Cohort 2017

Olajumoke Joyce Ajayi

Olajumoke Joyce Ajayi is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and holds a Law Degree from the Nigerian Law School as well as a Masters in Public Service from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. She has over 10 years experience working with local and international organizations that advance the rights of vulnerable children and women across the globe. Her most recent public service experience was working with the Arkansas Department of Human Services to develop a plan to help identify human trafficking victims and a resource guide to direct victims toward care that is trauma-informed, human trafficking focused, and victim-centered. Ajayi’s research interests are issues related to women’s empowerment, child rights, strengthening civil societies, environmental protection, and rural development.


Laura Bowles

Laura Niswonger Bowles is a native of the Arkansas Ozarks. She has been teaching, one way or another, for most of her adult life. She began working in corporate training, then moving to a K-5 library media specialist and to high school English. She began teaching at UCA in 2003 in the Department of Writing and Speech, and continues to teach first year composition and professional writing courses. Since 2013, Laura has served as the director of the Great Bear Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project. Great Bear Writing Project offers professional development for teachers by teachers. This program is grounded in theory, research, and data, but the programs offered are praxis-oriented so that busy classroom teachers can take the materials and apply them. Laura is also involved with the Schedler Honors College Alumni Association, where she serves as social media coordinator and facilitates a book club. Research interests include first year writing, literacy, and rhetoric. Specifically she is interested in the rhetoric of the Ozarks region, the rhetoric of women’s work, and the rhetoric of speculative fiction, including comic books.


Larissa Collier

Larissa Collier resides in Conway and serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Arkansas. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Indiana University, Bloomington, in June 2013 and currently teaches in the Physical Therapy Department at UCA. Her research emphasis examines how cases of intra-group and structural violence can fluctuate during times of conflict or as a result of the sociopolitical climate. She examines cultural and economic leadership as well as public records to identify patterns and trends for different types of violence in the state of Arkansas and the United States. Her research aims to map and model changes in violence over time, including socioeconomic and racial disparities. This understanding of causal events of violence can begin to initiate community conversations in Arkansas and other states on how to mediate these systemic problems.


Emily Freeman

Emily Freeman is the Director of the Faculty Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She has spent the past 10 years working on faculty vitality issues at UAMS, including system development for recruitment, promotion and tenure, and professionalism. She also supports the women and minority faculty development organizations on campus in mentoring, recruitment, and research efforts. She is a member of the American Association of Medical Colleges Group on Faculty Affairs. Emily holds a Master of Health Administration from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a Bachelor of Speech Communication from Arkansas Tech University. She believes the LEAD program will increase her capacity to further serve the faculty at UAMS.


Jordan Mays

Jordan Mays is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in 2011 and Master of Science in Occupational Therapy in 2013. After graduating from UCA, Jordan joined Unity Health as an occupational therapist in inpatient rehabilitation from 2013-2017 and currently works at Conway Regional in acute care. In 2014, she became the fieldwork coordinator for occupational therapy at Unity, which has allowed her to maintain a close connection with her alma mater through guest lectureship, assisting in clinical competency assessments, participating in interviewing prospective occupational therapy students, and supervising fieldwork experiences for current occupational therapy students. Whether serving students at local universities or instructing a local Jazzercise class, Jordan believes the PhD in Leadership Studies program will allow her to continue her love of teaching and connecting with her community. Jordan, her husband Travis, and their two bird dogs live in Conway, AR.


Tom Nowlin

Tom lives in the Clinton area where he has been employed for 13 years as a manager at Petit Jean Electric Cooperative. He is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock, a faculty member of Cherry Hill Seminary, and an Arkansas Master Naturalist. Tom is a former fulltime vocational minister, serving as senior pastor of churches in Arkansas and Kentucky (11 years), and former missionary to Japan, serving as a church organizer and team leader in Kobe, Osaka and Yokosuka (12 years). Before seminary and ministry, he was a nuclear power plant operator/instructor in the U.S. Navy’s submarine program at Windsor, CT (S1C Nuclear Plant) and Charleston, SC (USS Nathan Hale, SSBN – 623). A graduate of Marion High School in Marion, AR, Tom holds a B.A. in Religion and Sociology from Charleston Southern University, Charleston, SC and a M-Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.


Daniel Orellano

A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, Daniel Orellano Jr graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, attaining a Master of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with the dual emphases of Psychology and Health Education. He is a Registered Investment Advisor for a regional investment firm assisting clients to meet their financial and legacy goals. With a broad base of experience, having served in the US Air Force, been on the Board of Directors for several charitable organizations, and worked in the corporate sector for most of his life, he is driven to find solutions to important and complex societal health problems that have not been adequately addressed. Daniel is confident that the knowledge and skills that he will accrue through the LEAD program will enable him to affect public policy change to enhance health programs and promotions that improve the quality of life for all of our community members.


Stephanie Rizzo

A native of Greenwood, Arkansas, Stephanie Rizzo earned her Bachelor of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and a Master of Business Administration from Henderson State University. Upon completion of her degrees, Stephanie began her career in higher education by writing grants for a local institution. She currently oversees an early intervention program providing support services to at-risk students at National Park College where she serves as Academic Advisor and Early Alert Specialist. Additionally, she serves on NPC’s Higher Learning Commission Quality Initiative Task Force, Curriculum Committee, and Behavioral Intervention Team. She plans to build upon her experiences collaborating between the offices of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs in her LEAD studies, focusing her research on student success and retention. Stephanie currently resides in Hot Springs, Arkansas with her husband Thomas and two children, Luca and Micah.


Andrew Sherrill

Andrew has completed a Master of Science in Applied Psychology from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and a Masters of Ministry from Harding University. During his time in central Arkansas, he worked alongside researchers at both the University of Arkansas for Medical Science and Arkansas Children’s Hospital. After presenting a portion of an ongoing study on childhood depression medication, he was awarded an internship at Pine Bluff’s National Center for Toxicological Research. He also has served as an adjunct professor of Psychology at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Currently, Andrew works as the college minister to one of Conway’s largest churches, Robinson and Center Church of Christ. This group of UCA college students works to give back to the community and develop a social group that fosters openness, growth, and support to all members. Andrew is grateful to be a part of the LEAD program and excited to begin the capstone of his academic career.


Michael Turley

Michael Turley is a retired US Air Force pilot and international liaison officer. He currently teaches high school mathematics in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Michael is also founder and president of Leadership Spectrum Consulting, Inc., specializing in disaster preparedness, education, and response. He has supported over 100 humanitarian crises or combat operations on four continents. Michael has earned a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Sciences as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching degree. He is the son of a 50-year pharmacist and a 50-year Special Educator. Michael has had the privilege of living in 14 time zones around the world, and he speaks French and Italian fluently. Michael is excited to be a part of the 2017 LEAD cohort, since this PhD embodies the interdisciplinary nature of his efforts and connects him with others who are similarly passionate about and committed to solving the world’s great puzzles through appropriate leadership.