Our Team

E Shelley Reid
E. Shelley Reid, PhDereid1@gmu.edu
Executive Director of Engaged Teaching, Stearns Center

Shelley has grown up in an extended family of teachers—including several college English professors as well as a middle school principal, a choir director, a medical school mentor, a gymnastics coach, a history teacher, a special education coordinator, and a high school counselor—so it’s not surprising that she frequently studies how both students and teachers learn. She is an associate professor in the Department of English, where she directed the composition program for ten years; taught undergraduate and graduate courses in writing, editing, and program administration; and helped create the doctoral program in Writing and Rhetoric.

She has recently published articles about how teaching assistants in composition programs learn to teach, how writing students engage in peer review activities, and how program leaders can assess student progress. She is interested more generally in questions of how learners transfer knowledge from one context to another, and how institutions shape the work of teachers and learners at all levels.
Charlie Kreitzer - ckreitze@gmu.edu
Executive Director for Online Operations

Through focused planning and collaboration, Charles is committed to creating focused, high-quality, academic programs that are designed to respond to the changing educational and workforce needs of the region. With a background in product management and online operations, Charles provides cross-functional leadership to the Stearns Center and online initiatives at George Mason University.

Fun facts: Charles has traveled a lot and loves to cook foods from all over the world—and if it’s not spicy, he doesn’t bother! He’d choose flight over invisibility, and if he were a tree he would be an oak so he could have all of the acorns he wanted (also squirrels are cool, even if they are rats with good fashion sense).
Crystal Anderson, PhDcander8@gmu.edu
Director for Teaching Excellence, Stearns Center

Crystal uses her expertise to design and assess educational programs and curricula, develop sustainable faculty development programs, and manage program- and university-level initiatives using evidence-based practices. As a veteran educator with over 20 years of teaching experience, she employs high-impact practices that utilize digital tools to foster inquiry-based learning and develop practical skills that cultivate the potential of all students.

She is affiliate faculty in African and African American Studies at George Mason. As a scholar with an international reputation, she generates cutting-edge traditional research as well as public scholarship in the fields of Transnational American Studies, Black Internationalism and Global Asias. Her book, Soul in Seoul: African American Popular Music and K-pop (2020), was recently published in Korean. You can find out more about her work in higher education and her scholarship at her website.

Crystal received her MA in English from the University of Virginia and her PhD in American Studies from the College of William and Mary.
Thomas Polk, PhD - tpolk2@gmu.edu
Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Thomas Polk serves as the Director of Writing Across the Curriculum at George Mason University where he also teaches professional and academic writing in the English department. Tom regularly facilitates professional development events on writing-enriched teaching and learning and has published on assignment design, mentoring, and research methodologies in writing studies. His scholarship appears in College Composition and Communication, WAC Journal, Across the Disciplines among other venues. His current research project draws on a critical literacies lens to understand student experiences with writing across the curriculum, particularly in authentic or experiential learning environments. This project specifically focuses on the proposal writing practices of students applying for undergraduate research fellowships and considers how evaluation, mentoring, and networks mediate access to these programs. Prior to working at Mason, he coordinated the writing center at Bowie State University.
Darlene SmucnyDarlene Smucny, PhDdsmucny@gmu.edu
Assistant Director for Digital Learning, Stearns Center

Darlene’s focus is on quality in online courses and programs, including online faculty development, services, and support. As part of the Stearns Center Digital Learning Quality Assurance team, she conducts online course audits and reviews at Mason to guide online course and teaching improvements. With her 20 years of experience in online teaching, Darlene offers an instructor’s perspective to faculty. She shares guidance, practical tips, and resources for teaching and facilitating online courses and actionable feedback for course improvement.

Darlene received her PhD in Anthropology from UCLA. After years as a biomedical researcher, Darlene then assumed a career in higher education administration and teaching. Before Mason, she worked at the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus) as the Academic Director of the social science online undergraduate program. She managed faculty and oversaw the design, redesign, and quality of courses social science undergraduate degree program. She also taught online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses as a collegiate professor and was recognized by the university for engaging and learner-centered teaching.

Darlene’s professional interests include quality assurance of online courses & teaching, inclusive and equitable teaching, compassionate teaching, and teaching and learning of contemporary students. She is a member of the Online Learning Consortium, EDUCAUSE, and the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) Network in Higher Education. She is a Quality Matters (QM) certified peer reviewer of online courses and a Blackboard Exemplary Course reviewer.
Ala ShowersAla Showers, MEdashowers@gmu.edu
Senior Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Ala started her career as an ESL faculty and, after a short segue to the corporate world, fell in love with instructional design while working at Mason. Her 15+ year career in higher education equipped her with skills in project management, web and media design, e-learning development, and a variety of tools and software that help online courses become alive, effective and engaging.

Her instructional design practice is driven by passion and best practices in online learning grounded in research. Ala holds a MEd in Instructional Design and Technology and an e-learning graduate certificate from Mason. Prior to her position at Mason, she was a member of NOVA’s instructional design team, supporting over 23,000 students in 550 unique courses. Ala is a Quality Matters (QM) certified peer reviewer of online courses. Her research interests include media design, technology for second language acquisition, brain-based learning and student engagement in online environments.
Breana Bayraktar, EdD - bbayrakt@gmu.edu
Educational Developer: Blended Learning/Hybrid Pedagogy Specialist, Stearns Center

Breana (rhymes with ""Montana"") started her teaching career abroad, teaching K12 and postsecondary English in France, and has been teaching adult English language learners and working in curriculum development, assessment, and teacher preparation for over 20 years. Breana's current research interests include how institutional culture shapes participation in faculty development, alternative grading practices and multilingual students, and instructor feedback practices. Breana is a Quality Matters (QM) certified peer reviewer of online courses, and has two Open Educational Resources (OER) textbooks under creation, for teaching writing to multilingual students.

Breana received her EdD from Manhattanville College, where she focused on how faculty professional development influences teaching practices. She received an MEd with a focus on adult education from George Mason University and a BA in French and history from the College of William & Mary.
Bryan Fede, PhD - bfede@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Bryan is an instructional designer interested in the Learning Sciences and driven by evidence-based practices regarding teaching and learning. Bryan was a high school mathematics instructor for 8 years before pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics education from UNC at Chapel Hill. At UNC his interests included equity in mathematics education and the teaching and learning of mathematics across delivery modalities. One of the projects he found most interesting was the design, development, and facilitation of graduate-level mathematics content courses designed for practicing teachers pursuing enhanced state teaching credentials.
In addition to his Ph.D. in Mathematics Education, Bryan has a graduate certificate in Instructional Systems Technology from UNC at Charlotte. His undergraduate and master’s degrees were focused on anthropology where Bryan was interested in the pre-Columbian history of New England. In his free time, Bryan is a sports fan that closely follows all New England sports teams. He is also a connoisseur of pizza and is committed to authentically replicating regional pizza recipes from all across the country.
Debasmita Giri Jana, MS - dgirijan@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Debasmita started her career as a corporate trainer in the IT world and, after a short stint in the corporate world, moved to teaching post secondary in Mathematics and Computer Science in India. Her 15+ year career in higher education across multiple states and spanning eclectic roles as educator, coordinator, project leader and curriculum developer enabled her to observe and understand student behavior and patterns from a wide perspective.

Prior to her position at Mason, she served as a Technical Trainer for Federal clients in the DMV area, a Java Trainer and most recently as an Instructional Technology Specialist at NOVA’s Loudoun campus. She is skilled in creating and organizing training resources, providing instructional design support to faculty members, and conducting training on leveraging the use of instructional technology tools in their courses.

She holds a MS in Mathematics and second MS in Computer Science and is currently pursuing MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Mason. Her interests include researching the recent trends in learning technologies and integrating these newer tools in online courses with designing media elements.
Mariya Khan, MEd - mkhan216@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Mariya started her career as an elementary educator and grew into her role as an Instructional Designer, Developer, and Trainer. While teaching, she quickly developed a passion for the effective use and integration of technology in all classroom environments. She spent years designing visually interactive web-based instructional materials, redesigning course materials for educators to create more collaborative f2f, virtual, and hybrid environments, and providing innovative design solutions to increase learner engagement and understanding.

Mariya holds an M.Ed. in Educational Technology (concentration in Instructional Design and theory) from James Madison University and constantly seeks professional growth opportunities. To stay creative and informed, she frequently researches and explores the use of digital tools to specialize in skills related to: Learning Management System administration, instructional design and development, adult learning theory, game design, digital illustration, animation, video production, and User Experience Design. She strives to use these skills to create learner-centered, visually engaging learning experiences, where even the most complex concepts are understandable and accessible to all learners.

In her spare time, Mariya enjoys traveling, hiking, petting all domesticated animals, digital content creation, and photography.
Laina Lockett, PhD - llocket@gmu.edu
Educational Developer: STEM Education Specialist, Stearns Center

Laina has five years of experience teaching at the college level including working as a visiting instructor at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and being a Teaching Assistant (TA) at Rutgers. Laina served as a graduate fellow with the summer research program at Rutgers where she managed the course website and led workshops about writing and presentation skills for the research students. She has also worked with developing and teaching STEM outreach activities for middle school students in New Jersey. Lastly she was an active member for Rutgers Academy for the Science of Teaching and Learning where she led workshops for professors and TAs about various best teaching practices.

She has a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Rutgers University and a M.S. in Environmental science from Towson University.

In her spare time, Laina likes to make music, travel, and work out.
Jim Miller - jmille73@gmu.edu
Events Manager, Stearns Center

Jim Miller is the new Event Manager for the Stearns Center for Teaching Excellence. Jim brings over two decades of major and virtual event coordination experience in both volunteer and professional roles, and has a history of success with events serving students, faculty and staff at some of the largest venues in the greater Washington DC area. Jim came to the Stearns Center from a 22 year career at George Washington University, where he served in admissions, student services, virtual learning, and information technology roles. Jim is an active parent of two very,-very- active middle/high school age boys and does a lot of volunteer work with causes that positively impact youth, including: teaching Faith Formation (Sunday school) at his Church, serving as a merit badge counselor for Scouts BSA Troop 987, and teaching personal safety & self-defense at the Karate dojo he founded in Burke. Jim is a 7th Degree Black Belt in Traditional Okinawan Karate/Kobudo, a Fairfax County CERT community responder (class 55), is a huge Star Wars & Star Trek fan, and holds a Master’s Degree from IUP, and a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University. Jim is originally from the Pittsburgh area, can be sometimes caught saying "Yinz" and "dahntahn," and his lifelong hero is another Pittsburgh native: -Fred Rogers- (yes, that Mr. Rogers!), who helped him get his first job in higher education. Most importantly, Jim has a passion for making a difference, and is grateful to be a part of the Mason family.
Catesby Porfirenko, MEd - eporfire@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

A monumental turning point in Catesby’s life happened at age 16. “The Russians were coming” to Fredericksburg, VA, the small town where she and her family lived. She volunteered to host a Russian student and participated in the reciprocal exchange to Kaliningrad, Russia, knowing none of the language and little of the culture. It opened her mind to different world views and gave her a whole new appreciation of what hospitality and sacrifice meant. She was always a curious, passionate learner and became a curious, passionate educator, eventually transitioning to a career in instructional design.

Catesby majored in Russian at Georgetown University and lived abroad for several years. She got her M.Ed. in TESOL and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) in San Diego, CA, and Northern Virginia. She received a Graduate Certificate in e-Learning from George Mason University in 2019 and appreciates the challenges and rewards of education utilizing multiple platforms. She draws from her experience as student, teacher, trainer, and instructional designer and focuses on student-centered learning in whatever she creates, always aware of ever-changing technology and her responsibility to meet the needs of the target audience.

Catesby is humbled and excited to be a part of the Stearns Center staff and Mason community. In her free time, she watches Russian movies, listens to country music, exercises in nature, does Pilates, and travels. Learning to play the ukulele is her next endeavor.
John Schell, MA and MEd - dschell@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

John brings over five years of experience as an instructional designer to supporting GMU faculty in their course design processes. Beginning his career in government consulting and contracting, John transitioned to instructional design in higher education three years ago. Having taught college English courses as a TA and adjunct, John always knew he wanted to return to higher education and to contribute to that environment which means so much to him. He is excited to work at the Stearns Center and to be able to assist in the ongoing integration of technology, pedagogy, instructional design, and learning experiences.

John has a MA in English literature from Virginia Commonwealth University and a M.Ed in instructional design and technology from George Mason University. He is a PhD student in the Learning Technologies Design Research Program at George Mason University. John has a particular interest in studying learning management systems as educational environments not only where learning experiences occur, but also as spaces that impact how an individual understands themself as a learner or student. John is interested in how advances in learning/data analytics and adaptive learning can help us study this phenomenon.

In his spare time John enjoys reading, playing soccer and basketball, and gaming. Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife, his daughter, and his dog.
Monisha TripathyMonisha Tripathy, MEdmtripat2@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Monisha brings over twenty years of work experience in instructional design, training, and quality assurance, with application in both higher education and corporate settings. In her role, she provides design support to Mason faculty members who are teaching classes online. She also assists with curriculum planning, provides ongoing support to ensure learner-centric instruction, and engages in the online course review process, working with faculty members on continuous course improvement efforts.

Monisha received her MEd in Instructional Design and Technology from Mason. Her specialties and professional interests include curriculum development, adult learning theory, online class development, online instruction, and quality assurance.
Rachel Yoho, CDP, PhD - ryoho@gmu.edu
Educational Developer: Anti-Racist and Inclusive Teaching Specialist, Stearns Center

Dr. Rachel Yoho is a faculty member in the Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning focused on faculty educational/professional development and the university’s Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) initiative. She has an interdisciplinary background with expertise in global climate change, renewable energy technologies, and environmental health, with particular emphasis on social and environmental justice. Dr. Yoho is an award winning educator with extensive experience as a faculty member. At her previous institution, she received the university-wide educator Rising Star Award two years in a row, the Exemplary Course Award for the “Climate Change, the Environment, and the Future of Public Health” course that she developed, and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Strategies Award in education, the only DEI education award at the university. She received two faculty commendations earlier at another institution. Dr. Yoho is a skilled educator and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioner, including professional development as a Certified Diversity Professional through the National Diversity Council. She received her PhD in Biological Design and a Graduate Certificate in Scientific Teaching in Higher Education from Arizona State University, as well as a BA in Biology from Capital University.
Mona Davidson - Tisler, BAjdavid25@gmu.edu
Office Manager, Stearns Center

Mona joined George Mason University in 2022 and was previously the CEO for a consignment business. She launched and ran a successful children’s consignment company for 13 years in NOVA. She has an extensive background in running a business, website design, advertising, marketing, communication, event planning and project coordination. She began her career as a teacher at a residential school for children with Autism. Her career took many different paths from Office Manager, Production Coordinator, Substitute Teacher, CEO and stay at home mom. She enjoys always growing and learning.

Mona was born in Germany and lived in Italy until she moved to the US with her family as a teenager. She attended West Virginia University earning a BA in Behavioral Psychology and a minor in German. She was a member of the WVU Marching Band and she continues to play music with the Prince William Community Band. Currently she lives on a farm in Nokesville, VA with her husband and three sons with their dogs, cats and chickens. Her passions include playing music, genetic genealogy, dogs and traveling. Her strengths include Excellence, Strategic, Eye on the Future, Relator, and Competitor.
Kelly Chandler, M.A. - kchandl@gmu.edu
Programs Administrator (ARIE), Stearns Center

Kelly joined the Stearns Center staff in January 2023 as the Programs Administrator to support the Stearns Center in their mission and support programming related to anti-racism and inclusive teaching. She contributes to the team four years of experience as a Composition professor at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Northwest Vista College. During her time in education, she was also an active member of committees at her colleges which focused on professional development for adjuncts and programming for developmental education courses.

She has presented in professional development sessions regarding academic integrity, team-based learning strategies, and effective online teaching practices. She has also attended and participated in a multitude of professional development programs including universal design, transparent instruction, DEI, online and hybrid teaching, academic integrity, authentic assessment, anti-racism, teaching with technology, student-centered learning, and more. Kelly was also the mentor/mentee coordinator and social media manager for Women Helping Women at NOVA, a mentoring program at the Dr. Jean H. Braden Center for Women, Gender, and Social Equity.

Kelly is from central Texas and earned both her Bachelor’s in English with a teaching certificate and Master’s in English at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She is thrilled to live in the beautiful state of Virginia with her spouse and dog where she can finally experience all four seasons (sometimes in a single day!). She is passionate about learning new things and environmental and social justice. Kelly looks forward contributing to and learning from all that the Stearns Center and George Mason University have to offer.
Sophia AbbotSophia Abbot, M.A., sabbot@gmu.edu
Anti-Racist and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Graduate Assistant

Sophia Abbot is a doctoral student in the Higher Education Program at George Mason University. She currently works as a graduate assistant on Stearns’ Anti-Racist and Inclusive Teaching team, supporting resource development and assessment of ARIT programming. Sophia has studied the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), inclusive pedagogy, and students' perspectives on higher education for the last decade, focusing particularly on pedagogical partnerships and co-creation among students and faculty.

Sophia holds a Master of Arts in Higher Ed from Elon University where she studied high impact practices in higher education. Prior to completing her Master's, she spent three years working as a faculty developer at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. She has written and presented extensively on partnership, SoTL, and educational development. She currently serves on the International Advisory Board for the International Journal for Students as Partners (IJSaP), as a Special Projects Associate for the journal Teaching and Learning Inquiry, and as a co-chair of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning's (ISSOTL) Student Engagement and Co-Inquiry Interest Group.
Cameron Harris, PhD - charris@gmu.edu
Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Faculty Fellow

Cameron J. Harris is associate professor and Dean’s Teaching Faculty Fellow in the School of Business, Business Foundations area. He also serves as Business Foundations assistant area chair. Cameron’s professional involvement includes the Professional and Organizational Development (POD)Network in Higher Education, where he has served as chair of the diversity committee 2015-2018 and chair of the Stanley Award for Diversity and Inclusion Research in Educational Development, 2016, 2017. Cameron has been awarded Curriculum Innovation Grant-Experiential Learning through Escape Rooms (2019), and a Curriculum Enhancement Grant-Business of Diversity (2022), as well as a Presidential Award for Faculty Excellence in Diversity (2022).

Cameron received a master’s and doctorate in higher education administration, and has taught and co-taught undergraduate and graduate courses on diversity in leadership. His research focuses on the experiences of underrepresented faculty, Black doctoral student socialization and teaching and learning issues.
Joan Hwang - jhwangb@gmu.edu
Graduate Assistant Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Joan Hwang serves as Graduate Assistant Director of Writing Across the Curriculum and teaches academic writing in the English department. Her current research centers on the translingual pedagogy in writing classrooms, increasing audience awareness as a central rhetorical concept in writing curriculum and promoting trans/multimodality in writing instructions. Recent research has focused on making more visible the importance of teaching audience awareness in writing courses through combined pedagogical approaches from translingualism and multimodality. Prior to serving at Writing Across the Curriculum, Joan taught First-year writing courses and Advanced compositions at Mason for five years.
Tim Lilley, MA- tlilley@gmu.edu
Faculty Fellow, Writing Across the Curriculum

Tim Lilley teaches English Composition (ENGH) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at INTO Mason. He also coordinates our EAP courses which support STEM studies. These offer language support to students enrolled in STEM courses or programs.

Tim has enjoyed working with international students for some time. After his undergraduate studies in the US, he worked in several locations overseas. Following graduate studies in Sydney, Australia, Tim remained overseas for a few years before returning to the US and joining George Mason University. His professional areas of interest include social linguistics, writing and rhetoric, and faculty development. Tim’s committee memberships include undergraduate / graduate pathways curriculum development, faculty professional development and writing across the curriculum (WAC).
Esther Namubiru - enamubir@gmu.edu
Graduate Assistant, Writing Across the Curriculum

Esther Namubiru is a Graduate Assistant of Writing Across the Curriculum and teaches undergraduate courses in the English department. In the past, Esther has taught graduate and undergraduate academic-writing courses for non-native speakers of English and, as the 2018 Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning Fellow, designed curriculum to support faculty with multilingual writers in writing-intensive courses.

Esther’s current research investigates student writing and educator/stakeholder perceptions of this writing in educational programs/contexts outside the U.S. Her other research areas include language and identity, resilience and writing center administration, English and literacy discourse in non-western spaces, and community literacy.

In addition to her teaching, Esther is an Associate Editor of the blog Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders, a blog of WLN: A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship.
Aimee Weinstein, EdD - aweinste@gmu.edu
Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Faculty Fellow

Aimee consistently maintains that she has the best job at Mason since she teaches half the time with INTO Mason, where she works with International Graduate students on their research writing, transition management and other assorted aspects that characterize a move to a new culture and American university life; and the other half of her job involves teaching Reading in the Arts for the Honors College, where she focuses on the art of creative nonfiction. In addition, when it is safe to travel, she plans to lead a summer study abroad course on Japanese Arts and Well-being.

For the Stearns Center, Aimee is working as a faculty fellow focusing on issues of Anti-Racism and Inclusive Teaching, hoping to gather enough resources to not only enhance learning about these critical issues but also pilot some workshops to help faculty be intentional in their classroom practices.

Before moving to Northern Virginia in 2015, Aimee lived for more than ten years in Tokyo, Japan where she taught first year writing and research writing at Temple University, Japan. In addition to traveling throughout Asia, she advocated for women’s education via the Japan Support Committee of the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.

Aimee earned her doctorate from George Mason in higher education. Aimee’s publications include a study guide for the ACT essay, a fiction piece in an anthology about the concept of time, and a small book on humorous English translations of Japanese signs. Most recently she edited a book of her students’ creative nonfiction pieces. Her other, varied publications are mostly out of Japan and include English-language travel and food journals.