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Featured Presenters

Robin Hixson - "The Evolution of New Student Orientation: A Smart Start for Student Success"

Robin Hixson

Dean of Student Engagement and Retention, Robin Hixson began working at Metropolitan Community College in 2001. Since then, she has held the positions of Academic Advisor, Student Services Director of the Fort Omaha Campus, and Dean of the Sarpy County Center. Robin’s key projects have included assisting in the development of an employee mentoring program, Student Leadership projects, and in the development of New Student Orientation. She attended Texas Christian University as a Journalism major, and graduated with a Masters in Psychology from Bellevue University. Robin earned her Master of Science in Organizational Management with a focus on Entrepreneurship and Economic Development in 2007. Robin’s passion at work, and focus is in connecting students and staff to leadership opportunities, mentoring opportunities, and supporting Student Success and Engagement initiatives.

Corey Lynch 

Corey Lynch

Corey Lynch has been a success navigator since the position was created in July 2017. Much has changed in the world since then, but one thing that has not: the need for affordable and accessible education. Providing the opportunity of education is a passion of Corey's whether as a disability coordinator, recruiter, transition teacher, or navigator.  As a product of North Omaha schools, it’s been his pleasure to support the community at the Fort Omaha Campus.  On the side, he enjoys watching international football and using it as a gateway to relating to many of our students at FOC.  Lastly, Go Big Red

Gavin Farber- "Advisor Mentoring: Offering Change, Community and Connection during the Age of Zooming"

Gavin Farber

Gavin Farber is an Academic Advisor II at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management. He has been in this role for almost 10 years. Currently a member of the Freshman/Sophomore Advising Team. He served the Temple advising community as Co-Chair of the Academic Advisor Group (AAG) from 2013-2016. Gavin led the Temple University Advisor Mentoring Program from 2017-2020 where he helped in the pairing of new professionals new an advisor mentor on campus. That work transited into moving into advisor training and development activities on campus. He was the chair of the Temple University His research interests focus on advisor training and development, advisor mentoring programming and mid-level professionals in higher education.

Gavin earned his Master of Arts in Higher Education from Rowan University in 2010 and Master of Science in Human Resource Management in 2016 from Temple University.

He joined NACADA in 2012. His engaged in the association began in the Region 2 Mentoring Program in 2013 as a mentee and later served a mentor in 2015 and 2016. He has presented at NACADA state drive-ins, regional conferences, annual conference, and international conference the areas of mid-level advisors, advisor mentoring, and advisor training and development. Gavin was elected the Advisor Training and Development Advising Community Chair in 2018 and will serve as chair through October 2021. His association roles also include serving as the NACADA Region 2 Mentoring and Membership Coordinator and member of the NACADA Professional Development Committee and NACADA Webinar Advisory Board.

Dr. Vernetta Kosalka - "Barriers and Successes to Persistence: Factors influencing Community College Culinary Arts Students"

Dr. Vernetta Kosalka

Dr. Vernetta Kosalka is the Banquet and Services Manager at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College (MCC), Nebraska.  Dr. Kosalka believes that improving student persistence is not only a fundamental part of academic success, but also critical to degree completion. Her mission is to provide the highest level of professionalism and expertise in event management, planning, event design, and hospitality management education.  In addition to managing events and services, Dr. Kosalka teaches both credit and non-credit courses. Dr. Kosalka is the founder and program coordinator for the event and wedding planning non-credit certificate program at MCC. She also is an entrepreneur and consults with major business and projects within the Greater Omaha community.  
Dr. Kosalka holds a Doctor of Education from College of Saint Mary, 2021, Master of Science in Organization Leadership, 2007, and received her Bachelor of Science Degree with a dual Major in Business Administration and Computer Information Management, 2003.
Dr. Jennifer King - "Connecting to Basic Needs"

Jennifer King

Jennifer King is a Practitioner-Researcher at the Hope Center for Community, College, and Justice. Prior to joining the Hope Center, Jennifer progressively developed her skill- skills- to build and maintain relationships, provide face-to-face and remote technical assistance and training, and facilitate strategic planning at the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health. This comes as a product of her experiences in spearheading a community health needs assessment in the largest neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and aiding in the launch of Kent State University’s institution-wide health initiative. She continues her service to the field of higher education as an adjunct professor at Kent State University and a member of the College of Public Health’s External Advisory Committee. Jennifer received both her Bachelor’s (Kent State University) and Master’s (Bowling Green State University) degrees in Nutrition before returning to Kent to earn her Ph.D. in Public Health with an investigational emphasis on food insecurity experiences among college students.

Shanda Clark - "The Evolution of MCC’s Student Leadership Conference during Times of Change"

Shanda Clark

Shanda Clark has served at Metropolitan Community College for fifteen years as a project coordinator and over 25 years in the educational field and private sector. She earned her B.S. degree in education from the University of Central Missouri. Currently she serves as the Project Coordinator for the VP for Student Affairs and administrator of myHub, MCC's engagement portal. Shanda's drive is fueled by her desire to see people be successful. Shanda wears many hats, but she has a great fondness for her role as an advisor to student organizational leaders and the Student Advisory Council along with her leadership with MCC's annual Student Leadership Conference.

Primrose Igonor - " Promoting Belonging and Equity Through Course Content"

Primrose Igonor

Primrose Igonor was born in Uganda. She was raised in South Africa where she qualified as a Clinical Psychologist. Primrose has lived and worked in South Africa, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Canada. She is currently Psychology Faculty and is also the Belonging and Equity Coordinator at Marion Technical College. Primrose is passionate about diversity issues and community building. She is married and has two wonderful sons. Her hobbies include reading, travelling, gardening and attending arts and music festivals

Julie Langholdt - "Connecting with Students to Support Well-being"

Julie Langholdt

Julie Langholdt is the Dean of Student Advocacy and Accountability at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE.   Julie received her Master’s in
Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Counseling from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Over  her 24 year career in Student Affairs at MCC, Julie has worked in academic advising, career services, disability support services, counseling,  as well as being an adjunct social sciences instructor.

Nate Bock 

Nate Bock

Nate Bock is the current Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  He has been in this role for just under a year.  Over his 22-year career, Nate has provided academic advising, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol counseling and evaluations, alcohol and drug prevention, and career counseling.  Nate also has a special interest in Motivational Interviewing.  He is a licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner and a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor. 

Yoyo MA- "Yin Yang Community Flow "

James Cloyd

Om Shanti, Yogis. Movement is my passion, and I have always loved the vibrational energy I felt as a competitive figure skater. I teach figure skating and being able to align my love of artistry and awareness with the physical and spiritual dance of yoga is truly a divine experience. Awaken into your truest spirit as we unfold light and love in our yogi practice. From yin, power, meditation and flow, each style has an offering to the soul. The self-journey within our bodies and beyond the mat is ever-evolving. Yoga is transformational for everyone. Expand your cosmic energy and magic of inhale and exhale. Breathe, bend, and radiate deep love and peace into your souls, and for Mother Earth. Namaste. 

James Cloyd - "Moving from Transactional Advising to Increasing Higher Math Placement Results"

James Cloyd

James is the Dean of Student Experience and Innovation & the Title III Project Manager at Metropolitan Community College (MCC). James has 19 years of experience at MCC, which included roles such as Academic Advisor and Director of Student Services. James also has spent over a decade teaching academic, social, and independent living skills to at-risk youth. James is a graduate of Omaha North High School, Dana College, ICAN Men’s Leadership Program, Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Leadership Omaha and is currently completing a Master of Science in Organizational Management. James created Student Table Talk, #AdvGuessWhat for advising information sharing, Google Voice training, implemented the DACUM Analysis of academic advising, and several collaborative initiatives for integration of Title III/FYE activities into institutional practices. In 2014, James served as the NACADA National Conference Social Media Chair. James is a member of various community groups and serves as the Director of OMAWA, INC. James has a love for family, music, technology and youth athletics.

Rachel Neurath 

Rachel Neurath

Rachel Neurath is a math instructor at Metropolitan Community College (MCC).  Including her years as an adjunct, she’s been with MCC for 18 years.   Prior to joining the MCC faculty full-time, she taught grades 8 – 12 in Omaha Public Schools, providing a unique perspective to teaching at the community college level. 

The last four years, Rachel has also served as the Math Department Coordinator.  In this role, she’s worked with many departments within the college and the neighboring university to serve the mathematics needs of MCC's diverse student population.  

Stacey Mapp - "Supporting ELL Students Through Collaboration"  

Stacey Mapp

Stacey Mapp is a Success Navigator at the South Omaha Campus who serves all MCC students, but her primary focus is working with English Language Learnerss and students who are transitioning from Adult Education to credit courses. An alumnus of MCC in 2001, Stacey returned to school after 17 years to complete her Bachelors of Science degree in Behavioral Science from Bellevue University. Stacey’s most recent achievement is being selected to participate in the 2021-2022 MCC "Emerging Leaders Program". Seen as a “Bob the Builder” of sorts, Stacey enjoys DIY projects and helping others achieve their goals.  

Anna Somers
Anna SomersAnna Somers is a Success Navigator at the South Omaha Campus who primarily serves English Language Learners as well as students who are transitioning from Adult Education to credit courses. She has worked at Metropolitan Community College since 2019. Her previous experience includes managing the GED program at The Open Door Mission. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. 

Veronica Castro

Veronica Castro

Veronica Castro has been a Success Navigator at  South Omaha Campus, Metroplolitan Community College, since 2018. Veronica started as an Enrollment Specialist where she focused on visiting high schools, community events, and engaging with the South Omaha Community.  In her role as Success Navigator, Veronica works with new students assisting them through their first year at MCC.  

From 2007 until 2017, Veronica servesd as a Bilingual Community Liaison for Metroplolitan Community College, focusing on support for ELL students and their families .  She is passionate about education, health, and her community.   

Dr. Naomi Mardock Uman 

Naomi MardockNaomi Mardock Uman, PhD, is director of Faculty Development for the Metropolitan Community College Curriculum and Instruction team, and coordinates programs and services for the Language & Literacy Center. Previously, she taught ESL at MCC for 10 years.

Sheena Hendrix - "Empowering Woman of Color in STEM Majors"

Sheena HendrixSheena Hendrix serves as the lead IT Advisor and adjunct instructor at Metropolitan Communiy College. Hendrix is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education and Public Service with a focus on Leadership and Organizational Management. Hendrix earned her Master’s in Public Administration from Bellevue University in 2016 and Bachelors in Business Administration from Purdue University in 2014. 

Hendrix serves on the Board of Directors for inCOMMON Community Development and the National Academic Advising Association.
Her personal philosophy is rooted in ensuring all students have access to a quality education.

Art Brown

Art BrownArthur L. Brown II serves as the Dean of Information Technology at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, Nebraska. He has also served as an  IT faculty and was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018. Additionally, he served as an IT Career Readiness Program Coordinator and created the IT Earn-and-Learn program. Prior to becoming a professional educator, Brown was employed in the banking and financial services industry for 18 years. Brown has undergraduate degrees in Web Support and eBusiness from MCC and Bellevue University, respectively. He also earned a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology Design with an Information Technology concentration.

Brown is very active in his community and volunteers several hours supporting STEM initiatives for underrepresented populations. He also serves as a board member on several nonprofit organizations.

Rebeca Paz- "Looking Back to Move Forward: The First Generation Student Experience "

Rebecca Paz

Rebeca Paz has a Bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in counseling. She currently serves as assistant director for the Office of First-generation Students at K-State. Throughout her extensive career in higher education, she has served in several capacities working with retention programs and specifically, first-generation and underrepresented students. She is a recipient of the 2008-2009 Commerce Bank Award for Distinguished Services to Under-represented students at Kansas State University. Rebeca is a native of Bolivia and proud of her Latina heritage.

Dr. Quentin Renard Alexander

Quentin Renard Alexander

Quentin Alexander is the Senior Director of Advising for Undergraduate Education at George Mason University. Before assuming this position, he was an associate professor in Counselor Education in the College of Education and Human Services at Longwood University and coordinator of the College Counseling and Student Affairs track. Previously, he held a tenure-track assistant professor position in Counselor Education at Virginia Commonwealth University from 2011-2015. He holds a B.A. in Therapeutic Recreation, and a M.Ed. in Special Education and Literacy, from UNC-Chapel Hill, a M.Ed. in Community and Agency Counseling, North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision, Virginia Tech University.

He specializes in multicultural issues in advising, counseling, and student affairs centered on race, equity, and inclusion for diverse college populations such as first-generation, racial and ethnic minorities, and low-income students. He has taught courses in Introduction to the Counseling Profession, Theories in Counseling, Career Counseling and Development, Multicultural Counseling, Internship in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Group Counseling, College Student Development Services, History of the American University, and Supervision and Administration in Clinical Mental Health and Higher Education Settings. Quentin developed and co-coordinated an academic couseling and student success coaching program at Longwood University that focused on the psychosocial, academic, and emotional needs of first-generation, low-income, and racial/ethnic minority students.

Linny Ott
Linny Ott

is Linny Ott is a single mother of two kids - an 18-year-old  who recently graduated high school and a 3-year-old son. Linny is currently enrolled in the Human Services Transfer program at MCC.  She is also a member of TRIO and the VP of Service for the MCC Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa.

Linny loves being able to give back to her community in any way she can.

Jake Rudy  - "Advising Post-COVID: We Can't Go Back to "Normal"

Jake Rudy

Jake Rudy (he/him/his) is an academic advisor in the College of Liberal Arts and Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Jake has worked in advising for eight years, presenting at several NACADA Annual and Regional Conferences on issues of advisor onboarding and self-care. He is currently the Minnesota Liaison to NACADA's Region Six and a member of the Emerging Leaders Program. He is the founding Vice Chair for the NACADA Advising Community for Advisor Well-Being and Retention and serves on the steering committees for the Advisor Training & Development and LGBTQA Advising & Advocacy communities. His professional interests include advisor self-care as a community investment in students and staff, dismantling harmful bureaucratic structures, and supporting first-generation rural students. His personal interests include catching up on the books he's checked out from the library, cold brew, and summers in Minnesota.

Dr. Locksley Knibbs - "Advising Black Males in 2020 and Beyond"

Locksley Knibbs

Dr. Locksley Knibbs holds a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. He holds a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa and a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from FGCU. He currently serves as the Lead Academic Advisor for Team Natural Sciences within the College of Art & Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Florida.
Dr. Knibbs is a noted scholar practitioner, and was the first Black male to receive recognition by the University Advising community and other faculty colleagues in being awarded the Excellence in Advising Award. He has presented at various NACADA conferences at the National, Regional and International levels. The most recent was at International Conference in Hasselt, Belgium, hosted by Hasselt. His research interest is primarily on Minority and Underserved Populations in Academic Advising, Black Males, and the Leadership within Higher Education. In 2016, NACADA selected Dr. Knibbs as one of the ten Emerging Leaders for 2016-2018.

Sabrina Hughes - "Creating Community Around a Course"

Sabrina Hughes

Sabrina earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she attended as a first-generation college student. She has over sixteen years of experience in the field of education, much of which has been dedicated to serving at-risk students. She has been a Success Navigator with Metropolitan Community College for five years where she works with new students helping them navigate the process of starting college and the challenges it brings. She most enjoys helping students eliminate barriers and getting connected to college resources, as well as helping  them explore careers. 


Debra Holst

Deb Holst

Debra Holst is a faculty member at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, NE. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Home Economics specializing in Family Rehabilitation from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and master’s degree in Family Science from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Her teaching focus is college and career strategies. As a first-generation college student herself, Debra is passionate about creating an inclusive and safe environment for all students to learn. Sending students off with the necessary skills to excel in college, confident in their career choice, along with having a positive educational experience is her goal as a faculty member. Debra has been involved in the community in several volunteer positions, the most recent being a mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.

Dakota Frederick 

Dakota Frederick

Dakota Frederick is a non-traditional student, currently a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, working towards her bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources Management.

Dakota has been a Peer Mentor with MCC for about two years .


Heather Evans - "Using Protective Factors to Increase Student Retention"

Heather Evans

Heather Evans has more than 15 years of experience working in nonprofits and education.  She has worked with children and adults of all ages, students from preschool through college, people in poverty, former foster youth, felons, people in crisis situations, drug-addicted individuals, individuals with various developmental delays, and more.  She is the former Program Director of Uniquely Yours Stability Support, a nonprofit that addresses the dynamics of homelessness.  She currently works at Metropolitan Community College as a Success Navigator.

KP Patrick - "Breaking Through Trauma Freeze: A trauma-informed Advising Approach"

KP Patrick

KP Patrick joined the First Year Experience Team as a Academic Advisor in January 2020. They have been working in advising and student success since 2014. KP received their master’s degree in Student Affairs Administration from Michigan State University in 2016 and moved to Omaha, Nebraska shortly after. Since their arrival, KP has served on retention and success committees specifically working with underserved populations and LGBTQ+ youth.

Featured Panel - Creating a "visibility" framework

Dr. Ferial Pearson

Dakota Frederick

Dr. Sandra Rodriquez Arroyo

Qiang Caoz

Echohawk Lefthand

 Gustavo Canas

Dr. Ferial Pearson

Dr. Pearson - aka Mama Beast - is a mother, activist, author, educator, speaker, poet, comedienne, cook, and citizen of the world. She is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education and has been teaching humans of all ages for 20 years in the Omaha area. As a Kenyan Indian Muslim immigrant queer disabled woman of color, she is passionate about working towards Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Accessibility, and Kindness. She has received national and local awards for her work in education and social justice, has authored two books, and has been featured as a speaker on the TEDx Omaha stage. Her goal is to make sure you know that you are loved and that you are enough just the way you are. She lives in Omaha with her spouse, two teenagers, and two guinea pigs. 

Dr. Sandra Rodriquez Arroyo

Dr. Sandra Rodríguez-Arroyo is an Associate Professor of ESL/Bilingual Teacher Education and a faculty member with the Office of Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS) at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her research and teaching interests include: preparing teachers to work with the growing rate of English Learners (ELs) in Nebraska, translanguaging perspectives in bilingual education teacher preparation, asset-based service-learning experiences with diverse learners and families, and Latina faculty testimonios. Dr. Rodriguez-Arroyo also coordinates Metro Area Teachers of English Language Learners (MATELLS), a professional network that provides learning and collaboration opportunities for EL educators. Her passion for service-learning and community engagement has been rewarded with the Nebraska Campus Compact Excellence in Community-Based Teaching and Scholarship Award, the University of Nebraska at Omaha Outstanding Service Learning Faculty Award, and Professor Robert Ackerman Faculty Fellow of Community Engagement.

Echohawk Lefthand

Echohawk Lefthand (Diné) has been the Director for the Native Indigenous Centered Education Program for Omaha Public Schools for the last four years. He is an experienced public health and Indian education supervisor with a demonstrated history of working in the health care and K-12 education organizations. He has a master's degree in public health focused on health promotion from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 

Featured Panel: Leading in a Post-Covid World: Embracing Change, Connection, and Community