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START Program Staff and Instructors

Cherisse Brown, START Director

Cherisse Brown

START Director

208-282-4359

browcher@isu.edu

Cherisse Brown attended Idaho State University and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 2009. Her professional experience includes 6 years working in the non-profit sector wherein she managed the state workforce development contract for southeast Idaho and a total of 9 years working closely with at-risk populations in the social services field. Cherisse is most passionate about helping others see and maximize their potential and considers it a great privilege to work with students in the START Program at ISU.  

Shanon Oler, START Counselor

Shanon Oler

START Counselor

Office: Roy F. Christensen Complex 372B

208-282-3245

olershan@isu.edu

Shanon Oler is a native of southeastern Idaho and received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Counseling in Student Affairs from ISU. Shanon has worked at ISU in multiple capacities including academic advising, teaching, and mental health and career counseling over the last six years. She has a passion for working with college students from all walks of life and being able to witness their transformational journey through the START program.

Donald E. Allen, Math Instructor

Donald E. Allen

Math Instructor

208-282-4094

alledona@isu.edu

Don Allen likes math. He started math by playing cribbage, lotto, and other board games with his grandmother. He still likes math problems all the way from adding 2+2 up to group theory used in particle physics. No problem is too easy. No problem is… . Well, yes, some problems are very hard.

Don was born in Missoula, Montana. He graduated from Idaho Falls High School sometime during the last century. He attended college in New York, NY, Eugene, OR, and Pocatello, ID. He earned a Master's degree in Physics from Idaho State University as a nontraditional student.

Don has worked in variety of jobs, including farm, factory, retail sales, social service, and education. He worked more than ten years for USDA in a wonderful job which combined food and science. Getting paid to taste French-fried potatoes made him believe even more in higher education.

Don is delighted to be the Math Instructor for the START program. Working with the people, both students and staff, is the best part of the job.

Geoffrey Bennett, Clinical Instructor, Technical General Education Dept.

Geoffrey Bennett

Clinical Instructor, Technical General Education

Office: Roy F. Christensen Complex 375

208-282-3200

benngeof@isu.edu

Professional Work Experience

  • Professional Actor, Director, Acting Instructor, Fight-Choreographer – 30 years
  • Massage Therapist, Instructor   – 10 years
  • Scenic Carpenter, Scene-shop Supervisor   – 3 years
  • Adjunct Communications/Negotiation Instructor  – 7 years
  • Instructor, College of Technology General Education  – 3 years

Career Highlights

  • Worked as a performer in four countries and six states – including New York on the Radio City Music Hall stage.
  • Worked and lived in South Africa for the year leading up to the election of Nelson Mandela in the country’s first fully democratic election
  • Have been an instructor for (and learned with) over 1800 students

One of Your Favorite Professional Experiences

The best thing about being an educator – especially in a college setting – is that you are constantly put into contact with amazing human beings.  Every semester, every class, you get to meet people with remarkably different backgrounds and perspectives. I’ve been asked what makes a “good” class – it’s when I come away learning more about the world and my experience in it from the insights of the students I get to interact with.  Turns out… that happens all the time.

Michael Clarke Instructor, Technical General Education

Michael Clarke

Advanced Instructor

Office: Roy F. Christensen Complex 383

208-282-2810

clarmic8@isu.edu

  • BS Business Finance
  • MBA General Business

Professional Work Experience

  • 19 years in education
  • Spent 11 years teaching CTE, Computers, and Business at the high school level
  • 10 Years as an adjunct professor local community colleges in Business in Central California
  • 2 Years as full time faculty at a community college
  • Starting 6th year here at the College of Technology

Career Highlights

  • Ran several businesses including computer networking and repair and business consulting
  • Runner up for Fresno County Teacher of the Year 2007
  • Took my students to various international competitions, consistently placed in the top 10, including 3rd place in Marketing at the San Diego Virtual Enterprise Trade Fair

One of my favorite Professional Experiences

General Education Instructor

Okay, I’m going to cheat a little and tell you about two small ones.

The first was in my first year of teaching, a young lady was struggling with an assignment and so I bent down and slowly explained it to her in a different way. All of the sudden she says, “Oh, now I get it Mr. Clarke!” Lightbulb going off over my head or whatever metaphor you can think of but right then I knew I was on the right path in teaching.

The second was when I took my students to the aforementioned San Diego Trade Fair. My students were setting up their booth (instructors weren’t allowed to help) and another instructor looks at my students and said something like,” Are all your students Hispanic?” I looked and I said, “No, two of them are Hmong also”. I honestly had never really thought about it, to me they were just students. I realized that growing up with a Native American step-father had pretty much made me colorblind. If that is the case, I hope I never start noticing things like that.

Mike Serpa math instructor standing next to a piano.

Mike Serpa

Math Instructor

Office: Roy F. Christensen Building, 3rd Floor

Mike was born I Wendell Idaho and grew up in American Falls Idaho. He attended Idaho State University earning a BS and MS in Physics. Mike has worked for RCA in their solid state research lab and for AMI Semiconductors holding various technical and technical management positions.

Mike’s hobbies are studying the piano, reading, gardening and playing with his new puppy Lolli.

He enjoys being part of the START team because of the personal satisfaction he gets helping students take the next step in their education.

Valerie Watts,  Instructor for Adult Education

Valerie Watts

Instructor

A native Pocatelloan, Valerie Watts has held a variety of teaching positions both here and in Southern California. After graduating from Idaho State University, her first teaching jobs were in the Academic Skills Development (now TGE) and Adult Education programs on the College of Technology campus. In 2012, Valerie returned to Adult Education to teach math again. She finds it especially gratifying assisting students in their educational journey. Valerie enjoys accompanying her husband on motorcycle trips and working outdoors on various summer projects at home.

Contact Us

Email

(208) 282-4359

College of Technology,

Idaho State University

921 South 8th Ave, Stop 8380

Pocatello, Idaho 83209


IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY

921 South 8th Avenue
Pocatello, Idaho, 83209
(208) 282-4636

Discover opportunity at Idaho State University