Meet the On Course Team

biofoto_jbJONATHAN BRENNAN has facilitated student success workshops for faculty from colleges and universities across North America for the last two decades. Dr. Brennan is a researcher in best practices in student success, holds a BA and an MA in English, an MA in Counseling Psychology, a PhD in Ethnic Studies (UC Berkeley), an EdD in Educational Leadership and Change (Fielding Graduate University), and also consults as an Effectiveness and Leadership Coach. Since 2006, he has served as Chair of the On Course National Conference.

Dr. Brennan is a faculty member (and former chair) of the English Department at Mission College in Santa Clara, California. He designed and coordinated an On Course Program at Mission College that significantly improved the retention and academic success rate of students in developmental English, Mathematics, Reading, and ESL. He has chaired the Student Success Committee as well as the Accreditation Committee, served as Vice President of the Academic Senate, and teaches composition, African American and Native American literature, and life skills classes. He has served as director of an academic mentoring program for basic skills students, developed the first year seminar Learning Communities project, and directed research grants for the state of California’s Fund for Student Success and Fund for Instructional Improvement programs.

He was voted Faculty of the Year at Mission College in 1999-2000, and was awarded a NISOD Teaching Excellence Award. In April, 2005, he was awarded the Stanback-Stroud Diversity award from the California State Academic Senate, and in 2008 was awarded the California State Hayward Award for Excellence in Education. His publications include two books on Mixed Race and Black Indian Literature from Stanford Press and University of Illinois Press, and a student success textbook for high school students, Choosing a Good Road.

Skip PictureSKIP DOWNING, founder of On Course, is an international consultant in the field of faculty development and student success strategies. His market-leading text, On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life (Wadsworth/Cengage Learning), is used in student success courses, FYE programs and college writing courses at more than 500 colleges and universities.

Dr. Downing has earned degrees from Princeton University, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Santa Monica, and Carnegie Mellon University. He holds advanced degrees in both English and counseling psychology. He was Professor of English at Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) for 32 years.

In addition to his role as an academic instructor, Downing created and coordinated BCCC’s Student Success and Learning Community Programs. These programs teach students how to apply proven strategies of success to achieve their full potential in college and in life. The College Success Program resulted in a significant increase in both student academic success and retention. The American Community College Trustees has recognized Dr. Downing as its Northeast Region teacher of the year. He is a recipient of the NISOD Community College Leadership Award for teaching excellence, and he was named in USA Today as one of the fifty best community college instructors in the United States and Canada.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Downing has made presentations at national conferences and conducted faculty development workshops at colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands. His teaching, writing, and consulting are all guided by his belief that the greatest mission of any educational institution is empowering its students to live rich, personally fulfilling lives.

Mark-McBrideMARK MCBRIDE didn’t much like school growing up. In fact, in high school he enrolled in the work program just to avoid classes. Then, when he found out his father’s Veteran’s benefits would pay him more money to go to college than he was making rust-proofing cars, he reluctantly attended Florida Junior College. Fortunately, a number of caring teachers taught him he could not only succeed, but that he had talent and something to contribute. This led to a BA in literature (University of North Florida), an MA in English (University of Florida), doctorial work in Composition and Rhetoric (Florida State University), and a lasting insight into student challenges that informs his teaching to this day.

Professor McBride has taught at Eastern Florida State College (formally Brevard Community College) since 1994. His early instructional emphasis was composition and creative writing; however, since 2002, he has taught—and now coordinates—Eastern Florida’s Success Strategies for College and Life course. Mark helped bring On Course to Eastern Florida, influencing over two hundred faculty and staff through a variety of professional opportunities.

Professor McBride has been a regular contributor to the On Course Newsletter and a presenter at numerous On Course National Conferences. He has co-facilitated multiple On Course Workshops with Dr. Downing, as well as taught TCHG 6530: Strategies for Empowering Students to Become Active, Responsible Learners, a three-credit online graduate course for educators who have completed the On Course I Workshop. He has also presented On Course workshops at colleges across the country.

As coordinator of Eastern Florida’s College Success course since 2005, Mark has overseen the growth in the number of Success Strategies classes, the professional development for its instructors, and the continued strong contribution of the course to student academic success and retention. He has conducted numerous workshops on learner-centered teaching and coordinates the Eastern Florida State College Success Conference.

In 2008, Mark was honored with Brevard Community College’s Distinguished Educator of the Year award and a NISOD Teaching Excellence Award.

Robin-MiddletonROBIN MIDDLETON has been an On Course facilitator since 2006. As a faculty member at Jamestown Community College for over thirty years she served in a variety of roles focused on student success and persistence. As a counselor in the Counseling and Career Development Center she provided personal, academic, and career counseling to students and community members. In addition, she was the Coordinator of Academic Advisement, and a member of the developmental education faculty and involved with overseeing the college’s Student Responsibility Initiative. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut.

Professor Middleton had been actively involved in student advising and student success activities throughout her teaching career, but has been particularly focused on these issues since her first attendance at an On Course I Workshop, presented by Dr. Skip Downing, in the summer of 2001. Since then, she has attended an On Course II workshop and taken all of the related graduate courses in order to gain greater professional expertise in working with students, faculty and staff on the implementation of student empowerment and success strategies. She has presented with Dr. Downing at On Course I Workshops on her way to completing her training as an On Course professional development facilitator. She has been a teaching assistant for Dr. Downing’s graduate course: Strategies for Empowering Students to Become Active, Responsible Learners, assisting Skip at the On Course I Workshop numerous times.

Ms. Middleton has conducted workshops at both colleges and conferences in the context of general success strategies as well as in the specific implementation of On Course principles. At Jamestown Community College she organized and co-facilitated an ongoing faculty idea exchange integrating On Course principles and strategies in the classroom helping faculty members from all disciplines explore ways to help students become more responsible, motivated learners. She has been a consistent presenter for the Faculty Development Day, attended by faculty across the disciplines. At the request of the STEM faculty she presented a four-hour workshop demonstrating ways to integrate On Course strategies. Taking a leadership role with the college’s Student Responsibility Initiative, she designed and facilitated workshops for faculty, staff and administrators using On Course principles to create a college culture that encouraged students to become more engaged, responsible, and ultimately, successful learners.

She is a recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service, the JCC President’s Award, the JCC Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, and a National Academic Advising Association award for advisement program development and received the New York State College Learning Skills Association’s Award for Outstanding Service to Students in the Field of Developmental Education.

As co-founder of MYndworks, she has been involved in the research and development of games and strategies that enhance student understanding and application of the On Course principles.

AmyAMY MUNSON received her B.A in English Education and M.A. in English from Illinois State University, and her Ph.D. in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Purdue University. She began her career in higher education in 2000 and has been employing On Course for student success initiatives and faculty development since 2009.

As Dean of Student Success at Heartland Community College (Illinois), she advanced student success curricula and initiatives across the campus by working with faculty, staff, and students to infuse On Course into many aspects of the campus culture. In 2014, she was awarded an On Course Ambassador of the Year Award for her team’s work at Heartland Community College. Presently, she is Director of Instructional Design at the United States Air Force Academy (Colorado) where she works on course design with faculty from many disciplines and collaborates with the Academic Success Center to support students who face obstacles to success. Dr. Munson also works as an instructional design consultant for civilian and military education/training institutions with an emphasis in online curriculum design.

Dr. Munson has done research on the science of learning, looking at how learners learn how to learn, and continues to study the impact of non-cognitive skills on student success. Her studies have taken her to The Netherlands and Finland in recent years, and she always looks forward to learning more about global issues regarding education.

As a facilitator, Amy enjoys meeting educators from diverse institutions and helping them learn how On Course can support their goals for student success.

Deb-PoeseDEB POESE has been a member of the faculty of Montgomery College in Montgomery County, Maryland, since 1984. Originally a mathematics professor, she also served as the chair of the Department of Mathematics and as interim Instructional Dean for Science, Engineering and Mathematics. Since 2007, she has served as the Director of the School of Education at Montgomery College, a role in which she coordinates all programs college-wide related to recruiting, preparing and retraining P-12 teachers. She holds degrees in mathematics and education from Truman State University (formerly Northeast Missouri State University), as well as an MA in mathematics from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Professor Poese has conducted workshops at both colleges and conferences in the context of general success strategies as well as in the specific implementation of the On Course principles in mathematics classrooms or mathematics/success course learning communities. She has nearly a decade of experience facilitating On Course professional development workshops.

Professor Poese was recognized by the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics as Outstanding College Professor for 1998. She has been nominated by her students several times to Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. She has twice been honored with a Montgomery College Outstanding Faculty Service Award, and is a recipient of a NISOD Teaching Excellence Award (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development).

LuAnn-WoodLUANN WOOD is Chair of the Reading and Student Success Department at Century College, White Bear Lake, Minnesota. In addition to teaching and department head duties, she is also one of the college’s Student Success Coordinators, as well as a National S.E.E.D (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) facilitator. Professor Wood’s areas of expertise include developmental reading, college level critical reading and thinking, student success, study skills, teacher education and equity. She has taught undergraduate students in education at the University of River Falls and graduate students taking the On Course class, Strategies for Empowering Students to Become Active, Responsible Learners offered by the University of Wisconsin, Platteville.

Professor Wood has been involved in many student success initiatives at Century College including membership in the core leadership team for Achieving the Dream; lead faculty for the Achieving the Dream Equity Advancement Team; lead faculty for the Access and Opportunity Center, a Teacher Collaboration Project with area high schools; and S.E.E.D group facilitator for faculty and staff. With her colleagues she has been instrumental in developing Century College’s Learning Communities, New Student Seminar course with intrusive faculty advising, equity programming and Century’s Bridge to Success Program.

Professor Wood worked with the Reading and Student Success Department to adopt the On Course text for its New Student Seminar course. She has partnered with other Century College professors in creating and leading multiple faculty and staff trainings to help infuse the On Course principles throughout the campus.

Professor Wood received her BA in Theology and Secondary Education from College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University and her MA in Reading Education from the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. She has presented at multiple state and national conferences including the On Course National Conference and The First Year Experience Conference on student success initiatives, Learning Communities, New Student Seminar and intrusive faculty advising, Access and Opportunity – Teacher Collaborations, and Century’s Bridge to Success Program. Professor Wood was awarded by her peers the NISOD Excellence Award for both 2009 and 2012.

Eileen-ZamoraEILEEN ZAMORA is an experienced, enthusiastic educator and workshop facilitator. For 30+ years, Professor Zamora has worked in the field of education, dividing her time between teaching composition, literature, journalism, success skills, and ESL courses with facilitating experiential workshops for educators from across the country. She has taught classes and facilitated workshops at the middle school and high school levels, for adult education, for colleges and universities, and as a consultant for the United States Navy Recruit Training Command. Her experience includes working with developmental learners, at-risk students, and students from diverse cultural, racial, linguistic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

As a facilitator for On Course, Ms. Zamora is fulfilling her dream of providing educators with learner-centered strategies for empowering students to become active, responsible learners. She believes that education is both an adventure and a privilege whether it is working with students, faculty, staff, or community members.

Professor Zamora has extensive training and experience in cooperative learning strategies, teaching to diverse learning styles, classroom assessment techniques, leadership development, and critical thinking. Ms. Zamora also has a professional and personal background in diversity and culturally responsive teaching. She holds a BA in English and an MA in Linguistics with an emphasis on the impact of culture and life experience on the acquisition of English as a Foreign Language. She has conducted research in culture and diversity, and been trained in its application in racial reconciliation, conflict resolution, & cross-cultural communication, most recently at The Summer Institute for Reconciliation at Duke University.

In 2011, Ms. Zamora took an early retirement from Southwestern College (SWC) in San Diego, California where she had been an English and College Success Skills professor since 1990, in order to pursue her passion for supporting educators in their roles with students. During her tenure at Southwestern College, she received the SWC Professional Leadership Award for her work providing educators & staff with principles and strategies for actively engaging students in the learning process, as well as the NISOD Teaching Excellence Award (National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development). One of her students wrote, “Ms. Zamora is a great teacher. I think she is a good role mother for other instructors.”

Katherine OKATHERINE ORILLE, our Event and Office Manager, studied Health Science and Nursing at California State University of East Bay in Hayward, CA. Katherine manages all aspects of our event planning, including National Workshops, On Campus Workshops, and the National Conference.

She has worked as an Event Coordinator for 5 years. Before joining On Course, Katherine managed the planning, implementation and logistics for a variety of events including weddings, bridal and baby showers, birthdays, baptisms, conferences, fundraisers and charities. She was responsible for venue selection, catering, room setup, marketing materials, and audio-visual equipment. She collaborated in the development of budgets, venue and menu selections, invitation design, budget management, vendor contracts, and managing volunteers, caterers, and other vendors.

Before becoming an event manager, Katherine worked as nurse for 3 years. She provided nursing care, assessed patients, and prescribed treatments for stabilization. During college, she worked for 4 years as the Executive Office Assistant at McLaren & Associates. She managed schedules, meetings, conferences, teleconferences and travel, and prepared reports. Katherine has a passion for the business of event planning, logistics and design.

She loves planning parties, especially for her children. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, and traveling (especially to Hawaii!).