OUR Clemson

25 faculty and staff chosen for the 2024 President’s Leadership Institute


The 2024 cohort represents the ninth President’s Leadership Institute (PLI) at Clemson University, and each cohort of the PLI comprises 25 faculty and staff members from across the University who demonstrate exceptional performance in their respective areas.

Faculty selected were nominated by their college dean or by the provost, and staff members were nominated by their vice presidents or corresponding divisional heads or senior administrators of the non-academic units. A selection committee reviewed the nominations, and the final cohort was selected.

During the nine-month program, the cohort will meet once a month for an all-day session with meetings taking place at various locations on campus or in Greenville, Charleston or Columbia.

Marco Ajello, Ph.D., Department of Physics and Astronomy

Marco Ajello

Marco Ajello, Ph.D., is an astrophysicist with strong interests in astro-particle physics and cosmology. His interests lie in the evolution of super-massive black holes and galaxies, the generation of truly diffuse backgrounds (from infrared to gamma rays), high-energy transients and high-energy sources in general. Recently Ajello focused on the evolution of the extragalactic background light and the role of the first stars during the epoch of re-ionization. He works with several instruments and telescopes both from the ground and in space, but his all-time favorites are the NASA missions Fermi, Swift and NuSTAR.

Shannon Alford, Ph.D., Director of Analytical Laboratories, CAFLS

Shannon Alford

Shannon Alford, Ph.D., is the director of analytical laboratories within Clemson’s Regulatory Services, including the Agricultural Service, Fertilizer, and Pesticide Laboratories. The clientele of the Ag Service Lab are growers in South Carolina and neighboring states and researchers at Clemson and other state and federal agencies. The Fertilizer and Pesticide Labs provide analytical testing for SC regulatory programs. Alford is a member of Clemson’s Regulatory Administrative Leadership Team, regionally serves as chair of the Southern Extension and Research Activity Information Exchange Group 6 and is an active member of the Mid-Atlantic Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Work Group. Before 2016, Alford worked in maize genetics research at Clemson and was an assistant Chemistry professor at Presbyterian College. Alford completed her postdoctoral work and Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in plant biochemistry, as well as earning a Master of Science in analytical chemistry from Mississippi State University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from Clemson. Alford is originally from South Carolina but has moved among several states and lived in France for some of her childhood. Working at Clemson has been a coming home for her.

Jake Anderson, Director of Recruitment, Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson, a native of Aiken, S.C., attended Clemson University on the SC LIFE Scholarship. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Science and worked for two years in Clemson Athletics Strength and Conditioning. After graduating from Clemson University in 2008, Anderson worked as a sales team lead for Grainger, an industrial supply company on the “Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For” lists. In 2013, Anderson earned his Master of Science in Sport Management from one of the top-10 graduate programs in the world in sport management at the University of South Carolina. While in Columbia, he served as a graduate assistant with Gamecock Athletics under the Track and Field program, a program which had previously won a national championship and produced several Olympians.  Anderson returned to Clemson in 2014 and began a career in student recruitment and admissions. Since then, Anderson has traveled the country, speaking to thousands of prospective students and families about Clemson. Today, he serves as the director of recruitment for the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business, helping the college increase enrollment over 30 percent since 2019 and witnessing the Powers College of Business become one of the top performing business colleges in the country. Anderson served as Clemson’s Staff Senate president from 2023-2024. 

Abby Baker, Ph.D., QEP (CU-ExL) Director, Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Abby Baker

Abby Baker, Ph.D., is the Quality Enhancement Plan (CU-ExL) director within the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. CU-ExL is an institutional initiative for excelling in Experiential Learning aligned with Pillar 1 of Clemson Elevate. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Youth Development Studies minor in PRTM where she teaches YDP 4550 — Youth & Technology and is a faculty advisor for the campus Makerspaces. Baker is an active Society of Experiential Education’s Campus Leaders Network member. Before this role, Baker worked in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, managing projects for Institutional Assessment and Accreditation. As a two-time graduate of Clemson, Baker’s educational background is in the Learning Sciences, where she researched informal learning spaces (e.g., Makerspaces) and the value of learning through play. At 26, Baker co-founded a nonprofit celebrating Appalachian Arts and Culture and established a play-based, nature-focused preschool to serve her rural hometown community. When she isn’t working, Baker enjoys being active and spending time with her husband, Brett and their beloved Golden Retriever, Brady.

Lisa Bona, Chief Business Operations Officer, Division of Student Affairs

Lisa Bona

Lisa Bona serves as the chief business operations officer for the Division of Student Affairs. She returned to Student Affairs in April 2017 after spending three and a half years as associate director of student financial services and Director of EmoryCard Services at Emory University in Atlanta. In her current role, she oversees all business operations, budgets, financial and personnel activities for the division. She also provides leadership and oversight of all financial planning within Student Affairs to advise and support effective strategic decisions, operational excellence, and resource alignment. Bona previously served as business manager for Littlejohn Coliseum from 2003-06 when the facility was managed by Student Affairs, as assistant business officer for Student Affairs from 2006-09, and then, moved into the role of senior strategic analyst through 2013, eventually assuming control of division-wide activities in the strategic planning and analysis area for SABO while also directing activities for the TigerOne Card Services office. Bona earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in management and marketing, from Lander University in May 1998. She added a master’s degree in human resource development from Clemson in August 1999. She and her husband, Eric, have a daughter, Mary Mackenzie.

Ed Bowers, Ph.D., Professor, PRTM and Dept. of Education and Human Development

Ed Bowers

Ed Bowers, Ph.D., is a professor of Youth Development Leadership in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, with a joint appointment in the Department of Education and Human Development. He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Applied Developmental and Educational Psychology from Boston College. Bowers has experience teaching students from the preschool to the graduate level in the U.S. and abroad. Framed by the positive youth development (PYD) perspective, his research focuses on how youth relationships with important non-parental adults (e.g., mentors, coaches, youth leaders) can galvanize the strengths of youth (e.g., hope, self-regulation, spirituality) to promote young people’s healthy and positive development. Through research-practice partnerships, Bowers has helped design, implement and evaluate youth programs and materials in diverse settings across the globe. Bowers is co-editor of the journal, Applied Developmental Science, and he serves as a senior member of the research board for the National Mentoring Resource Center.

Ellen Breazel, Ph.D., Principal Lecturer and Assistant Director for Data Science Outreach and Online Education, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Ellen Breazel

Ellen Breazel, Ph.D., is a principal lecturer and assistant director for Data Science Outreach and Online Education in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Breazel began teaching at Clemson in 2008 and since then has helped create and implement the 10-course online master’s in data science and Analytics program jointly offered between the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences (SMSS) and the Department of Management. In the program’s second year of existence, it was ranked #5 in Online Data Science degrees from Fortune magazine. Ellen also spearheaded the creation of the Bachelor of Science degree in Data Science, a degree at the intersection of mathematics, statistics, and computer science. Breazel has worked with the AP Statistics program since 2007, including serving as Higher Ed chair for the Test Development Committee. Her professional interests include statistical computing, data science and statistics education. Her personal interests include spending time with her husband and two boys, reading, cheering on the Clemson Tigers and as much Jazzercise as she can fit into a week. Ellen has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Clemson and two higher degrees in statistics from the University of Georgia, a Master of Science and Ph.D.

Kyle Brinkman, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Materials Science and Engineering

Kyle Brinkman

Kyle Brinkman, Ph.D., is a two-time Clemson graduate, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering in 1998 and his Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering in 2000. Brinkman returned to Clemson in 2014 after a global research career and has served since 2019 as chair of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland with a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow in Tokyo, Japan. Brinkman later worked as a principal engineer in the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory. He has published approximately 120 journal articles, holds five patents and has authored and co-authored approximately 150 presentations at national and international venues, with 50 of those being invited, keynote and plenary addresses. He is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society (FACerS), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the UK (FRSC) and an Academician of the World Academy of Ceramics. Kyle currently serves as the editor of the Journal of Materials Science

Feng Chen, Ph.D., Interim Chair, Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences, CAFLS

Feng Chen

Feng Chen, Ph.D., earned his Bachelor of Science from Shanghai Ocean University, China, in 1990, and his Master of Science from Jiangnan University, China, in 1992. He completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Food Science at Louisiana State University in 1998, followed by postdoctoral research at the Audubon Sugar Institute and Department of Entomology at LSU. In 2001, he joined Clemson University as an assistant professor, becoming a tenured associate professor in 2007 and a full professor in 2011. Chen has held leadership roles including CAFLS’s faculty senator leader, president of the Southeastern Institute of Food Technologists and president of the Jiangnan University Alumni Association in North America. His research focuses on food chemistry and analysis, resulting in over 280 research papers, nine book chapters, two edited books and 10 patents. Currently, Chen serves as interim chair of the Department of Food, Nutrition, and Packaging Sciences within CAFLS.

Nick Collier, Director of Strategic Prioritization & Initiatives, Office of Institutional Excellence

Nick Collier

Nick Collier is the director of strategic prioritization & initiatives with the Office of Institutional Excellence. Prior to joining Clemson, Collier worked in healthcare leadership in various executive roles in South Carolina and Florida. Most recently he was a Market vice president with Bon Secours in Greenville. Collier and his wife Haley live in Easley, with their son Lukas and golden doodle Olive and take full advantage of the variety of outdoor activities the Upstate has to offer.

Porscha Elton, Ed.D., Executive Director, Presidential Communications, Division of Marketing and Communications

Porscha Elton

Porscha Elton, Ed.D., has worked in education for over a decade. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Secondary Education from Wake Forest University in 2014, a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration and Leadership from Appalachian State University in 2016, and a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2023. Prior to her time at Clemson, Elton dedicated many years of service to the United States Army, as well as worked within multiple higher education organizations. She is an avid lifelong learner and believes education is the key to a better life for everyone. Elton has been married to her college sweetheart for 13 years, and they have one child, who currently attends the Phil and Mary Bradley Early Childhood Education Center at Clemson University.

Danielle Herro, Ph.D., Professor, Learning Sciences, College of Education

Danielle Herro

Danielle Herro, Ph.D., is a professor in the Learning Sciences program in the College of Education. She co-developed the Learning Sciences Ph.D. program and the Digital Media and Learning Labs in the College of Education. Herro is a former elementary teacher, technology coordinator and district technology administrator who spent her career working with K-12 teachers and students. At Clemson, she teaches doctoral courses focused on ways people learn with social media, games and emerging technologies. Herro currently works with rural elementary teachers to co-create data science and computational thinking curriculum for their students. Along with STEAM instruction in K-12 schools, her research involves exploring the efficacy of teacher professional development towards integrating digital media and data science, ways to foster computational thinking practices and collaborative problem solving in young learners. She’s published over 75 journal articles, book chapters and conference proceedings papers and co-authored An Educator’s Guide to STEAM: Engaging Students Using Real-World Problems. In her research and teaching Herro strives to provide students with opportunities for equitable participation and learning. Herro earned her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Matt Hersel, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Powers Fellow, Department of Management

Matt Hersel, Ph.D., is an associate professor and Powers Fellow in the Department of Management at Clemson. He received his Ph.D. in Organization Studies, Strategy, and Change from Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business. In 2022, he was awarded the Powers College of Business Emerging Scholar Research Excellence Award and was a nominee for Clemson University Junior Researcher of the Year. His primary research interests involve stakeholder-focused management and the organizational effects of changing social evaluations following ethical transgressions. Specifically, he is interested in how leaders manage the aftermath of misconduct and other types of scandals.

John Hoyt, Associate Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), CCIT

John Hoyt is the associate vice president and chief information security officer (CISO) for Clemson and has been working in cybersecurity for over sixteen years. He began his career in information technology in 1999 working for the City of Greenville in desktop support. His first experience with information security was when an “ethical” hacker hacked into the City’s computer systems. During his career he has worked in hardware and software support, as a Unix and Windows systems administrator, as an information security engineer, a Security Operations Center (SOC) manager, a director of information security, deputy CISO and now CISO. Hoyt is a published author and speaker on cybersecurity and has assisted with cybersecurity courses at the university. He has a passion for information security and helping students get into the field through mentoring and internships. Hoyt has been married for over 24 years and has four children.

Amanda Long, Chief Strategy and Finance Officer, College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences

Amanda Long is the chief strategy and finance officer for the University’s College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences. With a background in fiscal analysis dating back to 2013, Long oversees the college’s business office, operations, and financial planning. Her previous roles include directing strategic initiatives, heavily focused on project management in enrollment, academic program development and strategic research investment planning.

Bill McCoy, Ed.D., Director of the Rutland Institute for Ethics

Bill McCoy, Ed.D., is a proud Tiger and the director of the Rutland Institute for Ethics. By focusing the Institute on the vision of its founder – Robert J. Rutland – McCoy makes an impact on campus, in the community, in the region, and even across the globe. Locally, the Institute hosts Clemson’s Annual Ethics Day and the Tigers for Inclusion, Diversity, and Ethics (TIDE) Conference. Additionally, the Institute offers the Ethics Scholars Program; an opportunity for students who engage in extra-curricular ethics-related activities to earn items of distinction at graduation. McCoy involves the Institute with the community, partnering with the Rotary Club’s RYLA Program and the Better Business Bureau of Greenville to promote ethics education. The Institute impacts the region through its newly named Ina B. Durham High School Ethics Case Competition, which has hosted schools from as far away as Arizona, Indiana and Florida. Lastly, as a Fulbright Specialist, McCoy is working to help the University of Belgrade (Serbia) to establish a student ethics organization.

Elysse Newman, Ph.D., is the Mickel Professor of Architecture

Elysse Newman

Elysse Newman, Ph.D., is the Mickel Professor of Architecture at Clemson and the associate dean for research and Academic Affairs. She also serves as director of the Institute for Intelligent Materials, Systems and Environments (CU-iMSE), promoting digital and human-machine hybrid solutions as a paradigm shift in the design and occupation of the built environment. Newman concentrates on spatial perception in architecture, neurodesign, ecological psychology and neuroaesthetics with active research in neuroscience and architecture, data visualization, mapping, STEM learning environments and histories of technology and science. Newman is executive editor of the Journal for Technology, Architecture, and Design. Recent publications include Data Visualization for Design Thinking: Applied Mapping.

Tori Niemann, Assistant Athletic Director for Student Athlete Development

Tori Niemann oversees all aspects of Student-Athlete Development, which serves all 600 student-athletes through career development. Niemann’s work is comprised of the UPIC Beyond the Game internship program and employer relations, leadership development including the Tiger Leadership Academy and POWER Women’s Leadership Academy, community service and outreach and Tigers Unite. For two years she had served the University of North Carolina as its director of outreach, alumni relations and administration for the women’s basketball program. Niemann was the assistant director for student athlete development at Clemson prior to leaving for her role at UNC Chapel Hill. Niemann played basketball at Western Illinois University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sport management. She’s a member of Women Leaders in Sports and N4A. She is a lead facilitator for the NCAA Leadership Forum and facilitates gender violence prevention and DEIB workshops for the Institute of Sport and Social Justice’s program, Huddle Up.

Chris Norfolk, Ph.D., Principal Lecturer and Director, Energy Compliance Services at Weaver, Chemical Engineering

Chris Norfolk

Chris Norfolk, Ph.D., is an alumnus of Clemson University and has served as teaching faculty for 18 years, starting as an adjunct before joining the University full time. He has taught in the General Engineering program and the Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering as well as serving the university in various ways (RISE Faculty Fellow, AICHE Chapter advisor, Student Wellness Committee chair, Faculty Senate & Convention of Delegates, CECAS Faculty Ambassador and leader of a Faculty Learning Community) and has been recognized with College and University awards for teaching. He is a registered, professional engineer and holds a position in the renewable energy sector. His research interests focus on teaching and learning—specifically, the process of how students develop an engineering identity, how they can be supported in that process and the role that a stress culture plays in the processes of teaching and learning.

Carly Phinizy, Ph.D., Director of Academic Operations, College of Arts and Humanities

Carly Phinizy

Carly Phinizy, Ph.D., is a passionate leader in the arts and higher education. Phinizy is the director of academic operations for the College of Arts and Humanities at Clemson. Until 2022, she served as chair of the Department of Art History at Virginia Commonwealth University where she completed her Ph.D. in Art History in 2010. As a higher education leader, Phinizy focuses on enrollment management, curriculum development, program assessment, global education and student and faculty success. She is committed to the promotion and development of the arts and serves on the Executive Board of SECAC, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing teaching and scholarship in the arts. Phinizy values transparency and communication at all levels.

Tyler Saas, Associate Vice President, Technology Modernization, CIO Office

Tyler Saas

Tyler Saas joined Clemson in 2019, as the associate vice president for budget, financial planning and analytics. During his five years at Clemson, Saas drove operational transformation within the office of financial planning and analysis, business intelligence, and debt and capital planning. He also led the development of the architecture for the University’s new revenue-based budget model. Saas recently transitioned out of the division of Finance and Operations to drive enterprise modernization efforts within the CIO’s office.

Jacqueline Summer, Assistant Vice President of Constituent Engagement and Communications for Advancement, Division of Marketing and Communications

Jacqueline Summer

Jacqueline Summer is the assistant vice president of constituent engagement and communications for Advancement. Summer graduated from Clemson in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. As a student, Summer was a resistant assistant and active member of student organizations including Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). She also contributed to the well-being of her peers by working with EMPower/Healthy Campus, promoting healthy and safe alternatives for students. After graduation, Summer returned to her home state of Maryland and began her career in marketing with Peterson Companies. She assisted in marketing, communications, and promotions for special events across several commercial real estate properties. In 2015, her passion for her alma mater brought her back to Clemson, where she joined the Advancement team as a Marketing Coordinator. Summer now oversees the Advancement Marketing, Communications & Events team. Her team is responsible for Advancement’s strategic marketing, compelling communications, impactful events and meaningful volunteer engagement that supports the University’s priorities. Summer and her husband, Kyle, have two children, John and Lucy. They reside in Easley, S.C.

Tim Stanfield, Assistant Vice President for Educational Engagement and Belonging and Executive Director of the Gantt Multicultural Center

Tim Stanfield

Tim Stanfield, assistant vice president for educational engagement and belonging and executive director of the Gantt Multicultural Center, is a higher education professional with over 18 years of experience. He is passionate about helping students achieve success. Stanfield’s career has focused on first-generation students, marginalized student populations and academic success. He is in the process of completing his Ph.D. in Higher Education, Leadership, Management, and Policy with a focus on assessment and evaluation, and his research topic area focuses on understanding how Black students develop a sense of belonging at predominantly white institutions.

Bert Wilkins, J.D., The Office of General Counsel

Bert Wilkins

Bert Wilkins, J.D., has worked in the Office of General Counsel at Clemson University since January 2020. Wilkins served over 18 years in the South Carolina Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He is currently assigned as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate for the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command. Prior to Clemson, Wilkins spent 15 years in private practice, most recently at the firm Wilkins & Bouton, LLC, where he was a founding member and engaged in a general practice consisting of civil litigation, family law, criminal law and government relations. Immediately after law school, Wilkins clerked for The Honorable John W. Kittredge, followed by a stint working on Capitol Hill. Wilkins earned a Bachelor of Arts from Wofford College and a J.D. from the University of South Carolina. He was born and raised in Greenville, S.C., where he still resides today with his wife, Stephanie, twin 16-year-olds and dog Belle.

Theo Wills, Chief Privacy Officer, University Compliance & Ethics

Theo Wills

Theo Wills is the University’s chief privacy officer. In this role she is responsible for the development and implementation of an enterprise-wide comprehensive privacy strategy and serves as a thought leader on all privacy-related issues. Her mission is to infuse privacy considerations into university business processes, technologies, training and strategic decision making. Wills’ privacy experience spans consulting, healthcare, and federal and state government. She has established several enterprise privacy programs from the ground up. Previous positions include chief privacy officer for the State of South Carolina and deputy director for privacy at the U.S. Department of Defense Privacy and Civil Liberties Office. She has led consulting engagements for public and private sector clients. Wills is a proud Clemson alum. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she obtained a master’s degree in health administration at the Medical College of Virginia. Wills has earned three professional certifications through the International Association of Privacy Professionals and has been conferred the designation of Fellow in Privacy. Her favorite privacy mantra is “Privacy happens at the speed of trust.”