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.
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
Assistant 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.

Currently, 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, CSAPhD.

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 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kristy Deasy, BA - 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.
Katherine Miscavige, PhD - 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!
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).
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.