Meet the Staff


Dana Saunders, Director sfbullet
(336) 334-5730,

danaDana Saunders has been involved in higher education for more than 12 years. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Roanoke College, and graduated with a master’s degree in Higher Education & Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina (USC). While at USC, Dana worked in the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, which sparked her interest in first-year students and academic success initiatives. At UNCG, Dana was previously the associate director in Undergraduate Student Excellence where she was responsible for the ongoing development of new academic support initiatives, as well as the office’s strategic planning and assessment. She also worked as the coordinator of UNCG’s first-year seminar program. Dana’s professional interests include exploratory (undecided) majors, students in academic recovery, social justice initiatives, University policy, program assessment, and strategic planning in higher education. Outside of work, Dana is pursuing her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Cultural Foundations in the School of Education at UNCG. When she is away from campus, Dana enjoys local tourism, home-improvement projects, and spending time with her partner and children.


Kate Humphries, Assistant Director of Student Support sfbullet
(336) 334-5730,

kateKate Humphries has been a part of the Students First Office since 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from UNC-Chapel Hill and an M.S./Ed.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from UNC-Greensboro.  Kate enjoys meeting with students and connecting them with the services they need to be successful.  In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching movies, playing board games, and spending time with her husband, family, friends, and dog.




Dena Kowal, Student Support Advisor 
(336) 334-5730,

denaDena Kowal attended the University of North Florida, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication. As an active student in both Greek life and the Communication Department, Dena developed a passion for working in higher education. She went on to pursue her master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of North Florida. Prior to working in the Students First Office, Dena worked in the Office of the Registrar and the Office of Community Service at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. Dena is incredibly excited to be in the beautiful state of North Carolina and working with students to help make their college experience a meaningful one. In her free time, Dena enjoys traveling, exploring the outdoors and playing with her rescue dog, Titan.


Emily Mcllvaine, Student Support Graduate Assistant
(336) 334-5730,

emilyEmily McIlvaine is a first year graduate student at UNCG pursuing her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She is originally from Wooster, Ohio, and has lived in Greensboro for almost two years. She graduated with a degree is Psychology from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Emily moved to North Carolina to participate in the Greensboro Fellows Program, a nine-month long internship and leadership development program for recent college graduates. During that time, she worked for Freedom House, a non-profit substance abuse recovery program for mothers. In her free time, Emily enjoys doing Crossfit, hiking, and spending time with friends.


Academic Advising Team


Heather Searcy, Associate Director for Academic Advising sfbullet
(336) 334-5772,

heatherHeather Kern attended East Carolina University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology. It was while working with student athletes at ECU that Heather discovered her interest in pursuing a career in Higher Education. She went on to earn her master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at North Carolina State University. Throughout her two years at NC State Heather worked with student athletes, undeclared first-year students, and students on academic warning. She also worked as an intern at Meredith College, assisting with advising and registration, and supporting students facing academic difficulty. Heather served as an Exploratory Majors Advisor in the Students First Office for four years before taking on the Associate Director of Academic Advising role. In her spare time, Heather enjoys cheering on the Pirates and the Wolfpack, tackling DIY and home improvement projects, and spending time with her partner, Mike, and Golden Retriever, Beau.


Elena Medeiros,Coordinator of Academic Outreach sfbullet
(336) 334-5772,

elenaElena Medeiros attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in women’s studies. She went on to pursue her Master of Science in Counseling at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Though her academic emphasis was on mental health counseling, she particularly enjoyed working one-on-one with college students at UNCG to address their personal, vocational, and academic concerns. During her graduate schooling, Elena worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Student Employment Office and completed a counseling internship at UNCG’s Nicholas A. Vacc Counseling and Consulting Clinic. Elena now serves as the Coordinator of Academic Outreach in the Students First Office, where she provides academic guidance to Exploratory students and assists students who have been flagged through the Starfish EARLY ALERT technology. In her spare time, Elena enjoys sketching, coffee-shopping, yoga, and spending time with her partner.


Shannon Barr, Graduate Assistant for Academic Outreach sfbullet
(336) 256-1483,

shannonShannon (she/her/hers pronouns) is originally from Southern Maryland but has lived in NC for the last 6 years after moving to the Triad in 2010 to attend High Point University, where she received her B.S. in Exercise Science. She remained after graduation to serve her alma mater and community for two years as a NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA. As a VISTA, she focused her energy and passions on supporting community revitalization, K-8 youth education, and service-leadership in higher education. It was the conversations she had and the relationships she built during that experience that led her to her newest journey: pursuing a M.S./Ed.S. in Counseling (College Counseling and Student Development). Shannon is a self-proclaimed coffee enthusiast and is almost always found at a locally owned coffee shop reading books about social justice. When not curled up with a book and coffee in hand, she is also known to enjoy cooking, kayaking, and kickboxing.


Angie Allred, Exploratory Majors Academic Advisorsfbullet
(336) 256-8562,

angieAngie Allred is a proud graduate of NC State University. She has a B.S. in Agricultural Education with a minor in Horticulture Science; while at NCSU, she interned with the NC Future Farmers of America Association. After graduation, Angie taught Agricultural Education and served as an FFA advisor in Greensboro, NC, for seven years. She then earned an M. Ed. in Student Personnel Administration in Higher Education from UNC-Greensboro, where she worked in Student Services and Advising and served as a Leadership Development Coach. Through all these experiences she discovered her passion for working with college students and helping them identify and achieve their goals. In her spare time, Angie enjoys spending time with her partner and son, traveling, drinking coffee, reading, cheering on the Wolfpack, and thrift shopping.


Brynna Arnold, Graduate Assistant for Exploratory Majors sfbullet
(336) 256-1299,

brynnaBrynna (she/her/hers) is a first year graduate student pursuing her Master’s degree in Counseling at UNCG. She received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where she also spent three years working at a crisis counseling hotline. Since then, her passion for counseling has flourished. After beginning work at the UNCG Student’s First Office, she has developed a particular enjoyment for working in higher education and is grateful to be a resource for UNCG undergraduate students. Apart from her professional and higher education goals, Brynna enjoys running and hiking, often with her dog Remus. She loves to travel and is also content to simply relax at home with her husband.


Rickey Williams, Exploratory Majors Academic Advisor
(336) 256-8540,

rickeyRickey Williams attended Western Kentucky University and earned his B.A. in Sociology. It was while working with his advisors that he was inspired to pursue a career in Higher Education. He went on to earn his M.A.E. in Student Affairs in Higher Education. He served as a graduate assistant in the Career Services Center where he developed an interest in working with students and gearing them towards their educational and career goals. He worked for four years working with first year students at Florida Gulf Coast University. It was there that he took a special interest in working with Exploratory students. Rickey is looking forward to applying this passion toward students in his new role as an Exploratory Majors Academic Advisor here at UNCG! Some of his interests include playing piano, guitar, drawing, and spending time doing outdoor activities with his partner.


Kristen Wade, Exploratory Majors Academic Advisor
(336) 256-1265,

kristenKristen Wade earned her bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University. While working alongside fellow first-generation and limited-income students at Duke to create resources and support programs, she discovered her passion for working with college students. She went on to pursue her master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration at the University of Vermont. During her time in Vermont, she enjoyed her position as an academic advisor in the College of Education and Social Services. She also worked as an intern supporting high school students who would be the first in their family to attend college through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation and served as a hearing officer for students in the Community Standards process at Champlain College. Her professional interests include academic advising, first-generation/limited-income student support programs, educational access initiatives, and social justice education. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, yoga, video games, spending time with friends, and cheering on the Blue Devils.


Academic Recovery Team


Pat Combs, Student Support Specialist
(336) 334-4025,

pat8x10Pat Combs earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History with a minor in Anthropology from East Carolina University. She has been employed with UNCG since 1994. She worked in Student Academic Services for seventeen years and Undergraduate Studies for three years prior to joining the Students First Office. Pat advises undergraduate students regarding academic policies and regulations, she coordinates the academic appeals process for undergraduate students, and she serves as a resource for staff and faculty regarding academic policies and procedures . She enjoys working with at-risk students and helping them become successful. Pat also loves spending time with her friends and family, tailgating at football games and cheering on the Pirates, playing golf, reading ‘interesting’ books with her Book Club, bowling, scrapbooking, playing Fantasy Football, and taking trips with her husband.


Amanda Phillips, Academic Recovery Specialistsfbullet
(336) 256-0340,

amandaAmanda Phillips earned her Bachelor of Science in Education and Religious Studies at UNCG. She is pursuing a Master’s in Higher Education Administration. Currently, Amanda coordinates the ARS 100: Reclaim, Regain, and Recover Program for students on Academic Probation. Prior to this she also worked with students returning from Academic Suspension and the UNCG Guarantee Scholarship program for low-income/high-achieving students. Amanda’s professional interests include at-risk students, Strengths Based Learning Education, success planning, and academic equality & inclusion. Her other interests include, reading, meditation, video games, and geocaching.


Hannah Moore, Graduate Assistant for Academic Recovery
(336) 334-5749,

hannahHannah Moore graduated from Methodist University in May 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Counseling. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Counseling with a concentration in Couple and Family Counseling. At Methodist University, Hannah was involved in the Student Solutions Office, and helped with the student transition from high school to college. Hannah enjoys reading, being a part of a choir, hanging out with friends, and shopping.



Emily Christian, Intern for Academic Recovery
(336) 334-5749

emily-staff-photoEmily is a first-year graduate student in the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education program here at UNCG. Prior to joining the UNCG community, Emily earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Florida SouthWestern State College, where she was active as an Orientation Leader and Peer Mentor. After graduating, she worked at Florida Gulf Coast University for two years, which solidified her passion for working in higher education and helping college students succeed. She currently serves as a Graduate Assistant in the Bryan Undergraduate Student Services office, and she is excited to join the Students First Office as an Intern with the Academic Recovery Team this Spring. Outside of work, Emily enjoys cooking and spending quality time with her friends, family, and her cat, Sophie.


Whitney Scott, Academic Recovery Specialistsfbullet
(336) 256-8533,

whitneyWhitney Scott was the first in her family to earn a college degree when she attained her Bachelor of Arts in English from Ferrum College. From there, she went on to earn her Master of Arts in English and a post-baccalaureate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from UNCG in 2013. While she was in graduate school, Whitney worked as a Graduate Assistant in the Special Support Services program housed within UNCG’s Student Success Center. After graduation, Whitney took on multiple roles in the Federal TRiO Student Support Services program that supports first-generation students, low income students, and students with disabilities. Whitney is excited to return to UNCG and currently coordinates the ARS 120: Academic Connections in Education (ACE) program for students returning from academic suspension. In her spare time, Whitney enjoys reading, editing friends’ writing projects, and keeping her two cats from chewing up her origami crafts.


Gwyn Strickland, Teaching Assistant for Academic Recovery
(336) 334-3873,

gwynGwyn Strickland earned her bachelor’s degree in Business at UNCG and went on to work in several business organizations and also started her own equestrian services program. With a desire to work in the field of education, she returned to UNCG and earned a BA degree and Master of Arts degree in English, as well as a Master’s certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. During graduate school, she began working in the Student Success Center as an Academic Skills Specialist and soon discovered a love for helping students reach their academic goals. Gwyn is now delighted to work in the Students First Office as part of the Academic Recovery team. In her spare time, she enjoys horseback riding, kayaking, yoga, and spending time with her family.


Leah Bianco, Program Assistant for Academic Recovery
(336) 334-3467,

leahLeah Bianco earned her Bachelors of Science in Human Development and Family Studies, concentrating in Child, Youth, and Family Development at UNCG in 2016. Before attending UNCG she earned her Associates Degree in Pre-Social Work at Guilford Technical Community College. She was previously an Undergraduate Intern in the Students First Office and discovered a new interest in helping students in higher education. In the Fall of 2016 she started her job as a Program Assistant in the SFO. Leah assists with the academic appeals process as well as helps with technical aspects of the Starfish EARLY ALERT and Starfish CONNECT systems. She loves being a part of the SFO and assisting students and staff members on the Academic Recovery Team. In her spare time, Leah enjoys being with friends, doing crafts, watching movies, shopping, and traveling.



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