the American Association of Community Colleges. Last year, the University of South Carolina Alumni Association presented Dr. Rivers the 2021 Outstanding Alumni Award. She was also recognized by a large CBS news outlet as an outstanding leader in the community and was featured in a news segment called “A Seat at the Table.” This year, the University of South Carolina will commemorate the contribution made by Dr. Rivers with a commemorative brick placed in the historic Horseshoe, a prominent location on the university’s campus. Ultimately, Dr. Rivers hopes to be known as a tireless advocate for students, especially first-generation and low-income college students.

Bernie Savarese headshot

Bernie Savarese

University of Tennessee
Appointed in 2022

Bernie Savarese, Ed.D., M.B.A., serves as the Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs & Student Success for the University of Tennessee (UT) System, a land-grant university system serving over 52,000 students. In this role Dr. Savarese works closely with campus chief academic and student affairs officers to coordinate and promote high-quality student experiences tied to key outcomes. He also staffs the Education, Research, and Service Committee of the UT Board of Trustees, and represents the UT System in state, regional, and national initiatives focused on academic affairs and student success.

From 2017 to 2021, Dr. Savarese served as the Assistant Vice President for Student Success and the Student Experience at New York University (NYU). In this role, he oversaw the creation of the Office of Student Success, led NYU’s Student Success Steering Committee, and served as a subject matter expert and resource to university leaders. Prior to joining NYU, he worked at Ohio State University for almost two decades, most recently serving as the Director of University Orientation and First Year Experience (FYE), leading the Campus Visit Experience team in Undergraduate Admissions, and serving on the leadership team in the Division of Enrollment Management. Before his time in FYE, Dr. Savarese held various leadership roles across the Office of Residence Life and Ohio State’s Center for Student Leadership and Service.

Dr. Savarese has been recognized with honors such as BGSU’s President’s Award for Distinguished Service and NYU’s Making a Difference Award, he was inducted into the 2016 Class of “Forty Under 40” by Columbus Business First, and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio State University Alumni Association and on the First-Year Reading Advisory Board for Penguin Random House. He continues to speak nationally and internationally on topics including student success, the first-year experience and students in transition, and enhancing equity and belonging across the student experience.

Born in Wheeling, West Virginia, Dr. Savarese was raised in Belmont County, Ohio. He went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and an M.B.A. from Ohio State University, a master’s in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University (BGSU), and his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Innovation at New York University. His dissertation was focused on the early college experiences of Black men at private research universities. He currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife, Krystyne, their two teenage sons, Anthony and Ben, and their spunky Boston Terrier, Rocky.



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