The Owen Center's Academic Avengers: Assemble for A's!

Owen Center Academic Avengers

The team in the Owen Center for Teaching and Learning are true academic avengers. 

They are ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice to help keep each student’s study-train back on the right track, to provide the resources necessary to have instruction and materials that connect with students, and students that connect with instruction and materials. Not only can these folks save the day – they can save your semester!

Located on the third floor of the Campus Center, the Owen Center provides students with academic support, academic advising, accessibility services, study abroad support and research support. They provide instructors with their new faculty orientation, mentoring and development, consultations to refine and improve materials, technology and accessibility in the classroom, and general teaching support. By helping both students and instructors alike, they can better help the two understand each other and work together. The Owen Center is constantly improving and revising what they do to better meet the needs of the community, including bringing on new staff members and new positions. 

So, if you have yet to meet these pedagogy paladins, they’re happy to introduce themselves to you!

Dr. Courtney DeMayo Pugno

What is your role in the Owen Center?

In the Owen Center, I oversee operations, manage the staff and do triage support for all functional areas as needed. I am also responsible for the center's strategic and operational planning.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Only one?? There's two things I LOVE:

1. When working with the professional team, I LOVE brainstorming solutions, programs and strategies to help us accomplish the goals we set for the Center. We have such a collaborative and cohesive group that if one of us is working through a problem on one of our MANY whiteboards, inevitably everyone else comes out of their offices and starts helping. We all approach issues from our individual lenses, but when we put our heads together we come up with some pretty incredible ideas. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

2. When working with students, I LOVE that I can serve as a resource or support. When students seem confused about what I do, I tell them that I'm the "fixer" – I'm the one that can help them figure out how to solve their problem. I really like doing that – it requires me to be creative, think on my feet and put students at the center of my thinking! 

What would your Academic Avenger name be? (This doesn't have to be based on the Marvel Avengers, just a fun superhero name)

OK, well I'm a total superhero nerd, so this is really hard to answer. If I was an ACTUAL Avenger or superhero, I think I'd be Drax the Destroyer. I'm pretty darn tough, and I'm super direct (sometimes too direct, but that's a whole other thing), but I also work my tail off to support and help all those around me. 

If I was going to be an ACADEMIC Avenger, I'd be “the Fixer.” I hold every member of my team – myself included – accountable to the community for everything we do, which is all meant to improve the academic wellbeing of our campus. We are accountable to faculty students, and staff/administration because we play a huge role in Academics on Heidelberg's campus. I also am a firm believer in holding students accountable – part of our responsibility is to make sure students learn how to do the things we need them to do and what/when to do them. It isn't our role to do it for them. If we do it for them, we are just enabling students rather than educating them.

What do you do with your spare time? How do you have fun?

For fun I spend a lot of time with my family. My husband, Ben, is hilarious so we have a lot of fun together; we really love to travel, but we haven't been able to do much in a while because of having little kids and then COVID. My kids are Robbie (9) and Rosie (5), and they are super funny and goofy and cool. As a family we do a lot of outside stuff – bikes, hikes and sports, etc. 

This isn't exactly "fun" but for stress management (I have LOTS of stress in this job!), I run. I've got a couple of races coming up in the summer/fall – a quarter marathon (6.55 miles) and a 15K. I'm assuming I'll be pretty slow because these are my first races back since COVID wrecked everything, but I'm really looking forward to them.

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

Honestly, I wish students would just ask more questions in general and ask them earlier. There isn't "one" particular question I wish people would ask. Often, students won't reach out about a situation until it's too late or it's escalated. Ask questions and ask them early – then we have more options for how to proceed!

Rebecca Frank

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Director of Faculty Development and Instructional Technology. This means that I work with faculty on improving their teaching strategies, using technology more effectively, and delivering the best possible education to our students. I run our New Faculty Orientation and Mentoring, our HYPE Day Faculty Development and various other programs.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love getting to see faculty get re-excited about teaching strategies when they try something new! 

What would your Academic Avenger name be? (This doesn't have to be based on the Marvel Avengers, just a fun superhero name)

Oh man … I am not creative enough for this. Pedagogy Princess? Princess of Pedagogy? To be honest,I don't even really know an Avenger superhero vs. the other kind! :)

What do you do with your spare time? How do you have fun?

I have two children - Teddy is 1.5 years old, and Adeline is 7 months old so I don't really have spare time. Fun fact - they are 11 months apart and were both born in 2021. I love spending time with them and watching them learn new things. Teddy is starting to learn lots of new words and Adeline just started learning to scoot crawl! I just love being home with my husband and the babies. 

Alyssa Kontak

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Coordinator of Student Accessibility Services. 

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of the job (in the limited time I’ve been in this position) has been the opportunity to develop relationships with and learn from students. I’m still very new into this position but have really been able to learn a lot from the students I’ve worked with so far. 

What would your Academic Avenger name be? (This doesn't have to be based on the Marvel Avengers, just a fun superhero name)

My Academic Avenger name would be The Access Advocator (advocator might not be a word but it sounds cool!) 

What do you do with your spare time? How do you have fun?

In my spare time I like to cook, walk my dog, travel and watch movies with my spouse. I like to try and have fun no matter what I’m doing so I make a lot of jokes and surround myself with people I enjoy. 

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

I don’t think there’s any one question I wish more students would ask me. Maybe that will come with more experience! However, my goal is to create an office space where students feel comfortable to ask anything. I hope that I can be another person on campus who students know they can come to for help – even if it isn’t related to accessibility services. 

Erin Chapman

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Academic Advising Coordinator.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Having conversations with students about their personal and academic goals and helping students come up with plans to reach those goals. 

What would your Academic Avenger name be? 

My favorite Avenger is Captain America (Steve Rogers and Sam Wilson).  So probably, “Captain Academia.”

What do you do with your spare time? How do you have fun?

In my spare time, I help with our softball program here at Heidelberg.

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

I don't have a specific question that I wish students would ask, but I wish more students would utilize the services provided by the Owen Center as a whole and ask more questions in general. It is OK to ask for help and it is OK to not have all the answers. 

Morgan Harrigan

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Director of Academic Support.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Helping students utilize the available resources to achieve success! I especially love the "lightbulb" moments in which students gain confidence in their own ability. And of course building relationships – with students, with The Owen Center Team and other faculty and staff.

What would your academic avenger name be?

Super Supporter - through my job in academic support, I get to create, implement and proactively provide resources to empower student success. I also get to support our students holistically with my roles in other campus groups  co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Committee, Green Dot (a power-based personal violence prevention program), Student Emergency Support Fund, Senior Woman Administrator in Athletics, Search Committee Advocate, Coordinated Community Response Team, Title IX Appellate Officer, MLK Day On! Planning Committee, Teaching NDI 128, and as a Zeta Theta Psi advisor. 

What do you do in your spare time? How do you have fun?

I love spending time with my 10- and 11-year-old daughters, coaching youth basketball, traveling as much as possible, deep-sea fishing, reading, working out, exploring fun restaurants with my boyfriend and sharing how great living alcohol-free is!  

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

Anything! I am here to help you succeed at Heidelberg- no question is too silly or too small!

Amy Hammitt LoConti 

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Coordinator for Study Abroad and the Administrative Assistant for the Owen Center.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working with all of the students who come into the Owen Center.

What would your academic avenger name be?

“The Traveler” or “Pathfinder”

What do you do in your spare time? How do you have fun?

I love cooking, baking, going hiking and landscape photography. To have fun, I go to the arcade with my husband, reading, playing board games and spending time with my gaggle of nieces and nephews.

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

“What can I do to get more involved?”

Laurie Repp

What is your role in the Owen Center?

I am the Director of Beeghly Library. The library’s mission is to provide materials and services to help the Heidelberg community use information to meet their educational and personal needs, and to teach skills that allow students to access, evaluate and synthesize information. This fits well with the overall mission of the Owen Center. In simpler terms, we’re here to provide access to many types of information resources and to teach skills to help students in their classes and in their lives. We also provide a variety of spaces for group study and quiet study and we have lots of comfortable chairs!

What is your favorite part of your job?

For most of my library career I answered questions—lots of questions about topics, databases, statistics, how-to…, trivia, where is…, and most often, “can you help me?” Although I don’t always know the exact answer, I usually know where or how to find it. I enjoy learning new things and helping students and faculty with their research and general questions helps me do that. All the work done in the background of a library is done to help students and others find what they need and to help answer all those questions.

What would your academic avenger name be?

While some of the librarian stereotypes may be a little bit true, I like to think of myself as The Answerer. Being a librarian is no longer just about books or the library building itself—we provide answers for students online or in person using all sorts of materials—online scholarly databases and articles, ebooks and print books, chat reference or one-on-one research consultations. All of these activities are to help students get the answers they need.

What do you do in your spare time? How do you have fun?

I live on a small farm with many animals—three dogs, cats, sheep, chickens, geese and more! I enjoy being outside in just about any weather. I enjoy traveling near and far and every now and then I find the time to read a book for fun.

What question do you wish more students would ask you?

I wish students would feel free to ask just about any question they have that would help them in their classes! In a library there really is no such thing as a “dumb” question! Research studies show that any use of a library and its resources leads to better grades. So, ask early and ask often!

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