Trident University International News: College of Education & University College Promotions and Appointments

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This is a look at news, events, and highlights at Trident’s College of Education & University College. Read more about the recent academic promotions and appointments at this 100% online university.

Trident University International

Dr. Heidi Gilligan, Dean, College of Education

Trident University International’s (Trident) College of Education (COE) and University College is made up of a diverse and talented group of seasoned educators and researchers focused on improving the student experience. Below is a recap of the recent promotions, publications, presentations, and professional society appointments at this 100% online university.

Dr. Heidi Gilligan has been appointed as Dean of the College of Education. Dr. Gilligan joined Trident in November of 2014, previously serving as Program Director of the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Master of Arts in Education (MAED) programs. In her time at Trident, she has successfully developed the curriculum for the Ed.D. program, revised the Master of Arts in Education curriculum, and launched a number of graduate student support resources.

Dr. Wenling Li has been appointed as Doctoral Studies Director for the College of Education.  Dr. Li has served as the Program Director of the Ph.D. in Educational Leadership program since 2008. She has a strong research background, extensive publication record, and has chaired over 40 doctoral dissertations. More recently, she has made significant updates to the program’s curriculum and learning outcomes, developed seminars to assist students in the dissertation process, and played a key role in the implementation of the Doctoral Positioning System.   

Dr. Shari Farris has been appointed as Department Chair in the College of Education. She has over 17 years of service in education as a classroom teacher, school district trainer, school principal, university chair, and college professor.  She has worked primarily in graduate online education for the past five years and is passionate about providing high quality course content and meaningful academic support for all learners. Her recent article, Think ‘E’ for Engagement, appears in the Journal of Staff Development’s online journal Learning Forward, the article offers her insight into online learning and providing an effective and relevant experience for adult learners.  

Dr. Heidi Fernandez has been appointed as Associate Dean of University College. Dr. Fernandez, who has been at Trident for three years, has held various positions such as Math Faculty Lead, Interim Program Director for the Master of Arts in Education program, and Program Director for University College.  She has overseen several projects in General Education including the integration of NROC in MAT 101 and EdReady Math in TUX, a course designed for students beginning their studies at Trident.  She holds a doctoral degree from the University of Florida and recently published a paper on special needs children in K-12 online schools. 

Dr. Lisa Mohanty has been appointed as Department Chair for Social Science and Gateway Courses. Dr. Mohanty has been with Trident since 2008.  She has held numerous positions, most recently as faculty lead in General Education.  She is an accomplished researcher, course developer, and administrator.  She has overseen full-time and part-time faculty members, chaired doctoral dissertations, and developed many undergraduate courses.  She also serves as the current chair of Trident’s Curriculum Committee.   In 2013, she was invited to the United Nations to present her paper Race, Power, and the Subprime/ Foreclosure Crisis: A Meso Analysis.

Dr. Mark Pieffer has been appointed as Department Chair for Communication and Humanities. Dr. Pieffer most recently served as the Provost at Jones International University.  He also has teaching and administrative experience at Colorado Technical University, Pikes Peak Community College, and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.  Prior to transitioning to a career in higher education, Dr. Pieffer served in the U.S. Army and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Dr. Pamela Wirth has been appointed as Department Chair for Natural Sciences. Dr. Wirth most recently served as the Team Lead in Southern New Hampshire University’s online Science department. Her educational background is in biology and health sciences, with her doctorate focused on clinical lab sciences. The bulk of her work in academia has been in the areas of pathological research and diagnostics. Dr. Wirth has 12 years of experience in online instruction and has a passion for mentoring students and faculty.

Trident, a 100% online university that has been in operation since 1998, is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). Active duty military, veterans, National Guard, and military dependents make up 79% of the University’s student population, and Trident is proud to employ many veterans at its faculty, staff, and management levels. Of Trident’s 30,000 alumni, more than 22,000 have a military affiliation.

For any media inquiries, please contact Daniel Sloan at daniel.sloan(at)

About Trident University
Founded in 1998, Trident University International (Trident) is a leading online postsecondary university serving adult learners. Trident developed the Trident Learning Model, which employs case-based learning in an online setting to teach real-world relevant critical thinking skills to enhance the lives and careers of students. Trident offers high-quality bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs, led by a qualified faculty team, over 80% of whom have doctoral degrees. Visit, Trident’s Facebook page, or call at (855) 290-0290 to learn more about Trident's wide range of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs.

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