Meet The Staff

PPI Director - Dr. Todd Collins

Todd Collins is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Interim Director of the Public Policy Institute. His work on the courts, public policy, immigration, media, the presidency, and Congress has appeared in Political Research Quarterly, the Maryland Law Review, PS: Political Science and Politics, Judicature, Law and Policy, White House Studies, Politics and Religion, and other journals. He has won awards in recognition for outstanding research and teaching.



Graduate Assistants



Alexandra O'Halloran - Public Affairs

Alexandra is originally from Colorado, but has lived in several states. She spent the majority of her high school years in Sylva, North Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Science in Communications from East Carolina University in May 2012. She began working as a Graduate Assistant in the fall of 2013. Alexandra would like to work with non-profit organizations, and ultimately pursue her Phd..

Contact Alexandra @

Andrew Bowen - Public Affairs

Contact Andrew @


Ashleigh Swayze - Public Affairs

Ashleigh is from Hendersonville, NC. She earned her Bachelors in Social Work from North
Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC. After completing her undergraduate degree, she worked
in Durham, Wake and Buncombe Counties in Food and Nutrition Services.  She is
currently an intern with MANNA Foodbank and volunteers with WNC Food
Policy Council. After she graduates from the MPA program, she plans to continue working on hunger
issues, as her career passion is working to end hunger.  She began working as a Graduate Assistant in the Fall of 2013.

Contact Ashleigh @


Austin Ritch - Public Affairs

Austin is from Weddington, NC. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice
from Western Carolina University in December of 2011. Austin has been in the MPA program since January of 2012. After he graduates from the MPA program, Austin would like to pursue a PhD degree.

Contact Austin


 Laura Dintsch - Public Affairs

Laura is a recent graduate from WCU and is a Criminal Justice major. She began working in the PPI as a Graduate Assistant during the Spring 2012 semester. She has lived in Asheville for the past 16 years and loves it. She would like to stay in this area after she finishes school. She is currently employed at The Grove Park Inn. Laura hopes to have a career in criminal rehabilitation.

Contact Laura @


Maggie Chandler - Public Affairs

Maggie is a recent graduate from WCU.  She graduated Cum Laude and from the Honors College.  Maggie is from Hendersonville, NC and began working in the PPI as a Graduate Assistant in the Fall 2012 semester. 

Contact Maggie


Undergraduate Assistant


Garrett Whipkey  

Contact Garrett @



 PPI Alumni

Joshua Purdy - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Samuel Riddle - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Drew Tucker - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Billy Schweig - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Thaddeus Huff - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Charlie Foxx - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Sami Disu - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs (2008-2009)

Brooke Crompton - Graduate Assistant-Public Affairs (2009-2010).  Currently employed with the City of Asheville

Robert Blankenship - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Darren Dodd - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Wade Livingston - Undergraduate Student.  Currently Assistant Professor at Clemson University

Michael Hancock - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Jonathan Sofley - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Trisha Harden - Graduate Assistant-Public Affairs.  Currently employed with the City of Asheville

Amanda Shirk - Undergraduate Student in PSC and education

Jason Coggins - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs

Ronnie Hewitt - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs.

 Demorris Davis - Undergraduate Student in PSC. 

John Westbrooks - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs.  Currently employed as a US Air Marshall.

Alex Pellom - Graduate Assistant - Public Affairs.  Currently employed as Emergency Preparedness Planner with the City of Jacksonville, FL.

Greg Hirsch - Undergraduate student in PSC

Teena Watty - Undergraduate student in PSC



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