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About Us

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Higher education is undergoing rapid change. We don’t underestimate the challenges facing higher education. We understand how declining public investment, enrollment stagnation, and changing workforce demands have affected institutions. We understand that affordability issues are an obstacle to true equality of access and opportunity. We believe the missions of universities to expand knowledge, tackle big questions, and promote civic engagement is critical to our communities, locally and globally. We believe technology is a critical tool in meeting these challenges and preserving the value of the university.

We’re intrigued by other institutions successes with large-scale and competency-based degree programs. We don’t think the MOOC is dead. We’re curious how artificial intelligence and virtual reality will change education in the future. We’re excited about the ways technology can make our spaces more accessible and inclusive.

We’re also committed to making sure best practices and strategies faculty use to cultivate knowledge and promote inquiry in the students they teach don’t get swept away in all this change. We believe pedagogy should inform the use of technology, not the other way around. We make that our number one priority when developing online and technology-enhanced courses.

We are a team of educators with skills in design, development, and technology. We keep up with the current best practices in accessibility, instructional quality, student success, and faculty satisfaction. We believe in continuing to strive to deliver high-quality learning experiences with strong student outcomes at affordable and accessible rates.

We want to work with our colleagues to solve problems, create opportunities, and engage students.

What problems do you see?
How can we help?

Our Team

Administration

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Mandara Savage

Executive Director of Online@VCU

Dr. Mandara Savage has an academic and professional career that spans over 28 years; between private industry, higher education and educational leadership. He has served as an academic leader in online and distance education for 11 years. Mandara received his Bachelor of Science in Electronics from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. He completed his MS in Manufacturing Engineering Technology from Memphis State and a Ph.D. in Industrial Education and Technology at Iowa State University. Previously, Dr. Savage was an Associate Professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and served as its Executive Director of Extended Campus. His experience as Executive Director of Extended Campus, Department Chair, Off-campus Programs Director, and Faculty uniquely positions him to understand the needs of students, faculty, and staff while balancing the goals of the University. With the shifting landscape of higher education, online and distance learning has become indispensable as it serves a central role in diminishing the inequities associated with educational access.
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James Fowlkes

Director of Operations

James has worked in instructional design since 2001. Prior to joining VCU, he served in leadership roles at Central Ohio Technical College, Florida Atlantic University, and the University of New Mexico. He received his BS in Mathematics from Mississippi College and his MS in Higher Education from Capella University. James specializes in curriculum development, instructional design, and professional development. He currently serves as our Director of Academic Operations and Administration. His interests include how instructional design models can encourage self-directed and independent learning throughout life and how to personalize the online learning experience to meet students where they are. James has presented at numerous conferences regarding online learning, higher education initiatives, and academic technologies.
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Yeimarie Lopez

Compliance Administrator

Yeimarie Lopez is an advocate of accessible and equitable education as a way to create a more just society. She is a first generation college graduate who earned a baccalaureate degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan. During her time in direct social work practice, she worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence and immigrant and refugee families. As she began her work in higher education, she focused on student engagement and advising with the goal of retaining a diverse student body. Her interest in quality assurance in education led her to higher education accreditation and compliance. As the Compliance Coordinator at VCU ALT Lab and Online@VCU, she monitors ongoing compliance with a variety of state, federal, and international regulations related to online education.
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Peter Nguyen

Associate Director of eLearning Initiatives

Peter Nguyen received his Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. He completed his Master and Ph.D. degree in Social Work at the University of Houston. Previously, Dr. Nguyen was the Associate Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and Full Professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington School of Social Work. In 2019, he returned to VCU and currently serves as the Associate Director of eLearning Initiatives. Dr. Nguyen has worked in the non-profit sector throughout his career with a focus on helping abused children and their families. Dr. Nguyen has also served in various administrative roles as the BSW Coordinator, MSW Coordinator, Provost Fellow, and Interim Associate Vice Chancellor of Distance Education.
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Kristen Rasmussen

Operations Administrator

Kristen Rasmussen graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in Anthropology and a BS in Business, with a concentration on Human Resources. She has received her PHR certification and is currently pursuing her Master of Human Resource Management at the University of Richmond. She has served in various HR roles across both the university and the health system, and is thrilled to be supporting the ALT Lab. The easiest way to get to know her? Discuss dachshunds or the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Or how the fellowship would have been much more efficient if it had been entirely made up of dachshunds.

Instructional Design

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Elaine Reeder

Instructional Designer

Elaine is an innovative designer passionate about cultivating an environment for learning. She received her BFA in Graphic Design from Rochester Institute of Technology, an MA in Educational Technologies from George Washington University, and will receive her Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas in December 2018. Elaine has held positions in private industry as well as education and served as a tenured faculty member for fifteen years where she taught a variety of classes in the Computer Graphics department. She also served as Coordinator of the Department and created several new courses and programs during that time. She has made presentations at a number of conferences and published in several journals. Elaine is flexible and resourceful and enjoys learning as well as teaching. She is an artist at heart and enjoys creating visual pieces using the full spectrum of media.
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Brianne Jackson

Instructional Designer

Dr. Brianne Jackson is an Instructional Designer for Online@VCU. Prior to coming to VCU, Dr. Jackson taught both online and face-to-face for 17 years, both in K12 as well as in Higher Education. Dr. Jackson received her B.A. in Spanish and History from Randolph-Macon College, her M.L.A. in Ancient History and Culture from the University of Richmond in 2005 and her Ph.D. in Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. Dr. Jackson's areas of research/interest is preparing faculty to teach in the online or blended environment. Of particular interest are the role of teacher presence in the virtual classroom, as well as non-linear approaches to online instructional design, two areas that are vital to meeting the needs of the increasingly diverse community of online learners. Dr. Jackson also works extensively to implement Universal Design for Learning into Online Education.
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Cynthia Agyeman

Instructional Designer

Cynthia Agyeman is an Instructional Designer who is dedicated to helping educators advance their teaching strategies and developing online courses. Cynthia is a big advocate of adopting best practices that take into account the diverse and unique learning needs of students. Prior to joining the Alt Lab, Cynthia worked with the Ohio Society of CPAs to design and build courses for CPAs and accounting professionals in public, private and not-for-profit organizations. Cynthia has worked in education as a teacher, facilitator and instructional designer. Cynthia holds a Ph.D. degree in Instructional Technology and a M.A in African Studies from the Ohio University. She has a BFA degree in Painting from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana, West Africa. Her research centers on visual arts and new digital media with a special focus on the integration of emergent technologies and the aesthetic and design elements and principles to create new art forms.
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Peyton Burgess

Instructional Designer

Peyton Burgess has designed online courses for a variety of disciplines and has taught online and face-to-face for more than five years. Peyton also designs and teaches development courses for faculty that teach online, ushering more than 100 faculty members through certificate courses thus far. He takes a student-centered approach to course design, stressing the importance of the learner experience, while also exposing faculty to effective and efficient course design and management practices. At ALT Lab, Peyton's primary focus is serving as instructor for the faculty development certificate courses Going Online@VCU Level I and II. As a writer with an MFA from New York University, Peyton writes fiction and teaches composition and creative writing courses both online and face-to-face, including fiction workshops for VCU's English Department and for the publisher Catapult. His short story collection, The Fry Pans Aren't Sufficing, was published in 2016 and described by Publishers Weekly as "sometimes shocking...a fine debut from a striking new voice."
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Timothy Luckritz Marquis

Instructional Designer

Tim Luckritz Marquis loves working with faculty and departments to create online spaces in which communities can interact across disciplines, vocational goals, and backgrounds. As a designer, he focuses on how learning materials and experiences become the contours of the learning environment. Tim comes from a background as a tenured faculty member with experience teaching undergraduate and graduate students, as well as collaborating with colleagues on course and curricular planning. His academic interests gravitate toward interdisciplinary humanities, critical theory, and intercultural engagement. He has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Yale University and has written a book and various articles and essays on ancient history, itinerancy and mobility, ethnicity, and sexuality. A New England kid at heart, Tim is devoted to Richmond. Between household projects and community events, he and his partner chase their two kids around the city.
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Aisha McGriff

Instructional Designer

Aisha McGriff is passionate about working with faculty to turn their visions for their online classes into a reality. A North Carolina native, she holds a BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a MA in Sociology from North Carolina Central University, and a MA and a PhD in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University. Aisha began her academic career in Chattanooga, TN where she was a professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies before becoming an instructional designer. Prior to joining the ALT Lab, Aisha developed and taught face to face, hybrid, and online courses for Chattanooga State Community College, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and TN eCampus. Her research areas of interest include how to make instructional technologies more accessible, pedagogical techniques to engage diverse student populations, and how to reduce unintentional bias in the classroom. When not geeking out about instructional design, education, and the future of academia, Aisha can be found wandering around in nature, knitting socks, or daydreaming about new ways to play with fiber and textiles.
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Michael Schad

Instructional Designer

Michael Schad loves creating comprehensive online instructional content to communicate complex ideas as simply as possible.  Prior to coming to work at the AltLab, Michael enjoyed attending VCU School of Education in pursuit of his PhD in instructional technology where he had many opportunities to assist undergraduate and graduate students with the integration of technology into their praxis.  In addition to his interest in technology, Michael spent several years teaching middle school English and history. He is interested in the ways technology influences society, especially the ideas expressed by Marshall McLuhan through the concept of the “Global Village”. Michael is also the current chairperson for the Premier League team Wolverhampton Wanderers fan club in Virginia, and enjoys cheering his club on as they compete in the Europa League this year.  When not working or watching football, Michael likes to ride his bike around Richmond.
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Rebecca Stooks

Instructional Designer

Rebecca Stooks is a Richmond native and, prior to joining ALT Lab, she taught English at a high school in Henrico County for 10 years. In that time, she taught a variety of different courses, but she is most proud of her involvement in helping to lay the groundwork for her school's dual enrollment program with a local community college. Her years as a public educator have made her a pro when it comes to practical teaching techniques, creative approaches to delivering content, and differentiating instruction to cater to all learning styles. Rebecca obtained both her bachelor's and master's in English from Longwood University, with focuses in education and writing. When she isn't working or trying to keep up with her active toddler, Rebecca loves writing speculative fiction (that's fancy talk for sci-fi and fantasy); she has even published a few short stories and she fancies the idea of one day publishing a novel.
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Deverick Strand

Instructional Designer

Deverick Strand is an Instructional Designer committed to enhancing the online student experience through the implementation of best practices and considerations of accessibility. Prior to joining Online@VCU Deverick worked in K12 teaching and professional development where he focused on technology integration and engaging instructional pedagogy to meet the needs of all learners. He looks forward to adding those experiences mixed with his love of educational technologies to reach even more students. When he’s not designing quality online instruction, Deverick enjoys pursing his new found love of running and acting like a tourist in the city he’s lived in for 20 years.
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Ginny Thompson

Instructional Designer

Ginny Thompson enjoys supporting faculty with the creation of engaging digital learning environments. Prior to joining to Virginia Commonwealth University, she was an instructional designer for six years at St. Vincent’s College in Bridgeport, Connecticut, helping to launch several online programs, including an RN-BSN program. Ginny has experience evaluating the quality of online courses, holding a Quality Matters Peer Reviewer certification. She taught Educational Technology at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, Maryland for five years and has a masters degree in Education from the University of Michigan. A recent transplant to RVA, she enjoys hitting the Buttermilk Trail, riding her bike in the Fan and learning more about street photography.

Media Production

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Molly Ransone

Associate Director of Learning Media

Molly B. Ransone is passionate about making educational media that amuses and inspires people to learn voraciously. As the Associate Director of Learning Media at VCU ALT Lab, she uses that passion to produce high quality media content for online and face-to-face classes with the goal of aiding faculty in bringing their subjects to life and increasing student engagement. A long time participatory culture advocate, she wants to see everyone try their hand at creativity and media making, and loves working with faculty on designing multimedia student assignments. Prior to moving to Richmond, Molly was the Creative Services Coordinator in Academic Technology at San Francisco State University, where she earned her master’s degree in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts.
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Sean Bullock

Media Specialist

Sean Bullock is a lifelong student interested in writing, compelling visuals, and music-making. Originally pursuing academia in both Psychology and English Literature (obtaining a master’s degree from Duquesne), he somehow found himself as a news camera operator at NBC12 before becoming a media specialist at VCU. When not making videos, Sean is the frontman of local art-rock outfit Minimum Balance.
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Moaz Elemam

Media Specialist

Moaz Elemam is an artist from Virginia. After studying video and animation at VCUarts, he worked as a freelance animator, illustrator, and video editor. A love of reading and learning has always informed his work, and now he’s excited to be at VCU ALT Lab making educational media - a natural synthesis of those interests.
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Melanie Felix

Media Specialist

Melanie Felix is a Kinetic Imaging alumna with a passion for motion design, cultivating creative spaces, and putting the tools for visual expression into the hands of everyone. She was previously a student assistant in The Workshop at VCU and a digital media lab specialist & instructor at the Varina Library. Melanie is excited to make an impact on learning at VCU through educational media.

Web Development & R+D

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Tom Woodward

Associate Director of Innovation

Tom is interested in how technology allows you to think. His educational philosophy is influenced by Maria Montessori, Seymour Papert, and Bret Victor. Tom has spent the last eighteen years focused on blending constructivism and technology in K12 and higher education. His interests include multimedia creation, data visualization, history, APIs, poetry, WordPress, and photography. He continues to try to create new and interesting approaches to learning that take advantage of the important parts of our real world while using technology to expand and extend learning opportunities digitally.
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Jeff Everhart

Full Stack Web Developer

Jeff Everhart is a web developer, teacher, and technologist. Jeff built his first client website in WordPress in 2011, and taught his first online English class in 2013. Since then he has been a passionate advocate for exploiting the intersections between technology, teaching, and the internet. Jeff holds BA and MA degrees in English from Longwood University and currently is working on a graduate certificate in GIS from VCU. As a staunch supporter of OER, Jeff developed and launched an open website for students and teachers of American Romanticism that got 10K monthly views until it was hacked. He (somewhat) jokingly asserts that he taught himself how to program because it seemed faster than counting all of the exclamation points in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass(1855). It wasn’t actually any faster, but in the 1855 version there are 1227.
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Matt Roberts

Full Stack Web Developer

Matt Roberts’s two favorite words ending in ‘y’ – Technology and Simplicity – are at the core of his world of Web Development and Design at ALT LAB. Using his background in communications, design, and coding, he strives to make things with technology that are simple to use and understand for all users. As an alumnus of VCU, he’s thrilled to be sharing his talents with his alma mater. While not thinking in pixels and code, he enjoys running – sometimes to and from things, imaginary and real.
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