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Academic Advisement Staff

Department People
Natalie Brown

Natalie Brown, PhD

Academic Advisement Director

Natalie has been advising students for over ten years and particularly enjoys working with students from diverse backgrounds and cultures. She currently oversees the Academic Advisement Office and works with the International academic advisors to help students understand degree plans and steps to complete degrees. Prior to her work at TMCC, she was one of the international academic advisors at the University of Utah and traveled to China on various trips to advise students on programs and transfer possibilities as well as developed programming to assist all new international students in the transition to education in the U.S. She obtained her undergraduate and masters degree in Spanish and loves to travel to places where she can keep up that language skill as well as new countries she has never been. Natalie serves as a backup to international student academic advisors.

Grecia Anaya

Grecia Anaya-Arevalo, MA

Academic Advisor

Grecia Anaya-Arevalo was born in Mexico but has lived in the United States most of her life. Her desire to help others started when she became a mentor for the Dean’s Future Scholars (DFS) program at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the program, she had the opportunity to work with students one-on-one and to foster rapport with many individuals. As an undergraduate, she thought she wanted to pursue a career in business, but working with students helped her realize she enjoyed working with students a lot more than working with numbers. She completed a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership in the summer of 2014. In her free time, Grecia enjoys reading, staying active and spending time with family and friends. In addition to advising students, Grecia is the liaison to the Technical Sciences and coordinates pre-professional advising and major exploration.
 
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Rachel Blackburn

Rachel Blackburn

Admin Assistant 3

Rachel was born in San Diego, CA and moved to Northern Nevada shortly thereafter.  She graduated from Reed High School and went straight into the Army National Guard where she served a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  During her service, Rachel attended TMCC where she earned an Associate of Arts in Business and an Associate of Science.  Rachel has big dreams of starting a blog, writing a book, and learning the guitar and she loves relaxing at home with her husband and two daughters and trying new restaurants with her best pals.

Tara Connolly

Tara Connolly, MA

Athletics Academic Advisor

After stumbling in and out of college at multiple schools, Tara decided to give higher education one more try as a student at TMCC in the spring of 2003, when she accepted a peer advisor position in Counseling & Academic Advisement.  As a double-dose first-generation college student, she changed her major seven times searching for the perfect major and career, but it turned out she had already found it as an advisor.  She enjoyed the process of working with fellow college students so much that her educational goals changed to prepare her to become a professional Academic Advisor at TMCC. After completing her Associate of Arts at TMCC, Tara went on to graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2008 with a Bachelor of General Studies and a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership in 2010.  As an Academic Advisor and MBTI® and Strong Interest Inventory® Certified practitioner, Tara tries to create a welcoming and encouraging environment for all students to explore and pursue their educational goals, especially those dealing with uncertainty who are perhaps taking the scenic route through college as she once did.  Tara is also the Athletics Advising Coordinator, working closely with TMCC’s student-athletes and the Athletics Compliance team.  In 2015, Tara earned the Nevada Regents' Academic Advisor Award.  Tara also serves as the advising liaison to the Math and Physical Sciences Division. In her spare time, she enjoys running, long hikes with her dogs, yoga, meditation, and reading while sipping almond milk lattes at locally-owned coffee shops.
 
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Ben Davis

Ben Davis, BA

Academic Advisor

Ben is a graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno, having earned his BA in English/Creative Writing in the spring of 2017. Like many college students, Ben went through some rough patches early on in his education. He believes that the academic pitfalls he managed to navigate serve as common ground between himself and the students he assists, and he finds great fulfillment in being able to remind students that there’s always a way to work through whatever issues are thrown their way. In addition to advising full-time, Ben is also the New Student Programming Coordinator for TMCC, a position built around organizing and maintaining TMCC’s orientation and continued academic planning workshops. Ben will be starting his Masters of Fine Arts in English: Creative Writing in the fall of 2019. In his free time, Ben likes to minimize physical exertion, watch TV with his pug, eat pizza, and play music around town. Ben is the advising liaison to the Liberal Arts Division.
 
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Lesley Dueñas

Peer Advisor

Lesley is a first-generation bilingual student and peer advisor. As a peer advisor, she enjoys helping fellow first-generation students who have no idea where to begin. Her goal is to make sure her students' semesters at TMCC are successful and enjoyable. As a full-time student, Lesley recognizes the importance of balance and wellness and does her best to make time for things outside of academics, including exploring the outdoors and new coffee shops and trying new recipes. 
 
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Kayla Freeman

Kayla Freeman

Academic Advisor

A proud native Nevadan, Kayla graduated with an Associate of Science degree from TMCC in May 2019.  She then earned her Bachelor of Science in Community Health Science Public Health with a minor in Business Administration from the University of Nevada, Reno in December 2020. As a graduate student at UNR, she is working on a master’s degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Higher Education Administration. Early on in her educational journey, she learned that it is vital to seek out and take advantage of the multitude of student services on campus to foster academic and professional success. While completing her AS at TMCC, she worked in Academic Advisement as a Peer Advisor. She is thrilled to have returned to the team in a professional capacity and reconnect with her respected colleagues. She also has extensive professional experience working with prospective transfer students at the UNR.  She looks forward to broadening her experiences in higher education and assisting students with their academic, professional, and personal goals. In all her professional endeavors, she strives to provide the mentorship, support, and encouragement to others that she had as an undergraduate student.  In her spare time, she loves to hike with her dogs, care for her sizeable urban jungle (i.e., her plants), read, and spend time with her family and fiancé. She is also a Myers Briggs ISFJ and Enneagram 6w5.
 
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Sione Lavaka

Sione Lavaka, BA

International Student Academic Advisor

Sione received his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2013. After a year as an undergraduate, Sione spent 2 years on LDS mission in Samoa, Apia. Sione had to learn a new language, learn a new culture, and adapt to a new lifestyle for 2 years. Sione is currently a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Reno where he is pursuing a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership. Sione's passions include binge eating and watching Netflix.
 
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Staci Miller

Staci Miller, MS

Lead Academic Advisor

Staci has been advising for over 22 years because she loves working with students and helping them reach their college goals. As a college student, she attended a California community college and earned an Associate of Arts degree before transferring to a California State University. She was the first person in her family to attend college and the community college allowed her to transition to college from high school with smaller courses, more instructor access and a much lower cost. She successfully transferred as a Junior to the university where she earned her bachelor's degree in Accounting. Her bachelor's degree led to her career in higher education and then to the decision to continue her education. In 2003, Staci earned a Master's Degree in School Counseling. Her transfer experience is why she also coordinates transfer services at TMCC. She want to ensure students truly understand the transfer process so they can have the same great experience she had. No matter what your college goal is, Staci would love the opportunity to work with you!
 
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Jennifer Pierce

Jennifer Pierce, MA

Academic Advisor

Jennifer has been an Academic Advisor at TMCC since 2016.  In addition to working directly with students, she is the department's Assessment Coordinator and Peer Advisor Supervisor, assists with athletics advising, is the liaison to the Business and Social Sciences, and serves on several institutional committees. In 2019, she earned the Nevada regents' Academic Advisor Award. Jennifer started her career in higher education as an adjunct faculty and tutor at Great Basin College and then transitioned into student services as their Retention Coordinator for two years. She loves being a part of helping students reach their academic and personal goals, and particularly enjoys working with transfer students and students returning to college. Jennifer earned a BA-English Literature from Boise State University, a MA- Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno, and is an MBTI®  and Strong Interest Inventory Certified Practitioner. She enjoys being creative, getting out into the mountains, and barbecuing with family and friends.
 
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Alondra Rivera Photo

Alondra Rivera

Peer Advisor

Alondra was born and raised in Reno NV. She is currently a student at TMCC. She plans to obtain her Radiology Technologist AAS at TMCC. Alondra started her interest in the medical field by being apart of the Health Science Academy program at Hug High School. She immediately gained much interest in this field and decided the medical field was her route. As a first-generation student, Alondra knows it is her goal to work hard and make her parents proud. Alondra is a very fun and outgoing person once you get to know her. She enjoys meeting new people and interacting and helping. On her free time, she enjoys playing tennis and going on hikes.
 
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Courtney Hytinen

Courtney Schachter

Academic Advisor

Originally from Michigan, Courtney started working in higher education as a student worker at Northern Michigan University (NMU). She graduated from NMU with a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education in 2007. Recognizing the impact that post-secondary education can have on a student's life and having a strong desire to work with students on a college campus, Courtney decided to pursue a Master of Education in Administration of Higher Education at Suffolk University in Boston Massachusetts. After graduating in 2009 with her master's degree, she continued to work within the Boston area at Suffolk University as a student success program coordinator, where she worked with academically at-risk and conditional admitted students. She also worked as an academic advisor at Northeastern University within D’Amore-McKim School of Business. Courtney relocated to the Reno area in 2015 to be closer to family, the mountains and the sunshine. She is excited to be able to continue working with students in higher education and continues to believe that earning a college degree can have a significant impact on a student's life professionally and personally. Along with advising students, Courtney is an MBTI Certified Practitioner, evaluates military transcripts for incoming student veterans, and is the liaison to the Life Sciences, Allied Health, and Public Safety Division. Outside of work Courtney enjoys running, yoga, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing and walking her puggle.
 
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