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Institute for Research and Collaboration

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Alicia Simmons, M.S.W., Ph.D., Executive Director
Phone: 256-782-8145 | E-mail:

Dr. Alicia Simmons is an experienced change management executive in higher education, small business and not for profit organizations. She employs theory, research, technology, and business intelligence to collaboratively define organizational vision, mission, goals and strategies. With more than 20 years of experience implementing change through project management, fund raising, communication and team leadership strategies, she has often created collaborative lateral lines of business as infrastructure. Dr. Simmons employs various strategies to measure change and its impact on individuals, organizations and communities. She managed complex multi-million dollar federal contracts, taught at the University of Georgia, conducted national conferences and events, and created professional development opportunities for educators in child care, Head Start, K-12 and higher education.  Dr. Simmons is a graduate of Jacksonville State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Georgia. 

Lynn Garner, Project Manager
Phone: 256-782-8159 | E-mail:

Lynn has managed complex projects for over ten years. Before joining JSU, Lynn worked as a contractor for the US Department of Homeland Security and later the US Department of Defense. Currently, Lynn is the Project Manager for the Jacksonville State University Institute for Research and Collaboration. She assists faculty with sponsored programs during the post award phase. For the Collaborative Regional Education (CORE) Project, Lynn serves as the conference manager.  Her duties include planning professional development activities and building relationships with teachers, administrators, and other personnel from 20 school systems. Lynn also manages research center development at JSU. She collaborates with faculty and captures their research center agendas for submission to the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. Lynn earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication and her Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Jacksonville State University.

Allison Newton, Coordinator of Proposal Development
Phone: 256-782-5108 | E-mail:

Ms. Newton holds a B.S. degree in Geography from The University of North Alabama with a minor in English. She earned her Master's Degree in Public Administration at Jacksonville State University, with a concentration in Environmental Science.

Prior to joining the office of Planning and Research in 2010, Ms. Newton served as an adjunct faculty member at JSU from 2006-2010 teaching Human Geography and World Regional Geography. Before teaching, Ms. Newton served as the Associate Director for The National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE), a non-profit educational organization whose mission is to promote and celebrate geographic learning. She currently serves as an Executive Board Member for the NCGE. Before moving into the world of higher education, Ms. Newton worked in private enterprise for 10+ years.

Ms. Newton is active with the National Geographic Society's State Geographic Alliance Network. She supports the performance of Alliances by supporting legislative efforts at the national and state level, providing assistance with grant writing, and assisting with the development of strategic planning within the Alliances.

Jennifer McCullars, Conference Coordinator
Phone: 256-782-8189 | E-mail:

Mandy Abernathy, Data Analyst
Phone: 256-782-5157 | E-mail:

Mandy Abernathy has 20 years experience in the writing, editing, and publishing industries. Before joining JSU in March 2014, Mandy spent several years as a contractor for the US Department of Homeland Security as a manager, writer, and editor of training manuals for the nation’s emergency first responders. She was also a prior owner and publisher of several local real estate and community magazines.

Currently, Mandy designs and manages the publications in the Division of Research, Planning, and Collaboration, including the JSU Fact Book, newsletters, and CORE publications. She assists with all CORE projects, workshops, and CORE Academy. She also functions as the departmental editor.

Mandy holds a Bachelor of Science in Education degree with concentrations in English and biology from Jacksonville State University. 

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