Faculty, Administration, Staff & Friends
The following is a partial list of faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences who are the first in their families to earn a four-year degree.
Interim Provost and Professor of Sociology
Debbie Storrs is originally from Alaska where she completed her BS with a major in
sociology and a minor in psychology (1989) from the University of Alaska. She earned
her MS (1991) and her PhD (1996) in Sociology from the University of Oregon. She joined
the University of North Dakota as Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences in 2013 and
became Senior Vice Provost in 2018. In June 2020, Storrs was named Interim Provost.
Her teaching and research interests focus on the intersections of race, gender, and
class. Most recently her research has explored students’ attitudes towards science
Debbie is a proud first-generation student of higher education. She was raised in a working-class, bicultural family. Her father, Gordon, completed the 8th grade, earned his GED as an adult, and worked as a cook for the Navy and later for an oil company on a rig in Prudhoe Bay. Her mother, Yoshiko, completed high school in Japan and worked a variety of jobs including on a seafood processing line, electronics factory line, and later taught a Japanese craft class out of the home. While her parents did not attend college, they were supportive of higher education though they could not provide any financial support. Debbie’s first attempt at college lasted one year, after which she decided to quit for a number of reasons including financial challenges, unclear educational goals, and because she felt like an alien in a strange world. After working for several years as a transcriptionist, she returned to college and completed her BS. Her second return to college was successful in part because she found her academic passion in the discipline of sociology, became involved in a social justice student organization, and found support from faculty members who invited her to participate in research opportunities. Her goal is to help students find their academic passions and provide them support to pursue their dreams.
Twamley Hall, Room 302
Vice Provost for Student Success and Associate Professor of Psychology
Karyn Plumm is originally from Sault Ste. Marie, MI. She earned a PhD in Experimental
Psychology (2006), MA in General Psychology (2004), and BA with a major in Psychology
(2000) from the University of North Dakota. She joined the faculty in the Department
of Psychology at UND in 2006 where she served as the Director of the Undergraduate
Programs for the Department of Psychology from 2009-2015. Her research interests include
social psychological issues in relation to the law, specifically attributions of blame
toward minority-group victims of violent crime. She joined the Dean’s office in the
College of Arts & Sciences in January 2015 as the Administrative Fellow for Academic
Success to provide leadership and coordination in matters relating to student recruitment,
advising, and retention. In 2018, Karyn became Vice Provost for Student Success at
Karyn is the only person in her immediate family to attend college and even within her extended family on both sides, only Karyn and one cousin (out of 12) earned a four-year degree. Attending college was not an expectation her family or any of her high school counselors had for her. Just getting started was a daunting task! She quickly learned that she loved going to college and that the people on campus were always willing to help answer her questions. Karyn received an EPSCoR research award as an undergraduate and began working in research labs. The faculty that she worked with and got to know helped guide her toward (and through) graduate school. She would not be where she is today without the relationships she developed with faculty at both the undergraduate and graduate level. She hopes to be able to help students make those connections as well!
Twamley Hall, Room 304B
Associate Professor of English and Director, UND Writers Conference
An alumna of the McNair Scholars Program, Crystal Alberts completed her BA with a double major in English and Religion at
Mount Holyoke College and her MA/PhD in English and American Literature at Washington
University in St. Louis. She started teaching at UND in 2007 and, after completing
her dissertation, became a member of UND's faculty in 2010. She is currently an associate
professor of English specializing in post-1945 American Literature. Having worked
in or with libraries since 2000, her print publications—on William Gaddis, Don DeLillo,
and others—are based on archival research, while her digital research, including the
UND Writers Conference Digital Collection, is intended to make archival materials
accessible to the general public. She also serves as the Director of the UND Writers Conference, a position that she's held since spring 2009.
Crystal grew up in a small, northern Minnesota town. Members of her immediate (and extended) family are farmers, mechanics, and electricians, among other things, who have on-the-job or vocational training, but no four-year college degree. In fact, the first time that Crystal got on a plane was to visit Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. While attending MHC was the best decision that she ever made, adjusting to life at an East Coast liberal arts college was tough and took some time. Luckily, Crystal had wonderful faculty mentors at MHC, and later at WashU, who helped make sure that she didn't fall through the cracks. She is very grateful to those professors and tries to follow their example when mentoring students.
Merrifield Hall, 1D
Outreach Manager, College of Arts & Sciences
Tanya Butler’s dad quit high school to join the Air Force in 1957 and following four
years of service he worked as a truck driver for nearly 40 years before his retirement.
Her mother graduated high school in 1958 and worked various part-time bookkeeping
jobs while raising Tanya and her two brothers. Growing up in Grand Forks, Tanya’s
parents didn’t encourage – or discourage for that matter – her to attend college.
It simply wasn’t discussed.
After high school, Tanya took time off from school and in January 1991 went to NYC to work as a nanny. While there she enrolled in an interpersonal communication course at Nassau Community College (her first college class!). Eventually returning to the Grand Forks region, Tanya enrolled at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) for what was to be an associate’s degree in Small Business Management. She didn’t graduate. At the beginning of her second year at UMC Tanya became pregnant and was due to give birth in May 1993, a week after finals. Her son was born early, three weeks before finals. Due to a lack of support at home and at UMC, Tanya was not aware of her options for completing the semester or her degree. As a result, she took incomplete grades in some classes and failed others after not returning to class following her son’s early birth. Little did she know, there are accommodations for such things!
Having left UMC with a new baby, no degree, and a lot of student loan debt Tanya took time away from school to work and support her new family. She has taken a UND class occasionally over the years but it wasn’t until a few years ago when Debbie Storrs joined the College of Arts & Sciences and she began to mentor and encourage Tanya to finish the coursework and obtain a bachelor’s degree. Tanya proudly walked across the stage at UND’s graduation in May 2017 after earning a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. She is the first person in her immediate and extended family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Beginning fall 2020, Tanya will begin the Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program at UND.
Tanya has worked at UND since July 1998 and since 2005 has been in the College of Arts & Sciences. With an open door, Tanya is grateful for the opportunity to help all students be successful. She is an advocate for other first-generation students to have the encouragement they need to reach their goals and recognize their own abilities.
Columbia Hall, Room 1909
Professor of English
Tami Carmichael was the first person in her family to complete an undergraduate college
degree, and one of only a small handful of students from her 1986 high school graduating
class to do so. She holds the only advanced degrees in her family and the only Ph.D.
in her small, rural hometown community of Westfield, PA. She earned her undergraduate
degree in English/Communication/Marketing from Grove City College, PA and her Masters
and Ph.D both in English from the University of Georgia, specializing in early 19th-century
women authors and the works of Herman Melville. Since then, she has developed a specialization
in pedagogy and in undergraduate learning practices and in education abroad issues.
College was challenging for Tami, since very few people in her support system had experience with the higher education system. She attended a private college, and in that environment, she was surrounded by students who had parents and siblings with college degrees, who had the opportunity to take college preparatory classes (something unavailable in Tami’s small, rural high school), and who had traveled abroad — things that most of the professors at the college expected all of their students to have experienced. From the first day, Tami realized she did not have the experiences or the background to compete with her fellow classmates and worked quietly and privately to try and make up the loss by reading widely on her own and getting involved in as many learning and extra-curricular activities as possible. By getting involved, Tami met some excellent mentors who aided her in uncovering yet more opportunities, and she realized, to her surprise, that she loved college and could be successful — so much so, in fact, that she has chosen to remain in higher education and to dedicate her career to teaching and developing best teaching practices for other college students. She hopes that she provides the mentorship needed to those students who also seek to develop their curiosity and to increase their knowledge of the world.
Merrifield Hall, Room 218
Professor of English
Kim Donehower grew up in Horse Shoe and Asheville, North Carolina, and got her undergraduate
degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For her PhD in English
from the University of Minnesota, she investigated why some Appalachian families were
successful at sending their first generation students to college and beyond.
Kim began her career at California State University, Fresno, directing the first-year composition program and experimenting with support structures for first-generation students from immigrant families. She joined the UND faculty in 2001. Kim coordinates the English education program, is actively involved in the first-year composition program, and continues to research literacy in rural communities.
Merrifield Hall, 122F
Associate Professor of Sociology
Liz completed her Bachelor’s (2002) and Master’s degrees (2004) in Sociology at Brigham
Young University, and she received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Kansas
(2010). Her teaching and research interests include social inequality, gender, families,
and social policy, and she enjoys doing both quantitative and qualitative research.
Her most recent work explores the effects of Bakken oil development on interpersonal
Liz was born and raised in the Twin Cities. Although her father attempted college when she was young, he stopped going in order to provide for his growing family. Out of her family of seven, she was the first person to graduate from college. Growing up she was constantly inspired by how hard her working-class family labored to make ends meet. There was rarely a time when her parents weren’t juggling three jobs between them. Liz excelled in high school and saw her peers pursing college, so decided to apply too; working as a custodian, telemarketer, and office worker to pay her way through. One semester she stumbled across a job as a research assistant. Even though she felt woefully inadequate, she decided to apply. Her boss became her mentor and helped her see she was capable of earning a Ph.D. Although her parents were supportive of her decision to go to college it was hard on her family when her graduate education and career in academia kept her from returning home. She’s glad to be raising her family in North Dakota now, and her parents are glad she’s within a day’s drive from home. Liz is eager to help other first generation students find their place at UND so they can set their own trajectory to a rewarding career.
Gillette Hall, Room 205
Professor of Art & Design
Raised on a farm near Pocahontas, IL, Patrick Luber received a BA degree from Greenville
College in Greenville, IL, and MA and MFA degrees in sculpture from the University
of New Mexico. Mr. Luber’s work is included in the permanent collection of the North
Dakota Museum of Art, the University of North Dakota, the Sioux City Art Center, Sioux
City, IA, Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, TX, the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneurial
Center Art Collection, Grand Forks, ND, the Henry Luce III Center for Art & Religion,
Washington, DC and numerous private collections. With over 30 solo and 130 group exhibitions,
his work has been exhibited on the local, regional, national, and international levels.
His work has received numerous awards in juried exhibitions including the Best of
Show Award in the 1992 North American Sculpture Competition in Golden, CO and in 2002
received Best of Show in the 58th Annual Exhibition at the Sioux City Art Center,
Sioux City, IA. In 2005 Mr. Luber received the North Dakota Humanities Council’s Larry
Remele Fellowship and during Spring 2016 Mr. Luber served as an artist-in-residence
at the Henry Luce III Center for Art & Religion in Washington DC. In addition to his
artwork, Mr. Luber has presented numerous lectures on the intersection of art, religion,
and American culture at regional and national conferences. He has taught sculpture
at the University of North Dakota since 1990.
Hughes Fine Arts Center, Room 139c
Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice
Adam K. Matz received his B.S. in Police Studies (2007) and M.S. in Correctional and
Juvenile Justice Studies (2008) from Eastern Kentucky University (EKU). He then relocated
to Pittsburgh where he recently completed his Ph.D. in Criminology at Indiana University
of Pennsylvania (IUP). Prior to joining UND in 2016 he worked for the American Probation
and Parole Association (APPA) and the Kentucky Court of Justice (KCOJ).
Adam grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky. While his mom attended some college she was unable to complete a degree. She was a single-parent and survivor of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, she was fortunate to see all her children go to college and complete a degree, despite the many difficulties she endured in relation to menial work. Support from faculty at EKU and IUP led Adam to pursue his graduate studies, currently the first and only member of his extended family to obtain a doctoral degree.
Columbia Hall, Room 1105a
Michelle M. Sauer,
Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor of English
Michelle Sauer is originally from Fargo, ND, and spent many weekends and summers on
her family’s farm in Kidder County (near Tappen, ND). Michelle is not quite a first
generation faculty member, but she is closely connected to the community and its concerns.
On her mother’s side, although her grandmother earned a BA in 1921, her grandfather
dropped out of school after 8th grade to work in grain elevators and on the family
farm. Michelle’s mother earned a two year nursing degree, but the majority of her
aunts and uncles had only a high school diploma and worked in farming or in the military.
Similarly, her father, who resides on the Indian subcontinent, has a PhD, but is the
only one in his family to have an education beyond secondary school. Nevertheless,
each of her family members respected the hard work and dedication required to pursue
an academic path, and valued the Humanities as a building block of a well-educated
Growing up as a biracial child raised by two women (Michelle was raised by her mother and one of her aunts) in North Dakota in the late 1970s and 1980s was challenging and sometimes isolating, and she compensated by throwing herself into schoolwork. She earned a BA from Purdue University (1993), an MA from Loyola University, Chicago (1995), and a PhD from Washington State University (2000), all in English with an emphasis in medieval literature and culture. Her research focuses on sex, gender, and early Christianity, especially cloistered religious women. Michelle’s first job in higher education was as a faculty member at Minot State University in western North Dakota. There she had the opportunity to work with many first generation students providing outreach and support. Michelle joined the UND faculty in 2008 and continues to mentor students from all walks of life.
Merrifield Hall Room 1E
Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of Psychology Undergraduate Programs
Heather Terrell grew up in Mayer, AZ. She earned a PhD in Social Psychology (2009),
MA in General Psychology (2006), and BA with a major in Psychology (2002) from Arizona
State University. She joined the faculty in the Department of Psychology at UND in
2009 and has served as the Director of the Undergraduate Programs for that department
since 2015. Heather regularly teaches Introduction to Statistics, Advanced Research
Methods, and Advanced Social Psychology. She oversees several research projects, many
of which are student-driven, in her Gender and Social Psychology Lab. In particular,
she focuses on research related to gender roles, stereotyping and prejudice, aggression,
and/or evolutionary psychology.
Heather is the only person in her immediate or extended family to complete a four-year degree or beyond. As an undergraduate, a handful of committed faculty members helped her navigate the world of higher education and understand the graduate school application process. She hopes to continue to “pay it forward” by helping other 1st g students accomplish their educational goals.
Columbia Hall Room 2902
Professor of Mathematics and Associate Dean, College of Arts & Sciences
Ryan Zerr is a native North Dakotan, growing up on a farm between two typical North
Dakota small towns – Tuttle and Wing – located in the central part of the state. His
father, the eleventh of fifteen children, was the first of his siblings to attend
school past the eighth grade, earning his high school diploma and immediately beginning
the life of a farmer alongside his father. His mother earned a two-year degree and
has worked in secretarial positions throughout her career. Despite neither parent
having a four-year degree, their approaches to life exemplify the values of hard work
Ryan attended UND and graduated with a B.S. in Meteorological Studies, and subsequently went on to earn his Ph.D. in Mathematics at Iowa State University. He has been fortunate to find educational environments – whether at home, in grade and secondary school, and at college – which supported curiosity and promoted high achievement. Through his educational experiences he has developed the conviction that education will enrich nearly all aspects of one’s life. This point of view has made him a strong supporter of the notion of general education, with its capacity to enrich students’ lives regardless of career or job choice.
Witmer Hall Room 313
If you are a faculty member who would like to learn more about UND 1stG, please contact Karyn Plumm (karyn.plumm@UND.edu).