John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Board of Directors

President, John N. Gardner

Secretary / Treasurer Angela Whiteside

John Gardner is universally regarded throughout the national and international higher education community as the initiator and leader of an educational reform movement, spanning more than three decades, to improve the retention and graduation rates of college and university students. His work has focused especially on two critical student transitions during the undergraduate years: the first-year experience and the senior-year experience. Gardner is the founder of two higher education research and professional development educational centers, the University of South  National Resource Center on The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and the John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. He is also Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science and Senior Fellow at the University of South Carolina. He is a widely published author and scholar whose work has been recognized with numerous awards including eleven honorary doctoral degrees. Gardner brings forty years experience working in higher education to his presidency.

Vice President, Betsy O. Barefoot

Secretary / Treasurer Angela Whiteside

Dr. Barefoot is one of the three co-founders of the Policy Center on the First Year of College where she currently serves as Co-Director and Senior Scholar. Prior to 1999 was Co-Director for Research and Publications for the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. She has extensive university teaching experience at undergraduate and graduate levels. Her special area of expertise is the scholarship of efforts to improve the beginning college experience. She is widely published and is universally regarded as a leading scholar in her field. She is also highly regarded for her editorial and management skills in the production of higher education publications. She has twenty-five years of experience working on issues of first-year student success at the national level.

Secretary/Treasurer, Angela M. Whiteside

Secretary / Treasurer Angela Whiteside

Mrs. Whiteside has been employed with the Institute for over ten years and serves as Vice President for Finance and Administration. She holds an associate of arts degree from Southwestern Community College, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Gardner Webb University and an MBA from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is highly knowledgeable of all aspects of the Institute and its processes.

Director, Louis Albert

Dr. Albert is President of the West Campus of Pima County Community College in Tucson, AZ. He is a former community college chief academic officer at a California two-year college; and former Vice President of the American Association of Higher Education, a not-for-profit membership association on which John Gardner served as a member of its board of trustees. Dr. Albert’s experience in running a membership organization and its conferences is of great value to the Board and the Institute. He also served for six years as Chair of the Board of Trustees of a 501c3 post secondary organization, the International Partnership for Service Learning. That experience helps him provide leadership for this board. His presidential leadership for a campus that is realizing huge enrollment gains of Hispanic students will also provide valuable insights for this Board and Institute. Dr. Albert also served as a member of the National Board of Campus Compact, a consortium of nearly 1,200 college and university presidents committed to advancing service-learning and civic engagement in higher education.

Director, Wendy Ault


A Maine native, Wendy Ault is a graduate of Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.  She has worked as a reproductive health teacher and the Assistant Director of Admissions at Westbrook College (now the University of New England) in Portland, Maine.  Ms. Ault served as University of Maine at Farmington’s Associate Director of Admissions for seventeen years.  For eight years of her time at UMF, she ran and was elected to the Maine House of Representatives representing part of Kennebec County from 1988 through 1996.  She served all eight years as a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs, serving as its House Chair during her last term.  In September 1999, Ms. Ault became President of the non-profit Maine Educational Loan Marketing Corporation.  When MELMAC was sold to a for-profit corporation in January 2001, the proceeds from that sale created the MELMAC Education Foundation.  Since 2001 Wendy has been the Executive Director of the MELMAC Education Foundation. She lives in Wayne, Maine with her husband.

Director, Scott Evenbeck

Dr. Evenbeck joined City University of New York in 2011 as the Charles and Stella Guttman Community College’s founding president. He served as professor of psychology and founding dean of University College at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. Scott has long been involved in designing, implementing and assessing programs for students in their first years of university study. He played a major role in various initiatives to support student achievement in Indiana, including efforts to keep students in college. He has given more than 100 presentations on serving students as they enter college, and he has written many articles and chapters on academic achievement and persistence. Scott was a task force adviser for the Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year, a board member of the American Conference of Academic Deans, and a faculty member for the Learning Community Institute of the Washington Center for Undergraduate Education. The National Learning Community conference recognized him with the lifetime achievement award. He has been on accreditation teams for three regional associations, focusing on general education, assessment and programs for entering students.

Director, Jillian Kinzie

Dr. Kinzie (Associate Director, Center for Postsecondary Research & NSSE Institute) coordinates the NSSE Institute project activities. Her PhD is from Indiana University in higher education with a minor in women’s studies. Jillian comes to the NSSE staff from the faculty at IU where she coordinated the master’s program in higher education and student affairs from 2000-2002.

Director, Leo M. Lambert


Leo Lambert has led Elon’s rise to national prominence since 1999, promoting a student-centered culture that values strong relationships between students and their faculty and staff mentors. Focused on developing students as global citizens, ethical leaders and creative problem-solvers, Lambert has led two strategic plans, creating a model for the modern liberal arts university. Elon is known for academic excellence across the curriculum, and for its innovative programs in study abroad, undergraduate research, leadership, interfaith dialogue, civic engagement and community service, and preparing students for meaningful careers and advanced study. Under Lambert’s leadership, Elon has invested heavily in developing its residential campus, building four major neighborhoods, integrating academic and residence life programs and nurturing a flourishing intellectual climate. During Lambert’s tenure, the university has established new schools of law and health sciences. A chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Elon in 2010, following major investments in academic resources and arts and sciences programs. More than 100 buildings have been added to campus, including Belk Library, Koury Business Center, the Academic Village, Francis Center and numerous athletics facilities, including Rhodes Stadium. A recognized leader in higher education, Lambert has held leadership roles for numerous organizations, including the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the NCAA. He is co-author of a new book, The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most, which is forthcoming from Jossey-Bass in spring 2016.

Director, John Lawless

John W. Lawless has many years of experience as a manager and CEO of business and non-profit organizations. His career began in the information systems division of McDonnell Douglas and includes the founding of HBOC, a nationwide healthcare information systems company. He was also involved in the establishment of several start-up companies and mergers, most notably the merger of Inforum and Medstat to create the Michigan-based firm of Medstat, a healthcare information company. Lawless has also served on the boards of several arts organizations and served as chair of the board for the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina in Hilton Head, SC. Lawless is now retired and lives with his wife, Barbara, in Hendersonville, NC. Mr. Lawless brings to the Institute board a long history of making non-profit organizations even more viable in addition to his extraordinary business acumen and experience in strategic planning.

Director, George Mehaffy

George Mehaffy serves as the Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in Washington, D.C., representing 430 public colleges and universities and their 3.7 million students. His division is responsible for developing and managing programs for member institutions in areas such as leadership development, undergraduate education, technology, international education and teacher education. He directs a variety of projects, including international programs with a Chinese higher education association, a technology transformation project with EDUCAUSE, an articulation project with community colleges, and two national studies of student success. In 2003, he launched the American Democracy Project, a civic engagement initiative with 228 colleges and universities, a partnership with The New York Times. He has university teaching and administrative experience in New Mexico and California.

Director Emerita, Martha Nesbitt

Dr .Nesbitt is President Emerita of Gainesville State College, one of the 34 constituent units of the University System of Georgia. Prior to that she was Vice President of Academic Affairs of Georgia Perimeter College. She has been a two-year college leader of first-year experience improvement efforts since 1985 when she began working with Director Gardner on various professional partnerships. She is a doctorally trained historian as well. Her expertise in the fastest growing sector of public higher education (the community college) is especially valuable to the Institute.

Director Emerita, Francine McNairy

Dr. McNairy is President Emerita of Millersville University of Pennsylvania, where she previously served as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. Millersville is one of the fourteen constituent units of the State System of Higher Education of Pennsylvania. President McNairy has been working with John Gardner since 1978 on a multiplicity of improvement, publishing, development activities. She is a doctorally trained expert in communications as well. Her type of institution is the institutional type that has been most engaged in the activities of the Institute, said institutional type known as the regional, comprehensive, public university. There are 430 of these in the US and they collectively educate four million students. Her advice on serving this institutional type, with special attention to minority and underrepresented groups is particularly valuable to the Board and the Institute.