Faculty & Staff

Get to know this year's faculty and staff.
Leadership Team
Randall Black
Academic Dean

Background

RANDALL BLACK, Academic Dean of the Commonwealth Honors Academy and professor of music, begins 17th year with the Academy (having served as Student Life Dean for the initial 13 years) and his thirty-first year of teaching voice at Murray State University. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Southern Illinois University (Music Department's Distinguished Alumnus Award, '96-'97) and his Master and Doctor of Music degrees from Indiana University. As a professional singer, he has appeared in the United States and Europe including performances with: Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony, St. Martin-in-the-Field Church in London, the Santa Fe Opera, and as a soloist in Carnegie Hall.

Dr. Black has served on the national board (Secretary/Treasurer) for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) as well as the NATS Foundation Board, and as regional governor for the National Opera Association. He taught for twelve years as a faculty member of the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, and has been recognized with Teaching Awards from the Music Department (Charles and Marlene Johnson Outstanding Music Faculty Award) and Murray State University (Regents Award). He and his wife, Kim, also a music teacher, have two children.

Jeff Wylie
Student Life Dean

Background

JEFF WYLIE, Student Life Dean, is a social worker who has been teaching in the Social Work Program at Murray State University since 1997. Jeff has an MSW and an MDiv degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and was a therapist and administrator with Four Rivers Behavioral Health in Paducah for 8 years working with families and children specializing in parenting and behavior disorders in children. He has worked with victims of sexual assault and supervised therapists in child advocacy and sexual assault centers as well as mental health therapists in the region. Prior to his career in social work, Jeff worked for 7 years as a staff person with Young Life – a Christian outreach program to un-churched high school students in Louisville and Bowling Green, KY. With Young Life Jeff served as a high school group leader and as area director for all the Young Life clubs in the area. Jeff’s wife, Jennifer, is a physical therapist and together they have 3 adult children. In addition to teaching, Jeff is involved with his church, private clinical practice, and enjoys playing the guitar and fly-fishing.

Lori Rogers
Administrative Assistant

Background

LORI ROGERS is the administrative assistant for the Murray State Honors Program and the primary contact for prospective CHA students. Having served in this position for 26 years, Lori enjoys building relationships with both university Honors students and the CHA students. She was recognized in 2011 by the MSU Student Government Association for her commitment to students and their success with the Jim Baurer Staff Service Award given annually to one exemplary staff member. Her favorite part of CHA is watching the students build friendships within the CHA community.

She studied history at MSU and family history through distance learning courses from Brigham Young University and continues to pursue a BIS degree in those areas. Lori's interests include American history, genealogy, and cooking. She resides in Calloway County with her husband, Mark, and has a daughter, Brittiany, a 2006 MSU graduate.

Jeffrey Watson
Counseling Director

Background

JEFF WATSON, Counseling Director, is a licensed therapist in the Murray State University Counseling Center. Jeff has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Murray State University. He is currently pursuing his second Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. Jeff has received specialized training in the realm of transgender healthcare and works extensively with the MSU LBGTQ+ community. Along with this Jeff has an interest in mindfulness, positive psychology, and existential psychology. This is Jeff’s first year with the Commonwealth Honors Academy, and he is excited both to be a part of and to help create this year’s CHA community.

Staff
Contstance Alexander

Background

Constance Alexander won a poetry contest in 4th grade and has been writing ever since. The youngest of five, she grew up in New Jersey reading, writing, taking piano lessons, and doing everything she could to avoid being compared to her siblings. An award-winning poet, playwright, newspaper columnist, fiction writer and essayist, she has published five books. Her dramatic works have been performed throughout the country, in Great Britain, and South America. In 2014, she received a Governor’s Award in the Arts for her work in media, and she is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, and residencies.

Trevor Cardwell

Background

Trevor Cardwell is May 2017 graduate of Murray State.  He earned his Bachelor's Degree majoring in Music Education and was chosen as the Outstanding Music graduate for 2017.  He is a 2011 alumni of both the Commonwealth Honors Academy and the Governor's Scholars Program.  He has also studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria..  Currently, he is searching for a job teaching music. This is currently Trevor's 3rd year as a Residential Counselor for CHA, and loves all things teaching, music, traveling, and meeting all kinds of new people.

Taylor Clements

Background

Taylor Clements, elective faculty member, has spent 4 years teaching high school mathematics at Atherton High School in Louisville, KY. Taylor is a 2006 CHA alumnus who grew up in Wilmore, KY, earned an Honors Diploma and BS in Mathematics from Murray State University, and an MA in Education from Western Kentucky University.  In the fall of 2017, Taylor will complete his PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Kentucky. Taylor has been a strong teacher leader over the years and led many sessions on innovation in learning at local, state, and national conferences for educators. Taylor currently lives in Louisville with his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Abigail.

Amy Cox

Background

Amy Cox is excited to return to CHA for a fourth summer, after having been away from the program for several years.  She is currently a chemistry instructor at Paducah Tilghman High School, in Paducah, KY.  She will be teaching a course in Forensic Science during CHA 2017.  Her favorite topics in forensic science are forensic anthropology and bloodstain pattern analysis.  In her next career, she would love to work as a bloodstain analyst.  Amy is a die-hard Tennessee Vols fans, reads as much as she possibly can, and loves sleeping, her husband (Dr. Ricky Cox, a chemistry professor at MSU), her Eskimo dog (Abbey), classic rock music, and Diet Coke (although not necessarily in that order!).

Taylor Davis

Background

Taylor Davis is a nineteen year-old student who currently resides in Murray, Kentucky, where she attends Murray State University. She is currently getting her Undergraduate degree in Music Education with a Vocal emphasis. In her first year at Murray State, Taylor has been proud to bear the titles of Presidential Fellow, Music Student Ambassador, and College Intern with the Paducah Symphony Orchestra Children’s Chorus. Miss Davis is also very involved in her church where she leads worship and runs technological equipment on Sundays. In her free time, Taylor enjoys traveling, reading, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Marvin Dension

Background

Marvin Denison is Upper School Head at University Heights Academy in Hopkinsville.   After graduation from Russellville (KY) High School and attending Lindsey Wilson College, Marvin received his B.S. and M.A. from Murray State University.  His experience at the independent school began as history teacher and has included 10 years as Headmaster.  He now serves as college counselor and teaches AP U.S. History and AP Government and Politics.  Marvin was a founding member of the Hopkinsville Madrigal Singers, sings bass with the Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church, and has served on the boards of the  Hopkinsville Community Concert Association and the Pennyroyal Arts Council  He is an active member  of the Athenaeum Society  of Hopkinsville.  Marvin and Cathy (Knight) have two children, Erin, co-owner of Bluegrass Cheercats, and Adam, a graduate of Murray State’s music department.

Zach East

Background

Hailing from Princeton, Kentucky, Zach East is a junior at Murray State and is majoring in Middle School Education. He works as a Resident Advisor in Elizabeth College, and in the past has also worked as a tutor and mentor in the Student Disability Services office. He has a passion for stretching what students think they can do to something even greater. He believes that all students are capable of both effective leadership and service, and can't wait to help the students of CHA find their unique calling to serve and lead!

Laurie Edminster

Background

Laurie Edminster is a National Board certified teacher who received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Clemson University.  She just completed her twenty-eighth year teaching in the public school system.  Laurie has taught various courses in South Carolina, Texas, and Kentucky, ranging from Southern Literature and drama to creative writing, traditional English classes, and Advanced Placement English Language and Literature.  Laurie also teaches courses at Murray State to prepare English-Education majors for their future teaching experience.  Laurie has been married for 26 years and has three daughters (ages 21, 19, 17).  She enjoys singing, writing, and spending time with family and friends.  Laurie has enjoyed 16 summers with CHA and loves returning to learn new things, reconnect with lifelong friends, and forge new relationships.

Anna Gorsick

Background

Anna Gorsick is a Senior Elementary Education major at Murray State. Her hometown is LaGrange Kentucky, which is just outside of the Louisville. On campus, she is actively involved in Kappa Delta Sorority, Honors Student Council, and several honors societies on campus. This coming year Anna will serve as the Honors Student Council President and Academic Excellence Chairman in KD. She attended CHA in 2013 and had her first experience as an RC last summer. Anna’s hobbies involve the outdoors, sunshine, and trying new things. You’ll often find her outdoors in a hammock, slacklining, bouldering, hiking or doing yoga. She’s excited for CHA 2017 and wants to encourage you to get as much from this program as you can.

Lissa Graham-Schneider

Background

Lissa Graham-Schneider is a full professor at Murray State University in the Department of Theatre. She received her MFA in directing from Virginia Commonwealth University. Some of the classes she teaches include play analysis, directing, honors theatre and children’s theatre. She also serves as a director for season productions in the Department of Theatre. Lissa has worked as a professional director, casting director, actor, and educator for over 25 years. She has twice received the Teaching Excellence Award for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and has been honored as a Board of Regents Teaching Award winner as well.

Katherine Hancock

Background

Katherine “Katy” Hancock is an assistant professor in the criminal justice program at Murray State University. She got her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice and her Ph.D. in Public Affairs at the University of Central Florida and was a UCF Presidential Doctoral Fellow from 2010 to 2014. Her research interests include juvenile justice and criminal justice organizations. She has also worked in the nonprofit sector and has done volunteer work with agencies such as CASA, the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Murray Group Home, and the Foster Care Review Board. This is Katy’s first year with CHA; Katy lives in Murray and enjoys traveling, theatre, watching movies, geocaching, trivia, and fitness challenges.

Glenn Leckie

Background

Glenn Leckie received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Masters in Education and +30 in Administration from Murray State University. Glenn began his teaching career with the Dawson Springs Independent School District where he taught Visual Art, Gifted and Talented, Social Studies and Kentucky History. When the opportunity came to move back to Murray, Glenn took the Visual Art position for Calloway County High School. During this time, his other duties included Yearbook Sponsor, Extended School Program Coordinator and Resource Teacher for the Kentucky Internship Program. Not long after relocation in Murray, Glenn was asked to become an adjunct with the MSU Art Department, where he has taught Art Materials and Techniques for the Classroom Teacher, Introduction to Drawing, Life Drawing, and Art Appreciation.

Bernard Lewis

Background

Bernard Lewis graduated in 1969 from the University of North Carolina with a BA in English and Music. In 1974, he became a Registered Jeweler and, later, a Certified Gemologist with degrees from the Gemological Institute of America and the American Gem Society. Currently he holds an MA in English Studies from Murray State University where he is an adjunct instructor teaching Composition, Humanities, and literature. He has presented papers at the Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, the International Congress on Medieval Studies, and the Kentucky Philological Association Conference. This is Bernard’s third year teaching Humanities and Fine Arts with CHA.

Bethany Massey

Background

Bethany Massey comes from a small town just south of Nashville. Her major is Economics with a minor in Finance. She is currently a junior in the Murray State Honors College. She was a student at CHA in 2014, and is thrilled to be an RC for this year.

Danielle Nielsen

Background

Danielle Nielsen is an assistant professor of English at Murray State University where she teaches composition, professional writing, and Victorian and twentieth-century British literature courses. She joined Murray State in 2011 after graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH with her PhD in Writing History and Theory. CHA 2017 marks her sixth year with the program. For the first four years, she taught Humanities and Fine Arts courses. This year, she is excited to be taking on the challenge of an elective course for the second time.

Leslie Rowland

Background

Leslie Rowland, IDHFA faculty member, is a Ph.D. student in Literacy, Culture, and Arts in Education at Indiana University. She earned her B.A. from Murray State in English Education, after which she taught high school English and theatre. For 6 years, she was an editor for an educational publishing company in California. Since entering a Ph.D. program, she has led workshops and presented at conferences for students and educators throughout the U.S. and England. She currently teaches composition to multilingual students at IU, and her research focuses on integrating arts-based learning strategies and multimodal literacies throughout the curriculum. While at Murray State for undergrad, she was an RC for the first two years of CHA, and is excited to teach a second summer.

Tanelle Smith

Background

"Anything that you choose to do, do it with purpose!" is a motto that she strives to live by. Tanelle Smith, a native of Henderson KY, is the daughter of Gerald and Angela Smith. Tanelle graduated from Henderson County High School and is currently a senior at Murray State University majoring in Secondary English Education. She is very passionate about campus involvement, community outreach, youth development and empowerment. She has formerly been involved as a MSU Student Ambassador, PanHellenic Recruitment Director, New Member Educator, College of Education Senator, Summer O Counselor and a G.R.O.W mentor. From 2015-2016 she reigned as Miss Murray State University, recently taught middle school English in Rochester NY, and studied abroad Fall 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. Tanelle believes in the importance of giving back through service and sharing her story to impact the lives of others. She plans to pursue a masters in higher education and travel the world. Most importantly she plans to passionately instill wisdom, values, and integrity in the minds of young adults. Tanelle looks forward to her future as an educator and mentor molding our upcoming generation into the most successful individuals they can be leave a lasting legacy!

Joanna Sumner

Background

Joanna Sumner, a senior at Murray State University, working towards a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work and plans to continue towards a Masters from Western Kentucky University. She has worked as a camp counselor for summer camps in Eastern Kentucky, as well as a HEADStart Preschool in downtown Murray. She has served as the Vice President of her campus ministry, The Wesley Foundation, and for the 2017-2018 school year she will serve as the President. Joanna is also a member of Murray State's SASW, Student Association of Social Workers, where she serves as the treasurer. She is an active member of her church, teaching the first and second grade Sunday School class, as well as volunteering at various events put on by the church. Outside of her academics and extracurricular activities, Joanna enjoys going hiking with friends and playing with puppies.

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