School of Professional Studies
Administration, Faculty & Staff
Director, Professional Studies
Southwest Hall (SWH) 139
Director, Student Success Center, Undergrad Professional Studies
Southwest Hall (SWH) 146A
Dr. George Ackerman is a Professor in the area of criminal justice, business and the law. He received his Ph.D. from the School of Public Service Leadership at Capella University, a J.D. from the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University, and a Police certification from Miami-Dade College School of Justice. His current research focuses on the underserved population of family members of homicide victims.
Outside of the classroom, Dr. Ackerman enjoys running charity 5K’s, basketball, family time and volunteering for https://www.togetherforsharon.com/ which was founded in memory of his mother, Sharon Riff Ackerman, for Parkinson’s Awareness & Hope for a Cure.
Dr. Ashley Allison is one of our wonderful instructors in the School of Professional Studies where she has taught courses in Leadership and developed/taught senior-level healthcare administration undergraduates in their capstone course (UNIV 4995). She received her Doctor of Education with Distinction from Liberty University and is a member on the Council on Law in Higher Education and Women in Higher Education in Tennessee.
Dr. Allison is also the Upper Cumberland Assistant Director at Volunteer State Community College where she has developed and maintained an enrollment management structure for new and returning students, created and managed an advising program to meet the advising needs of the student population attending two campuses, and supervised all functions of the testing centers.
Earlier in her career, Ashley served as Academic Career Coach Program Coordinator for the Putnam County Board of Education where she maintained liaisons with post-secondary institutions, employers, community leaders and organizations for the purpose of building resources and expanding educational and career pathway opportunities for students. Dr. Allison has also served as the Court Liaison, the Discharge Planner/ Emergency Case Management Team Leader, and Intake Specialist at the Green Oaks Hospital in Dallas, Texas where she received the Green Oaks Hospital “Above and Beyond” Employee Award.
Dr. Ashley Allison headed the project to align school districts with the TNPromise legislation, designed and maintained the Upper Cumberlands Academic Career Coaches website and student research portal, and presented at numerous conferences throughout the state. In her spare time, Ashley volunteers with TNAchieves, Overton County Rural Development Board, Upper Cumberland Re-entry Committee, Tennessee Suicide and Prevention Network for the Upper Cumberland, and the Pickett County Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Ralph Brockett is a Professor Emeritus from the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at the University of Tennessee where he taught graduate courses in adult education, served on masters and doctoral committees, engaged in research and writing activities, participated in program development and service activities, served as the Coordinator of the Adult Education Program as well as an Interim Department Head.
Dr. Brockett’s background also includes being an Assistant Professor of Adult Education at Montana State University, the Assistant Professor of Adult Education in the School of Education at Syracuse University, and the Program Development Coordinator at the End Stage Renal Disease Network in New York.
Dr. Brockett received his Ph.D. from Syracuse University with a major in Adult Education and a Certificate in Gerontology. He has published several books along with a multitude of chapters, manuals, articles, editorials, and presentations.
In his spare time, Ralph is involved with professional associations like the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education, the Commission of Professors of Adult Education, International Society for Self-Directed Learning, and others. He has also consulted for Alcoa, the U.S. Air Force, Regents College, Saddleback College, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, Cumberland Hardwoods, University of Georgia, State University College at Buffalo, Roane State Community College, Syracuse University, Fort Belknap College, and End Stage Renal Disease Network.
Additional accolades include AAACE President's Appreciation Award for Exemplary Commitment and Service to AAACE, Imogene Okes Award for Research in Adult Education, International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame, Malcolm Knowles Memorial Self-Directed Learning Award, Cyril 0. Houle Award for Outstanding Literature in Adult Education, Who's Who in America, Invitational Conferences in History and Adult Education, Kellogg Faculty Development Seminar on the Future of Adult and Continuing Education, Margaret and Alexander Charters Award for Scholastic Excellence in Adult and Continuing Education, Outstanding Young Men of America, and the Meritorious Service Certificate.
Professor, Curriculum and Instruction Office
Matthews Hall (MATT) 335
Associate Professor, Communication
Henderson Hall (HEND) 102A
Dr. Scott Christen is the Director of Communication at Tennessee Tech. Dr. Christen has a Ph. D in Communication from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a focus on Computer-Mediated Communication. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Public Speaking, Organizational, Interpersonal, and Computer-Mediated Communication and has extensive experience teaching online, hybrid, fast track, and traditional classes.
Scott believes that as a teacher it is his responsibility to not only incite interest, but to also encourage and support students. He does not believe that his job is done simply because a student can pass a test. Teaching is about inspiring learning, not memorizing information.
Dr. Christen also feels strongly that teachers need to push themselves to incorporate new technology. Today’s students are constantly plugged in, and a teacher needs to appreciate that fact. The internet, emails, learning environments, web pages, blogs, pod casts, and instant messaging are a part of the student’s everyday life. If a teacher ignores technology, they are ignoring powerful tools that could be used to inspire their students.
From Chickering and Gamson’s “Seven Principals for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education.”
1. Encourages contact between students and faculty,
2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
3. Encourages active learning,
4. Gives prompt feedback,
5. Emphasizes time on task,
6. Communicates high expectations, and
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
~William Butler Yeats ~
William "Bill" Cox
Dr. Bill Cox has been teaching for Tennessee Tech since Spring 2020. He retired in 2019 from Oak Ridge Associated Universities as the Group Manager for its Oak Ridge National Laboratory workforce development and research internship programs. From 2007 to 2016, he served as the Executive Director of the Austin Peay State University Center at Fort Campbell, KY and the Academic Head (Dean) of the School of Technology and Public Management.
He previously served at Tusculum College (now Tusculum University) as the Assistant Vice President of Extended Education, Director of the Knoxville, TN Center, and Assistant Professor of Research. Bill retired as a Major from the U. S. Air Force in 1997 with over 24 years of active duty service. He holds a B.S. in Business Management from the University of Northern Colorado, an M.A. in Education Administration from Chapman University, and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration from The University of Alabama.
Henderson Hall (HEND) 102A
Betsy DeSimone received her PhD in Communication and Information from the University of Tennessee. Her research interests are in media psychology and consumer behavior. She teaches courses in advertising, public relations, mass media, and persuasion.
Professor, Economics Finance and Marketing
Johnson Hall (JOHN) 338
Professor, Nursing Instruction
Bell Hall (BELL) 329
Experienced Full Professor of Nursing with a demonstrated history of excellence in teaching, research, and service. Expertise in creating innovative experiences for students including robust study abroad programs in Belize and Cuba, cross-disciplinary courses between nursing and engineering, and engaging and active nursing courses. Dedicated education professional graduated from the University of Dayton, Belmont University and Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Served on the Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees.
Dr. Melissa Geist is a firm believer in creative thinking and interdisciplinary communication and cooperation, especially when it comes to nursing and engineering students. Dr. Geist earned her undergraduate degree in chemistry, a master’s degree in both education and nursing, and a doctorate degree in science education/chemistry. She settled at Tennessee Tech based on the university’s commitment to its students and excellence in teaching.
In her role as a nursing professor, Dr. Geist endeavors to engage students in the classroom and through intensive project-based study abroad programs. She recently helped lead a service learning trip to Belize where nursing and engineering students worked together to begin developing sustainable relationships with villages in desperate need of medical and environmental assistance.
Her favorite part of her profession is working with the students. She says that, “taking them to primitive villages and throwing them into situations where they have to really dig deep to persevere” is something she enjoys witnessing. She loves to see her students work in teams, interact, and communicate with each other across different disciplines. “I love moving students out of their comfort zone, forcing them to figure things out and fail sometimes. Every success I have had has come after a spectacular failure.” – I want them to know how to move on and get better.
Geist is a self-described people person and says that she enjoys learning as much as she can from those around her. She draws on her complex background in chemistry and physics, nursing, and teaching to fuel her ideas and further Tech’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship.
Dean, College of Interdisciplinary Studies
Southwest Hall (SWH) 141
Dr. Mike Gotcher serves as the Dean of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies as well as one of the fabulous instructors for the School of Professional Studies. Before coming to Tennessee Tech is 2017, Dr. Gotcher served in a number of different roles which included 28 years in higher education, from faculty member to department chair to Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Austin Peay State University.
As Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies at Austin Peay State University, Dr. Gotcher oversaw a 15% increase in applications, a 20% increase in admitted students, and a 7% growth in overall graduate enrollment. To achieve these gains, Gotcher encouraged departments to develop attractive graduate programs and repackage existing programs to meet market demands at the same time as introducing an electronic-document protocol, a new tracking system, and a user-friendly interface that removed application hurdles for prospective students. Dr. Mike Gotcher also served for 18 years as Chair of the Department of Communication and Theatre at APSU and helped develop interdisciplinary programs that enriched academic programs and enhanced the educational opportunities of students.
Dr. Gotcher engages faculty and staff in collaborative activities that target student retention and coordinates internship programs to help students acquire and develop professional skills for workplace success. As Dean of the College of Interdisciplinary Studies, Dr. Gotcher continues to develop in-depth experience with strategic planning, community engagement, campus and community negotiations, conflict resolutions, fundraising, program development, accreditation, and online course and program development and has learned to approach leadership with a supportive, collaborative “how to rather than why not” mindset. He is committed to research and the creation of an environment that stimulates scholarly activity while providing an educational foundation that serves the whole person.
Assistant Professor, Nursing Instruction
Nursing Building (NURS) 305
Dr. Rachel Hall is as Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing where she has developed, coordinated, and taught a number of courses as well as being one of the instructors in the Masters of Professional Studies Healthcare Administration Degree program. Dr. Hall received her Ph.D. in Nursing from East Tennessee State University, her Masters of Science in Nursing from Vanderbilt University, a Pre-Specialty Year—RN from Vanderbilt University, and a Masters of Science in Health Promotion from Middle Tennessee State University.
Rachel is a licensed Advanced Practice Nurse as well as a Registered Nurse and holds a certification in NCC Certified - Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC) ACLS/PALS BLS. Dr. Hall has worked at Satellite Med-Urgent Care Clinic, the Providence Alaska Medical Center (Step-down Open Heart/ Progressive Care Unit Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital),Northwest Texas Health System (Cardiac Care Unit (ICU), Cardiology, Medical/Surgical, OB-Gyn, Nursery, Pediatrics Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital), Banner Good Samaritan Hospital (Neuro/Trauma Stepdown Unit Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital), Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (Vascular/Transplant Unit Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital), Johnson City Medical Center (Medical/Surgical/Oncology Unit, Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital), North Florida Regional Medical Center (Medical/Surgical Unit), Pitt County Memorial Hospital (Oncology/Hematology Unit Level 1 Trauma Center-Teaching Hospital), Southeastern Center for Infertility & Reproductive Surgery, and Parkwest Medical Center.
Dr. Hall has received several grants including the HRSA MCHB’s Grand Challenge on Addressing Opioid Use Disorder in Pregnant Women and New Moms Grant, the faculty Research Grant, and the Tablet Computing Grant, has spoken at several conferences, and published numerous articles of scholarship.
Her professional affiliations include International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning, Society for Simulation in Healthcare, National League for Nursing, American Nurses Association, Tennessee Nurses Association, and the Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society.
In her spare time, Dr. Rachel Hall gives back to her community through her support of The Admissions and Credits Committee, Campus Space Utilization and Allocation Committee, Faculty Research Committee-Grant Committee Reviewer, Faculty Research Committee Chair, TTU Advisory Committee for 2+2 Sites, TTU Post-tenure Review Committee, DNP Curriculum Committee, DNP Administration Committee, DNP Admission Committee, SON Scholarship Committee, MSN Graduate Committee, Graduate Admissions Committee, WH-SON Faculty Organization member, Journal Reviewer for the International Journal of Health Sciences Education, WH-SON Sophomore 2 Faculty Advisor, Rural Development Institute Review Committee, “Tech Ambassador of the Month” Committee, Travel Ad Hoc Committee, Jeans and Bling Fundraising Committee, Hospice Committee Member, Tennessee Board of Nursing Consultant, American Lung Association “Quit for Life” Volunteer, WH-SON Junior 1 Faculty Advisor, WH-SON Curriculum Committee, WH-SON Faculty Organizational Chair, TTU Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, TTU iPad User Groups Committee, WH-SON Faculty Assignment Committee Co-Chair, WH-SON Clinical Progression Committee, WH-SON Ad-hoc SoTL Committee, Whitson Hester SON Junior 2 Faculty Advisor, Medical Reserve Corp Member/Volunteer, WH-SON Faculty Student Relations Committee Chair, TTU Outstanding Faculty Awards Committee-University Committee, WH-SON Faculty Student Relations Committee, TTU College of Agriculture and Human Sciences committee, Susan G Komen Grant Review Committee, Susan G Komen Community Profile Committee, and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Freshman Student Organizer.
Dr. Patricia Hubbard received her doctorate from the University of Tennessee in Educational Psychology with a focus on Adult Learning. She also has job-related training in ATD Designing Learning Certificate ATD Test Design and Delivery, ATD E-Learning Instructional Design, ATD Master Instructional Design Certificate Langevin Education Manager Certificate Certified ROI Professional, LCMS Training, TMS Administrator training, FAG PPM 120, and is currently completing the Trusted Tester Training. Dr. Hubbard is a 20-year Assistive Technology Professional.
Other specialties include Health Education Specialist – Project Manager -Instructional Designer, Education Program Specialist, and an Instructional System Specialist. Patricia has completed the Master Instructional Design Course-ATD, the E-learning Design Course-ATD, and received the George Washington University Project Management Certificate.
Dr. Hubbard’s training has allowed her to use front-end analysis techniques to analyze potential skill, knowledge, or performance gaps for identifying appropriate instructional interventions. Patricia has developed contracts for Human Ultrasound Models and Standardized Patients, worked with Program Office SMEs to determine educational wants and needs, coordinated project budgets, executed the acquisitions, and planned the distribution of an annual budget of approximately $200,000 in yearly allocations to support the programmatic and logistical need of SimLEARN projects.
Dr. Hubbard has performed activities related to coordinating and directing evaluation efforts of VA programs or departmental efforts, measured the impact of learning and return on investment by providing VA-focused training and by assisting employees in developing and conducting Return on Investment (ROI/Impact studies), and assisted with the development of assessment tools and training instruction.
Dr. Desireè Kelly has been an adjunct professor for a decade at various urban and rural colleges. Full time, she works as the Workforce Strategies and Evaluation Manager at a Primary Care Association. In this role, she establishes and manages health professions training initiatives, technical assistance, and collaborates with health centers to create public health programs of value to Tennessee's health centers. She has over twenty-five years’ experience as an educator, curriculum developer and facilitator. She specializes in developing and implementing curricula for various generational cohorts in the areas of workforce training and recruitment, mental health education, and self-care resources.
Dr. Kelly holds a doctorate in Public Health with an emphasis in Health Advocacy and Leadership from Capella University. Her graduate and undergraduate degrees are in kinesiology and physical education from the University of Central Arkansas and exercise and sports science from the University of Memphis. Dr. Kelly is an adult Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gateway Trainer and an Adverse Childhood Trauma (ACES) Youth Mental Health First Aid Trainer. Dr. Kelly recently received her certification in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace from the University of South Florida. She is currently the education co-chair for MTSHRM's Diversity and Inclusion committee and serves on the Tennessee Rural Health Association’s Community Health Worker Advisory Committee.
She believes one way to develop student’s enthusiasm is to convey the passion and expertise she has for the subject matter. Enthusiasm is contagious and her motto has always been: first reach, then teach. Dr. Kelly feels the relationship between faculty and students is a key to proficient, comprehensive teaching. Her professional philosophy is to help people become the best version of themselves by helping them balance the eight dimensions of health, and to implement strategies and research to improve the mental health of the next generation of professionals.
Dr. Tracy Lampley holds an Ed.D. in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University as well as a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership. She has been certified with a Tennessee License in Art Education K-12, Tennessee Certificate in SPED Gifted Education K-12, Tennessee Professional Administrators License K-12, Tennessee Superintendent License, and an Oregon Professional Administrators License PK-12.
Tracy has had numerous collaborative consortiums, publications, state, national, and international presentations as well as being a National Consultant Trainer, Instructional Designer, and Instructor.
Dr. Lampley now serves as one of our Masters of Professional Studies instructors but has served as a K-8 School Principal, K-12 Curriculum Specialist, 6-8 grade Art Teacher, K-8 Gifted Consultant, and a District Assessment Analyst.
Dr. Kathy Ligon is one of our adjuncts in the Masters of Professional Studies degree program. She received her Ph.D. from Tennessee State University with her dissertation Principal Perceptions of Effective Teaching. Dr. Ligon also received an Educational Specialist degree from Tennessee Tech.
As a former Assistant Principal at Cookeville High School, Dr. Kathy Ligon brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences that she can share with her students. Kathy also served as the Teacher Evaluation Lead Evaluator, Graduation Chair, RODP instructor, adjunct professor for the Department of Communication, TTU Liaison for student teachers and practicum students, as well as 32 years with the Putnam County School System.
Dr. Ligon has worked as a Speech and Drama teacher coaching many students to numerous speech awards across the nation and is a member of the Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League Hall of Fame. Other awards include Who’s Who Among America’s High School Teachers, Outstanding Young American, Outstanding Young Women of America, Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League Krider Award (State award for Educator of the Year), Tennessee High School Speech and Drama League State Chair, and National Forensic League Double Diamond award for coaching. In her spare time Dr. Ligon loves to travel all over the country.
Dr. Elizabeth Lisic, one of our adjunct instructors, has been teaching Research Methods for our School of Professional Studies for quite some time. Dr. Lisic earned her Ph.D., Exceptional Learning— Concentration in Program Planning and Evaluation from Tennessee Tech University. Elizabeth has served as the Assistant Director at Tech’s Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning, an adjunct in the Department of Counseling and Psychology, and a Research Assistant in the Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning.
Dr. Lisic has led regional Train-the-Trainer workshops for the CAT instrument, provided research design and statistical support for institutions, research grants, and other organizations using the CAT, and has assisted in the development, testing, and analysis of new tests items and assessments. Elizabeth has managed a team of research associates and graduate students to support the daily operations of the Center for Assessment & Improvement of Learning, provided on-site training workshops, presentations, and assessment consultation related to critical thinking and problem solving, and presented at regional accreditation associations, assessment, and teaching & learning conferences.
Elizabeth Lisic has published numerous articles and given many presentations throughout the United States. Dr. Lisic has been a welcomed addition to the School of Professional Studies faculty.
Adjunct Faculty, Office VP Research & Economic Dev
Thad Perry, Ph.D. is an entrepreneur and healthcare professional with over 30 years of experience in the field. Most recently he was an Enterprise Client Partner for Conduent, an international healthcare business process organization, managing over a $200M book of business comprised of health plans, BPMs, and hospitals. Previously, Dr. Perry was Vice President and General Manager at Thomson Reuters Healthcare Health Plan Segment, responsible for over 126 Health Plan clients across the United States. He was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Health Research Insights, Inc. During his career, Dr. Perry has also held positions as Director of the Center for Healthcare Informatics at Tennessee Technological University, Executive Vice President at BDA Health Informatics, Senior Director of Healthcare Informatics at CareSource, Vice President of Healthcare Informatics at Healthways, Inc., and various positions at Cigna Healthcare.
Thad Perry earned his B.A. in Psychology from Clark University, after attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. Subsequently, he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Vanderbilt University. Dr. Perry is recognized as a leader in healthcare predictive modeling for population-based medical and behavioral health programs, authoring book chapters and peer reviewed articles on this subject, teaching graduate-level courses as well as consulting with numerous State and Federal contractors. He founded the Medicare and Medicaid Contractors Statistical and Data Analysis Conference, which is now in its 23rd year. Dr. Perry also served over 20 years in the military, retiring from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a Major. He lives in Franklin, TN with his wife and two sons, is active in his church, music and video production, and also enjoys aviation as a private sport pilot.
Joe Roberts is recently retired as the Director for the School of Professional Studies at Tennessee Tech University. He attended Indiana University and is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University. Dr. Roberts has a Ed. D. in Educational Leadership and an Educational Specialist Degree (Ed. S.) in Educational Leadership, both from Florida Atlantic University. Joe holds a Master’s Degree in Theology (M.A.) from Southern Christian University and a Master’s Degree in Adult Education (M.S.) from Florida International University. He has served in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear engineer, as a former Director of the Equip Conference in Orlando, Florida, Co-Director of Blue Ridge Family Encampment in North Carolina and on various boards such as the American Red Cross, Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors—Camp Wiregrass, Advisory Board—Central Florida Bible Camp, Board of Directors—Stones River Manor, Habitat for Humanity, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Mustard Seed Ranch. Dr. Roberts has also served as the preaching minister/administrator for North Boulevard, Collegeside, Orange Avenue Churches of Christ.
Dr. Roberts has given conference presentations at Lipscomb University, Pepperdine University, Governor’s School, Heritage Christian University, Equip Conference, Blue Ridge Encampment, Career Assessments, Panama Medical Missions, South Africa Bible College, and West Africa College.
Joe has received certifications from Prepare/Enrich; Taylor-Johnson Temperament Analysis, Kolb’s Learning Style Inventory; American Association of Adult and Continuing Education; American Educational Research Association; and American Association of Christian Counselors and received the following honors/awards: Leadership Rutherford, Personalities of the South Achievements & Outstanding Service Award, Outstanding Service Award, Outstanding Young Men of America, Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, Coffee County Red Cross Board Member Service Award, Outstanding Service Award—CFBC, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office C.O.P. Program Service Award, Phi Kappa Phi, Outstanding Service Award—Blue Ridge Encampment, Thomas E. Batey Award for Outstanding Services, Chaplin of the Day—Tennessee State House of Representatives, Faithful Service Award—Director S.G.W., Chaplin of the Day, Tennessee State Senate, and Commencement Speaker—Ghana West Africa College.
He and his wife Judy have been married since June of 1981 and have two grown children, Chad and Amy. Chad works and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Amy is married to Reid, and they have a beautiful son, Henry.
Lecturer, Environmental Studies Undergrad
Southwest Hall (SWH)
Dr. Steve Sharp, Interim Director of the School of Environmental Studies, holds an Ed.D.(with dissertation) through the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations of Peabody College, Vanderbilt University with a focus on international and comparative education. Dr. Sharp also has doctoral level studies from Indiana University in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs. For 20+ years, he served as administrator and international student liaison of a day and boarding school where he developed and led an experiential outdoor program called the ECO-Classroom. His professional and research interests include environmental education, nonprofit organizations and the environment, religion and the environment, faith-based entities and the common good, and servant leadership.
Don Sowers happily resides with his wife Debby and many of their lifelong friends in Cookeville, TN. Before joining the Tennessee TECH University faculty as an adjunct instructor, Don was an instructor at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Academy. For twenty-eight years, he taught Constitutional Laws of Arrest, Search & Seizure, and Evidence to over ten-thousand deputy sheriff and police recruits.
Don brings vast experience in the fields of law, emergency management and public safety. Don is a retired attorney who practiced law for thirty years. He has a juris doctor degree from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles, CA. He is a former: City of Santa Monica police detective, Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, managing partner of a California law firm, CERT program manager, and a county deputy director of emergency management.
He is currently the Coordinator of Disaster Volunteer Services for Volunteer Tennessee (State of Tennessee Service Commission) and the State CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Coordinator for Tennessee appointed by TN – VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster).
His volunteering includes being the former: vice-chairman of Make-A-Wish Foundation International, member of the National Board of Directors of Make-A-Wish of America, chairman of the board Make-A-Wish of Los Angeles, member of the Board of Trustees and president of Alumni Association at Southwestern University School of Law, chairman of the Los Angeles County Bar Association - Criminal Justice Section, and chairman of the City of San Juan Capistrano Community Emergency Response Team.
In 2000, Don was recognized as Southwestern University’s Alumnus of the Year. And in 2010, Don received the President's Volunteer Service Award from the United States Council on Service and Civic Participation conferred by President Barack Obama.
Don has been both a professional first responder and volunteer leader for many organizations and disasters. While a City of Santa Monica police detective, he worked the 1984 Olympics and briefly but proudly served on President Ronald Reagan’s protection detail. He is currently a member of the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM), Emergency Managers of Tennessee (EMAT), Tennessee Volunteers Active in Disaster (TNVOAD), Putnam County TN Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES), and Volunteer Tennessee - TN.gov. Recently, Don was one of the Volunteer Reception Center managers for the Putnam County, TN - Emergency Management Agency (EMA) 2020 Cookeville, TN tornado response.
In 2021, Don was the winner of the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) - “So You Think You Can iLearn” Course Design Competition for his design and development of the graduate course entitled: “Managing Emergency Volunteers and Community Donations” for the Tennessee Tech University - College of Interdisciplinary Studies - School of Professional Studies.
After graduating from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in psychology I moved to Tennessee to attend Vanderbilt Law School. I practiced law in Nashville for over 20 years.
While practicing law I received a master’s degree in organizational management from Trevecca Nazarene University and a masters in theological studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School. I left law practice in 2000 and taught full time until 2007 as an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Cumberland University.
In 2008 I received my Ph.D. in Public Administration from Tennessee State University where my dissertation was on religion in prison. I served as the Director of Religious and Volunteer Services for the Tennessee Department of Correction from 2007-2013. In 2013 I retired from the state and became a part time prison consultant. Since retiring I have written several articles on prison inmates' religious rights under the First Amendment I and have led 15 presentations in 23 states.
I was first introduced to the Constitution in 8th grade Social Studies class by Mr. Hovland, one of my most memorable teachers. I studied Constitutional Law in depth in law school and I taught it to criminal justice majors at Cumberland University.
Dr. Warnick is a 100% service-related disabled veteran. While he has an academic degree, he worked in public safety for 23 years before beginning his educational journey. in 1980, he began his public safety career by serving as a constable police officer on the East Coast. He soon learned he didn't like being attacked (and shot at) for no good reason. After leaving the police agency, he worked in executive protection for a few short years. He then went into EMS for two years and transitioned into fire/EMS for another 26 years. Along with fire and EMS, he started working in emergency management around 1990.
He has served as an officer (EMS & Fire), Chief (Fire), deputy director (Emergency Management), and more. As a leader, he has consistently brought positive change to every organization he served with. He served in all three disciplines until 2015 when he could no longer do anything but dispatch units, train people, or act as a safety advisor. That is also the year that he finished his doctoral degree. His degrees include a bachelor’s in public safety with a specialization in emergency management, a master's in public safety with specialization in emergency management and a concentration in fire service management, and a Ph.D. in public safety with a specialization in emergency management.
He is not the academic that first decided to get the degrees then teach something he had never done. He is first a practitioner with many years of experience, then an academic. He has over 200 current certifications in fire, EMS, emergency management, and public health emergency management. He took the training, did the testing, and applied that learning in the field. This is not to say that he thinks he knows everything about public safety, or any discipline in public safety. He firmly believes that if someone tells you that they know everything about a public safety field, then you should immediately run from them, because they will get you hurt.
Dr. Warnick specializes in and is a subject matter expert in; mass shooters, human trafficking reduction, Incident Command System, public health emergency management, and disaster preparedness for Access and Functional Needs (AFN) populations. His hobby, and his passion, is teaching others. Not only does he teach at TTU, but he consults with various public safety agencies to help improve their agency or address specific problems. During the pandemic, he helped several rural counties be more efficient with food distribution and Covid-19 drive through testing.
Making the Complex Simple! That is the personal motto in which Dr. Watts’ instructional design philosophy is centered. Upon graduating with her doctoral degree from the University of Arkansas, Dr. Watts found her passion for leadership, learning and development. Her greatest strength is the ability to break down any concept in such a way that it is engaging, easy to understand and retain for the intended audience. She has been responsible for training at the world’s largest retailer Walmart, as well as the 2nd largest home improvement retailer Lowe’s Home Improvement. Her most recent accomplishment was receiving the Shining Star award for leading her organization’s learning and development efforts throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Watts uses her skillset to translate her corporate experience to practical examples for her students. She strives to bridge the gap from textbook learning theory to the workplace and inspire students to accomplish that which inspires them. In addition, Dr. Watts finds joy in helping working professionals gain additional knowledge and expertise to prepare them for advancement in their careers.
In her spare time, Dr. Watts loves to spend time with her husband Jermaine and young son Jalen. Three-year-old Jalen is the true star of the family as he can recite the first and last name of all 46 Presidents in order by memory. He has an incredible memory, thirst for learning and keeps the family on their toes! Dr. Watts and her husband also have a shared loved for all things NBA and NFL. Dr. Watts roots for the Steelers and Lakers while also carrying the responsibility as commissioner for her friend’s fantasy football and basketball leagues. Overall, she enjoys balancing family time, her corporate career and teaching students at the University.