Our Team

E Shelley Reid
E. Shelley Reid, PhDereid1@gmu.edu
Director for Teaching Excellence, 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.
Faisal Mahmud
Faisal Mahmud, PhD - fmahmud5@gmu.edu
Director for Digital Learning, Stearns Center

As the Director for Digital Learning, Faisal oversees faculty and program support related to the development of Mason’s online programs, co-leads Stearns Center, and holds a leadership role in initiatives pertaining to the coordination, planning, administration, assessment, and improvement of programs offered through Mason Online. He is also responsible for managing the overall portfolio of online programs.

Coming from engineering, technology, research, and project management background, Faisal is an immense supporter and promoter of innovative, data-driven, and evidence-based teaching and learning. He holds a PhD in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, a Master of Engineering in Modeling and Simulation, and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering, from Old Dominion University. Previously, he worked at ODU Distance Learning, Experiential Learning and Testing Center, and Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center (VMASC), a few to mention. He actively publishes and presents research papers in scholarly journals and international conferences. Faisal also taught graduate and undergraduate courses in f2f, hybrid, and online mode.

Faisal is an avid traveler, entrepreneur, and digital content creator. He enjoys photography and creative work in his spare time.
Crystal Anderson, PhDcander8@gmu.edu
Assistant Director for Teaching Excellence, Stearns Center

Crystal is a faculty developer and cultural studies scholar, working in transnational American Studies and global Asias. She draws on her 20 years of experience by teaching courses that range from first-year writing, to graduate seminars to help faculty develop dynamic classroom environments. In her own classes, she helps students to participate in their own learning through creative projects that involve critical thinking and develop skills using digital tools. She works with faculty to incorporate high impact practices, including active learning and collaborative learning into classes of all sizes. She also brings her expertise in undergraduate research and curricular development to university initiatives. Her interdisciplinary scholarship focuses on bi-directional cultural flows between the United States and East Asia. Her first book, Beyond the Chinese Connection: Contemporary Afro-Asian Cultural Production (2013), uses the films of Bruce Lee to read cross-cultural negotiations with global culture in novels, film and anime. Her current research focuses on Korean popular music (K-pop). She is currently working on her second book, which explores the impact of African American music on K-pop. She also manages several digital humanities projects on K-pop.

Crystal received her PhD in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where she focused on 20thcentury American literature and the history of race and ethnicity, labor and civil rights. Most recently, she served as Director of the Office of Student Research and Director of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) at Longwood 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.
Larisa OlesovaLarisa Olesova, PhDlolesova@gmu.edu
Senior Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

With over 20 years of teaching experience in the U.S. and Russia, Larisa has expertise in the traditional classroom and online. Her professional and research interests focus on distance education, working with faculty on aspects such as online presence, the Community of Inquiry (CoI), instructional strategies, and best practices in online teaching.

Her published works include Feedback in Online Course for Non-Native English-Speaking Students, chapters in Creating Teacher Immediacy in Online Learning Environments and Assessment in Online and Blended Learning Environments, and articles in various online education journals. Larisa received her PhD in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University.
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.
Monisha TripathyMonisha Tripathy, MEdmtripat2@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Monisha brings over fifteen 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.
Laura ToddLaura Todd, MAltodd4@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Formerly a high school teacher in Fairfax County Public Schools, Laura currently supports GMU faculty with pedagogy and course redesign for fully asynchronous online instruction. Laura earned her BA in Spanish from James Madison University, and her MA in Education (Curriculum & Instruction) from the University of Phoenix Online, and a Graduate Certificate in e-Learning from GMU. She is currently working on completing an Undergraduate Certificate in Information Technology.
Jade Geary, EdD - bgeary5@gmu.edu
Instructional Designer, Stearns Center

Jade started her career in higher education as a librarian. She quickly learned how much she had to learn about pedagogy and instructional practices to aid in teaching students in instruction sessions and credit-bearing courses. This lead to her pursuing her Doctorate of Education at the University of South Carolina while working as an Instructional Design Librarian. Jade has a passion for making sure that information is available to all. This includes ensuring that students are provided with the best possible learning situations via instructional design principles.

Jade obtained her EdD in Curriculum and Instruction with an Ed Tech focus from the University of South Carolina. Her focus includes critical pedagogy, educational technology, adult learning theory, online learning, OER, and information literacy. She also received a Master's in Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina, a Bachelors of Arts in English, and a Bachelors of Arts in Women and Gender Studies from the College of Charleston.

In her free time, Jade loves to travel with her husband, dive into a good book, and walk their two Great Pyrenees dogs.
Catesby Porfirenko - 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.

Mariya Khan - 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 such as: 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.

Debasmita Giri Jana, MS - dgirijan@gmu.edu
Instructional Technologist, Digital Learning

Debasmita has nearly 20 years of teaching and training experience. She served as a software trainer and educator, handling computer science for high school and college kids. She continued to grow in her role as a coordinator and content developer for middle school computer science curriculum. She has been a technical trainer for federal and corporate clients In DC and Virginia and an instructional technology specialist at NOVA.

She has a Masters in Computer Science and a Masters in Mathematics. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Instructional Design and Technology from George Mason University.
Ashley Joiner, MA - ajoiner2@gmu.edu
Events Manager, Stearns Center

Ashley Joiner has worked as an event manager at George Mason University for 5 years. She earned a bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary and recently earned a Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship from George Mason University.

She enjoys hanging out with her kids, baking from scratch, and visiting different farmers markets in the DMV area.
Charlotte Petsche, MScpetsche@gmu.edu
Operations Manager, Stearns Center

Charlotte provides assistance and support to the Stearns Center through a diverse range of administrative responsibilities. Her role includes acting as a general liaison to students by managing phone and email communication regarding our online programs, providing support for events and special projects, and managing the Stearns Center and Mason Online websites.

Charlotte has her MS in Data Analytics Engineering from George Mason.

Sylvia Graham, BAsgraha5@gmu.edu
Office Manager, Stearns Center

Sylvia has worked sixteen years in administration and eleven years at Vanderbilt University Medical Center before relocating back to Virginia in 2018. Sylvia holds a bachelor’s degree in social work and is an artist with a focus on mixed-media sculpting. She is also an avid animal lover. Her strengths are organization and creativity along with a willingness to help whenever needed.
Shekera Moore - smoore36@gmu.edu
Senior Program Assistant, Stearns Center

Shekera Moore is a senior from Lorton, VA and is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology, Law & Society at Mason. She has a concentration in Homeland Security and a minor in Intelligence Analysis. In her free time, she works with Mason's Intelligence Community Network and enjoys cosmetology related hobbies.
Thomas Polk - tpolk2@gmu.edu
Acting Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Thomas Polk currently serves as Acting Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program and teaches academic and professional writing in the English department. His current research focuses on academic literacies and student experiences with writing across the curriculum, particularly in experiential learning environments. Recent research has focused on writing assignment design, faculty development, research methodologies, and style pedagogies. Prior to working at Mason, he coordinated the writing center at Bowie State University.
Tim Lilley - 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).
Emily R. C. Staudt - echambe5@gmu.edu
Graduate Assistant Director, Writing Across the Curriculum

Emily R. C. Staudt currently serves as Graduate Assistant Director of the Writing Across the Curriculum Program and teaches academic writing in the English department. Her current research focuses on teacher professional development and growth, especially among new teachers and Teaching Assistants. Recent research has focused on the role of reflection in new teacher development, networks of influence for Composition teaching assistants, and writing program administration. Emily served as the graduate Writing Program Administrator for Mason’s Composition program for the past two years; prior to working at Mason, she taught sixth grade English.
Katherine Miscavige - kmiscavi@gmu.edu
ITL Program Coordinator, Stearns Center

Katherine Miscavige started her career in education more than 20 years ago as a high school English teacher. She moved into higher ed when she started graduate school at Stony Brook University in New York and began teaching literature and writing classes there and at a local community college. After completing her Ph.D., she began working in faculty development as Educational Developer in the George Washington University teaching and learning center. There, she directed an early-career faculty program, taught workshops, and planned their annual teaching conference. She returned to full-time teaching when she joined the faculty at Mason in 2019 as a term Assistant Professor in the English department, where she continues to teach Advanced Composition and a course on Arthurian literature.

Katherine has a Ph.D. in English with a focus on medieval literature. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, where she loves to read, hike, and – of course – eat crabs!
Aimee Weinstein - aweinste@gmu.edu
Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Faculty Associate

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.
Kristy Deasy - kdeasy2@gmu.edu
ITL Projects Coordinator

Kristy Deasy provides assistance with events at The Stearns Center. She earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in biology with a minor in animal behavior. She has 9 years of experience in the market research industry and 4 years of experience working in academia. In her life outside of work, she keeps up with two dogs, a high schooler, and a husband who performs research for the USGS.