Alumni Notes

November 15, 2022

Dale Berry, B.S. ’72 (Physical Education and Health), received the 2020 Vonnie Boetsma Part-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award through her work at Grand Valley State University within the Department of Movement Science. In more than 10 years of service to GVSU, Berry has taught a number of classes, served as a faculty advisor to the Kids in Motion student organization and was on a part-time faculty advisory board. Berry is also a retired elementary physical education educator and a longtime member of the college’s Alumni Board.

Kathy Bieschke received the Distinguished Contributions to Education and Training in Psychology Award from the American Psychological Association in December 2021. The award recognizes continuous, significant contributions to the field over the course of a career. Bieschke, Ph.D. ’91 (Counseling Psychology), is vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of education at Pennsylvania State University. 

Gina Cervetti was named a board member of ReadWorks, an education technology company dedicated to improving children’s language and literacy skills. Cervetti, Ph.D. ’04 (Educational Psychology), is an associate professor at University of Michigan’s School of Education.

Marita Gilbert, Ph.D. ’17 (Kinesiology), received the Professional Achievement Award from the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology. Gilbert has more than 20 years of experience in serving at higher education institutions. She is currently the associate dean of diversity and campus inclusion for MSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. Gilbert was among the honorees during the annual Department of Kinesiology Awards, held virtually in April 2021. 

Barbara Given received the MSU Alumni Service Award at the university’s Grand Awards Gala in November 2021. Given, Ph.D. ’76 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), is a University Distinguished Professor and associate dean emerita of the MSU College of Nursing, where she, among other pursuits, led efforts to improve the care of cancer patients during treatment. The Alumni Service Award recognizes Spartans who have made demonstrable services to MSU or have made significant contributions to public service in their communities. 

Melissa Gutwein, B.A. ’18 (Special Education), was named co-recipient of the Tom Erb Outstanding Article Award with MSU Professor Dorinda Carter Andrews. Their article, “Middle school students’ experiences with inequitable discipline practices in school: The elusive quest for cultural responsiveness,” was published in the Middle School Journal in December 2019. The paper highlights the voices of middle school youth, and findings indicate the youth recognize their experiences with teacher discipline practices to be culturally biased and inequitable. Their work addresses the importance of critically reflecting on discipline approaches while also implementing culturally relevant and restorative discipline.

Joy R. Hannibal, Ph.D. ’20 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), received the Best Dissertation Award from the Comparative and International Society’s (CIES) Higher Education Special Interest Group in May 2021. Hannibal’s dissertation—“Finding, creating and following footprints: The integration of indigenous knowledge in Palau Community College”—is a case study within Palau Community College to examine how indigenous knowledge is incorporated into the institution, and how stories from the indigenous teachers and learning environments informed decisions within the institution. 

Crain’s Detroit Business named Philomena V. Mantella, president of Grand Valley State University, as one of the 2021 Most Influential Women in Michigan. Every five years, the publication honors 100 women with the prestigious honor, recognizing those who have made impacts in their fields, including higher education, business and public policy. In addition, Mantella was the speaker at MSU’s 2021 Fall Raines Colloquium. Her talk covered leading higher education into a post-COVID-19 future. Mantella, Ph.D. ’90 (College and University Administration), has been GVSU president since 2019.  

Andrea Peterson, M.A. ’20 (Applied Behavior Analysis), was lead author on the winning paper for the 2021 Forrest J. Files Student Paper Competition with the Mid-American Association for Behavior Analysis. The award is given to original ABA-related papers lead-authored by scholars who are no more than one year-post graduate school. Peterson’s paper, “Teaching young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to recognize and respond to coworker victimization,” was published in Behavioral Interventions in August 2021. Co-authors include MSU faculty Marisa Fisher, Matthew Brodhead, Connie Sung and current special education doctoral student Alyssa Uher. 

Kari Riddle was named to the Florida Board of Athletic Training in December 2021. Riddle, M.S. ’98 (Physical Education and Exercise Science), is the physician practice supervisor at the Miami Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Institute. Previously, she was the head athletic trainer at Florida International University.

Adva Ringle, M.A. ’19 (K-12 Educational Administration), became principal of Orchard Hills Elementary in Novi, MI in July 2021. Ringle previously served as the supervisor of the English Language Program since 2019. 

Jon Wargo, Ph.D. ‘16 (Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education) and an assistant professor at Boston College, received several awards for his research contributions in 2021: 

  • Early Career Achievement Award from the Literacy Research Association, recognizing a scholar for their contributions early in their career
  • Early Career Award from the Children’s Literature Assembly, honoring a scholar who shows promise with their research, teaching and leadership
  • Distinguished Article Award in Language Arts from the National Council of Teachers of Education, for his paper: “‘Seeing’ Difference Differently: Inquiry-Based Learning as a Site/Sight of Intersectional Justice in English Language Arts”

In March 2021, Mary Wever, M.A. ’13 (Educational Technology), was elected to serve as president of the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) for 2021-22. Wever is a teacher in Holt Public Schools, and an adjunct faculty member for the M.A. in Educational Technology (MAET) program in the College of Education. 

Paula Yensen received a McHenry County Women of Distinction Award in May 2020. The annual honor recognizes women in Illinois who are leaders and role models within the community and in their respective fields. Yensen, M.A. ’83, Ph.D. ’94 (Adult and Continuing Education), is in her fourth term on the McHenry County Board, and also serves as the liaison to the county’s Mental Health Board and chairwoman of the Senior Services Grant Commission.


In March 2021, the Michigan Department of Education named 10 educators statewide as Regional Teachers of the Year (RTOY), recognizing their dedication and commitment to students. All 10 served on the MI Teacher Leadership Advisory Committee for the 2021-22 academic year, with other stakeholders, to ensure teacher voices were present when considering solutions to challenges in the state’s educational system.

Leah Porter, B.A. ’04 and M.A. ’09 (Education), originally the RTOY for Region 6, was named Michigan Teacher of the Year from this list of 10 outstanding educators.

Bethany Vonck, B.A. ’81 (Education), an English language arts teacher at Washtenaw International Middle Academy in the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium, was selected for Region 8.  

In Jackson Magazine’s annual Top 10 Teachers listing, several alumni were recognized in recent years. In 2021, Sandy Wolfinger, B.A. ’79 (Elementary Education), a kindergarten teacher at George Long Elementary, part of Grass Lake Community Schools, and Janie Mendez, TCRT ’15 and M.A. ’18 (Teaching and Curriculum), a Spanish and ELS teacher at Jackson High School, were among the honorees. Rachel Martel, B.A. ’00 (Education), TCRT ’01 (Elementary Education) and M.A. ’07 (Teacher Education: Literacy Instruction), a fourth grade teacher at Northwest Elementary School was named a top teacher in 2022.

In May 2021, Rebecca Johnson, B.A. ’11 (Spanish – Secondary Education) and M.A. ’15 (Teaching and Curriculum), was named Teacher of the Year at Midway High School in North Carolina. Johnson has served as a Spanish teacher at the school since 2012, and as department chair since 2013. 

Natalie Anderson, M.A. ’18 (Educational Technology), received the 2021 Innovative Teacher Award during the virtual Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning (MACUL) conference in March. Anderson is a fifth grade teacher at Heritage Elementary, part of Saline Area Schools. The honor recognizes a PreK-12 teacher that effectively uses technology in the classroom. 


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer established the Student Recovery Advisory Council in February 2021 to make statewide recommendations on supporting K-12 students through and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Their recommendations will attend to the whole student, including academic, physical and mental well-being needs. Committee members previously served on the state’s Return to School Advisory Council, established by Whitmer in May 2020 to develop recommendations on returning to safe and healthy K-12 learning environments. Several Spartan alumni are part of the SRAC, including three from the College of Education: 

Kevin Polston, B.A. ’01 (Social Science – Secondary Education), is serving as the council’s chair. In July 2021, he became superintendent of Michigan’s Kentwood Public Schools. Previously, Polston was superintendent of Godfrey-Lee Public Schools in nearby Wyoming, Mich.

Gregory Talberg, M.A. ’07 (K-12 Educational Administration) and TCRT ’07 (Secondary Education), is a high school teacher in Howell Public Schools. 

Kymberli Wregglesworth, M.A. ’03 (Education) and TCRT ’04 (Secondary Education–Social Studies), is a high school teacher at Onaway High School.


Amber Benton, Ph.D. ’20 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), became the chief diversity officer for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at University of Michigan in February 2022. Previously, Benton held leadership roles at MSU, including the inaugural assistant dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Natural Science and the director of diversity programming and student life in James Madison College. In addition, in 2021, Benton received an MSU All-University Excellence in Diversity Award (Individual-Emerging Progress Award) in recognition of her contributions to the university in multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusion. 

In June 2021, Virginia Goatley was named interim dean of the School of Education at the State University of New York’s (SUNY) University at Albany. The three-time MSU College of Education alumna—B.A. ’87 (Elementary Education), M.A. ’92 (Reading Instruction) and Ph.D. ’95 (Educational Psychology)—is professor of literacy teaching and learning at the university. Goatley has held several leadership positions at UA, including as associate dean for professional studies, vice dean and, since 2013, as chair of the Department of Literacy Teaching and Learning. 

Tambra Jackson, Ph.D. ’06 (Curriculum, Teaching and Educational Policy), was named dean of the Indiana University School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Jackson, a professor of urban teacher education who had served as interim dean since August 2019, formally stepped into the role July 1, 2021. Previous leadership roles at IUPUI included serving on the Racial Justice Summit Planning Committee, the Black Women Task Force and as chair of the Department of Teacher Education. 

In March 2022, Daniel R. Kittle became the 21st president of Dakota Wesleyan University in South Dakota. Kittle, Ph.D. ’05 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), previously served as vice president for student life and dean of students at Wartburg College in Iowa. Work over his 16-year history with Wartburg included a focus on strategic enrollment growth and improving retention. 

Dae-Bong Kwon was appointed president of JEI University in Incheon, South Korea, on Jan. 1, 2020. Kwon, M.A. ’87 and Ph.D. ’89 (Adult and Continuing Education), previously served in several leadership roles, including as president of the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training, president of the Korean Society for the Study of Lifelong Education and as founding president of the Korean Association of HRD. He also served in leadership roles at Korea University, including as dean of the Graduate School of Education; now, he is a university professor emeritus. 

Shawna Patterson-Stephens was named vice president and chief diversity officer for Central Michigan University in June 2021. Patterson-Stephens, M.A. ’07 (Student Affairs Administration), previously served as associate vice chancellor of student affairs and director of the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


Three College of Education alumni were among those recognized in the 2021 Global Focus International Photo Contest, hosted by MSU International Studies and Programs. The contest shares memories from Spartans all over the world. Winners are chosen by popular vote from MSU faculty, staff, students, alumni and professional photographers, and were put on display in the MSU International Center. 

Brook Cummings, B.S. ’05 (Kinesiology), received the first-place prize for the newly created Global Spartan Resilience category, which features photos taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cummings’ photo, “Generations for Justice” was taken in East Lansing, MI, in 2020. 

Nawal Ghatas, M.A. ’11 (Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education), received third place and the People’s Choice honor for the “Moments of reflection” photo, also part of the Global Spartan Resilience category. The photo was taken in the Wadi Degla Protectorate, Cairo, Egypt, in 2021. 

Linda Roberts, Ph.D. ’88 (Curriculum and Instruction), received second place in the Global Spartans at Work category. Submissions in this category featured photos of the various ways Spartans work around the world. Roberts’ photo, “Teaching and learning in a global classroom,” was taken in Quilmes, Argentina, in 2015.

In addition, the International Literacy Association included Spartans in their 2021 award celebrations.

Blythe Anderson, Ph.D. ’20 (Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education), was a finalist for the Timothy and Cynthia Shanahan Outstanding Dissertation Award. Anderson, assistant professor at University of Buffalo, was one of six scholars selected for the international honor; the award typically announces five finalists and one overall winner. Previously, Anderson was recognized by ILA with the 2019 Steven A. Stahl Research Grant. 

Lori Bruner was recognized with the Jeanne S. Chall Research Fellowship, given to just one doctoral student each year. The fellowship, in the form of a $5,000 grant, uplifts scholars whose dissertation research focuses on reading. Bruner’s research explores early language and literacy development in home and community contexts, particularly the role that texts play in supporting young children’s vocabulary development. Bruner received her Ph.D. in Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education in May 2022. 


Three alumni from programs across our Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education (HALE) unit were recognized as Class of 2022 Diamond Honorees by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) in 2021. Recipients are nominated to be part of the cohort by scholars who recognize the impact of their work and fundraise on their behalf to support their research.

Jody Jessup-Anger, Ph.D. ’09 (HALE), is a professor of higher education and program coordinator of the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program at Marquette University. Her research centers on how environments at higher education institutions can facilitate or impede student achievement.

Stephen Santa-Ramirez, M.A. ’13 (Student Affairs Administration), is an assistant professor of higher education at University of Buffalo. His research focuses on historically marginalized and economically neglected students, and specifically examines campus racial climates, students’ sense of belonging, activism and resistance and other facets of educational experiences of students.

D’Andra Mull, M.A. ’04 (HALE), is vice president for student affairs at University of Florida, a role she’s held since January 2020. In this position, Mull focuses on creating environments that enable students to achieve success. Previously, Mull held leadership roles in student life and affairs at Ohio State University.

Two Spartans were celebrated in the annual Association Awards in January 2022. The Association Awards, 14 separate accolades in total, represent the highest honors for the organization. 

Leslie Jo (LJ) Shelton, Ph.D. ’14 (HALE), received the Emerging Scholar Award from the association in January 2022. Shelton is assistant professor of higher education and program coordinator of the Higher Education M.Ed. program at the University of Arkansas. The award is for scholars early in their careers whose work contributes to student affairs and higher education scholarship. 

Maureen Wilson, M.A. ’87 (College and University Administration), was named a Senior Scholar Diplomat. The accolade, only bestowed to 12 ACPA members at any given time, highlights those who have made exemplary, sustained contributions to the field. In their five-year terms as Senior Scholars, recipients are active participants in the organization and in the coordination of related conferences. 

The ACPA also announced new leaders to its Governing Board in December 2021: 

Heather Shea, Ph.D. ’19 (HALE), is serving as vice president. Shea is the director of Women’s Student Services in the MSU Division of Student Life and Engagement and is affiliate faculty in the Department of Educational Administration. Beginning in March 2023 at the ACPA convention, Shea will be the president of the organization.

Jasmine A. Lee, Ph.D. ’16 (HALE), was named the next director of equity and inclusion. She will formally assume the role in March 2023 at the ACPA convention. She is the founder and owner of J. Lee Consulting LLC, a nonprofit that focuses on incorporating social justice and equity into the cultures of organizations

Photo credits:
Kyle Anderson (Anderson)
Winston Zhou (Lee),
University of Florida Division of Student Life (Mull)
Liz Kay, Indiana University (Jackson)
Carlton Hubbard (Johnson)
Dakota Wesleyan University (Kittle)