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What We Are About


The Graduate Studies Support Center (GSSC) at National University is dedicated to ensuring every graduate student's academic success and providing faculty with the necessary tools and resources to excel in teaching in the one-to-one model. The ultimate goal of the GSSC is the creation of a culture of engagement.


The Graduate Studies Support Center is dedicated to supporting/advancing teaching and learning by working collaboratively with faculty, staff, administrators, and students to provide quality services, resources, and programs to improve the overall National University graduate experience.  The GSSC is a catalyst for a positive and collaborative university culture.

Meet the GSSC Team

Claire DeMarco, Director of the Graduate Studies Support Center

Claire has been with the National University family for over eight years and loves the innovation and excitement that comes with being part of a growing organization. Claire has spent  14 years in the field of employee development and 15 years in higher education. Outside of work, Claire is a proud wife and mother of beautiful Isabel. In her spare time, she likes to take family walks with her two rescue Chihuahuas: Dollie and Emme.

Nicole Kitchen, Associate Director

Nicole Kitchen came to NU as an Academic Trainer in February 2019.  Nicole started her career in education and training as a high school health science teacher, which then led to teaching varying health science courses at the post-secondary level, both online and on-campus.  Over the course of her career so far, Nicole has developed a love of instructional design and technology, which has led to varying positions on corporate L&D teams, including Instructional Design Specialist, Lead Instructional Designer, and Director of Online Education.  In her spare time, she loves spending time exploring Florida waterparks, springs, and theme parks.

Dr. Calvin Gardner, University Alumni Navigator

Dr. Gardner is a native of Detroit, MI. He has been married for 34 years. He is the father of four adult children and a grandfather of eight. He has spent the last 36 years in Active-Duty Service (21 in the U.S. Marine Corps; 15 as a Navy Chaplain Corps). Interesting facts about Dr. Gardner, as a lifelong learner, he has earned seven undergraduate/graduate degrees. His last earned degree was his Ph.D. in Psychology. The title of his dissertation is “A Quantitative Correlational Study: Exploring the Relationship Between Religiosity, Humility, and Dispositional Forgiveness.” As a hobby, he enjoys educational coaching and mentoring. Dr. Gardner is interested in researching the following: Disposition Forgiveness, Humility, Religiosity, Spirituality, Leadership, Implicit Bias, and Neuropsychology. He enjoys reading and writing about bridge builders between Theology and Psychology communities. 

Diana Karr, University Alumni Navigator

Ms. Karr has over 20 years of teaching experience which includes instructing children and adults. She has a B.A. in Child Development from California State University, Fullerton, and an M.A. in Education from National University. Ms. Karr has experience mentoring college students and working in learning centers. She absolutely loves teaching and supporting her students as well as learning from them. When she is away from the classroom/University, she enjoys cooking, hiking, bike riding, and spending time with her family. 

Emily Spranger, Graduate Learning Specialist

Emily Spranger came to NU as an Enrollment Advisor in 2013. She moved to serve on the Learning and Development team as a Training Specialist in 2014. She took some time to be a mother. During her time away from NU, Emily taught Adjunct at Glendale Community College and was a Dance Director at a public high school. Emily has been involved with education in some form for 12 years. She has served in enrollment, teaching, training, and development and has come back to NU as a Graduate Learning Specialist for the GSSC. In her spare time, she loves to be with her husband and two girls. She likes dancing of any kind, hiking, and adventures with her family. 

Esther Archange, Academic Trainer

Esther Archange is an Academic Trainer for the Graduate Studies Support Center at National University. Her work experience spans seven years in higher education at Florida International University and Palm Beach State College. She has assumed roles related to academic advising and adjunct professor. She has a passion for assisting students to overcome obstacles and navigate college. Esther received her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in Studio Art and Art History and her master's degree from Florida International University in Higher Education Administration.

Jena Johnson, Graduate Learning Specialist

Jena Johnson came to NU as a Compliance and Quality Analyst in the Office of the Registrar in the Fall of 2018.  Now, she is a Graduate Learning Specialist in the Graduate Studies Support Center. Jena has spent the last 14 years in higher education, holding many different roles, such as Registrar, Learning Resources Manager, and Director of Student Records/Learning Resources.  She has had the opportunity to work with both residential campuses and online divisions, allowing her to see the different perspectives of each.  Her work has been focused on reporting and analysis, creating and facilitating training, developing relationships, ensuring compliance, and enhancing or improving processes.  Jena is an Arizona native who enjoys taking walks with her Chihuahua rescue, Riley.  She also enjoys spending time with family and friends outside of work.

Jennifer Springer, E-Learning Developer

Jennifer Springer began her career as an Academic Trainer for the GSSC in the summer of 2020. Jenn has worked in employee development in Higher Education for over fifteen years. A love of technology and a passion for inspiring light-bulb moments drove her career first in IT and then toward Instructional Design and eLearning Development. Her drive to understand and communicate with others led to undergrad degrees in Psychology and Visual Design. Outside work, Jenn enjoys spending time with family and friends while traveling in her converted camper van throughout the SouthWest.

Dr. Kertrenia Wright, University Alumni Navigator

Dr. Wright has been an educator for over 24 years. She started with NCU in May 2018. She has a B.A. in Biology, an M.A. in Educational Leadership, and received her Ed. D in Educational Leadership from NCU in November of 2021. Dr. Wright successfully defended her dissertation on November 8, 2021. The title of her dissertation is "Academic Achievement of Middle School English Language Learners Based on Participation in an English as a Second Language Program." She loves to spend time with her family, paint, and create crafts.  Her educational philosophy is centered around the 5G’s and 3Ds.  She continues to grow academically in order to give the knowledge gained to others to guide them to greatness all through grace. Her commitment to this philosophy is completed through determination, dependability, and dedication. Her favorite quote is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Lao Tzu.

Dr. Megan McNamara, University Alumni Navigator

Dr. Megan McNamara has worked in the field of education for 20 years striving to be a purpose-driven educator working to address gaps in educational equality. As a lifelong learner, she completed the NCU doctoral program in 2020 with an Ed. D. in Organizational Leadership.  Her quantitative dissertation is titled “A Correlational Analysis of Connections Between Family Engagement and Socioeconomic Experience in Baton Rouge Area Schools.” She is a family-oriented individual and devoted partner who aims to balance work and home life to bring peace and calm to family, friends, colleagues, and students.  She is thrilled to be part of the Navigator Team and is here to support others on their path to educational excellence.

Michael Lynch, Creative Director

Michael Lynch began his career as an Academic Trainer for the GSSC in the summer of 2018. Prior to joining NU, Michael has experienced several professions over the years. He served as a post-secondary instructor, where he taught graphic design for over 20 years. He is also an award-winning graphic designer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design and a Master of Arts in Education. Over the course of his career, he has created several hundred book covers for a wide variety of clients, including Wilt Chamberlain, Jessie Jackson Jr., McGraw-Hill Scholastic Books, the L.A. Dodgers, and many more. Michael was also a professional musician who played bass in a blues band and traveled the country entertaining thousands of people. Michael has been married to the same lovely woman for 30 years, has two grown children that are the apples of his eye, and currently has three dogs and two cats, where he resides in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Dr. Pamela Gary-Maple, University Alumni Navigator

Dr. Gary-Maple is a native of New Jersey. She has been an educator for over 20 years. She has a B.S. in Biology, M.ED in Education, and M.ED in Administration & Supervision, and she received her EDD in Education Leadership from NCU in September 2021. Dr. Gary-Maple successfully defended her dissertation on September 7, 2021. The title of her dissertation is Comparing Differences in High School Algebra Achievement Based on the Use of Differentiated Instruction: An Archival Quasi-Experimental Study. She enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and creating precious memories with her husband and son. Her favorite quote is, “Don’t Dream Your Life; Live Your DREAM!”

Dr. Samira Galvao, University Alumni Mentor

Dr. Galvao has been an educator for over 20 years. She started with NCU in July 2017. She has a B.A. in Early Childhood and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instructions, and she received her EDS in Leadership from NCU in August of 2018. Dr. Galvao successfully defended her dissertation on June 9th, 2020. The title of her dissertation is "Addressing the Needs of English Language Learners at the Secondary Level: A Qualitative Single-Case Study." She loves to travel with her family, and her favorite destination is Disney World. They go every year, and they are proud to be called Disney fanatics. “If you can Dream it, You can Do it!” -Walt Disney. 

Sara Parker-Aiken, University Alumni Navigator

Ms. Parker-Aiken has been an educator for the past 25 years. One of the things she is passionate about is helping others in reaching their goals. She has a B.A. in Human Services from California State University, Dominguez Hills, an M.A. in Educational Counseling for National University, and she is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Marriage and Family Therapy program. Ms. Parker-Aiken believes everyone can achieve academic success; however, the path is different for each person. Her goal is to be a guide to help students successfully navigate their academic journey.

Dr. Wendy Cooper-Porter, University Alumni Navigator

Dr. Wendy Cooper-Porter brings over two decades of K-12 and higher education experience to National University.  She earned her Doctor of Education degree from Northcentral University, specializing in curriculum and teaching, and a master’s degree specializing in instructional technology.  Dr. Cooper-Porter’s professional expertise is in the areas of data-driven instruction and practices, professional development training, online learning, methodology and dissertation writing, and diversity and inclusion methods. The title of her qualitative dissertation is "Teachers of Students in Poverty that Attend Online Schools: A Qualitative Case Study."