Academic Studio


Photo of  Martin  Authier
Martin Authier
History Academic Studio
Photo of  Fanta  Diamanka
Fanta Diamanka
History Academic Studio
Photo of  Jennie  Guidry
Jennie Guidry
Math & Assistant Chair of the Academic Studio Academic Studio

Ms. Jennie Guidry (Mathematics), Founding Academic Studio Faculty member and Assistant Chair, holds a B.S. in Mathematics Education (2005) and an M.A. in Gifted and Talented Curriculum and Instruction (2006) from Louisiana State University.  Prior to NOCCA, she taught all levels of math at a private school in Baton Rouge where she served as Mathematics Department Chair and oversaw the school’s successful reaccreditation process.  Jennie brings to NOCCA a passion for mathematics education and curriculum development as well as a strong background in one-to-one laptop environments and technology integration.

Photo of  Travis  Haas
Travis Haas
Science Academic Studio

Mr. Travis Haas (Integrated Sciences) is a Ph.D. candidate at Tulane University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. He holds a B.A. in Biology and Music (Piano) from Lawrence University (2007), where his piano studies culminated in an interdisciplinary lecture-recital entitled, “The influence of birdsong in the literature of the piano.” He also holds an M.S. in Biology (Ecology and Evolution) from Tulane University (2010). Before joining the Academic Studio faculty at NOCCA, Travis was a Visiting Professor of Urban Studies for Bard Early College New Orleans, where he taught an interdisciplinary science course about biodiversity and human well-being. In recent summers, he has taught a field biology course for gifted and talented rising high school freshmen as part of the Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Travis’ research examines the evolutionary and ecological implications of dam construction in the Southeastern United States, with the majority of his fieldwork conducted in the rivers and reservoirs of Alabama. In addition to his work as a scientist, Travis continues to teach a small number of piano students and perform on a limited basis.


Photo of  Rosie  Hurtado
Rosie Hurtado
English Academic Studio
Photo of  Christophe  Jackson
Christophe Jackson
Science Academic Studio

Christophe E. Jackson Ph.D. has earned bachelors and masters in Biology and Piano Performance and completed an interdisciplinary PhD in Performance Arts Medicine through the Biology, Physics, and Music department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he worked across the disciplines of biology, physiology, physics, engineering, and music. Jackson was awarded funding from the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) and Ford Foundation. His research focused on the translation of scientific investigation into clinical application for specialized care to performing artists as well as the design of portable acoustic devices to dampen ambient noise. In addition, Jackson is a “musician at heart” who maintains an active classical and jazz performance life. Outside of performances and research, Jackson actively seeks opportunities to increase awareness and educate musicians about performance health. Additionally, Jackson works with researchers at Tulane University to establish a center for music, science, and technology.

Photo of  Kate  Kokontis
Kate Kokontis
Social Studies & Assistant Chair of the Academic Studio Academic Studio

Dr. Kate Kokontis (History and Social Studies) Founding Academic Studio Faculty member and Assistant Chair, earned her B.A. from Yale in Theater Studies and Visual Art (2004), a post-baccalaureate certificate in Painting from Studio Art Centers, International (2005), and her Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley (2011).  At Berkeley, she taught undergraduate courses about critical race studies, representational practices, knowledge production, and writing, and her visual artwork has been shown at galleries in New Haven, Florence, and the Bay Area.  She is working on a book project emerging from her dissertation, Performative Returns and the Rememory of History: genealogy and performativity in the American racial state.  At NOCCA she also co-facilitates the Plessy Project Student Working Group and the Academic Studio Leadership Council.

Photo of  Byron  Lilly
Byron Lilly
History Academic Studio

Mr. Byron Lilly (History and Social Studies) moved to New Orleans in 2003, following a two-year commitment to the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in American Studies from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA (2001) and a Master’s Degree in U.S. History from Tulane University (2009), where he is currently a interdisciplinary doctoral candidate.  In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Mr. Lilly is a master carpenter who, in the years following Hurricane Katrina, operated a contracting company while also pursuing an interest in urban farming.

Photo of  Thomas "Spree"  MacDonald
Thomas "Spree" MacDonald
Chair of Humanities Academic Studio

Thomas Spreelin “Spree” MacDonald is the Chair of Humanities and founding faculty member of the Academic Studio. He holds a Ph.D. in African Arts and Literatures from Ohio University’s School of Interdisciplinary Arts, as well as an M.A. in International Affairs/African Studies (Ohio University), and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary English Education (Northern Michigan University). He has taught and mentored students at all levels, including with the American Reads Program, the Upward Bound Program, the U.S. Peace Corps in South Africa, and at Ohio University, where he taught courses in English and African Studies. As a scholar, Spree has published a number of essays on Africana literature, performance, and philosophy, and has held several research fellowships. As a poet, Spree has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has published poetry in journals in the U.S., South Africa, and the U.K.

Photo of  Kit  Nelson
Kit Nelson
Science, Chair Integrated Sciences Academic Studio

Dr. Kit Nelson (Science) is the Chair of Integrated Sciences for the Academic Studio.  She earned her Ph.D. from Southern Methodist in 2001.  Following a post-doctorate research position with noted Anthropologist Lewis Binford, she worked for Tulane University for 9 years.  During this time she taught undergraduate and graduate classes, mentored students, and conducted archaeological fieldwork in Egypt, Peru, and the American Southwest. For her dedication to students in the classroom and the field she was awarded the Newcomb Distinguished Faculty Award (2010).  She continues to publish and is currently carrying out archaeological research in the American Southwest at a Puebloan site near Taos, New Mexico in association with Southern Methodist University.

Photo of  Jackie  Pittman
Jackie Pittman
Student Support Specialist Academic Studio
Ms. Jackie Pittman is a 2007 alumni of New York University with an individualized B.A. degree in Media and Social Change. After working in both New York City and Washington D.C. producing special events, she moved down to New Orleans in 2008 to participate in the teachNOLA Fellows program. She is certified in Special Education and has worked in both public and charter high schools in New Orleans for the past five years. Most recently, she was a founding staff member and Director of Student Support at KIPP Renaissance High School. At NOCCA, she oversees all online learning, special education, standardized test coordination, and supported study/growth plans. She is proud to be here at a school where everyone is genuinely committed to every student succeeding in both academics and the arts.
Photo of  Noelle  Reznik
Noelle Reznik
MathematicsAcademic Studio

Ms. Noelle Reznik (Integrated Sciences) is a native of New Orleans and graduate of Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and minors in Anthropology, English and Psychology (2000).  She has earned a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from LSU (2001) and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of New Orleans (2011).   Ms. Reznik has taught middle and high school mathematics across South Louisiana and enjoys the art and science of curriculum design, having designed multiple courses through her work as classroom teacher, instructional coach and online course designer.  She has also played the piano for most of her life and cherishes opportunities to connect the sciences, humanities and the arts.

Photo of  Russell  Wolfe
Russell Wolfe
Math Academic Studio

Dr. Russell Wolfe (Integrated Sciences) earned his B.S. in Physics and Biology with minors in Mathematics and Biophysics from Creighton University (2007) in Omaha, Nebraska. While at Creighton he researched the physical properties of bone cells using lasers with a focus on improving cancer detection techniques. He received his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Tulane University (2013) where his research focused on understanding the effects of physical forces which stem cells are often exposed to during large-scale bioprocessing.  While at Tulane, he taught hands-on undergraduate courses in robotics, electronic circuits, and medical device design, in addition to mentoring undergraduate students in research practices, public presentation, and professional career development. Dr. Wolfe’s artistic endeavors include ceramics and digital photography.