College welcomes new faculty

Sept 16, 2016

This year’s new faculty members have areas of expertise that span topics from biology to counseling to musical theater.

“They represent a great array of diversity in background, experience and education,” said Provost David Garrison. “I’m particularly pleased that these new voices will contribute from all corners of the campus – in professional programs, the arts, teacher preparation and in the traditional arts and sciences. The rich opportunities created by the LaGrange College faculty will become even richer with their presence.”

New faculty members include:

Molli Newman – Visiting Assistant Professor of Biology
Dr. Newman earned a bachelor’s degree in biology (graduating cum laude) from Columbus State University in 2005. She earned her doctorate in microbial ecology (with a minor in statistics) in 2011 from Auburn University.

Her post-graduate education and training have been with Auburn University’s Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. She has served as an instructor for several courses at Auburn University over the last 10 years and has mentored several undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Dr. Newman was an invited speaker at the Wiregrass Math, Science and Technology Leadership Academy and has also been a guest lecturer on many occasions during her time at Auburn University. She participated in the International FISH Course at the University of Vienna (Austria) for training in fluorescence microscopy techniques.

Dr. Newman has been awarded multiple grants for her postdoctoral research and also earned several graduate research and travel awards as a graduate student. She is a manuscript reviewer for various journals. She routinely participates in various outreach activities at Auburn University with the goal being to encourage learning and an interest in science among both elementary and high school students statewide.

She currently serves on the Community Garden Advisory Board at Auburn University and the Technical Issues Committee of the Society for Freshwater Science. She was also recently awarded the Columbus State University Young Alumni Award for 2016.

Jana Austin – Director of Field Experiences in the Department of Education
Austin earned a bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts at LaGrange College in 2005 and a master’s in early childhood education from Columbus State University in 2009.

She has worked as a teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School, director of CreativEDge Tutoring Service, a graduate teaching assistant at Columbus State University, co-director of CSU Summer Spectacular at River Road Elementary School and co-director of Papermill Children’s Theatre in Lincoln, New Hampshire. She was Hillcrest Elementary’s teacher of the year in 2013-14.

Austin was a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a nominee for the 2009 Anne Dougherty Pergl Teacher Scholarship at Columbus State. At LaGrange College, she was president of Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honor Society, a Servant Fellow and recipient of the Bill Hearnburg and Max Estes Theatre scholarships.

She is an active member at Liberty Worship Center in LaGrange.

Dr. Chris Bellon – Assistant Professor of Exercise Science
Dr. Bellon earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education and health in 2011 and a master’s degree in exercise in 2013 from Montclair State University in New Jersey. He received his doctorate in sport physiology and performance in 2016 from East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee.

While at ETSU, he taught undergraduate classes and worked as a strength and conditioning coach and sport scientist with multiple athletic teams including track and field, women's basketball, and volleyball. 

Dr. Bellon also served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach to a number of Team USA bobsled and canoe/kayak athletes at ETSU's Olympic Training Site.

Dr. Preston James IV – Assistant Professor of Sports Management

Dr. James earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from Emporia (Kansas) State University in 1996, a master’s degree in business administration from the School of Business at the University of Kansas in 2000 and a law degree from the law school at the University of Kansas Pin 2000.

He is owner of PJ4 & Associates, a sports and entertainment management firm that works with teams, leagues and organizations such as the Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings on sales, marketing and exposure. He also served as assistant professor and chair of the sport management department at Northwood University.

Dr. James has created and groomed partnerships with professional sports teams and national governing bodies and events such as the Super Bowl, X-Games, Uganda Lacrosse, 2015 World Cup Skiing, the Atlanta Hawks, the Atlanta Falcons and the 2015 and 2016 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

He also worked at Iowa State University as a contract manager for outside vendors, general manager of the Iowa Crush (professional women’s football season), assistant professor of sports management at William Penn University and legal and marketing associate at the Hinsley Law Firm in Houston, Texas.

Dr. James is a member of Omega Psi Phi and served on its national board of directors (supreme council).  He is the executive director of the Other Side of Sports, an organization dedicated to exposing youth to the business side of sports.

He was a Carnegie Foundation U.S. Professor of the Year Nominee in 1995 and has served on the boards of the San Antonio Sports Foundation, American Cancer Society and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglass County.

Sarah Brown – Assistant Professor of Nursing
Brown earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from LaGrange College in 2008 and a Master’s of Nursing degree in 2013 from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

She has worked as a clinical instructor at Mercer University, staff nurse and practice manager at PediaKare of Newnan, a clinical instructor at LaGrange College and staff nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

She is a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Society of Nursing, National League for Nursing, Georgia Association for Nursing Education and American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

Brown has served on undergraduate search committees, faculty affairs and undergraduate curriculum committees. She is currently working on her post-masters certificate in nursing informatics, and her doctorate of nursing practice, at Vanderbilt University.

Shelley Cooper – Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre
Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree in theatre (with honors) from Hanover College in 2008 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre from the University of Central Florida in 2010. She also studied at the International Performing Arts Institute Kiefersfelden, Germany.

She has worked as an instructor and lecturer for voice and musical theatre at UCF and Mahidol University in Bangkok, Thailand. She also has intensive training in voice and speech for actors, and belting technique and auditions for international performing arts.

Cooper served as an artist in residence at Hanover (Indiana) College, and has led international workshops and directed shows in Thailand and the United States. She is a voice and text coach and has been published journals and presented at conferences in Thailand. She also has appeared professionally in shows such as “South Pacific,” “The Little Mermaid" and “Into the Woods.” She performed the role of Johanna in “Sweeney Todd” with Davis Gaines and Tony-award winner Faith Prince.

Her one-woman show "LaDivina: The Last Interview of Maria Callas has been performed on three continents.

Cooper is a member of Actor’s Equity Association, Musical Theatre Educator’s Association and Lessac Institute.

Dr. Colby Jones – Assistant Professor of Education
Dr. Jones is a 2003 graduate of Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in secondary social sciences education. He earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from LaGrange College in 2007 and a doctorate in curriculum and teaching (secondary social sciences) from Auburn University in 2016.

Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., he taught history, psychology and comparative religions courses at Troup County Comprehensive High School in LaGrange from 2003-2010. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he was the founder and faculty sponsor of Troup High School’s Sierra Club chapter as well as a soccer coach and member of the Troup High School Council.

While pursuing his Ph.D. at Auburn, he served as a graduate research assistant, course instructor and internship supervisor.  He was an active member of the Persistent Issues in History network and the Plowing Freedom’s Ground project, a partnership between Auburn University, Indiana University and five school systems.  He was also an adjunct history professor at Southern Union Community College and Columbus Technical College.

Dr. Jones has co-authored presentations given at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference and the annual meeting of the College and University Faculty Assembly of the National Council for Social Studies.  His honors include the 2011-2012 Albert Hamilton Collins Graduate Fellowship award, the 2013-2014 Dr. Floreine H. Hudson Graduate Award, the Phi Delta Kappa Excellence Award and the Caroline Lawson Ivey Scholarship.

Dr. Kelly Veal – Assistant Professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling
Dr. Veal earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2006 and a master’s in community counseling in 2008 from Columbus State University. She received a doctorate degree in counselor education from Auburn University in 2015.
She has served as an adjunct faculty member at Auburn, guest lecturer at LaGrange College and University of West Georgia, a licensed professional counselor at Grace Harbor Inc., treatment coordinator for Troup County Felony Drug Court, graduate research assistant at Auburn and associate director of clinical services at Counseling Services of LaGrange.

Her volunteer service includes work at The Pregnancy Center of LaGrange, Court Appointed Special Advocate for Children, Harmony House and Hospice of Savannah.

She is a member of the board of directors for Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia, American Counseling Association and Licensed Professional Counselors Association of Georgia, Chi Sigma Iota Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Dr. Veal’s awards include an honor recipient of the Hatton Lovejoy Scholarship Award, Troup County DUI Court Eagle Service Award and Georgia Licensed Professional Counselors Association Student of the Year.  

Dr. Arthur K. Sikora – Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Dr. Sikora earned a bachelor’s degree in 2011 in biochemistry, with minors in chemistry and education, from the University of Washington in Seattle. He went on to get his Ph.D. in biophysics from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville in 2016.

His teaching experience includes work at the University of Virginia and University of Washington. His research has been published, and he has presented at conferences in Florida, Utah, Maryland, Virginia and Warsaw, Poland.

Dr. Sikora is a member of the Biophysical Society and International EPR Society, and has served as a judge, supervisor and presenter at regional and state science fairs; a board member of the city of Charlottesville Citizen’s Advisory Board; and a youth group leader at Trinity Presbyterian Church.


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