OAA Staff

For general inquiries, or to speak with the first available staff member, please call our main office number (336.758.3320) or email undergraduateadvising@nullwfu.edu.


Associate Dean of Academic Advising

E. Ashley Hairston

Associate Dean for Academic Advising
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3320
hairstea@nullwfu.edu

A native of North Carolina, Dr. Hairston received his Bachelor of Arts in English and Politics as a Reynolds Scholar at Wake Forest University. He received his Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia and his Juris Doctor from the UNC School of Law. He returned to Wake Forest in 2019, after serving as Associate Professor of English and of Law and Humanities and founding director of the Center for Law and Humanities at Elon University.

Dr. Hairston’s research areas include American Literature and Classical Literature, especially classical influences on African American and Southern writers, as well as the interdisciplinary study of law and humanities. He was a 2015 Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Residential Fellow. His book, The Ebony Column: Classics, Civilization, and the African American Reclamation of the West, was a Choice Outstanding Academic Title and the inaugural book of the Classicism in American Culture Series of the University of Tennessee Press.

In his free time, Dr. Hairston enjoys traveling with his wife Cherry and two children, as well as sporting clays, cooking, and fencing.


Karen Bennett

Karen M. Bennett

Assistant Dean for Academic Advising
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3320
bennekm3@nullwfu.edu

Assistant Dean Bennett received her B.S. degree from Winston-Salem State University and the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Wake Forest. She joined the staff of Wake Forest in 1985 and served in the Department of English and the Program of Academic Support Services until 1995 when she joined the Dean’s Office. Since then she has been responsible for administering academic policies and procedures, assisting with student/faculty concerns and assisting with the recruitment and training of academic advisers. She works closely with faculty and staff advisers and their advisees to enhance the advising experience. She helps coordinate New Student Orientation and serves as the contact for Bulletin revisions for the office.


Nikki Elston

Assistant Dean of Academic Advising
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3320
elstonnc@nullwfu.edu

Dr. Elston was born and raised in Florida.  Her education and career have taken her to  Minnesota, Virginia, Washington, DC, Georgia, and now North Carolina.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of West Florida, a master’s degree in College Student Development and Counseling from St. Cloud State University, and her Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from Georgia State University.  At previous institutions Dr. Elston has worked as an academic advisor, an Assistant Director of Student Activities, and an Assistant Dean of Student Academic Affairs.  In addition to her work in OAA, she serves as a Faculty Fellow, and an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Counseling.  She primarily teaches undergraduate courses in culture and ethics, and master’s courses in advanced counseling skills and crisis management.  She is also a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Trainer (ASIST). 


Cherise James

Cherise James

Director of Orientation, New Student and Transitions Programs
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.2310
orientation@nullwfu.edu

Dr. James received her Bachelors of Science degree in public relations from the College of Journalism and Communication at the University of Florida and her Master’s degree in College Student Affairs with an emphasis in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University. She later obtained a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Educational Studies, a Concentration in Higher Education, with an emphasis in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Dr. James worked several years in Residence Life & Housing at Wake Forest University where she served as the Resident Coordinator for South Campus for 4 years and then became the Assistant Director of Residence Life.

Her current role as the Director of Orientation, New Student and Transitions Programs, which falls under both the Office of the Dean of the College as well as the Office of the Dean of Students, allows her the opportunity to work collaboratively with offices across campus that deliver programs to first-year students, sophomores, and transfer students.


Sarah Hefner

Academic Coordinator
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3320
hefners@nullwfu.edu

Sarah Hefner received her Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies, a major that combined the fields of International Relations, Africana, and Urban Studies with a focus on education, from Davidson College. While at Davidson, Sarah worked as a student assistant for the Office of Academic Affairs. Sarah joined the Office of Academic Advising as Academic Coordinator in November 2021.


Margaret Clayton

Academic Reporting Analyst & Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3105
claytom@nullwfu.edu

Margaret Clayton earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Community Services from the College of Human Ecology at East Carolina University and her Master of Arts degree in Child Development at East Carolina University. Margaret brings over twenty years of higher education experience to the Office of Academic Advising. She began her career in higher education as a graduate assistant in the athletic department at East Carolina University working with at-risk student-athletes as well as overseeing the tutoring program for the athletic department. After serving as a graduate assistant, she was hired full-time as the athletic academic advisor for the football team and continued to serve as the tutor coordinator for all sports in the athletic department. These experiences started a lifelong journey of her higher education career. Over the years, she has worked advising students in athletics, and in departments on different campuses (East Carolina University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Winston Salem State University, Davidson County Community College, and Forsyth Technical Community College), as well as worked in the registrar’s office at Georgia Institute of Technology, and the last eight years in the Office of the University Registrar’s Office at Wake Forest. In her free time, Margaret loves college football and spending time with her children, family, and friends.


Shane Weimer

Shane M. Weimer

Senior Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3104
weimersm@nullwfu.edu

Shane Weimer grew up just south of Winston-Salem in Salisbury, North Carolina. After graduating from Brevard College with a B.A. in Mathematics and a minor in Psychology, he joined the Office of Academic Advising in 2011. He, along with another academic counselor, oversees the Wake Forest Student Advising Program. He has a passion for working with students and helping them achieve their goals.


Wendi Zongker

Wendi Zongker

Senior Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3103
zongkewm@nullwfu.edu

Ms. Zongker earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of North Florida and her Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Georgia. She began her career in higher education at One-Stop Student Services at UNF advising students on undergraduate admission, student records and registration, and financial aid. She worked in the Office of the Registrar at UNF before relocating to North Carolina in February 2017. She joined the Advising staff in the Office of the Dean of the College in May 2017.


Maggie Sheridan

Maggie Sheridan

Senior Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3101
sheridml@nullwfu.edu

Maggie Sheridan was born and raised in Florida. She attended Stetson University (Go Hatters!) where she received both a B.A. (2010) and an M.A. (2013) in English. Having discovered her passion for advising as a graduate assistant in Stetson’s Office of Career Development and Academic Advising, Maggie continued this line of work in 2013 with a 2-year fellowship at Elon University in Burlington, NC. Afterward, she found herself in Pirate Country, working in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University from June 2015 to November 2017. Maggie joined the Office of Academic Advising in November 2017 and is excited to work with both incoming and current students as they assess the realistic and timely achievement of their personal, academic, and professional goals.


Academic Counselor for WFU undergrads

Ruiting Gong

Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3112
gongr@nullwfu.edu

Ruiting was born and raised in Shanghai, China. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Shanghai University and Master of Arts in School counseling from Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. After finishing graduate school, she began as an academic counselor working with international high school students who studied abroad in the US. In the past three and half years, she served over two hundred students and helped them along with their way to colleges. She is excited to join the team and looks forward to working with WFU students.


Elka Staley

Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.3102
staleye@nullwfu.edu

Elka Staley received both her BA and MA in English from the University of New Orleans. Since 2012, she has served multiple roles in the English, Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, including Associate Writing Program Administrator, Literary Studies Advisor, and also as the Assessment Coordinator for the university. As a new resident of North Carolina (‘21) she enjoys exploring the natural beauty of her new state with her husband and two dogs. She loves helping students plan and actualize their futures based on their passions and service to others, which is why she is delighted to be an Academic Counselor for Wake Forest University.


Gianna Medina

Academic Counselor
125 Reynolda Hall
336.758.2973
medinagm@nullwfu.edu

Gianna was born into a military family and spent most of her childhood in Florida and Georgia. She earned her B.A. degree in Anthropology at The University of Georgia (2012). It was due to her mother’s career in non-profit work that influenced her desire to help others’ in their educational journeys. So she began to work in college access with the Georgia College Advising Corps in Atlanta, GA in 2013 and then with College Success in the Houston Independent School District from 2015-2018. During this time, she became interested in retention while working with former students who were facing challenges within their first year of college. This prompted Gianna to pursue a M.Ed. in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education at UNC Greensboro (2020). She was previously working at Salem College in Residence Life. Gianna likes helping students, cooking and eating, sightseeing, watching documentaries, horror/sci-fi/action movies, reading, and collecting various things. She enjoys spending time with her partner, bonus son, cat, dog, and a fish named Thunder Cookie.


Pre-Professions Advisors

Bryan Ellrod

Postdoctoral Fellow in Leadership and Character in Prelaw

2022-23 Prelaw Adviser (lead)
ellrodb@nullwfu.edu

Bryan Ellrod is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Pre-Law in the Program for Leadership and Character. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Emory University’s Graduate Division of Religion, as well as an M.Div. and Th.M. from the Candler School of Theology. He holds a B.A. degree with dual majors in Religion and Philosophy from Florida Southern College.

Bryan’s research explores questions of membership, identity, and responsibility at the intersections of politics, law, and religion. His dissertation develops the ethical and political implications of becoming “neighbors” to those who have lost their lives crossing through the US-Mexico borderlands, arguing for the adoption of an ethical subjectivity constituted by the demand of the excluded other and a politics of responsibility for the lives that projects of national self-determination cast aside. Throughout this study, Bryan interrogates the law of migration and its function in forming national identities and constructing the ethical relationships between insiders and outsiders, members and non-members, “citizens” and “aliens.” Bryan has also published on ethics pedagogy and is excited to join a team that joins preparation for the study of law with character education. He is committed to advising Wake Forest’s pre-law students as they discern their vocations and seeks to develop curricular and co-curricular programming that invites students to explore questions of virtue.


Rebecca M. Permar

Postdoctoral Fellow in Pre-Health
permarr@nullwfu.edu

Rebecca is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Leadership and Character for Pre-Health Professions and works for the Office of Academic Advising and the Program of Leadership. She received her PhD in Medical Humanities from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, TX, a joint MA/MLitt degree in German and Comparative Literature from the University of Bonn, Germany, and University of St. Andrews, Scotland.

Rebecca’s research interests include neuroethics, trauma studies, and social justice questions. She particularly enjoys bringing discussions about ethical challenges and character/identity formation into the education of future and current healthcare providers. She looks forward to being a part of the academic journey of WFU students into healthcare professions, ethics, and humanities spaces.