LowCountry Advisory Board Members
James Alton Cannon, Jr
James Alton Cannon, Jr., is the elected Sheriff of Charleston County. He was first elected Sheriff in February 1988.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state of South Carolina, employing over 900 people. Sheriff Cannon is responsible for oversight of a budget of over $55 million.
Sheriff Cannon earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the College of Charleston, a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of South Carolina, and a Juris Doctor Degree from the University of South Carolina. He is a member of the South Carolina Bar and the United States Supreme Court Bar.
In 2012, Sheriff Cannon celebrated his 30th Anniversary of admission to the South Carolina Bar.
Mark FallawMark Fallaw currently serves as Chief of Police for the Town of North in Orangeburg County, SC. His 26-year governmental public service record includes various capacities for municipal, regional and county law enforcement agencies. He has over twenty years in supervisory, management and leadership positions and more than eighteen years of law enforcement teaching experience. For the past fifteen years, he has focused on risk management and liability assessment for law enforcement executives and has reviewed policies and procedures for other agencies, including liability review for civil actions.
A native of South Carolina, Chief Fallaw holds an Associate degree in Criminal Justice Technology from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, where he was a College Ambassador, President of Phi Theta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Affairs with a minor in Political Science from Columbia College, where he graduated with a GPA of 3.9. He and his wife, Lynne, have four daughters
Gordon B. Smith
Gordon B. Smith is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Director of the Rule of Law Collaborative (ROLC) at the University of South Carolina. ROLC seeks to promote innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to building sustainable justice and rule of law in transitional and fragile states. He is the author or editor of ten books and more than 50 articles and book chapters on Russian politics and law. His most recent book is Russia and its Constitution: Promise and Political Reality (Leiden, The Netherlands: 2008). Professor Smith frequently travels to Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia and the Caucasus to assist in legal reform efforts. He has been a fellow of the Harvard University Davis Russian Research Center, the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, and Russian Studies centers in England and Japan. He has received research support from the Fulbright, IREX, National Council for Soviet and East European Research, and the Earhart, Ford, Mellon and Toyota foundations. Interviews with Dr. Smith and his commentaries on Russian domestic political, legal and foreign policy matters have appeared in numerous media outlets, including Time, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Christian Science Monitor.
Upstate Advisory Board Members
Kim Wells resides in Boiling Springs SC where she teaches English at Boiling Springs Middle School. After 20 years in finance and insurance sales, Kim changed careers when her children entered middle school. She earned her BA degree in 2002, Gifted and Talented Endorsement, and M.Ed from
Rula Shalabi was born and raised here in the Upstate of SC. She attended Furman University for her undergraduate degree and then graduated from dental school at MUSC. Her love for dentistry and children led her to Los Angeles, CA where she received her pediatric dental training at the University of Southern California. She currently practices as a pediatric dentist in the upstate and has a sincere passion of integrating diversity into every bit of her life. The beautiful goals of Atlantic institute have also been the same goals she was raised with. "Bringing diversity to the upstate, not just in its people, but creating diversity of the mind and in our dialogue is the only way we can better ourselves for this culturally rich world"
Sean Dogan is the Pastor of Long Branch Baptist Church, Greenville, SC . He has been the Pastor since 1997. He is married to Satreva Dogan and they have a daughter Ramiah Dogan. He has spearheaded several Global Missions including works in Haiti, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. He loves Servicing and Volunteering in the Community.
Dr. Peter Cohen received his Ph.D. from Florida State University in Humanities and Religion, his M.A. from Florida State University in Biblical Studies and his B.A. in Religion and Philosophy from Springfield College. His dissertation was entitled "A Motif Index of the Angel of Death in Early Rabbinic Literature." Dr. Cohen came to Clemson in 1995 after teaching at Appalachian State University, Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. His teaching interests revolve around looking at the common traits shared by the religious traditions of the world, rather than looking for their differences. Dr. Cohen can often be found teaching adult education in area churches on Sunday mornings or as an instructor in the University's Osher Life Long Learning Institute for retired people from the community. Presently, he is teaching the general education courses in Religion for the department.
Rabbi Marc H. Wilson has served as a congregational rabbi for three decades, holding pulpits in Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte and Greenville.
A summa cum laude graduate of DePaul University, Marc was ordained by the Hebrew Theological College, from which he also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Hebrew Literature and Hebrew principal’s certificates. He has also been a Graduate Fellow at the Chicago Institute of Pastoral Care. Marc has published a number of essays in Reader’s Digest, the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Chicago Tribune, Charlotte Observer, San Francisco Examiner, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Greenville News, and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
His speaking engagements have brought him to diverse venues including church and synagogue scholar's programs, addresses at Clemson University, Furman University, and the South Carolina United Methodist Church Convention.
Wilson is the founder of two synagogue-based homeless shelters and has served in a variety of organizations, including Charlotte Area Clergy Association, Urban Training Organization of Atlanta, Mayor’s Religious Advisory Committee, Metrolina AIDS Consortium, Bioethics Resource Group, a hospital Clinical Review Committee, and an adviser to two Clinical Pastoral Education programs.
He was named Atlanta's Community Servant of the Year, 50 Most Influential Leaders in Greenville, and Forty Things I Love about the Palmetto State by Southern Living.
He was the founder of Greenville Faith Communities United, now known as the Interfaith Forum. He introduced and chairs the annual St. Baldrick's celebration, raising funds for children's cancer research.
His most recent undertaking is developing the Year of Altruism with a community-wide coalition of over 60 organizations.
Marc and his wife, Linda, are exceptionally proud of their blended family of ten children and children-in-law, with eleven grandchildren and two more on the way. Beside his children and grandchildren, Wilson considers his greatest accomplishment having put his career on hold to care for his homebound parents. . . and making kickin’ kosher gumbo and jambalaya.
Steve Morgan is the Senior Pastor and has been serving Saint Mark since June of 2001. He entered the ministry of the United Methodist Church in 1974 and is an ordained elder in the South Carolina Conference. His appointments in South Carolina have included churches in Newberry, Greeleyville, Gaffney, Spartanburg, Lancaster, and Florence. He also served as Assistant Pastor of the Glasgow Cathedral in Glasgow, Scotland. He has a B.A. from Wofford College, a Master of Divinity from Duke DivinitySchool, and a Doctor of Ministry from Emory University's Candler School of Theology. He and his wife, Phyllis, have three sons.
Jens Holley received his BA in History from Furman University and his MSLS from the University of North Carolina. He's served the state of South Carolina for 31 years as a librarian, recently retiring from his position of Library Faculty Chair at Clemson University. He still serves as the faculty advisor for Clemson's Intercultural Dialogue Club and as the secretary of the Clemson chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He also serves as the Lay Leader at Saint Mark United Methodist Church in Seneca. As befits a librarian, his interests are wide-ranging, from intercultural and interfaith dialogue to environmental history to Atlantic Coast Conference sports. He and his wife, Mary, have 2 daughters
Rev. Johnna Camp has a wide variety of experience in ministry. Before coming to First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Greenville, she was Director of Education for Ministry: a lay theological education program in the Episcopal Church. Her other experiences include, chaplain of Hospice and Palliative Care of Louisville KY, pastor of the Shawnee Christian Church of Louisville and consultant for Educational Design to Trinity Church Wall Street in Manhattan. She has degrees from Lexington Theological Seminary and the University of Kentucky.
Johnna, her husband Bryant, daughter Noa and sons, Malachi and Ethan look forward to meeting you.
Dr. M.B. Ulmer
Dr. M.B. Ulmer is Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of South Carolina Upstate. During his 37 years at USC Upstate, he served at various times as professor, chair of mathematics and computer science, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He maintains a website to assist teachers in project-based learning in math for the liberal arts. In retirement, he teaches occasional courses in statistics at Wofford College where he continues to benefit from the interaction with bright students and colleagues.
He and his wife, Lewanna Caldwell, have many interests including gardening, ballroom dance, and outdoor activities. They especially enjoy traveling and dialogue with people of various faiths, cultures and languages
Midlands Advisory Board
Irmo Mayor Hardy KingBorn and raised in Elon-Burlington NC area. Moved to Anniston, Alabama in 1978 before moving to Irmo in 1990. Met Eileen Edmonds, from upstate NY, and married in 1992. Our son Adam was born in 1993, and our daughter Kristiana was born in 1995. They both live in Irmo.
Elected to Irmo Town Council in 2005, re-elected in 2009, elected Mayor in 2011, and re-elected Mayor in 2015. Own and operate Kings' Furniture Revival. A business offering antique and furniture refinishing, repairs, chair caning, and items for sale.
Served in various community positions: deacon and elder in local church; board member of Harbison Areas Wheels Transit, United Way of the Midlands Allocations Panel, St. Paul AME Community Empowerment Board, Personal Touch Program Volunteer at Palmetto Baptist Oncology Floor. Currently serving as President of Lexington County Municipal Association, Member Masonic Lodge Boyleston #123-Ballentine.
Firm believer in “Say what you mean, and mean what you say”. Was reminded years ago from an elder, “but just don't be mean, saying it”. Still working on this part.
My favorite quote from someone that came before me (Sir Edmund Burke), “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
It is up to us to stand, when needed; push back, when necessary; and if nothing else seems to be working, just stand firm; and always pray and give thanks.
One of the reasons it is hard for men and women with integrity and character to serve in elected offices is the difficulty of doing the right thing, when it is not the popular thing or the desire of the majority.
Dr. Doris W. Gilliam
Doris W. Gilliam is a Spanish Instructor and Foreign Language Coordinator in the Humanities Department at Midlands Technical College. She holds a Ph. D. in Humanities with a concentration in Latin American Studies from Florida State University (2013). Her M.A. degree (University of Florida, 1987) is in Spanish, with a Language concentration. Her research interest is in examining contemporary Afro-Brazilian women’s writing as a form of identity formation and resistance. She has spent some thirty -five years teaching Spanish, Portuguese and French in colleges throughout the southeast including Auburn University, Middle Georgia State University, Allen University, University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of South Carolina.
Dr. Gilliam considers interaction with and learning from individuals of backgrounds that differ from her own a major benefit of serving as a language instructor. Consequently, she has used her platform as an educator to encourage the examination and appreciation of our differences in the face of our common humanity. In her role as educator, Dr. Gilliam has organized and participated in South Carolina community International festivals and written grants that helped students understand the beauty and complexity of Spanish dance (Virginia) and African drumming (Georgia). She has helped organize events that inform the public of the successes and challenges that women and people of color face on a daily basis. She has participated in Rotary Group Exchanges (Peru, France) that encourage a sharing of cultural ideas and traditions. Finally, she is most proud that she has helped organize and participated in events that encouraged students to value the difference in the individuals they encounter every day. It was through her desire to encourage her students to dialogue with individuals of differing life experiences that initially drew her to the goals of the Atlantic Institute. It is the Institute’s work in fostering intercultural communication, that encourages her continued participation.
Dr. Gilliam’s non-academic interests are in music, art, and theater. She plays djembe and clarinet in various local music ensembles including Cultural Expressions, Sweet Lady Drummers, Congaree New Horizons Band, and the Lexington Community Band.
Catherine Fleming Bruce
Catherine Fleming Bruce is author of the award-winning book, ‘The Sustainers: Being, Building and Doing Good through Activism in the Sacred Spaces of Civil Rights, Human Rights and Social Movements. In 2017, she became the first African-American winner of annual Historic Preservation Book Prize, presented by the University of Mary Washington Center for Historic Preservation in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Bruce founded TNOVSA LLC and TNOVSA Global Commons as methods of engagement in transformational politics, global ethics and norms, and historic and cultural preservation. She led the effort to preserve the home of South Carolina civil rights activist Modjeska Monteith Simkins, and is currently preserving the Cyril O. Spann Medical Office along with the Visanska Starks House and Carriage House, all in Columbia, South Carolina. She currently serves as the State Coordinator for Black Voters South Carolina Initiative, and March On South Carolina, a state program of March On and Fight Back PAC.
An alumna of Agnes Scott College, with a dual BA in English/Creative Writing and Art, Bruce received her Master of Arts in Mass Communication and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina, and pursued doctoral studies there in mass communication, philosophy and ethics, international relations and international law. She has worked in public television, and is a member of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). She has participated in such global governance efforts as the World Summit for the Information Society, held in Geneva and Tunis by the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union.
John M. Starino
John M. Starino is an author, performance poet, and photographer. His works are inspired by life events and family remembrances. He is a Spoken Word Artist, and travels to take part in Poetry Slam competitions. John believes everyone ought to be present and have a presence in this our short time on our planet. He grew up with his parents within the Catholic tradition in East Haven, CT and was very active in the student-run Theatre Workshop Department of Quinnipiac College in Hamden, CT. In 1973, John hitch hiked cross country to live his dream of discovering the indigenous culture of Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. While living in New Mexico, John continued his education at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His love of poetry grew during that time along with his entrepreneurial spirit which continues today. Some of his entrepreneurial enterprises have included not only his poetry writing, but the hosting of numerous Open Mics throughout the Midlands. In his writings, John has habitually drawn from his past experiences which you will find in his four books of poetry -- Onion Season Pt. 1, Onion Season Pt. 2, They Are Only Spoons, and Full Circle. His poem, “Peace” won first prize during the poetry competition at the 2018 Rosewood Art & Music Festival.
Vanessa Whitehead is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and is currently employed at the Senator Isadore E. Lourie Center in Columbia. Married for 36 years, she and husband Ron have two children and one grandchild. She is a travel enthusiast and has visited many countries, meeting people of various cultures and beliefs through her travels. These encounters have helped to solidify her view that regardless of where one lives, what unique qualities we have, we have more in common than differences. Vanessa believes that open and honest dialogue among all is important for the growth and well being of a community. Vanessa has many hobbies, and in her free time enjoys container gardening, sewing, crocheting, and reading.
M. Hamza Gürsoy
M. Hamza Gürsoy, who was born on November 24, (Teachers' Day in Turkey) in Bursa-Turkey. He was the first child of a family who has four children. Gursoy completed his primary, secondary and high school education in the city where he was born and grew up. Then he went to Istanbul for study about Islamic Theologyat the University. He took Arabic lessons from various teachers who came from Egypt, Morocco and Syria for a year. After one year of undergraduate education, Gursoy earned a scholarship from a private university within the Albanian Religious Affairs and went on to complete his undergraduate education in the Balkans. Gürsoy, improved his English and learned enough Albanian to understand daily conversation. He used to teach Turkish for Albanian High school students, where he stayed for two and a half years. He would lead the establishment of the Turkish Language and History Club at the university he studied. He’d prepare presentations Turkish and English in various symposiums. Especially, The program ‘ Islam in Balkans’ which is organized in three languages, Turkish, Albanian and English, would attract great attention from audiences with ‘Islam in Albania’ (since the begining and until today). He graduated from the Department of Islamic Sciences at the end of 2018 with his thesis titled ‘Concept of The Ummah in Islam and a Comparative Approach to the Concept of International Society ’. At the beginning of 2019, he'd go to America for university education and develop his language and he lives still there. He has a novel with name 'Son Varis: Ötüken'e Yolculuk' (The Last Heir: Journey to Otuken) , the first chain of a historical-fantastic book series when was published in April 2019.
Cynthia (Cindy) Pharis is the sole proprietor of Live Oak Evaluation Consulting, LLC, through which she consults with community-based non-profit coalitions to improve the impact they are having on their community. She uses a variety of evaluation techniques to accomplish this, especially focused on engaging members in the process and story they create. Before LOEC, Cindy worked as an evaluator, facilitated coalitions, and ran a regional resource center. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Cindy has lived in Arkansas, Illinois, Texas and now South Carolina. She prefers to live places where she can know people and hear their voices – usually small to mid-size cities. As a leader and businessperson, Cindy believes that we are doing the best we can, that we all can do better, and that when the people lead, the leaders will follow. She approaches every new situation with an open mind and heart, ready to learn. Formally, she is working on a Doctoral degree in Public Health. Cindy lives in West Columbia with her husband Carlos and two cats (Jake & Jules), where she also loves to garden and practice photography.
LaRahna Hughes is a California native but she has spent most of her adult life as a southerner in Georgia and most recently South Carolina. She is mom to five which includes 2 sons, 2 daughters and 1 daughter in law and “Grandma Blanket” to three grandchildren: two granddaughters and a grandson. She has bachelor degrees in human resource management (with a concentration in training and development) and personnel psychology. She continued her formal education at Regent University where she earned a Masters in Practical Theology. She has also completed additional graduate studies in the field of History.
She became engrossed in community work while living in Atlanta, Georgia and that passion has been fueled by her quest to help repair and rebuild sustainable communities. She spent twenty years of her professional career as a consultant to community-based nonprofits, faith organizations and small businesses. Her call to community development work as a consultant led her to explore other ways to impact change at the community level. It was this pursuit that eventually led her to seminary and farming. Faith and food have become part of her life work. Her strong belief is that our faith community holds the keys for shaping sustainable values in our community and she wholeheartedly believes that nature and farming provide lessons and parables for living. She is a champion for social change as it relates to living our values. Her life work of building sustainable community is evident in her current life work. She is currently the owner of Seeds Cafe, Farm and Market which is an emerging farm to table restaurant, farm, farmers market and residential community. She is also a part of Reimagining Church which currently serves the community by offering a monthly interfaith spiritual gathering “Soul Food Sundays” and by seeking out solutions for meeting the spiritual needs of the diverse, interfaith community in which she lives. Her work allows her to plant seeds daily in the lives of others. One of her regular reminders about living is to “plant good seeds and water them with pure water.” Her life work is to plant good seeds as often as possible and to water good seeds that others have planted, because seeds try their best to grow!
Cheryl Soehl began working in Student Life at the University of South Carolina in 1992 and served as Administrative Coordinator and assistant to the Associate Vice President and then as the Interfaith Initiatives Coordinator until her retirement in December of 2013. In this role, she developed interfaith initiatives, managed the university’s participation in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge and administered the national Campus Religious Climate Survey through the Interfaith Youth Core. In addition, she served as a liaison to Carolina’s registered religious workers, including coordinating the registration process for religious workers and associates. She also managed the Dobson Volunteer Service Program, which provides financial support for students pursuing spiritually-based service opportunities.
She has also worked part-time at Sistercare, Inc. as a counselor and women's advocate.
At USC, she was a member of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Task Force and taught University 101. Cheryl has received several awards from USC including the Distinguished Rehabilitation Counseling Student Award in 1999, Staff Volunteer of the Year in 2001 and 2004 and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Social Justice Award in 2008. She also received the Dedication to Service Award from the Richland County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in 2001 and was named CASA Outstanding Volunteer 2006.
Cheryl received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from New College of Florida and was a summa cum laude graduate of the Master of Rehabilitation Counseling program in the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. She has a Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Studies from the University of South Carolina and a Certificate in Psychiatric Rehabilitation from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine.
In retirement, Cheryl enjoys volunteering and has served the community in several capacities. Since 1994, she has volunteered as a guardian ad litem for Richland County CASA and was a member of the board of directors from 1996 to 2001. She was a member of the Minority Recruitment Committee at Richland County CASA in 2003-2004. She also currently serves as a volunteer guardian ad litem for the South Carolina Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem program. At Sistercare, Inc., she is on-call for the speaker's bureau and has previously served as a volunteer crisis counselor, member of the speaker’s bureau, volunteer crisis line coordinator and volunteer training participant. For several years she has volunteered at the Columbia Emergency Winter Shelter. Cheryl has served on the Board of Trustees at her church.
Cheryl is a member of the Steering Committee of the Alternatives to Violence South Carolina program and has completed Basic, Advanced, and Training for Facilitation workshops. She currently volunteers as a facilitator in AVP-SC training workshops.
As a member of the Steering Committee of the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence, Cheryl has organized yearly concerts to honor victims of gun violence in South Carolina as part of the Concert Across America effort.
She is a member of the board of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina and maintains a Facebook page, Interfaith Initiatives in the Midlands (https://www.facebook.com/InterfaithInitiatives/?ref=settings&qsefr=1)
Other volunteer affiliations include the Faith Coalition on Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action SC.
Previous Board Members
Dr. Cecil Huey
Dr. Cecil Huey is Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. He received his PhD from Clemson in 1973 and returned there to teach in 1975. Since that time, he has worked and taught in the area of mechanisms and machine design. Along the way he received a number of awards for his teaching and research, including the Class of '39 Faculty Award for Excellence and the Student Government Excellence in Teaching Award. For many years, Dr. Huey was The Clemson University Faculty Athletics Representative and in that role served two terms as President of the Atlantic Coast Conference and held several positions within the NCAA organization. He recently retired from the South Carolina State Board of Registration for Engineers and Surveyors.