Brandeis GPS Blog

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Category: Faculty Spotlights (page 1 of 2)

2023 Rabb School of Continuing Studies Award for Outstanding Teaching presented to Meredith Fortney

Written by Meredith Fortney

I owe my love of learning and teaching to my mother; she was an educator her whole career and taught me that teaching is one way to have a positive and lasting impact on others. I have carried this philosophy with me throughout my life and career, hoping to help others both personally and professionally. Marketing was my minor in college (I thought I wanted to be a TV news reporter, but things changed), and it made an impression on me as a space where anything could happen. Once I graduated from Auburn University, I joined a small, boutique marketing agency in Atlanta, GA where I dove headfirst into campaigns, reporting, optimization, and learning all I could about my clients.

I believe that my hunger for learning has been the single most active driving force in my career. I seek challenges when I am no longer learning or able to grow at a company or within a role. I challenged myself and successfully earned my MBA while working full-time. I have always loved school, but also knew having advanced business knowledge would help me progress in my career, and allow me the opportunity to mentor others who were looking to grow in their professions. While in my online MBA program, I had the opportunity to attend a few in-person speaking engagements, where I learned there was a path to online teaching for me once I had graduated. I knew this was the opportunity I was looking for to continue my quest for learning and sharing, so I began applying to different adjunct positions immediately upon earning my degree. I was lucky to land at Brandeis over seven years ago, and being an instructor here has provided me the opportunity to pass on the wisdom, experience, and perspectives of my nearly 20-year career with others who are interested in the world of marketing. 

I believe teaching also makes me a better people leader at work, and I use the skills I have learned in the academic space to aid my teams’ career development and progress. Nothing makes me happier or more fulfilled than seeing others reach their potential or achieve their goals through learning and development, from my students to my team members. I hope my passion for learning and knowledge sharing has inspired others to go out and do the same for their communities because the more we learn and share, the bigger impact we will have overall. The Graduate Professionals Studies program is a wonderful place for senior career experts to have a tangible impact on students, and hopefully, some of my students will be here teaching in my place in the future. 


Meredith Fortney, Digital Marketing and Design Faculty at GPS, is the Director of Talent Acquisition Programs at FanDuel where she leads the Talent Marketing, Employer Branding, and Early Careers teams. Throughout her tenure as a marketing and branding expert, she’s led teams at Kirkland’s, Cummins, Asurion, and most recently HelloFresh. Meredith has been teaching for The Rabb School for seven years and was recently appointed to the Advisory Board representing the Digital Marketing and Design program.

Meredith lives in New York City with her wife Alex, and three dogs Cooper, Huck, & Eros. When she’s not working and/or teaching, she loves to read, learn about wine, watch documentaries, and she never misses a day of Wordle.


For more information on the MS in Digital Marketing and Design or any other GPS programs, visit our website.

Faculty Spotlight: Sean Milligan

Sean MilliganFaculty member Sean Milligan teaches in the Project and Program Management MS. Having worked in the project management realm for almost 30 years, Sean knows the ins and outs of the industry and the changes it has undergone. At GPS, Sean teaches the course “The Human Side of Project Leadership,” which dives into the people side of managing projects and programs. 

What led you to the project and program management field?

I love this question, because while Project Managers found the field in so many different ways, responses are pretty similar sometimes.  In essence, I started my professional career as a technical writer and got somewhat bored quickly.  Someone commented on my ability to organize and set goals with the writing I was doing and suggested that I look into Project Management.  I did, and the control freak in me really liked what I saw, so I pursued a position with the same company and off I went into the Project Management realm.  Almost 30 years later, that path has provided me with so many wonderful experiences.

What industry trend is currently exciting you?

What excites me about Project Management is the evolution the field has experienced.  Years ago, the Business Analysis and Project Management fields underwent a marriage of sorts and the two roles became quite similar.  Over the last few years, organizations have driven another evolution and Project Managers are viewed less as administrative roles and more as leaders who are driving strategic planning and objectives.  I find this trend exciting, and also get excited by the fact that we rarely hear about too many organizations that don’t have a Project Management function…and that function is now part of the strategic arms of companies.

What are your best hopes for students in your courses?

I created and now teach a course called “The Human Side of Project Leadership,” which dives into the people side of managing projects and programs. The course teaches students about the human factors that are evident in the teams they manage, and helps them to analyze strategies for effectively applying these factors to their leadership style.  My hope is that this course and others in the program provide students with the ability to find that delicate balance between the science of Project Management and the art of leadership.

Any advice for students or alumni who are job searching or preparing for a project and program management job search in the near future?

Prepare yourself to excel at leading without direct authority over the people and teams you will be managing.  There are so many resources available to students and alumni on leadership, leadership styles, team dynamics, etc., and not taking the time to hone in on your leadership skills is a big miss in today’s job market.  Project Managers who are simply acting as administrators are few and far between, as organizations are looking for candidates that can effectively lead their teams and meet strategic objectives.  I sound like a broken record, but today’s Project Managers have to balance the science with the art. 


For more information on the Project and Program Management MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Software Engineering

Erik Hemdal smiles at cameraFaculty: Erik Hemdal

Program: Software Engineering

Spring-2 Course: RSEG 126 Release Control & Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (DevOps)

Education: Rochester Institute of Technology, MS

Bio: Erik Hemdal is a Principal Quality Development Engineer at InterSystems Corporation. Previously, he served for many years in various customer success, development, and quality assurance positions.

About the course

Release control is the foundation of software quality. In this course, we’ll explore a variety of topics that are important for software release control and configuration management. Good practices in these areas can be the difference between a resounding success and a spectacular failure for a development team – or even an entire software organization. Without reliable release and configuration control, software quality is impossible to achieve.


For more information on the Software Engineering MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Digital Marketing and Design

Dr. Kyle Allison headshot - man smiles into cameraFaculty: Dr. Kyle Allison

Program: Digital Marketing and Design

Course: RDMD 110: Search Engine Marketing and Optimization

Education: California Intercontinental University, DBA; Amberton University, MBA; University of North Texas, BA

Bio: Dr. Kyle Allison is known as The Doctor of Digital Strategy. He is an author, business & marketing professor, and senior executive in the e-commerce & digital marketing industry. Having worked for some of the top retail organizations in the industry, from Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, & the Exchange, Dr. Allison has led high-impact digital strategies in technology, marketing campaigns, e-commerce experiences, and more. Focused on enthusiasm, education, and excellence, the core of the business strategy is in all pillars of his academic and professional work experience.

As a passionate professor with experience in a wide variety of digital marketing, analytics, management, and business subjects, Dr. Allison enjoys guiding the next generation of digital marketing professionals.

What can students expect to learn in this course? 

Students will learn in SEM and SEO the framework, concepts and relevance of these disciplines. Students will learn and appreciate the knowledge they will gain on what keyword research is, and how to strengthen google search ranking based on SEO type strategies. In addition, students will learn about paid listings or paid search ads, that help generate brand awareness and website traffic. Also, sometimes individuals may think that SEO is just about the keywords, and it is, but in this class we will teach the importance of the entire website experience as well, and how that helps boost rankings of search results. There is a good amount of both analytics but creative elements of SEO and SEM so it serves a good balance for any learner type.

What do you enjoy about teaching this course?

I look forward to being able to tie the course content to real world application. SEO/SEM constantly changes in real time, so with this very real-time digital channel, I look forward to engaging the students on these concepts.

Anything else you would like to share with a prospective student?

If you love technology and solving puzzles, this class is for you!


For more information on the Digital Marketing and Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Bioinformatics

Woman stands in front of greenery and cacti, smilingFaculty: Alexandra Maertens

Program: Bioinformatics

Spring-2 Course: RBIF 114: Molecular Profiling and Biomarker Discovery

Education: PhD in Toxicology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Bio: Alexandra Maertens is an Assistant Scientist at the Center for Alternatives in Animal Testing at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a consultant at the Consortium for Environmental Risk Assessment. Alexandra is interested in how many new mechanisms of genetic regulation are being uncovered – every day more is learned about the importance of DNA architecture, epigenetic mechanisms, non-coding RNA.

What can students expect to learn in this course? 

In this course, students will learn basic bioinformatics analysis techniques to understand omics data and connect that data to biomarkers that can be used to predict relevant health outcomes, as well as some newer technologies such as proteomics and metabolomics.

What do you enjoy about teaching this course?

I enjoy the variety of students – ranging from MDs who are brushing up their -omics skills to bench scientists looking to explore bioinformatics.

Anything else you would like to share with a prospective student?

Don’t be intimidated by the coding – there is of course a bit of a learning curve, but it is not as steep as it appears!


For more information on the Bioinformatics MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Dave Lumerman

Photo of David Lumerman.

Dave Lumerman, User-Centered Design faculty, is Corporate Vice President of User Experience at New York Life Insurance, where he develops engaging interaction for New York Life websites, applications and interactive experiences, and has done so for over 20 years. Previously, he developed online games and game shows with Pearson Television and Uproar! Games, most notably “Family Feud” and “To Tell the Truth.” Dave earned his masters degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and undergraduate degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

What led you to the User Experience (UX) field?

I have been involved with user experience longer than people have used the term. As a game designer you become very interested in the mechanics of what motivates people to complete actions, this is something today we refer to as gamification. 

But it wasn’t until my early days at my current company that we began referring to the field as it is today. That’s when I began to really focus on user experience, when I methodically started crafting designs and then testing them and seeing how the interaction I was designing affected (both positively and negatively) the experience.

What industry trend is currently exciting you?

The trend toward accessibility and beyond is exciting. Transitioning from creating an experience for a narrow set of special users, to taking the leap to inclusive design, which is considering the full range of human diversity to empower people – all people – to design products, sites and services is more beneficial.

What are your best hopes for students in your courses?

While tools and technique are a natural part of all the courses I teach, the greatest thing I can impart to my students is the ability to think independently, and form their own conclusions and analysis. It’s the independent thought, the ability to “show their work” intellectually that is key. This idea is my north star for my students, and will hopefully take them through successful careers to places they couldn’t even imagine today.

Any advice for students or alumni who are job searching or preparing for a UX job search in the near future?

My advice aligns with drawing conclusions and creating thoughtful analysis. Anyone with enough time and patience can create a portfolio of work, but what sets you apart is the ability to explain the choices you made, and reasoning behind the pictures. 

Having artifacts that are done well and explained well – in human terms, not pseudo analytical terms – can get your foot in the door. Once you are in, being thoughtful, with the ability to present your ideas and conclusions effectively will help you excel.

What is a fun fact about you that the Brandeis GPS community members may not already know?

Most folks don’t know that I am a serial cast iron collector. I love cooking using cast iron, dutch ovens, and cast iron pans, in the oven, the stovetop or over a campfire. I own so many cast iron pieces that I have a five-foot stand in my dining room dedicated to holding it all – much to my wife’s chagrin.


For more information on the User-Centered Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Ross Morrone

a family of five huddle together and smile at the cameraFaculty member Ross Morrone teaches courses in both the Strategic Analytics and Digital Marketing and Design MS programs. Ross is passionate about sharing his professional experience with students to give them a unique perspective on marketing, analytics, and more. He earned his MS in Computer Information Systems from Youngstown University. Ross has personal marketing ventures that include his podcast This is Marketing and a YouTube channel to document his family’s summer camping adventures.

What led you to the marketing field?

I started my career in 2006 as a web developer at Youngstown State in Ohio. It might be surprising, but I have no formal education in marketing. At that time the Internet was moving faster than any marketing office could keep up with and I saw opportunities to immerse myself into new trends and technologies that were keeping pace. I wouldn’t say I led myself into the marketing field as much as I would say that it grabbed ahold of me. I fell in love with the idea that through design, marketing, advertising and branding I could help connect customers in a meaningful way to whatever any business was selling.  

What industry trend is currently exciting you?

The focus on data! Data rules the world and I’m excited that there is this trend in higher education that is focused on programming around helping to create professionals that understand how that data impacts everything from marketing to business operations. The challenge is creating teams that can share that data between one another to help improve those operations in a strategic way. 

What are your best hopes for the students in your courses?

My hope when I started teaching was to bring my own professional experiences to my courses and give students a practical understanding of how marketing works. Over the years, I got to see those ah-ha moments in the discussions where I knew they were taking my lessons and applying them to their own careers. At the end of the day, I teach because I believe through my own career wins and losses that I have experience that will help others. I want every student to walk away after 10 weeks with ideas that will help them in their own careers – the best part is I get to see this all the time. It’s really rewarding! 

Any advice for students or alumni who are job searching or preparing for a marketing job search in the near future?

Do not settle on one idea of what marketing is. Marketing is 1,000 different things that make up the whole. Read about new trends, think innovatively and try everything you can. I’ve failed over and over with marketing ideas, not landing a client I wanted to or investing in a campaign that did not turn out well – and I still do all the time. It’s through that process I have a better understanding of why and what needs to be done differently to be successful for whatever business I am working with. It’s easy to feel like you have imposter syndrome in marketing when a marketing strategy doesn’t pan out the way you thought it would, but if you are willing to learn from it you will continue to flourish in your career. 

What is a fun fact about you that Brandeis GPS community members may not already know?

My wife, Steph, and I manage a YouTube channel (@smorervfun) that focuses on following us around when we camp with our kids in the summer. It’s our second YouTube channel that we have (the other is @RandomReviewsHowTos) that we are hoping to monetize next year. Is this a cheap marketing plug? You betcha! But it’s a great way for us to capture those moments with our kids and have others follow along, plus, we have those videos to watch forever. We’ve also made a lot of friends that we get to regularly see at campgrounds that have found us through YouTube and it’s awesome to have that community on the trails! 


For more information on the Strategic Analytics MS, the Digital Marketing and Design MS, or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Annie Shebanow

What led you to the business and technology fields? Growing up, I loved science technology, and I was fascinated by computers. After finishing high school in Iran, I immigrated to the United States to attend U.C. Berkeley’s Computer Science program. I wanted to be at the forefront of inventing new technologies that could help every person and connect them together like never before. 

After I graduated college, I worked for different Silicon Valley tech companies. As my career progressed, I wanted to do something beyond working for large companies. I wanted to focus on specific areas that I was deeply passionate about, one being agriculture. 

Over time, I started multiple companies, each using some form of computer technology and software to solve problems. Each endeavor was as exciting as the one before it. It wasn’t long before I realized that I loved entrepreneurship. I loved that I could blend my love for business and technology together and see it succeed. 

My hope is others can fall in love with the two like I have. It’s really something else!

What industry trend is currently exciting you? I’m immensely excited by the space industry. We are seeing a space race amongst private companies all the while countries like the United States and China are working to send people back to the moon. NASA’s James Webb Telescope left me in awe by how far it could peer into the cosmos, and I remain on the edge of my seat by what it could potentially discover about life on other planets. I cannot wait for what is to come in space discovery over the next two decades. 

What are your best hopes for Strategic Analytics students who take your courses? My hope is that all my students leave my class wanting to be lifelong learners in this field. Strategic analytics is such an exciting journey. We can sift through enormous amounts of data and information in ways that can solve the world’s biggest problems. This is a lifelong exploration that you can never stop learning from, and my hope is my class helps in this adventure.

What is a fun fact that the Brandeis GPS community may not know about you? Hmm… a couple fun facts: 

  • I love Ted Talk videos! My YouTube suggestions are filled with various talks and I often find myself watching multiple videos a week.
  • My first name is Anna but somewhere somehow in my legal documents it got switched to Annie. Someday it will switch back.
  • I’ve grown deeply passionate about global warming issues and its impact on agriculture. I’m now exploring ways data analytics can help coffee bean research and production!
  • I have a small cat that frequently interrupts my Zoom calls.

For more information on the Strategic Analytics MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: Digital Innovation for FinTech

Faculty: Mike Storiale

Program: Digital Innovation for FinTech

Course: RDFT 101 The New Economy: Global Disruption and the Emergence of FinTech

Education: University of Hartford, M.B.A.

Bio: Mike Storiale is AVP, Innovation Development for Synchrony, the largest provider of private label and co-brand credit cards in the country. At Synchrony, Mike focuses on building the future of technology for their clients and cardholders. Prior to Synchrony, Mike was VP, Digital Banking Manager for Guilford Savings Bank in CT where he developed, implemented and managed all customer-facing technology. His responsibilities spanned the Bank’s digital properties, including online and mobile banking, digital acquisition channels, the corporate Website, voice response unit and the call center. Mike received his Masters of Business Administration from the University of Hartford, and his undergraduate degree in Business with a concentration in International Business and Marketing from Wagner College in New York.

Why is this course important or valuable to a FinTech student?

This course will give FinTech students a robust understanding of traditional banking and finance, as well as the major events that got us here. We pair that with exploration of the emerging and disruptive environments, bringing it all together to help students learn how to build competitive FinTech product strategies.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course? 

This course changes every year, and the environment of FinTech is evolving so quickly that students are often learning things that are happening in real time.

Anything else you would like to share with a student interested in enrolling in the course?

This course will help you learn how to think strategically about building new products, and is an exciting way to grow in the FinTech industry.

For more information on the Digital Innovation for FinTech or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

Faculty Spotlight: User-Centered Design

Faculty: Amy Deschenes

Program: User-Centered Design

Course: RUCD 140 Research Methods

Education: Simmons University, MLIS

Bio: Amy Deschenes is a leader in UX and digital accessibility in higher education. She is currently the Head of UX & Digital Accessibility at Harvard Library where she works with librarians and archivists on digital projects. In 2015 she led the establishment of the User Research Center, Harvard’s only usability and digital accessibility lab. She speaks about her work on a regular basis and has presented at conferences like Ladies That UX & UXPA. In addition to Research Methods, she also teaches RUCD 175 Universal Design & Digital Accessibility. You can see examples of her work on https://amydeschenes.com/.

Why is this course important or valuable to a UCD student?

This course gives you the opportunity to get real hands-on experience with a variety of UX research methods. You get to apply these concepts to a real research question or design problem of your choosing. It introduces you to key qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, including surveys, interviews, and usability testing. You also get to practice aspects of project management through your coursework. Even if you’re not intending to be a researcher full-time, this course will give you insight into why research is so important to user-centered design.

Why do you enjoy teaching this course?

This class is fun because students get to select their own research topics and I learn about subject areas outside of my own expertise through their work. In the past students have completed projects about how the pandemic impacted exercise preferences, preferences around video game player styles, and how pet owners find help online. I love being able to lead students through the process of applying the research methods in a real-world context.

For more information on the User-Centered Design MS or other online master’s degrees available at GPS, please visit brandeis.edu/gps.

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