About Us

Our Staff


Our leadership team is both experienced and passionate about undergraduate student success. They work diligently on creating the structure and data support for the team of Academic Advocates and Intake staff.

Leslie Tod staff photo

Leslie Tod, Director
I am privileged to work with a team of passionate Academic Advocates, who believe that all our undergraduate students can and will be successful. We welcome you and want to hear about your experience.

I joined Undergraduate Studies in 2013 as the first Academic Advocate. Since then, this office has grown to nine Academic Advocates supporting all our students seeking to complete their first undergraduate degree. We all come from different backgrounds to find our way to working with students. For me, I grew up in the Midwest with five siblings and a large extended family. I moved to Florida when I was 21 to study for my master’s degree at USF and during the 1990's I lived and worked in England. I returned to Florida and USF in 2000 as an adjunct instructor and in 2005 became an academic advisor in my home department of Communication.

In over 30 years of service to students, I have gained a deep respect for the diverse and individual journeys students experience in pursuit of their education. I hear you, I believe you, and I support you.

Kim Williams staff photo

Kim Williams, Data Manager
I work to provide Academic Advocates with information they use to identify students who need assistance.  Our office was founded on the belief that all students can and will be successful.

I am one of the founding members of the Office of Academic Advocacy, but have been with USF for over 35 years and have lived my entire life in the Tampa area.  My interest in data came from a desire to help all students succeed. I believe that knowledge is power and the more we know about our students and the challenges they face the more we can help them be successful.    

First Year Persistence Advocates

Your First Year Persistence Advocates are committed to your successful transition through your first year at USF. They work collaboratively across the institution to ensure they can offer the best options for your individual needs.


Dr. Ashley Dees, Lead Advocate
I enjoy working with students while helping them transition from high school to college. I strongly believe every student at USF is capable of being successful when provided the right resources and support. I make every effort to get to know a student and create an academic plan that meets their goals.

I joined the Office of Academic Advocacy in 2016. Prior to joining this team, I served as an Academic Advisor at USF for four years. Before joining USF, I worked at a small private fashion business college in New York and at Florida State University. I earned a Master of Science in Higher Education from Florida State University and Doctoral (PhD) in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Higher Education from USF. 


Zulmaly Ramírez
My goal is to assist students in navigating and transitioning to college, while having a positive experience. I faced the challenges of transition first hand when I moved to the US, so I can relate to this with many students. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, and after completing my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, I moved to Tampa and encountered a big cultural adjustment. However, I found a support system that assisted me in achieving professional and personal growth.

I pursued a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and have been working in Higher Education for over 13 years. I joined USF in 2015 and found my niche here, as I am able to work with students, provide support, and build amazing relationships. In addition to advocacy I am an adjunct instructor, which helps me connect with students in a different capacity, allowing me to better serve them during their first year.


Your Progression to Graduation Advocates provide support from your second spring semester to graduation at USF. They collaborate with other offices on campus to help you overcome challenges that may impact your path to graduation and identify resources for your overall success.


Sarah Wray Marshall, Lead Advocate
I am very lucky because I get to work closely with USF’s amazing and diverse student population. I have been in higher education for more than 15 years, and I continuously am impressed by the creativity, passion, grit, and intelligence that I see from students. I myself started as a student at USF many years ago and got degrees in English and Library & Information Science. After living in Georgia and South Carolina, I came back to USF to work as an Academic Advisor for several years before joining this office as an Academic Advocate. Currently, I assist students on their pathways to graduation, and I recognize every student is on their own personal journey. No matter the journey, I want all students to feel welcome, respected, and safe during their college experience.


Alicia Caruso
I am very excited to be rejoining the Office of Academic Advocacy in 2021! I previously worked in OAA as a Graduate Assistant as part of the Intake Team until I graduated in 2018. I earned both my Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Literary Studies and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in College Student Affairs from USF. Before returning to OAA, I worked the last three years as an Admissions Recruiter Advisor at the USF St. Petersburg campus.  

In my role as an Academic Advocate, I am here to assist students on their journey to graduation and help connect them with resources that will help them achieve this goal. I believe that all students can succeed, and I want students to know that I am here to support them during their time at USF! 

Adrienne Pollard

Adrienne Pollard
I am new to the Office of Academic Advocacy as of 2021, but I have been with USF since 2014 and have worked in higher education for over 15 years, including undergraduate admissions, financial aid, and most recently academic advising for the past five years.  I firmly believe that every student has the potential to achieve their educational and career goals and I thoroughly enjoy helping them do that.  I value developing relationships based in respect and trust with students.  I want to know you as a whole person so I can best assist you along your path to graduation.

I am a transplant to the Tampa area and am originally from Connecticut, where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Connecticut.  I also lived in Pennsylvania while earning my Master of Education in Higher Education Administration at the University of Pennsylvania.  My family, including two teenage sons, and I have lived here since 2009 and love the warmth of both the weather and the people here.

Transfer Student Advocates

Your Transfer Student Transitions Advocates are specialists in the unique needs of our USF transfer students. They are here to support you from Orientation to Graduation and work collaboratively on creating a culture of support specific to the needs of transfer students.


Dr. Anthea Henderson, Lead Advocate
I joined this amazing team of advocates in 2016. I have the privilege of working with students who are faced with unique circumstances and may require assistance with finding the right resources. It is my personal belief that with the right support, you will succeed!

As a native of Antigua, West Indies and having grown up in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, I understand the challenge of transitioning to a very different culture. Though my heart and cultural roots will always reside in the Caribbean, Tampa has very much become home. My family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana where I completed high school. I then attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri and earned a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Psychology. I then earned a Doctoral (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision at USF, and I am also a Certified Program Evaluator.

My areas of expertise, as an experienced trainer and consultant, include cultural competence, social justice, teamwork, effective communication, interpersonal relationships, and a variety of counseling specific topics.  I have taught “Multicultural Perspectives in Human Services” for over 10 years as an adjunct at HCC. I enjoy providing my students with the space to gain insight into their own beliefs and behaviors while accepting the challenge of listening to and learning from others.

I welcome the opportunity to spend some time getting to know our USF students and to understand how I can better support you. Together, we will determine what opportunities at USF will be most beneficial to your experience.  I look forward to celebrating your accomplishments as you achieve your academic goals. 

 Alyssa Dunlap

Alyssa Dunlap, Academic Advocate
I approach each interaction with a student as an opportunity to help them see the strengths and abilities they already possess to be successful, along with providing support to empower them to reach their educational and career goals. My goal is to make sure that each student is seen, heard, and understood for who they are so that I can provide the best holistic support and resources possible.  

I am a first-generation college student and originally from Wyoming. I attended Boise State University in Boise, Idaho where I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and thanks to encouraging mentors, went on to earn my Master of Education in Higher Education Administration and Student Personnel at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.  Prior to joining the Office of Academic Advocacy in March 2022, I worked as a residence life coordinator and later as an academic advisor, both at USF, and then as an academic advisor at a community college in North Carolina. I look forward to providing you with the support and encouragement, that I was so fortunate to have, as you pursue graduation and the future you envision. 

 Idrissa Stephens

Dris Stephen, Academic Advocate
I am deeply committed to helping every student reach their academic goals once they make the transition to USF. I believe all students can be successful with the right support, so I will do my best to guide you toward the resources, tools, and strategies that are best suited to address your unique needs. 

As a first-generation college student and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who transferred to USF from a Florida community college, I have personal experience navigating many of the obstacles students sometimes face on the path to graduation. I earned my B.A. in Mass Communications, M.A. in English Education, and M.B.A. with an emphasis on Analytics and Business Intelligence, all from USF.  I have worked as a professional educator and higher education administrator in Florida for about 15 years. Let’s chat!