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Faculty and Staff

“The opportunities are many The expectations are high The challenge is intellectual ... In this setting, you will have the chance to get away from conventional assumptions and expectations and to remake yourself. Your Honors experience will compel you to specify and sharpen your commitments, and to declare and test your convictions. Each of you will have a different experience as you sharpen and focus your powers of analysis, creativity, and rationality. By the time you graduate, you will be prepared for a lifetime of learning, to be productive professionals, and to give service to society.”  - Dean Paul Knox
Paul Knox



Paul KnoxFounding Dean

Paul Knox is a University Distinguished Professor who came to Virginia Tech from the United Kingdom to teach in the Urban Affairs program. His degrees are in Geography and his interests are urbanization and urbanism. Between 1997 and 2006 he served as Dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, since which he has served as Senior Fellow for International Advancement, reporting directly to the university President. This has involved responsibility for the Steger Center for International Scholarship in Riva San Vitale, Switzerland, a spell as Interim Director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, leadership of the planning process that produced the university’s 2013-2019 strategic plan, the establishment of Virginia Tech’s Global Forum on Urban and Regional Resilience and, now, Founding Dean of the Honors College.

He is a member of Virginia Tech’s Ut Prosim Society and serves on the editorial board of seven international journals. His most recent books are Strong Island: Portsmouth’s History in Brick and Stone (Aegir, 2019); Metroburbia (Merrel, 2017); London: Architecture, Building and Social Change (Merrell, 2015), and Atlas of Cities (Princeton University Press, 2014), which received the Association of American Geographers’ Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography. He is currently writing a book on the cultural political economy of the design professions.

meet our team

Whether teaching Honors College classes, mentoring students, or handling the behind-the-scenes administration of the college, we work each day to facilitate an extraordinary undergraduate education for Honors students at Virginia Tech.


Honors College Faculty

Joseph Daniel

Graduate Teaching Assistant

Joe received a B.A. in History from the University of Kentucky as well as a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from Virginia Tech. He is currently pursuing a PhD. at Virginia Tech from the Center for Public Administration and Policy (CPAP) with a research interest in the research-practice gap between scholarship and practitioners. 

Nikki Lewis

Dr. Nikki Lewis

Collegiate Assistant Professor
Photo of Amanda MacDonald

Amanda MacDonald

Affiliated Faculty, University Libraries

Dr. Anne-Lise Velez

Associate Professor,
College of Architecture and Studies
Portrait of Najla Mouchrek

Dr. Najla Mouchrek

Collegiate Associate Professor


Honors College Staff

Dr. Natalie Cook

Dr. Natalie E. Cook is an Assistant Professor of Public Health in the Department of Population Health Sciences in the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Dr. Cook earned her BS in Human Development at Cornell University, her MS in Agricultural and Extension Education from Virginia Tech, and her PhD in Program Development and Evaluation in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech. She also completed the Preparing Future Professoriate certificate and participated in the Global Perspectives Program at Virginia Tech. 

Dr. Cook’s research includes program evaluation, culturally responsive evaluation, evaluation capacity building, health equity, and knowledge translation. Dr. Cook utilizes mixed methods and specializes in participatory research methods, including Community-based Participatory Research. As a transformative scholar, Dr. Cook’s research and practice lie at the intersections of evaluation, social justice, and human, family, and community development.

Learn more about Dr. Cook.

Lefter Daku image

Dr. Lefter Daku serves as chief financial officer of the Honors College and principal financial advisor to the Dean. In this role, Dr. Daku directs and coordinates financial planning and resource allocation for the Honors College’s operating and scholarship budgets. He works closely with the Dean to develop and coordinate the College’s annual academic and operating budget, forecasts and predicts resource requirements for new and existing programs, and develops funding strategies.

From 2004 to 2017, Dr. Daku worked as Planning Manager, Associate Director of Research and Planning and Director of Enrollment Research in the Enrollment Management Division of Virginia Tech. Prior to joining Virginia Tech, he held academic appointments as Lecturer of Business Statistics at Tirana Agricultural University, Albania and as adjunct faculty of economics at Radford University. Lefter earned an M.S. and a Ph.D. in applied economics from Virginia Tech.

Dr. Daku serves on the editorial board of Journal of Student Financial Aid. He also was a member of the U.S. Education Department’s Technical Review Panel that designed the College Net Price Calculator, which is being used by thousands of colleges and universities across the United States. He is a regular presenter at regional, national, and international conferences, and has published a number of monographs, book chapters, and peer-reviewed articles. In his free time, for the last 15 years, he has been officiating soccer games across Southwest Virginia as a Grade 7 USSF certified soccer referee.

Photo of Kayla Dean standing outside

Kayla is the Fiscal Technician for the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program. She graduated from New River Community College in 2011 with a AAS in business management, Bluefield College in 2014 with a BAS in management and leadership, and Liberty University in 2019 with a master’s in business administration. She will also obtain a certificate for executives in higher education administration from Liberty University in December of 2020. Kayla started at Virginia Tech in 2018 with the Virginia Tech Police Department, she then moved to Student Affairs in 2019 as an Accounting/Administrative Associate, and then to the Honors College in March of 2020.

Kayla was born and raised in Newport, and resides there now with her boyfriend and their two children. Kayla plans to work toward her PhD in Higher Education in the next few years.

Photo of Michelle Fleury

Michelle Fleury is the Communications Specialist for the Honors College. In this role, she is responsible for carrying forward the mission and effectively conveying the vision of the Honors College. She coordinates the College’s digital content production, manages its web-page content and design, oversees visual production through graphic design, photography, and videography, as well as oversees the creation of content concerning the Honors College in collaboration with external partners.

Michelle holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from SUNY Plattsburgh. She additionally has a minor in journalism and a minor in web-design and programming.

As a third-culture kid, Michelle grew up in the United States, South Africa, and Thailand. She enjoys traveling, illustrating, playing video-games, and spending time with her cat and dog. 

Paul Heilker

Dr. Paul Heilker is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Honors College.  He is also an Associate Professor in the English Department, he has served as Director of the PhD in Rhetoric and Writing and Director of Composition.  Dr. Heilker is a long-term member of the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence, having earned both the Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching and the University Sporn Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Subjects.  As Associate Dean, Dr. Heilker leads the efforts of the Honors Laureate Diploma Program, the Honors Reading Seminars (UH 2124), and the VT Presidential Global Scholars Program -- the Honors College semester abroad experience.  Central to Dr. Heilker’s recent scholarship is the idea that rhetoric is a way of being in the world through language.  To create a less hostile and violent future, he says, we need less hostile and violent discourses, and we need to teach these alternative ways of being in the world to students.

Michelle Kovac

Michelle Kovac is the Program Manager for the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program. She serves as the liaison between Virginia Tech students and faculty and the industry partners who are participating in the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program. Her responsibilities include coordinating scheduling of program courses, event coordination, and assisting with student and faculty travel.

Michelle has an M.S. Ed. in Career and Technical Education and a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Virginia Tech. Her professional career began in the hospitality industry working in convention services and sales. Then, she went on to teach high school marketing for 10 years before coming to Virginia Tech as a project manager for the last 3 years. Working with the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program combines her experience as a teacher and project manager to benefit students, faculty members, and industry partners.

Michelle is originally from Allentown, PA, but came to Virginia Tech for college and has made Blacksburg her home. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, 4 rescue dogs and a cat. She is passionate about health and fitness, works on home improvement projects, and can usually be found outside doing landscaping work.

Christina McIntyre

Christina McIntyre is the Director of Professional Development and National and International Scholarships for the Honors College. She oversees the university process for many national and international level awards. Christina serves as vice-president for the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) and on the Board of Directors for the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi. Students are encouraged to take a moment to review this 11 minute TedX video from Doug Cutchins, a scholarship advisor and colleague, for a healthy perspective and mindset when applying to any type of scholarship.

From 1995 to 2007, Christina worked as a Research Associate, Instructor, Undergraduate Coordinator, and Assistant Department Head for Human Nutrition, Foods & Exercise in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. She joined the Honors College staff as Associate Director in July 2007.

Christina is a member of the National Association of Fellowship Advisors (NAFA). She serves as past-chair for NCHC’s Partners in the Parks committee, a collaboration with the National Park Service. She also serves on the Advocacy Committee for NCHC. In 2012, her advising accomplishments were recognized with the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Advising and a certificate of merit from National ACdemic ADvising Association (NACADA). On campus she serves as the faculty advisor for the Outdoor Club of Virginia Tech (OCVT), an AT trail maintaining club.

Michelle Kovac

Heather is responsible for all business functions within the Honors College. She graduated from Radford University in December 2015 with two BBAs (Bachelor of Business Administration): one in marketing and one in management. While at Radford, she served as the Vice President for the College of Business and Economics (COBE) Student Advisory board, as well as the Executive Officer and founding member of the COBE Ambassador program. 

Heather started working at VT in April of 2016 in the College of Veterinary Medicine. She moved to the Physics Department in September 2016 as a Program Support for the Center for Neutrino Physics. 

Heather was born and raised in Blacksburg. She moved to Floyd County in 2007, where she currently lives. She and her husband are proud parents of a son and daughter. Heather plans to work toward an MPA degree at Virginia Tech.

Photo of Russell Shrader

Russell coordinates the entire recruitment and admission process for first-year, transfer, and current Virginia Tech students entering the Honors College.

He first started working for the Honors College in August 2004 as Assistant Director. Through the years, he also has served as Senior Assistant Director and Associate Director, having coordinated the Honors admissions process, recruitment scholarship process, Odyssey Fellowship process, various teaching responsibilities (including time in Switzerland with the Honors Presidential Global Scholars), and organizational responsibilities for the Honors residential communities (Hillcrest and the Honors Residential Commons). He has presented at the National Collegiate Honors Council and Honors Education in Research Universities conferences.

Russell’s interest in college students began several years before he came to Virginia Tech. From 2000-2001, he worked at Concord University as Counselor/Coordinator for the Upward Bound Math/Science Program, which was the only program of its kind in West Virginia. This position allowed him to work with underserved and underrepresented high school student populations in southern West Virginia as they prepared to enter their college years.

Beginning in 2001, Russell worked for three years as an Assistant Director of Admissions at Radford University. While there, he traveled extensively throughout the entire New England region as well as the Hampton Roads, Richmond, Northern Neck, and Shenandoah and Roanoke Valley areas of Virginia. He left Radford in August 2004 to begin his role at Virginia Tech.

Russell hails from Princeton, West Virginia. He graduated from Concord University with a B.S. in biology (pre-med focus), and then earned a master’s degree from Marshall University in biological sciences. His master’s work focused on an ecological vegetation study of the McClintic Wildlife Management Area near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. McClintic Wildlife Management Area was the former TNT manufacturing site during World War II, which was personified in the book and movie The Mothman Prophecies. He also has completed graduate work in Public Administration and Policy.

Photo of Ray Thomas

Ray received a B.A. in Political Science from Virginia Tech and holds M.A.'s in Political Science from both Virginia Tech and the University of South Carolina. He is currently pursuing a Ph,D. in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech in Planning, Governance and Globalization where his research focuses on American grand strategy and foreign policy. Outside of work, Ray enjoys traveling and playing golf.

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Sara Vandyke has worked for the Honors College since 2012. Her responsibilities include overseeing the daily operations of the college, directing the Honors Peer Advising Center, coordinating Honors Enrichment Grants, and working closely with the Dean to foster initiatives that create new opportunities for honors students.

Sara has an MA in Political Science from Virginia Tech. She attended Virginia Tech as an undergraduate student in the Honors College, where she earned a BA in Political Science with a minor in Spanish.