2021-22 Mentors

Tracy Ahrens

Tracy Ahrens is responsible for Strategic Initiatives Management at Biogen, a biotech company with the mission to be pioneers in neuroscience. Biogen discovers, develops, and delivers worldwide innovative therapies for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to working with the executive leadership team at Biogen in managing the Operational Strategy, Tracy is a member of the Biogen Foundation Committee; an organization that provides access to science education and essential human services to children and their families in the communities in which Biogen operates. Tracy is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership where she works to address the critical need for high-quality professional development for educators, focusing on STEM teacher leadership programs in NC. Prior to joining Biogen Tracy held a variety of roles in the biotech industry and was a Biology teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School. Her passion for education is present in everything she does, from coaching youth sports, supporting women in leadership efforts in STEM, and her support for public education programs in North Carolina. Tracy holds a BS in Biology from the University of Kansas and an MBA for the NC State Jenkins School of Business


Heddy Clark

Heddy Clark, PhD, is the Director of the STEM Learning Cooperative in the Watson College of Education (WCE) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), Interim Director of the UNCW WCE Center for Education in STEM, and Executive Director of STEM SENC, a regional ecosystem that brings together individuals, organizations, schools, institutions, and businesses for the purpose of supporting STEM learning in southeastern North Carolina. Across these roles, she focusses on building collaboration and engagement to offer equitable access to STEM learning opportunities for learners and professional development for K-12 teachers.


Toshi Hige

Toshi Hige is an assistant professor at the Departments of Biology, Cell Biology & Physiology, and Integrative Program for Biological & Genome Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill. Toshi received his Ph.D. from Kyoto University in Japan, and performed postdoctoral training at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (NY) and Janelia Research Campus (VA). His lab studies molecular and circuit mechanisms of learning and memory in fruit flies.


Paul Maddox

Dr. Paul Maddox is an assistant professor and William Burwell Harrison Fellow in the Department of Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill. His research in his lab focuses on cell division specifically Mitotic Mechanisms and Chromosome Dynamics.


Amanda Marvelle

Amanda Marvelle, PhD, is the Head of Community Programs at Biogen. Over the last eight years she has played a pivotal role in strengthening Biogen’s leadership in global corporate responsibility. Amanda is extremely knowledgeable about implementing local and global philanthropic and STEM programs with a strong track record of increasing employee engagement. In addition, she has an entrepreneurial mindset showcased through the development and management of longstanding programs including founding an innovative STEM high school and the Biogen Community Lab in N.C.


Alfred Mays

Alfred M. Mays currently serves as the Director and Chief Strategist for Diversity and STEM Education at Burroughs Wellcome Fund. Prior to Alfred assuming this role, he served as an independent consultant with a service delivery that included strategic planning, project incubation, design and implementation. Alfred has served as an enabler within a number of education programs and initiatives to include the Assistant Director of the Collaborative Project, a 21st Century Program supported by the North Carolina General Assembly. In this role, Alfred was primarily responsible for the development and management of information resources, which supported the project’s design through program participation tracking, reporting, and evaluation of impact. Alfred also served as staff advisor (Project Manager) to North Carolina’s eLearning Commission and provided consultation to a number of special committees and focus groups. Other efforts include implementation of youth leadership and empowerment activities and the build out of STEM career awareness. Prior to joining the Collaborative Project, Alfred served public education as the Director of Information Resources Affairs and Director of Special Projects at the University of North Carolina – Office of the President (2000 – 2007). During this tenure, Alfred was responsible for the coordination of a number of special initiatives and collaborative efforts within the Division of Information Resources and served as a central liaison for the 16-campus system and various state agencies. Alfred’s other work experience includes service as a regional director for the North Carolina Model Teacher Education Consortium (UNC-General Administration) and State Program Director within the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction. Alfred currently serves as a member the Board of Directors for a number of organizations and special activities. He has been recognized for his contributions with many organizational successes to include Government Wide Best Practices. An Air Force veteran, Alfred received a Bachelor of Science degree from Wilmington College and a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University.


Michele Smoot

Michele Smoot has served as the director of the NC Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom since May 2012. She grew up on a fourth generation farm in southeast Virginia. There her family grew peanuts, cotton, soybeans, wheat, and corn while raising beef cattle and market hogs on 1,500 acres. Currently, those farms are in full operation under her guidance. She received her BS degree in Animal Science from Ferrum College and later earned a Master’s degree in adult education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction. She has worked for Carroll Foods, known today as Murphy Brown and later began a career in feed sales and management with Southern States. In 1994, she began her teaching career and since then has taught grades three through 12 as well as college students receiving their BS degree in elementary education. Michele currently resides in Zebulon with her husband Les. She finds her position extremely rewarding as all of her experience and education fits into this one role. Michele believes that educating students and the general public on the importance of NC agriculture is vital to the growth of our nation as well as meeting the needs of an emergent world population.

 


Carol Steen

Carol Steen is an executive with Biltmore Farms in Asheville, NC focused on talent and human resources strategy for the community development and hospitality services organization. Prior to her service with Biltmore Farms, Steen was Director of Human Resources for the Mountain Area Health Education Center, Inc. where she saw the organization succeed through significant workforce growth and expansion of healthcare programs in rural western North Carolina. Steen serves as President of the WNC Human Resources Association, Board Member of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and Board Member of Asheville Museum of Science. She recently completed the Leadership Asheville program at UNC-Asheville as part of the graduating LA 38 Class. Steen is dual-certified as a human resources professional from the HR Certification Institute and Society for Human Resources Management. Exemplified leadership and her dedication to the field of human resources contributed to her being featured in various state publications: Triangle Business Journal – MBA Game Changer,  Verve Magazine’s Top 30 Under 30 List, Biltmore Beacon’s Top 40 Under 40 Emerging Leaders, and Business North Carolina Magazine’s Trailblazer recognition.


Leslie Walden

Leslie Lillard Walden is Vice President, Regional Public Affairs for Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest financial services providers. She leads Fidelity’s government relations, community investing and civic efforts, for Fidelity North Carolina as well as New Jersey, New York, and Florida. She assumed this work in June 2006, as the company announced expansion plans in the Research Triangle. Walden established Fidelity’s public affairs function in North Carolina and serves on the regional leadership team that has supported the company’s efforts to more than triple its headcount in the region. She joined Fidelity in 1998 in the firm’s Corporate Affairs department in Boston, where she managed marketing communications launches for new products and services, including Fidelity’s retirement income planning program for Baby Boomers nearing retirement. She is an honors graduate and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Media Studies from Northeastern University in Boston, MA and is a master’s degree candidate at Suffolk University, also in Boston.


Heather Willoughby

Heather Willoughby is a North Carolina native and grew up in Alamance County, where her family farms beef cattle, row crops, vegetables, and ornamental horticulture. She is an NC State graduate with a background in biology and horticulture. After working in horticulture as a sales manager for a perennial nursery for 7 years, she joined North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation in August 2015. She is the assistant director of the Ag in the Classroom, an educational program that provides resources and materials for all North Carolina teachers wishing to incorporate agriculture into their curriculum.

 


Become a Mentor

Mentors offer lab or industry experience to introduce Fellows to the latest developments and technologies as well as provide opportunities for networking and continued partnerships. Participation in the program provides mentors with the opportunity to contribute to the depth and relevance of instruction at the K-12 level as well as raise awareness about local careers and opportunities for students. The mentor shares valuable skills and provides a perspective on the importance of the teacher’s role in preparing students for future study and work.