2019 Presidents Leadership Institute Cohort

Member Bios

Phebe Davis-Culler

Dr. Phebe Davis-CullerDr. Phebe Davis-Culler is an assistant clinical professor of accounting in the College of Business. After earning a Master in Professional Accountancy (MPAcc) degree at Clemson in 1996, she began her accounting career as an auditor with KPMG, a multinational professional services network in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Davis-Culler gained more than 14 years of corporate accounting experience as a business and financial analyst and compliance coordinator. A native of South Florida, she completed her Ph.D. at Florida Atlantic University in 2017 after several years of teaching accounting. Her research interests include social and ethical issues in accounting and managerial accounting decision-making. Davis-Culler teaches managerial and cost accounting and recently co-developed a data analytics course for accounting decision-making, which she will teach starting fall 2019. She enjoys traveling, reading, watching football and laughing out loud. She lives in Anderson with her two children, Nyala (18) and Alcee (13).

Brian Dean

Brian DeanSince 2005, Brian Dean has been a professor of computer science in the Clemson School of Computing. Dean earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studies problems in algorithm design, optimization and data analytics. Dean’s early work focused on algorithmic game theory and optimization with uncertain data. Recent applied work emphasizes biomedical applications and computational neuroscience, with current projects funded by the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense using network analysis and machine learning to study changes in brain connectivity patterns due to Alzheimer’s disease and traumatic brain injury. He currently coordinates the computer science Ph.D. program as well as a new graduate program in biomedical data science and informatics—a program recently launched in a partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina. Brian has received institute-wide teaching awards both at Clemson and MIT. He directs the USA Computing Olympiad, which provides advanced computing instruction to thousands of top high-school students nationwide.

Tania Houjeiry

Tania HoujeiryTania Houjeiry is a senior lecturer in the Chemistry Department at Clemson University. She joined Clemson in August 2013 and teaches General Chemistry I and II (CH1010 & CH1020), Organic Chemistry I and II (CH2230 & CH2240), Survey of Organic Chemistry (CH2010) and Chemistry Capstone (CH4500). In addition to teaching, Houjeiry is the coordinator of Chemistry REU Program, is a RISE Faculty Fellow and a Faculty Senate delegate. Houjeiry was born and raised in Lebanon. In 2003, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the Lebanese University then joined the American University of Beirut (A.U.B) to pursue her Master of Science degree under the supervision of Prof. Tarek Ghaddar. In 2007, she moved to America where she joined the research group of Prof. D. Tyler McQuade at Florida State University and earned her Ph.D. five years later. In 2010 while at FSU, Houjeiry won an award for her outstanding research, and, in 2012, she won an award for outstanding organic recitation teaching assistant.

Hans Klar

Hans KlarHans W. Klar is an associate professor and assistant department chair in the Department of Educational and Organizational Leadership Development in the College of Education at Clemson University. Prior to completing his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin‐Madison in 2010, Klar held a variety of teaching and educational leadership positions in Japan, Australia, and China. At Clemson, he led the South Carolina Successful School Principals’ Project, and co‐directed a leadership coaching initiative called the Leadership Learning Community. Klar is also a member of two collaborative research projects centered on the development of rural school leadership capacity—the Palmetto Priority School Project and the Rural Innovative School Leadership Networked Improvement Community. He has also served as a visiting scholar at Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago, Chile and at the Center for Principal Development at Umeå University in Umeå, Sweden.

Joseph P. Mazer

Joseph MazerJoseph P. Mazer is professor and chair of the Department of Communication. He is also director of the Social Media Listening Center, a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary research and teaching facility that seeks to monitor social media conversations from across the web and provide teaching, research, and partnership opportunities to students, faculty, collaborative research partners and external clients.

Mazer’s research agenda addresses communication in teaching, learning, social media and new technologies. He has authored or co-authored more than 70 research articles, book chapters, and books and has been ranked in the top one 1 percent of prolific scholars in the communication discipline for the past 10 years. A July 2017 study named him among the top five influential scholars in instructional communication. He was recently elected to a three-year term as editor of Communication Education, a flagship journal of the National Communication Association.

Veronica G. Parker

Dr. Veronica ParkerDr. Veronica G. Parker is an Alumni Distinguished Professor at Clemson University in the School of Nursing and director of the Center for Research on Health Disparities. She earned a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the Medical University of South Carolina, a Bachelor of Science in engineering analysis (concentration in bioengineering) from Clemson University, and a Bachelor of Science in physics-engineering from the College of Charleston. She is currently a member of the Advisory Committee on Minority Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Parker teaches in the areas of nursing research analysis and clinical epidemiology. She has expertise in the areas of categorical data analysis, path analyses and big data analytics (to name a few) and has secured more than $10 million in collaborative research funding. Her current research interests involve vulnerable populations in the areas of health disparities/health equity, quality of life and well-being, resilience and spirituality. 

Srikanth Pilla

Srikanth PillaSrikanth Pilla is the Robert Patrick Jenkins endowed professor and associate professor of Automotive Engineering at Clemson University. He is also the founding director of Clemson Composites Center and director of the Automotive Engineering Certificate Program. Pilla’s research interests are in the fundamentals and applications of sustainable and lightweight functional materials and manufacturing. He has co-authored more than 100 widely cited, peer-reviewed archival publications. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the USDA, NASA, and many industries, and it has created nearly $13.78 million in funding. Pilla currently serves as the editor-in-chief of SAE International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, Energy, Environment and Policy, associate editor of the Society of Automotive Engineers International Journal of Materials and Manufacturing, and he sits on the boards for the Journal of Renewable Materials and the Journal of Composites Science, SPE Injection Molding and Bioplastics Divisions.

Hugo Sanabria

Dr. Hugo SanabriaDr. Hugo Sanabria is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He graduated from Tec of Monterrey, Mexico with a Bachelor of Science in physics engineering. He earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in physics at the University of Houston under the supervision of Dr. John H. Miller. His thesis was on applications of dielectric spectroscopy to study biopolymers. Sanabria was awarded an NIH training fellowship during his postdoctoral research with Dr. M. Neal Waxham at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. There he studied Ca2+ signaling proteins involved in learning and memory processes. Later, he was awarded an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship at Germany’s Heinrich Heine University, under the supervision of Dr. Claus A. M. Seidel, where he developed and enhanced single molecule methodologies to study the structure and dynamics of proteins. He joined Clemson University in 2014. Sanabria is a recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation CAREER award and the 2019 Board of Trustees Excellence award.

Katherine Weisensee

Katherine WeisenseeBiological anthropologist Katherine Weisensee is chair of Clemson University’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice. A native of Portland, Oregon, she received her Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. Her current research is funded by the National Institutes of Health to develop biomarkers based on three-dimensional craniofacial variation of individuals with rare diseases. Weisensee acts as a forensic anthropology consultant where she assists the local coroners with the recovery and identification of skeletons that have been discovered in the area. Her research is funded by the Forensic Science Foundation to improve methods for estimating time since death using a geospatial data collector. Weisensee is passionate about experiential education and has a multi-year service-learning creative inquiry project with the Pickens County coroner. She has also developed study abroad programs in Rome and Hungary and teaches a human remains recovery course on the Clemson campus.

Tom Zagenczyk

Tom ZagenczykTom Zagenczyk is a professor in the Department of Management at Clemson University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh and primarily teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in organizational behavior. Zagenczyk's research explores employee-organization relationships, employee-supervisor relationships and relationships between coworkers. His work has appeared in many publications including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, the Journal of Management, the Journal of Management Studies, and Leadership Quarterly. Zagenczyk is an associate editor for Group & Organization Management and serves on several editorial boards. He has been awarded the Management Professor of Excellence Award (2016, 2017), the College of Business and Behavioral Science Emerging Research Scholar Award (2012), the College of Business and Behavioral Science Graduate Teaching Excellence Award (2008, 2017), and the MBA Professor of the Year Award (2008). Zagenczyk has helped secure National Science Foundation grants totaling more than $8 million.

Eric J. Lapin

Eric LapinEric J. Lapin is director of artistic initiatives for the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts and a senior lecturer of music in the Department of Performing Arts at Clemson University. Lapin teaches courses in applied clarinet, arts administration and jazz history while serving as a part of the leadership team for the Brooks Center. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in clarinet performance and a Ph.D. in higher education leadership. He regularly presents and publishes on arts administration and music history, serves as a delegate to the faculty senate, and is a featured speaker for South Carolina Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In the community, Lapin serves on the board of directors for the Pendleton Historic Foundation and is a member of the Clemson-Calhoun Rotary Club. His book with Ron McCurdy and Rick Goodstein, The Artist Entrepreneur: Finding Success in a New Arts Economy is scheduled to be released in fall 2019.

Abbie Abbott, MBA

Abbie AbbottAbbie Abbott started working in information security in 2011 and officially joined Clemson's Office of Information Security and Privacy in 2014. She earned her Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification in 2016. In 2017, she completed a certificate in Cyber Crime Investigation. She earned an MBA in Business Analytics from Clemson in 2019. Abbott coached the Clemson Crew team from 2011-2016 and spent three years as the men's head coach prior to changing careers to focus on information security. As the director of Healthcare Information Security, Abbott's priority is building secure environments for a state Medicaid and Medicare contract that dispersed more than $6.9 billion in claims and processed health care coverages to over 1.2 million South Carolina citizens in 2018. 

Michelle Cato

Michelle CatoMichelle Cato works as the director of talent and organizational development (T&OD) at Clemson University. She joined Clemson in May of 2016. Prior to this role, she was the director for business process excellence and training at Roche, a multinational healthcare company. Cato earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in human resource development from Clemson. Michelle is a certified senior professional in human resources and a Lean Six Sigma black belt. Leading the T&OD team, Cato creates programs and initiatives that inspire and nurture employees to excel for themselves and the University. The team accomplishes these goals through learning and development solutions, quality performance management processes and resources, and catered programs that meet organizational needs. Cato has been married to her husband, Daren, since 2001. They and their children love to camp, boat and play volleyball together.

Elliott Charles, MBA

Elliott CharlesElliott Charles has served Clemson University as associate athletic Director for compliance services since 2017. Entering his third year, Charles oversees compliance services for all 19 sport programs and is designated as the director of compliance for all matters related to athletic compliance.

Prior to Clemson, Charles was deputy director of athletics at Florida A&M University where he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the department. He also served as a senior staff member as associate director of athletics for compliance at the University of South Florida and held previous compliance roles at the Mid-American Conference (Cleveland, OH), the University of Alabama, and Northern Illinois University.

Charles earned his Bachelor of Science in management from the University of South Florida in 2005. He also earned a Master of Science from Illinois State University in 2007 and an MBA from Northern Illinois University in 2012.

Jim Grieger

Jim GriegerJim Grieger received his Bachelor in Science in Health Science from the State University of New York-College at Cortland and his Master of Public Health from the University of South Carolina. His career includes work as an OSHA Compliance Officer for the North Carolina Department of Labor and management experiences leading health, safety and regulatory compliance for The Pelton & Crane Company. From 1990-2013 he served as associate director of the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at Cornell University and became the first director of the Office of Research Safety at Clemson University in 2013.

Grieger is a Certified Industrial Hygienist, Certified Safety Professional and Certified Hazardous Materials Manager. He is a full member of the ANSI Z10 Committee "Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems” and led a lab safety and management system audit at KAUST University in Saudi Arabia in 2011. He also managed the safety program at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico from 2003-2011 for Cornell. Greiger was nominated for and completed the inaugural "Leading Cornell" leadership development program in 2008.

Christopher Harrington

Lieutenant Chris HarringtonLieutenant Christopher (Chris) Harrington has served 14 years with the Clemson University Police Department after completing a Bachelor of Science from Clemson in 2004. He has served the University Police at various levels and is currently assigned as the Commander of Professional Development and Training. Harrington is an instructor certified by the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy and various national programs. He serves on the Tri-County Technical College Criminal Justice Advisory Board and the South Carolina Mothers Against Drunk Drivers State Advisory Board. Harrington is a graduate of the FBI-LEEDA Command Leadership Institute and the 76th session of the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute for Police. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Clemson to be completed December 2019. In his spare time he enjoys volunteering at NewSpring Church in Anderson County, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Julio Hernandez

Julio HernandezJulio Hernandez serves as the chief of staff and director for hispanic outreach for the Division of Inclusion and Equity at Clemson University. Hernandez provides executive-level counsel and analysis to the chief diversity officer regarding decisions to be made or problems to be resolved. In addition, he provides leadership and support to the entire university on inclusion and equity matters regarding the recruitment, retention, advancement of Clemson’s faculty, staff and students and for fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for Hispanic/Latinx students, staff and faculty.


Lisa Knox

Lisa KnoxLisa Knox is the director of strategy and operations for Clemson University’s Finance and Operations Division. She has been with Clemson for nine years, and her work focuses on process improvement and campus-wide expansion of the Lean Initiative. As director of strategy and operations, Knox strives to help Clemson become the best administrative and operational team in American higher education by driving quality, efficiency and relevance to support Clemson’s drive to preeminence. Knox received her undergraduate degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology where she served as a three-year captain for the Georgia Tech Women’s Swimming and Diving team. She received her Master’s in Business Administration from Clemson and earned American Society for Quality (ASQ’s) Six Sigma Black Belt certification. Prior to her time with Clemson, Knox served in various process improvement and management roles in the construction industry. She resides in Upstate South Carolina with her son Lucas.

Blake Lanford

Blake LanfordBlake Lanford is the district extension director for Clemson Extension's Coastal District that includes Berkeley, Charleston, Clarendon, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry and Williamsburg counties. He joined the University in 2006 after five years as a planner for city, county and regional level planning agencies. His professional experience includes that related to land use planning, environmental planning, economic and community development, open-space/parks planning and local and regional foods systems. Originally from the Upstate, Lanford attended Clemson University for undergraduate (2000) and graduate (2003) degrees and now calls coastal South Carolina home. 

Rock McCaskill

Rock McCaskillRock McCaskill is the associate registrar for operations at Clemson University. He previously served as registrar at Armstrong State University and as registrar at Southern Wesleyan University. McCaskill’s primary responsibility is to oversee the planning, development, implementation and maintenance of systems that support the operations and services provided by the Registrar's Office. Also, McCaskill is responsible for continuous process improvement initiatives within the department. He has been and continues to be active in professional organizations at the state, regional and national level. In 2011, McCaskill served as president of the Southern Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. In 2019, he received the Distinguished Service Award from that organization. McCaskill currently teaches Registrar 101 and Registrar 201 for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. He earned his B.S. degree and his M.P.A. degree from Clemson University. 

Londan Means-Charley

Londan Means-CharleyDirector of Academic Advising in Biological Sciences Londan Means-Charley is passionate about helping students reach their full potential while pursuing their academic and professional goals. She leads a team of five academic advisors and coordinates academic advising for biological sciences and microbiology undergraduates. Within the department, she is a member of the Undergraduate Advisory and Chair’s Advisory Committees. Means-Charley is a 2013 and 2018 Clemson University alumna and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in educational leadership. She is a member of the National Academic Advising Association, advisor in the CU Success Matters program, and member of the CU Navigate leadership and training teams. She is dedicated to serving her community and serves as vice president of the Anderson alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Means-Charley is a recipient of the 2019 College of Science Outstanding Staff Member Award and the 2019 Class of 1956 Award for Staff Excellence. 

Katie Miller

Katie Miller Katherine Y. Miller (Katie) is Clemson University’s director of academic initiatives in the Office of the Provost. Miller works closely with the provost and his leadership team on major institutional priorities and initiatives for ClemsonForward, the University’s strategic plan. 

Miller manages academic projects and the associated deliverables for executive and academic leadership. She also manages academic program proposals for the Educational Policy Committee, directs communications for the Office of the Provost, and represents the Office of the Provost on University committees and task forces.

Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts in communication from the University of South Carolina, Aiken in 2010 and is currently pursuing an MBA at Clemson. Before coming to Clemson in 2017, Miller supported the United States Coast Guard for five years as a management analyst at the Naval Weapons Station in North Charleston, South Carolina.

Jessica Owens

Dr. Jessica OwensAs an assistant director in the Academic Success Center, Dr. Jessica Owens provides leadership to a team of eight professionals within advising, coaching, and consulting. Owens earned her doctorate in educational leadership with a focus in higher education at Clemson University in 2019. Her dissertation focused on how social media influences a sense of belonging and socialization among doctoral students, and she received recognition from the College of Education for excellence in research. Owens is a member of the University Academic Advising Committee as well as the CU Navigate leadership and training teams. She coordinates several university-wide academic advising initiatives within the Division of Undergraduate Studies including Success Matters, which provides targeted support to first-semester students and students on academic probation.

Tara Romanella

Tara RomanellaTara Romanella has worked in the communications industry for more than a decade. As the director of strategic communications for external affairs and development at Clemson, she develops and implements strategies to heighten awareness for the University's governmental, partnership, and alumni and development initiatives.

Previously, Romanella served as the media relations specialist at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She was responsible for overseeing media outreach and social media strategy. She also supported crisis communication efforts.

Her career in communications began at Fifteen Minutes in Los Angeles, a public relations firm founded by industry veteran Howard Bragman. As a publicist in the brands division, she worked on national media campaigns and communication strategies for a number of brand personalities and lifestyle clients, including Iron Chef Cat Cora, Gaea, Cuties Clementines, W Hollywood Residence, NutriBullet and several New York Times best-selling authors. 

Sarah Wilbanks

Sarah WilbanksSarah Wilbanks is the assistant director of the Department of Plant Industry, a division of Clemson University’s Regulatory Services. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Education from Clemson, a Master of Science in agricultural communications and leadership from the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. in animal science from Clemson. She directs multiple programs within Plant Industry including Fertilizer Regulatory, Seed Certification Services, and Boll Weevil Eradication. Additionally, she heads the strategic planning initiative for Regulatory Services and also guest lectures on campus within the Plant and Environmental Sciences program. She serves on numerous boards and committees representing South Carolina and Clemson University at the state, national, and international levels. She also has published research in the Journal of Animal Science, and the Journal of Animal Genetics.