CHADRON – Chadron State College has announced four finalists for the Vice President for Academic Affairs position. Dr. Jim Powell, who has been the college’s top academic officer since 2020, announced his retirement in November 2023.

The four VPAA finalists to replace Powell are Dr. Theresa Billiot, Dr. Kent Buchanan, Dr. Matthew Redinger, and Dr. Kimberly Paddock-O’Reilly. Each finalist will conduct on-campus interviews with the search committee, meet with President Patterson and the President’s Cabinet, and have discussions with faculty, staff, and student representatives during separate forums this month.

Billiott will interview Tuesday, while Buchanan will interview Thursday. Redinger and Paddock-O’Reilly will interview later in April.

Billiott is currently the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs at Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, Oklahoma. Billiott has been in that position since 2022. Prior to joining Panhandle State, Billiott taught marketing and served as chair and assistant dean at Woodbury University in Burbank, California, for three years. She was also a tenured associate professor of marketing at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, for seven years and an assistant professor of marketing at Fort Hays State for two years.

Outside of higher education, Billiott was a solution manager for Clear Channel Radio and iHeart Media, as well as a new business development executive for the Florida Panthers. Billiott’s bachelor’s degree is in mass communications from Nicholls State University. She has a Master of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Arts degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from Florida Atlantic University. She received her Ph.D. in Mass Communication and a Cognate in Marketing from Texas Tech University.

Buchanan most recently served as the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Adams State University from 2020 to 2023. Before working at Adams State, Buchanan was at Oklahoma City University for 13 years and had a variety of positions. He was the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for four years, an Assistant Provost and Professor of Biology, and Department Chair while still teaching and advising students. He also worked at Tulane University’s Health Science Center where he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and the Interdisciplinary Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Buchanan also taught and conducted research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.

All three of his degrees were earned in the state of Oklahoma. He has a bachelor’s and a master’s in microbiology from the University of Oklahoma. He earned a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

Redinger is currently the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of History at the University of Providence in Great Falls, Montana. Before joining the administrative ranks at Providence, Redinger was at Montana State University-Billings for 22 years. He left Billings as the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, a position he had for six years. Also at Billings, Redinger taught in the Department of History for nearly 20 years, serving as Chair and becoming a tenured professor. Redinger also taught history at North Carolina A&T and Bennett College.

Redinger, who is scheduled to interview at CSC April 23, earned both his bachelor’s and master’s in history from the University of Montana. His Ph.D. in history is from the University of Washington.

Paddock-O’Reilly is currently an executive coach at KPL Coaching, a firm she co-founded. Prior to her personal business, Paddock-O’Reilly worked at Logan University in Chesterfield, Missouri, for eight years. She was the Vice President of Academic Affairs, the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Professor, and finally Provost and Professor. Prior to Logan University, Paddock-O’Reilly was the Dean of Online Education and the Associate Vice President for New Programs at Salem University from 2012-14. Paddock-O’Reilly also worked at A.T. Still University in Kirksville, Missouri, for seven years. She was the Dean and Associate Professor for the College of Health Sciences, a Vice Dean and Associate Professor, and an Associate Dean. Paddock-O’Reilly was responsible for training and hiring new faculty as the Associate Dean at ITT Technical Institute in Carmel, Indiana, and she was also the Academic Success Coordinator.

Paddock-O’Reilly, who will interview at CSC April 25, has five degrees. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Purdue University, a Master of Social Work from Indiana University School of Social Work, an MBA from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, and a Master of Science degree in marriage and family studies from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. Her Doctor of Health Education is from A.T. Still University.

Tchona presents Graves Lecture about preparing for graduate school

CHADRON – Chadron State College senior Emmanuella Tchona was the first student in recent history to speak during the Graves Lecture Series April 2. She will graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

She has been an Institutional Development Award Program (IDeA) Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) scholar since 2022. INBRE is a project funded by the National Institute of Health intended to train young scientists in research. The two-year internship program includes academic research at CSC for two fall semesters and at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) for two summers.

Her Chemistry adviser is Dr. Mary Keithly and the INBRE coordinator at CSC is Dr. Ann Buchmann.

Tchona said moving about every four years during her school years, helped her learn new environments and become more fluent in English. She and her family moved from Benin to Senegal at age nine. She entered a bilingual school where she learned to read, write, and study her school subjects in English. Her next move was to Nigeria for high school. Since the official language was English, she felt living in Nigeria helped accelerate her ability to communicate in English.

“Exposure to multiple cultures helped me learn that there are different ways to do things,” she said.

Tchona explained the timeline for applying to graduate school and suggested that interested students start two years in advance. She also shared advice about the value of being involved in extracurricular events and keeping a core in a major to advance toward graduating on time, which she was able to do even though she added and dropped a variety of minors.

She described living in Chadron as a haven and a forge.

“A haven during the pandemic. We were served three meals a day in the residence halls. That’s important. Being so far from home was a trial so it has made me develop strength and resilience,” she said.

She acknowledged her mentors at UNMC and CSC.

“CSC graduate Isioma Akwanamnye was an inspiration to me. She encouraged me,” Tchona said.

When Tchona enrolled at CSC, she was interested in medicine or science research. Initially, she was worried about breaking things in a lab but found when she did break a couple of things in the UNMC lab, it wasn’t terrible.

“INBRE was great for me because I was always interested in research, but I also have very diverse fields of interest and they allowed me to explore those. My first summer I worked in an organic chemistry lab and did chemical synthesis,” she said.

Later, she researched pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, and a parasitic worm disease that affects two billion people in South America, Asia, and Africa each year. Schistosomiasis is considered a neglected tropical disease. She presented her work on it at the INBRE Conference in August.

“The only treatment effective against the disease so far is called Praziquantel. But the worms will eventually become resistant to it. Steady but small signs of resistance are already popping up,” she said. “I love research. It’s fun. It’s complicated and takes a long time to see results.”

On April 19, she will make her final presentation at the Nebraska Academy of Sciences in Lincoln.

In addition to pursuing her chemistry degree, Tchona was required to do a three-semester-long research project. She decided to study how Methicillin-Resistance Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) inactivates the antibiotic Fosfomycin. MRSA is one of the bacteria that causes most of the infections patients get in a hospital.

“This is important work. Antibiotic-resistant infections are a serious problem. We have a war going on against disease and we are not prepared for it. We went through a time when antibiotics were thrown at everything. The indiscriminate use of antibiotics put pressure on the bacteria forcing it to adapt,” Tchona said.

This fall, she will enroll in a doctoral program at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Tchona explained various options after earning a doctorate including postdoctoral research, research scientist in a lab, work in a government lab, industry research and development, teaching at a college or university, market research analysis, consulting, or entrepreneurial ventures.

“The world is your oyster. I hope to go back to Nigeria and help start labs to conduct research to develop cures for diseases,” she said.