Students pursuing a career in genetic counseling build unique experiences as they
prepare for graduate education. Each of our students has something special to offer
from their undergraduate, post graduate and extracurricular experiences as they merge
to become a team of learners.
Class of 2020
Emily Berenson graduated from Rhodes College in 2015 with a B.S. in Neuroscience.
During two summers in college, Emily worked as a camp counselor in North Carolina
at Talisman Summer Camp, a camp for children with autism, ADHD and other special needs.
After graduating, Emily had the opportunity to spend the summer working with pediatric
cancer genetic counselors in the Cancer Predisposition Program at St. Jude Children
Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. She then worked as a genetic counselor assistant
in the cancer genetics department at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, TX
for three years. During her time in Texas, Emily volunteered at Safe Haven domestic
violence shelter and with the Suicide and Crisis Center of Dallas 24/7 hotline. She
also volunteered as a camp counselor at the National Turner Syndrome Camp in Los Angeles,
CA for two summers during her time working in Texas. Emily is very excited to be part
of the USC Genetic Counseling program and is happy to answer any questions about the
program or the application process!
Olivia Kesleris from Columbus, Mississippi. She graduated from Mississippi State University in
2017 with a B.S. in Educational Psychology. While at State, she was a member of the
Bulldog CHARGE Syndrome Research Lab, and served as a student clinician for the Autism
and Developmental Disabilities Clinic and T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability.
Olivia became familiarized with genetic counseling by shadowing the counselors at
the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS, and happily joined their
team as a genetic counseling assistant. As an undergraduate, she had also spent time
serving NICU families with photography and peer counseling for a crisis pregnancy
center. Olivia loves recruitment and welcomes any and all questions about the field.
She is also excited to be attending a new SEC school, (temporarily) trading her Bulldog
gear for Gamecock attire.
Christine Maccia graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Fall
2015 with a B.S in Biology. She decided she wanted to pursue genetic counseling during
her junior year, and had the opportunity to shadow 2 prenatal genetic counselors at
a maternal-fetal medicine clinic in the area. During the summer of 2015 she completed
the Northwestern Genetic Counseling internship in Chicago, IL. Postgrad Christine
volunteered for a Child Abuse Center before accepting a position as a Genetic Counseling
Assistant at GeneDx. There she assisted the prenatal, rare disorders and array departments.
She also mentored a high school teen from an underprivileged background. Christine
loves her rescue dog, Milo, swimming and being outdoors. She is excited to be back
down south studying at the University of South Carolina.
Falecia Metcalf graduated from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2018
with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Neuroscience. During her time there,
she spent 2 years working in the Berg Lab with NC NEXUS looking at the utility of
genetic testing in newborn screening. She also shadowed cancer genetic counselors
in her time there. She spent a summer volunteering at Mountain Area Pregnancy Services,
where she completed training to counsel clients and helped to organize a fundraiser
for the center.
Ellen Richardson is a Columbia, SC native. She graduated from the University of South
Carolina earning a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a minor in Chemistry in 2011,
and then an M.S in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Cellular, Molecular
and Developmental Biology in 2014. As an undergraduate student, Ellen worked in a
developmental biology lab as a Research Assistant, and continued her Master’s thesis
work in this lab studying mitochondrial DNA replication in Mytilus mussels. Upon graduation, Ellen spent a year in Rock Hill, SC working as a Laboratory
Technologist at Physicians Choice Laboratory Services and then spent three years in
Durham, NC working as a Research Analyst at Duke University’s Center for Human Disease
Modeling (CHDM). Ellen shadowed several genetic counselors at Duke, and took USC’s
online course “Genetic Counseling: Career for the Future.” She also enjoys volunteering
as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line, and teaching undergraduate cell and molecular
Dianna Sanderson is a mid career professional who attended Cornell University and
Nova Southeastern University with a respective B.A. in Psychology and M.S. in Marriage
and Family Therapy. Prior to returning to school she enjoyed employment as a human
services professional holding positions of progressive responsibility at the Urban
League of Palm Beach County, a civil rights organization and then at Chrysalis Health,
a child welfare organization. She was active in her family owned and operated group
home for the developmentally disabled and completed short term international trauma
counseling in five countries. Ready to direct her professional energy wisely and compassionately
she is honored to pursue a M.S. in Genetic Counseling through the University of South
Carolina’s School of Medicine.
Analyssa Tallas is from Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Stanislaus State
University in 2017 with a B.A. in Biological Sciences and a minor in Psychology. While
at Stanislaus State, Analyssa was a member and captain of the NCAA Division II Women’s
Tennis Team, an initiated member of the national honor society Phi Kappa Phi, and
an active member of her sorority, Phi Mu. As an undergraduate, Analyssa volunteered
at Jessica’s House, where she facilitated grief support groups for families affected
by the loss of loved ones. She also completed internships in pediatrics at West Hills
Children’s Medical Group and endocrinology at The Metabolic Institute of America.
Additionally, Analyssa worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the course
DNA: Code of Life. After graduating, Analyssa became a volunteer crisis counselor
for the Crisis Text Line and worked as a Health Care Associate at Planned Parenthood.
To gain more experience with genetic counseling, Analyssa shadowed multiple genetic
counselors at the City of Hope National Medical Center, interviewed genetic counselors
from Counsyl and True Health Diagnostics, and completed USC’s online course, Genetic
Counseling: Career for the Future.
Meg Wilkes graduated from Clemson University in December 2017 with a B.A. in Biological
Sciences and a minor in German Studies. She graduated with general and departmental
honors in Psychology after writing her thesis on the effects of partial and total
sleep deprivation on cognitive performance. Meg participated in the EUREKA! Honors
Research Program in the summer of 2014 and continued her involvement in research for
the rest of her time in undergrad, working in both a bioengineering lab and a psychology
lab. Meg also worked as a mentor for Clemson LIFE, a program centered on providing
a college education for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Additionally,
Meg worked as a Lead Tutor for Clemson University’s Athletic Academic Services, teaching
student athletes in various biology and philosophy courses. The summer before her
senior year, she was able to build upon her German skills by spending a semester studying
in Lueneburg, Germany. She is beyond excited to be a part of USC's Genetic Counseling Class
Jackie Baquet is originally from Plano, Texas but went to high school in Greenwood,
South Carolina. Jackie graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S.
in Biology and a minor in Psychology. During her time as an undergraduate, she was
president of USC’s chapter of TriBeta National Biological Honor Society and was involved
in Sustainable Carolina where she educated elementary-school children on sustainability
practices and the environment. She also worked as a research assistant analyzing the
genome of Mytilus mussels and spent Maymester in the United Kingdom conducting this study. Jackie volunteers
with Strikers, a youth soccer team for children with special needs, and is coming
up on her third season as an assistant coach! To gain more exposure in the field,
Jackie worked as a Genetic Counselor Assistant for the USC Genetic Counseling Program
and interned in the Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory at the Greenwood Genetic Center.
Naomi Barker is from Columbus, Ohio. She attended Denison University in Granville,
Ohio where she graduated in May 2017 with a B.S. in Biology. At Denison, Naomi was
a member of the varsity soccer team, tutored as a Teaching Assistant for the Data
Analytics and Statistics departments and studied internationally. During her time
in Denmark and India, she conducted public health research and advocated for women’s
health issues. After graduation, Naomi worked at Nationwide Children’s Hospital where
she designed an R program that used patient gene expression responses to identify
gene mechanisms involved in patient survival. To gain more exposure to the field of
genetic counseling, Naomi interned at Johns Hopkins McKusick- Nathans Institute of
Genetic Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. During that time, she enjoyed volunteering
as a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line. Naomi is excited to be down south studying
at University of South Carolina!
Cooper Hall is from Tustin, California. She graduated from Clemson University in May
2019 with a B.S. in Microbiology and a minor in Genetics. During her undergraduate
years, Cooper volunteered with the Family Effect providing childcare and volunteeredas a caregiver with Homestead Hospice.She also participated in research, working in Dr. Barbara Campbell’s Microbiology
Lab where she characterized members of the Bacteroidetes phylum. As part of this research experience, she presented her research at the American
Society of Microbiology National Convention. Cooper was first exposed to the career
of genetic counseling through an internship at Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
To gain more experience with genetic counseling, she shadowed prenatal, pediatric,
and cancer genetic counselors at Greenwood Genetic Center, Fullerton Genetic Center,
Gibbs Cancer Center, and Spartanburg Regional Outpatient Center Maternal Fetal Medicine.
She is excited to be part of University of South Carolina’s Genetic Counseling Class
Taylor Kupneski graduated from the University of Cincinnati in the spring of 2019
with a B.S. in Biological Sciences with a Cellular/Molecular concentration and minored
in Chemistry and Business Management. She also earned a Pre-Medical certificate. During
her undergraduate career, she volunteered with multiple organizations including A
Voice for the Innocent and the Center for Courageous Kids. She worked as a Peer Leader, facilitating
Learning Communities for first year students. She also worked at Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital Medical Center researching efficient utilization strategies of Proton Radiation
Therapy and worked with a small mouse model project on Fanconi Anemia. She also served
on the executive board of Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society as the Director
of Social then Co-President, as well as on the Programming Council of Zeta Tau Alpha
Fraternity as the Greek Philanthropy Chairman. She was also active in intramural sports,
College of Arts & Science Tribunal, and Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medical Honor Society.
She is thrilled to be a part of USC’s genetic counseling program!
Dacia Lipkea is from North Liberty, Iowa. She graduated from the University of Iowa
in December of 2018 with a B.S. in Biology. During her time at the University of Iowa,
Dacia spent two years working in Dr. Andrew Forbes’ molecular ecology lab investigating
the role that host use plays in driving divergence among a species of neotropical
insect and earning an honors distinction by completing an undergraduate thesis. She
also volunteered as a crisis counselor at CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank
and participated in a student group called the Personal Genome Learning Center, which
gave monthly talks to the public about current topics in genetics. Dacia decided she
wanted to become a genetic counselor her sophomore year and gained experience with
genetic counseling and genetics by shadowing many of the counselors at the University
of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and working in the hospital’s cytogenetic laboratory.
Dacia is very excited to be a part of this awesome program!
Allie Merrihew is from Charleston, SC. She graduated from the University of Maryland,
College Park in 2013 with a B.S. in Biological Sciences. Upon completing her degree,
Allie remained at the University of Maryland in a neurobiology lab as a research assistant
investigating synaptic connectivity by 3D reconstruction of neuronal circuits. She
then went on to work in the healthcare industry, gaining experience in business processes
and identifying and educating about trends in healthcare. Allie realized her passion
and love for genetic counseling after leaving the industry side of healthcare to work
as a genetic assistant in the general genetics clinic at the Greenwood Genetic Center
in Charleston, SC, predominantly seeing pediatric patients served by the South Carolina
Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (SCDDSN). Here she gained experience
in obtaining the initial portion of genetic consultations, talking with families about
testing that was offered, and following up with families to provide resources and
support. Allie is beyond excited to be a part of the USC’s Genetic Counseling Class
of 2021 and is more than happy to answer any questions from prospective students!
Aubrey Rose graduated from Ohio State University with a B.S. in Molecular Genetics
and a minor in Clinical Psychology and Individual Differences. During her time at
OSU, she was involved in the Undergraduate Genetic Counseling Club and volunteered
as a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line. Aubrey also worked as a research assistant
at OSU, most recently in Dr. Noah Weisleder’s lab studying membrane repair in Duchenne
Muscular Dystrophy. She earned honors research distinction by completing her undergraduate
thesis in the Weisleder Lab. One of her favorite experiences was presenting her research
at the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando, FL. Aubrey discovered genetic
counseling her sophomore year and learned more about the field by shadowing genetic
counselors at OhioHealth and Nationwide Children’s medical center. She’s so excited
to be part of USCGCP’s class of 2021!
Maddie Tjoelker is from Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Trinity Christian College
in 2018, with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Psychology. She first
heard of genetic counseling in an introductory biology class and, after doing more
research and witnessing the field firsthand, she knew that genetic counseling was
the field she wanted to pursue. In addition to shadowing and personal research, Maddie
was able to do her honors research project on the biological, psychological and ethical
implications of direct-to-consumer genetic testing and was able to present her work
at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research. Following graduation, she worked
as a genetic counseling assistant for a cancer genetics clinic and was also able to
shadow counselors in prenatal, pediatric, and cardiac settings. She also was involved
at a local youth center in Columbus, providing a safe environment for kids and young
adults in the local community. Maddie is thrilled to be a part of USC’s Genetic Counseling
Class of 2021!
Jewel Wasson is originally from Charlotte, NC and graduated from NC State in May 2019
with a B.S. in Genetics and minors in Spanish and Biotechnology. Throughout college,
Jewel was part of the Goodnight Scholars Program where she participated in local and
international STEM education outreach and mentored incoming freshmen Goodnight Scholars.
She was also the president of Shelton Student Delegates club, a Crisis Text Line counselor
and Organic Chemistry teaching assistant. Jewel was fortunate to study abroad in Segovia,
Spain in the summer of 2017. She participated in undergraduate research throughout
college and worked in a neuroendocrinology and genetics lab during her sophomore,
junior and senior years. She gained genetic counseling experience by shadowing various
specialties at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed hospitals. During the summer before coming to
USC, Jewel worked as a home health aide helping individuals with disabilities complete
daily care tasks. Jewel is looking forward to her time at USC, and she welcomes any
prospective student questions about the program!