Alumni in the News 05/19/2015

By May 18, 2015Alumni

Congratulations to Union Institute & University’s alumni in the news. Thousands of Union alumni have generously transformed lives and bettered communities across the country.

Sandra Lee

Sandra Lee

Alumna Sandra Lee (BA 2007, MA 2011) is celebrating her tenth year of working at Union Institute & University. Since joining Union’s Sacramento Academic Center in 2004 Lee has served as the secretary to the regional dean, enrollment counselor, part-time faculty, and director of admissions. She has processed over a thousand students and she is well versed in the Criminal Justice Management and Emergency Services Management academic programs. She is highly respected by many Police Chiefs, officers, and Presidents of Public Safety Associations.

Alumnus Mitchell E. Simmons, Lt Col, USAF (Ph.D. 1999) accepted a faculty member position teaching graduate level courses within the College of Science and Technology at the National Intelligence University in Washington D.C.

René Díaz-Lefebvre

Diaz Lefebvre


René Díaz-Lefebvre (Ph.D. 1982) recently earned the 2014 Distinguished Padrino Recognition for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA). The award recognizes outstanding lifetime achievement congruent with NLPA’s mission, “to advance psychological education and training, scientific practice and organizational change to enhance the overall well-being of Latina/o populations.” Dr. Díaz-Lefebvre is a professor of psychology at Glendale Community College, North Campus, in Phoenix, Arizona. He is the first community college recipient of this Lifetime Achievement Award.


Dr Ricardo Y Smith

Ricardo Smith

Recent graduate Ricardo Smith’s (Ph.D. 2014) dissertation about post-prison experiences of African Americans was featured as a story on WVXU radio in Cincinnati in April 2015. Dr. Smith’s research questions focused on the post-prison impact on the lived experiences of 10 African American men. His hope was to give voice to these men as they attempt to rebuild their lives after prison, particularly as it relates to these questions: When returning to communities where social barriers exist and persist, what barriers do the men recognize? To what extent do these barriers affect their lives post-prison? To what extent do the men recognize the impact of the criminal label (criminal for life) on their lives post-prison? How does this label affect them when they are seeking employment, permanent housing, and trying to vote?


Scott D. Miller


Alumnus Scott D. Miller (Ph.D. 1991) has been named President of Virginia Wesleyan College. This will be Dr. Miller’s fourth college presidency, having previously served at Bethany College, Wesley College, and Lincoln Memorial University. Dr. Miller served on Union’s panel of alumni college presidents for the event “Changing the Face of Higher Education” in 2014. As a doctoral student at Union Institute & University, his dissertation was a landmark study of resource development effectiveness at the 38 institutions with membership in the Appalachian College Association.


Jeff Shepard Medacheck

In March 2015, Union Institute & University alumnus Jeffery Shepard (Ph.D. 2011) was featured in the Cincinnati Business Courier. The article and video cover his start-up MedaCheck, a new product that helps seniors stick to their complicated medicine regimens. It is also being used by hospitals to reduce readmission rates.

Alumna Sherry Saunders (B.S. 2013) earned her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Studies and has turned her passion into a business. In January 2015, Saunders launched her own child care center Aunties Kids Learning Center LLC in the Mt. Healthy neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The center serves children ages 2 1/2 to 12 years old. The center’s play-based program integrates physical, cognitive, social, emotional, language, self-help and aesthetic areas for the total development of each child.

Portia Simpson Miller

Notable alumna The Most Honorable Portia Simpson Miller (B.A. 1997), Prime Minister of Jamaica, met with President Barack Obama during his visit to Jamaica in April 2015. The stop is an effort by Obama to improve relations and strengthen engagement with nearby Caribbean neighbors. The last sitting US president to visit Jamaica was Ronald Reagan in 1982.



Dr Kim Byas

Kim Byas


Union Institute & University Board of Trustees Member, alumnus (Ph.D. 2013) and American Hospital Association Regional Executive Kim Byas presented the keynote address during Wittenberg University’s 170th Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Dr. Byas graduated from Wittenberg in 1974. With more than 30 years of experience in healthcare administration, Dr. Kim Byas has served as president, CEO and consultant for a variety of organizations, including Kailo Alliance, Inc. and Coopers & Lybrand. He currently serves as a regional executive for the American Hospital Association, overseeing a region that encompasses Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.


stephanie covington

Stephanie Covington


Union alumna Stephanie Covington (Ph.D. 1982) who will be the opening speaker for the 2015 National Conference on Addiction Disorders and Behavioral Healthcare Executive Summit in St. Louis, Missouri on August 1-4, 2015. She will present “Gender Matters: A Trauma-Informed Approach.” Dr. Covington is a pioneer in the field of women’s issues, addiction, trauma, and recovery, and has developed an innovative, gender-responsive, and trauma-informed approach. She is an internationally recognized clinician, author, organizational consultant, and lecturer.



Divonna Stebick

Divonna Stebick


Congratulations to Union alumna Divonna Stebick (Ph.D. 2009) who earned a tenured position at Gettysburg College for the upcoming academic year. Dr. Stebick holds a Ph.D. with a concentration in Public Policy and Social Issues from Union Institute & University. Her research interests include literacy, special education, and education policy. Dr. Divonna Stebick started in the education department of Gettysburg College as a lecturer in 2003, and more recently moved into a tenure-track position. Before joining Gettysburg she served as a teacher in Carroll County, Maryland and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


John Carli

John Carli

John Carli (B.S. 2005) was named the new Chief of Police for the City of Vacaville, California. A 25-year member of the department, he worked his way through the ranks of the Vacaville PD starting as a patrol officer in 1989. He most recently served as lieutenant. “…It was clear that John was the right choice to lead the department into the future. It’s also a testament to his ability, background, experience and knowledge that he rose to the top. Our department is in good hands.” said Vacaville City Manager Laura Kuhn.

Hanns MeissnerHanns Meissner (Ph.D. 1988) published Creating Blue Space: Fostering Innovative Support Practices for People with Developmental Disabilities in 2014. Dr. Meissner’s story focuses on creating innovative ways to support and partner with individuals with developmental disabilities. The book is a combination of advanced organizational theory, personal account experience and applied learning opportunity rolled into one field guide.

Diane Montgomery

Diane Montgomery


In February 2015, alumna Diane Montgomery (Ph.D. 2008) served as guest theater director for Roanoke College’s winter production of Blithe Spirit at Olin Theater. Dr. Montgomery has directed plays at several other institutions, including Union College in Kentucky, Shorter University in Georgia, Missouri State University, Soldiers Theatre in Vicenza, Italy, and Radford University in Virginia.




Robert W McGee

Robert W. McGee

Alumnus Robert W. McGee (Ph.D. 1993) of North Carolina recently released the novels Annie and the Senator: A Story of Vigilante Justice and Justifiable Homicide: A Political Thriller. McGee worked as a certified public accountant (CPA), accounting professor, attorney, banker, and consultant, and published 58 nonfiction books before becoming a novelist.

David “Dak” Kopec (Ph.D. 2002) gave a TEDx talk in Sacramento, California. His presentation focused on the need for increased unstructured interactions with nature. Click here to watch Dr. Kopec’s talk.





Michael E. O’Neal

Michael E. O’Neal (Ph.D. 1983) is a Senior Research Fellow at Island Resources Foundation, an organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and the Caribbean. Island Resources Foundation is a non-profit research and education operating foundation dedicated to assisting the people of small tropical islands to plan and manage sustainable development opportunities while protecting the environmental qualities and unique human cultures and institutions that evolve in island settings. An academic and former higher education administrator, Dr. O’Neal previously served as President of the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in British Virgin Islands from 2005-2008.


Nancy ShiffrinAlumna, poet, critic, journalist, and teacher Nancy Shiffrin (Ph.D. 1994) read from her work The Vast Unknowing on Saturday May 23, 2015 at the Palms Rancho Park Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. She also released her new book of love poems Game With Variations in 2015. In addition to writing books, she has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, Canadian Jewish Outlook, Women and Judaism and