Honors Students

Get to Know Your Professors

Christine Abbott

Adjunct Professor of Psychology


I earned a Ph.D. from Kansas State University in 1995 in Family Education/Psychology. Before coming to Johnson County Community College, I was a visiting professor at Oklahoma State University, Kansas University, and Barton College where I designed and taught many of the courses still being used in the college’s online programs. I then joined the faculty at Florida State College, Ft. Meyers, teaching Human Growth and Development and various psychology courses. After many years away from my home state of Kansas, I have returned “home,” continuing to do what I love best – sharing knowledge with others. I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had in my life, including the experience of teaching now at Johnson County Community College. I love my two grown children, tap dancing, Abraham Lincoln, and any activity that is out of doors.

Dennis Arjo

Professor of Philosophy and Ethics


Katherine J. Bailes, JD

Professor of Mythological Studies


I hold a BFA in drawing and painting from the University of North Texas and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kansas, School of Law. I later obtained a master’s degree and PhD from Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, California in mythological studies with an emphasis in depth psychology. My dissertation topic entitled “The Themis Principle: Mystery and Irrationality in the U.S. Legal System” focuses on the mythological aspects of the law as expressed in ancient cultures through goddesses such as Athena, Themis, Inanna, and Maat. I enjoy engaging aspects of art, law, and teaching to cultivate an understanding of story and the human capacity for myth-making.

Sam Bell

Professor of English


I have been teaching Honors Composition I for many years. I have previously taught Honors Composition II and Honors Creative Writing (and may teach the Honors Creative Writing class again in the future!) My research interests and Ph.D. are both in creative writing, creative nonfiction, memoirs (specifically trauma and recovery), Ralph Waldo Emerson, Postmodernism, and Postmodern Literature. My latest publication is an essay called “The Empty Set” in the April 2020 edition of Sun Magazine. I have also published two books: Memoir/Writing Guides: Beyond the Blank Pages and Ink & Edit: Making Research Matter in Writing and in Life. I grew up studying dance at a local studio in New York. I am oddly good at tap dancing, but I was too shy to pursue performance as a career, and I love ballet more than tap but it’s really painful. I like to run for fun today. I run by a pond and count the number of frogs I see. Last week, I saw two foxes! (not in the pond).

Dr. Nancy Holcroft Benson

Professor of Organismal Biology


I have taught Honors contracts for BIOL 150: Biology of Organisms plus Honors Special Topics: Black Hills Biodiversity and hope to have the opportunity to continue engaging with Honors education in the future. In my former life (before a heavy teaching load plus the arrival of my twins), I was a systematic ichthyologist. I researched evolutionary relationships between groups of fishes using both DNA and morphology (body form). My last published paper (with E. O. Wiley), published in 2015, was “Variation in the Posttemporal-Supracleithrum Articulation in Euteleosts.” I have many hobbies but no time to pursue them! I am a modern quilter, a knitter, and a student of ikebana (sogetsu school).

Eve Blobaum

Professor of Sociology


I was an Honors student at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, graduating in May 2001 with a BA in Psychology. (I minored in Sociology and English.) During my time at UNL, I was also involved in student government, Habitat for Humanity, and the Cornhusker Marching Band. I have an MS in Criminal Justice & Criminology from UMKC. My Master’s thesis was on underage drinking. I’ve been “ABD” (All But Dissertation) in Sociology/Social Science since January 2007. I started teaching at JCCC part-time in January 2004 and full-time in August 2008. I’ll be receiving an MEd from Northern Arizona University in December and continuing on for an EdD at Gwynedd Mercy University. I love teaching and learning and students. I’ve been working to learn more about other parts of the world, with a particular focus on Southeast Asia. I’m married with two kids and two dogs. I have no free time, but if I did, I’d spend it listening to podcasts/audiobooks and napping on a beach!

Michael Carriger

Professor of English


I arrived at JCCC in 2017, but I have been teaching since 1995. Currently, I teach Honors Composition II. My primary study is 20th-century American poetry. In particular, I am researching John Berryman, most remembered for the Dream Songs, beginning in 1964. It is a long poem that highlights the dream life of a man named Henry. I am currently chasing a theory that might change what we know of the poem’s and Henry’s origins. When I am not working, I enjoy tracking down my family’s history and writing poetry. This allows me to travel and buy books. Those are fairly low-level vices. When I can escape the town and city, I enjoy fishing and just being beside moving water; that, too, is a low-level vice, if a vice at all. My wife, who is also a poet, and my daughter, a graphic designer, tether me to this world.

Anne Dotter

Director of the Honors Program and Assistant Professor (Cultural Studies, Film & Media, American Studies)


My first day at JCCC was a Friday in November 2019. The very next day, I was taking a group of JCCC Honors students to a conference at Emporia State. Things have not slowed down since! My research interests have evolved over the past two decades from representations of American princesses to translations of American teen girl’s films. I am still very passionate about questions of transnational representations of gender and race in film. I have carried over many of these questions to my day-to-day as an administrator. In this role, I have enjoyed asking the hard questions of inclusion and diversity and working to make our environment more just. My publications of late all focus on social justice and higher education, in one way or another. When I don’t work or write, I enjoy spending time with my two boys (Ziggy, 8, and Louis, 10), reading, and baking. I have few skills, but I enjoy cooking and baking for others. Of late I have developed an interest in mindfulness practices, such as Qi Gong and the Taoist philosophy more generally.

Dr. Terri Easley-Giraldo

Professor in the Communication Studies Department


Hello! I have been teaching at JCCC since 2005. In the Honors Program, I teach LEAD 130: Leadership and Civic Engagement, HON 250: Honors Forum on Political Campaigns, and COMS 180: Honors Intercultural Communication. Having been involved with Honors at JCCC for over 12 years, I have many great memories of Honors experiences but seeing my leadership students present their projects at the end of the semester to upper JCCC administration groups always stands out to me. Most students would see this as an incredibly intimidating experience, but every leadership class has excelled in this opportunity. Administrators would say that these students opened their eyes to issues and concerns in a different light and provided potential solutions they had not considered. My research focuses on gender, political communication, and leadership. I am particularly interested in campaign communication (advertising, social media, direct mail, and debates). I also focus on visual communication–the way in which we use images as arguments and persuasive tools in a variety of mediums. When I’m not chasing my tiny humans around, I enjoy being crafty, creative, traveling, and exploring new cultures.

Tai S. Edwards PhD

Professor of History


I am a history professor and director of the Kansas Studies Institute (jccc.edu/KansasStudies). My teaching focuses on U.S. and Indigenous people’s history, with an emphasis on identity, hierarchy, role of government, and colonization. My scholarship focuses on colonization, Indigenous peoples, gender, and disease (see my book Osage Women and Empire: Gender and Power). With the Kansas Studies Institute, I collaborate on a variety of projects including recording veterans’ oral histories, to preserving the Quindaro ruins in Kansas City, KS, the repatriation of a sacred boulder to the Kaw Nation, and more. Learn more about our work on Instagram @kansasstudiesinstitute. I have taught numerous Honors courses, including Southeast Kansas as Text and a learning community course with Dan Owens that combines history with economics.

Amanda Glass

Associate Professor Chemistry


Kristy Howell

Adjunct Professor


I have served as Sustainability Education and Engagement Coordinator in the Center for Sustainability at JCCC since 2014, where I advise the Student Sustainability Committee and support curriculum development and student/community engagement for sustainability. Beginning in 2017, I have taught the Honors Forum both solo and as part of an exceptional team with Dr. Dotter. I hold an EdD in Community College Leadership from Northern Illinois University, where my research focused on the history and development of community colleges in white-flight towns, and an MA in Social Responsibility and Sustainable Communities from Western Kentucky University with a focus in sustainability-related curriculum development in the humanities. As an undergrad at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, I hoped to either teach history or live on a boat and tour with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefers, so I majored in history and music. Both still bring me much joy.

Jessica Killeen

Assistant Professor Sociology


Rebecca Layne

Assistant Professor Environmental Science & Sustainability Agriculture


Jeff Oden

Adjunct Faculty Environmental Science


Heather Seitz

Professor of Biology


Allison Smith PhD

Professor of Art History


I received my Ph.D. in Greek and Roman Archaeology with a Minor Certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. I earned an MA in Twentieth-Century Art History from The American University, Washington, DC. Prior to JCCC, I worked in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Office of Research Support. I have been recognized by JCCC with a number of academic honors including the International Education Award (2018), the Distinguished Service Award (2018, 2012), the Publication Award (2018, 2015, 2013, 2008), the John & Suanne Roueche Excellence in Teaching Award (2014), and the BNSF Award for Teaching Excellence (2011).

Justin Stanley

Communication Studies


Haley Vellinga

Assistant Professor Communication Studies


Ashley Vasquez

Associate Professor of Communication Studies


I am an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Johnson County Community College. I have been teaching at the college for the past 13 years. Prior to teaching, I was a professional print journalist. I teach several courses in my department, including Public Speaking, Interpersonal Communication, and Workplace Skills. My teaching style is based on open dialogue and helping students discover and learn in their own ways but also develop deep critical thinking skills by offering a challenging classroom environment. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my 11-year-old daughter, working out, and reading.

Lani Witters

Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Sciences


I am an Associate Professor of Science at Johnson County Community College, where I teach in the Organismal Biology and Environmental Science departments. I have been teaching at JCCC since 2009 and previously taught at community colleges in Colorado and Illinois. I earned a B.S. in Biology from Emporia State University and a M.S. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University. My graduate research focused on amphibian ecology and amphibian population declines in Central America. In 2022, I was a recipient of JCCC’s BNSF Railway Faculty Achievement Award. As an educator, I endeavor to provide a learning experience that is compelling and rewarding, one that builds confidence and inquiry in students. I am an engaged scholar of the subject matter I teach and work to convey class content in a logical, meaningful, and interesting way. I serve as a faculty advisor to Student Environmental Alliance and I am involved in several community service efforts. I sit on the executive board of the Kansas Academy of Science and enjoy working with scientists from across the state.