The College of Charleston Magazine Features Graduate Students, Staff, & Alumni

The Winter 2023 edition of the College of Charleston Magazine features many graduate students, faculty, and alumni. A summary of the features can be found below and how to learn more about their stories and work:


Gary Jackson, M.F.A. – M.F.A Faculty: Professor Jackson is featured for his recent publication of Origin Story (University of New Mexico Press, 2021), which is a poetry collection that outlines his family history and includes elements of memoir and documentary. Professor Jackson is the director of undergraduate creative writing and teaches courses in the MFA program, and his publication is on page 10.

Environmental & Sustainability Study Abroad Program

Equatorial Education – The college’s new intensive environmental chemistry and sustainability study abroad program, which included six graduate students and five undergraduate students, spent two weeks in Ecuador. Dr. William Veal, a professor for the M.S. in Environmental and Sustainability Program, accompanied students to study the water quality and sustainability issues and how intertwined health, community, science and sustainability really are. The feature can be found on page 20.


Lancie Affonso ’08 – M.S. in Computer and Information Sciences Alumnus: Professor Affonso is featured for his connectedness to many different aspects of College of Charleston. Professor Affonso not only teaches in three different schools at the College, but also serves as the director of the Honors Entrepreneurship Living Learning Community and is an invaluable mentor to students. Learn how this beloved professor has become part of the fabric of the College of Charleston on pages 36-43.

Craig J. Plante, Ph.D. – Director of the M.S. in Marine Biology Graduate Program: Dr. Plante is featured on page 45 for his work with Honors College student, Timara Vereen, studying the impact of the eastern mudsnail on the ecosystem.

Student Melanie Orama

Melanie Orama – M.S. in Child Life Student: Melanie Orama is a current graduate student featured on page 48 for her journey with choosing a Child Life Masters Program. Melanie describes her background, why she chose the M.S. in Child Life program at the College of Charleston, and her study abroad experience with Dr. Susan Simonian, the director of the M.S. in Child life program.

Jennifer Newby Gardner ’13 – M.S. in Marine Biology Alumna: Alumna Jennifer Gardner is a fisheries biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and lives in Kodiak, Alaska. She researches crab populations to inform catch decisions and runs kayak tours in her free time and is featured on page 55.

Jennifer Newby Gardner ’13

Thai Phi ‘12 – Master of Business Administration Alumnus: Thai Phi is featured on page 56 and is the owner of Pink Bellies restaurant on King Street and will be serving one of the signature dinners at the 2023 Charleston Wine + Food Festival in March. He started with a food truck on the College campus and open his present location in 2021.

Earnest “Omar” Muhammad ’21 – M.A. in Community Planning, Policy, and Design Alumnus: Muhammad explains how a chance encounter with Grant Gilmore, the director of the College’s Community Planning, Policy, and Design master’s program, impacted his career trajectory. Muhammad is now making an impact as a zoning planner with the City of Charleston and is featured on page 57.

Earnest “Omar” Muhammad


Alumni Notes:

Everette Platt ’97 – M.S. in Education: Platt is a middle school English language arts teacher at the Cooper School in Charleston. She earned her M.S. in Education in 1997 and her doctorate in educational leadership in 2019 from Liberty University. Her and her husband have two sons.

Geoff Pallay ’09 – Master of Public Administration: Pallay is editor-in-chief of Ballotpedia, a digital encyclopedia and resource for unbiased information on American politics, elections, and policy. He obtained his graduate certificate in Urban and Regional Planning in 2011. He and his wife live in Charleston, along with their two children.

Fran Miller Knudsen ’18 – Master of Business Administration: Knudsen opened her second coffee shop, Blūm, on Meeting Street in Charleston. Her first shop is in Columbia, S.C., where she currently resides.

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