Avila Advantage faculty members are handpicked for their diverse professional expertise and desire to teach. Advantage faculty members love what they’re doing and take pride in the accomplishments of their students.
Avila Advantage faculty challenge and collaborate with students, rigorously blending classroom instruction with real-world application.
Click on a name below to view their bio.
Nicki Alexopoulos is a life-long resident of the Kansas City area. She earned her bachelor's degree in English education from Central Missouri State University in 1974. Her master's was granted from the University of Missouri in 1984. She has taught at the high school level for 25 years; her last post was at Fort Osage High School. For the past 10 years she has taught at the collegiate level at both Metropolitan Community College, Blue River Campus, and at the Avila Advantage program since 2004. She has two children, Patrick 30 and Kristen 26. She lives in Brookside with her husband, Walter Winch
The first course I taught in the undergraduate Avila Advantage Program was in 1997. The courses I currently teach are Management, Organizational Behavior, Ethics and Philosophy. I enjoy spending time with my family.
Joe Barnhill is the Director of Learning Services and Disability Services at Avila University. He received an undergraduate degree in Economics from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a graduate degree in Economics from the University of Central Missouri. He has taught in the Avila Advantage program since 1999. He teaches economics, finance, statistics and math courses. Joe lives in Lee’s Summit, Missouri with his wife Karla and two boys Aaron and Owen. He enjoys watching college sports, especially the Avila Eagles.
Ronnie brings a background in business, education, public service and non- profits to his teaching. His educational background includes two advanced degrees in psychology and another in conflict resolution. He is an approved mediator in Missouri and Kansas. He is the Coordinator of the Johnson County Small Claims Mediation program. He is a volunteer for the victim offender program for Catholic Charities and the Community Mediation Center. He is the past President of Heartland Mediators Association (HMA) and a member of six other professional mediation organizations.
Debra Belt is an Avila graduate who received her master’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Since graduating, she has taught a variety of literature classes as well as composition classes at Avila University. She is presently teaching literature and composition at Kansas City Kansas Community College (KCKCC) and Friends University. She teaches most of her composition classes on-line. Besides teaching, Ms. Belt is a writing tutor at KCKCC and Friends University. Ms. Belt also edits the Kansas City Kansas Community College E-Journal, doctoral dissertations, as well as instructor evaluations.
I have been a business owner, engaged in both offering a service as well as selling products. I have also worked in a 'manufacturing' setting where I had one piece that played to a collection of others to form a whole product. The last 14 years have been spent working at various levels and areas with my current company. As a manager and leader, I have gained experience and a wealth of knowledge that I use as the basis of my teaching, of giving back to show others that insight and enhance the course. Teaching for Avila has become my passion, and I can only hope it transcends to my students.
Shari Miller Blank
Ms. Blank is an Adjunct Professor in the Avila Advantage program. She has taught in the program for over 11 years both in the classroom as well as on
line. In addition, she is a licensed attorney who practices in the areas of General Litigation, Employment, Labor, and Business Law. She is a graduate
of the University of Michigan and University of Missouri- Kansas City School of Law. She is also very active in the Blue Valley School District serving on numerous district committees as well as in her children's schools. In her spare time, Ms. Blank enjoys working out, watching her children in their various sporting endeavors and reading.
My teaching career started in the late ‘70s while I was studying jazz guitar back in New Jersey. I introduced beginners to the guitar and enjoyed the dual role of student and teacher. After completing my undergraduate work, I relocated in Kansas City to work on my Masters degree in Psychology. As a graduate teaching assistant I volunteer taught an undergraduate psychology course and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. For a brief period of time I was a weight loss counselor with Nutri-System and enjoyed working with the clients. After completing my Psychology work I developed an interest in organizational behavior and started to work on a Masters of Public Administration. From 1981 to 1987 I worked for the Missouri Department of Mental Health. In the mid 80s, my wife and I began our family; we have three wonderful girls who have brought us immeasurable joy. The late ‘80s, (1987 - 1991) was a wonderful and challenging period in my life. I was employed full time as an analyst with American Century, I was teaching psychology and Lotus-1-2-3 part time and, in 1988 with my wife expecting our second child, and I began working on my MBA with an emphasis in Quantitative Analysis. After 7 years of night school, I had wrapped up what is my second to last educational experience. In retirement I hope to pursue more formal studies in jazz guitar. I started teaching at Avila in August 2001 and have enjoyed every moment of it. The Avila culture, how we interact with each other, is special and not found elsewhere. The quality of the students is second to no other educational entity in the area. I consider myself very fortunate to be invited by the students to work with them on their dream of an education. I am thankful for their trust, am in awe of their tenacity and admire their persistence. I hope to continue teaching at Avila for many more years.
Kevin Costello has been with the University of Kansas Hospital since 2005 and serves as the Manager for the Employee Development division of Human Resources. Kevin was the director of the Training and Staff Development department at Truman Medical Center from 1995 to 2004. During his nine years there, he instituted a curriculum for development of leaders and staff and created a train-the-trainer program. Kevin holds a number of certifications and has an M.Ed in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a BS Ed. from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Karen Gaines is VP of Operations for Intermark, Inc., a managed food services provider to the military, business, healthcare, and educational industries. Karen is primarily responsible for the overall operations of Intermark’s contracts, as well as business development. She has a Masters of Business Administration Degree in management and marketing; she has over eight years experience owning various restaurants; she has over 10 years experience consulting with numerous businesses with operations control and marketing. Karen teaches college-level business classes and Johnson County Community College and Avila University.
Frances “Cecilia” Garrett
Frances “Cecilia” Garrett, who teaches in the Avila Advantage program, earned her B.S. in Education from Missouri University – Columbia and her Masters in Liberal Arts (MLA) from Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore. After teaching in both the public and private arena for a number of years, she entered the academic field six years ago. She originally came to Avila to teach Fundamentals of Communication in the traditional program but is now teaching, not only Fundamentals of Communication, but Composition I, Composition II, and Literature and Culture in the Advantage program while teaching daytime at one of the community colleges.
Phillip Gonsher was a 23 year veteran of Embarq Communications company. Phillip has held positions in Marketing, sales and sales management. Positions he has held have been in the consumer and business markets divisions. Concurrent with his career at Sprint/Embarq since 1997 Phillip has been an adjunct professor of Business at Johnson County Community College teaching Marketing, Small Business Management, Introduction to Business and Sales Management. In the Fall of 2008 Phillip added Marketing and Consumer Behavior as an adjunct professor at UMKC Bloch School of Business. For the last four years Phillip has taught Consumer Behavior, International Marketing and Marketing at Avila University.
Traci Greer leads the service collaboration efforts between the subsidiaries of YRC Worldwide. In her current role as VP of Collaboration and her previous role as VP of Marketing, Greer is responsible for service development, market management, promotional and communication strategies both domestically and internationally. Prior to joining YRCW, Greer was the VP of Sales and Marketing at Planet Alumni (a local Kansas City technology company) and held progressively responsible marketing positions at Sprint.
Greer received her BA from Wichita State University and a MBA from Keller Graduate School.
First, I subscribe to the philosophy of Samuel Goldwyn who said, “I don't think anyone should write their autobiography until after they're dead.” I was born in Odessa, Texas on June 6, 1959. I was raised in a blue collar area of Kansas City, Kansas and worked as an auto mechanic and welder. After getting tired of busting my knuckles, I began night classes and eventually received a B.A. in Philosophy and Economics magna cum laude from Washburn University of Topeka, Kansas. I then attended Graduate and Law School at the University of Kansas where I graduated with a J.D. in Law and M.A. in Economics. I have a law office in downtown Kansas City where much of my practice involves assisting small businesses. I have been teaching various Economics classes in undergraduate and graduate programs for Avila University and Columbia College since 1993. My hobby is stage acting, play-writing, film-making and wine-making.
Joyce Rozmiarek-Hill has an extensive background in leadership and organizational development. Joyce’s work with organizations includes cultural change that supports the achievement of business strategies, talent development that encompasses succession planning, team interventions, performance management, retention strategies and employee engagement. She has experience working with Fortune 500 organizations as well as small businesses across many disciplines, including, but not limited to financial, telecommunications, retail, and academia. Joyce is also a strong proponent of positive reinforcement and has helped several organizations incorporate this approach into their culture. She holds a Masters of Science in Organizational Development and a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management and has received special acknowledgements from the Corporate Leadership Council, Alexandria, WV and American Productivity and Quality Center, Houston, TX for her work with cultural change and performance management.
In 1997, I received a Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution from the McGregor School of Antioch University in Yellow Springs Ohio. My study emphasis was designing dispute resolution systems, mediation, and workplace conflict. I earned my undergraduate degree in1986. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Wyoming. Since earning my master’s degree, I have mediated over 200 EEO discrimination complaints, designed dispute systems for large and small workplaces, and taught mediation, conflict resolution and designing dispute systems at Avila University in the Advantage and traditional programs. I enjoy teaching at Avila because of the faculty and students that put so much into each class period and make my teaching time fun and exciting.
Shawnta Gantt-Jefferies, is currently the Training and Organizational Manager at Development Systems, Inc. In this role Mrs. Jefferies identifies, develops and implement training for family planning health care professionals in the states of Iowa and Kansas. Mrs. Jefferies also serves as an internal HR consultant for Development Systems where she facilitates, associate surveys, review of personnel documents, and oversees the employee recognition program. Mrs. Jefferies received her Bachelors of Arts of Sociology from The University of Missouri-Kansas City, a Masters of Arts in Health Service Management from Webster University and a Masters of Business Administration also from Webster University.
Carmela Meyer, Ed.D. completed a Bachelor of Science in Education from Central Missouri State University, a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in Organizational Behavior from the University of Missouri - Kansas City and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Capella University. She is currently employed at the University of Kansas School of Medicine as the Associate Program Director/Assistant Professor in pediatric medical education. She has 20 years of experience in organizational development and medical education in both higher education and non-profits. Her research interests include quality improvement in education and assessment.
Dr. Mary Patterson
Dr. Mary Patterson teaches online General Biology for Avila Advantage. Mary received her B.S. in Horticultural Science from Kansas State University and then went on to graduate school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. Her dissertation research focused on the packaging of the Herpes Simplex Virus Type I. She received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry in 1997 shortly after the birth of her daughter, Hannah. She enjoys the challenges and new technologies involved in teaching online.
A. Michael Segalo
I graduated from Rutgers University in 1976 with a degree in Civil Engineering. Upon graduation I started working as a Loss Prevention Engineer for an insurance company. From that engineering position I was promoted to “Marketing Engineer”. This began my movement away from engineering. In that sales position I was exposed to finance. In order to make a sale I had to understand the time value of money so that I could recommend alternative ways for the companies to pay for the insurance. That was my first exposure to finance and I loved it. So after being out of college for 4 years I decided to go back full time and get my master’s degree in Finance. After graduation, I worked as a Management Consultant for Touche Ross and then a Senior Financial Analyst for Marion Labs. After 6 years at Marion I decided to start my own consulting company. For 10 years I developed financial models for companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Pepsi, Black & Veatch, Utili-Corp and Yellow Freight. Five years ago I decided to become a financial advisor because of my passion to apply my analytical skills to the financial challenges of individual investors. While a financial advisor I have been awarded the Accredited Asset Management Specialist (AAMS) and the Certified Retirement Financial Advisor (CRFA) designations. I own and operate my own business called STRATEGIC INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS, INC. In addition have been an instructor at Avila University for over 20 years teaching undergraduate level courses that include Money and Banking, Finance, Statistics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, Investments and Quantitative Analysis. My wife and I currently reside in Lee's Summit, Missouri. We will be celebrating our 30th anniversary this year and have been blessed with five children. I am an avid baseball, basketball and football fan. I also enjoy playing the piano and occasionally play for my church.
Jere Smith holds a Master of Business Administration (Concentration: Accounting) from Keller Graduate School of Management. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Business with an Advanced Accounting Specialty at Northcentral University. Currently Jere owns two small businesses along with her husband. Prior to these endeavors she worked in government and not for profit as an accountant and manager. Jere has taught accounting since 1993. She lives north of Kansas City Missouri with her husband and high school age son.
Raymond F. Smith
Raymond F. Smith, MHA is an adjunct faculty member of Avila University of Kansas City, MO, teaching in the Avila Advantage Healthcare Management BS degree program. He also serves as director of Avila’s community outreach program for eldercare givers. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota. His career experience includes serving as CEO of St. Joseph Hospital of Kansas City, MO and CEO of Mercy Life Center Corporation of Pittsburgh, a long term care network.
Marchita R. Stanton
Marchita R. Stanton is president of the Stanton Group, a consulting firm which provides leadership, organization development and transformational services. The Stanton Group designs, delivers and coordinates a wide variety of activities to support work redesign, organizational change and transitions, improve team effectiveness, and enhance professional and leadership skills. As an agent of social change, Ms. Stanton has designed, developed, and implemented strategies to enhance racial/cultural awareness and organizational harmony in public and private sectors. Principles of spirituality and whole-self development bring a holistic perspective to Ms. Stanton’s work. Over 20 years of her work has been dedicated to creating workplaces in which people develop and grow rather than wither and die.
My name is Carrie Stevick, PMP, SSBB. I graduated from Avila University with an Bachelor degree in Business Administration in 2002 and with a Master of Business Administration in 2004. I also received a Master Certificate in Project Management from George Washington University in 2004 and became certified as a Project Manager Professional (PMP) via Project Management Institute (PMI). In 2008, I received a Master Certificate in Lean Six Sigma from Villanova University, and became Six Sigma Black Belt certified via ASQ. I have worked at Sprint Nextel for 9 years; currently working as a process re-engineer focused on process improvement projects.
Linda Strelluf is an assistant professor in the communication department at Avila where she teaches a variety of classes. When teaching corporate communication, she specializes in working with "real world" clients. As a result, her students have been recognized with numerous awards for their work. Strelluf is involved in a variety of communication related organizations. She has been elected by the national membership to the Board of Directors of the Association for Women in Communication (AWC). She is also a member of the AWC’s Clarion Award task force and has been a judge for the past two years. Locally, she serves on the advisory board for St Joseph Institute for the Deaf in Kansas City. Additionally, she is a member of the Public Relation's Society of America (PRSA), and the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). She sums up her educational philosophy in the following words: "Knowledge is power and I see myself as a conduit. Effective communication is essential if a student is to become successful. I make every attempt to energize my students about learning new theories and techniques that will enrich them both professionally and personally."
P. Jeffery Sturgis - CISA, PMP, CDP, CSP
Jeff is a seasoned IT leader and project manager, applying deep technology and relationship management experience helping companies successfully manage change through the effective use of strategy and technology. Throughout his career, Jeff has been specifically recognized as an excellent communicator and a valued builder of organizations and people. His teaching experience includes industry and academic assignments. While with KPMG Peat Marwick he was a select member of the firm’s training cadre for new entry level consultants – garnering the highest instructor rating during his tenure. As an adjunct professor, he taught Analytical Methods for the California State University – Los Angeles and with Avila University, he is the designer of and instructor for the Project Management curriculum.
Janet Sunderland teaches writing and literature in the Avila Advantage program. She grew up on a Kansas homestead in Marshall County, Kansas - a homestead that remains in the family and is now planted to native prairie. She and her husband Cliff Kroski retreat to the quiet of wind and tallgrass in the summer. In the years between the farm in Kansas and teaching in Kansas City, she also lived throughout the U.S., in Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean. She moved to Kansas City in 1999. She holds a BFA from Kansas State University and an MA from St. John’s College in Santa Fe.
Janet is a professional actor and a writer in addition to being a teacher. She recently completed a Creative Nonfiction memoir, Standing at the Crossroad. Her essays and poetry have been published in The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Writer, KC Voices, The Rockhurst Review and other publications and have won prizes with The Oklahoma Writers Federation, The Kansas Writers Club, and the Springfield Writers Guild. She’s a member of AWP, Kansas City Writers Group, and Oklahoma Writers Federation.
Thomas Turner teaches Philosophy of Ethics and Shaping the American Dream at
Avila Advantage. His full-time job is Executive Director of Bishop Sullivan
Center, a social service agency located on the eastside of Kansas City. The
Center provides a variety of services to low-income families, including a
food pantry, soup kitchen, employment services and emergency assistance.
Turner is Kansas City native and did his graduate studies in Philosophy and
Theology at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He is
co-author a book, "That's Not Fair," which is a teacher's manual for
teaching Catholic Social Doctrine to middle-school students.
Diane Waisner currently teaches Organizational Psychology and has a myriad of experience in the field. Mrs. Waisner graduated from William Jewel with her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and received her Master's degree in Counseling from the Midwestern Theological Seminary. She worked in Human Resources and Training & Development for 25 years as an Organizational Development Manager. When she is not at work or teaching, she loves spending time with her husband gardening and traveling. They recently visited the Middle-East and often make trips to Southern Missouri and Denver, CO to visit her children and 6 grandchildren.
Margo A Weatherby
Margo A Weatherby owner of Associated Business Advisors where accounting, tax and business consulting are her specialties. Margo has been in business for the past 25 years.and has been an adjunct professor for the past 10 years. She currently teaches accounting for Avila and Graceland Universities. She th proud parent of a 18 year old son and 2 year old shitzu named “Sox”. My passion is to help people. She is an avid reader, who loves to travel and explore new things. Margo is currently associated with the following organizations National Association of Tax Practitioner, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Negro League Baseball Museum.
Mr. Whaley is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist teaching as an adjunct in both the Education and Psychology programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. He practices as a school psychologist in a large suburban school district in the Kansas City area. Mr. Whaley is a Due Process Hearing Officer and Mediator for the Missouri department of education. He is also a Missouri Autism Consultant and scholarship recipient through the Missouri department of education allowing him to consult with school districts in the area of Applied Behavior Analysis. Mr. Whaley received his undergraduate, Masters of Education, and Educational Specialist degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is completing another Educational Specialist degree from the University of Central Missouri in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Special Education Administration.