Named in homage to Mount Pisgah, one of the area’s tallest peaks and the campus’ visual center, the Order of Pisgah recognizes one or two alumni (degreed or non-degreed) for outstanding achievement in their fields of endeavor.
Karen Brinson Bell ’96 – Order of Pisgah. As a student, Bell held state-level leadership in NC Youth Legislature, wrote for the student newspaper, completed undergraduate research, and was a university ambassador. As a senior, she was named the UNCA Outstanding Student Leader of the Year, and she graduated with a double major in mass communication and political science. As an alumna, she served on the alumni board from 2000-04. Bell has served as executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections since June 1, 2019. She has worked in elections administration since 2006 in county, state, and national roles. As North Carolina’s chief elections official, she leads about 85 full-time employees at the state agency, which is charged with administering elections and campaign finance compliance, overseeing the 100 county boards of elections, and ensuring voting for more than 7 million voters. In her time as executive director, she has overseen 10 elections, including the 2020 Presidential election, which is the largest election in North Carolina’s history and was held during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shannon Davis ’97 – Order of Pisgah. Davis currently works as director of graduate programs in sociology and served as interim senior associate dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, where she was recruited to help launch the doctoral program in public and applied sociology. She has won several awards there for her mentoring and teaching excellence and she was recently named Faculty Senate Chair, and she has continued to be a mentor for UNC Asheville students, particularly on past visits to Washington, D.C. Davis has research interests in the creation of families and the negotiation of family life as well as the influence of gender ideologies on personal decisions. In addition to two textbooks and over 70 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, many co-authored with graduate and undergraduate students, she co-authored a book titled Why Who Cleans Counts: What Housework Tells Us About American Family Life which was published in early 2020.
Dr. Cerise Glenn-Manigault ’99 directs the African American and African Diaspora studies program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is an Associate Professor in the department of Communication Studies. She has dedicated her career to mentoring diverse groups in higher education, which includes directing the University Faculty Mentoring program for tenure-track faculty. She also worked with the Rites of Passage program, which conducted monthly workshops for Black male undergraduates in their first two years of college. For more information about Dr. Cerise Glenn-Manigault and her accomplishments, please view https://giving.unca.edu/2020-national-alumni-award-recipients/.
Fatima Johnson ’98 has dedicated her career to government service at the national level. She has been employed at NASA for 13 years and currently serves as the Executive Officer for the Agency Chief Information Office. Fatima oversees office operations, which includes a staff of sixty-seven civil servants. She leads and manages all interactions and responses to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and other audit organizations on all matters related to information and technology, and she also ensure the continuity of operations for NASA IT systems and applications owned by the office in the event of nationwide emergencies and/or disasters. For more information about Fatima Johnson and her accomplishments, please view https://giving.unca.edu/2020-national-alumni-award-recipients/.
Marquis McGee ’99 currently serves as associate director of first-year programs at James Madison University. He has spent nearly 20 years providing academic and social support for students in K-12 and Higher education as a counselor, advisor, instructor, and university administrator. As a first-generation college graduate, he is very passionate about helping first-generation and marginalized students gain access to and successfully navigate college’s hidden curriculum.
Peter Haschke ’07 is a leader in the political science profession. He has worked as an expert consultant on human rights violations and civil conflict for a joint United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank study on development and conflict prevention and resolution. Upon his return to UNC Asheville as a faculty member in 2013, he joined the human rights measurement project, the Political Terror Scale (PTS) as a principal investigator and has published several papers.
Dave de Haan ’97, a psychologist by degree and profession, has made significant contributions in his field of Performance Enhancement Psychology in the United States and Europe. He conducts elite coaching clinics, publishes books and articles and serves as a performance enhancement consultant to top tennis professionals. He also was a professional basketball player, playing power forward internationally after graduating from UNC Asheville, where he was a center for the Bulldogs. In addition, de Haan has authored educational resources, books on mental training in tennis, and a children’s book on life skills and learning math, which has been translated into several languages. He is a 2017 recipient of the Order of Pisgah Award for Alumni Achievement.
Patrick Conant ’11
Patrick Conant has used his computer science degree from UNC Asheville to co-captain Code for Asheville and found PRC Applications, a local company that dedicates at least 20 percent of its time to community projects.
His dedication to open source software, government transparency and “open data” initiatives led to contributions to several Asheville projects, including Sunshine Request, AVL Park, and Asheville Music Guide. In response to a need identified by the N.C. Association of Teacher Assistants, he created NC Megaphone, a tool that helps citizens contact their state legislators. He has worked with BeLoved Asheville to create a community computer lab for the homeless and others in need and assisted the Asheville Buncombe NAACP with their efforts to analyze racial disparities in traffic stop outcomes.
He brings a socially conscious, data-driven perspective to each project. Conant is a 2017 recipient of the Order of Pisgah Award for Alumni Achievement.
Cristina Alonso ’97 was named one of two winners of the 2016 Order of Pisgah Award for Alumni Achievement. Alonso, experienced in appellate litigation in state and federal courts, is former president of Florida Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit providing legal assistance to those unable to afford representation. She was counsel of record on an amicus brief filed by the Campaign for Southern Equality and the Equality Federation that called upon the U.S. Supreme Court to act quickly to ensure the freedom to marry for LGBT people across the nation.
LaKesha McDay ’09 was named one of two winners of the 2016 Order of Pisgah Award for Alumni Achievement. McDay has held a variety of positions at Mission Health over two decades. She also serves as a consultant for Mission’s Center for Leadership and Professional Development, and has served the community as a loaned executive for the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County.
Three distinguished alumni – Joan Elliott of the class of 1976 and Greg and Ashley Garrison of the class of 2005 – were given the Order of Pisgah Award for Alumni Achievement. A Fulbright Scholar who did research on education in Korea and the Soviet Union, Elliott went on to be Buncombe County Teacher of the Year and serve on the faculty at three different universities including UNC Asheville. Greg and Ashley Garrison, biology and math majors respectively, are the creative, savvy and community-minded owners of The Hop Ice Cream Café. In 2014, The Hop won the Mountain Xpress awards for Best Ice Cream, Best Place for Birthday Parties, and Best Business that Gives Back to the Community. Greg, a former Bulldog soccer player and coach, volunteers on campus as a math tutor and can be found at many campus events scooping The Hop’s “Bulldog Tracks” flavor ice cream. The Garrisons also generously fund The Hop Scholarship at UNC Asheville.
The Order of Pisgah Award has been presented to Justin Belleme ’05 and Leslie Klein Newman ’07. Justin Belleme has become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Asheville. Justin has had a significant role in shaping the city’s global web and social media presence. His success has led him to found JB Media Group in 2011, a boutique internet marketing agency. JB Media Group has supported a wide range of local organizations and non-profits. Leslie Klein Newman founded the only volunteer-based Multiple Sclerosis Chapter in North Carolina in 2010. She has organized several events, a number of symposiums, and educational presentations. She has also worked in close collaboration with a number of UNC Asheville organizations.
Sarah Nuñez ’04 was inducted into the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in her professional field. Sarah has been an active advocate for the Hispanic community in Western North Carolina. She has served as the Chair of the Board of the Latino Advocacy Coalition and as a consultant for the UNC Asheville Center for Diversity Education and the Buncombe County Health Department, as well as a leader in the annual Fiesta Latina. Recently, she was named to serve as Executive Director of the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council, which works to mitigate discriminatory practices, provides a forum for community dialogue, and works to enhance the mutual respect of diverse groups in the community.
Kinneil Coltman ’00 was inducted into the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in her professional field. Coltman serves as the Director of Diversity and Language Services for the Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center. Through Coltman’s leadership, the hospital system has significantly expanded its outreach and ability to serve a broad array of diverse patients. Coltman is also chair of the Board for the International Center of the Upstate, and is active with the YWCA of Greenville and the South Carolina Hospital Association Diversity Council.
Tarik Glenn ’06 was inducted into the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in his professional field. Glenn is a workforce development specialist at Mission Health System in Asheville. He has been an integral part of the success of Mission Possible, an innovative program that provides healthcare internships and career development to local high school students.
Holly Spencer Bunting ’00 was inducted into the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in her professional field. A summa cum laude graduate of UNC Asheville, Bunting earned a law degree at American University. Today she works for K&L Gates in Washington, D.C. and practices in the areas of mortgage banking and consumer finance, with a concentration on federal and state regulatory enforcement. A consummate advocate for her alma mater, Bunting has a lent a hand with UNC Asheville’s popular World of Work Program and helped wrap up donations for the Class of 2000 gift to the University.
Brian Winslett ’03 founded and now serves as CEO of the Asheville company “Blue Ridge Biofuels.” This firm is the only local distributor of biodiesel fuel. Brian devotes himself to the cause of educating the public about the environmental benefits of switching to plant-based fuel sources. In the four short years since he graduated, Brian has literally transformed his community. He is a model environmental citizen of who the University can be very proud.
Michael Taylor ’97 was awarded the Order of Pisgah for outstanding achievement in his professional field. Taylor was the co-creator of the critically acclaimed MTV sock-puppet program, “The Sifl and Olly Show.” He has also worked as a producer/director for CMT and as a writer on several short films. Recently, Taylor launched a new career in architecture with Delta Design and Development in Nashville, Tenn.
A doctoral candidate in parasitology and vector-borne infectious diseases at Tulane University, Brian Byrd ’00 began his research career as an Undergraduate Research Scholar at UNC Asheville. He received the Faust Outstanding Graduate Student Award at graduation from Tulane’s Master of Public Health degree program in 2002. Byrd is currently working with both the West Nile virus and the Lacrosse virus, the leading cause of pediatric encephalitis in the United States.