Norfolk State announces new administrators

As we continue to build on our efforts to advance the mission and vision of Norfolk State University, we are pleased to announce the appointment of the following exceptional higher education leaders in the Division of Academic Affairs.  After conducting nationwide searches to fill these positions through search processes that included stakeholders from across the University community, and a nationally recognized search firm, these educational trailblazers join Academic Affairs to take Norfolk State University to the next level.  

We are also delighted to present two accomplished leaders to interim positions at Norfolk State.  Developing new units requires that we build with the expertise of existing leaders to initiate projects.  Fortunately, Norfolk State abounds with experts committed to the success of this great institution. The interim appointments in Public Health Initiatives and Ombuds will establish these units to function with excellence. 

Please join us in welcoming each of these leaders to their positions.

Mr. Don EssexMr. Don Essex: Dean of the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library

Mr. Don Essex will serve as NSU’s Dean of the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library. In this position, Dean Essex will lead the dedicated staff of the Lyman Beecher Brooks Library in developing library resources, services, and technologies for the 21st century to meet the educational needs of the NSU community. Dean Essex believes the purpose of an academic library is to INFORM, INSPIRE, and IMPART. It should provide access to the information that students, faculty, and staff need. It should inspire them to read, learn, research, and grow. And it should afford them the tools and training to become lifelong learners and researchers. Dean Essex began working at NSU on August 10, 2021, and looks forward to collaborating with administrators, faculty, staff, and students to make the library experience more enriching for all.

Before coming to NSU, Dean Essex was an associate professor and director of the Theofield G. Weis Library at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland, for nearly seven years. In this position, he was instrumental in transforming the library and the library experience for the WAU community. Some of his most notable accomplishments included acquiring a new integrated library system that effectively engaged researchers, developing a bibliographic instruction program that measurably increased information literacy on campus, and increasing the quality and quantity of physical and digital information resources at the library. Prior to working at Washington Adventist University, Dean Essex was Legislative Information Specialist for the Washington Office of the American Library Association for thirteen years. In this role, he provided legislative information services for the employees and members of the organization.

Dean Essex is originally from Washington, D.C., and was raised in California and Maryland. He earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in American History and Culture from Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, an M.L.S. in Library Science from the University of Maryland at College Park, and studied legislative affairs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. His primary areas of interest and research include academic libraries, reference services, bibliographic instruction, and collection development. His most recent article, “Cost-Effective Collection Development in the Digital Age,” was published by The Journal of Adventist Education in April 2020. 

Dean Essex is a member of the American Library Association (ALA), Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Association of Seventh-day Adventist Librarians (ASDAL), and several state library groups.

Dr. Denelle Wallace-AlexanderDr. Denelle Wallace-Alexander: Dean of the School of Education

After a rigorous search, NSU is proud to announce that Dr. Denelle Wallace-Alexander has been appointed as Dean of the School of Education where she will work on increasing academic success for students, expanding research and community service for faculty, and contributing to the diversification of the educator population throughout the United States. For 17 years, Dr. Wallace-Alexander served in many roles in P-12 school divisions. Her roles have included serving as an elementary and secondary classroom teacher, an elementary mathematics lead teacher, a middle school SOL resource teacher, a middle school AVID coordinator, a middle school Minority Achievement Leader, an online elementary and middle school tutor, and a middle school assistant principal. These experiences have served her well as a faculty member in the Department of Secondary Education and School Leadership at NSU.

For more than a decade, Dr. Wallace-Alexander has been an engaged scholar and researcher while teaching and advising graduate students in the Professional School Counseling and Principal Preparation Programs. Her research has focused on diversity in the fields of education, cultural identity development, digital storytelling, culturally proficient educational environments, and effective leadership in public school reform. Since coming to NSU in 2008, her research has led to the publication of an American School Counselor Association Resource Series, book chapters, journal articles, and conference proceedings, in addition to numerous national and regional conference and workshop presentations. Dr. Wallace-Alexander has utilized her research and professional experiences in P-12 education in her work with the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education. Her service as a National Urban Alliance mentor has enabled her to serve urban school district classroom educators, counselors, and administrators addressing the academic needs of diverse student populations in Newark, New Jersey; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Windsor, Connecticut; and Brooklyn, New York. Since July 2018, Dr. Wallace-Alexander has been serving as Associate Dean and CAEP Coordinator in the School of Education.

Dr. Wallace-Alexander received a Ph.D. in Urban Services with a concentration in Academic Leadership from Old Dominion University, an M.Ed. in School Counseling from Georgia State University, and a B.S. in Elementary Education from Old Dominion University.

Mr. Torian L. LeeMr. Torian L. Lee: Director of Global Learning and International Programs

Mr. Torian L. Lee will serve as NSU’s Director of the Office of Global Learning and International Programs. In this position, Mr. Lee will implement NSU’s vision for study abroad, international student and scholar services, and all initiatives related to campus internationalization. Mr. Lee earned a B.A. in Political Science from Virginia State University and a J.D. from Capital University. Mr. Lee joins NSU after serving as a Magistrate for the Commonwealth of Virginia in the region covering Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Eastern Shore.

Prior to his appointment as Magistrate, Mr. Lee served nearly eight years as Director of International Programs at Xavier University of Louisiana. He served three years as Director of International Programs at Elizabeth City State University where he was also a faculty member, teaching in the History and Criminal Justice departments. Mr. Lee began his career in higher education serving four years as the Director of Student and Multicultural Affairs at Capital University Law School. Mr. Lee’s international education work has always been driven by the goal of preparing students for leadership and service in an ever-growing global society.

Mr. Lee held leadership positions in several international education organizations, including the Association of International Educators (NAFSA), the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), and the U.S. Department of State’s Global Ties Program. Mr. Lee is a three-time recipient of the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, with awards to Germany (2005), United Kingdom (2013), and India (2016). In turn, Mr. Lee served as the Fulbright campus liaison at two HBCUs, working to increase student and faculty participation and hosting foreign scholars for short- and long-term assignments.

NSU is like home to Mr. Lee as he spent much of his youth on and around the campus. Mr. Lee’s parents attended NSU in the 1970s. Thereafter, his mother, Grace Lee, made a career at NSU over three decades, working in the Library, African Art Museum, and President’s Office. Mr. Lee is excited to be back at NSU and will begin work on August 25, 2021.

Dr. Felicia MebaneDr. Felicia Mebane: Interim Executive Director of Public Health Initiatives

Dr. Felicia Mebane will serve as NSU’s Interim Executive Director of Public Health Initiatives, leading and coordinating NSU's role in developing a new school of public health, an NSU joint partnership with Old Dominion University and Eastern Virginia Medical School. In this leadership position, Dr. Mebane will collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to enhance NSU’s role as a community-inspired academic and economic engine in public health spaces. Dr. Mebane will also help facilitate NSU’s development of academic programs, research initiatives, and community engagement to lay a strong and lasting foundation for NSU’s public health impact.

Dr. Mebane brings to this new position more than 10 years of experience as an assistant professor and assistant dean at the top ranked Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As a dean, she transformed the Office of Student Affairs by collaborating with academic departments to enhance recruitment, engagement, and career readiness for more than 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students. For example, she launched a community engagement initiative to raise awareness about graduate program admissions and created an innovative summer fellowship program for BIPOC college students. She also implemented a new application system for Gillings’ Bachelor of Science in Public Health programs and served on the national committee that developed SOPHAS, the centralized application system for public health programs.

As a professor, Dr. Mebane taught masters-level classes in health policy, politics and communications and stewarded masters and doctoral thesis committees and capstone projects. Funded, in part, by grants she secured from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Cancer Institute, she published numerous scientific articles and reports based on news content analysis or public opinion research. Her expertise was featured on dozens of panels and workshops for professional organizations, including the Association of Health Care Journalists, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, the American Public Health Association, and the Association for Schools and Programs of Public Health. As a consultant, Dr. Mebane has collaborated with public health experts on creative ways to disseminate their work and ideas, including clients at the Boston Public Health Department, GSK, and the CDC. In recognition of her creativity and contributions, she worked with AcademyHealth as a fellow in their Innovators-in-Residence program.

Dr. Mebane joined NSU as the Executive Director of the Dr. Patricia Lynch Stith Student Success Center (PLSSSC) in 2017. With teams of faculty, staff, and students in PLSSSC and across campus, she led the implementation of a new advising model and online advising systems, enhanced tutoring programs, and made other improvements to academic support for freshmen and sophomores. She currently serves as Executive Director in NSU’s School of Graduate Studies and Research.

Dr. Mebane earned a Ph.D. in Health Policy from Harvard University where she also completed a post-doctoral fellowship. She earned a B.S. in Business Administration and M.S. in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Mebane will start her new role on August 25, 2021.

Dr. Ernestine DuncanDr. Ernestine A.W. Duncan: Interim Faculty Ombuds

Dr. Ernestine A.W. Duncan will serve as NSU’s Interim Faculty Ombuds. In this role, she will serve as an impartial and confidential resource to assist faculty, staff, and all members of the university community. As the Faculty Ombuds, Dr. Duncan will provide confidential, impartial, independent, and informal conflict management assistance to the university community. Dr. Duncan is trained as a clinical psychologist and has over 25 years of experience in higher education. For the past 20 years, she has been a faculty member at Norfolk State University, and her tenure included serving as Discipline-Specific Honors Liaison for the College of Liberal Arts and Chair of the Psychology Department from 2012 to 2019.

Dr. Duncan is a tested transformational leader. As department chair, she provided oversight to one of the largest departments at the University. She led the department in establishing its online degree program and lent significant support in the development of the M.S. degree program in Cyberpsychology.

Dr. Duncan received an M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Georgia State University and a B.A. in Psychology, Communications, and Black Studies from Oberlin College. She has received additional training at Harvard University, completing the Management Development Program in 2019. Dr. Duncan assumed the position of Faculty Ombuds on August 2, 2021

Ms. Sheryll Heard: Director of Academic Advising

Ms. Sheryll Heard has been appointed as the Director of Academic Advising at Norfolk State University. In this new position, she will continue increasing academic success for students while collaborating with all departments to ensure that we support the continued growth, retention, graduation, and post-graduate success of students. 

Prior to joining Norfolk State University, Heard served as the Director of Admissions for the Information Technology Program at Old Dominion University from 1998-2004.  She was responsible for recruitment and advisement of a workforce development initiative that offered technical retraining and job search assistance to those interested in pursuing careers in information technology.

She began her career with NSU in 2004 with the ACCESS Program which later changed to the current PLSSSC.  Heard brings over twenty-five years of service in higher education. She currently serves as the Interim Executive Director of the Dr. Patricia Lynch Stith Student Success Center (PLSSSC) where she overseas Academic Advising, Learning Assistance Programs, and First and Second Year Programs.  Additionally, she implemented the Second Year Experience Program on the campus.

Heard has coordinated the SPARC Summer Bridge for over ten years where she has impacted the lives of many students.  

Heard has over nine years’ experience teaching courses in the classroom.  Additionally, she has taught SEM 101 and UNI 101 at the university for many years.

Heard earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from Norfolk State University and a Master of Business Administration at Strayer University. 

She is a member of NACADA which promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education and a member and current Chapter Advisor with the Epsilon Theta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. at NSU.

We welcome Ms. Sheryll Heard to this new position and look forward to her continued leadership in the Office of Academic Engagement.