Fellows Institute

The Student Life Fellows Institute is a year-long professional development opportunity for professional staff who are entry to mid-level in their career. 

Participants in this program will: 

  • Learn more about the landscape of student affairs and higher education from a practitioner-based point of view.
  • Be exposed to key decision-making leaders at Kent State in an intimate setting that allows for more direct engagement with these leaders.
  • Develop a career action plan that maps out potential opportunities for professional growth and development.

The fellows were selected through a nomination process to participate in the Student Life Fellows Program. The cohort will have monthly meetings with leaders at Kent State, and will engage in a variety of discussions on key issues affecting student affairs and higher education, broadly. Participants will also develop an action plan for navigating their career trajectories that will assist them in identifying potential career positions to aspire to, professional development opportunities, and other learnings.

2023 Student Life Fellows Cohort

Michele Criss Fellows Institute photo

Michele Criss 
Assistant Director Fraternity and Sorority Life 
Center for Student Involvement

Michele Criss currently serves as the Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life in the Center for Student Involvement. Michele graduated from Kent State with her Bachelor of Science in Education in Spring 2020 and is thrilled to be back serving the Kent community & her Alma Mater in this way. After graduating from KSU in 2020, Michele went on to pursue her Master's in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Oklahoma State University and graduated in Spring 2022. Since then, Michele has worked full-time at Long Island University and the University of Akron. 

Sommer Dunleavy Fellows headshot

Sommer Dunlevy 
Assistant Director of Marketing,  
University Housing and Culinary Services 

Sommer Dunlevy, originally from Pennsylvania, received her Bachelor of Science degree from Clarion University with a tri concentration in Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations as well as a minor in Graphic Design. Right out of college, Sommer moved to Ohio and worked as a Graphic Designer for a Record Publishing Company for almost three years. Wanting to expand her knowledge, she took a job as a Public Information Specialist at the Ohio Department of Transportation for a little over three years. Reaching new areas of interest, she and her husband moved to Salisbury Maryland where she became a Recreation Program Manager (6+ years) where she oversaw marketing programs, design publications, displays and ran programming. Staying in the Maryland area, Sommer then moved into higher education and began a job as a Marketing Specialist at Salisbury University under Auxiliary Services. During her 8+ years with SU, she expanded her marketing skills not only as the graphic designer and event planner on staff, but she also earned a Management Master’s Degree with Marketing Specialization in 2020 from the University of Maryland Global Campus. In July 2021 Sommer moved back to the mid-west and joined the Kent State team as the Assistant Director of Marketing, University Housing and Culinary Services. In this role she has spoken at numerous events, won awards, and continues to grow the UHCS Marketing area. 

Edward Hardin Sr Fellows headshot

Edward Lashawn Hardin Sr 
Residential Dining Chef 
University Culinary Services  

Edward Lashawn Hardin Sr. Residential Dining Chef at Kent State. Kent, Ohio, is more than just a place for me, it's where he was born and raised. His time at Theodore Roosevelt High School shaped many of his foundational years, fostering a strong sense of community and belonging. 

 Before stepping into the esteemed halls of Kent State, Edward sharpened his culinary acumen as a Chef at the Gables of Hudson. His journey at Kent State began humbly, starting as a cook. However, with determination, passion, and an unwavering commitment to culinary arts, he progressed to the role of Executive Chef. Today, he takes pride in serving as the Residential Dining Chef, crafting meals that are both delicious and comforting. 

Beyond the kitchen, he always been an advocate for continuous learning. He holds an Associate Degree in Culinary Arts and is currently navigating his way through a bachelor's program in hospitality management. 

Outside of work, he is a devoted father, treasuring every moment he spends with his children.  

Cooking remains a pivotal part of his personal life, and when he's not in the kitchen, you might find him swaying to the rhythm of dance, another passion that has always been close to his heart. 

Janice Johnson Fellows headshot

Janice Johnson 
Mental Health Provide, BIPOC FOCUS CAPS 
Counseling & Psychological Services 

Janice is a two-time graduate from Kent State University, receiving her undergraduate degree in Psychology and graduate degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Janice returned to Kent State in September 2022 in her role as Mental Health Provider-BIPOC Focus, bringing several years of clinical and supervisory experience. In her current role, she is responsible for providing clinical services to students, consultation to the university community, and collaboration with campus partners focused on preventative outreach. 

Julia Keahey Fellows headshot

Julia Keahey 
Video & Digital Marketing Coordinator 
University Housing and Culinary Services 

Julia Keahey grew up in Metro-Detroit. Her passion for nonfiction video production led her to Ithaca College where she majored in Documentary Studies. As a student, she developed and produced Walk on the Mountain, a short-film centering on an anti-coal activist in the heart of coal country. The success of that film led it to compete internationally on the professional film festival circuit against major studios like Netflix, HBO, and the BBC, and received numerous awards and accolades. While traveling the country, Julia also developed a passion for social media marketing for fellow artists, which lead her to creating her own boutique social media agency for creatives and nonprofits. Julia joined University Housing and Culinary Services less than a year ago as the Video & Digital Marketing Coordinator where she creates social media content and video to display on a variety of platforms. Some of her highlights include developing and executing Kent Kraziness, collaborating on Dr. Hilton’s farewell video, and working with the Reactor in DI to develop signage in the DI dining hall. 

Jeff Kingery Fellows headshot

Jeff Kingery 
Recreation Program Coordinator 
Recreation and Wellness Services 

Jeff Kingery (He/Him/His) has been the Student Personnel Coordinator for Recreation and Wellness Services since May of 2022. Jeff is responsible for student staff training and development initiatives and student personnel processes within the department. He received his B.A. in English and B.S.Ed. in Sports Industry from Ohio State University in 2015 and his M.S.Ed. in College Student Personnel (now called Higher Education and Student Affairs) from the University of Dayton in 2017. He has worked in recreation, athletics, and Student Life since 2011 when he received his first job working as a student employee at the Ohio State University's Department of Recreational Sports as a Facility Operations Assistant. He has also been a former Student Facility Coordinator for the Department of Recreational Sports at The Ohio State University, an Academic Support Tutor for the Student-Athlete Support Services Office at The Ohio State University, a Site Manager at Upper Arlington High School's Athletic Department (Columbus, OH), and a Graduate Assistant of Facility Operations and Member Services at the University of Dayton's Campus Recreation department. His most recent position was held at Case Western Reserve University in the Physical Education and Athletics Department as an Assistant Athletic Director of Operations and Member Services (promoted from Manager of Operations and Member Services), where he served the university for nearly five years. He is a proud alumnus of the J. Michael Dunn Sport and Wellness Scholars Living Learning Community program. He has goals to visit every single national park in the United States and eventually build a treehouse one day. 

Sarah Korzan Fellows headshot

Sarah Korzan 
Assistant Director  and Registered Dietitian  
University Culinary Services

Sarah Korzan (she/her) is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian and is a dedicated professional with a multifaceted career in health education and promotion, clinical dietetics, and food service management. She is currently finishing a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Health Education and Promotion and holds a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, both from Kent State University. In her role as the Assistant Director and Registered Dietitian for Kent State Culinary Services, Sarah plays a pivotal role in advocating for food security programs and food-inclusive practices within food service.  Additionally, she is an Adjunct Professor at Kent State University, inspiring future professionals. Sarah’s commitment to promoting health and nutrition continues to shape her career and she is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Student Life Fellowship. 

Abi Mello Fellows headshot

Abi Mello 
Title IX Intake  and Case Coordinator 
Office of Gender Equity and Title IX 

Abi Mello (she/her) is the Title IX Intake and Case Coordinator.  In this role, she is the first point of contact after a report or formal complaint is filed and keeps individuals updated and knowledgeable about the process at every step.  She received an Associate of Arts in General Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Walsh University in North Canton, OH.  Abi previously worked as an Advocate in the City of Cleveland, providing assistance for victims through the criminal and civil justice processes. Abi has also previously interned with KSU SRVSS and volunteered at Townhall II.  Prior to committing to Northeast Ohio, Abi lived in Nebraska, Indiana, Maine, Florida, and Connecticut.  Outside of work, Abi enjoys watching Red Wings hockey, painting, and updating her dog’s Instagram page.  She is honored to be a member of the 4th cohort of the Student Life Fellows Institute and looks forward to this opportunity to learn and develop professionally. 

Jim Piascik Fellows headshot

Jim Piascik 
Senior Business Manager  
Division of Student Life 

Jim Piascik (he/him) is from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and is a three-time graduate of Kent State University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History in 2012, his Master of Arts in Journalism and mass Communication – Reporting/Editing for Print and Online Media in 2014, and his Master of Business Administration in 2020. Jim joined the Division of Student Life in July 2022 as the Senior Business Manager for the Advocacy, Support, & well-being and Equity, Identity, and Success pillars of the division. In this role, he is responsible for planning, development, and management of departmental budgets and foundation accounts, implementing and managing a monthly budget reconciliation process and budget forecast, and serving as the point of first contact on all fiscal, budget, and personnel/human resources questions, issues, and procedures. Previously, Jim served as the Associate Director of the TRIO Student Support Services program in Kent State’s University College, a department he worked in for eight years. When he is not at work, Jim enjoys running, cheering on the Cleveland Guardians, and spending time with his wife and two kids. 

Janda Roberts

Janda Roberts 
Outreach Program Coordinator 
CARES Center 

Janda Roberts (she/her) serves as the Outreach Program Coordinator for the CARES Center. In this role she develops pathways to advocacy and educational initiatives that support student access to food security, housing security, financial empowerment, and mental well-being. Prior to this, in 2016, she began her higher education career in academic affairs supporting student retention and completion efforts. Janda is a 2006 alumna of Kent State University and is currently in the Master of Public Administration program. She enjoys traveling down rabbit holes of information, unlimited forms of humor – especially witty banter, and taking adventures with her husband and toddler. You can find Janda at your local coffee shop enjoying at least 4 shots of iced espresso with light almond milk.  

Laura Rodriguez Fellows headshot

Laura Rodríguez 
Administrative Assistant 
University Culinary Services 

Laura Rodríguez (she/her/ella) is a dynamic professional with a proven track record in leadership and administration. As a seasoned Spanish-English Translator, she holds a Master of Arts in Translation and a Bachelor's in Business Administration and Human Resources and brings forth a wealth of experience in various roles at Kent State University and beyond. Laura excels not only in linguistic proficiency but also in her capacity for leadership. Her extensive background encompasses financial aid counseling, administrative assistance, and active involvement in academic and administrative initiatives. Laura is bilingual, highly organized, and dedicated to delivering exceptional service. Her leadership roles, including Vice Chair of the KSU Latino Network Caucus, Former Chair of the KSU Student Financial Aid Office Presentation Committee, and membership in the Classification Appeals Committee, highlight her ability to inspire and lead teams towards common goals while advocating for diversity and inclusion within the university community. Originally from Bayamón, Puerto Rico, Laura enjoys spending time with her family, husband and dog Diego. 

Meghan Schwind Fellows headshot

Meghan Schwind 
Assistant director 
LGBTQ+ Center 

Meghan Schwind, M.A. (she/her), serves as the assistant director of the LGBTQ+ Center. Meghan earned a Bachelor of Education in health and physical education with a minor in aquatics, and a Master of Arts in student affairs in higher education from Slippery Rock University (SRU).  While a college student, Meghan played on the women’s rugby team, and went on to coach at SRU, Colorado Mesa University, and California University of PA. 

Prior to joining the LGBTQ+ Center, Meghan worked as the chief deputy clerk and administrative secretary for the Wayne County Probate and Juvenile Court. Meghan has previously worked at KSU in the Department of Residence Services in multiple roles from 2015 to 2020.  Meghan completed the KSU Institute for Excellence, ATIXA Title IX Investigator Training School, Green Dot Trainer training, and Mental Health First Aid USA training to further her knowledge and abilities to be a stronger advocate for college students. 

Meghan lives with her wife, son, and two pit bull mix dogs. She enjoys spending time with family, attending the Playhouse Square Broadway musical series as a season ticket holder with her sister, and engaging in outdoor activities. She has trained one of her dogs, Raven, to successfully pass the Therapy Dog International test.  As a team, they have volunteered on the Kent campus with Dogs on Campus and at the Kent Free Library with the Paws to Read. 

Chrissy Walter Fellows headshot

Chrissy Walter 
Case Manager  
CARES Center 

Chrissy serves as a Case Manager in the CARES Center and holds 2 degrees from Kent State University.  In 2011, Chrissy earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and has worked as a therapist in a variety of settings, where she has helped others to connect with their authentic selves and walk in self-compassion.  Chrissy continues this philosophy in her journey as a Case Manager at the CARES Center.  Chrissy is passionate about helping others, advocating for change, and creating a space for all voices and creativity.  In her spare time, Chrissy enjoys music, art, cooking, watching Cleveland sports and spending time with her family and friends. 

Emma Weihe Fellows headshot

Emma Weihe 
Accessibility Specialist,  
Student Accessibility Services 

Emma Weihe (she/her) is an Access Consultant with Student Accessibility Services at Kent State University. In this role, Emma works with students to identify disability-related barriers in the college setting and determine appropriate accommodations and relevant resources. She believes that all students, regardless of ability, deserve the opportunity to engage with all aspects of the Kent State community. Additionally, Emma serves as the chair for ABLE: Access Betters the Lives of Everyone, an employee resource group for KSU employees in the disability community. She also works as a facilitator for the Adult Social Club at the Autism Society of Greater Akron. Emma received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Ohio State University and her Master of Arts in Child Study and Human Development from Tufts University. In her free time, Emma enjoys knitting and drawing—ideally with an iced coffee in hand! 

Kaleigh Whatley Fellows headshot

Kaleigh Whatley 
Residence Hall Director 
University Housing  

Kaleigh Whatley is a current Residence Hall Director with University Housing. She got her M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and Student Affairs at Kent State University in Spring 2023. Kaleigh also holds a B.S. in Mass Communications from University of West Georgia in Spring 2020. In her free time, Kaleigh likes to go out into nature to bike or take a walk. She also likes to listen to music and play video games! 

Pamela Wind Fellows headshot

Pamela Wind 
Counseling & Psychological Services 

Pamela Wind is a licensed Psychologist with extensive experience providing mental health assessment and treatment. Pamela joined CAPS in early 2014 as a staff Psychologist, providing therapy services to students. She previously worked in private practice in Kent, having provided counseling and assessment to children, adolescents, adults, and families with a wide variety of concerns. Dr. Wind has also been an active member of the University Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) since 2015.