Meet MSUM's Graduate Program Coordinators

MSUM program coordinators play a crucial role in supporting your professional and academic goals while you pursue your graduate degree. They’ll be your first point of contact for all things related to your chosen program and serve as mentors, advisors, and champions.

Get to know these Dragons who will be with you every step of the way!

Lee Vigilant, Ph.D. | MA in Criminal Justice
Lee Vigilant found his way to higher education and criminal justice when he developed a keen interest in the study of social problems and their solutions. His specialty is American drug use/abuse policy and criminal justice responses. Since 2001, he has worked at MSUM and enjoys being around intellectually curious students and the supportive learning community.

“We are a dedicated and caring group of sociology and criminal justice professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the success of our graduate students and to provide them with the intellectual resources to assume leadership roles in their chosen law-enforcement and service-based professions,” Lee said.

In his free time, he’s an avid cyclist and once rode over 200+ miles in day when he cycled from Moorhead to Alexandria, MN.

Marci Glessner, Ph.D. | MS in Special Education
Marci Glessner has always been passionate about people and ensuring they are included, which led her to special education and teaching. In higher education, she gets to work with other educators who are also passionate about teaching and learning.

Marci has been working at MSUM since 2015. Since then, she has enjoyed getting to know the students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“All students need advocates – becoming a special education teacher is an important way to advocate for students and their families,” she said about her program.

Marci enjoys being in nature during her free time. Whether that’s coffee in the woods or spending a night sleeping under the stars during the summer, that’s when she feels like her best self.

Nancy Paul, Ph.D. | MS in Speech-Language Pathology
Nancy Paul started her career as a Speech-Language Pathologist and eventually found her way to higher education. She found teaching future SLPs to be even more rewarding, and at MSUM she’s able to keep up with her SLP skills and licenses thanks to the on-campus clinic and off-campus service learning.

According to Nancy, MSUM’s perfect size allows her to get to know the students well. Additionally, MSUM’s on-campus clinic and off-campus placements allow students to get the experience they need to become excellent SLPs.

“We provide strong preparation to become an SLP in a program that is personable and welcoming,” she said.

Dawn Hammerschmidt, Ph.D. | MS in Athletic Training
Sports have always held a special place in Dawn Hammerschmidt’s life. Her father was a coach for 40 years, so she was around sports right from the start. That’s how she found her way to athletic training. She discovered her love of teaching early in her career.

According to Dawn, if you’re interested in the human body and want to work with motivated people, then athletic training is a good career choice.

“The ability to combine exercise, science, prevention, assessment, and treatment of injuries and illnesses make this an interesting career,” she said.

Ximena Suarez-Sousa, Ph.D. | Ed.D. in Educational Leadership
Ximena Suarez-Sousa's first discovered her passion for teaching and special education while in college in Peru. A professor and mentor nurtured her love for learning and special education; she eventually worked at her mentor’s special education center. During that time, she learned the power of holding a doctoral degree, the power of research to continuously improve the profession, and the power of educating adults to make a difference in the lives of children.

“I love that I have the privilege of accompanying practicing professionals through a learning journey that can be challenging at times, but that is very meaningful to them and to the communities in which they work,” she said.

Ximena loves the community and campus at MSUM. She especially enjoys watching the students walking through campus, knowing they are investing their energy and resources into something so important.

Alicia Swanson, Ed.D. | MS in Nursing
Alicia Swanson enjoys the opportunities teaching and being a program coordinator have brought her. She’s been able to serve students in more creative and innovative ways while working with a diverse team. MSUM has helped her create relationship-based and person-centered connections. MSUM is both diverse and cozy, which gives her more of a chance to connect with students.

“We offer flexibility for all adult learners with meaningful experience to elevate their ability to work and learn in their current and future careers,” she said.

Michael Coquyt, Ed.D. | MS in Curriculum and Instruction
Michael Coquyt has always known he’d end up in higher education. Before MSUM, he spent 23 years in K-12 education as a teacher and administrator. During that time, he discovered he wanted to do something that required him to work with current teachers and administrators, which led him to Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Leadership.

“The campus size allows me to develop relationships with those outside the department of Leadership and Learning and the School of Teaching and Learning,” he said.

Taryn Akgul, Ed.D. | MS in Counseling
Before Taryn Akgul pursued her doctorate in counselor education and supervision, she was an addiction and mental health counselor. Teaching higher education combined her passion for the counseling field and her passion for teaching. Her favorite part of teaching is working with students and helping them reach their goals.

“The counseling profession is truly a field of lifelong learning. It is a fulfilling profession in the fact that you get to help and support people every day,” she said.

She especially enjoys celebrating student accomplishments at MSUM’s commencement and hooding ceremonies.

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