BFTF Staff Members 2018


RVon Burg PhotoDr. Ron Von Burg, Director

Ron is Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Communication at Wake Forest University with a joint position in Humanities and Communication. Ron earned his Ph. D. from the University of Pittsburgh in Communication. Bad jokes are his speciality.

AVB PicDr. Alessandra Von Burg, Co-Director and Curriculum Director

Alessandra is an Associate Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of East Asia Languages and Cultures at Wake Forest University. She teaches rhetorical theory, researches mobility and migration, and hails from Italy. She will be teaching the Citizenship class at BFTF. Alessandra earned her Ph. D. from the University of Pittsburgh in Communication.

HahnPhotoDr. Taylor Hahn, Director of Civic Engagement

Taylor (Tay) has been part of the BFTF since 2008. Tay received his MA from Wake Forest and served as a Debate Coach at Clarion University in Pennsylvania for two years. His earned his PhD in Communication at, you guessed it, the University of Pittsburgh. He currently works for Johns Hopkins University.


Dr. Allan Louden, Ombudsman

Allan is the Chair of the Department of Communication at Wake Forest University. Allan earned his Ph. D. from the University of Southern California in political communication. While a charming fellow, many visit his office to play with his dog, Glacier.


AnnamaePhotoAnnamae Giles, Home Stay Coordinator

Annamae Giles is a Field Faculty/Clinical Instructor for
UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work Winston Salem Distance Education Program. She received her MSW from the University of Kentucky and a BA in psychology from Northern Kentucky University.  Though not related to Ben Franklin she is related to people who knew him.  Her superhero name is “The Connector”.

Vanessa HoranVanessa Horan, Administrative Coordinator

Vanessa is the Administrative Assistant for the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at Wake Forest University. In addition to her unparalleled organizational skills, she is an exceptional cook.



FilippaFilippa Braarud

Filippa returns for her second year as a mentor. She represented Norway as a 2013 Fellow. Filippa’s diplomatic skills has taken to Canada, Russia, and of course Belgium.



Rose O’Brien

Rose is recent graduate of Wake Forest University, where she majored in Politics and minored in Italian. Her enthusiasm and dedication to help others recommends Rose as a fitting addition to the BFTF staff. This is her first year with the BFTF.


Kory Riemensperger

Kory Riemensperger

Kory likes to live on the edge. That spirit has lead him to many destinations across the globe. Kory is an MA graduate in Communication at Wake Forest University, and is on his way to a PhD program at Pittsburgh. This is Kory’s second year with the Ben.


EfthymiosEfthymios Skoufas

Efthymios hails from the outstanding BFTF class of 2010. This third year mentor is a pharmacy student in Greece and is keenly interested in public health policy. He has been a very active BFTF alumnus, continuing the spirit of the Ben. He has very strong opinions on music and vegetables.

SwanPhotoAaron Swanlek

Aaron Swanlek earned an MA in Communication at Wake Forest University and is currently pursuing his PhD in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. He attended Clarion University in Pennsylvania as an undergrad where he engaged in debate, government, and the good Western PA life. Unfortunately, he roots for the wrong PA hockey team.

T TaylorT Taylor-Dorm Director

T is an MA graduate in the Department of Communication at Wake Forest and is a vaunted “Double Deac.” T’s enthusiasm knows no bounds. The algorithm says her house and cat-sitting skills are unmatched. She is excited to join the Ben for her second year.



JarrodDr. Jarrod Atchison

Jarrod is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Wake Forest University where he also serves as the Director of the Wake Forest debate program. As the Director of Debate, Dr. Atchison works with undergraduate students competing to win national championships in cross examination policy debate.

Nate FrenchDr. Nate French

Nate’s major areas of research are in rhetorical studies. Nate is the Director of the Magnolia Scholar’s program which began in 2009. The Magnolia Scholars program identifies students who are the first in the families to attend college to make sure that they take advantage of every opportunity available at Wake Forest.

Rowie Kirby StrakerDr. Rowie Kirby-Straker

Rowie is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Communication and Director of Public Speaking at Wake Forest University. In a previous life, Rowie worked with the Department of Fisheries in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.


Shelley SizemoreProfessor Shelley Sizemore

Shelley is another “Double Deac,” boasting a BA and MA in Communication at Wake Forest University. She is currently the Director of Academic Programs and Community Engaged Research at the Pro Humanitate Institute. She is also pursuing her PhD at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.


Maria Cortez-Perez

Maria is a rising junior at Wake Forest University, studying Sociology. She is an activist in the community and on campus as an advocate for the immigrant community. Maria is co-teaching with Professor Sizemore.


Christina SorianoProfessor Christina Soriano

An Associate Professor of dance, Christina teaches composition, improvisation, modern technique, dance and film history and a collaborative course called Movement and the Molecular. Christina also teaches a community dance class to people living with Parkinson’s Disease, and has been involved in studies examining how improvisational dance can help their mobility and balance.

Chris ZaluskiProfessor Chris Zaluski

Chris is a talented filmmaker and multi-media specialist. He is a MFA graduate of the Wake Forest University Documentary Filmmaker and now works for the Graduate School at Wake Forest developing multi-media productions.