Director John Mixon
John Mixon currently serves as the Director of the Fine Arts Division at Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he is responsible for the Visual Art, Music and Theatre Departments. He has over 30 years of experience as an educator at the middle, high school and community college level. He received his Bachelor and Master of Music Degrees from the University of Mississippi. During his tenure as an instrumental music educator, programs under his leadership received numerous awards at the regional and national levels, including the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Grammy Signature School Award and Best 100 Communities in America for Music Education.
Mixon has been recognized as Mississippi Band Director of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Star Teacher by the Mississippi Economic Council. He was selected to serve as Concert Director for the Mississippi All State Band and has been featured in School Band and Orchestra Magazine as one of ‘50 Directors Who Make a Difference’.
Chair of Art Department Lawayne House grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1976, he graduated from the then-Memphis Academy of Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Advertising Design. Recruited by the greeting card giant, Hallmark Cards, Lawayne moved to Kansas City, Missouri and began his career as a designer. Over the next 25 years he balanced his art pursuits with a successful career in both illustration and advertising. Seeking an opportunity to help young artists pursue professional careers, Lawayne began working for Northwest as an adjunct instructor in 2001. And, in 2002 he entered the graduate program at the Memphis College of Art. In 2004 he was awarded the terminal degree in Studio Art, the Master of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis in painting.
Lawayne began working for Northwest full-time in 2004 and became Chair of the Art Department in 2006. He currently teaches Art Appreciation, Art History, Design and Painting. He is a member of the eLearning Committee and teaches both Art Appreciation and Art History online. As a co-sponsor of the student art club, Les Fauves, he shares in the responsibility of maintaining and coordinating exhibitions held in the Northwest Art Gallery. Through his many creative pursuits, Lawayne has designed numerous illustrations and advertising collateral for a variety of corporate and retail accounts. In his studio, he continues to explore the unlimited possibilities of paint and paper. His work has been exhibited in various venues both local and national exhibitions. Lawayne also serves as the 2018 vice-president of the Memphis/Germantown Arts League (MGAL).
Ashley Chavis is originally from southeast Georgia. In 1995, after being awarded an art portfolio scholarship, he enrolled at The Savannah College of Art and Design to study architecture. However, Ashley transferred to Armstrong Atlantic State University and discovered Fine Art and Ceramics. In 2000, he graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Studio Art. He completed graduate school in 2005 at The University of Mississippi and was awarded the terminal degree in Studio Art, the Master of Fine Arts degree, with an emphasis in Ceramics.
Ashley began working for Northwest Mississippi Community College in 2007. He currently teaches Drawing I, Drawing II, Ceramics I, and Ceramics II. He also helps curate and maintain the department’s art gallery and is an advisor of the students’ art club, Les Fauves.
Ashley also enjoys an active studio schedule. Most of his creative energy is devoted to producing functional pottery that has a unique sence of tactility and surface design. However, he also experiments with mixed-media drawings and prints. His work can be found in numerous regional and national exhibitions and locally at Treehouse Gallery and Southside Gallery in Oxford, Mississippi. He is a member of the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), Southeastern College Art Conference (SECAC), Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI), and Sycamore Arts Council. Ashley lives with his wife, Virginia, who is also an artist, and two children in Oxford.
Dana Finimore has enjoyed a very diverse career path as a visual artist and graphic designer. Finimore began working as a graphic designer, working for newspapers, ad agencies, and publishing companies, and eventually started her own company where she founded and published DeSoto Magazine as well as chamber publications, and corporate branding packages. Her work as a visual artist includes painting, mixed-media, and metalsmithing. Finimore maintains a busy schedule, showing her paintings and metal work at both group and solo events. The core of her work is centered in finding inspiration from the natural world. Compositional explorations in mixed media, and metal, express her observance of the textures and shapes found in nature. Her early years spent roaming the creek banks and meadows of north central Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains has gifted her with a reverence for the environment. Her work is a visual response to time spent outdoors. She is a member of the Craftsman’s Guild of Mississippi and the Arkansas Craft School. Finimore attended Delta State University, where she studied graphic design. She holds a BFA in Painting from Memphis College of Art, and an MFA in Studio Art from Memphis College of Art. Finimore currently resides in Senatobia, Mississippi.
Mackey Harrison, Adjunct Art Instructor holds a bachelors degree from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL and a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Mississippi. He has taught as a graduate student and visiting assistant professor of art for The University of Mississippi and as a gifted art instructor for Tate County School District. With twenty years of teaching experience, Mackey has conducted workshops for The University of Mississippi Museum’s after school program and Sycamore Art Council’s Art Smart Summer Camp.
Harrison has previously served as Vice President and is currently an active board member of the Sycamore Art Council. His work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and is in the permanent collection of The Masur Museum, Monroe, LA and collection of actor Morgan Freeman.
Susanne Spencer Van Dyke
Susanne Spencer Van Dyke began her teaching career in 1993 as Director of Choral Activities at Northwest Mississippi Community College and also serves as the chair of the Music Department. She is a graduate of South Panola High School. In addition to beginning her college studies at Northwest, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Delta State University and a Master of Music in Vocal Performance from Mississippi College. She has also taken post graduate courses in choral conducting with Dr. James Jordan at Westminster Choir College. She is featured in “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers” and is a contributor to the book “The Musician’s Spirit” by Dr. James Jordan. She is past president of the State Community College Choral Association as well a member of American Choral Directors Association and National Association of Teachers of Singing. In 2013, Van Dyke was awarded the prestigious Sandy Grisham Excellence in Teaching Award for her innovation, excellence and commitment in teaching music and in directing choral activities at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
In the past she also served as Vocal Director for NWCC musicals and in this position has directed “Cats”, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, “Smoke on the Mountain”, “Sanders Family Christmas”, “Little Shop of Horrors”, ”Fiddler on the Roof”, “Man of La Mancha” and many others. She also served as vocal coach for the community theatre premiere of “Les Miserables” produced by Panola Playhouse.
Saundra Bishop teaches piano and music theory and is the director of the Northwest show choir, The Entertainers. Additionally, she assists with Northwest Singers and is the collaborative pianist for faculty and student recitals. Saundra holds the Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Alabama and the Master of Music in Piano Performance from Louisiana State University. She earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Pedagogy from the University of Mississippi. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Before joining the faculty of NWCC, she taught general music at Batesville (MS) Elementary School and choral music at Batesville Junior High. Dr. Bishop resides in Oxford and is an active accompanist in that area.
Brownlee comes to Northwest from his position as band director at Oxford High School (OHS), where he had worked since 2010. During his time in Oxford, he worked with the OHS marching and concert bands, and assisted with the seventh and eighth grade and beginner bands. Brownlee also taught percussion at OHS. Before coming to Oxford, Brownlee served as band director at East Central Community College from 1998-2010. At East Central, he worked with both the marching and concert bands and taught percussion. He also taught applied lessons for music education majors, directed various musical ensembles and taught music appreciation. Prior to his time at East Central, Brownlee taught at Southaven High School from 1996-1998 and Saltillo High School from 1993-1996. At both schools, he served as marching and concert band director and percussion instructor, while assisting with and directing the schools’ seventh, eighth and beginner bands.
Brownlee, a native of Senatobia, is an alumnus of Northwest. After graduating from Senatobia High School in 1987, he studied music education at Northwest. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from Delta State University (DSU) in 1992, and his Master of Music Education from the University of Mississippi in 1996.
Brownlee is a member of the College Band Directors National Association (CBDNA), Mississippi Bandmasters Association (MBA), I-55 Band Directors Association, Northeast Mississippi Band Directors Association (NEMBDA) and the Percussive Arts Society (PAS). His honors include drum captain at DSU; principal percussionist in the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble; percussionist with the Meridian Symphony and Tupelo Symphony and Mississippi Community and Junior College Band Director Association president in 2006. Brownlee has served as an adjudicator, percussion consultant and percussion arranger throughout the state of Mississippi.
In addition to his duties as marching band director, Brownlee will teach individual lessons and music appreciation classes. “I began my music education at Northwest. It is great to be back here as an instructor. I believe that all students have potential and it is the instructor’s job to facilitate, motivate and cultivate that potential. The northwest Mississippi area has some of the best band programs in the state. I want Northwest to be the best community college band in the state,” Brownlee said.
Brownlee and his wife Roseanne have five children, Jordan, Caleb, Caroline, Addison and Olivia.
Assistant Director of Bands, Jeff Triplett, is beginning his eleventh year as an instructor at Northwest Mississippi Community College. A native of Senatobia, he attended NWCC from 1985-87, receiving his associate of arts degree. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master’s degree in music education from Delta State University. In the realm of music education, his duties include assisting with the marching and concert bands, teaching applied low-brass lessons, and directing the student low-brass ensembles. Mr. Triplett is also the coordinator for the Entertainment Industry Studies program wherein students can begin preparing for a career in the music industry. His professional associations include membership in Phi Mu Alpha (Sinfonia), The Mississippi Band Masters Association and the International Trombone Association. Mr. Triplett is also a Certified Pro Tools User.
Jennifer Hodges Whitehead
Will be teaching Music Fundamentals, all Woodwind private lessons, and coaching flute choir, clarinet choir, and saxophone quartet. New to the Northwest Mississippi Community College faculty in Senatobia, Jennifer is an active freelance flutist in Memphis area with a passion for teaching music and woodwind pedagogy. Jennifer received a BM (flute performance) from the University of Mississippi, where she was extremely active in Sigma Alpha Iota, and earned a MM (flute performance) from the University of Memphis. She is a certified Suzuki and Orff teacher and has a very large private flute studio consisting of students from all over the Mid-South area. Each summer she coordinates the Desoto Flute Camp and the Memphis Flute Camp, and has served on the board of the Mid-South Flute Society as Secretary, Program Coordinator, and Exhibits Chair for the annual Mid-South Flute Festival.
A sought after woodwind adjudicator, both regionally and nationally, Jennifer has judged for Desoto County and the WTSBOA, served as taped round judge for the National Flute Association High School Soloist Competition in 2009, and, in 2011 and 2012, served as taped round for the National Flute Association Flute Choir competition. Jennifer has performed at Wildacres Flute Retreat, Brevard Music Center, Domain Forget in Quebec, and was selected to perform with the National Wind Ensemble in Carnegie Hall. She regularly performs with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra in Tennessee on both piccolo and flute and performed this past year at the Single Reed Summit at the University of Mississippi.
Director of Bands, began his career as a band director at Northwest from 1994. John Ungurait, is a native of northern Indiana, An alumnus of Northwest, which he attended in 1983 and 1984, Ungurait received a Bachelors degree in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Masters degree in music from New Mexico State University. He is a past president of the Mississippi Community and Junior College Band Directors Association. Known as a clinician and judge in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, Ungurait has also worked as a percussion instructor for several drum and bugle corps, and he served as the front ensemble instructor for the Arizona Sun Drum and Bugle Corps. In Mississippi he has worked as a consultant with high school bands in Pascagoula, Lumberton, Hernando, Oxford and Senatobia. He has served as clinician for the Memphis City Schools Honor Band. Ungurait also presently serves as a concert and marching artist with Saylers Percussion
Bill Maze is a Speech Instructor in the Division of Fine Arts.
Dr. Maze holds degrees from The University of Memphis (PhD), Mankato State University (MA), and a Bachelors degree from Winona State University.
His primary focus is teaching sections of Public Speaking and Argumentation & Debate. Dr. Maze also fills various committee appointments during the school year.
Sadie S. Shannon
Theatre and Speech Instructor Sadie S. Shannon is originally from Minnesota and has been a member of the Northwest family since 2009 and serves as the Speech and Theatre Chair. Sadie has a B.A. in Music from William Carey University in Hattiesburg, MS and an M.F.A. in Acting Pedagogy from the University of Alabama. Roll Tide! In addition to teaching Theatre and Speech courses she directs plays for NWCC and is co-advisor of the Northwest Players Club.
Some of her favorite acting credits include; The Bakers Wife in Into the Woods, Daisy in Sideshow, Popeye in The Miss Firecracker Contest, June in The Sanders Family Christmas, Mistress Quickly in Henry IV. She has received multiple Meritorious Achievement Awards for Excellence in Direction through KCACTF. Sadie has presented at conferences such as SETC as well as been the guest speaker at several Musical Theatre and Audition workshops. She is a founding member of the Alabama Graduate Theatre Alliance, a proud member of VASTA, and is the Vice Chair of the Mississippi Theatre Association’s College and Universities division.
Dr. Tracy Schaffer has been teaching a variety of communication classes for the past ten years, including Speech Communication, Organizational Communication, Health Communication, Research Methods, and Conflict Communication. Dr. Schaffer’s research interests involve mental health literacy, health narratives, addiction, social support, self-efficacy, and family systems. In April 2014, her dissertation titled “The Experience of the Addiction-Affected Family: A Communication Based Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis” won both the Morton Dissertation Award as well as the Department of Communication Research Award at the University of Memphis. Dr. Schaffer holds a B.A. in Political Science, M.A. in Organizational Communication, and Ph.D. in Health Communication from the University of Memphis.
Alyssa has been working with Northwest since 2014 as the Technical Director of Fine Arts. She received her A.A. in Speech & Theatre from NWCC; her B.A. in Theatre from Mississippi University for Women; and her M.A. in Theatre from Regent University. Alyssa is not only the TD of Northwest, she also teaches theatre courses as well as directs plays in NWCC’s season. She manages the NW Auditorium and designs, implements, and creates for all performances held within.
Alyssa has performed with and in over 40 productions ranging all over the U.S. with some memorable roles being: Demeter in CATS; Helena, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Fred, Once Upon A Mattress to name a few. She has also done everything backstage possible from Director to Designer to Dramaturg.
Alyssa is a member of the National Society of Leadership, Phi Theta Kappa, NWCC Hall of Fame, Who’s Who Among Students in Junior Colleges, and, most recently, the board of the Sycamore Arts Council in Senatobia, MS.