2023-24 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.

Brandi Bragg

Brandi Bragg joined NENC Career Pathways in October 2017 as a Workforce Connector for the Northeast. Brandi works to build and maintain collaborations between LEAs, community colleges, Workforce Development Boards, and employers in the northeastern corner of the state. She works on a variety of projects related to career pathways throughout the region, from facilitating sector partnerships to developing industry-specific professional development opportunities for educators. Prior to this, Brandi spent more than a decade in various roles within the employment field. She has worked as a recruiter, HR assistant, and staffing supervisor, and also as a job developer for people with disabilities. Brandi holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from East Carolina University. Her favorite place to be is in, on, or near the water.

Mirella Cisneros

Mirella Cisneros Perez, a proud Mexican immigrant and former middle school teacher, is the Fellowship Manager at LatinxEd. She graduated from Elon University with a degree in Middle Grades Education. In her current role, she manages the LatinxEd Fellowship program, which invests in the growth and well-being of Latinx leaders through a culturally-sustaining leadership development model. Her advocacy work for the Latinx community stems from her experiences growing up undocumented, attending public schools K-12, and teaching. During her free time, she enjoys cooking, spending time in nature, and making memories with family.

Dr. Toshi Hige

Dr. 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. Patricia Hilliard

Dr. Patricia Hilliard, Senior Director at SparkNC, brings to her role a depth of knowledge on educational equity, instructional design, and pedagogy, with experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, university instructor, and curriculum designer. She is delighted to be part of a team that strives to rethink, reimagine, and redesign public education.

Prior to joining SparkNC, Dr. Hilliard was a Professional Learning Specialist and Interim Director at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. At the Friday Institute, she built comprehensive professional learning programs on strategic planning and teacher leadership development for schools and districts. She has led several statewide initiatives, including the NC Conference for Educational Equity and Caminos: Building Pathways with Latinx Educators. She has been an invited speaker on cultural competence, brain-based learning, differentiation, and designing engaging professional learning at conferences across the United States.

Dr. Hillard holds a doctorate from UNC Charlotte in curriculum and instruction with a concentration in urban education. She is the co-author of book chapters on the impact of Brown versus Board of Education on Black principals, disproportionate discipline of Black girls, and cultural competence in higher education. She has written blogs for Edutopia, Digital Learning Collaborative, and EdNC.

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.

Jeanne Milliken Bonds

Jeanne Milliken Bonds is Professor of the Practice of Public Policy and of Impact Investment, and Sustainable Finance, UNC Kenan Flagler Business School. She is leading a new initiative, “Invest to Sustain,” to increase community and business capacity to enact social impact investing.

Jeanne is the former Senior Leader in Regional Community Development for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. In her previous role, she provided leadership for strategic stakeholder collaboration and community-level solutions, focusing on low- and moderate-income and underserved communities in support of the Federal Reserve System’s Community Development function.

Jeanne led several Federal Reserve System teams, including a team focused on the Community Reinvestment Act, and a team focused on rural policy issues.

Jeanne She has a B.A. in Economics and an M.P.A., concentration in public policy, from the University of NC at Chapel Hill. In 1997, she was North Carolina’s recipient of the national Henry Toll Fellowship from the Council of State Governments. Jeanne is a former Mayor.

Heather Morton

Heather Morton is a North Carolina native and grew up working alongside her father at his retail and wholesale plant nursery operations. Along with the nurseries, her family raises beef cattle and farms row crops. Heather graduated from N.C. State University with a BS degree in biological sciences and horticulture. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Agricultural and Extension Education. She joined NC Farm Bureau in 2015 and currently serves as the Director of the NC Ag in the Classroom program.


Arlan Peters

Arlan Peters is Head of Sustainability for Novozymes North America where he develops Novozymes’ regional sustainability initiatives, builds organizational capacity, manages Novozymes’ corporate citizenship programs, and engages with external stakeholders on issues relating to life-cycle impacts of biotechnology.

Danielle Raucheisen

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Danielle Raucheisen spent eight years working for the School District of Philadelphia conducting program evaluations, developing and monitoring grants, then managing a nutrition education and school wellness program. She moved to Asheville in April 2022 and is currently the Program Manager of the Growing Minds program at ASAP, which supports farm-to-school and farm-to-preschool programs across Western NC.

Mark Rohlinger

Mark Rohlinger is a Project Manager at Bosch Rexroth in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mark began his career with Rexroth in 1994 as a Product Manager for Ball Screws. He spent his first 10 year in different positions associated with product management, application engineering, and customer service. In 2005 Mark moved over into the operations side of the business with responsibility in Manufacturing Operations, including safety and environment, quality, manufacturing engineering, plant engineering, logistics, and security. His current focus is on strategic technical development, including product, process, location, and workforce development. Mark has received an Associates of Applied Science Degree in Product Development, a Bachelors of Science Degrees in Industrial Technology from the University of Wisconsin – Stout, as well as a Masters of Science degree in Industrial Technology from Northern Illinois University. Mark has a patent in his name for a ball recirculating element used in a ball screw, and has had a journal article published relating to chaos theory. He is involved heavily in the local community supporting STEM and work force development initiatives.

AJ Stanaland

AJ is the owner of Northwest Land & Cattle. She was raised in the Northwest corner of Brunswick County, in a small community without a zip code called Northwest. AJ is a fifth-generation farmer with a passion for agriculture. After college, she met her husband, Wade, who is also a fifth-generation farmer from a neighboring county. Together, they are raising cattle, crops, and kids in their favorite part of the world, Southeastern North Carolina.

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.

Pam Torlina

Pam Torlina serves as the Community Engagement Director for Conserving Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of South Carolina Upstate. Pam worked with South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, City of Greenville Parks and Recreation-Youth Bureau, New York State Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve, LTD in Ontario, Canada. Although her love of the natural world has no limits, Pam has a profound passion for birds and has performed annual migratory and breeding bird surveys, surveys on nocturnal owls, hawks and woodpeckers, presented educational programs on birds for adults and children, conducted nest searches and nest record data in the U.S. and Canada, participated in data collection for the most recent Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, and she has volunteered with a licensed bird bander over the past several years. She and her daughter, Jade, love the outdoors and enjoy gardening, traveling, camping, backpacking, canoeing, swimming, and hiking.

Latrinda Williams

Latrinda Williams serves as the Sr. Director DEI & Culture for TrialCard. She has a wealth of knowledge within the healthcare industry. Her background ranges from sales, operations, clinical, project management, and DEI practitioner. She attributes her overall knowledge and leadership experience while serving in the United States Army and having a host of great leaders in her lifetime.

Latrinda is the inaugural leader of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at TrialCard where she oversees the development and implementation of programs and services that promote diversity within the company. Her passion for health care equality, access, and disparity led her to pursue her Doctorate degree in public health at Capella University. She received her Bachelor of Healthcare Management, Master of Healthcare Science, and Master of Business Administration at Trident University.

Latrinda is an avid volunteer at several organizations which includes American College of Healthcare Executives (Triangle Healthcare Executives’ Forum of North Carolina – THEF), WakeMed Foundation, American Public Health Association, North Carolina Society for Public Health Education, Raleigh Chamber, Morrisville Chamber, and Apex First Baptist Church. Although her career has taken her around the world, Latrinda, a native Californian, is proud to call Apex, North Carolina her home. Outside of the office, Latrinda enjoys spending time with her children, traveling, meeting new people, and working out.

Mentors offer lab or industry experience to introduce Kenan 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.