Faculty & Staff

Get to know this year's faculty and staff.
Leadership Team
Randall Black
Academic Dean

Background

RANDALL BLACK, Academic Dean of the Commonwealth Honors Academy and professor of music, begins 17th year with the Academy (having served as Student Life Dean for the initial 13 years) and his thirty-first year of teaching voice at Murray State University. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Southern Illinois University (Music Department's Distinguished Alumnus Award, '96-'97) and his Master and Doctor of Music degrees from Indiana University. As a professional singer, he has appeared in the United States and Europe including performances with: Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony, St. Martin-in-the-Field Church in London, the Santa Fe Opera, and as a soloist in Carnegie Hall.

Dr. Black has served on the national board (Secretary/Treasurer) for the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) as well as the NATS Foundation Board, and as regional governor for the National Opera Association. He taught for twelve years as a faculty member of the Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program, and has been recognized with Teaching Awards from the Music Department (Charles and Marlene Johnson Outstanding Music Faculty Award) and Murray State University (Regents Award). He and his wife, Kim, also a music teacher, have two children.

Jeff Wylie
Student Life Dean

Background

JEFF WYLIE, Student Life Dean, is a social worker who has been teaching in the Social Work Program at Murray State University since 1997. Jeff has an MSW and an MDiv degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and was a therapist and administrator with Four Rivers Behavioral Health in Paducah for 8 years working with families and children specializing in parenting and behavior disorders in children. He has worked with victims of sexual assault and supervised therapists in child advocacy and sexual assault centers as well as mental health therapists in the region. Prior to his career in social work, Jeff worked for 7 years as a staff person with Young Life – a Christian outreach program to un-churched high school students in Louisville and Bowling Green, KY. With Young Life Jeff served as a high school group leader and as area director for all the Young Life clubs in the area. Jeff’s wife, Jennifer, is a physical therapist and together they have 3 adult children. In addition to teaching, Jeff is involved with his church, private clinical practice, and enjoys playing the guitar and fly-fishing.

Lori Rogers
Administrative Assistant

Background

LORI ROGERS is the administrative assistant for the Murray State Honors Program and the primary contact for prospective CHA students. Having served in this position for 26 years, Lori enjoys building relationships with both university Honors students and the CHA students. She was recognized in 2011 by the Murray State Student Government Association for her commitment to students and their success with the Jim Baurer Staff Service Award given annually to one exemplary staff member. Her favorite part of CHA is watching the students build friendships within the CHA community.

She studied history at Murray State and family history through distance learning courses from Brigham Young University and continues to pursue a BIS degree in those areas. Lori's interests include American history, genealogy, and cooking. She resides in Calloway County with her husband, Mark, and has a daughter, Brittiany, a 2006 Murray State graduate.

Jeffrey Watson
Counseling Director

Background

JEFF WATSON, Counseling Director, is a licensed therapist in the Murray State University Counseling Center. Jeff has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Murray State University. He is currently pursuing his second Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. Jeff has received specialized training in the realm of transgender healthcare and works extensively with the MSU LBGTQ+ community. Along with this Jeff has an interest in mindfulness, positive psychology, and existential psychology. This is Jeff’s first year with the Commonwealth Honors Academy, and he is excited both to be a part of and to help create this year’s CHA community.

Staff
Constance Alexander
Constance Alexander

Background

Constance Alexander won a poetry contest in 4th grade and has been writing ever since. The youngest of five, she grew up in New Jersey reading, writing, taking piano lessons, and doing everything she could to avoid being compared to her siblings. An award-winning poet, playwright, newspaper columnist, fiction writer and essayist, she has published five books. Her dramatic works have been performed throughout the country, in Great Britain, and South America. In 2014, she received a Governor’s Award in the Arts for her work in media, and she is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, and residencies.

Andrea Campbell
Andréa Campbell

Background

Andréa Campbell is a junior Music Education major from Memphis, TN. This is her first year serving as a residential counselor. She is a member of the Murray State Honors College as well as serves as a Student Ambassador for the Department of Humanity and Fine Arts. Andréa also works with a select children’s chorus after school at Murray Elementary School. In her free time, Andréa enjoys traveling and spending time with her loved ones.

Taylor Clements
Taylor Clements

Background

Dr. Taylor Clements, elective faculty member, teaches mathematics in Culver, IN at the Culver Academies. He spent 6 years teaching high school mathematics in Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, KY before relocating to northern Indiana. Taylor is a 2006 CHA-lumnus who grew up in Wilmore, KY, earned an Honors Diploma and BS in Mathematics from Murray State University, an MA in Education from Western Kentucky University, and a PhD in Educational Leadership from the University of Kentucky. Taylor has been a strong teacher-leader over the years, leading workshops on innovation in learning at local, state, and national conferences for educators. He also is an adjunct professor at Bellarmine University. Taylor is an avid runner, racquetball player, and spends a lot of time with his daughter, Abigail.

Ashley Cumming
Ashley Cumming

Background

Ashley Cumming is the Assistant Professor of Horn and Musicology at Murray State University. Hailing from Cambridge, Ontario, she has performed with experience the COSI Opera Orchestra in Italy, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, UANL Symphony Orchestra in Mexico and Orchestre de la Francophonie in Quebec. Touring the United States with Spark Brass, Ashley performs concerts and educational programs with the acclaimed quintet. She has previously taught throughout Indiana and Canada, often providing clinics on conquering performance anxiety. Ashley holds a Doctorate of Music from Indiana University. For more information, please visit ashleycumming.com.

Taylor Davis
Taylor Davis

Background

This is Taylor’s second summer participating in the Commonwealth Honors Academy as a Residential Counselor. Taylor is a Music Education major with a Vocal emphasis at Murray State University, where she will be completing her third year of undergraduate degree study this upcoming year. Very involved with the Murray State Music Department, Taylor works as a Choral Librarian during the school year, is a Music Ambassador, does undergraduate research with the PSO Children’s Choir, and has participated in five choral ensembles. Taylor is also a member of the Murray State University Honors College, where she serves the university as a Presidential Fellow, a member of the student council, and an Honors Ambassador. In her spare time, Taylor enjoys spending time in her two happy places: church and nature.

Zach East
Zach East

Background

Hailing from Princeton, Kentucky, Zach is a junior at Murray State and is majoring in Middle School Education. He works as a Resident Advisor in Elizabeth College, and in the past has also worked as a tutor and mentor in the Student Disability Services office. He has a passion for stretching what students think they can do to something even greater. He believes that all students are capable of both effective leadership and service, and can't wait to help the students of CHA find their unique calling to serve and lead!

Laurie Edminster
Laurie Edminster

Background

Laurie Edminster is an English teacher at Murray High School. She grew up in South Carolina and Tennessee and dreamed of teaching from the age of five. She is married with three beautiful girls, ages 22, 20, and 17. Laurie received her B.A. and Masters in English Education from Clemson University and is a National Board Certified Educator. Over the past 29 years, she has taught English I-IV, Drama, Speech, Southern Literature, and Creative Writing at schools in South Carolina, Texas, and Kentucky. She also teaches dual credit English and Education classes for Murray State University, as well as English-Education courses. She has also worked with students outside the classroom as a sponsor of Student Council, Beta Club, and National Honor Society. Her interests include reading, singing, traveling, and listening to music.

Karen Kane
Karen Kane

Background

Karen Kane is currently President of Kane Entertainment and Director of Music Business programs at Murray State University. During her 25+ year career in the music industry, Karen has created and managed many successful entrepreneurial enterprises, including two Artist Management Companies, a Music Marketing Company and an Independent Record Label. On the corporate side of the industry, she has held executive positions in marketing at Warner Bros. Records and Sony Music Entertainment. Karen received her Bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University and a Master’s degree in Mass Communications from Murray State. This is her fourth year at CHA and she is thrilled to share her passion for entrepreneurship with her students.

Glenn Leckie
Glenn Leckie

Background

Glenn Leckie received his Bachelor of Fine Arts, Masters in Education and +30 in Administration from Murray State University. Glenn began his teaching career with the Dawson Springs Independent School District where he taught Visual Art, Gifted and Talented, Social Studies and Kentucky History. When the opportunity came to move back to Murray, Glenn took the Visual Art position for Calloway County High School. During this time, his other duties included Yearbook Sponsor, Extended School Program Coordinator and Resource Teacher for the Kentucky Internship Program. Not long after relocation in Murray, Glenn was asked to become an adjunct with the Murray State Art Department, where he has taught Art Materials and Techniques for the Classroom Teacher, Introduction to Drawing, Life Drawing, and Art Appreciation.

Bernard Lewis
Bernard Lewis

Background

Bernard Lewis holds a bachelor’s Degree in English and Vocal Music from the University of NC at Charlotte and a master’s Degree in English Studies from Murray State. He also holds the title, Graduate Gemologist, from the Gemological Institute of America. After thirty-five years as a Certified Gemologist with the American Gem Society, he retired to teach English and Humanities. Bernard has been published in Notes on Contemporary Literature and in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching. Having taught in both London and Italy for Murray State, he is now working on Study Abroad programs for WKCTC. Bernard regularly attends the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan where he presents and reads in workshops for Chaucer and Malory studies. Bernard lives in Paducah with his wife, Anita, and their dog, Fulmer. Bernard and Annita are active in their church and both enjoy reading, cooking, traveling, and making music. They have two children and four grandchildren. Their daughter Rebekah was a voice major at Murray State and was privileged to be a student of Randy Black. This is Bernard’s fifth year teaching Humanities at CHA.

Cara Mathis
Cara Mathis

Background

Cara Mathis, Lecturer, is a Murray State alumni and faculty member who began teaching in the English and Philosophy department after receiving her 2003 Master of Arts in English. She is also certified by San Diego State University’s American Language Institute to teach English as a Foreign Language. Even before acquiring these teaching certifications, Cara, in her first chosen career of finance, was allowed the opportunity to teach and engage young students, throughout the state of Kentucky, to seek a better understanding of personal economics and how to resolve problematic issues faced when working with others in different professions. Cara claims working with these bright, enthusiastic high school students is what motivated her to return to college and enter into the area of academics. She saw a need for leaders within their communities to reach out to this younger generation, helping each student to understand his/her civic responsibility as a United States citizen to make his/her local community, state, and country a better place to live. Cara says, “My interest is in all people, from local schools to the third world villages of such countries as Brazil and Moldova. My experience teaching within these villages has given me a greater appreciation of education and has forced me to move beyond the traditional methods of teaching within a classroom.” In addition to teaching, Cara enjoys spending time with her daughter and four grandchildren in Nashville, enjoys mentoring young women struggling with difficult life issues, and enjoys playing golf with friends and family.

Lucas Morgan
Lucas Morgan

Background

Lucas Morgan is a junior Music Education major at Murray State University. Outside of classes and musical ensembles, Lucas is a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, the men's music fraternity on campus, and a collegiate member of the National Association for Music Education. He has been involved with Murray State's annual Campus Lights production for three years, helping to raise money for music scholarships. He is also involved in other activities around the music department, serving as Racer Band president for the past two years, and junior class representative on the music department's student council board. This is Lucas' first summer working with the Commonwealth Honors Academy, and he is very excited to begin working for the program!

Danielle Nielsen
Danielle Nielsen

Background

Danielle Nielsen is associate professor of English at Murray State University where she teaches composition, professional writing, and Victorian and twentieth-century British literature courses. She joined Murray State in 2011 after graduating from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH with her PhD in Writing History and Theory. CHA 2018 marks her seventh year with the program.

Taufiq Rashid
Taufiq Rashid

Background

Taufiq Rashid has undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics and politics, making him ideally suited to pursue his interests in matters related to political economy. This pursuit has led him to gainful employment as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Murray State University. In this capacity he is the Coordinator of the World Civilizations Program and also the Assessment Coordinator for the University Studies Program.

Drew Seib
Drew Seib

Background

Drew Seib is an assistant professor of political science at Murray State University where he teaches courses on American government and politics (Congress, Campaigns and Elections, Political Behavior, and Political Parties and Interest Groups). He likes to research how voters make decisions, often drawing on psychology to better understand voters. He graduated from SIU Carbondale in 2012 with a PhD in political science. In his free time, he enjoys working on home renovation projects, usually have more projects going than he can reasonably handle. Last summer taught abroad for the first time in Barcelona. It is his first year teaching in CHA and is excited to be teaching such a timely topic.

Tanelle Smith
Tanelle Smith

Background

Anything that you choose to do, do it with purpose!" is a motto that she strives to live by. Tanelle Smith, a native of Henderson KY, is the daughter of Gerald and Angela Smith. Tanelle graduated from Henderson County High School and recently graduated from Murray State University majoring in Secondary English Education. She is very passionate about campus involvement, community outreach, youth development and empowerment. She has formerly been involved as a MSU Student Ambassador, PanHellenic Recruitment Director, New Member Educator, College of Education Senator, Summer O Counselor and a G.R.O.W mentor. From 2015-2016 she reigned as Miss Murray State University, recently taught middle school English in Rochester NY, and studied abroad Fall 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. Tanelle believes in the importance of giving back through service and sharing her story to impact the lives of others. She plans to pursue a masters in higher education and travel the world. Most importantly she plans to passionately instill wisdom, values, and integrity in the minds of young adults. Tanelle looks forward to her future as an educator and mentor molding our upcoming generation into the most successful individuals they can be leave a lasting legacy!

Jeff Watson
Jeff Watson

Background

Jeff Watson, Counseling Director, is a licensed therapist in the Murray State University Counseling Center. Jeff has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Murray State University. He is currently pursuing his second Master’s degree in Nonprofit Leadership Studies. Jeff has received specialized training in the realm of transgender healthcare and works extensively with the MSU LBGTQ+ community. Along with this Jeff has an interest in mindfulness, positive psychology, and existential psychology. This is Jeff’s first year with the Commonwealth Honors Academy, and he is excited both to be a part of and to help create this year’s CHA community.

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