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Learn About the ASC

In this guide, students, faculty members, and staff can learn more about the ASC's tiers of service, policies, and staff.

The Academic Success Center (ASC) has knowledgeable staff who are excited to work with you and focus on your specific skill development needs and goals. Ask a Coach a question or schedule an appointment today!


 Dr. Ramon DainesRamon Daines

Hello, everyone! My name is Dr. Ramon Daines, and I serve as the Director of the ASC. I have a Bachelor of Arts in sociology, an MLS in English for speakers of other languages, and a Doctorate of Education in English as a second language. I am passionate about helping others achieve their educational goals, and I have worked in learning centers for over twelve years. I hold my Learning Center Leadership certification through National College Learning Center Association (NCLCA) as well as coaching and tutoring certifications with the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA) and the National Tutoring Association (NTA). I am also certified in Grant Proposal Writing and Program Evaluation. In the ASC, I promote a student-focused environment where coaches use technology and resources to assist students in being self-directed learners. I believe that it is my responsibility to help every student realize his or her potential not only as a student of academia but also as a citizen of the world. When I am not busy with the Academic Success Center, I enjoy spending time with my family. My favorite book is Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Associate Director of Academic Coaching & Graduate Outreach

Shelley GordonShelley Baker

My name is Shelley Gordon-Baker, and I serve as the Associate Director of Academic Coaching & Graduate Outreach in the ASC. I earned a BA in English from Florida State University and an MFA in creative writing from Chatham University. I have had the pleasure of assisting students at NU for almost 5 years, and I particularly enjoy helping students master APA Style and formatting their dissertations. A couple of my short stories have been published in online journals, and I co-authored a presentation on digital literacy for the 2017 International Conference on Learning. I enjoy visiting the happiest place on earth as often as I can with my husband and two daughters. When I have the opportunity, I enjoy making homemade body products, baking, traveling, and drinking coffee. I also enjoy a good book, and one of my favorites is Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower. I look forward to working with you in the Academic Success Center. Happy learning!

Associate Director of Undergraduate Tutoring & Outreach

Dr. Briana NicholsonDr. Briana Nicholson

Greetings! My name is Dr. Briana Nicholson, and I serve as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Tutoring & Outreach in the ASC. I have a bachelor’s and a master's degree in communications from Ohio State University and a doctoral degree in human services. I spent nearly ten years serving in my state’s department of higher education, holding various leadership and administrative positions. After serving my state for nearly 10 years, I made the decision to work with students directly at the university and college levels. I have chaired committees for doctorial students, taught courses in communications and human service disciplines, and volunteered extensively within my community. My goal as a coach is to provide each student with the tools they need to thrive and soar! My expertise is in qualitative methods and designs. In my coaching sessions, I focus on scholarly writing, flow and organization, and strategies to ensure rigor and quality in your work. I currently live in Dayton, Ohio with my family. I enjoy spending my downtime with family and friends, and I am an avid traveler, camper, and reader. I am also a classic movie fan, especially musicals!

Proofreading Coordinator

Med DuMezDr. Meg Roberts

Hello! My name is Dr. Meg Roberts, and I serve as an Academic Coach in the ASC. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion, a Master of Arts in Higher Education, a Master of Arts in Biblical & Theological Studies, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education. Since my career has all been in higher education (including academic advising, adjunct teaching, and editing), I like to think of myself as a "Professional Nerd." My research interests include andragogy, service-learning, marginalized populations in higher education, and learning theory. Beyond all the books, I spend my time literally running in circles. I have completed one ultramarathon, 15 marathons, approximately 50 half marathons, and many other shorter races (so far...). My philosophy in academics and in running is encapsulated in a quote from John Bingham, "The miracle isn't that I finished; the miracle is that I had the courage to start." You had the courage to start a degree at NU; I am part of the team that will help in the journey to the finish line.

Academic Coach - Writing

Alexander JunDr. Alexander Jun

Greetings! Alex Jun here (last name is pronounced “Jun” like the sun, not “June” like the moon). I conduct research in the areas of equity and inclusion in higher education as well as in faith-based spaces. What I enjoy most about coaching is the opportunity to walk alongside fellow scholars who are on their own journey of writing and discovery. My primary methodological area of expertise within qualitative research is ethnography and phenomenology. Life outside of academia is always interesting. I am a father of three and an activity we enjoy together is music, where we will play together in what I affectionately refer to as a #JunJam. When not playing music as a family, my wife and I enjoy playing golf together. I also have a Maltipoo named Spartacus who forces me to have intentional movement every day. These activities have become important reminders for me to seek balance from the grind of writing and research. I am based in Southern California.

ASC Peer Tutor

Alexander SadeghipourAlexander Sadeghipour

Greetings! My name is Alexander Sadeghipour. I am a student currently enrolled in the Master’s program here at National University. I have had the pleasure of becoming part of the ASC staff, and I look forward to working with you. My areas of expertise are mostly in Computer Science and Information Technology. I earned my Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from California State University San Marcos, as well as an Associate’s degree in Applied Mathematics from Palomar College in San Diego. I was a transfer student who woke up one day at the age of 20 and wanted to continue my education after high school, so I enrolled in community college, and here I am now. I know how difficult it is with a lack of resources. My goal is to support students as much as I can in their studies of Computer Science and Information Technology. In the future, I see myself becoming an instructor in Computer Science, and I hope that I can help you to the best of my ability.

Academic Coach - Writing

Ashley NewbyDr. Ashley Newby

My name is Dr. Ashley Newby and I am an Academic Coach in the ASC. I have an MA in Sociology of Education from New York University, and a Ph.D. in African American Studies and a certificate in urban education from Michigan State University. My research interests lie at the intersection of Hip-Hop culture and educational spaces. I have taught writing and rhetoric on the West Coast for the past 4 years and particularly enjoy helping students think about audience, organization, and clarity in their writing. When not teaching, I’m usually engaged in a heated card game with my daughter or reading a good book - Their Eyes Were Watching God is my absolute favorite.

Academic Coach - Writing

Brian AunkstDr. Brian Aunkst

I am Dr. Brian Aunkst, and I am an academic coach for writing at the ASC. I earned my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Lehigh University and two master’s degrees from Liberty University. I received my doctorate in educational leadership, also from Liberty; the topic of my dissertation was the relationship between student help-seeking behavior and writing self-efficacy. I live in Colorado with my wife and our two dogs. I was an engineering manager for over 23 years until I retired after working for Uncle Sam for 31 years. I love helping students improve their writing, especially in the areas of paragraph development and organization. I enjoy traveling, listening to classic rock, watching old movies (especially film noire), reading mystery novels, and playing video games.

Academic Coach - Writing

Cheri HalversonCheri Halvorson

I am Cheri Halvorson, and I have been a writing coach for National University for over seven years. I have a Master of Arts in English (Literature Option) and have taught college English courses since 2013.  I am also a professional editor and have worked on theses and dissertations in a wide variety of fields over the years. Increasing student understanding of how to navigate MS Word, Google Docs, and templates for graduate projects gives me a sense of pride and purpose. I also thoroughly enjoy walking students through literary analysis, and I find British literature from the Middle Ages to the Victorian Period especially intriguing. (Yes, this includes Chaucer and Shakespeare!) I have an eye for nitty-gritty details, so if you need assistance with grammar, punctuation, or formatting and citation (i.e., APA 7 and MLA), I am here to help!

Academic Coach - Writing and Statistics

Colleen PaeplowDr. Colleen Paeplow

Hi! My name is Dr. Colleen Paeplow, and I serve as an Academic Coach for writing and statistics in the ASC. Coaching students through their research process is my passion. I earned my doctoral degree in Educational Research from North Carolina State University in 2011. I have taught graduate courses related to statistical analyses and data-based decision-making and served on numerous doctoral committees. I currently lead a team of researchers who conduct a variety of program evaluations and research studies within the Wake County Public School System’s Data, Research, and Accountability Department, where I have worked for the past 20 years. Due to my varied experience conducting research and supporting students, I can help your learning of qualitative and quantitative methods and provide guidance as you strengthen your written communication skills. As a coach, I love working with graduate students to develop their research, guiding students to increase their understanding of research design and how best to communicate their work. When I am not helping others with their research, I enjoy traveling with my husband, spending time with my family, and practicing Taekwondo. I look forward to helping support your academic goals.

Academic Coach-Proofreader

Fonda Na'Desh

Dr. Fonda Na'Desh

Hello, I am Dr. Fonda Na'Desh, and I serve as an academic coach for proofreading in the Academic Success Center. My graduate education includes an MBA and doctorate from Pepperdine University. My early professional work was in various roles in the computer technology field. Since leaving the technology field, I have gravitated to assisting individuals and businesses in reaching their goals by working in academia and in organizational and personal development. I also believe in giving back to the community. I am currently on the board of the People's Diabetes Foundation. I have also volunteered with SCORE. When not involved in scholarly work, I enjoy learning about non-traditional coaching/development approaches, watching British detective dramas and classic or sci-fi movies, bicycling, hiking, or watching the sun set on the California coast.

Academic Coach - Legal Writing

Gehrrie Bellamy

Captain Gehrrie Bellamy Esq.

Howdy! My name is Gehrrie D. Bellamy, and I am the Legal Writing Coach for ASC.  I hail from Houston, Texas, where I attended the University of Houston and received my BA in Political Science, and Thurgood Marshall School of Law, where I received my Juris Doctorate.  I have been an attorney for almost 15 years, and I am licensed to practice in Texas and Washington, D.C.  I enjoy helping students hone their legal writing and analysis skills, as well as provide guidance for tackling the bar exam.  In my free time, I actively spoil two very adorable Bichon Frisé puppies, Linen and Brightyn, and volunteer at various puppy rescue groups.

Academic Coach-Proofreader & ASC Chat

Janice Cools StephensDr. Janice Cools Stephens

Hi, I’m Janice Cools Stephens and I am a Proofreading Specialist in the ASC. My B. A and PhD are in English and my MA is in Rhetoric and Professional Communication. I have certificates in Editing and Proofreading. I’ve always enjoyed teaching writing and writing about writing. My writing has been published in CEA forum and the Wisconsin English Journal and in books like Publishing in Rhetoric and Composition. Throughout my over 15 years in Higher-Ed, I’ve worked with both native and non-native speakers of English and have taught within the US as well as Internationally.  My goal as a coach is to provide compassionate feedback and support, helping you to build confidence on your journey to becoming a better writerly version of yourself. When I’m not coaching, I’m reading, conducting research for scholarly writing, exercising, and spending quality time with family and two Australian Shepherds.

Academic Coach - Statistics and Quantitative Design

Jeffry White

Dr. Jeffry L. White 

My name is Dr. Jeffry L. White, and I serve as an Academic Coach for statistics and quantitative design in the ASC. I am a retired Associate Professor and the Joan D. & Alexander S. Haig/BORSF Endowed Professor of Education IV at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. I have a Ph.D. in quantitative research, evaluation, and measurement in education from The Ohio State University, and master’s degrees in research and evaluation, public policy, and health services administration. I have a bachelor’s degree in social work from Capital University. Since my retirement in 2016, I have continued working with doctoral students on their dissertations and teach applied statistics at Columbus State Community College. I enjoy coaching students on inferential statistics and quantitative research design. When I am not working, I am either playing my guitar or adding to my collection (buying, selling, trading, etc.) that I've been accumulating since the age of 12. My favorite book of all time is Needs Assessment: Analysis and Prioritization by Altschuld and White (Sage Pubs, 2010).

Academic Coach - Writing

John JohnsonJohn Johnson, MFA

Hello, I’m John Johnson, and I’ve been a writing tutor here at National since I graduated from NU with my MFA in 2014.  Then, I specialized in Creative Non-Fiction and have written memoirs, youth fiction books, and multiple How-To books in my “other” field of family entertainment (I was one of the Ronald McDonalds of the world for over 20 years). 

My specialties as a writing tutor are breaking down the writing process into manageable steps, interpreting assignments for students, explaining such things as thesis statements, the difference between an argumentative essay and a research paper, deciphering Literature Reviews, and, of course, APA and other forms of citation.  My goal is to help my clients feel supported as writers, not through an expert-novice interaction, but through an interaction of peers where one just has more experience in academic writing. I love helping students to succeed here at National. 

Academic Coach - Writing

Jomo MerrittDr. Jomo Merritt 

My name is Dr. Jomo Merritt, and I serve as an Academic Coach for writing in the ASC. I earned my doctoral degree in Curriculum & Instruction from Oakland City University in 2020. I have a specialist degree in Counseling/Psychology with a concentration in mental health practices in schools, a master’s degree in school counseling from Albany State University, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Georgia. I am an experienced counselor and curriculum developer with a demonstrated history working with grades K-12 and adult learner curriculum. I am also a part-time journalist for the online newspaper Guardian Liberty Voice. I love coaching students on clarity in writing, organization, and scholarly writing. In my spare time, I like to write screenplays and am in the process of working on my second novel.

Academic Coach - ASC Chat

Justin GeigerDr. Justin Geiger

My name is Justin Geiger, and I hold a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, both from Liberty University. I'm currently pursuing a Doctor of Education in Community Counseling and Psychology, also from Liberty. I am currently in the dissertation process and expect to finish in the coming months. I have a passion to see students succeed, and I believe that Socratic dialogue is the best way to learn. I believe that anyone can learn and develop a growth mindset, no matter what background someone comes from. Everyone has a different learning style and requires different levels of assistance at different times in their lives, so the role of the educator is to meet the student where they currently are. Some of my hobbies include hiking mountain trails, reviewing fiction books, and critiquing entertainment. My all-time favorite TV series is The Chosen.

Academic Coach-Proofreader

                             Dr. Mathew Neil

Matthew NeilMy name is Dr. Matthew Neil, and I am a Proofreading Specialist in the ASC. I have been a consultant of academic writing in various institutional settings for over 7 years, specializing in doctorate support. I earned my Bachelor of Music in jazz studies from Temple University and then my PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Riverside, where I wrote my qualitative research dissertation on the impact of higher education and non-profit institutions on the jazz scene in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. I have also written about retro sound chip technology and nostalgia in video game music, the life and works of film composer John Williams, and other topics. When not working with writing, I like to spend my time playing piano, (re)designing my island in Animal Crossing, or watching NBA basketball (go Nets!).

Academic Coach - Writing Coach & ASC Chat

Pallavi Mittra   Dr. Pallavi Mittra

Hello! My name is Pallavi Mittra. I am very happy to serve as an Academic Success Coach in the ASC. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, a Master of Science in Business and Management, a Master of Research in Research Methodology in Management Studies, and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Management (Organization Behavior). I have presented my research at 4 reputed international conferences and was awarded Best Paper by the British Academy of Management. My career at large is defined by sharing knowledge, being an enabler for learning, and having a passion for writing. I have 4 years of experience teaching and mentoring undergraduate students in my alma mater, the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, United Kingdom). In addition to that, I have worked in learning and development-oriented positions in human resource consultancies. Since the last year, I have also been actively involved in facilitating an inquiry-based approach to help students develop their ability to write effectively. Whenever possible, I greatly enjoy watching the everyday life of birds in our garden with my husband, reading, writing, or thinking about ideas for writing while being in nature. I look forward to being a part of your journey as a learner and writer at NU.

Senior Chat and Resource Development Coach

Rachel BruhnRachel Bruhn

Hello!  My name is Rachel Bruhn, and I am an Academic Coach in the Academic Success Center.  I specialize in helping students build their skills in statistical competencies.  I have a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Criminology from Butler University and a master’s degree in Psychology from Kaplan University.  Since obtaining my master’s degree I bounced around the behavioral health field for a few years before changing tracks and finding a home in education.  As a coach, I enjoy working with students on building confidence with statistics basics and moving into more advanced inferential stats.  Outside the ASC, I am a stay-at-home mom of two, and (when I manage to sneak some “me time”) I enjoy reading, scrapbooking/crafting, singing, and dancing.

Academic Coach - Legal Writing

Ray ChaoRaymond Chao

Greetings. My name is Ray Chao, and I am pleased to be joining the ASC team as a Legal Writing coach. I look forward to exploring IRAC, the Bluebook, and legal doctrine with you, as well as the occasional comment on dogs (and pets), reality TV, and Netflix. I am excited to be here and excited to be part of your journey because I know for many of you, law school is a dream - one that you share with family and friends. Keep up the good work! (I have a JD from Loyola Chicago and was a former prosecutor and defense attorney).    

Academic Coach - Writing

Sara NorthernDr. Sara Northern

 I am Dr. Sara Northern, and as a certified teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience from elementary to graduate course appointments, my foremost commitment is advocating educational excellence by empowering students to become self-directed learners. I have a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master’s of Teaching in Educational Technology, and a Doctorate of Education in Teacher Leadership. I joined the Northcentral University Community as an Academic Writing Coach in the Academic Success Center at its launch in 2014. In October 2019, I became the Academic Success Center Coordinator, where I have the privilege of assisting our Associate Director Ramon Daines and supporting our awesome coaches. I have Malcolm Baldridge Excellence Training and also attended the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP), where I now have the privilege to serve as NU’s strategic planning thematic lead for Institutional Support.  Working in the Academic Success Center is rewarding because we pride ourselves on supporting students’ unique needs. During my free time, I enjoy traveling abroad (especially throughout Central and South America) with my husband and cat. I also enjoy reading about new educational trends.

Academic Coach - Writing

Sonya Sherrod

Dr. Sonya Sherrod

 Hello! My name is Sonya Sherrod, and I am an Academic Coach for writing in the ASC. I have a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts in mathematics and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in mathematics education. In my doctoral program, I discovered my love for scholarly research and writing. I was a dissertation coach in the College of Education at Texas Tech University for 4 years. In this role, I developed a deep passion for helping others complete this milestone. Helping doctoral students achieve their academic goals is what gives me purpose. I call Lubbock, Texas home. It is there that my husband and I enjoy the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets in the world. He and I love taking day trips to Caprock Canyons in the Texas panhandle to watch and photograph the American bison.

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