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Walden Magazine // Jul 20, 2020

Faces of Walden

In our last issue, we had the honor of featuring 25 members of the Walden community whose passion and work capture the spirit of who we are and strive to be. As we continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary, we’re pleased to share the stories of another 25 students, faculty, and staff members who are making their communities and the world a better place.

The innovators, advocates, change agents, visionaries, and catalysts featured here include an educator partnering with NASA, a Buddhist monk helping people handle stress, and a former businesswoman building stronger local organizations in Tanzania. While their stories are diverse, they share one thing: They show the good our community can—and does—create.

Michele Mailhot
Michele Mailhot

Michele Mailhot
MS in Education ’09

Michele Mailhot ’09, MS in Education, exposes young minds to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related subjects, and her commitment is as big and deep as the night sky. Mailhot, a mathematics specialist with the Maine Department of Education, was part of a team of educators and scientists who created the NASA-sponsored Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science (ARES) Expedition Earth and Beyond program. ARES is a class curriculum that uses astronaut photography from shuttle missions and the International Space Station to allow students to study geological features on Earth in ways that mirror the investigations conducted by NASA scientists. In addition to working for the State of Maine, Mailhot’s long career in education has included working as a math teacher in middle and high schools.

Raquel Battle

Dr. Raquel Battle
PhD in Health Services ’19

Dr. Raquel Battle ’19, PhD in Health Services, is an advocate for change and care.

Battle is the founder and executive director of the BlissfulSage Foundation, a nonprofit that operates the Edlin Leslie Sr. Hospice in the village where she grew up in Belize. She’s also a leader advocating for improving healthcare for underserved populations.

Battle is a whirlwind of compassion and action. The BlissfulSage Foundation broke ground on construction of a six-bed hospice and wellness center, the first of its kind in southern Belize, and the nonprofit continues to inspire hope and comfort for individuals impacted by cancer, HIV, and diabetes. When the COVID-19 crisis began hitting New York City, where Battle currently resides, she and the BlissfulSage Foundation organized and shipped care kits to families in the Bronx who had tested positive.

Dr. Dennie Beach

Dr. Dennie Beach
PhD in Public Policy and Administration ’10

From his New York City-based business, Dr. Dennie Beach ’10, PhD in Public Policy and Administration, can see change occurring 7,000 miles away.

Beach is CEO and president of Go Africa Network Inc., a nonprofit that advances the trade of African commodities and technologies from a number of perspectives, all with an eye toward improving African economic and business opportunities. As part of its efforts, Go Africa has developed a branded line of African-made goods for retail and wholesale customers, including items such as coffee, cashews, and teas.

In 2019, the company began selling Go Africa branded products on in the U.S., creating additional opportunities for global brand recognition and demand, furthering its goal of improving development opportunities in Africa.

Dr. Shawna Charles

Happily Taking Action

Dr. Shawna Charles helps others by coaching them to help themselves.

Dr. Shawna Charles ’13, PhD in Psychology, is a self-proclaimed “actionist”—someone who moves from intent to achievement and then motivates others to do the same.

Earlier in her career, Charles owned a boxing gym in Los Angeles where she spent as much time counseling and supporting people with their lives and careers as she did with their physical conditioning. In that endeavor and others in her professional and personal life, her core focus has always been about relationships and how they can build better people, better organizations, and a better world.

After selling the boxing gym, Charles exercised her actionist persona by embarking on a challenging personal and professional reassessment. That journey brought her to the realization that her own strength and experiences could be used to help others build personal and professional relationships that create change.

“I had the education, I was a mother, I was financially stable, but I was still trying to find my purpose,” she says. “I hired a coach and began to let go of my fear of failure. I realized I was good enough.”

Her internal voyage led her to create two successful businesses that, while focused on unique professional areas, are both driven by her core commitment to help others by coaching them to help themselves.

Charles’ Information Xchange Group is a public relations firm focused on protecting, promoting, and evolving corporate brands. Her other firm, the appropriately named Think to Be Happy, is a management consulting firm that helps companies develop, build, and maintain strategic partnerships to enhance their image and position. In short, Charles is not only thinking to be happy, she’s taking action on it. “My professional and personal life is driven,” she says. “Being happy is about living intentionally, taking action, and maximizing your strengths. Counseling others how to do that is one way to help create change personally, professionally, and globally.”

Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero

Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) ’15
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) ’17

Compassionate healthcare providers like Dr. Alvin Mena Cantero ’17, DNP, have provided healing and hope throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cantero is the founder of the Alvin Clinica Familiar, a Houston clinic that provides cost-effective care to patients in the Hispanic and African-American communities. Throughout the pandemic, he has worked at both the clinic and a local Houston hospital, putting in 14- to 16-hour days.

Cantero has also engaged local food banks, the YMCA, federal organizations, and community leaders to enhance risk perception and support underserved populations.

Channeling Tough Emotions

Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson explores storytelling to help children of incarcerated parents.

While conducting a focus group study with caregivers of children with incarcerated parents, Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson ’15, PhD in Human Services, will never forget what one participant told her: An 8-year-old child tried to take his own life after his father went to prison. She says it broke her heart.

“When I think about the stigma and the shame associated with having a parent in prison, I ask myself, ‘Do these children even stand a chance?’ But I always come back with a strong sense of hope,” Hart-Johnson says.

A 2018 Outstanding Alumni Award recipient, Hart-Johnson is president and co-founder of DC Project Connect, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide crisis intervention and information resources to families affected by incarceration and to support reentry initiatives that strengthen families.

Dr. Avon Hart-Johnson

A published author and researcher, she has lectured nationally and internationally on the psychological and social impacts of mass incarceration. She was recently named vice president of the International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents, a global consortium that supports the well-being of children of prisoners.

For the past year, Hart-Johnson led a special research project that focused on the use of story-telling as an intervention when discussing parental incarceration with children.

“My Story and Me” is the result of this research. It’s a digital portal that provides resources, including activity sheets, discussion starters, and answers to frequently asked questions, to help caregivers facilitate healthy conversations with children about incarceration. Hart-Johnson and two fellow researchers wrote four children’s books featuring colorful animal characters who help children make sense of their parents’ imprisonment. Caregivers can access the audiobooks from the portal, or they can purchase paperback copies.

Hart-Johnson and her team used the theoretical framework they developed from their research to create a comprehensive curriculum for social workers and human services workers to help children of incarcerated parents.

Since 2015, Hart-Johnson has served as a contributing faculty member in Walden’s School of Human Services in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “I feel so grateful and humbled to have the chance to share my passion with doctoral students, and I’m proud to be connected to a group of colleagues who are just phenomenal,” she says

Dr. W. Sumner Davis

Dr. W. Sumner Davis
MS in Forensic Psychology Student
MS in Criminal Justice ’20
Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) ’18
PhD in Public Health ’15
Master of Public Health (MPH) ’11

After an injury ended his construction career, Dr. W. Sumner Davis ’15, PhD in Public Health, turned to education to find meaning. Since completing his bachelor’s degree at 32, Davis has earned multiple master’s and doctoral degrees and advanced certificates. Currently, he is working on another master’s degree at Walden University and a clinical master’s degree in infectious disease and tropical medicine at the University of London. Davis has completed training with the CDC and FEMA. He is a clinical epidemiologist and senior scientific advisor for several nonprofit agencies and a contributing faculty member and research reviewer at Walden.

Dr. Analena Lunde

Dr. Analena Lunde
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) ’18
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) ’13

Early in her nursing career, Dr. Analena Lunde ’18, DNP, learned about the lack of medical training and information about sexual violence in her community and began spreading awareness. As a human trafficking navigator and youth specialist at Youthworks, Lunde provides training and case management support to survivors of sex and labor trafficking. She is also the lead sexual assault forensic nurse examiner for Central Dakota Forensic Nurse Examiners and serves on various human trafficking and forensic nurse council boards. “Awareness and education are the most powerful tools we have to not only reach and help survivors but also to prevent this from happening,” Lunde says.

Image: Analena Lunde - Must credit Heather Landis Photography.tif Photo credit: Heather Landis Photography

David Hartness

David Hartness
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) Student
Master of Business Administration (MBA) ’13

Hartness is a program manager with statewide educational nonprofit InvestED in Renton, Washington, which helps nearly 25,000 students annually by providing funds to cover fees for academic testing, sports equipment, musical instrument rentals, and more. This spring, Hart-ness assisted in the creation of an emergency fund to help students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic that raised $1 million in its first month. He is also working on a second novel. His first novel, Amani’s River, tells the story of a child forced into the Mozambique Civil War. The story was inspired by Hartness’ experience living in the country while working with the Peace Corps. The novel received a 2015 National Indie Excellence Award and an indieBRAG medallion.

Christina Dalpiaz

Christina Dalpiaz
MS in Psychology ’07

After escaping an abusive home and serving in the U.S. Navy for 22 years, Dalpiaz focused her career on creating safe havens for children. In 1996, she founded CHANCE (Changing How Adults Nurture Children’s Egos), a nonprofit agency that trains adults to be advocates for children’s health and safety. As an award-winning author and nationally recognized expert on preventing child abuse and domestic violence, Dalpiaz has been featured on CNN International, the Dr. Drew show, and Women’s Radio Network. Recently, she has focused her work on ending the stigmatizing labels society assigns to those dealing with mental illness or substance abuse. “By changing labels, language, and attitudes toward those in pain, they are much more willing to open up and empower themselves,” she says.

Acquiring the Future

Dr. Donald Schlomer uses doctoral research to modernize the military.

Dr. Donald Schlomer ’17, DBA, believes that his doctoral research has directly resulted in his career success.

An acquisition specialist and retired Army officer, Schlomer started working with the Army’s Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) in 2002, aiding in the identification of what equipment and weapons are needed to keep the military running and relevant. He focused his Walden doctoral study on improving JCIDS by focusing on the inefficiencies and de-lays caused by the approval process.

Dr. Donald Schlomer

“Technology advances every 14 to 18 months, but the current process takes 72 to 90 months,” he says. “That effectively leaves our military personnel inadequately equipped. By streamlining the process, our troops are better prepared to protect U.S. citizens, all while saving taxpayer dollars.”

Schlomer’s research has been widely recognized. In addition to receiving Walden’s 2018 Frank Dilley Award for Outstanding Doctoral Study, Schlomer has discussed his research recommendations with top generals, as well as staff members under the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of Defense. He has twice shared his insights with former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. In 2017, he was handpicked as the only nonmilitary, nongovernment civilian member of the Army Futures Command, a cross-functional task force that looked at modernizing military equipment.

Since 2015, Schlomer has worked for Special Operations Command (SOCOM) in Tampa, Florida. This year, he was promoted to the role of policy manager for Special Operations Forces Acquisition, Technology & Logistics (SOF AT&L) Acquisition Operations. SOF AT&L is responsible for all SOCOM research, development, acquisition, procurement, and logistics.

The new role allows Schlomer to directly apply his doctoral research to execute strategies for streamlining government acquisitions. He will also have the opportunity for his work to be featured in publications such as The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology and Army AL&T magazine.

“People often talk about the value of getting a doctorate,” he says. “I can guarantee that if I did not have my doctorate, I would not be sitting here in the position I’m in today. You can’t under-estimate the value of a degree like this and the opportunities it can give you.”

Dr. Nicole Rankine

Dr. Nicole Rankine
PhD in Public Health ’15
Master of Public Health ’10

A youth influencer, educator, and John Maxwell Team certified personal growth coach, Rankine is the CEO of the COLE Academy of Personal Growth, LLC, which helps students and the leaders who support them enhance their leadership skills, communication, and personal growth. She provides personal development and leadership programs for individuals and communities around the world. In 2019, she served more than 2,500 individuals through various national workshops, trainings, and coaching programs. Recently, Rankine was selected to become a mentor with the Steve & Marjorie Harvey Foundation’s Girls Who Rule the World (GWRTW) program. She is the author of Adulting in My Purpose, a journal to help millennials with personal development.

Gia Smith

Gia Smith
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Student
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) ’12

As the former CEO of American Specialty Healthcare Corporation and a former consultant for American Advanced Management Group, Smith’s efforts led to the opening of several hospitals and healthcare facilities serving low-income patients in rural Modesto, California. In 2019, she launched her own consulting firm, GRN Consultants, which assists healthcare organizations in developing new patient facilities. Smith has also opened two gyms and a restaurant/bar in her community, and she plans to open a third gym as well as a congregate living facility. In addition to being a successful businesswoman, Smith is a literal lifesaver: In 2018, she saved the life of a man having a heart attack on a cross-country flight. “As a nurse, having the ability to help and save lives is amazing,” she says. “I’m happy I was on that plane.”

Dr. Alexandria Osborne

Dr. Alexandria Osborne
PhD in Management ’10

Inspired by her PhD to create positive social change, Osborne left a 30-year career at pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Upjohn to move to rural Lindi, Tanzania. There, she founded the Lindi Islamic Foundation of Tanzania (LIFT) to provide education, healthcare, and food security to the low-income community. Seven years later, the foundation has secured a reputation of integrity throughout the region by overseeing projects such as the construction of 26 toilet facilities for a local primary school and the delivery of flour and beans for families displaced by flooding. Though she has transferred out of her main leadership role, Osborne continues her involvement with LIFT as a strategist and fundraiser.

Dr. Derek Olson

Dr. Derek Olson
Doctor of Education (EdD) ’15

Dr. Derek Olson ’15, EdD, is a middle school teacher in Minnesota and the 2008 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. Olson advocates for government policies that support effective teacher development and equitable teacher evaluation. In addition to lobbying state legislators, he has co-authored multiple research publications and presentations on teacher quality, including studies with Educational Testing Service, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Olson is also an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin.

On the Front Lines of the COVID Crisis

Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell

Dr. Amanda Robison-Chadwell is on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, helping lead her Tex-as county’s efforts to manage the pandemic.

Dr. Amanda Robinson-Chadwell ’17, PhD in Public Health, is an epidemiologist and the director of the Bell County Public Health District in Central Texas. During the COVID-19 crisis, she’s served as the face of the health district—helping manage COVID-related issues affecting the county’s more than 350,000 residents as well as participating in press conferences and working to keep the public informed. In addition to her PhD, she holds a Master of Public Health from Walden and an undergraduate degree in anthropology.

Kimberly Portanova-Feibus

Kimberly Portanova-Feibus
MS in Mental Health Counseling ’12

Since 2011, Portanova-Feibus has worked at Marley’s Mission, a nonprofit organization that provides equine-based therapy to youth and their families who have experienced trauma. In addition to seeing clients, Portanova-Feibus was promoted to the position of clinical director, which requires her to work closely with colleagues to ensure they are providing top-quality mental health treatment for each client. In 2015, she and seven teammates received the mission’s Remembering Zachary Award, which recognizes the efforts of individuals who promote awareness of child abuse. “Through equine-assisted therapy, we help children shift from victims to survivors,” Portanova-Feibus says.

Dr. Rafael Matos

Dr. Rafael Matos
PhD in Psychology ’13

Dr. Rafael Matos ’13, PhD in Psychology, uses his Walden education to approach complex defense issues by taking into consideration the human factors involved with them.

After retiring as a lieutenant commander from the U.S. Navy, he went on to a successful civilian career as a research analyst and organizational psychologist. In 2019, he founded management consulting firm Research Alliance LLC, where he combines his psychology training with his experience in trend analysis and mathematical modeling. Research Alliance works with the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Activity (JCITA) program, which enables the U.S. intelligence community to protect the country from adversarial intelligence threats. The firm also works with nonmilitary and nonprofit organizations to provide services such as operations research analysis and industrial/organizational psychology solutions.

Dr. Carol Ikard

Dr. Carol Ikard
Doctor of Education ’16

Dr. Carol Ikard ’16, Doctor of Education, takes art off the walls and brings it to the people.

In 2009, she founded the Texas Museum of Fiber Arts (TMFA), a unique institution that fosters education and creativity in fiber art expression, experience, and appreciation. The TMFA exhibits works by Texas artists who use natural and synthetic fibers, but what makes it truly distinctive is that it’s a museum without walls. Instead of a traditional brick-and-mortar location, Ikard and the TMFA take educational activities and art exhibits to locations where people work and live. Over the years, exhibits have been placed in high-traffic areas, from the Texas Capitol to the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. As a next step, Ikard is continuing the research she did for her doctoral thesis and looking at ways to extend the visual arts through technology.

Dr. Krista Laursen

Dr. Krista Laursen
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) ’13

Dr. Krista Laursen ’13, Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), has been a contributing faculty member in Walden’s DBA program since 2016. This year, she received the Rita Turner Award for her work as chair of Dr. Carolyn Mack’s DBA committee. Prior to joining the Walden faculty, Laursen spent more than two decades working as a senior project manager and executive for various organizations in the nonprofit research and higher education sectors. In 2019, she joined the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to provide project management support for the institution’s large-scale strategic initiatives. She is also the founder and principal of a consulting firm that specializes in guiding individuals and organizations in the design and implementation of effective project management plans and processes.

Laura Bulluck

Laura Bulluck
MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership ’10

Laura Bulluck is a leader and forward thinker who continuously works to find new ways to help her community and the people in it.

She earned her MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Walden in 2010, the same year she founded Hope’s Crossing, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that helps women in transition build healthy, sustainable lives. Services include training programs in life skills and job readiness.

Bulluck also combines her education and philanthropy as founder and CEO of consulting firm Laura Bulluck LLC. Her “I Can Plan” system guides individuals through seven steps that provide structure, systems, and detailed planning to help make dreams a reality.

Dr. Annette Padilla

Dr. Annette Padilla
PhD in Public Policy and Administration ’13

Dr. Annette Padilla ’13 is building bridges across languages and cultures around the world.

Padilla is a professor and researcher whose educational résumé crisscrosses the globe from Maine to Vietnam to the United Arab Emirates. Before pursuing her PhD in Public Policy and Administration at Walden, a two-year contract at California Miramar University that allowed her to teach in Vietnam inspired her passion for international education and curriculum development. Since then she’s also taught undergraduate business classes at Jiangnan University North American College in Wuxi, China. In 2020, she added to her global résumé, taking a position teaching English as a second language to female students with Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal University.

Dr. Quyen Ho

Dr. Quyen Ho
PhD in Psychology ’17

Dr. Quyen Ho ’17, PhD in Psychology, is working to improve the world through a spiritual refuge in Louisiana where seekers can find inner peace.

Ho has been abbot and president of the Buddhist Tam Bao Temple and its associated meditation center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, since 2003. The temple is an inclusive spiritual refuge where more than 100 Buddhists attend weekly Sunday services in Vietnamese, and 50 to 90 people attend a Friday night nondenominational mindful meditation. Ho studied psychology at Georgia State University and earned a master’s degree in counseling at Southeastern Louisiana University. He says his education has allowed him to counsel those seeking help, either at the temple or at local mental health and addiction treatment facilities where he also provides counseling. “True Buddhism for me is to encourage everyone to reflect on themselves and discover their own potential,” he says.

Continuing His Change Journey

Dr. Walter McCollum

Dr. Walter McCollum believes in celebrating his students and their learning.

Dr. Walter McCollum ’04, PhD in Applied Management and Decision Sciences, has left a significant legacy behind him at Walden. After serving nearly three years as Walden’s executive director and dean of student affairs, McCollum this summer began a new position as vice president for online learning at Miami Dade College in Florida. His influence, though, will remain.

McCollum has accumulated vast experience in the worlds of education, military, and business. His greatest impact, though, may have been in his constant effort to mentor students throughout his time at Walden. He was a counselor and inspiration to countless students, even at one point hosting his own Scholars’ Gala to honor those who exemplified his philosophy of achieving academic excellence and impacting social change.

McCollum is a Fulbright Scholar and the author of seven books. He has been employed by several major organizations working in military contracting, including Lucent Technologies and Lockheed Martin. Prior to working in the private sector, McCollum, a Desert Storm veteran, served 13 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Dr. Jack Monell

Dr. Jack Monell
PhD in Human Services ’05

Dr. Jack Monell ’05, PhD in Human Services, is an educator with passion and heart.

An associate professor and program coordinator of justice studies at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in North Carolina, Monell is a social justice scholar and advocate who uses his personal and professional experiences to make a difference in the lives of others. Courses he teaches at WSSU include Police & Community and Drugs, Crime, and Justice. His research interests focus on Afro-Latino youth and their families, pop culture, and delinquency paradigm shifts.

In addition to his academic responsibilities, Monell serves as a consultant for local, state, and federal agencies. He is a member of the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the North Carolina Criminal Justice Association.