2022-23 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 North Carolina. 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.


Ryan Clark

Ryan and Jamie Clark established Clark Family Farms in 2009. The farm began as a backyard hobby, and over the years has grown into a full-time venture. They raise poultry, pork, beef, and other farm products across Western Rockingham and Eastern Stokes Counties. In 2017, they started a direct to customer retail/wholesale segment, and are committed to offering one of the best locally produced products available. The couple live on the farm with our two young children. In their free-time, they each volunteer for various local and state level organizations.

Ryan is currently a Captain at the Northeast Stokes Fire Department, President of the Rockingham County Cattlemen’s Association, and Vice President of the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association. Jamie currently serves as the Chairman of the Stokes/Rockingham Young Farmer & Rancher program, Chairman of the Northeast Stokes auxiliary, and Board of Directors Member for Rockingham County Farm Bureau. In 2016, they received the NC Excellence in Agriculture Award and the NC Farm Bureau Agriculture Achievement Award in 2021.


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.


Dr. Pamela Howze

Dr. Pamela Howze serves as Senior Program Manager, Global Apprenticeships at Red Hat, where she leads apprenticeship initiatives. She has worked in higher education for 30 years both at community colleges and at NC State University as an adjunct professor. She was a Chief Learning Officer at Siemens Energy in Charlotte, NC and Merck in Durham, NC. She also worked at the national level on apprenticeship initiatives. She earned her doctorate in education from NC State University in 2015.


Alfred Mays

Alfred M. Mays 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. 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.

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 BS from Wilmington College and a MS in Administration from Central Michigan University.


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.


Heather Willoughby

Heather Willoughby is a North Carolina native and grew up in Alamance County. She worked alongside her dad at his landscaping company and nurseries in Graham and Elon, NC. Along with the nursery, her family’s farm produces beef cattle and row crops. Heather graduated from NC State University with a BS degree in biological sciences and a minor in horticulture. After working in the horticulture industry, she joined North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation in August 2015. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education at NC State University. Heather is the assistant director of the Ag in the Classroom program at NC Farm Bureau.

 


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.