Berry welcomes 31 new faculty and staff to campus

Claire Voltarel, Campus Carrier Managing Editor

This semester, Berry will welcome 31 new staff and faculty members to campus. Ranging from Texas to New York, returning students to new faces, and biology professors to social media specialists, this new group of employees is larger than the average yearly hires, according to Director of Human Resources Wayne Phipps. Nevertheless, students and current faculty alike are excited for Berry’s newest members to join the community.

Phipps is excited for this upcoming year and said these new additions have the experience, culture fit and leadership seen throughout Berry.

Caitlin Conn

Caitlin Conn, assistant professor of biology, will begin her career at Berry teaching biological diversity, cell biology and genetics.

Prior to Berry, Conn completed her undergraduate degree at Penn State University and a graduate degree from University of Georgia, as well as two postdoctoral fellowships. Most recently, Conn completed a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship working on a parasitic fungus at Emory University. While working on this research and pursuing teaching opportunities, Conn had to opportunity to teach at a Buddhist monastery in India.

However, after a friend highly recommended Berry’s biology program, and a position opened up, Conn applied and immediately fell in love with the school.

“I knew I was going to like it here, but I was not prepared for how much I was going to love it,” Conn said.

Conn is excited about the opportunity to have such a unique ecosystem to study right on campus and plans to utilize it within her classes.

“The opportunity to take students outdoors and study biology in the real world is invaluable,” Conn said.

Additionally, Conn is comforted by the small community and passion the Berry community has already exhibited.

“Everyone I met was really awesome and interested in producing the best education for the students and promoting research,” Conn said. “It just seemed like the best place that I could end up.”

Jessica Hayhurst

Unlike Conn, Jessica Hayhurst, wedding and special events coordinator, is already familiar with the Berry community. Hayhurst, a 2019 Berry graduate, knew that her career at Berry wasn’t over once she received her diploma.

“As graduation was getting closer, I just didn’t feel like I was done,” Hayhurst said. “I knew that I was going to be back somehow, some way.”

Throughout her senior year, Hayhurst continued to pursue her connections on campus. Her networking paid off, and after completing an internship for a nonprofit in Atlanta, her mentor and former Director of Special Events Kathy Ray put a good word in and helped Hayhurst obtain the newly opened position.

According to Hayhurst, one advantage to having been a student is that she was already acclimated to life at Berry. Phipps notes that this is the same reason students frequently tend to come back to work on campus.

“I know the people, I know the culture, and this already feels like home,” Hayhurst said.

However, Hayhurst said that many current students still think that she is a senior, but hopes that will settle as she transitions to a member of the staff.

For current students looking to come back to Berry, Hayhurst recommends that students maintain relationships with mentors on campus that have helped them professionally and personally.

Zoe Jackson

Zoe Jackson, assistant director of admissions, is also coming back to Berry for her second time. From 2015-2017, Jackson served as an admissions counselor on campus. After attending graduate school back in her home state of Texas and staying connected to Berry through some part-time work, Jackson decided it was time to commit back to Berry full-time. Now, Jackson is currently working remotely in Texas for western recruiting, online applications, working with international students and more, where she gets to be a part of both communities that she loves.

“It’s been a great transition,” Jackson said. “Berry is so special to me, but I also love Texas so much because it’s my home. So I’m really getting the best of both worlds.”

Jackson said that, when recruiting, Berry is the easiest college to sell. According to Jackson, apart from academics, the work and experiential opportunities Berry offers are some of her favorite aspects about the college.

Jackson also loves Berry’s history and traditions and, as a woman, Martha Berry is an inspiration to her.

“I just really connect with the mission and values of Berry,” Jackson said. “I whole-heartedly believe in the values that we stand for.”

For brand new hires, Jackson believes open-mindedness to Berry’s quirks and traditions is the key to success on campus.

“Come in with an open mind and be prepared to fall in love with this place,” Jackson said.

Kendra Murphy

Kendra Murphy, Berry’s newest area coordinator, is transitioning to the South after having a career at SUNY Dehli State University in New York serving as assistant director of student activities.

Murphy is glad to move away from the cold and get back to Georgia, as she graduated from Mercer University. After a year in New York, Murphy realized she missed living among and working with students. She admired that aspect in Berry’s close-knit community, especially working for residence life, as well as several other of Berry’s unique opportunities and decided to apply. After a visit and a tour, Murphy was sold.

“I came on campus and I was in love,” Murphy said.

Murphy has been on campus for five weeks now, preparing for students to move in and training resident assistants. She is already impressed by the dedication she has seen in her students.

“The students are excited to be here and are excited to return to campus and make a difference,” Murphy said. “One thing I love about student affairs is watching students get involved outside of the classroom.”

Sara Pecina

After graduating with a master’s of dance in May from the University of Oklahoma, Sara Pecina actively applied for teaching jobs. According to Pecina, as soon as she saw Berry’s campus and learned that the dance programs had tap and jazz (her areas of expertise), she knew this was the place for her. Pecina applied and is now Berry’s new visiting professor of fine arts and dance. She will also be leading the dance troupe this year.

Pecina’s primary goal is to get to know the program and see what she can bring to the table.

“I’m inheriting two decades worth of someone else’s work,” Pecina said. “So I want to see what’s here and what else I can do to enhance the program.”

Pecina said she has been welcomed with kindness from everyone she’s met and already feels supported.

These hires will not be the only addition Berry will make this year. According to Cindy Marchant, manager of human resources, there are still 6-7 available positions that Berry is looking to fill.

See the full list below.


Amy Abrams | Assistant Professor of Animal Science

Jon Blackburn | Salesforce Administrator

Timothy Chesnut | Forestry Manager

Matthew Collins | Librarian

Caitlin Conn | Assistant Professor of Biology

Margaret Cooper | Assistant CDC Teacher

Mark Denninghoff | Assistant Professor of Government and International Studies

Blakely Hall | Admissions Counselor

Craig Hall | Graphics Designer

Catherine Hamrick | Content Strategist & Copywriter

Jessica Hayhurst | Wedding & Special Events Coordinator

Katelyn Hill | Assistant Director of Hospitality & Events

Zoe Jackson | Assistant Director of Admissions

Miranda Knight | Clinical Assistant Professor of Animal Science and College Veterinarian

Emily Lambert | Mountain Campus Groundskeeper

Ella Makin | Groundskeeper Angel Mason | Director of Athletics

Morgan Mason | Assistant Coach of Track & Field

Claire Mulkey | Information Systems Coordinator

Kendra Murphy | Area Coordinator

Nirmal Nischal | Instructor of Physics

Sara Pecina | Assistant Professor of Dance

Douglas Pfeffer | Assistant Professor of Mathematics

Caleb Reynolds | Housekeeper

Jamie Saye | Clinical Instructor of Nursing

Hannah Stuart | Social Media Marketing Specialist

Angie Weeks | Housekeeper

Christopher Whitmire | Clinical Instructor of Creative Technologies

Tami Wilcox | Assistant CDC Teacher

Annie Paige Wilson | Director of Annual Giving

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