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Center for Faculty Excellence

About CFE

Annie Morgan, Executive Director

Annie earned a PhD in human behavior, a Master’s in Vocational Education for Adult Learners with Special Needs, and a Bachelor’s degree in English Education and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  She lives in the south metro area of the Twin Cities of Minnesota with her husband, three teenage sons, and their sheltie, Grace.  

Deepa Shriram, Associate Director of New Faculty Experience and Tempo Support

Deepa Shriram has been teaching for over twenty years at the college level and has been a Contributing Faculty Member with Walden University since 2009. She has taught Composition courses, has served as a Senior Colleague for CGE, and teaches the New Faculty Orientation course for CFE. She has served on several committees including CFE’s Advisory Council and the CBE Council. In 2016, she began working with Tempo Learning, Walden’s Competency Based Education program, and helped design the Tempo Faculty Orientation. She currently co-facilitates the Tempo Faculty Orientation (TFO), is the Lead faculty for New Faculty Orientation (NFO), and works with the CFE Instructional Design team on curriculum initiatives and delivers faculty webinars. In her fulltime role, Deepa will expand her work as Faculty Development Specialist for New Faculty Orientation, Tempo, center faculty, general education, and undergraduate education.

Melissa Houston, Faculty Support Agent

Melissa Houston is a Faculty Support Agent (FSA) with the Center for Faculty Excellence. In her role, she supports faculty digital fluency needs through live sessions and webinars as well as by developing job aids, video tutorials, and other faculty resources. Melissa began supporting Walden faculty as a Graduate Assistant before transitioning to the FSA role.

Melissa is pursuing her PhD in Forensic Psychology. She completed her M.S. in Forensic Psychology at Walden University and B.S. in Human Services at SUNY Empire State College.

Melissa works remotely from her home and spends her free time with her family and dog. She also enjoys reading, music, and crafting.


Alexandra Aragno, Associate Director of Operational Excellence

Alexandra Aragno is the Associate Director of Operational Excellence in Walden’s Center Faculty Excellence. In her role, she works closely with the academic and administrative staff in the Centers, Schools, and Colleges. Supporting operational best practices. Alex collaborates to address a variety of academic, faculty, and student issues. Alex helps to prioritize, design, and implement new operational processes that support faculty and serves as a liaison between CFE and other departments within the organization to help facilitate many system implementations with our IT and HR partners as well as Academic Leaders. Alexandra serves on multiple project teams as the faculty contact, representing the voice of our 3500+ faculty members.

Beginning as an Student Success Advisor in the College of Education PhD program in 2004, Alexandra was nominated to serve as the Functional Lead for all of Student Success Advising for a 3-year IT project being run out of the Laureate offices in Baltimore, Maryland. The Banner SIS implementation provided Alexandra with opportunities to learn more about the business side of the organization and to work with our other Laureate partners as they supported and served both students and faculty across the Laureate organization. During the 3 year project, Alexandra changed roles and became the Executive Assistant to the CAO of Walden, supporting the daily operations of the CAO office. Alexandra moved into the Center for Faculty Excellence in 2008, where she has since been dedicated to supporting and serving our faculty members.

Alexandra works remotely from her home office in Maryland, and has a cat and beloved dog, Torino, who has become known to make snoring appearances in the background of many conference calls.

Kristy Wake, Associate Director of Instructional Design

Kristy Wake is the supervising instructional designer within the Center for Faculty Excellence at Walden University. In her role, she oversees the other full time designer and two graduate assistants.

Kristy also designs, develops, and delivers faculty training in a variety of formats including self-paced modules, live webinars, guides, and assists in Blackboard course revisions. She has a background in elementary education and started working for Walden in 2010 as an Enrollment Advisor in Tempe Arizona. She earned her Bachelors in Elementary Education from Arizona State University and , earned her Masters in Psychology at Walden University. She began working for CFE in 2012.

Kristy works remotely from her home office in South Dakota. She is married and has two young children, a dog, and a cat. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors in the Black Hills.

Matt Rupp, Senior Instructional Designer

Matt Rupp is a senior instructional designer within the Center for Faculty Excellence at Walden University. In his role he supports CFE by designing, developing, and delivering faculty training in a variety of formats including self-paced modules, live webinars, guides, and assisting in Blackboard course revisions.

Matt began supporting Walden as an enrollment advisor and then as a training and design specialist before transitioning to CFE.

Matt graduated with a MS in Instructional Design and Technology from Walden University and a BS in Health Science from Towson University.

Matt works remotely from his home office in Maryland alongside his trusty dog. He enjoys exploring the outdoors, photography, and music.


Ashley Burton, Instructional Designer

Ashley Burton is an instructional designer within the Center for Faculty Excellence at Walden University. In her role, she supports the CFE by designing, developing, and delivering faculty training in a variety of formats including self-paced modules, live webinars, guides, and assisting in Blackboard and Brightspace course revisions.

Ashley began supporting Walden as the Manager of Virtual Residencies on the Academic Residencies team before transitioning to CFE in 2019. She earned her Masters in Instructional Design and Development and Bachelors of Social Work from the University of South Alabama.

Ashley works remotely from her home office in Alabama and is a proud pet parent of one dog.  She enjoys family, cooking, and adventure to balance out her career.  


Katie Pfarr, Operations and Communications Manager

Katie (Berg) Pfarr joined the Center for Faculty Excellence in September 2016. In her role in CFE, she works closely with Walden faculty to ensure their needs are met from the moment they are hired and throughout their tenure with the University.

Previously she had worked in Academic Operations for the College of Health Sciences since 2008. 

Katie received her B.S. in Applied Psychology, with a minor in Child and Family Studies, from St Cloud State University (MN).

In her spare time, Katie loves to spend time with family – new and old. Recently married, she has a daughter and two stepsons. She also enjoys reading, everything Dolly Parton, keeping the peace, and saving the world.

Nathan Joseph, Data Analyst

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Nathan Joseph is a Data Analyst for the Center. In his role, he reports on a variety of faculty performance data; including weekly course activity, lead faculty, and outstanding grades reports.  He also contributes to various quarterly and annual data projects for the center. Additionally, Nathan maintains many aspects of the CFE’s reporting system and creates reports for program leadership.

Nathan’s experience is composed of K-12, alternative education, and higher education. Nathan resides in Massachusetts with his family.

Hillary Blevins, Data Analyst

Hillary Blevins is a Data Analyst within Walden University’s Center for Faculty Excellence. Working remotely from her home office in Illinois, she designs surveys, analyzes data, and creates reports and presentations related to faculty development and performance.

Prior to her transition to academia in 2019, Hillary helped not-for-profit leaders listen to the voice of their customers and use data stories to improve program offerings, marketing, and customer support for nearly 20 years. She has a Bachelors Degree in History from Augustana College-IL and a Graduate Certificate in Non-Profit Management from St. Ambrose University.

Hillary is married and has a daughter and a son. In her free time, she enjoys volunteering with Girl Scouts, teaching visual art and dance workshops, exploring her family’s genealogy, and reading.



Lyda Downs, Associate Director for Faculty Development

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Lyda Downs is the Associate Director of Faculty Development in the Center for Faculty Excellence. In her role supporting faculty development needs she delivers webinars and collaborates on professional development initiatives at Walden University. She also oversees the faculty coaching program, which includes training faculty coaches and meeting with faculty in private and group coaching sessions. Please check out her monthly Coaching Corner article in the monthly CFE newsletter! In addition to her professional development offerings at Walden she presents on pedagogical topics at professional conferences throughout the year. Lyda has been with CFE since 2012. Prior to that she was a contributing faculty member in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences where she started in 2006 and remains active today.


Social change is one of Lyda’s passions and she engages in projects both locally and internationally. She is a Mental Health Facilitator Master Trainer for the National Board of Certified Counselors International (NBCC-I). NBCC-I partnered with the World Health Organization to provide trainings in underserved communities. Lyda has travelled to Uganda, Rwanda, and Vietnam providing these trainings and supporting social change initiatives.

Prior experiences included working for the Maricopa County Community College system as a faculty member and counselor and running her private practice in mental health counseling. She still maintains her state and national certifications in mental health counseling. Lyda is also a nationally board certified coach. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology, a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, and a doctorate degree in Human Services with a specialization in Professional Counseling.

Lyda resides in Paradise Valley, Arizona.  In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, two daughters, and two sons. 

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