MSA 2024 Faculty, Staff and RAs

Faculty

Fernando Alvear – Faculty

Fernando Alvear teaches and studies at Mizzou. He has a B.A. and an M.A. in Philosophy from Universidad Alberto Hurtado (Chile) and is currently finishing his doctorate in Philosophy at Mizzou. He’s most interested in understanding the connections between philosophy, psychology, and data science. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife, Emily, and his newborn son, Nico.

Sally Backer – Faculty

Sally is a sign language interpreter for Special School District in St Louis for over 30 years. She taught beginning ASL and Deaf Culture at MSA last and is excited to do so again this year. She lives in St. Louis with her husband Larry, brother Mark and dog Rudy. Boomba!!

Ben Batzer – Faculty

Ben (’08) teaches English at Truman State University during the school year. He has a passion for theater, public libraries, and composting. In his free time, he spends time on his multi-generation family farm in southern Missouri.

Tina Casagrand – Faculty

Tina Casagrand is the founder, editor-in-chief and executive director of The New Territory Magazine, which she works on from her home in Jefferson City. Growing up in Dixon and Lebanon, her love for mossy woods knows no bounds. She graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in magazine journalism and anthropology and worked as a freelance environmental journalist and nonprofit communications professional before starting The New Territory. She is proud to have been a member of the MSA community as a scholar (’06), RA (’12-13), community service coordinator (’14), and faculty member (’15-19 and ’22-24).

Frank Corley – Faculty

Frank Corley has been a teacher at Missouri Scholars Academy since 1992. Besides his children and his marriage to the incredible Teresa Reeve Corley, MSA has provided him with the richest experiences of his life. During the school year, he teaches math at St. Louis U. High so that he can afford to be at the Academy in June. Besides his family, mathematics and poetry, Frank enjoys art, bicycling, beekeeping, woodworking, photography, and city living.

Kristofferson Culmer – Faculty

Kristofferson Culmer is a teaching professor in the Information Technology Program and Director of the Autonomous Systems Lab in the Department of Engineering & Information Technology, in the College of Engineering at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Kristofferson is returning to the MSA faculty for the second time this year. Kristofferson was born and raised in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and loves outdoor activities like running, hiking, cycling; and also teaches Latin dancing in his spare time.

Jennifer Fisher – Faculty

Jennifer Fisher, Ph.D. is excited to spend her 11th summer at MSA in 2024 (Scholar 2004, Resident Assistant 2008-2009, Head Resident Assistant 2010, Front Office Staff 2012, Coordinator of Residential Life 2013, Faculty 2011, 2016, 2018-2019, 2024)! During the other 11 months of the year, Jennifer works as an Associate Teaching Professor of Art Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where she prepares future art teachers for the awesome joy and challenges of the K-12 classroom! She also teaches adjunct courses in gifted education for Mizzou’s K-12 gifted certification program. Jennifer resides on a farm outside her hometown of Potosi with her husband, two kids under the age of seven, and usually at least one high-school-aged exchange student.

Brendon Floyd – Faculty

Brendon Floyd is from Philadelphia and is a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri. Before coming to graduate school, he taught middle and high school and has experience in public and digital history. Because of his love for maritime history, he is currently trying to learn how to sail, but his fear of the ocean is holding him back!

Stephanie Hasty – Faculty

Stephanie Hasty grew up in Mansfield, Missouri, where the Little House books were written. She attended MSA in 1992 (Go Fuchsia!) and has been part of the faculty since 2019. She has been teaching high school English for 24 years. She loves her cats, her books and her daughter, a rising 9th grader.

Jordan Henson – Faculty

Jordan Henson got his first taste of MSA magic when he attended as a scholar in 2010, and hasn’t been able to get enough of it ever since. He has worked with MSA as an RA from 2013-2015, and as a faculty member from 2016 to the present. When he’s not at MSA, he is a high school English teacher and scholar bowl coach at North Kansas City High School. He also enjoys playing games of the board/card/video variety and aspires to one day be a trivia game show champion.

Chris Holmes – Faculty

Chris Holmes gives voice to teenagers. He has served on the MSA faculty since 2014, with the exception of one year: 2019. That spring and summer, Chris drove to 48 states, interviewing hundreds of adolescents about apathy, motivation, and the purpose of high school — what it could be, what it should be. When he’s not on the road or at MSA, Chris works as a gifted specialist for the Clayton School District.

Mike Kersulov – Faculty

Mike Kersulov is a native of St. Louis, returning for his 16th year teaching at MSA. He obtained his BSE and MA in English at the University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg and his Ph.D. in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education at Indiana University, Bloomington. Mike teaches high school English in Springfield, NE, and he spends most of his time reading comics and playing with his cats. He also is thoroughly convinced Spider-Man is the greatest literary achievement in American history.

RJ Koscielniak – Faculty

Dr. RJ Koscielniak is a researcher, teacher, and activist interested in urban decline in American cities. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Eastern Michigan University. He loves to read, write, and share ideas that can change how we think about inequality and neighborhoods. RJ grew up in St. Louis but never turned into a Cardinals fan. He was an RA (07-08) and when he isn’t in a classroom or standing on a pile of bricks he takes care of two large (and demanding) house cats.

Megan Lilien – Faculty

Megan Lilien is a high school science teacher in Columbia, Missouri. She earned a BS in Biology from the University of Illinois and a MA in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma University. Megan is currently working on her doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at Mizzou. Outside of work and school, she enjoys spending time with her three daughters, coaching girls’ lacrosse, traveling, watching sports (mostly her kid’s teams), being outdoors, and taking a good nap.

Brian Matz – Faculty

Brian Matz is excited to return for a third year to nerd out once again as a teacher at MSA. Outside of this amazing academy, Brian is a professor of Roman and medieval history, including especially the history of religious communities during these eras. He has an undergrad degree in accounting from Washington University, a first PhD from Saint Louis University, and a second PhD from Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He loves to bore his wife and four children by taking them to museums and old cemeteries and by arguing that esports are not actual “sports.” But, they may have convinced him that TSwift is actually a good singer, so they’re even. During MSA, he welcomes invitations to play cards, to go for walks, to drink coffee, or to hunt for treasures in the university library.

Austin McWilliams – Faculty

Austin McWilliams (Poplar Bluff) is the Director of Choral Activities at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. For the past several years he conducted at Opera Grand Rapids and taught at Western Michigan University. He has degrees in computer engineering and choral conducting and is interested in the intersection of music, science, and social equity, which has molded his teaching philosophy and musical endeavors. This year is Austin’s seventh as faculty at MSA, having previously attended as a scholar (’11) and RA (’17).

Sabrina Michael – Faculty

Dr. Sabrina Michael joined the Honors College at the University of Missouri as an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Spring of 2024. She instructs a diverse range of science series courses within the Honors College, including Marine & Freshwater Biology, From Molecules to the Cosmos, Shark-ology, and more! Sabrina holds a master’s degree in Biological Sciences, which she earned at Eastern New Mexico University. Her educational journey culminated in the successful completion of her PhD from the University of Missouri in the Fall of 2023. During her doctoral studies, Sabrina focused her research on collective behavior and decision-making in treehoppers. Beyond her passion for scientific research, Sabrina has a deep love for teaching. In addition to her science classes, she brings her expertise as a scuba diving instructor into the educational sphere. When she’s not busy in the classroom or swimming with sharks, you’ll likely find her training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Joe Milliano – Faculty

Joe Milliano (MSA Faculty since 2019 ) is a passionate physics educator who strives to provide a top-quality science education for all students. During the summers, you’ll find Joe teaching at summer academies like Mizzou’s Missouri Scholars Academy and Truman State University’s Joseph Baldwin Academy. During the school year, Joe is a physics teacher at Clayton High School in St. Louis Missouri. When he’s not in the classroom, Joe enjoys tap dancing, hiking, and rewatching the same few TV shows over and over again.

Caitlin Palmer – Faculty

Caitlin is an instructor at the University of Missouri by day and a writer by night (and afternoons… and weekends). She has stories, articles, and essays, at lit journals across the web, such as DIAGRAM, Barrelhouse, terrain.org, and others that are prestigious in their own right but you probably have not heard of. She has a book about small town Missouri being considered by publishing houses, so keep your fingers crossed for her. When not teaching, she can be found wandering the globe, looking and thinking and describing.

Sam Rayburn – Faculty

Sam (he/they) is an educator and non-profit leader deeply engaged in collaborative efforts with universities and governments. Sam’s passion lies in shaping the minds of graduate students through immersive, experiential learning opportunities at the crossroads of science, education, and policy. Outside of this work, Sam is also an illustrator, designer, and art director. As an artist, Sam believes in the transformative power of art to educate, inspire, and shape perspectives. Through these experiences, Sam brings an interdisciplinary approach to education, combining science, art, and civics to engage and support learners of all ages. Drawing from a rich history at MSA as a scholar (’05), RA (’11-’13), programs/office staff (’14-’15), and faculty (’23), Sam is excited to share their passions for another group of scholars. When not at MSA, Sam channels creative energy into making comics, designing puzzles, indulging in board games, and embarking on countless adventures with his partner and a lively entourage of pets.

Special Staff

Alli Bivens Office Staff

Allison Bivens is an Atmospheric Sciences Major/Mathematics Minor here at Mizzou. She loves nature, baking/cooking, Star Wars, cats, clouds, and playing Pickleball. Alli was a scholar at MSA during 2021 and took the “James Bond in Literature” class. She am SO excited for MSA 2024!

Ever Cole – Photographer, Social Media

Ever was a scholar in 2019, an RA in 2023, and is currently the communications intern for MSA! She is excited to return this summer as photographer while continuing to run the socials accounts. Right now, Ever is a student as Mizzou studying strategic communications and art. She’ll probably want to talk to you about music at some point this summer.

Stacey Colley – Program/Project Support Coordinator II

Stacey Colley has worked at the University of Missouri since 1997. She has worked in CAFNR, College of Education, School of Medicine, Youth & Family Extension and now for MSA in the Honors College. She is excited to see what this new adventure brings! She has a wonderful husband, four grown children, one son-in-law and one daughter-in-law. She also now has three grandkids, whom she loves spending lots of time with. Her passion outside of work is camping and cruising to see the world!

Rachel Harper – Associate Dean

Rachel Harper spent her kiddo years in Champaign, Illinois, where she exhibited strong preferences for books, libraries, the smell of old books, the smell of new books, the written word, etymologies, and well, you get the picture. She has a BA in both English and Spanish from Illinois Wesleyan University and a PhD in American Literature from the University of Missouri. In addition to helping coordinate MSA, Rachel is also the Associate Dean in the MU Honors College. Teaching in the four-semester Honors Humanities Sequence rates as one of her favorite things to do, falling a close second to spending time with her three rather rambunctious boys.

Doc Holliday – Mental Health Counselor

Doc Holliday works closely with MSA faculty and staff to support optimal scholar mental health throughout the three week experience.  He is a licensed psychologist, retired from the University of Missouri, and a long-time contributer to the Academy.

Steve Keller Co-Director

Steve Keller grew up in the great Pacific Northwest and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (BSc) and the University of California-Berkeley (PhD).  Steve has been on the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at MU since 1995 where he currently serves as Associate Professor, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, and since 2015 director of the Missouri Scholars Academy. Steve’s time away from campus is focused on being husband to Amanda and dad to Lindsay (13) and Liam (6), brewing some beer, and watching a bit of soccer.

Roland Knight Mental Health Counselor

Steve Keller grew up in the great Pacific Northwest and graduated from Pacific Lutheran University (BSc) and the University of California-Berkeley (PhD).  Steve has been on the faculty of the Department of Chemistry at MU since 1995 where he currently serves as Associate Professor, Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies, and since 2015 director of the Missouri Scholars Academy. Steve’s time away from campus is focused on being husband to Amanda and dad to Lindsay (13) and Liam (6), brewing some beer, and watching a bit of soccer.

Paula Mather Office Staff

Paula is an alumni of the 2015 Missouri Scholars Academy and has worked office staff in ’19 ’22 and ’23. She currently teaches Spanish at North Kansas City High School and is a sponsor NKCHS National Honors Society. Paula loves all things language, linguistics and culture as she works with the International Baccalaureate students for language development. At home she loves getting crafty, painting, watching Disney movies, and spending time with her dog.

Isabel Murphy Office Staff

Isabel Murphy is so excited to be back for her second year on office staff! She is from Lee’s Summit, MO, was a scholar in 2020, and worked on office staff in 2023. She is a rising junior at Mizzou majoring in Peace Studies and minoring in Political Science. In her free time, she loves all things books, listening to music, watching TV shows, and enjoying good coffee!

Brian Stuhlman Program Coordinator

Brian Stuhlman has been coordinating the programming of MSA for about 10 years…he’s been teaching for about 20 years, and 30 years ago he was a scholar himself! (Go Purple!) An avid traveler, Brian has visited 28 different countries, including his second home of Ukraine, where he met his wife Maryna while teaching at an international school there. He is the Coordinator of Middle School programs at Mizzou Academy, the coordinator of Mizzou International Experience (MIE), and he teaches an undergrad course at Mizzou for pre-service teachers. With any spare time, Brian likes to watch cartoons with his kids (Oscar and Lilia), take neighborhood strolls with his wife, enter sweepstakes, and laugh holistically.

Grace Sullentrup Coordinator of Residential Life

Grace is originally from Washington, Missouri, which you may know for being the corn cob pipe capital of the world. Outside of MSA, she works in social work and healthcare. She has her BS in Sociology and Psychology from Missouri State University (Go Bears!) and her MSW from Washington University in St. Louis. Her number one priority on any vacation is to go to the art museum (likely related to a brief attempt to study art history). When she’s not thinking about MSA, she is most likely thinking about Taylor Swift, audiobooks, or color guard.

Doug Valentine  Co-Director

Doug Valentine began teaching at MSA in 2012. He has a B.S. in Psychology and Religious Studies from Bradley University in Peoria, IL. He moved to Columbia in 2010 to pursue his MA in Religious Studies and later completed a PhD in Sociology. After completing his degree, Doug spent time as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Truman State University before returning to the Mizzou Honors College as an Assistant Teaching Professor and Coordinator of the Behavioral Science Honors Sequence. He is an avid Chicago Cubs fan. He loves running on the MKT trail and exploring Rock Bridge State Park with his wife and kids. In addition to co-directing MSA, Doug continues to teach a minor course (This Minor is Socially Constructed) and coordinate Cor: Personal and Social Dynamics.

Colin Wilburn  Coordinator of Residential Life

Colin Wilburn (MSA ’18, RA ’22, RA ’23) is originally from Laddonia, MO and graduated from Van-Far High School. He grew up on a fourth-generation farm where he gained his passion for agriculture alongside basketball, baseball, music, and service. Colin graduates from Mizzou in May of 2024 with a Biochemistry degree with an Agricultural Leadership minor. This will be his first year as a Coordinator of Residential Life, so he is excited to share memories, laughs, and memes with scholars, RAs, and faculty.

Resident Assistants

Willow Amann  Resident Assistant

Willow grew up in Blue Eye, Missouri and is a senior at Mizzou studying Social Work with minors in Sociology and Criminal & Juvenile Justice. She also runs the Honors College Programming Board and works at the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention (RSVP) Center on campus. In her free time, Willow loves to crochet while spending time with friends.

Sarah Beetner  Resident Assistant

Sarah is a Junior at Missouri Science and Technology studying Secondary Biology education and hopes to work with the peace corps. She speaks 3 languages conversationally, plays 5 instruments, and loves to try new things. She attended MSA virtually in 2021 and can’t wait to take MSA 2024 by a storm.

Abbey Booth  Resident Assistant

Abbey is an incoming junior at the University of Mississippi and is originally from O’Fallon, MO. She attended MSA as a scholar in 2020. She is studying exercise science, and she plans to attend physical therapy school after she graduates, with hopes to work as a sports PT. She also currently works as a sports medicine intern for Ole Miss Womens Soccer.

Abigail Botts  Resident Assistant

Abby recently graduated from Mizzou, with a double major in Art and Psychology. In past summers you could find her taking photos on riverboats, teaching kids pottery, and working at Aldi. Her perfect weekend consists of the farmers market, a coffee shop, and a visit to the thrift. This is her first year experiencing MSA and she is very excited!

Connor Copanas  Resident Assistant

Connor is currently studying education at Mizzou. After graduation, he plans to travel the world and teach middle or highshool social studies in his hometown, St. Louis. Connor attended the Academy in 2018, and majored in philosophy. Now, he spends his time playing tabletop games, enjoying the outdoors, and learning.

Connor Copanas  Resident Assistant

Andrew is a May 2024 graduate from Mizzou where he double majored in Geology and Biology. He loves to travel when able and if asked will talk about his prospective and past trips. Andrew was a scholar in 2018 ( Kelly Green and Navy Blue) and this is his first year back as staff.

Olivia Guffey  Resident Assistant

Olivia Guffey cannot wait to return to MSA for the first time since she was a scholar in 2019! Originally from O’Fallon, she adventured all the way to Indiana to attend Purdue University and just graduated with a major in economics and a minor in management. Although business is fun to study, in her free time she loves running, cooking, watching movies, and exploring new places and the coffee shops they have to offer.

Cam Jackson  Resident Assistant

Cam was a Scholar in 2016, an RA in 2023, and has returned as a Lead RA in 2024. He is currently pursuing a Masters’ in Public Administration at Missouri State University-Springfield and works in the Political Science and Philosophy Department as a Graduate Assistant. Cam enjoys reading, video games, tabletop games, and talking about anything under the sun.

Cy Jennings  Resident Assistant

Cy was a 2019 scholar, and their MSA experience set their life on a completely new trajectory. Now, with a year of RA experience under their belt from 2023, Cy is looking to build on that for a new year of scholars. Outside the academy, Cy can be found working with local high school physics students, or helping to run the Mizzou fighting game club.

Chris Marshall  Resident Assistant

Chris Marshall is in his third year studying computer science and math at The University of Chicago. Outside of class, he loves to cook, eat, play percussion, and explore Chicago! He’s originally from Kirksville, MO and attended the academy as a scholar in 2019.

Morgan McGurk  Resident Assistant

Morgan McGurk (MSA ’19, RA ’23) is from Lee’s Summit, MO and currently attends the University of Arizona. Morgan is majoring in Human Development and Family Science and minoring in Biology with plans to become a genetic counselor. In her free time, Morgan enjoys playing tennis, crafting, and watching Survivor. She is super excited for her second year as an RA!

Emma Parry  Resident Assistant

Emma is a 2019 MSA alumni, the year of Raspberry Lemonade! She is now a junior at Mizzou studying Health Science with minors in Chemistry and Psychology. Outside of her studies, she serves on the leadership teams of Mizzou’s environmental organization, Sustain Mizzou, as well as the service organization, Caring for Columbia. To this day, she reflects on her time spent as a scholar as the best three weeks of her life, and she could not be more excited to return to the Academy in her “week four” to work with MSA’s Class of 2024.

JJ Robeck  Resident Assistant

JJ Robeck just finished his first year at the University of Chicago, where he is planning on double majoring in Linguistics and Creative Writing. He is from Fenton, MO (don’t let anyone tell you that’s not in St. Louis) and previously attended MSA both in 2021 (virtually) and 2022 (in-person). Outside of practicing his Norwegian skills and nerding out over linguistics, you can find him practicing piano, cello, and marimba, and–if inspiration has struck–working on a series of dark fantasy novels.

Elana Sanders-Braxton  Resident Assistant

Elana is from Kansas City, MO, and is excited to be back for MSA 2024! She was a scholar in 2017 and an RA in 2023. Outside of the Academy, Elana studies the Ancient Mediterranean world and will start graduate school this fall. In her free time, she loves to crochet, paint, and spend time with her dog, Gus.

Zara Tola  Resident Assistant

Zara is a rising senior studying Economics and Psychology and minoring in Math. It is her first year as a RA for MSA, but she loves mentoring other students on campus and currently serves as an RA for ResLife and a teaching assistant for the Economics department at Mizzou. Her research interests lie in the education sector, and she plans to pursue a career in higher education because of her passion for working with students and interest in the field.

Konnor Turner  Resident Assistant

Konnor is currently a student at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, MN! He was a scholar in 2019, Raspberry Lemonade!! Konnor studied abroad in Trondheim, Norway for a semester, and he enjoys hanging out with his little black cat named Nordly!

Maddie Wright Resident Assistant

Maddie is going to be a senior at Mizzou. She is majoring is a Psychology, minoring in Sociology and Criminology, and getting certificates in Addiction Theory and Multi-cultural studies. Her hobbies include reading and going on morning runs.

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