Full-time Staff

Kimberly Abels

Kimberly Abels, Director

kabels@unc.edu, (919) 962-4426
Kim’s career has been spent fostering the creative, student-centered, tech-savvy communities that are Carolina’s Writing center and Learning Center. She enjoys dynamic, interdisciplinary environments where students discuss, evaluate, imagine, discover, reflect, and stretch into new ideas and academic habits. Although she currently spends much of her time collaborating with colleagues to build Learning Center services and programs, she loves meeting with individual students and listening as they define and refine their academic selves. She’s always glad for time to travel, read, make art, and enjoy life in Durham with her husband and two teenagers.

Ashton Davis

Ashton Davis, Academic Coach, Chemistry Specialist

adavis18@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-6389
Ashton’s passion is chatting with college students about chemistry, helping them to understand and even enjoy the central science. She graduated from the University of Florida with a PhD in organic chemistry. Her favorite part of working with college students is watching their confidence bloom!  Ashton is super excited to be an academic coach specializing in chemistry at UNC-CH where she facilitates the CHEMpossible learning groups. Outside of the Learning Center, Ashton enjoys baking, exercising, reading, tacos, and corgis.

Robin Blanton

Robin Blanton, Academic Coach, Biology Specialist

rcb@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-8012
Robin’s background is in biological sciences and public health. She enjoys serving students as an academic coach and counselor.  She facilitates the learning group Bio Cell that serves students in the Biology 101 course. She also assists students as they prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).  She is passionate about her three amazing children and wonderful husband.

Christy Clemons

Christy Clemons, Peer Tutoring Coordinator

clemons@unc.edu, (919) 843-8698
Christy loves working with Carolina students, and has done so in a number of ways since coming to Chapel Hill as a grad student in American literature. She has taught writing and literature courses in the English department, served as a tutor for student athletes, and taught GRE and LSAT courses. As the peer tutor coordinator at the Learning Center, Christy selects, trains, and supervises our drop-in and appointment tutors. When she’s not working on her dissertation, she enjoys traveling, playing tennis, and beating her husband at Scrabble.

Marc Howlett

Marc Howlett, Academic Coach, Test Prep

mhowlett@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-7228
Marc is dedicated to working with college students, strongly believing that everyone can learn, improve, and succeed. As an Academic Coach, Marc collaborates with students to maximize their academic lives. He knows first-hand the transformative power of academic coaching, having utilized the Learning Center and Writing Center extensively as a UNC graduate student. Marc graduated from UNC in 2015 with a PhD in City & Regional Planning. When not working at the Learning Center, Marc and his family frequent Durham libraries, parks, gardens, and transportation facilities.

Bob Pleasants

Bob Pleasants, Assistant Director, Academic Coach

bpleas@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-9350
Bob’s career in education has given him the opportunity to work one-on-one with students, to teach in classrooms, and to create larger educational programs. He has worked as a writing tutor; taught in communities, high schools, and at Carolina; and has developed and coordinated educational programs for a variety of audiences and ages. Bob is passionate about using education as a tool for both personal reflection and social change, and he wants to create opportunities for all students who enter Carolina to succeed. In his free time, he enjoys running, cooking, reading, and discovering new music in all genres. He is a proud resident of Durham, where he lives with his wife and two daughters.

Kristen Rademacher

Kristen Rademacher, Academic Coach, ADHD/LD Specialist

krademacher@unc.edu, (919) 843-4553
Kristen’s years in education include various roles: classroom teacher, curriculum developer, private tutor and academic coach.  She enjoys helping both undergraduate and graduate students create an overall goal-centered Tar Heel experience, as well as develop effective academic skills.  Kristen has particular interest in students with ADHD and LD, and coaches them to manage and even embrace their learning differences.  Kristen loves yoga, writing, cooking, spending time with her family, and getting to the mountains or beach when she can.

Jackie Stone

Jackie Stone, Academic Coach, Math Specialist

jacsto@email.unc.edu, (919) 962-9353
Jackie is passionate about working with college students, especially at UNC!  She received her Master’s in Mathematics from Carolina, during which she had the opportunity to teach several undergraduate math classes.  She is excited to be an academic coach at the Learning Center, where she is specializing in mathematics and facilitating the Math Plus study groups for students taking Math 110, Math 130, and Math 231.  In her free time Jackie likes to hang out with Cooper, her adorable puppy, and play board games with her husband.

Graduate Learning Coaches

Miranda Elston


Miranda loves working with college students. She has taught several UNC Art History courses and recently taught university tour groups at the Ackland Art Museum. Miranda is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at UNC. When not working on her dissertation, she loves to go rock climbing, running, and hiking. When it is too hot to be outside, she enjoys watching Soccer, Rugby, UNC basketball, and playing board games.

Hafsah Tauseef


As a recent UNC Alumni, Hafsah knows how exciting and challenging academics are at Chapel Hill. She hopes that her experience as a UNC undergrad will help other students achieve their goals. She is currently getting her Master’s degree in Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, with the hopes of becoming a counselor one day. When she is not running around trying to complete all of her assignments, she is obsessively playing with makeup and trying to take Instagram worthy photos.

Erin Jones


As a Graduate Learning Coach, Erin is most looking forward to witnessing students accomplish goals they once thought impossible.  Originally from Maryland, Erin moved to Eastern North Carolina in 2015 to work as an Exceptional Children’s Teacher through Teach for America.  She is currently working on her Ph.D. in School Psychology at UNC with an interest in child, family and teacher wellness and trauma-informed education.  As an educator, Erin has taught students ages 5 to 69 from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse abilities.  In her spare time, she enjoys exploring new plant-based recipes, journaling, daydreaming, listening to self-help podcasts, and observing the antics of her yorkie, Bonnie.

Sean Adkins


Sean is a doctoral student in the School of Education, studying Latinxs in education and issues around bilingualism and biculturalism. He is a specialist in both reading and taking standardized tests, but uses and knows many other helpful skills. He was (and remains) the only person in his extended family to attend college. Originally from Seattle, Sean is proud to call Durham home. So proud, in fact, he was one of the founders of CarpeDurham, the popular food blog. When he’s not reminiscing about his glory days as a baseball player (NCAA Division I) and rock star (according to at least two fans), Sean spends his time with his wife and two dogs.

Melissa McWilliams


Originally from Rhode Island, Melissa moved to North Carolina in 2015 to pursue a doctorate in School Psychology here at UNC. Broadly speaking, her clinical interests include child mental and behavioral health and parental wellness. She also has a love for research, which is great for her role as a Graduate Research Assistant here at the Learning Center. While she may be busy with statistical analyses or writing, she enjoys the company of others so feel free to stop in and say hello! In her spare time, she enjoys daydreaming about the ocean, exercising, mud runs (think Tough Mudder and Spartan races), and spending time with friends, family, and her adorable Maltese, Ziva.

Rachel Thomas


Rachel is excited to join the Learning Center as a Graduate Learning Coach and work with college students to help them achieve their goals. She hopes to use her experiences as a peer writing tutor at the Learning Center at Penn State University, where she received a Bachelor’s in Secondary English Education. Rachel moved to Durham in 2012 as a Teach For America Corps Member. She taught English Language Arts for five years in Durham and is now working on a Master’s in School Administration at UNC. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys traveling, camping, spending time with friends, and playing board games.