There are nine faculty among the 21 members of the 2020 cohort of the President’s Leadership Institute. The PLI is a nine-month leadership development program that invests, supports and develops professional and personal leadership in a diverse community of faculty and staff. The institute enables participants to build individual effectiveness, understand the power of critical thinking and communication and embrace their own ability to lead.

PLI participants learn about the University’s structure and landscape from President Jim Clements, other leaders and each other; explore issues and opportunities facing Clemson and higher education; are exposed to perspectives of Clemson’s impact on the state, national and international level; and have dialogue and discussion on topics important to Clemson, its environment and constituents. Read more about the 2020 PLI here.

Here are the faculty participants in this year’s cohort. The staff members will be profiled in the Aug. 5 OUR Clemson newsletter.

Sean Brittain

Sean Brittain

As a professor of physics and chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy,  Sean Brittain directs faculty and educational initiatives. He also teaches courses in astronomy and physics. His recent research activities are focused on the formation and detection of planets in young circumstellar disks. He obtained his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Notre Dame and was a Michelson Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory. Brittain has run numerous science outreach initiatives in the local region, including a three-year program for K-12 teachers in Laurens County. He received a National Science Foundation CAREER award and has served as principal investigator on multiple awards from the NSF and NASA. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed papers and graduated three Ph.D. students and eight Master of Science students. He presently advises four Ph.D. students. He has also directed research projects for more than 30 undergraduates since arriving at Clemson in 2006.

Natasha Croom

Natasha Croom

Natasha N. Croom is an associate professor of higher education and student affairs in the College of Education. A critical race feminist scholar-practitioner, Croom works in and with communities to support the creation of practices and policies steeped in equity-based ideologies and andra- and pedagogies across postsecondary contexts. Her professional goals include preparing students to be critical consumers of scholarship who value introspection and experiential knowledge to create equitable environments and opportunities for learning and practice regardless of their roles in higher education institutions. She also wants to use her scholarship about faculty and students toward identifying and disrupting interlocking systems of oppression that manifest within and are reinforced by institutions of higher education. She also hopes to participate in the governance of the institution and the development of the practical and scholarly directions of higher education while holding institutions and the field accountable to equity-centered practice and change. Croom’s philosophy of leadership centers on carrying out a vision to work collectively toward creating equitable, anti-oppressive structures, policies and practices that support everyone’s abilities to fully participate to meet their and others’ needs while maintaining physical and psychological safety and security.

Lori Dickes

Lori Dickes

Lori A. Dickes  is associate chair of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and associate professor and program coordinator for the Public Administration Program. Her teaching and research leverage training in economics and policy analysis to better understand rural and regional development across different geographies and in different contexts. Rural entrepreneurship, broadband access and availability, economic development, public health and natural resource policy, among others, are all areas she researches. Utilizing expertise in a wide range of methods, Dickes’ research seeks to understand how communities and regions create innovative and transformative policy and institutions to sustain economically, environmentally and socially healthy communities. In administrative roles, Dickes focuses on developing a positive environmental culture; a strong team work ethic; and effective, common sense organizational processes and procedures.

Mariela Fernandez

Mariela Fernandez

Mariela Fernandez is an assistant professor in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Her research uses an environmental justice lens to examine the lack of access to green spaces in Latinx communities. Her latest projects consider matters of community engagement, cultural competence and the unintended consequences of increasing green space, such as gentrification and tension between groups. Her previous research has included projects focused on the programmatic aspects limiting Latinx participation at a recreation center, the development of life skills in Latinx youth and the cultural competence youth leaders need to address challenges arising from an increasingly diverse society. She also works with faculty from across the University to diversify STEM programs among racially marginalized groups.

Kevin Finneran

Kevin Finneran

Kevin Finneran is a professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences. His research investigates combined microbial and chemical reactions for environmental remediation and environmental microbiology processes. He received his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and his Bachelor of Science degree in environmental sciences from Rutgers University. Prior to Clemson University, he was an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and was a remediation scientist at Geosyntec Inc. He was named a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences in 2012. He is owner and principal of Finneran Environmental, LLC, a specialty remediation consulting firm. He lives in Clemson with his wife, Stephanie O’Brien (an academic adviser in CECAS), and their children, Harrison and Piper. If he isn’t working, you will find him with his family on Lake Keowee‚ not checking email.

Carter McElveen

Carter McElveen

Carter McElveen  is a senior lecturer of marketing in the College of Business. After earning her Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Clemson University in 2003, she began her sales career at Eli Lilly and Company. She received her Master of Business Administration degree in 2010 from the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business. McElveen spent eight years in sales before returning to Clemson to teach in 2011. She is involved in the Sales Innovation Program and serves as the program engagement liaison. She teaches principles of marketing, professional selling and the capstone course for the sales certificate. McElveen’s students are very involved with hands-on learning, including selling for the Tiger Paw Classic golf tournament. McElveen was named an Alumni Master Teacher in 2016. She currently advises Blue Key Honor Society and is the president of the Fort Hill Clemson Club. She enjoys cooking, reading and traveling and lives in Clemson with her husband, Andy, and children, Nora Lynn and Willis.

Thompson Mefford

Thompson Mefford

Thompson Mefford graduated in 2003 with an honors degree in textile and polymer chemistry and minor in philosophy from Clemson University. He then attended Virginia Tech, where he earned his Ph.D. in macromolecular science and engineering in 2007. For his Ph.D., he worked on the development of treatments for retinal detachment using hydrophobic ferrofluids. He then was a postdoctoral researcher for the Ohio State University department of chemistry. Mefford joined the faculty of the Materials Science and Engineering Department at Clemson in fall 2008. His research focuses on developing stable, polymer-iron oxide nanoparticle complexes and composites for biomedical applications. These applications include developing materials for magnetically modulated energy delivery, MRI contrast agents and drug-delivery systems. In his free time, Mefford may be found running, cycling, sailing, backpacking and homebrewing.

Suzanne Rook Schilf

Suzanne Rook Schilf

Suzanne Rook Schilf  is the head of Information & Research Services at the Clemson University Libraries. In this role, she directs all unit services, including circulation, reserves, interlibrary loans, instruction and research services in Cooper Library, the Gunnin Architecture Library and the Education Media Center. Schilf received her Master of Library Science degree from the University of Alabama and her Bachelor of Arts in English from Clemson. Since beginning her career as an academic reference librarian, she has seen many changes in the ways students and faculty discover, evaluate and use information. Her research interests involve assessment of user experience and library services as she strives to design and evolve user-focused and high-quality services for the Clemson community.

Valerie Zimany

Valerie Zimany

Valerie Zimany is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Art. She completed her Master of Fine Arts at Kanazawa College of Art through the Fulbright and Japanese Government Scholar programs and was recently honored with a Fulbright-Hays grant to return as a guest researcher. Her research interests include contemporary Japanese art, cultural confluence in export wares and utilizing digital manufacturing tools to explore historic enamelware patterns and the artisan virtuosity required in their creation. Zimany exhibits her work nationally and internationally and her art resides in numerous collections, including the Taipei Yingge Ceramic Museum, Taiwan; the American Museum of Ceramic Art; the World Ceramic Museum, Korea; and the Slovenia National Museum. She has lectured in China, Korea, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom, and she received the American Craft Council’s Searchlight Artist Award, the Hambidge Center’s Antinori Distinguished Fellowship and the Cluj International Ceramics Biennale’s Award of Excellence.