Start Here
Explore Avila



All full-time Avila Faculty are welcome to apply for Affiliate Faculty membership with the Center for Global Studies & Social Justice (CGSSJ) at Avila University. All such faculty are granted membership status in accordance with the expectations and requirements found here, as well as the Mission and Outcomes of CGSSJ. These Affiliate Faculty are expected to contribute towards our University understandings of global studies & social justice through the public sharing of knowledge and perspective. Furthermore, Affiliate Faculty are strongly encouraged to participate in important decision-making conversations and meetings with regard to global studies & social justice. Ultimately, the sustainability and wisdom of global studies & social justice at Avila depends upon this important group of people leading Avila University in these areas.

Affiliate Faculty

  • kate austin

    Kate Austin

    Assistant Director, International Student Services
    Office: Hodes Hall, 103
    Phone: 816.501.3771

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Coordinator of Intensive Language and Culture Program

    Teaches English Language Learner Courses


    Kate Austin is the Director of the Intensive Language & Culture Program, and she also teaches in the program. She began her career at Avila in 2010, when she started teaching in the ILCP. Ms. Austin specializes in teaching English as a Second Language to adults and advise

  • Amity Bryson

    Dr. Amity Bryson

    Professor of Music, Chair–Music
    Office: Goppert Theater, Office 312
    Phone: 816.501.3651

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    Dr. Amity Bryson, Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department, teaches various music courses. 


    As a lyric soprano, Dr. Bryson continues to perform on both the recital and opera stage. Recent recitals include a program of art songs by women composers, featuring In a Persian Garden by Liza Lehmann. Opera roles have included Zerlina, Juliette, and Ännchen, but most memorable was her portrayal of Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel. Dr. Bryson teaches applied voice, within the Women's & Gender Studies program, and directs both Avila Singers and University Singers.

    Dr. Bryson completed her doctoral work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Conservatory of Music and holds both a BS Ed in music education and a MM in voice performance from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is also an alumnae of Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. In addition to previous faculty appointments at William Woods University and Westminster College, Dr. Bryson has taught in the public school systems at both the elementary and secondary levels.

    Dr. Bryson is active in local, state, and national professional music organizations. As a member of the board of the Kansas City Metro chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing for the last two years, Dr. Bryson was recently appointed president of the chapter for a two-year term. She also serves on the state board of Missouri Choral Directors Association as Repertoire and Standards Chair for Women’s Choirs.

  • Amity Bryson

    Dr. Amity Bryson

    Professor of Music, Chair–Music
    Office: Goppert Theater, Office 312
    Phone: 816.501.3651

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    Music Department Chair, teaches various music courses including applied voice, and directs Avila Singers, Cyrene, and University Singers.


    Dr. Bryson completed her doctoral work at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Conservatory of Music and holds both a BS Ed in music education and a MM in voice performance from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is also an alumnae of Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. In addition to previous faculty appointments at William Woods University and Westminster College, Dr. Bryson has taught in the public school systems at both the elementary and secondary levels.

  • carol coburn

    Dr. Carol K. Coburn

    Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies
    Office: Borserine Hall, Office 412
    Phone: 816.501.3713

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Dr. Coburn is a Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies and the Director of the CSJ Heritage Center at Avila University.  


    Dr. Coburn received her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1988 where she worked as a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant in the History Department and as teaching faculty in the Women’s Studies Department.  Since coming to Avila University in 1989, she has taught courses in education, history, psychology, religious studies and women’s studies.  Dr. Coburn has published two books on American religious history and women’s history, including Life at Four Corners: Religion, Gender and Education in a German Lutheran Community, 1868-1945 (University Press of Kansas, 1992) and Spirited Lives: How Nuns Shaped Catholic Culture and American Life, 1836-1920 (University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

  • nicole esquibel

    Nicole Esquibel MFA

    Associate Professor
    Dean, School of VisCom
    Office: Dallavis, Office 808
    Phone: 816.501.2404

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Nicole Esquibel is an award-winning video and filmmaker, writer, and poet. 


    She is a graduate of the prestigious University of Iowa's MFA-Film and Video Production program. Her theoretical articles and written works of fiction have appeared in publications such as Sinister Wisdom and Our Voices. Ms. Esquibel's films and videos have screened both domestically and internationally, including winning the "Between the Lines" award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. hush, the first film created under her production company Flying Dragon Films, received tremendous critical acclaim and the project was a closing night selection for the Kansas International Film Festival and screened at the Hot Springs International Documentary Film Festival. Recently she completed, La Pucelle, an experimental retelling of the trial of Joan of Arc, shot on Super16mm. Tu Me Quieres Blanca (You want me White) 2010, is a found footage project inspired by a poem by Alfonsina Stori, which seeks to explore the secondary role of Chicana women and Machismo in 20th Century America. Esquibel is author of The Image and the Border: the Films of Willie Varela, a chapter in Experimental Film: The Missing Frames. Currently, in pre-production on a feature length documentary, Neva (working title), examining the death of Neva Arlene Romero, a 21year-old college student and a series of bombings that took place in Boulder Colorado in the spring of 1974.

  • karen garber miller

    Dr. Karen Garber Miller

    Dean and Professor, School of Education
    Office: Foyle Hall, Office 914
    Phone: (816) 501-3663

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    B.A. from MidAmerica Nazarene University, M.A. from Southern Nazarene University, Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City


    Dr. Garber-Miller is the Dean in the School of Education at Avila University and a Professor of Education. She specializes in literacy, the language arts, international education, TESL/ESOL, and cross cultural studies. She has taught a variety of courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels over many years. Dr. Garber-Miller is also a former K-12 educator. In recent years she has taught and participated in international education and advocacy projects in Armenia, Botswana, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Haiti, Hungary, Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Ukraine and Zambia. Dr. Garber-Miller enjoys taking students into other areas of the world to engage in educational, social justice and advocacy work as part of academic courses, service learning and volunteerism. Dr. Garber-Miller presents for an array of professional organizations as well as consults and provides professional development for K-12 schools and districts. She serves on the Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Board, The Missouri Advisory Board for Educator Preparation, and the Missouri Council of Education Deans. Dr. Garber-Miller advises elementary education students and international education and advocacy students.

  • karin rita gastreich

    Dr. Karin Rita Gastreich

    Associate Professor of Biology
    Office: O’Rielly Hall, Social Sciences Suite, Office H
    Phone: (816) 501-2996

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Dr. Gastreich received her Ph.D. at the University of Texas in Austin in 1996.


    Her research interests include plant-insect interactions, predator-prey interactions, indirect effects, cooperative behavior, tropical ecology, and conservation.  She has worked primarily with insects and spiders in Central and South America.  She teaches introductory biology, anatomy and physiology lab, plant form and function, and the interdisciplinary classes Women and Science (with Dr. Carol Coburn) and Ecology Through the Writer’s Lens (with Dr. Amy Milakovic).

  • nilufer guler

    Dr. Nilufer Guler

    Assistant Professor of Education
    Office: Office: 912, Foyle
    Phone: 816.501.2960

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    B.A. from Middle East Technical University, M.A. from Ohio University, Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Columbia


    Dr. Guler specializes in TESOL, ELL education and teacher education. She taught ESL/EFL courses both in the United States and abroad. Her research mainly focuses on preparing pre-service and in-service teachers to teach English Language Learners.  She is widely published, has presented at numerous conferences, and has more than 10 years of ESL/ELL teaching experience at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Guler teaches undergraduate and graduate education courses. She serves as the academic advisor for middle school and secondary education students and supervisor of student teachers. 

  • dotty hamilton

    Dr. Dotty Hamilton

    Professor, Visual & Communication Arts
    Office: Dallavis Hall, Office
    Phone: (816) 501-3646

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    She received a Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in film studies, a master’s from Webster University in media communication, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Missouri. 


    Dr. Hamilton oversees student internships and the capstone course, Senior Seminar, where students produce an online portfolio of their work prior to graduation. Hamilton has been a long time advocate of students working with real clients as part of their college learning experience. Hamilton also received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities to study black film history at University of Central Florida.

    As Vice President for the Kansas International Film Festival, Hamilton brings a variety of documentary films to Kansas City every year.  Dr. Hamilton has delivered numerous conference presentations on a variety of topics from the history and practices of the Motion Picture Production Association in rating movies to images of food in South Korean film. She recently published a chapter “Appetite and Aroma: The Perception of Taste and Smell in Korean films, The Recipe and 301/302” for the book titled, Food and Film: Bringing Something New to the Table.

    Dr. Hamilton is an Affiliate Faculty in the Center for Global Studies and Social Justice, teaching several global studies courses, as well as study away courses to Montreal and South Korea. Hamilton is passionate about introducing students to global experiences and has traveled and studied abroad. Hamilton was awarded a Fulbright-Hayes trip to Morocco and has taught documentary film history as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pecs in Hungary. See her blog at The Land of Paprika.

  • Wendy Johnson Donnell, Ph.D.

    Associate Professor of Education
    Office: 918, Foyle
    Phone: 816.501.3667

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    B.S.E. from the University of Kansas, M.S.E. from Kansas State University, Ph.D. from University of Missouri-Kansas City


    Dr. Donnell's area of expertise is literacy acquisition, with emphasis on culturally and linguistically diverse students. She comes to Avila after 30 years in the public schools; during that tenure, she held positions at the classroom, school, and district level. She has participated as an invited team member of an international reading research group investigating literacy in Cuba, and has also participated in local, national, and international literacy conferences as invited guest and facilitator/presenter. Recently Dr. Donnell has worked on special literacy projects with the Office of the Mayor of Kansas City, MO and the office of the Superintendent of Kansas City, KS Public Schools. Dr. Donnell currently advises undergraduate elementary education teacher candidates, and teaches in the undergraduate education and international advocacy programs, and the graduate TESOL program.

  • kelly minerva

    Dr. Kelly Minerva

    Assistant Professor of English
    Phone: (816) 501-3691

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    B.A., University of Scranton
    M.A., University at Buffalo
    Ph.D., University of Toronto


    Dr. Minerva received her Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Toronto, where she also earned a graduate certificate in South Asian Studies. She specializes in postcolonial literature with particular interest in how space and narrative devices interact in novels set in Bombay and Mumbai, India. Her research has been published in Postcolonial Urban Outcasts (2017), The University of Toronto Quarterly (October 2015), and Transnationalism, Activism, Art (2013).

    She joined Avila's faculty in 2015, and she is affiliate faculty in the Center for Global Studies & Social Justice, and a Steering Committee member for Women & Gender Studies. Dr. Minerva teaches both literature and composition courses.

  • Dr. Amy Milakovic

    Assistant Professor of English
    Chair – English
    Office: Borserine Hall, Office 405
    Phone: (816) 501-3633

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    M.H., University of Dallas

    Ph.D., Texas Christian University


    Dr. Milakovic received her Ph.D. in English from Texas Christian University and joined the Avila faculty in 2009. She specializes in rhetoric and composition, with research interests that include the rhetoric of war, visual rhetoric, and modern rhetorical theory. Dr. Milakovic has served as Managing Editor of Composition Studies and published a book review on composition pedagogy in Rhetoric Society Quarterly. In addition to teaching writing, she also teaches courses which examine the intersection of war and the arts, particularly as their interplay both shapes, and is informed by, public discourse. 

  • Heather Noble Ph.D.

    Assistant Professor of Psychology
    Office: Foyle 1013
    Phone: (816) 501-2969

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    Dr. Noble is a licensed psychologist in the states of Missouri and Kansas. 


    She specializes in counseling and assessing diverse individuals, along with training and supervising graduate students in their clinical work. B.A., Baker University, M.S., Ph.D. University of North Texas

    Dr. Noble is a licensed psychologist in the states of Missouri and Kansas.  She specializes in counseling and assessing diverse individuals, along with training and supervising graduate students in their clinical work.  She maintains a small clinical practice in geropsychology and health psychology.  The courses she teachers are related to understanding personality and social behavior, assessing for cognitive abilities, and applying foundational counseling and helping skills.  Her research interest is in the development of psychological tests.

  • ken parsons

    Dr. Ken Parsons

    Director, Center for Global Studies & Social Justice
    Associate Professor of Philosophy
    Office: Carondelet Hall, Office 108
    Phone: (816) 501-2407

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Philosophies of Violence & Power, Philosophy of Technology, Contemporary European Philosophy, Social & Political Philosophy


    Dr. Parsons is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Director for the Center for Global Studies & Social Justice. He joined the department in August 2008 from his previous teaching positions at Central Michigan University (2007-08) and SUNY-Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY (2005-07). His research currently focuses on the philosophical problems of how we represent phenomena of violence and how we exercise moral judgments about it, in particular as these problems relate to mass violence & genocide. In this arena, the questions are:

    • What is it that is under consideration for reflection when one “thinks clearly about violence”?

    • How are philosophers to represent and reflect upon phenomena that in its most concrete manifestation is an experience of harm and suffering?

    • How does one frame the historical realities of violence in ways which make violence salient for those it is being represented for?

    He has presented his research in South Korea, Hungary, Canada and Italy, most recently with the Society for European Philosophy/Forum for European Philosophy. Previously he taught courses within the areas of Value Theory (Social-Political Philosophy, Ethics), Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Technology and Critical Reasoning. He continues to co-teach interdisciplinary courses which integrate Philosophy and other academic perspectives/methodologies (Music, Media & Film Studies, and Social Work). This Fall semester he is traveling again with students and Dr. Amity Bryson (Music) to Berlin, Germany, as part of a course on Music & Politics. In the Spring 2016 semester he will travel to Guatemala again with Professor Nicole Esquibel (Media & Film Studies) as part of a course on mass violence and genocide. Finally, as part of a 3-year project funded by the Hilton Foundation to the Sisters of St. Joseph, Dr. Parsons will be working with Dr. Coburn on designing, refining, and evaluating a Cultural Diversity & Conflict Management curriculum, along with many Sisters of St. Joseph from around the world. The two will travel to Le Puy, France, in late October and early November of 2015.

  • Bradley Poos

    Dr. Bradley Poos

    Assistant Professor of Education
    Office: Foyle Hall, 916
    Phone: 816.501.2431

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:

    B.A. from the University of Kansas, M.Ed. from Rockhurst University, M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.


    Dr. Poos specializes in the historical and sociological foundations of education and has particular expertise in the areas of race and schooling in the United States. His research and publications have largely focused on exploring the lived experiences of people of color around issues of school segregation and desegregation. Dr. Poos began his career in education as a middle school and high school social studies teacher, before working as a middle school counselor and is certified in both secondary social studies and K-12 counseling and guidance. Dr. Poos teaches both undergraduate and graduate students and advises middle and secondary education students, as well as student teachers. Additionally, Dr. Poos serves as the faculty sponsor for the Avila Education Association (AEA) and Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society (KDPi).

  • leslie dorrough smith

    Dr. Leslie Dorrough Smith

    Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Women’s & Gender Studies
    Office: Borserine Center, Office 409
    Phone: (816) 501-3684

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    Dr. Smith has been at Avila since 2010, where she is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department


    Before coming to Avila, she taught at a number of different institutions, including Missouri State, Drury University, and Pepperdine University. Interests Include: Sociology of Religion, American Conservative Protestantism (Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism), Feminist and Gender Theory, American Religious History (General), Gender and Religion, Discourse and Rhetoric Studies, Critical Social Theory, and Pluralism and Religious Tolerance

    Dr. Smith’s work is interdisciplinary, drawing from sociological, historical, critical, and feminist theoretical perspectives.  Her primary research is concerned with the ways in which social groups use religious language to create avenues of social influence and political power, with particular focus on American evangelicals.  More specifically, her interest in how language has shaped sex and gender-related public policy led to the publication of her first book, Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (Oxford University Press, 2014), which provides a rhetorical critique of one of the nation’s largest conservative women’s movements.

    Dr. Smith is also interested in the methods scholars use to study groups that they politically oppose, and she has recently finished chapters for two separate, edited volumes that explore everything from feminist scholarly methods to the politics of code-switching.  She is the author of numerous other articles and book chapters, and is a frequent community speaker on various topics related to religion and culture.  Future monograph-length projects include an examination of how sex scandals are handled by the American public, and what impact such events have on the rhetorical conceptualization of the political process.  In addition, Dr. Smith is a member of the Culture on the Edge collective, an international working group of scholars probing questions of politics and identity, and she is an active contributor to the group’s blog.

  • ling zhang

    Dr. Ling Zhang

    Assistant Professor of Finance
    Office: Whitfield, Office 506B
    Phone: (816) 501-3697

    Scholarship & Teaching Interests:
    B.A. Nankai University China; M.S. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D. Temple University

All Academics
Visit our channel

The Avila Promise

  • Lower Tuition Rate
  • Tuition Protection
  • 4-Year Graduation Guarantee
  • Internship or Research Guarantee
  • up to $1,000 Travel Award


That’s the Avila Promise.

International Study & Internships

Looking to study abroad or complete your internship in an international, intercultural context?

united nations avila student chapter

Join a vibrant human rights & social justice chapter that has international support from the UN.

The Inspired Master's Degree Programs at Avila

adult learner in learning commons

Heather Noble, Ph.D. in counseling psychology
Go beyond the lecture. Find your mentor.
Learn More > 

AU News

Avila University - SOAR 2018

Reach Your
Full Potential

Want to know more about Avila University and the Avila Promise?
Fill out the form below.

Clicking the "Request Information" button below constitutes your express written consent to be called and/or texted by Avila University at the number you provided, regarding furthering your education. You understand that these calls may be generated using automated technology.