VAIGS Leadership and Staff

Graduate School Leadership

Steven J. Triezenberg, Ph.D.
President and Dean, Van Andel Institute Graduate School

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Dr. Triezenberg received his Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology from the University of Michigan and later completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Carnegie Institution of Washington’s Department of Embryology (in Baltimore). He then joined the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University, where he taught molecular biology and genetics to medical students and directed research projects on gene regulation. Dr. Triezenberg also served at MSU as Associate Director of the interdepartmental graduate program in cell and molecular biology. Dr. Triezenberg came to Van Andel Institute in May 2006 as the founding Dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School. He also served as the Director of the Van Andel Education Institute from 2009 to 2015.
His laboratory at Van Andel Research Institute explores the regulation of gene expression with a particular focus on mechanisms of transcriptional activation. VP16, a protein from herpes simplex virus, stimulates transcription of the first viral genes expressed during an infection. This is true during a lytic or productive infection, which typically manifests as a cold sore, or during reactivation from latency, which shows up as recurrent lesions. Using genetic, cell culture, biochemical and biophysical assays, the lab studies the structure and function of VP16 and its interactions with cellular proteins (including chromatin and coactivator proteins) that play a role in viral gene expression. This work will shed light on general models of transcriptional regulation and on the potential of VP16 as a target for antiviral therapy.

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Dr. Haab obtained his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. He then served as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Patrick Brown in the Department of Biochemistry at Stanford University. Dr. Haab joined VARI as a Special Program Investigator in May 2000, became a Scientific Investigator in 2004, and was promoted to Senior Scientific Investigator in 2007. He also serves as an assistant dean of Van Andel Institute Graduate School and as an adjunct professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Genetics Program at Michigan State University.

Graduate School Staff

Patty Farrell-Cole, Ph.D., Evaluation Specialist

Patty received a Master’s degree in organizational and adult learning from the University of New Mexico and her Ph.D. in higher, adult and lifelong education from Michigan State University. She worked for several years at Intel Corporation as an organizational development specialist. She was an academic advisor and then evaluation specialist for several units within Michigan State University, and also served there as executive director of the Association for the Study of Higher Education. From 2010–2016,, she was the director of University Relations and Policy Research at the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

As an evaluation specialist, Patty designs and implements monitoring and evaluation systems for new and existing Graduate School programs. Her work involves quantitative and qualitative methods for gathering and analyzing data for evaluating the VAIGS program, curriculum, faculty teaching, and student learning.

Nancy Schaperkotter, AM, CEAP, LMSW, Student Affairs Specialist

Nancy joined the VAIGS staff in 2015, after more than five years as Dean of Student Support at Mid-State Technical College in Wisconsin. Nancy is a graduate of Central Michigan University and earned a graduate degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago. She has held leadership positions for employee assistance programs in both business and medical settings.

Nancy is responsible for fostering a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment for students. She plays a large role in assisting students with orientation and transition into VAIGS, professional development and addressing non-academic concerns such as housing and finances. Nancy also supports the Graduate School’s Graduate Student Association and its growing Alumni Association.

Christy Mayo, MAOM, M.Ed., Enrollment and Records Administrator

Christy joined the Graduate School in 2015 with 15 years of experience in higher education. Prior to arriving at VAIGS, she served as associate registrar at Grand Valley State University for 12 years. Christy has extensive experience in admissions, registrar functions, academic advising and higher education technology solutions. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in marketing from Auburn University as well as Master’s degrees from University of Phoenix and Grand Valley.

Christy is responsible for developing, implementing and administering the admissions process, academic student records, graduation, registrar functions and recruitment efforts.

Susanne Miller-Schachinger, B.B.A., Executive assistant

Susanne received a B.B.A. degree in commerce and business administration in Austria and worked for 12 years in the banking and manufacturing industry in Europe. She held marketing positions for several Silicon Valley companies over six years before moving to Grand Rapids in 2002. Prior to joining VAIGS in 2017, she held the position of senior executive assistant at Stiles Machinery, Inc., North America’s largest importer of industrial woodworking manufacturing equipment.

Susanne supports the president and dean of the Graduate School in numerous organizational and administrative roles, setting the dean’s daily schedule, prioritizing functions and appointments for seamless execution, coordinating events and facilitating various aspects of interdepartmental communication. She also supports the Triezenberg Laboratory and acts as the liaison to outside organizations and to the Board of Directors of VAIGS.

Kathy Bentley, B.S., Senior Administrative Assistant

Kathy received a B.S. in business management from Cornerstone University in 2002. Prior to joining the Graduate School in 2010, Kathy served in executive support roles in education, healthcare and manufacturing, and owned and operated a computer consulting business.

Kathy supports graduate student orientation, student affairs, courses and curriculum development, and faculty development as well as special projects within the Graduate School.

Michelle Love, MAEd., Administrative Assistant

Michelle earned her Master’s degree in adult education and training in 2009. Prior to joining the Graduate School, she served as student services coordinator at the University of Phoenix.

She is responsible for coordinating the summer internship programs, guest students, Academy of Modern Engineering program and the West Michigan Regional Undergraduate Science Research Conference.