Meet the Advisors, Faculty, & Staff
Dean and Vice President for Academic Innovation
Suri Duitch is dean of the Tulane University School of Professional Advancement. Duitch also holds the additional title of vice president for academic innovation, and has a leadership role in the development and deployment of new digital courseware and learning platforms for the university as a whole. Under her leadership, the school is taking a fresh look at how it (and Tulane University) can best meet the needs of working adults and employers in New Orleans, the Gulf Coast region, and beyond, through both classroom-based and online courses and degree programs.
She joined Tulane from the City University of New York, the nation’s largest urban public university system, where she was an administrator from 2004 to 2016. At CUNY, she was University Dean for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, as well as the deputy to the senior university dean for academic affairs. Her portfolio there included continuing education, workforce development, adult literacy and language courses, programs for students on public assistance, several student employment initiatives and special projects, such as CUNY’s Early Childhood Professional Development Institute as well as its Creative Arts Team. The total annual enrollment in all these endeavors was over 250,000 students.
Prior to joining CUNY, she held policy and program oversight positions in New York City government agencies, and worked with nonprofits and private foundations to conduct research in areas such as the arts and economic development, children’s health services and nonprofit advocacy.
Her passions in work relate to opening up higher education, and the life-transforming benefits of the knowledge, skills and credentials gained from college, to people who wouldn’t otherwise have that access. She is also deeply committed to helping adult students gain knowledge and skills to advance in their careers and to further develop as members of their families and communities.
Duitch holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Columbia College, Columbia University, an MSW in community organizing from Hunter College–CUNY, and a PhD in urban education from the CUNY Graduate Center.
She lives in New Orleans with her husband, Neil Kleiman, a political scientist and urban policy expert on the faculty at the New York University - Wagner School of Public Service, and their two children.
Director, Master of Liberal Arts
Lanie Dornier | bio
Professor of Practice and Program Director, Health & Wellness
Dr. Lanie Dornier comes to Tulane with over 25 years of experience in higher education. She received her BS degree from LSU, and her MS and Ph.D. from Auburn University. Dr. Dornier served on the faculty at Texas Tech University and as Chair of the Kinesiology Department at Louisiana Tech University, where she developed curricula based on allied health. Her primary area of focus is motor learning/control, and she has taught courses in sport psychology, sociology of sport, and research methods.
Dr. Dornier has a strong understanding of the needs of the health and wellness industry, and she looks forward to working with organizations in the greater New Orleans area on building community partnerships so SoPA students are well positioned to meet the demands of the industry. With roots in New Orleans, Dr. Dornier already has established connections within the region.
Manager, Facility Operations
Admissions Representative and Customer Support
Amanda Garcia | bio
Professor of Practice and Program Director, Digital Design
Amanda R. Garcia, Ph.D. is the Director of Digital Design and Media Arts in the School of Professional Advancement. Dr. Garcia holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with a research focus on Socially Responsible Design in Higher Education from Texas A&M University-CC and an M.F.A. in Graphic Design and Visual Communication from The Savannah College of Art and Design. Dr. Garcia comes to Tulane from TAMU-CC where she was a faculty fellow, program coordinator and community advocate for the greater Gulf Coast region.
Aside from being a passionate educator, Dr. Garcia is an award-winning designer and uses her knowledge of the industry as a catalyst for inspiration and change in her classroom and programs. Dr. Garcia’s design work varies from high-end retail to pro bono non-profit advocacy design. Her vast variety of clients include Goodwill Industries, The Venetian Las Vegas, HALL Group, Time Warner Cable, United Way and Volkswagen among others. Her work has garnered national and international acclaim and she continues to publish and pursue her research in using design as powerful tool to create positive change.
Lance B. Green | bio
Wellness and Human Performance,
Associate Clinical Professor
From 1985 to the present, Dr. Green has served Tulane as a full-time faculty member with stints as a Department Chairperson. As a Senior Professor of Practice/Associate Clinical Professor, his primary academic responsibilities have included teaching courses that investigate various aspects of the Social Science of Sport (specifically, the Psychology of Sport, Philosophy of Sport, Sociology of Sport, History of Sport), as well as, the domain of Health and Wellness (e.g., Stress Management, Mind/Body Health, Leadership in Health and Wellness Professions). Dr. Green's academic specialization began at the University of North Florida (Bachelor of Education and Master of Education with emphases in Teaching/Coaching and Sport Psychology). He earned his Doctorate of Education/Social Science of Sport (Sport Psychology) at the University of Northern Colorado. And, as a practitioner in the field of Educational Sport Psychology (aka, Mental Skills Training), he has consulted with athletes, coaches and parents that represent all competitive levels and numerous sports, i.e., from little league and beginning gymnastics to professional and world class competitors.
Robyn Ice | bio
Professor of Practice and Program Director, Paralegal Studies
Robyn Ice, J.D., M.F.A., is Professor of Practice and Director of Tulane University’s Paralegal Studies Program and teaches PARA 5900 – Paralegal Practicum. Ms. Ice joined Tulane in 2014 after practicing environmental and toxic tort law for over 22 years, first in Atlanta and then in New York City, including twelve years as a partner with the firms Alston & Bird, LLC, Rosenberg & Estis, P.C., and Troutman Sanders, LLC, and four as claims counsel with Zurich Insurance.
She received her B.F.A. from West Virginia University, magna cum laude; M.F.A. from the University of Georgia; and J.D., cum laude, from Georgia State University College of Law, where she served as Editor in Chief of the Georgia State University Law Review. She also served as research assistant to Torts Professor David Maleski, with whom she authored two chapters of the 1992 treatise Georgia Tort Law. In the 11 years before she entered law school, Ms. Ice performed as a puppeteer and designed costumes and puppets for theatre and television.
Ilianna Kwaske | bio
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Ilianna H. Kwaske, Ph.D. is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of Professional Advancement. Dr. Kwaske is an industrial/organizational psychologist with over fifteen years of experience in higher education and business consulting. Her teaching and administrative roles have been in programs designed for working adults. A passionate educator, Dr. Kwaske has been committed to teaching and learning in various modalities, whether through evening on-ground courses, online, weekend intensive, or hybrid (online & on-ground) courses. In her previous roles, she has led teams that have developed and launched innovative, high-quality academic programs in organizational leadership, industrial organizational psychology, and business psychology. With a strong quantitative foundation in assessment and testing, Dr. Kwaske is also very interested in program evaluation, identifying and measuring learning outcomes.
Dr. Kwaske applies psychology in various contexts, in higher education as an administrator and professor, and in her previous experiences as a consultant. As an independent consultant, she has conducted psychological assessments for executive searches, employee selection and development, and she has helped leaders manage organizational change. Dr. Kwaske also served as a principal in her husband’s architecture practice examining the interaction of people and their space. In that role, she directed the programming efforts from a psychological perspective to understand client needs to inform the design of a space.
From a young age, Dr. Kwaske knew she wanted to be a psychologist and change agent to help solve problems. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Illinois-Chicago, and a master of science in psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology and Ph.D. in industrial-organizational psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology.
The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Dr. Kwaske was born and raised in Chicago, which was her hometown for much of her life. With her husband who is an architect and their two children, she now enjoys living in New Orleans, a city she grew to love from her first visit in the summer of 2000.
Jerry Lenaz | LinkedIn | bio
Professor of Practice and Program Director, Business and Leadership Programs
Jerry Lenaz has over 15 years’ experience assisting small businesses and start-up ventures grow through strategic planning, marketing and business development efforts. He owns his own consulting firm, Firestarter Consulting, and has been teaching BSMK-3200 Introduction to Marketing Principles at the School of Professional Advancement since 2010.
Prior to joining Tulane, Jerry was the Director of Business Services at Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Delgado Community College in New Orleans helping entrepreneurs grow their business by providing greater access to education, capital and support services. Jerry also worked in the telecommunications industry as a business development and product manager launching new industrial and consumer products and initiatives throughout the Gulf South.
Originally from New Jersey, Jerry has a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an MBA from Tulane University, AB Freeman School of Business. He is passionate about helping students, entrepreneurs and businesses achieve their dreams by providing the education, tools and support services needed to succeed.
Jerry is also committed to the growth of the New Orleans region and invests his time in various economic, cultural and non-profit organizations aimed at strengthening the city’s assets and support services. He sits on the boards of various non-profits in New Orleans, volunteers for WWOZ-FM, a community radio station, and co-founded the Disco Amigos, a Mardi Gras parading and performance troupe.
Kay McLennan | website | LinkedIn | bio
Professor of Practice, Business Studies
Kay McLennan, Ph.D., is a Senior Professor of Practice in the School of Professional Advancement’s Business & Leadership Studies Program. Kay teaches Economics for Non Majors, Economics of Health & Wellness, Business Ethics, and Organizational Behavior. Dr. McLennan joined the full-time faculty at Tulane University in 2004 after spending ten years as an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (in Washington, D.C.). In addition to teaching economics and business studies courses in a completely online format, Dr. McLennan’s 3D virtual world educational simulations won awards in two Federal Virtual World Challenge contests -- in 2012 for her Prisoner's Dilemma game theory simulation and in 2013 for her Data Detectives Game. Kay’s Ph.D. in Administration, Curriculum and Instruction is from the University of Nebraska (Lincoln, Nebraska), M.S. in Economics is from The American University (Washington, D.C.), and a B.A. in Political Science & Economics is from the University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland). Dr. McLennan’s dissertation is entitled, “Technology Selection and Marketing Activities in Higher Education Patenting and Technology Transfer.”
Christa Payne | bio
Director, Business Operations
& Administrative Services
Christa Payne is the Director of Business Operations and Administrative Services for the School of Professional Advancement at Tulane University. She is responsible for finances, operations, marketing, and facilities for the school. Christa has eighteen years of experience in management, operations, and development, including financial analysis and strategic consulting, non-profit management, development and communications, business development and account management, public-private partnership development, and community building and strategic planning.
Prior to Tulane, Christa worked with Public Financial Management and the National Resource Network to help develop operational and programmatic initiatives for economically distressed cities across the country. For seven years, she also served as Vice President for External Affairs for the Public Education Foundation in Chattanooga, TN.
Christa is passionate about access to a great education for students and is excited about the work of the School of Professional Advancement. Christa is a graduate of Sewanee: The University of the South. She lives in New Orleans with her three daughters and husband, loves all things Nola (especially Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest), but misses the Tennessee mountains.
Vanessa Rodriguez | bio
Assistant Dean for Student Support and Success
Vanessa is a native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Panama City, Panama. She joins the SoPA staff after serving as Director of Student Conduct for Tulane since 2015. During her tenure as Director, Vanessa lead the investigation and resolution of all student conduct concerns and spearheaded the revision of the Code of Student Conduct in 2017. Prior to her service for the University, Vanessa worked as a psychotherapist in New York City, providing individual and group counseling through a variety of non-profit organizations. In her work, she specialized in counseling clients who were HIV+, undocumented, LGBTQ+, homeless, and/or victims of trauma. After six years of practice, Vanessa then moved home to the south and enrolled in Tulane Law School. There she was named a member of Tulane 34 and proceeded to work as a mediator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program prior to becoming the chief law clerk for Judge Pro Tempore Lynn Luker in the Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
Vanessa lives in New Orleans with her husband and two children.
Carrie Lee Schwartz | website | bio
Senior Professor of Practice,
Media Arts/Digital Design
Carrie Lee Pierson Schwartz began teaching at the School of Professional Advancement in the Summer of 2001 as an adjunct professor and was hired as the first Full-time Lecturer in the history of then named University College. She created many courses that led to the creation of the Digital Design degree and program of studies within Media Arts including Advanced Imaging, Animation, 3D Design, Portfolio Development, and Special Effects classes. After several successive contract renewals, she earned the title of Senior Professor of the Practice of Digital Design. Carrie was the first faculty to use Adobe Breeze to teach online courses at Tulane University and she was the first faculty to teach Multi-user interface Second Life as part of her 3D Design and Web Design Instruction. Carrie hosted the first regionally shared & sponsored AIGA student portfolio review at the Elmwood Campus and previously started an AIGA chapter at Tulane. Her former students have been employed in both the local and International Media and Design Industry. Carrie earned her Bachelor's of Fine Arts at Newcomb College of Tulane University and her Master's of Fine Arts from The Rhode Island School of Design. Her creative works have been exhibited for over 30 years and collected internationally. Her formal training in the arts, specifically in glass, drawing, painting and photography, have given her insight into working with light as she manifests her ideas regardless of the medium in which she is working.
Jim Simmons | bio
Professor of Practice and Senior Director, Academic Computing Programs
Jim Simmons, Ph.D., is the Senior Director of Academic Computing Programs and teaches CPST 1070 Mathematics or IT, and CPST-3250 Human-Computer Interactions. Dr. Simmons joined the School of Continuing Studies staff in 2005. After completing his Ph.D., he taught Mathematics for Baylor and Loyola Universities before entering the work force in the computing industry. He enjoyed a 20 year career with Litton Data Systems, Entergy, and Science and Engineering Associates before returning to the academic world.
Dr. Simmons earned a BS is Mathematics from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now University of Louisiana – Lafayette), and his doctorate in Mathematics from Tulane in 1983. The results from his thesis were published in a paper in the Houston Journal of Mathematics in 1987. In 1994 he won the prestigious Mullin Award from the Computer Measurement Group for his paper Integrating UNIX Measurements Reporting into an Existing Automated Reporting System in a Windows Environment. He served as a referee and on the editorial review board for CMG until 1999. Dr. Simmons is also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church.
Executive Secretary to the Associate Dean
Director of Communications & Special Projects
Michael Wallace | bio
Professor of Practice and Program Director, Emergency & Security Studies
Michael Wallace is a retired military intelligence officer with 20 years active service. His military assignments included Naval Special Warfare, Defense Human Intelligence, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Office of Naval Intelligence. Post military, he worked as a senior intelligence analyst in the Joint Chiefs of Staff Intelligence Directorate. He has experience in counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, special warfare and intelligence collection and analysis. He is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and holds a Master of Liberal Arts degree from Tulane University, a Master’s Degree in Military History from the US Army Command and General Staff College, and is a doctoral candidate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Alabama.