Meet the PLACE Fellows

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Dr. Tamara L. Burk


Dr. Burk holds a PhD from The College of William and Mary and is a Professor of Communication Studies, John Reeves Endowed Chair of Leadership, and Director of Leadership Studies and the P.L.A.C.E. (Philanthropy, Leadership & Community Engagement) Program. Her scholarly interests include pedagogy, leadership education, gender and leadership development, classroom communication and social justice. Dr. Burk has received many campus and community awards since she began teaching here in 2003, including the Undergraduate Studies Students’ Choice Award for Teaching Excellence at Columbia College, three times.


Lauren Fleming, MA

Program Manager

Lauren Fleming serves as the program manager for the Center for Leadership & Social Change. In this role, she helps create and execute leadership opportunities for students to better engage with the College and community. A two-time Columbia College alumna, Lauren graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in public relations and a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership. As an alumna, she is a member of the Ariail Club. In the community, Lauren serves on the Core Team for Resilient Richland and on the Steering Committee for the North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative. She has also been an active participant in the Obama Foundation's Community Leadership Corp.​

Tabitha Simonson


Tabitha is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is a Global Business Major with aspirations to help people everywhere. Tabitha stays busy at Columbia College through the Honors Program, Swimming Team, Momentum Scholars Program and through a masonic youth organization called the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. She loves that she is a part of the community as a P.L.A.C.E. Fellow and looks forward to being a helping hand all around South Carolina.


Savanna Wiegand


Savanna is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is double majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality, Tourism, and Event Management and Communication with a minor in Leadership Studies. She is on the Columbia College Golf Team and serves as a C’ster and Student Ambassador. Using P.L.A.C.E as a platform, she hopes to spread awareness on Human Trafficking in the area. Savanna aspires to open up her own ski-resort and hotel.


Litzel Martinez Garcia


Litzel is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is a Speech-Language Pathology major with Leadership and Spanish minors. She is on the CC Lacrosse team and works in the admissions office while being involved with Momentum Scholars, Sertoma, the Estamos Unidas Latina Student Association. Litzel is enthusiastic about the experiences she will gain through P.L.A.C.E and will use these opportunities to help children with speaking disabilities, as well as to increase bilingualism in young children.


Mackenzie Shannon


Mackenzie is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Leadership. She is part of the Honors Program and a member of the swim team. She hopes to be a sports journalist after graduation. This summer, she completed an internship with the Florence Area Swim Team (FAST) working in public relations and social media.


Chelsey Martin


Chelsey is a sophomore Public Health major in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E Fellows program. She is double minoring in Leadership and Computer Information Science. Chelsey serves as the P.L.A.C.E. team leader for Habitat for Humanity and the collegiate connect coordinator at Bethlehem Baptist Church. She plans to become a web developer in the Department of Health. 


Gabby Reed


Gabby is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E Fellows Program. She is majoring in Communications, focusing on social media and graphic design. Gabrielle wants to learn how to be a productive leader through P.L.A.C.E. and to give back to the community, and she believes P.L.A.C.E will help her achieve these goals.

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Mikaya Thomas


Mikaya is a sophomore Math major and Biology minor in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is a member of the Columbia College NSF scholars, Golf Team, Pre-Health Club and Alpha Sigma Alpha. After graduation, she wants to pursue a career in the medical field in hopes of giving back to her community.

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Amaya Liles


Amaya is a Biology major on a Pre-Med track and is in the fifth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E Fellows Program. She has a passion for medicine, mental health, and advocacy against sexual assault and harassment. Amaya is also a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha, Columbia College Honors program, and Momentum Scholars and manages for the basketball team. She is looking forward to becoming a better leader and more involved in the community.

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MeKel Mock


MeKel is a first year double majoring in Psychology and Child and Family Studies and is in the sixth cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She has a passion for helping children who suffer from mental illness and volunteers at walks that raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention, such as the Out of the Darkness Community Walks. MeKel also participates and volunteers in protests that fight to raise minimal wage and for equality for all. 

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Linda Alston


Linda is a first-year Global Business major in the 6th cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program at Columbia College. Her passions include philosophy, music, playing with her dog and trying new things. She has volunteered with nonprofit organization Freedom Readers in her hometown of Conway, S.C., where she started and headed a branch that actively tutored children from low-income neighborhoods. She is a member of the Honors Program and an NAACP Ambassador for the Columbia College NAACP Chapter.

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Rachell Harglerode


Rachell is a first-year at Columbia College and is in the 6th cohort of the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. She is majoring in Elementary Education and has a heart for inspiring children. Along with P.L.A.C.E., she is involved in the Honors Program and is a journalist for the school newspaper, The PostScript.  Rachell enjoys spending time with children, family, animals and friends in her free time. She is passionate about giving children a voice and empowering them to be the best they can be. Rachell hopes to fill her first year at Columbia College with self-growth and awareness, community service and lots of fun.

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Maya Stevenson


Maya is a Public Relations major in the sixth cohort in the P.L.A.C.E. Fellows Program. Her passions include "Help 4 Kids," a nonprofit that packs lunches for children to take home on the weekend. During Maya's high school career, she helped campaign for Hillary Clinton in her hometown of Florence, South Carolina. She has gained leadership skills from not only being a delegate at Palmetto Girls State, but going on to become a junior counselor, as well. 


Mary Catherine Baker


Mary Catherine Baker is a senior English major set to graduate in May. On campus, she is an active member of PLACE, the Honors Student Association, and Sigma Tau Delta. Mary Cate also serves as the founder and president of Columbia College’s student chapter of Amnesty International. This year, she is working and interning with Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, SC Victim's Assistance Network, and the Columbia College Food Insecurity Subcommittee. Mary Cate plans to go to graduate school, where she can work in a helping profession that will positively impact the community.

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Jzurnee Myers


Jzurnee is in the 8th cohort of the PLACE Fellows Program. They are in their first year at Columbia College, double majoring in English and political science. In addition to the PLACE Fellows Program, Jzurnee is a member of the Honors Program, Momentum Scholars, Amnesty International, Student Government Association, and the Association for Multicultural Awareness. They hope to improve the lives of others in any way that they can, mainly through social justice education. 


Zimri Bertotty


Zimri is a first- year at Columbia College and in the 8th cohort of the PLACE Fellows Program. Zimri is majoring in social work and minoring in business management. She enjoys reading and hanging out with my family and friends. Zimri is particularly passionate about helping others and bridging the gap between language barriers, giving a voice to those who have not been heard.


Jenna Stallings


Jenna is a first year at Columbia College and is in the 8th cohort of the PLACE Fellows Program. She is majoring in special education and wants to help improve the learning of SpEd children. Along with being involved in PLACE, Jenna works part-time at her local Panera. Jenna enjoys spending her free time with her family, cat and friends. She is passionate about working with SpEd kids to further their learning and help show the world their true potential. Jenna hopes to fill her first year at Columbia College with self-growth, community service and lots of friendships.