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College of Education and Human Services

Osprey Stories

The College of Education and Human Services is made up of an incredible and unique group of individuals who study here. Our students are what make us Uniquely UNF. We are excited to share with you a little more about our students, spotlighting their individuality and how they're partnering to make the world a better place. 

Alex Shepard at the Jags stadium

Alex Shepard

Bachelor of Science in Sport Management ('14)

Alex Shepard knew he wanted to work for the Jacksonville Jaguars and did whatever he could to get his foot in the door. Not only did the sport management program teach him about the industry, but it provided him his first opportunity. He worked gamedays in the Fan Entertainment Zone and joined the ticket office in the will call booth before an internship acrose with the special events department. When Cutis Dvorak, who played Jaxson de Ville, announced his retirement, Shepard filled in for the mascot role.

Shepard said there’s a strange dynamic when everyone screams Jaxson’s name. He feels like Superman turning into Clark Kent. “Once I put on the head, I become a different person,” he said. The moment he takes off his suit, he’s back to being regular Alex. He says there’s something freeing about no one knowing who’s inside. 
Jaxson is known as one of the most extreme mascots in the league. Shepard said the zipline was something inherited, but they’re always planning new jaw-dropping activities. Last year, he jumped off the roof at Wembley Stadium. From being the only mascot to stunt at Wembley and the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, to joining the other mascots in Hawaii for the NFL Pro Bowl, to flying privately to and from New York for a special event, Shepard has been embracing the Jaxson lifestyle. “The variety and uniqueness day to day is what keeps the job interesting and exciting,” he said.


Sydney Lauren in Cap and Gown

Sydney Lauren 

Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education

Sydney Laure is an inspiring recent COEHS graduate who is making an impact on children’s lives as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) at FlutterFlies ABA in Orlando. 

Sydney specializes in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her role entails using play-based therapy to provide early interventions, whether in the children’s homes, daycares, or schools. Sydney shares “As someone who has the same diagnosis as these children, I possess an extraordinary level of empathy and a genuine understanding of their thought processes. I am so passionate about this field that I can envision pursuing a master’s degree and becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in the future. BCBA’s are the architects of the behavior plans I implement."

Nick Tillem

Nick Tillem 

M.S. in Educational Technology, Training and Development 

When asked why he chose to get his master's degree in educational technology, training, and development, Nick said “I have a genuine love for learning and a fascination with the role of technology in learning strategy. I enjoy the challenge of identifying gaps in the learning process and developing innovative solutions to address them. I believe that this program provided me with the knowledge and skills I need to make a meaningful contribution in the field of learning and development.” 

Nick Tillem currently works as a Learning Technologies Manager for Corporate Quality Assurance at Procter & Gamble (P&G). “Through the program, I gained a ton of valuable knowledge and skills that have been instrumental in my current position. I found the courses on instructional design, adult learning theory, and using data in learning and design to be particularly useful. These areas have helped me to design effective training programs that really resonate with employees and drive real results. Overall, I'm grateful for the education I received during my master's program, and I'm excited to keep putting it to use in my work at P&G.” 

His advice for students interested in pursuing a field in educational technology, training, and development is: “Stay curious! In this field, you should never stop learning. Ask questions from experts. People in educational technology, training and development as well as learning design and technology are passionate about what they do.” 

Photo of Bre Speed-Jackson

Bre Speed-Jackson

Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education ('24)

Bri Speed-Jackson always wanted to teach children. She was inspired to choose education because of her own teachers who cared about her and encouraged her to make a similar impact when working with children. Her experience in a teaching professions program in high school, where she was able to shadow instructors, practice lesson planning, and practice teaching, sparked her interest even more.  

Bri’s experience as an early childhood student greatly contributed to her personal and professional growth. She was a COEHS ambassador and interned at various schools in the Duval County area. She had the opportunity to conduct research for 904ward, a non-profit aiming to create racial healing and equity through deep conversations, learning, and collective action. Bri will graduate with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education in the spring of 2024. She plans to teach in Duval County for a few years before enrolling in graduate school for a master's degree in educational leadership. Her long-term ambition is to become a principal and influence higher-level change in the educational system.

Bri shares that "[she advises] prospective students interested in attending the University of North Florida to explore [their] interests, get engaged, use [their] time and resources wisely, and develop a healthy balance between [their] academics, social life, and mental health.

Ana Roman Dominquez Headshot

Ana Roman Dominquez

Pursuing a Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership

Ana Román Domínguez, a doctoral student in Educational Leadership and assistant coach for UNF Women's Tennis, is making waves in the world of sports technology! Through her internship at SportsMEDIA Technology, Ana is conducting market research on competitor products and revolutionizing the way we experience tennis. At SMT, Ana's primary focus is on understanding tennis-related projects and redefining existing services with fresh perspectives. She is also instrumental in defining new tennis concepts and statistics that have yet to be showcased on television. These groundbreaking statistics and graphics were broadcasted during Wimbledon, where Ana conducted critical research on behalf of SMT.
Colleen Carr head shot

Colleen Mackenzie Lopez 

Bachelor of Arts in Deaf Education ('22)

Colleen selected UNF for the many extracurricular opportunities that are available to students. As an honors student, she not only excelled academically but also actively contributed to the vibrant campus community. Colleen was a tour guide on campus, A PASS Leader for College Algebra, a member of the UNF Concert Band, and President of the Student Council for Exceptional Children. Throughout her time at UNF, Colleen was deeply impressed by the faculty's unwavering commitment to fostering student growth within their respective areas of study. Even during the challenging times posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she seized opportunities to engage with professionals on panel discussions, participate in virtual conferences, and gain insights from recorded lessons delivered by seasoned educators in her field. 

David Errico Headshot

David Errico

Master of Education in Educational Leadership ('17)

David Errico, a dedicated UNF alumni holds a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from the College of Education and Human Services. Although he did not specialize in a particular area, his coursework and research centered around student engagement and gender-based learning, shaping his educational philosophy and guiding his future endeavors. David cherishes his time at UNF, where practical classes and engaging assignments prepared him for leadership roles. What truly enriched his experience were the invaluable connections with professors like Dr. Boilini and Dr. Geismar, who, even after his graduation, became enduring mentors and thought partners. David now serves as the Principal of Westside Middle School in Duval County, Jacksonville, where he leads a dedicated staff in providing a quality education. His UNF education equipped him with the practical skills needed for this role. Motivated by a desire to make a lasting impact in education, David strives to create a safe and welcoming learning environment, offering students memorable educational experiences.

Lily Exantus head shot

Lily Exantus 

Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction ('21)

Motivated to make a positive change in classrooms across the Jacksonville community, UNF graduate student Lily Exantus started her own nonprofit to promote equity and inclusiveness in the classroom. Under the name Educational Justice for Jacksonville, also known as Ed Justice Jax, Exantus planned to provide personal and professional learning for PK-12 educators who are striving to be more inclusive and culturally responsive. “I started Ed Justice Jax because there was a need for educators to build community and learn how to apply anti-racism beliefs and practices in their lives and classrooms,” she said. In addition to her nonprofit, Exantus was involved with UNF’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Club, where she has worked with people from the Ukraine and South Korea as an English language partner.

As a two-time alumna, Exantus is forever grateful for the experiences she has had at UNF. “The people at UNF; the faculty, staff and students are amazing,” Exantus said. “Due to [UNF’s] culture and small classes, I was able to build strong lifelong relationships with faculty, staff and students.” Exantus was announced as one of the 2021 Presidential Diversity Awards Scholarship recipients. She is currently a Program Coordinator at District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), where she manages professional learning projects that support the development and retention of 300 educators across the district. 

Shaneka Ferrell head shot

Shaneka Ferrell 

Masters of Education in School Counseling 

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership 

Shaneka Ferrell is a two-time COEHS alumna. She is currently a student in the Educational Leadership doctoral program while working full-time as a school counselor at Douglas Anderson School for the Arts.

She is the creator of Cultural Conversations, an affinity group for Duval County Public Schools. Ferrell created Gracious Spaces for students of color to have earnest and honest Cultural Conversations. She was a co-facilitator of UNF’s Bridges Summer Camp program whose focus was to explore educational spaces from anti-racist, social justice and advocacy lenses. She also co-facilitated Summer Students of Color Safe Space Bi-Weekly Check-ins, which cultivated safe spaces and check-ins to support students of color to discuss the pandemic and the crisis of social and racial injustices that predate COVID-19. 

Ferrel was announced as one of the 2021 Presidential Diversity Awards Scholarship recipients and received the Wolfburg Fellowship in 2023. The Wolfburg Fellowship provides up to $7,000 for educators to deepen their knowledge around issues related to social justice, diversity, and inclusion, and to implement an aligned action research project in partnership with students. 

Bella Kitzis teaching  and wearing a JTR polo

Isabella 'Bella' Kitzis (21')

Master of Arts in Teaching; JTR Resident/NSF Noyce Teaching Fellow
Jackson High School, Biology; Residency Mentor: Mr. George Teuber (JTR Cohort 1, 2014-15)

Isabella Kitzis is a native of Jacksonville, Florida where she graduated from Stanton College Preparatory High School in Jacksonville, FL. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Coastal Biology and a minor in Anthropology from UNF in 2019. She was engaged in numerous research projects as an undergraduate where she honed her knowledge of coastal eco-systems through data retrieval and analysis for science-related K-12 educational programs. She also enjoyed tutoring undergraduate students. She completed her Master of Arts in Teaching with a year-long immersive residency through the Jacksonville Teacher Residency (JTR) program. 

When asked why JTR, Bella wrote: “…to many people (JTR schools) come with a myriad of challenges or ‘problems’ that their teachers have to face. I don’t see these statistics or scenarios as problems or challenges, rather, opportunities to put more love and effort into ensuring these students have a quality education.” She is passionate about ensuring that her students learn about STEM professionals who look like them and will explore opportunities to engage the students she teaches in summer STEM programs, such as the Minority Introduction to Science and Engineering program at MIT. During her junior year in high school, Bella first recognized her desire to teach through the passion of her own biology teacher who taught her about the environment and the impact one person could have on a student’s life. 

She was mentored by Mr. George Teuber, a JTR Cohort 1 2015 UNF graduate. 

Gary Monahan head shot

Gary Monahan 

Bachelor of Science in Sport Management ('20)

Getting involved on campus and in the community isn’t just something UNF alumni Gary Monahan enjoys. It’s also a philosophy that he believes is vital to one’s success. 

“My on-campus involvement began with the intention to serve and build meaningful relationships with members of the University community,” said Monahan, who found many ways to make that happen. His affiliations included becoming a COEHS Ambassador, Presidential Envoy, a member of the Taylor Leadership Institute, a student Employee at the John A. Delaney Student Union and an intern with the Athletics Development team. Monahan served as a COEHS ambassador ―an experience that was extremely rewarding. As an ambassador he had the opportunity to assist prospective students and families in the college selection process by trying to make the process as stress-free as possible. “No matter what event or program we were involved in, our mission was to enrich the lives of those we served through exposing them to the quality education offered at our outstanding institution,” Monahan said. 

His service doesn’t stop there. He was also involved with the Taylor Leadership Institute where he had the opportunity to positively impact the lives of people in the community by practicing positive leadership. His favorite experience was being able to interact with children and families of the Ronald McDonald House of Jacksonville. 

Monahan served with many different organizations during his time as an Osprey. He was involved with the UNF Sport Management Alliance Club, Duval County Special Olympics, HabiJax and Feeding Northeast Florida. Getting involved is something Monahan recommends to any student who wants to be successful. 

“Do your best to get involved as early in your academic career as you can. Talk to your professors, advisor, or anyone else on campus whose advice you respect, and trust,” Monahan said. “Ask them to share resources and contacts they have both on campus and in the community to help you learn more about a particular career or job you might like to have.” 

This two-time Osprey has many things he loves about the University, but he most enjoys the people. “My favorite thing about UNF is the people that comprise the UNF family,” Monahan said. “Everyone on the UNF campus seeks to serve students and is truly invested in our success.” 

Caran Mullins head shot

Caran Mullins

Master of Education in Educational Leadership 

Caran Mullins is a Neptune Beach resident who received a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from COEHS. Wanting to deepen her instructional practice and ability to support the growth of other educators, she is now in the Elementary iStem Pro Graduate Certificate program as well as the M.Ed. in Elementary Program. She is pursuing her passion for stem integration in the elementary classroom. Ms. Mullins is a 3rd Grade English Language Arts at Seabreeze Elementary who is passionate about developing and integrating culturally responsive, project-based learning experiences within her English Language Arts instruction. In addition to her work at Seabreeze, Ms. Mullins often serves as a UNF mentor teacher and is working in partnership with UNF to bring integrated STEM instruction to DCPS students through Project InTERSECT. She has developed instructional videos of a project-based learning curriculum with an emphasis on stem instruction in action as well as video to support educators engaged in teacher inquiry.

Melanie Sanders head shot

Melanie Sanders

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (2021)

Masters of Education in Educational Leadership (2010)

Melanie's decision to enroll at UNF stemmed from the allure of its versatile program, offering a unique hybrid model that granted her the freedom to explore topics deeply resonating with her professional aspirations. As an ESE Director in Clay County, she found herself particularly grateful for the inclusive environment fostered by the program, affording her invaluable opportunities to engage in challenging dialogues. She firmly holds the belief that these occasionally uncomfortable conversations have played an instrumental role in fortifying not only her own resilience but also that of her colleagues, making her and her peers stronger and more prepared for the future.

Melanie currently serves as a Director at Clay County District Schools and a an adjunct professor at UNF. 

Hwan-Hee Song head shot

Hwanhee Song

Master of Education Elementary Ed (TESOL)

At a young age, UNF alumni HwanHee Song saw her parents giving back to the community in various ways. Years later, when she saw a chance to do the same, it became a very natural choice for her. At the age of 17, Song left South Korea and moved to Cameroon where she first started teaching Korean. “I was a teacher’s assistant for a while, and when I turned 19 I had my own classroom with five kindergarteners,” Song said. “That’s when I truly realized how much I love teaching Korean and Korean culture.” Now in the United States, Song gives back to the community by teaching Korean and English to a variety students and people in the community. From kindergarteners, to senior citizens, to immigrants, Song has used her skills, training and personal experiences to be an effective teacher. 

“Throughout my life, I was both an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) student and an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) student,” Song said. “Therefore, I am equipped to help English language learners in unique ways due to my understanding of the learning process and my personal experience.” In addition to her personal experience, Song felt well equipped to be an effective ESOL teacher due to the academic and field training she has received from UNF. Song served her community both on campus and off campus through volunteering with the Ed Justice Jax initiative and creating Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages club, also known as the TESOL club, where she later served as president. 

“I absolutely love it! Teaching Korean always empowers me and reminds me of how proud I am to be Korean. Teaching English and seeing the students speaking confidently remind me why I became an ESOL teacher,” Song said. “I am still learning and growing. It hasn’t been an easy learning journey, but I believe it is necessary for me and my future students.” 

HwanHee received the Spring 2021 Outstanding TESOL Graduate Student Award and was the 2020 Vicki Cornett Caring Award Winner.  


Jemimah Tassopoulos teaching in a classroom

Jemimah Tassopoulos

Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Education

2020-21 JTR Resident/NSF Noyce Teaching Fellow ; Jackson High School, Mathematics 

Jemimah is a native of Northeast Florida where she graduated from Allen D. Nease High School in Ponte Verde, FL with an IB diploma. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics and a minor in Mathematical Science with Honors from UNF in 2020. She served as a math and statistics tutor and attained real-work and leadership experiences. Before completing her bachelor's degree Jemimah decided that she couldn’t ignore her life-long dream of becoming a teacher any longer and decided to continue her educational career. Her love for helping others learn motivated her to become a licensed 6-12 mathematics teacher. 

She completed her Master of Arts in Teaching from COEHS with a year-long classroom apprenticeship experience through the Jacksonville Teacher Residency (JTR) program. She chose JTR because she believed that completing the JTR program at UNF would provide her with both the instructional and hands-on learning experience that she needed to succeed as a teacher in a public school. Jemimah enjoys building impactful, lasting relationships with her students while they problem-solve together. 

She was mentored by Ms. Ashley Johnson, a JTR Cohort 3 2017 graduate. Jemimah currently serves as a Geometry Teacher in Duval County. 

Contact Us

If you are interested in sharing your student story with us, you can contact Sophie Raleigh, Communications Coordinator, by email at

If you are a prospective student and would like to talk to a current UNF College of Education and Human Services student about their college experience, please contact Jade Yuen, Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator, by email at and she will connect you with a COEHS Ambassador.