No statistical methods were used to predetermine sample size. The experiments were not randomized and the investigators were not blinded to allocation during experiments and outcome assessment.
Plant material and DNA preparation
A single genotype/clone of Zostera marina (referred to as the ‘Finnish clone’) was harvested on 26 August 2010 at 2 m depth at Fårö Island (latitude 59° 55.234′ N longitude 21° 47.766′ E) located in the northern Baltic Sea, Finland. Plant material was transported to the lab in seawater, cleaned and further processed. Care was taken to use leaf-meristem tissue harvested from the inner layer of basal shoots to minimize bacterial/diatom contamination. Tissues were immediately frozen in LN2 and stored at −80 °C for later DNA and RNA extraction. Monoclonality was verified by genotyping 40 ramets of the mega-clone with six highly polymorphic, microsatellite loci30. There was no evidence for polyploidy25,31,32 (Z. marina is 2n = 12) or somatic mutations33 as assessed by multiple peaks in the microsatellite chromatograms. Tissue was subsequently sent on dry ice to Amplicon Express for HMW DNA extraction using a CTAB isolation method modified by R. Meilan (unpublished) but available from him (firstname.lastname@example.org), based on the original method34. Following QC according to JGI guidelines, the DNA was shipped to JGI for library and sequencing preparation.
Genome sequencing and assembly
One 35-Kb, fosmid library was generated for end sequencing. The fosmid ends were sequenced with standard Sanger sequencing protocols at the HudsonAlpha Institute for a total of 194,303 Sanger reads (0.29× coverage). Illumina libraries (two fragment libraries (6.62 Gb), one 2-Kb JGI mate-pair library (3.57 Gb), one 4-Kb JGI mate-pair library (3.41 Gb) and two 8-Kb JGI mate-pair libraries (11.94 Gb)) were sequenced with Illumina MiSeq/HiSeq genetic analysers at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI), using standard protocols. A total of 25.55 Gb of Illumina and 0.14 Gb of Sanger sequence was obtained representing 47.7× genomic coverage. Prior to assembly, all reads were screened against mitochondria, chloroplast, and Illumina controls. Reads composed of > 95% simple sequence repeats were removed. For the Illumina, paired-end libraries (2 × 250), reads <75 bp were discarded, for the 2 × 150 libraries, reads <50 bp were discarded after trimming for adaptor and quality (q < 20). An additional deduplication step was performed on the mate pairs that identified and retained only one copy of each PCR duplicate. A total of 212,101,273 reads (Supplementary Table 2.1) was assembled using our modified version of Arachne v. 20071016 (ref. 35). Subsequent directed Arachne modules were applied to collapse adjacent heterozygous contigs. The entire assembly was then run through another Arachne process starting at Stage 6 Rebuilder. This produced 15,747 scaffold sequences (30,723 contigs), with a scaffold L50 of 409.5 Kb, 613 scaffolds larger than 100 Kb, and a total genome size of 237.5 Mb (Supplementary Table 2.2).
Scaffolds were screened against bacterial proteins, organelle sequences, GenBank NR (nr_prot) and RefSeq protein databases, and removed if found to be a contaminant. Scaffolds consisting of prokaryotes, chloroplast, mitochondria and unanchored rDNA were removed. We also assembled the chloroplast and partial mitochondrial genomes (Supplementary Notes 2.2 and 2.3, Supplementary Fig. 2.1). Additionally, short (<1 Kb) scaffolds or scaffolds containing highly repetitive sequence ( > 95% 24-mers found more than four times in large scaffolds) or alternative haplotypes were also removed. Following repeat analysis and gene prediction, all scaffolds were subjected to a filtering process (based on NCBI nr_prot + NCBI taxonomy database) to eliminate remaining bacterial (and other) contaminants (Supplementary Table 2.3).
Assembly validation was performed using a set of 12 fully sequenced fosmid clones. In 4 of the 12 fosmid clones, full-length alignments were not found due to fragmentation in the region of the fosmid clone. In five of the remaining eight fosmid clones, the alignments were of high quality (<0.05% bp error). The overall base pair error rate (including marked gap bases) in the fosmid clones that aligned to full length was 0.28% (714 discrepant base pairs out of 253,332 bp). Supplementary Table 2.4 shows the individual fosmid clones and their contribution to the overall error rate. Note that two fosmid clones (16248, 16249) contributed nearly 81% of the discrepant bases. This probably occurred in polymorphic regions of the genome where the haplotype in the fosmid did not match the haplotype in the reference. There are several indels of various sizes in the clone and assembly, typical of a region of degraded transposons. Further quality analysis indicated that 90% of the set of eukaryotic core genes (CEGMA) were present and 98% were partially represented, suggesting near completeness of the euchromatin component.
Annotation of repetitive sequences
Two complementary approaches were used to identify repetitive DNA sequences in the Z. marina genome. With respect to masking repeats before gene prediction analysis, a de novo repeat identification was carried out with RepeatModeller (v. open-1.0.7; http://www.RepeatMasker.org)36 to identify repeat boundaries and build consensus models from which potential over represented, non-transposable element, protein-coding genes were removed. RepeatMasker (v. open-4.0.0, WUBlast) was used in combination with this custom repeat library to mask the assembly and prepare it for gene prediction with EuGene.
Furthermore, in order to perform a qualitative and quantitative analysis of repeats with greater resolution37 the genome assembly was processed for de novo repeat detection using the TEdenovo pipeline from the REPET package v. 2.2 (ref. 38); parameters were set to consider repeats with at least five copies. The consensus sequences generated by TEdenovo were then used as probes for whole genome annotation by the TEannot39 pipeline from the REPET package v. 2.2. The consensus repeat sequences were classified using Pastec40. Comparing the genomic positions of transposable elements (TE) to those of exons from the set of predicted genes enabled us to identify that 909 gene predictions most likely represent TEs and these were filtered from the gene set. The REPET package v. 2.2 was also used to annotate repetitive elements in the Spirodela polyrhiza genome assembly with the same parameters as for Z. marina. See Supplementary Fig. 3.1.
Transcriptome library preparation, sequencing and assembly
Leaf, root and flower tissues were separately frozen in liquid nitrogen immediately following harvest from either ambient (field collected) or experimental (mesocosm) conditions (Supplementary Note 3.2). Overall, we obtained between nine and 20 million high-quality reads from each of the flower-leaf-root replicate libraries; and for the Finnish clone library, 148.5 million high quality reads were retrieved (Supplementary Table 3.3).
The de novo assembly protocol was adapted from ref. 41. We pooled replicates of each tissue together except for the two leaf tissue libraries, which were kept separate (Supplementary Table 3.4) and performed de novo transcriptome assembly for each tissue using Trinity41(v. 2014-07-17) with digital normalization option ON to normalize input read coverage. Frame shift errors and insertion/deletion errors in the assembled transcripts were corrected by FrameDP42. Because a de novo assembly still generates many spurious transcripts, we used the transcript expression value to remove low quality contigs. We used the RSEM pipeline43 to obtain the contig expression values and removed contigs with FPKM (fragments per kilobase of transcript per million fragments mapped) value <1 and IsoPct (percentage of expression for a given transcript compared with all expression from that Trinity component) < 1. In total, we obtained between 39,000 and 53,000 assembled contigs from each library, and 52,000 contigs from the Finnish clone library (Supplementary Table 3.4). Prior to mapping the genome sequence and the predicted genes, we used the CD-HIT44 program (v. 4.6.1) to collapse redundant contigs, which resulted in 79,134 low redundant transcript contigs.
Differential gene expression analysis
High-quality RNA-seq reads were mapped to the genome assembly v.2.1 by TopHat45. Differential gene expression analysis was performed by the Cufflink pipeline45 based on the Z. marina v.2.1 gene models by converting the number of aligned reads into FPKM values. Genes with significant expression difference (log2 > 2) were selected for further investigation by GOstats46 to perform Gene Ontology (GO) term enrichment analysis with P ≤ 0.05 (Supplementary Note 3.3, Supplementary Table 3.5)
Genomic precursors of known miRNAs were mapped on the Z. marina genome following the procedure described in ref. 47 for the maize genome. miRNA entries from the miRBase database (release 21, 2014) were aligned to the chromosomes of the Z. marina genome. Up to three mismatches were allowed in the alignment, using SeqMap48. In parallel, novel potential DCL1/AGO1-dependent miRNAs were enriched by selecting 5′-U 20–22 nt small RNAs from three different sequenced libraries from Z. marina described in ref. 12. A subset of these small RNAs with abundance ≥10 TPM (transcripts per million) was retained and aligned to the genome with no mismatches. From every locus, we extracted two ~200-nt regions surrounding each aligned miRNA or candidate (from −30 to +160 and from −160 to +30 nucleotides relative to the putative miRNA start or end coordinate, respectively). Minimum energy RNA secondary structures were predicted for each region using the RNAfold program of the Vienna RNA 1.8.5 package (http://www.tbi.univie.ac.at/~ivo/RNA/) using default settings.
In addition, small RNAs from the three sequenced libraries were mapped on these regions, allowing no mismatches, in order to pre-select putative miRNA loci that showed evidence of expression in the three plant tissues analysed. We evaluated RNA structure and small RNA alignment in all the regions based on: (1) dominance of plus-stranded small RNAs; (2) position of the most abundant small RNAs relative to the predicted miRNA coordinates; (3) prevalence of 20–22 nt small RNAs in the predicted miRNA locus; (4) position of the putative miRNA with the stem-loop structure; and (5) absence of oversize (≥3 nt) bulges in the miRNA/miRNA* alignment. After reduction of overlapping loci to a non-redundant set and removal of stem-loop structures with the wrong orientation compared to miRNAs registered in miRBase, we manually inspected the remaining loci to further evaluate them according to the miRNA annotation criteria proposed by ref. 49. Stringency was relaxed when small RNA expression data strongly indicated the presence of miRNA loci that did not meet the whole set of criteria. Novel miRNA precursors overlapping with TEs or other repetitive elements were filtered out.
Potential miRNA targets were identified in silico using the generic small RNA-transcriptome aligner GSTAr from the CleaveLand package (v. 4)50. Predicted targets were accepted with an Allen score <4 or a MFE (minimum free energy) ratio ≥ 7.5. (Supplementary Note 3.4).
Training of the gene prediction programs started with the collection of high quality ESTs. EST information was used, for example, to train the splice predictor SpliceMachine51. Detection of conserved splice sites was further investigated by RNA-seq splice junctions (count > 10) to construct a WAM model in EuGene (v. 4.1)52. Coding-potential was modelled with an interpolated Markov Model (IMM) constructed from the BLASTX alignments of proteins from the PLAZA v. 2.5 database53. An additional protein ‘monocot’ Markov Model was built based on the protein sequences from Brachypodium, maize and sorghum. Starting from EST and protein alignments, a set of 215 gene models was manually constructed and curated using the genome browser GenomeView54. The 215 models were then used as a training set for EuGene in order to optimize the different splice site and coding-potential models, as well as the weights for the extrinsic EST and homology evidence. An overall fitness score of 80.1% was achieved, which is high enough to obtain reliable results without overfitting. GeneMark55 and Augustus56 were separately trained (using the same input data as EuGene) and their predictions were integrated with EuGene using a custom script to evaluate the best gene structure at each locus. All gene models were automatically screened to highlight possible erroneous structures (for example, in-frame stop codons, deviating splice junctions) and manually curated. Transfer-RNA gene models were predicted by tRNAscan-SE (v. 1.31)57 and their structures were verified with Infernal (v. 1.1rc1, rfam11 covariant model database)58. For each gene, UTRs were assigned by identifying a set of ESTs and RNA-seq assemblies that uniquely overlapped with it. We subsequently selected the longest mapped transcript on either end of the predicted coding sequence and designated the section outside the coding sequence as the UTR. Finally, all genes were uploaded to the ORCAE platform (http://bioinformatics.psb.ugent.be/orcae)59, enabling all members of the consortium to refine and curate the gene model and assign gene function. A list of protein domains, as well as the derived Gene Ontology (GO) terms and KEGG pathway identifiers were generated using an InterProScan (v. 5.2.45)60 analysis and available in ORCAE. More specifically, gene functional descriptions were added either manually by consortium expert scientists or automatically through sequence homology searches. The automated method relies on the EC (Enzyme Commission) number reported by InterProScan to retrieve the enzyme name with BLASTP search against UniProtKB/Swiss-Prot61 to filter out hits that are below 60% identity and 70% query/hit coverage. Although such high stringency on per cent identity and sequence coverage reduced the available number of functional descriptions, it reduced the false-positive prediction rate, as desired here.
Construction of age distributions and WGD analyses
KS-based age distributions were constructed as previously described62. In brief, the KS values between genes were obtained through maximum likelihood estimation using the CODEML program63 of the PAML package (v. 4.4c)64. Gene families for which KS estimates between members did not exceed a value of 5 were subdivided into subfamilies. For each duplicated gene in the resulting phylogenetic gene tree, obtained by PhyML65, all m KS estimates between the two child clades were added to the KS distribution with a weight 1/m (where m is the number of KS estimates for a duplication event), so that the weights of all KS estimates for a single duplication event summed to one. Mixture modelling was used to confirm a WGD signature in the KS distribution (Fig. 2 and Supplementary Fig. 4.1), for which all duplicates with KS values ≤0.1 were excluded to avoid the incorporation of allelic and/or splice variants, while all duplicates with KS values > 2.0 were removed because KS saturation and stochasticity can mislead mixture modelling above this range62. For further details see Supplementary Note 4.1.
Absolute dating of the identified WGD event was performed as described previously13,29. In brief, paralogueous gene pairs located in duplicated segments (anchors) and duplicated pairs lying under the WGD peak (peak-based duplicates) were collected for phylogenetic dating. Anchors, assumed to be corresponding to the most recent WGD, were detected using i-ADHoRe 3.0 (refs 66,67). Only a low number of duplicated segments and hence anchors could be identified, most likely because of the fragmented assembly of Z. marina. However, the identified anchors did confirm the presence of a broad WGD peak between a KS of 0.8 and 1.6 (data not shown). For each WGD paralogueous pair, an orthogroup was created that included the two paralogues plus several orthologues from other plant species as identified by InParanoid (v. 4.1)68 using a broad taxonomic sampling: one representative orthologue from the order Cucurbitales, two from the Rosales, two from the Fabales, two from the Malpighiales, two from the Brassicales, one from the Malvales, one from the Solanales, two from the Poales, one orthologue from Musa acuminata69 (Zingiberales), and one orthologue from Spirodela polyrhiza11 (Alismatales). In total, about 180 orthogroups from anchor pair duplicates and peak-based duplicates were collected. The node joining the two Z. marina WGD paralogues was then dated using the BEAST v. 1.7 package
General Curt Rauhut
Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer
General Curt Rauhut has been the Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer since 2014, after serving 30 years in the military. As a military Finance Corps officer, he successfully led financial management operations in complex domestic and international organizations ranging in size up to 40,000 people with the ability for inspiring team work to achieve high level performance. He is an effective communicator at all levels of government including members of Congress. His experience includes financial management, budget development & analysis, accounting & auditing, strategic planning, contract management, and recruiting.
As Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer, he directly supervises the daily operations of all 12 campuses within the institution, which includes financial planning, budgeting, cash flow, investment priorities, and policy matters. He oversees the growth of enrollment to include expanding campuses and programs offered. He is directly responsible for strategic planning for the institution for effectiveness and efficiency. He is responsible for directing the institutional marketing campaign to think and act as one institution.
General Rauhut has both a BS in Accounting & Auditing and a BS in Military Science from Jacksonville State University. He received his MBA in Comptrollership from Syracuse University before attending the Naval War College where he received a MA in National Security and Strategic Studies.
Mike Holmes, Ph.D.
Sr. VP, Chief Academic Officer and Dean of Faculty
Dr. Holmes is an Oklahoma native. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Northeastern State University, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and completed his Master’s of Education degree in Junior College Teaching with an emphasis in Psychology from NSU as well. He received his PH.D. in Experimental/Cognitive Psychology from Oklahoma State University. While working on his master’s degree, Dr. Holmes was offered a teaching assistantship. After his first day of teaching, he knew that he was hooked. Dr. Holmes has 12 years of classroom teaching experience and has taught at Northeastern State University, North Arkansas Community College, Oklahoma State University, Doane College, and Villanova University.
During his time at Doane College, he became interested in a military career. He was commissioned into the U.S. Navy on July 6th, 1986 and, following aviation training in Pensacola, Florida, was designated a Naval Aerospace Experimental Psychologist in 1987. During his first two tours, he primarily worked in the area of human factors engineering research and design on the F-14D Tomcat as well as on Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft. In his next assignment as a department head, he led teams conducting research in the areas of personnel selection and sustained military operations. Dr. Holmes’ next assignment was as Head, Operational Psychology Department at the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute where he managed the Aviation Selection Test Battery and also served as the training officer for student Aerospace Experimental Psychologists and supported the training of Naval Flights Surgeons. He next reported to the Naval Air Systems Command – Training Systems Division where he managed both research and development (R&D) and acquisition programs for training systems. During this tour, he received extensive program management training and experience and was certified by the Department of Defense as a level III (highest) Program Manager. His next tour was as Deputy Director of the Joint Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory. In 2004, Dr. Holmes reported to the U.S. Navy Human Performance Center as Head of the R&D Coordination Directorate and as Deputy for the Human Performance Technology Support and Development Directorate. He is a Certified Performance Technologist (CPT). He retired from the U.S. Navy in the summer of 2007 after 21 years of active duty service and accepted his current position at Georgia Military College.
Dr. Holmes and his wife, Sally, have been married for over 35 years and are the proud parents of one son and three daughters. They have four grandsons.
Executive Director of the Online Campus/Vice President of IT
Jody Yearwood is originally from Atlanta, GA, but he moved to Milledgeville, GA in 1998. He attended Georgia College & State University where he received a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a Major in Information Systems. Jody is currently pursuing a Masters of Management of Information Systems. Jody has been with GMC for 13 years and has worked in a variety of positions including Director of Web Technologies and the Associate Vice President of Enterprise Applications. Jody is currently the Vice President for Information Technology | Enrollment Management and the Executive Director of the Online Campus. Jody most loves working at GMC because he gets to change lives each and every day. “Our students deserve the best education at an affordable price, and we are dedicated to their success”.
Associate Vice President of Academic Records
Robin Knight is originally from Columbus, GA, where she graduated from George Washington Carver High School. During her husband’s 25 year naval career, she endured 20 relocations, numerous deployments, raised two children, earned her certificate as a secondary teacher, and became a certified child care provider. During this time, she also received her Bachelor’s of Social Science Education at the University of Georgia and Master’s of Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.
During that period, Robin worked in various educational capacities including volunteer, tutor, aide, teacher, and academic advisor. Following their military retirement, she continued her career in education and was selected as Georgia Military College’s Registrar in 2005. In 2015, she became the Associate Vice President of Academic Records.
Director of Financial Aid
Alisa Stephens is a financial aid expert, with over 30 years of experience, beginning with a Federal Work-Study position in the financial aid office and culminating today as the Director of Financial Aid at GMC. Alisa has been a Financial Aid Assistant, Financial Aid Counselor and Disbursement Operations Manager for a proprietary college system, responsible for the financial aid operations for 92 colleges nationwide. In January 1997, she received a phone call from Georgia Military College to become a Financial Aid Counselor. She was hired for the position and several months later, became the Associate Director of Financial Aid. In 2001, she accepted the position of Director of Financial Aid for GMC, where she has served for the past 16 years.
Director of Academic Support/Student Disability Services
Katie began working in Disability Services in 2005 at the University of Mississippi after the completion of her bachelors of psychology and sociology. She started her career in disability services at the University of Mississippi (UofM). A major accomplishment during her time at UofM was the development of a text conversion program which produced: mp3’s, Daisy files, accessible PDFs, Tactile images and Braille grade 1, 2 and Nemeth. Just a year before leaving the UofM, she began a master’s program to continue her education to fulfill a personal goal and she appreciates the support of the institution and her colleagues during this journey.
Additionally, during her time at UofM a colleague and she collected contact information for the colleges in Mississippi and established the MS AHEAD affiliate to the National Disability Organization, Association on Higher Education and Disability. GMC’s MS-AHEAD affiliate served the state providing low cost professional development and a network of colleagues willing and ready help.
In 2011 she moved to GA and began working at Georgia Military College as the Director of Academic Support and Manager of Student Disability Services. Over the last 6 years, GMC has made leaps and bounds in providing an accessible education to students at all 13 of our campuses. As part of the progression, GMC has developed working relations with engineering, purchasing, information technology, faculty, and online development. GMC is working as a team responsible for providing accessible programs and services to all those that visit our campuses.
In 2012, she began working with GA AHEAD the state affiliate for AHEAD as the secretary and as part of the planning committee for the conference. Throughout the last 5 years, she has also served the organization as the President-Elect and currently serve as the President (2016-2017). GA AHEAD strives to provide professional development and creates a network of disability services personnel that can seek assistance and guidance from one another. The men and women involved have done phenomenal work to keep the organization active and supportive for those in the state.
In May 2014, she completed a Masters of Arts in Higher Education Administration Student Personnel and had the opportunity to teach a GMC success course, which provided a profound perspective into the view of faculty and only gave her more of an application of the jobs they do for GMC’s students.
Currently at GMC, the team in Academic Affairs has launched a pilot aimed at furthering the reach into student success by adding full-time success coaches with the Starfish retention solution. GMC envisions a successful program that helps students attain their educational goals. She continues to look forward to the positive impact that those in higher education have on the younger generations.
Assistant Director/Dean of Students of the Online Campus
Brooke Bruton is from Rome, GA but has been a resident of Milledgeville, GA for four years. After graduating high school in 2006, Brooke enrolled at Georgia Southern University. In 2010, she graduated with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Finance and a minor in Spanish. She immediately continued her education at Georgia Southern University and received a Master’s of Science in Sports Management in 2012. During her master’s program, she received a graduate assistantship with Eagle Sports Marketing where she began pursuing a career in marketing and sales. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta to work for a business-to-business sales company. In 2013, she moved to Milledgeville to accept a position as an Admissions Counselor with Georgia Military College Online Campus. She was promoted to the Assistant Director/Dean of Students position in June 2014. As the Assistant Director/Dean of Students, she manages the enrollment team including admissions, financial aid, advising, business office, and the dual enrollment program. She also is an adjunct instructor for online first-year experience courses. Since joining the GMC team, she has enjoyed helping students pursue their educational goals and developing different business plans.
Brooke and her husband, Drew, have been married for 2 years and are expecting their first child in May.
Academic Dean of the Online Campus
Jeff Wells is a 10th generation Georgian, as well as a graduate of Montgomery County High School where he also returned in 2000 and was elected to one term on the public school board there. Jeff attended Brewton Parker College in Mt. Vernon, Georgia and graduated cum laude from The University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in history. He began teaching high school in 1998 at Pinewood Christian Academy before becoming the headmaster of Vidalia Heritage Academy in 2001. Desiring a return to the classroom, Jeff became the history and English department chair at Trinity Christian School where he taught until 2005 and was named Star Teacher in 2004 and GISA Girls Region Tennis Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2004. In 2005 he took a position teaching English at Stratford Academy in Macon. During that time, he completed his master’s degree in history at Georgia College and State University where he was a graduate assistant from 2004-2005 and the Dr. William Ivey Hair Outstanding Graduate Student in History. That same year, Jeff took a full-time teaching position at Georgia Military College’s Atlanta campus. In 2007, he was promoted to the GMC-Atlanta Social and Behavioral Sciences department chair. In 2008, Jeff was named Georgia Military College’s Character Educator of the Year. One year later, Dr. Mike Holmes, GMC’s Vice President of Academic Affairs appointed Jeff as the Social and Behavioral Sciences Division Chair-a position he held until 2015 when he was named the Academic Dean of GMC’s Online campus. In 2010, Jeff was named the Junior College Educator of the Year for GMC.
Jeff is also a writer and is the author of four books on Georgia history. He is also an amateur genealogist, and in his spare time he enjoys horror films, reading, discussing politics, a good cup of coffee, time spent with friends and family, and walking. He served a term as the president of the Genealogical Society of Henry and Clayton Counties and held a seat on the McDonough Tourism Council. He holds ordination as a Southern Baptist minister and deacon, and pastored a church that his 6th great grandfather helped found. When asked what he enjoys the most about Georgia Military College, his response was “the opportunity to be part of people’s education and journey to make themselves better thinkers and citizens.”
Principal, Oconee County High School
Ben Wiggins is the principal of Oconee County High School and is also the President of GASSP (Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals). He has 17 years of experience in educational administration working at three different school districts in the state of Georgia. He began his career in Moulttrie, GA working for the Colquitt County School System where he taught social studies and served as an assistant principal. He then becuase principal of Pelham High School where he served from 2009-2014. In 2014, he was name principal of Oconee County High School in Watkinsville, GA.
Ben graduated from Samford University in 1993. He later received his M.Ed from the University of Montevallo and his ED.S from Albany State University. He is married to his wife, Jana who works for the University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government. Their oldest son is a graduate of UGA and their daughter is a senior at Oconee County High School.
Principal, Jasper County High School
Camilla Murner is a seasoned educator, currently serving as Principal at Jasper County High School in Monticello, GA. She has served in public education for 30 years, 16 of these as principal at various diverse secondary schools. Ms. Murner’s personal mission is to help students find their own sense of purpose and passion in a rapidly evolving world defined by its fluid and unprecedented challenges and opportunities. A visionary leader, she inspires others – students, educations, and other stakeholders – towards creative problem-solving and towards achieving seemingly impossible goals.
Camille graduated from Georgia College & State University with a degree in history. She also received her specialist degree in leadership from Georgia College & State University.
First-Year Experience Department Chair of the Online Campus
Kayla Brownlow has lived in Georgia for most of her life. She moved to Milledgeville from Atlanta in 2006 to attend college at Georgia College and State University. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology, where she really came to enjoy the lifestyle in Milledgeville. She went on to earn a master’s of science in Clinical Psychology from Augusta University. Kayla enjoys trying new recipes, spending time with her and husband and dog, and is looking forward to welcoming their first child in September. She has been employed with GMC since June of 2014 and really enjoys the camaraderie and positive work environment that GMC has to offer. In October of 2016, Kayla was promoted to First Year Experience Department Chair at the Online Campus and has flourished since taking on this new role. She has really enjoyed her time at GMC and wirking in higher education; she hopes that she can continue to serve this population in the future.
Mathematics Department Chair of the Online Campus
Kelly is a Professor of Mathematics and the Math Department Chair for the Online Campus. In addition, she serves as the Mathematics Division Chair and Learning Technology Coordinator for all of GMC’s campuses. She has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Georgia Southwestern College and Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education from Georgia College. Professor Weems has been with GMC since 1995 and has held positions in both teaching and administration.
Social Science Department Chair for the Online Campus
John received a B.A. in Geography from the University of Texas at Austin, with concentrations in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Environmental Resource Management and his M.A.T. in General Social Science at Portland State University, with History and Geography accreditation. His research specializations include American and European Landscape History, Late Modern European History, Public History, as well as Cultural, Historical, and Political Geography. John’s academic interests range from Modern U.S. History, Geographic Information Science, Interactive History / Geography for the Web, Education, Documentary Filmmaking, Film History and Docudramas, Land Use and Urban Studies, and Multimedia. He taught history and geography for Central Texas College’s NCPACE program before joining GMC in 2009. John has also been teaching for Park University’s online campus since 2013, which provides him an opportunity to teach freshman through junior level geography courses. He lives in Atlanta and really enjoys the collaborative academic and creative professional environment of the online campus because it offers students several advantages including greater flexibility, convenient scheduling options, as well as enhanced interaction and engagement.
Natural Sciences Department Chair for the Online Campus
Jessy was born in Columbus, Ohio but grew up in Snellville, Georgia(Gwinnett County). She graduated from South Gwinnett High School and attended Georgia College and State University where she graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Biology and 2010 with a M.S. in Biology. While attending GC&SU, she conducted undergraduate and graduate research for the biology department and taught science labs as a teaching assistant. She tutored for GMC Milledgeville beginning in 2008 and taught for GMC Milledgeville beginning in 2010. She loves working for GMC because the student population is great; they are diverse, interesting, and fun. She likes that GMC is not a giant university where it’s difficult to build relationships with employees and students.
Business and Computer Science Department Chair of the Online Campus
Chris Simonavice is a native of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, his Master of Business Administration, and his Master of Science in Telecommunications Systems Management degrees from Murray State University (Murray, Kentucky). After graduating, Chris began working for his alma mater, serving as the Teleconferencing Center Director. After moving on from his alma mater, he served as the Training and Web Support Specialist for the Graduate School at Florida State University (Tallahassee, Florida). He currently works for the Georgia Military College Online Campus as the Department Chair of Business and Computer Information Systems where he enjoys teaching online courses.
Humanities Department Chair of the Online Campus
Lee is originally from Tifton, GA, but currently lives in Valdosta. He received a B.A. in English from Valdosta State University in 2002 and his M.A. from Georgia College and State University in 2006. Since then he has worked for GMC as an English instructor on the Milledgeville campus (2006-10), the Advising Center Supervisor on the Valdosta campus (2010-2011), and now as the Department Chair for Humanities and Education for GMC’s Online Campus. The things he most enjoys about working for the online campus include the challenge (and rewards) of online instruction, as well as the flexibility that online teaching offers. Lee believes he has a great faculty that do really amazing work for the online classes, which is a pleasure to see.
Dual Enrollment Coordinator
Caroline McDade is a native of Ivey, GA and an honor graduate of Georgia Military College (2010). She graduated from Georgia College and State University with a Bachelors of Science in 2013. She began working with Georgia Military College in the Human Resource Department in 2015 as the Recruiting Coordinator where she focused on recruitment, retention, and coordinating the hiring process. She also implemented a new application tracking system, trained on new systems and policies, cultivated the Federal Work Study Program and build applicant funnels for new employees. She moved to the Online Campus in August 2016 as the Dual Enrollment Coordinator. Her efforts focus on recruitment and retention of students and high school partnerships throughout the state. Her love for mentoring and developing young students began with her work in the federal work study program and it carried over to her new position.
Caroline is married to a GMC alumni, Kyle, and they have two children.
Online Instruction Librarian
Ryan attended Emory University and received his Bachelor’s Degree in History. He received a Master’s in Library Science at Drexel University. Before moving to Milledgeville, he worked at Emory University in the Special Collections and Archives department. He also taught high school students in Huntsville, Alabama. He now resides in Milledgeville, Georgia.