Faculty, Leadership and Board of Trust

Rick Oliver

Dr. Richard Oliver is the CEO of American Sentinel University. Previously, he was a professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. While there, Dr. Oliver received the Outstanding Professor Award and a Dean’s Teaching Award. For several years, he served as a visiting professor of management at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. In 2016 he was named a Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) 2016 Innovation Award Winner. The award recognized his vision and guidance to introduce several key technological advances geared to assisting students to successfully complete their coursework at the University.

Prior to his academic career, Dr. Oliver had a 20-year career at Nortel Networks, where he was vice president of marketing, and he also worked for DuPont Co. Dr. Oliver is the author of seven books and more than 50 book chapters and journal articles about management, technology and education, and has lectured around the world on these topics.

He served on the editorial boards of the Journal of Services Marketing and the Journal of Strategic Management Education. Dr. Oliver has served on seven corporate boards and was chairman of the board of directors of Symmetricom, a high-tech telecommunications company, from 1997 to 2004.

Dr. Oliver holds a Ph.D. in informatics from the State University of New York, a Master of Arts in communications from the University of Delaware and a Bachelor of Science in economics from Cornell University.

Mary Adams

Mary Adams is the president and chief academic officer of American Sentinel University. She has more than 25 years of experience in distance education, including serving as president of Aspen University from 1992 to 2004. Ms. Adams served as commissioner of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, DEAC (Formerly Distance Education and Training Council-DETC), and as past chair of the Research and Education Standards Committee. She has chaired more than 30 accreditation visits and received the DETC’s Distinguished Service Award and Distinguished Recognition Award. In 2016 she received the DEAC’s Person of the Year award, their highest recognition for individual achievement.

Ms. Adams holds an MBA from ISIM University and a Bachelor of Arts in history from California State University, Fullerton.

Donna Prudhomme is the chief financial officer of American Sentinel University. She has over 20 years’ experience in accounting with ten years in higher education. Prior to coming to American Sentinel, Donna was the assistant southeast area director of finance for Ernst and Young. While at American Sentinel, Donna has served as the controller and institutional research analyst.

Ms. Prudhomme holds an MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting from the University of Alabama.

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  • Kristine Zewe, Senior Vice President, University Administration, People & Culture
  • Brian Carlisle, Vice President, Information Technology
  • Loren Ellison, Vice President, Strategic Programs
  • Christine Hansen, Vice President, Operations
  • Natalie Hunter, Vice President, Financial Aid & Compliance
  • Tiina Hyvonen, Vice President, Marketing Operations
  • Dr. Victor Menin, Vice President, Admissions Services
  • Devon Putnam, Vice President, Student Engagement
  • Michael Rickart, Vice President, Partner Engagement

Healthcare Learning Innovations provides a comprehensive digital portfolio of interactive courses, educational simulations, and innovative learning products and services for healthcare professionals as well as educators.

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan is the president of Healthcare Learning Innovations at American Sentinel University. He has an extensive background in healthcare and healthcare IT, strategic business development, and online learning. Previously, Jeff was senior vice president of enrollment and retention at American Sentinel University.

Prior to American Sentinel, Mr. Caplan was the executive vice president for a specialty healthcare media company and the vice president of marketing and product management for a healthcare electronic exchange between hospitals and suppliers. Mr. Caplan spent his early career at DuPont, where he led a variety of businesses and functions.

Mr. Caplan holds an MBA from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from Rutgers University.

Elaine Foster

Dr. Elaine Foster is the Dean, Nursing and Healthcare Programs at American Sentinel University. Previously, she was the Associate Dean for the School of Nursing at Kaplan University, overseeing the nursing program and its faculty and operations, launching new programs and managing all accreditation issues. For 27 years, Dr. Foster held various leadership roles at Southwestern Michigan College, including Dean of the School of Nursing and Human Services and Dean of academic studies. She has presented at numerous state and national conferences. In 2007, she served on a nursing legislative task force for the state of Michigan to develop a plan to reduce the shortage of nurses in the state.

Dr. Foster is a member of the National League of Nursing and Sigma Theta Tau International. She is a Program Evaluator for Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. She is a past member of several state and national professional associations, including the Michigan Liberal Arts Deans organization, the National Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, the Northern Indiana Organization of Nurse Executives and the Michigan Council of Nursing Education Administrators (for which she served as president). Dr. Foster also serves on the board of trustees for the Cass County Council on Aging.

Dr. Foster holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership and administration from Andrews University, a Master of Science Nursing from Andrews University and a Bachelor of Science Nursing from the University of Michigan.

Yolanda Smith

Dr. Yolanda Smith is Chair of the DNP Programs at American Sentinel University. Previously, she was the Chair/Nurse Administrator of the BSN program at Oakwood University, and before that served as nursing faculty where she taught various courses in the classroom and clinical environments. She has been in the field of education for over 19 years, eight of which has been devoted to nursing education. Dr. Smith has held direct nursing positions in various areas including long-term care, rehabilitative care, care management, pain management, and ambulatory same-day surgery. Her research interests include strategies for enhancing student success where her doctoral work focused testing a model to examine the relationship between nurse educators’ intent to use and actual use of evidence-based critical thinking strategies to promote critical thinking skills in nursing students.

Dr. Smith is a member of various professional organizations including American Nurses Association, Alabama State Nurses Association, National League for Nursing, and Sigma Theta Tau International. She is also a Program Evaluator for the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).

Dr. Smith holds an Ed.D. specializing in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University, a Master of Science Nursing/Nursing Education from Andrews University, and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rutgers University.

Lauren Stehling
Dr. Lauren Stehling is the Director of the Nurse Practitioner Program. She has over 16 years of experience working in nursing education in various roles. Dr. Stehling graduated from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA with her Doctorate in Nursing Practice; holds a Masters in Nursing Education from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. Dr. Stehling received a Post-Masters Certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner and is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.
Karen Whitham

Dr. Karen Whitham is the associate dean of nursing and healthcare programs at American Sentinel University. Previously, she was the assistant dean of undergraduate nursing programs and before that a member of the nursing faculty at Rasmussen College. Dr. Whitham has held various roles at Kaplan University, including Director of Pre-licensure Initiatives, practical nursing professor, clinical coordinator and adjunct online nursing professor. She worked as a staff nurse on a medical/surgical/telemetry unit at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, where she also was a clinical instructor in the College of Health Sciences.

Dr. Whitham is a Certified Nurse Educator and is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, the National League for Nursing and the International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. She is also a Program Evaluator for the Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation.

Dr. Whitham holds an M.S. in higher education, teaching and learning, from Kaplan University, an MSN (leadership in healthcare systems emphasis) from Regis University, a BSN from the University of Iowa and an A.S. in nursing from Mercy College of Health Sciences. She completed a Doctor of Education in healthcare education from the College of Saint Mary.


Dr. Melissa Penner is the chair of the MSN program and associate professor at American Sentinel University. Previously, she was the Simulation and Clinical sites Manager at Kaplan School of Nursing in Chicago, Ill, where she lead the implementation of a simulation program for 16 campus based pre-licensure programs across the nation and integrated simulation into the curriculum of nursing programs. Dr. Penner fulfilled various roles at Kaplan University, including full time and adjunct faculty member for PN, ADN, BSN and MSN courses and served as a campus Director of Nursing for PN program. Dr. Penner worked as an RN in the office/surgery at Quinlan Eye Surgery and Laser Center and at Iowa Methodist Medical Center in the adult Emergency Department and Operating Room. Dr. Penner gained experience as an LPN in the long term care setting.

Dr. Penner has earned distinction from the National League of Nursing as a Certified Nurse Educator and is a board member of the Chi Alpha chapter of Sigma Theta International and is a member of the National League for Nursing. She is also a volunteer with Unity Point Nurse Honor Guard.

Dr. Penner holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) from American Sentinel University, a Master of Art in Teaching and Learning, with an emphasis on teaching with technology, a Master of Science degree in nursing education from Kaplan University, a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Mercy College of Health Sciences, and an Associate Degree and Diploma in nursing from Marshalltown Community College.


Dr. Joanne Nanavaty is the Chair of the RN to BSN program and an Assistant Professor in Nursing at American Sentinel University. She was an adjunct for the university for over seven years before joining the university full-time. Previously, she was the Lead Instructor for Stone Academy. Dr. Nanavaty worked as a float staff nurse and trained at the Cleveland Clinic for the open-heart step-down unit at Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Her experience also includes school nursing from kindergarten through the 12th grade and as a LPN instructor at Lincoln Technical Institute schools. As Program Coordinator for a health district, she supervised and coordinated health education and prevention programs, health screenings, and immunization clinics. As Community Educator for the Midwestern Connecticut Council on Alcoholism, she developed and presented health education and risk reduction programs for local municipalities. Dr. Nanavaty organized various preventative screening programs and health education programs for St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut as Coordinator of Programs and Services.

Dr. Nanavaty is a member of Sigma Theta Tau, International Nursing Honor Society, Kappa Alpha Chapter. She has published in the nursing journal Nurse Education Today.

Dr. Nanavaty holds a Doctorate of Education in Nursing Education at Western Connecticut State University, a MSN (Management and Organizational Leadership) from American Sentinel University, a BSN from Western Connecticut State University, a BS in Health Education from Western Connecticut State University, and Minor in Biology from Western Connecticut State University.

American Sentinel University’s faculty members are subject-matter experts who deliver a quality academic experience. Our faculty includes part-time and full-time professors.

Ken McLennan

Dr. Kenneth McLennan has extensive experience in higher education, government and nonprofit organizations, and was president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance from 1987 to 1999. He has served on the faculty of University of Guelph, Ryerson University, Rutgers University and Temple University where he was Chair of the Department of Economics. He has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and in the graduate Public Policy Program at the College of William and Mary.

Currently, Dr. McLennan is an adjunct faculty member in the Joint Eastern Virginia Medical School – Old Dominion University Master of Public Health Program where he teaches the course ‘Public Health Administration and Management’. In government, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Development, U.S. Department of Labor (on leave from Temple University (1972-1974). He was Division Chief, Social Affairs and Industrial Relations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Paris, France (on leave from Temple University, (1972-1977).

Dr. McLennan’s Ph.D. is from University of Wisconsin-Madison, his MBA is from the University of Toronto and his B.Sc. is from the London School of Economics.

Michael Bowling

Michael Bowling is President, DirectTV Latin America Northern Region. Previously, he was a Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy at AT&T. In that role, Mr. Bowling was responsible for driving AT&T’s over-all long-term planning and strategic initiatives.

Prior to his role at AT&T, Mr. Bowling served as Chief Marketing Officer, Business Solutions. In that role, Michael was responsible for driving the growth of a $37B wireline business as well as the Business Mobility service portfolio. He had also been President of AT&T Mexico and served on the Boards of Telmex and Telmex International. Previously, with BellSouth, Mr. Bowling was Vice President of Converged Services and Platform Development as well as Vice President of Marketing and Product Management for Broadband from 2003 to 2005. He also served in a wide range of marketing and sales capacities within BellSouth’s domestic enterprise and consumer operations since joining BellSouth in 1990.

In addition, he serves as Adjunct Professor of Management at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree in business administration from Vanderbilt University.

Bob Neumeister

Robert Neumeister has served as a senior financial executive for numerous companies over a 40 year career. He has served as EVP and CFO of Linux Networks, Dex Media, Prolexis Pharmaceuticals, and Aerie Networks. He also held the positions of VP- Financial Operations for Intel, CFO of Sprint PCS and SVP – Finance and Controller of Nortel Networks. In 2008, he was Chairman of the Board and CEO of Geeknet, for which he served on the board of directors from 2001 until 2010. Previously, Mr. Neumeister served on the boards of Symmetricom and Covad Communications Group.

Mr. Neumeister holds an MBA from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts in economics and English from Vanderbilt University.

Natasha Blackshear

Natasha Blackshear is an attorney in private practice. Ms. Blackshear’s prior experience includes serving as partner at Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP, running its Nashville office. In 2011, Ms. Blackshear was recognized by the Nashville Post as one of Nashville’s top 101 lawyers.

Prior to her legal career, Ms. Blackshear was a venture capitalist for five years at Council Ventures, LP, where she was part of a four-person team investing a $52 million fund. She also worked as a corporate valuation consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ms. Blackshear was appointed by former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen to the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth and served as a commissioner for nine years. She served for eight years on the board of directors of Market Matters, Inc., an independent, notfor-profit international development organization.

Ms. Blackshear is admitted to the bar associations of New York, Massachusetts (retired status) and Tennessee. Ms. Blackshear holds a J.D. from Harvard University and an MBA and Bachelor of Science in applied economics and management from Cornell University.

Judy Burckhardt

Dr. Judy Burckhardt served as dean of nursing and healthcare programs at American Sentinel University from 2013 until 2017. Previously, she was the dean of nursing and health programs at Kaplan Higher Education Campuses and before that, the vice president of Kaplan’s School of Nursing. Dr. Burckhardt has many years of experience as an educator and administrator in diploma, ADN and BSN programs. She led the nursing division at Kaplan Test Preparation and spearheaded the development and growth of the company’s nursing programs. Dr. Burckhardt is the co-author of a top-selling book of strategies for preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam and has published numerous articles for nursing publications.

Dr. Burckhardt holds a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Nebraska, a Master of Arts in education with an adult education emphasis from Washington University, a Master of Science Nursing with a nursing education emphasis from Kaplan University and a Bachelor of Science Nursing from Loyola University.

Frank Mayadas

Dr. Frank Mayadas has served as a senior advisor to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation since 2010, advising the foundation on its continuing grants in the Anytime, Anyplace Learning Program. From 1992 to 2009, he served as a program director at the foundation.

Previously, Dr. Mayadas spent 27 years at the IBM Corporation, serving in a number of capacities, including vice president, research division, technical plans and controls; vice president, technology and solutions development; general manager, university and college systems, IBM personal systems; and secretary of IBM’s Corporate Management Board and the IBM Management Committee, among other positions.

Dr. Mayadas holds a Ph.D. in applied physics from Cornell University and a B.S. from the Colorado School of Mines.