2015 CoLA Outstanding Alumni

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College of Liberal Arts graduates exhibit many fascinating paths to success. Each year we celebrate the accomplishments of our alumni at an Outstanding Alumni Awards Ceremony.


Joshua Baker

BM, Music Education

Josh Baker is a 2007 graduate of Wright State University, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Music Education. He also earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Dayton in 2013. Baker has performed with the Dayton Philharmonic Concert Band, Dayton Jazz Orchestra, Sinclair Wind Symphony, and the Avion Saxophone Quartet from Wright State University.  In addition Baker was a two-time WSU Concerto Night Winner and performed as a soloist with the Wright State University Chamber and Community Orchestras. He is recorded on the first commercial CD release of the Avion Saxophone Quartet, Avion Saxophone Quartet Volume 1, found on CDbaby.com and iTunes.

Baker is currently the Assistant Band Director at Centerville High School and teaches courses in jazz improvisation, music technology, basic music theory, and AP music theory. Under Baker’s direction the Centerville Jazz Band has been named a Bands of America Regional Champion, Super Regional Finalist, National Semi-Finalist and National Finalist at the Band of America Grand Nationals. In 2014 Baker was awarded the Black and Gold Award of Excellence by his peers at Centerville High School.

Paula Cosby

MPA, Public Administration

Paula Cosby is the Executive Director of Clothes That Work, a local nonprofit agency that provides professional clothing, image counseling, and training for under-resourced job seekers in the Miami Valley. Cosby served as the Development Director for the agency until 2013 when she accepted her current position of Executive Director. Under Cosby’s leadership Clothes That Work was awarded a Better Business Bureau Eclipse Integrity Award in 2015, and she was honored as an Outstanding Nonprofit Leader by the Dayton chapter of the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance in 2013.

Prior to joining Clothes That Work, Cosby was the Development Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Miami Valley and Wright Dunbar, Inc.

As a 2012 graduate of Wright State University’s MPA program, Cosby continues to provide invaluable support to the MPA program as a member of the MPA Advisory Board. She is also a frequent guest lecturer in MPA courses, and she serves as a role model and mentor to MPA students who are interested in pursuing successful careers in nonprofit administration.

Landon Crowell

BFA, Art

Landon Crowell is the sculpture and gallery technician at Wright State University. He spent four and one-half years studying metalsmithing and sculpture at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio. He completed his BFA  in sculpture at Wright State University in 2002. Crowell has spent over 17 years traveling and living across the United States, honing his technical skills and exploring the art-making process. During his travels he has had the opportunity to assist several well-known artists including Kenneth Noland and Joseph Kosuth. Crowell has exhibited nationally, curated several exhibitions, and is published in Metalwork Survey #3 by LaPlantz studio, Bayside, California.

Martin Fahrer

BFA, Design/Technology

Martin Fahrer studied Theatre Arts at Wilmington College of Ohio for two years before transferring to Wright State University and earning his BFA in Design/Technology in 1989. Moving to New York City, he earned his Master of Fine Arts from New York University in 1992.

Fahrer has garnered six Daytime Emmy Awards and fifteen Daytime Emmy Award nominations. He was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design for a Drama Series for the daytime television drama Another World in 1998. He is also the winner of the 2001 Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction/Set Decoration/Scenic Design for the PBS children’s educational program Between the Lions. In addition Fahrer also won Daytime Emmys for All My Children in both 2003 and 2009 and for One Life to Live in 2007. His last two Daytime Emmy Awards were won in the same category for his work on the reboot of One Life to Live and All My Children when both shows tied for the award. 

Currently teaching at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, traveling, and working on numerous projects, Fahrer resides in New York where he continues to enjoy a successful career as a freelance set designer in television, theatre, music video, and commercials. 

Bridget Federspiel-McLeod

MA, History

Bridget Federspiel-McLeod joined the social-studies faculty at Stivers High School for the Arts in the Dayton Public Schools in 2002, and since that time she has been recognized repeatedly as an outstanding teacher.  Graduating Wright State University with an MA in History in 2005, she has received several teaching awards including the Excellence in Teaching Award from the Rotary Club of Dayton (2006), the Panera “Rising Above” award for distinguished teaching (2007), the Ohio Council of Social Studies High School Teacher of the Year (2007), and the Ohio Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars High School Teacher of the Year (2014). Further, Federspiel-McLeod has been the recipient of travel grants to England, South Korea, Turkey, Germany, Australia, and Germany, and she has given many well-received presentations on teaching and oral history. Additionally Federspiel-McLeod has made significant contributions to the collecting of military veterans’ oral histories by teaching a course, “Veterans’ Voices,” at Wright State University and submitting with her Stivers students almost 400 veterans’ oral histories to the Library of Congress. Since 2008 she has served as the Youth Coordinator for the Dayton Council on World Affairs.

Zhaleh Tarrah Freels

BA, International Studies

Zhaleh Freels started at Wright State University as an Art major in 1998 and finished with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in Spanish in 2009. Today she is a Command Country Manager for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center (AFLCMC) Air Force Security Assistance Directorate (AFSAC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

While still at Wright State University, Freels found her own co-op position at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Since graduation she has travelled the world, working with military representatives from 18 countries and paving the way for the C-17 Virtual Fleet (VF). She has also liaised with the U.S. Department of State on weapons transfers and acted as the focal point for all C-17 UK logistics activities linked to the United Kingdom.

Dedication to her work has resulted in recognition on more than one occasion. In 2009 she was named Wing Junior Program Manager of the Year and was a finalist for Aeronautical Systems Center Junior Program Manager of the Year. In her free time Freels has been pursuing her International Master of Science Administration at Central Michigan University.

Jonathon Henderson

MA, Humanities

Jonathon Henderson graduated from Wright State University’s Master of Humanities Program in 2010 and currently serves as the Director of International Student Support Services and Programs for the University Center for International Education (UCIE). In this position Henderson helps international students find housing and navigate health insurance while also serving as their non-academic advisor. In addition to these duties, he is also in charge of programming UCIE events for students, faculty, and staff. In all these ways Henderson helps increase multi-cultural awareness and international student success at Wright State University.

As a student Henderson focused his studies on the Middle East and wrote his thesis on the role of charismatic leadership in Iran’s religious history. His knowledge of Middle Eastern history is vast, and his insights into the complex role of religion in politics and culture are subtle. Henderson reads widely on a variety of subjects and continues to explore his interest in the Middle East. Following his graduation from the Master of Humanities Program, he pursed Persian-language study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Henderson has also been able to visit many of the historical and religious sites that were the subject of his research while on trips to India and, more recently, Iran.

Sara Hoff

MA, International & Comparative Politics

Sara Hoff completed her MA at Wright State University in International and Comparative Politics in 2009 and earned her PhD in International Studies from Old Dominion in 2014. 

Hoff was born and raised in Düsseldorf, Germany, and has lived in California, Ohio, and Seoul, South Korea. Her master's thesis explores identity politics and feminism in Iran. Her PhD dissertation comparing the European Union, Germany, and Iran examines the intersection between historical memory and present-day international responsibility in Germany’s recent foreign policy behavior. 

Recipient of the prestigious Presidential Management Fellowship, Hoff is currently serving as a Fellow with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the independent statistical research arm of the Department of Energy.  She is currently on a five-month rotation with the Department of Energy’s Office of European and Eurasian Affairs where she conducts analysis on international energy policy and trade issues and their impact on U.S. national security, foreign policy, and trade policy objectives. Hoff currently resides in Washington, D.C.

Brian Jettinghoff

BA, Social Science Education; MEd, Adolescent Young Adult; MEd, Educational Leadership

Brian Jettinghoff graduated magna cum laude from Wright State University’s Social Science Education Program (SSE) in 2006 and stayed in the local area after graduation as a teacher and leader in Fairborn schools. There he oversees special education, looking out for the needs of Fairborn’s special-needs children. Jettinghoff’s leadership brings to Fairborn schools the qualities encouraged in SSE: a holistic approach to the people of the world, integrating studies of world history, political science, geography, philosophy, and sociology. 

Since graduating with his BA in SSE, Jettinghoff has maintained his relationship with Wright State University, returning to complete two different MA degrees with perfect GPAs in the College of Education and Human Services. The second of those, an MA in Educational Leadership in 2011, prepared him for his current role as Special Education Supervisor at Fairborn. Believing that education is a lifelong process, Jettinghoff is now studying for his Superintendent License.

David Klass

BA, Political Science

David Klass is a native of Centerville, Ohio, and a 1986 graduate of Centerville High School. While at Wright State University he served as President of the Phi Kappa Tau and participated in both the Wright State University Supreme Court Seminar and the Mock Trial Team. Following graduation from Wright State University in 1994, Klass attended the University of California, Berkeley and later became Vice President of Investments for Wedbush Morgan in California.

Since 2000 Klass has joined the family business in real estate development and engaged in several innovative and successful business endeavors. Notably he pioneered Auteur Estates, a sixty-six-acre luxury residential community near Springboro, which in 2006 was the chosen as the site for Homearama, the Dayton area’s premier home show. In addition Klass launched Luxe Brands, a craft beer importer/distributer directly associated with 649-year-old Brauhaus Riegele of Augsburg, Germany. He now serves as the Chairman for the City of Augsburg with the Dayton Sister City Committee. Klass and his partners plan to build and operate a Biergarten next to Fifth Third Field in Downtown Dayton.

Currently Klass and his wife, Thea, serve on Wright State University’s ARTSGALA Host Committee.

Brady Kress

'96 B.A.

Brady is a 5th generation Daytonian, a Husband, Father, and Eagle Scout. He serves as President & CEO of Dayton History and Carillon Historical Park.

Brady graduated from Wright State University in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.  He serves on the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s President’s Council; the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; and is the past Chairman of the Dayton/Montgomery County Convention & Visitors Bureau; Brady served as President of the Association of Indiana Museums, and Director of Museums for Historic Landmarks Foundation.

Since 2003, he has concentrated on founding and growing the Dayton History organization through increased visibility, fundraising, and regional alliances. Designing individualized operating agreements has fostered unique collaborations between Dayton History and its regional associates. Private foundations, international corporations, and all levels of government partner with Brady to gift, manage, or jointly operate historic properties and collections now assembled under the Dayton History umbrella.  

Brady is the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award and he was the CoLA Outstanding Alumnus from Political Science in 2014.

Karli Lightner

BA, Communication Studies; BS, Organizational Leadership

Karli Lightner graduated from Wright State University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, and a minor in Marketing. While at Wright State University she dedicated most of her time to academics, campus organizations, and philanthropic work. Lightner’s greatest collegiate achievement is holding several leadership positions throughout her four-year tenure.

Lightner is currently a Corporate Recruiter for The Reynolds and Reynolds Company. In this role she works with upper management to match company hiring needs with qualified candidates. She handles the entire recruitment cycle from interviewing applicants to extending job offers.

Lightner continues giving back to Wright State University through her career. She attends numerous campus events and classes in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education and Human Services, conducting presentations about her company and recruiting students for job openings, which is her favorite part about her position.

Donald McCrabb

BA, Religion

Don McCrabb has devoted his life to religious education and pastoral ministry. Graduating from Wright State University in 1975, McCrabb subsequently enrolled at the University of Dayton, receiving a master’s degree in Theology. After directing religious education at a parish in Springfield, he became the Catholic campus minister at Central State University. While Executive Director of the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, McCrabb earned a Doctor of Ministry from United Theological Seminary and wrote a dissertation entitled Campus Ministry, Conscience Formation, and the Quest for Environmental Justice. He now lives in Washington, D.C., where he has occupied a variety of positions involving campus ministry, religious education, and development.

McCrabb currently works as Director of Development for Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless people, coordinating all fund-raising activities. In addition he has served as consultant for numerous educational and religious organizations, written two books, and taught pastoral theology. McCrabb and his wife, Barbara, have three children and three

Wendy Merkert

BA, English; MA, English

Wendy J. Merkert, CFRE, earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and certifications in professional and technical writing at Wright State University. She earned her MA in 2006 while already employed as Annual Fund and Grants Director/Annual Fund Manager for the Victoria Theatre Association and the Dayton Opera Association. Since receiving her MA, she has been highly visible and successful as a professional fundraiser for fine-arts and educational organizations in Ohio and nationwide. From 2008-2012 Merkert served as Development Director for the Dayton Opera Association, and currently she is Manager of K-20 Fundraising for the national nonprofit Invent Now.

A strong believer in giving back, Merkert has been a member of the CoLA Dean’s Leadership Board since 2010 and has served as Treasurer, Secretary, and Vice President for Programming and Chair of National Philanthropy Day for the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Dayton Region Chapter. In addition she volunteered with Special Olympics in 2007-2009. A decade-plus into her career, Merkert’s efforts have been instrumental in making the fine arts accessible to Ohioans and advancing science literacy.

Michael Neatherton

BA, Sociology

Mike Neatherton is a nationally recognized leader in the alcoholism and drug dependency treatment industry with a career spanning over 30 years. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Wright State University in 1975 and a Master of Science from Indiana State University in 1976. As Chief Executive Officer at Northbound Treatment Services (a residential treatment program for young adults, headquartered in Newport Beach, California), Neatherton’s passion for treatment is founded upon the belief that all individuals can recover. Prior to joining Northbound, he served as the President and Chief Operating Officer at the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, where he worked for more than 20 years. Immediately preceding his relocation to California in 1989, he worked at Good Samaritan Hospital and was an adjunct professor at Sinclair Community College.

Neatherton speaks throughout the nation on the topic of organizational leadership and serves as a mentor and coach to younger healthcare executives. He believes that successful leadership requires not only vision, purpose, and clarity of mission, but also the ability to gain the trust and commitment of others in the organization. By consistently focusing on his own personal growth, Neatherton leads by example, asking those around him to maintain a healthy balance and perspective in their lives.

Malana Penney

BA, Social Work

Lana Penney received her BA in Social Work with honors in 1997. In 2010 she received her MA in Social Work from The Ohio State University. While at Wright State University Penney was President of the Social Work Club. After graduation she began her career with Greene County Children Services, holding a number of positions within the agency, and she has also served in a number of statewide initiatives. In her current position Penney manages on-going services, adoption, and the Wendy’s Wonderful Kid’s grant. 

Penney has provided field supervision to both traditional social-work students and the University Partnership Program (UPP) since 2003.  UPP is a partnership between the university and the county public children services agency (PCSA). Penney’s knowledge and expertise has been significant in the on-going enrichment of the program. She is committed to Wright State University, UPP, and the development of young professionals entering social work, especially those called to child welfare. A member of the UPP Advisory Board, Penney was chosen as an Outstanding BSW Field Supervisor for the 2005-06 and 2014-15 academic years. 

Godfrey Ryan

'09 B.A. Political Science and International Studies

Ryan received his Dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and International Studies from the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University in 2009.

Having developed a strong passion for political and civic work, he began his Dual Master of Arts program at Arcadia University (Philadelphia) in the field of International Peace and Conflict Resolution. In 2010, Ryan participated in field studies in Northern Ireland and Ukraine, focusing his work on ethnic identity politics and post-conflict transformation.

Ryan interned with the US Department of State at the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in Washington D.C. His work supported DOS civilian-military coordination and doctrine projects in post-war Iraq.

Ryan studied abroad in Paris, France from 2011-2013 at the American Graduate School in Paris (AGS) for his Master of Arts program in International Relations and Diplomacy. Developing a strong background in program management, Ryan led an international academic conference on diplomacy and developed an award winning Model United Nations Program.

He currently resides in Columbus, Ohio. Active in his political career, Ryan is employed by the Franklin County Board of Elections as a Poll Election Official Trainer and works on voter engagement programs. He also manages Freystyle Design, an independent design and event coordination company he founded in 2014.

As a proud alumni and Columbus native, Ryan serves Wright State University as President of the Greater Columbus Alumni Network. He is honored to collaborate with an exceptional board in their engagement of over 3000 alumni and growth of the network.

Ryan is exceptionally grateful to the family, friends, colleagues and mentors who have provided unwavering support and love over the years.

Ryan is the recipient of the Alumni Network Award of Excellence.

Jeanette Skow

MA, Applied Behavioral Science

Major Jeanette Skow earned a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Princeton University in 1998. She graduated from the Air Force R.O.T.C. program the same year and has been serving on active duty in the Air Force ever since. While she was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an Intelligence Officer, she attended Wright State University and earned a Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science, graduating summa cum laude in 2001. The Air Force then sent her to the University of Cincinnati College of Law under the Funded Legal Education Program, and she transitioned to become a JAG officer. 

Skow’s career has taken her to New Mexico, California, and the Washington, D.C., area. In 2013-14 she served a tour of duty in Kabul, Afghanistan, covering myriad operational and humanitarian law issues.  Skow is currently serving as the Brigade Judge Advocate to the Commander of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her
husband and daughter. They enjoy getting together with the WSU alumni group for Nationals-Reds baseball games whenever possible!

Byron Thomas

BA, African & African American Studies/Sociology

Byron Thomas, from Dayton, Ohio, received his associate degrees in Communication, Sociology, and African/African American Studies from Sinclair Community College, a dual bachelor’s degree in African & African American Studies and Sociology from Wright State University, and a master’s degree in African American/African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University-Bloomington, Indiana. Additionally Thomas completed course work in the sociology PhD program at Indiana University-Bloomington, Indiana. An Assistant Professor of Sociology at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts, he teaches Introductory Sociology, Social Problems, and the Sociology of Difference and Inequality, along with the Dynamics of Racial/Ethnic Relations. Prior to joining the faculty at Quinsigamond in 2012, Thomas was a Sociology Faculty Fellow at Ivy Tech Community College in Lafayette, Indiana. 

Thomas is particularly interested in investigating and understanding the ways in which the intersection of social stratification, inequality, and race/ethnicity contribute to disparities in access to resources and the quality of life among groups. He also has a keen interest in the ways in which public policy can be used to improve access to resources among racial/ethnic minority groups, thereby reducing inequality and improving their quality of life.

Vanessa Walton

BA, French; BA, International Studies

Vanessa Walton graduated from Wright State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in French and one in International Studies as well.  During her time at Wright State University, she was a member of the Model United Nations team for three years, studied abroad in Costa Rica and France, and worked with faculty and students as a peer advisor in  the University Center for International Education.

After graduation Walton left Dayton to work for SIT Study Abroad in Brattleboro, Vermont, where she served as Program Coordinator for college-level study-abroad programs in Europe and Latin America. Three years later she left to work for the Learning Abroad Center at the University of Minnesota, the largest study-abroad office in the country. In her position as Associate Program Director, she manages programs in Thailand, Senegal, London, and Sydney. Walton works to make study abroad more accessible and meaningful to both underrepresented students and STEM students. Recently she was selected to co-lead a volunteer program and will travel to Senegal in the upcoming winter.

Read Vanessa's tips for Modern Language Students (PDF)

Kyla Woods

BA, Criminal Justice; MA, Applied Behavioral Science

Kyla R. Woods graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice (now known as Crime and Justice Studies) in 2004. Immediately following graduation she began a master’s program in Criminal Justice at Clark Atlanta University, in Atlanta, Georgia. Moving back to Ohio, she enrolled in Wright State University’s Applied Behavioral Science Program, which she credits for giving her the knowledge and skills needed to be a dynamic force in the criminal-justice field.

In 2006 Woods accepted a job with Montgomery County Job and Family Services as a Job and Family Services Specialist II, and in 2007 she took a position with Montgomery County Juvenile Court as an Assessment Specialist in the Intervention Center. Within a year she transitioned to Juvenile Probation Services as a Drug Court Specialist. She is currently working to obtain her Ohio Chemical Dependency Professional License and hopes to become more involved with drug and alcohol treatment for youth.

Emily Yantis

BA, Women's Studies

Emily Yantis graduated from Wright State University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies (now known as Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies). At Wright State University she was involved in Rainbow Alliance, serving as Vice President and then President during her senior year. She also served on Student Government and the President’s Cabinet as Director of Diversity Affairs. Yantis then went on to obtain a master’s degree in Human Sexuality Education from Widener University located outside Philadelphia.

Currently Yantis is the Youth Services Manager at the YWCA, overseeing all teen programs, prevention, and outreach collaborations with Girls, Inc. She also is a member of the Women’s Leadership Collaborative of Greater Dayton (WLCGD), working to build a mentoring program with Girls, Inc., which will be beneficial for both Dayton and Wright State University community members.

This fall Yantis is teaching a new course for the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at Wright State University, “Sexuality, Gender, and Health.” She has also recently become more involved with the LGBT community and youth groups and has been volunteering with an AIDS resource center.