Janel is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher Education at Florida State University. Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in South Florida, Janel attended Florida Gulf Coast University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication. After undergrad, Janel sought her Master’s degree in Counselor Education with a Student Affairs emphasis at Clemson University — go Tigers! Planning on being in college forever, Janel now serves as the graduate assistant for the community engagement team where she is responsible for overseeing the Community Ambassadors Program and Engage TLH. When she is not in the center, Janel enjoys watching sports, having the great Michael Jordan or Lebron James debate, running, reading, and learning new ways to make coffee!
Val currently serves as a graduate assistant in the Center for Leadership & Social Change, working primarily with the Social Justice Living Learning Community. Val is first-generation Colombian-American, born on Long Island but raised in Bradenton, Florida by her Colombian immigrant parents. She is also a first year master’s student in the Higher Education Program at Florida State. Before her time at FSU, Val received a B.A. in Art History and Classical Studies from Davidson College in 2019. After college, she served in the College Advising Corps to increase the number of first generation, low income, and underrepresented students enrolling in and completing post-secondary education. Val is passionate about supporting students — especially within the Latinx community — work through systemic obstacles of college enrollment, retention, and completion. In her free time, Val enjoys exploring nearby parks, watching Jane the Virgin with her cat, and dancing to reggaeton, bachata, and salsa music.
Audrey is a graduate assistant working on leadership programming and civic engagement. She received a bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2020 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she worked in the leadership center. Audrey grew up in Chicago, but her family now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, so she tries to visit both places as often as possible. Outside of leadership, Audrey has been involved in choir her whole life and also loves reading and playing guitar. She is passionate about queer issues and sustainability and always ready to talk about any social justice current events. Audrey has 'old' taste in music and movies; her favorite band is Led Zeppelin, and her favorite movie is The Blues Brothers. She also has a pretty bad Starbucks addiction, so don’t be surprised to always see a coffee on her desk!
David is a program coordinator focusing on service leadership development. Born and raised in the great north (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota), David received a bachelor’s degree in communications studies with a minor in event planning from Minnesota State University, Mankato in 2015. He earned a master's degree in Higher Education at Florida State in 2020 and is currently pursuing a master's degree in the History & Philosophy of Education. From 2015-2018 David worked at Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity International Headquarters, specifically working with education and harm reduction. In the Center for Leadership & Social Change, David coordinates the Service Scholar program, Florida State Alternative Breaks, Service Leadership Seminar, and the Humanitarian of the Year Award. In David’s incredibly limited free time, he enjoys trying new healthy recipes, learning and sharing random trivia facts, and playing board games with friends.
Olivia is currently a first year master's student in Florida State's Higher Education program. She was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and received a B.A. in Strategic Communication from The Ohio State University. Olivia is the graduate assistant for service and leadership based programs in the Center. In her free time, Olivia enjoys working out and going on runs, trying to find new music to listen to, and spending time with her friends and family.
Merari Flores Saldana
Merari is a graduate assistant serving The Center for Leadership & Social Change. She is a first-generation Latina and graduated from the University of Florida with her Bachelor of Science in Family, Youth and Community Sciences. She has experience working as a child advocate and visitation monitor to serve marginalized families. She had the opportunity to conduct research on emerging adult identity development and emotional self-regulation. Her experience and education provided her with analytical, intervention, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills for the study of families, youth, and communities to understand and meet their needs. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Clinical Social Work to promote resiliency for families and youth who have been exposed to adversity. She recognizes that in order serve others and promote social justice, it is imperative to practice self-care. Merari loves to do yoga, meditate, go on hikes, and go to the beach.
Ebony is one of our Program Coordinators working directly with the Agencies. She directly advises the Asian American and Black Student Unions. She is a proud Alumna of The Fort Valley State University, where she received her bachelor’s in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations. During her undergraduate years, Ebony became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc and quickly began serving her community. While receiving her Master’s in Higher Education from Georgia Southern University, Ebony gained experience as a Resident Life and Dual Enrollment Coordinator. Before joining the Florida State Team, She worked with career readiness in the K-12 sector. She was born and raised in Albany, Ga. This is where her passion for social justice and equity began. Ebony lives her life by the motto, “You can not stop the storm from coming, but you can always learn to dance in the rain.”
Kenny Harrison was born just a short drive north in Albany, Georgia. His family relocated a few times for work and they eventually settled in the small town of Woodland, Alabama. After graduation, Kenny attended Southern Union State Community College in Wadley, Alabama before transferring to Auburn University. Kenny received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Auburn in 1998. After almost two decades working as an entrepreneur and business consultant, Kenny decided to change the course of his career and in 2017, he accepted a position at the Center for Leadership & Social Change. For the past two years, he has served as the budget manager for Florida Campus Compact and recently transitioned into the role of HR & Travel Rep for the Center. Outside of the office, Kenny enjoys playing tennis, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, and golf. He loves college football, music, and all sorts of video, card and board games. He serves on the board of the Tallahassee Auburn Club, which is the official local chapter of the Auburn Alumni Association. Kenny will begin his master’s degree program next year at Florida State University. He and his wife, Natalee, have one child, Sophia.
Eric Jones is the Experiential Leadership Program Coordinator in the Center for Leadership & Social Change. He is a born (Miami) and raised (Blountstown) Floridian. Eric received his undergraduate degree in Political Science and International Affairs from Florida State University. He participated in many of the center’s programs, including LeaderShape, PeaceJam, and the Leadership Studies Certificate. Upon graduation, Eric served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the PeaceJam coaching program. Most recently, he served in the Peace Corps as a Community Health Volunteer in Senegal, West Africa. Eric is ecstatic to be returning to Florida State and the center to continue his passion working with leadership development programming with LeaderShape, Leadership LOGIC, the ACC Leadership Symposium, and the leadership and service areas of Garnet and Gold Scholar Society. When he’s not around having fun with colleagues and students, Eric enjoys reading, watching obscene amounts of Netflix, cooking, visiting friends out of town, and volunteering with Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) of North Florida. Eric also stans RuPaul’s Drag Race and is waiting for the day he gets to go to be a guest judge or at least have a booth at DragCon.
Community Engagement Coordinator
Maria-Paula McIntyre serves as the Program Coordinator for EngageTLH and the Community Ambassador Program. She enjoys building relationships that support developing community-led initiatives. During her time at the Center she has been dedicated to many programs, starting with youth mentoring and currently partnering with non-profit organizations across Tallahassee. Maria-Paula was born in Cali, Colombia and loves growing in her identity as a Latina in the United States. She commits to embracing her roots and creating spaces for the many voices of Latinx individuals to thrive. In her free time she enjoys practicing mindfulness, learning new languages, searching for music from other countries, reading Igbo literature, and drinking tea.
Statewide AmeriCorps Programs
Anna King Mitas was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. After completing her undergraduate degree in Psychology with a minor in Criminology at Florida State University, she went west, landing at the base of the Big Horn mountain range in Sheridan, Wyoming. After an enjoyable and rewarding stint working with Wyoming Game and Fish, exploring the country, learning the culture and enjoying the beauty of the open skies, she returned home to Tallahassee with her two small kiddos. After 10+ years in the corporate world of recruitment and management, she was determined to change the trajectory of her career and hone in on her passion for inspiring change in the world. She was hired as Florida Campus Compact’s AmeriCorps VISTA Program Manager in 2018 and in the last year she has helped lead the transition of the program from Florida Campus Compact to Florida State University’s Center for Leadership and Social Change. She has spent the last 2 years committed to strengthening and building a diverse range of programs designed to alleviate poverty through indirect service in communities across Florida. As part of the Service and Leadership team in her role as Program Manager for the AmeriCorps | Florida VISTA Network, she supervises over 30 sites and close to 40 VISTA members annually. In addition, the program currently hosts 7 sites and up to 50 AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates, who engage in direct service. She is a connector, passionate about connecting individuals to services and opportunities for professional and personal growth. She strives to strengthen and expand her network daily, to better support the success of her team and their community initiatives. In her free time, she tends to her plants, pets and occasionally finds time for her favorite hobby, reading.
Joi Phillips, Ph.D.
Dr. Joi N. Phillips currently serves as the Director of the Center. Dr. Phillips is a very proud alumna of the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and got her start at the Center as a graduate assistant at the then-Center for Civic Education and Service. After completing her master’s degree, Dr. Phillips became the coordinator for the Center’s America Reads Mentoring Program while completing doctoral work in the Educational Policy and Evaluation program in the College of Education. Dr. Phillips’ work centers on the relationship between policy and civic participation. Her work is focused on how communities and higher education institutions develop and sustain partnerships. She uses pedagogical influences from critical race theory, education policy, and service-learning to support her work. Dr. Phillips is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and in her spare time enjoys hanging out with her family, reading, and trying new recipes.
Erin Sylvester Philpot, Ed.D.
Dr. Erin Sylvester Philpot is the Assistant Director for Leadership & Identity Programs at the Center, where she works with the Service Scholar Program, leadership programs, and a variety of recognition and scholarship programs. A proud FSU alumna, Erin was a member of Service Scholars, Alternative Breaks, and completed the Leadership Studies Certificate as an undergraduate. She received a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina and her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership & Policy Studies from Florida State. Her research interests include barriers to access in higher education, and ways in which we can make higher education more affordable and more accessible for students from historically under-represented or marginalized groups. Erin has worked professionally in Student Conduct, Fraternity & Sorority Life, & Event Planning. When she isn’t running or spending time with her family, Erin advises Chi Omega Sorority and Omicron Delta Kappa.
Paige Rentz grew up just down the road in Sneads, Florida. After years working as a journalist in several states, Paige turned her passion for social issues and storytelling to her role as the center's media specialist, where she gets to promote the amazing work of the students and staff working here each day to make the world a better place. She also works with TEDxFSU and the university's National Coalition Building Institute affiliate team. Paige is a proud alumna of Chipola College, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In her free time, you can find Paige searching for the perfect lighting for photos, reading, playing video games, watching Star Trek, or walking her dogs, Frankie and Johnny.
Community Engagement Coordinator
Bridgid Shannon has moved over 35 times and lived in nine states. Constants have been marathon dialogues, building relationships, noting social-ecological dynamics, and fostering community-driven, positive, sustainable social change by engaging stakeholder voices across difference through art, literature, and storytelling. English and Intergenerational Studies were Brie’s focus at Rollins College, followed by graduate studies in Children's and Young Adult Literature and Creative Writing at Hollins University (M.A. & M.F.A.). Brie's work in education stretches from 3-year-olds to senior citizens. Most immediately, she taught AP English, Journalism, and Engaged Citizenship through Service-Learning at Pine View School for the Gifted in Sarasota, where she was actively involved in professional development, shaping service-leadership curricula, and the PeaceJam family for more than 10 years. Through her role at the Center for Leadership & Social Change, she coordinates the Moellership program and PeaceJam Southeast. When Brie's not serving with students, you can find her reading, researching, writing, or on an adventure with loved ones— camera in hand.
Vanessa Solomon is a native Georgia Peach who hails from Albany, just a few miles away from Tallahassee, Florida. Over the course of her two decade career here at Florida State University, she is very passionate about the Center for Leadership & Social Change where she serves as a Program Associate. Vanessa earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Tallahassee Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Flagler College – Tallahassee Campus. When not serving at FSU, Vanessa enjoys family, concerts, taking selfies with her daughter – Danielle and her dog Remy. She is a die-hard lover of chocolates, cheese, salty chips and road adventures. Her aim is to own a small local business in Tallahassee, Florida.
Dr. Sierra R. Turner
Program Director, Student Equity & Inclusion
Dr. Sierra R. Turner serves as the Director of the Office of Student Equity and Inclusion. A proud military brat, Dr. Turner received both her master’s degree in Spanish and her doctorate in Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education from the University of Alabama. Before coming to FSU, Dr. Turner was a faculty member at the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo where she taught courses in Spanish, Latin American Studies and African American Studies. Her interest in diversity, equity and inclusion is the result of the two years of work she did as the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the University of Montevallo. Her research interests include using tenets of Black Feminist Thought and Critical Race Theory combined with multimodal ways of creating agentive identities to explore the experiences of marginalized students in higher education. A proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Dr. Turner enjoys spending time with her family, binge watching her favorite TV shows and cooking.
Challen is a proud St. Louisan by birth and culture. Challen earned a bachelor's degree in dance an a minor in Jewish Studies from Loyola Marymount University. After college she worked in the finance industry and quickly learned that her passions were working with college students and helping further the work of social justice. Challen went on attended William & Mary where she earned a Master's in Educational Policy, Planning, and Leadership. She is currently a doctoral student in the higher education program and a graduate assistant working with Multicultural Leadership Summit, Estonko, Cultural Graduation, and Service Scholars. In her free time Challen is an avid reader, she loves to cook, travel, dance, nap, and endlessly watch A Different World and Grey's Anatomy.
Sandi E. White
Sandi White manages all things money at the center. She calls North Carolina home but has lived in Tally for more than two decades. Sandi graduated from a small college in Wilson, North Carolina, majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Management. During college, she held administrative positions in SGA and her sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma. After graduation, Sandi worked at N.C. State University for eight years. Sandi's parents are from Mount Airy, N.C., famous as the home of Andy Griffith, a distant cousin. Sandi lived in many cities around NC and spent four years in Virginia before moving to Tallahassee with her family in 1997. She began working at the center a few months later and has been here ever since. She has two adult daughters, a son-in-law and a precious grandson born in January 2019. She loves dachshunds and has had four throughout her life. In her spare time, she likes to watch all the night-time family, medical, fire and police dramas and recently has begun watching the HGTV home searches or makeovers. If you have questions about how and where to buy items for your programs, get to know her.
Grace Wilson is a program coordinator focused in diversity, equity, and inclusion work.
Grace was born and raised in Middle Tennessee, a short drive outside of Nashville. She is a first-generation college student who earned her bachelor degree in 2D Studio Art with a double concentration in printmaking and photography from The University of Tennessee. There she became involved in residence life as a student leader and student employee. She earned her Master of Education from the University of West Georgia in 2018 where she studied College Student Affairs and interned with the Safe Zone program. She also had the opportunity to advise the planning committee for the South Atlantic Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls annual conference in 2017.
Grace came to FSU in 2018 to advise the agencies, specifically the Pride Student Union and Women Student Union. She also coordinates the Allies & Safe Zones program. With her interest in gender and sexuality, Grace has served on multiple university committees to advocate on behalf of students with marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities. She is the chairperson for the Division of Student Affairs’ LGBTQ+ Student Life Task Force.
In her time outside of work, Grace enjoys spending time with her partner Matt, and their cocker spaniel, Bailey. She loves to cook, especially experimenting with new dishes, and enjoys making charcuterie boards for movie nights at home.