By Mindy Ayala-Diaz

On Thursday, February 24th, various members of the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies community gathered for the Darden Fellows Alumni Luncheon, to celebrate the accomplishments of six alumni who have made significant contributions to their fields and have distinguished themselves in their professions.

Nominated by faculty from each of our departments, the awardees exemplify service and excellence, in their communities and beyond. It is noteworthy that these six individuals have been selected from a pool of more than 41,000 Darden College alumni.

Darden Fellows is a longstanding tradition in the College, aimed at celebrating the hard work, perseverance, and dedication that has gone into the incredible things the alumni have achieved.

Interim Dean Tammi Dice shared, "I look forward to seeing more of your accomplishments, and I hope you know that you are an inspiration to current and future students to follow their passions, make meaningful differences, and ultimately better the world. Congratulations again."

Five of the awardees and their guests participated in a luncheon and ceremony, where they were presented with an award and a small gift from the College. The 6th, Dr. Nickolaos Karvounis, was unable to attend, and prepared a short video to thank his mentors at the College and ODU for helping him reach great success.

Learn more about this year's Darden Fellows:

Department of Communication Disorders and Special Education

Dr. Ann Maydosz

Ann Maydosz returned to college at age 38, earning her bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees from the Darden College of Education and Professional Studies. Dr.Maydosz has worked in higher education for 22 years and is currently the co-director of the Center for Implementation and Evaluation of Education Systems(CIEES) at Old Dominion University, which is awarded more than $4 million in grants annually to improve outcomes for K-12 students through innovative, research-based practices.

Dr. Maydosz has also served as an adjunct assistant professor of special education for over 17 years, teaching special education law and characteristics to thousands of Virginia teachers. Maydosz continues to conduct research related to special education law and policy, and equity for marginalized groups.

Her family believed that education was the answer to the complex and layered problems of bias and inequality and her work allows her to live this truth every day.

Department of Counseling & Human Services

Allen “Duffy” Samuels

Born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware, Allen "Duffy" Samuels attended Glasgow High School, where he was a basketball all-star. He earned an associates degree in early childhood education from Hagerstown Junior College.

With an avid aspiration to continue his education, Samuels transferred to Old Dominion University, where he was awarded a Division I basketball scholarship. Basketball was his ticket to travel throughout the U.S.and abroad as a collegiate and professional player. Samuels excelled as a star player and determined student; he earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and Counseling.

After college, he played professional basketball in Europe for six years. Afterwards, he returned to the United States where he played with the Harlem Globetrotters for one year.

With the news of spiraling despair and hopelessness conveyed by the youth in his old community, Samuels knew something needed to be done. He designed Duffy's Hope, Inc. in 1998, to serve youth with mentoring, prevention and intervention programming. His vision for the organization is to help encourage youth to reach their full potential by getting them "off the streets" and on paths to better futures.

Department of Human Movement Sciences

Dr. Jennifer Goff

Jennifer Goff currently leads REACH, a cause-driven organization that addresses barriers to literacy that children and families face throughout Coastal Virginia. Under her leadership, REACH has launched The Big Free Bookstore that provides new, high-quality books to families. Additionally, REACH has tripled its distribution of resources, more than doubled its operating budget, added staff, and moved to a larger space inside one of Norfolk's iconic malls.

REACH also recently presented the GivingBack Award from Coastal Virginia magazine in 2020 and the UPLIFT award from the City of Norfolk.

Most recently, Goff was named for her leadership in 2021 to the Top 40 Under 40 by Inside Business.

Prior to REACH, Dr. Goff was active in youth development through her various roles at ODU. She served as the director of CARENow, a service-learning program that promotes character and resiliency in at-risk youth; taught and lead service projects in the PRTS program, and was the assistant director of the Big Blue Summer Camp. Her research and passion have led her to present nationally, regionally, and locally; publish many peer-reviewed journal articles; and become the first female to graduate from her PhD program.

Department of Teaching & Learning

Dr. Janice Underwood

As a national expert in diversity and inclusion across multiple sectors, Janice Bell Underwood brought more than 20 years of public service to the historical role of Virginia chief diversity officer to Governor Ralph Northam. This role is the first of its kind in the commonwealth and nation. She has championed to make structural inequity visible in government and education sectors as a state official, a university administrator, teacher educator, researcher, national board-certified special education teacher, and diversity trainer.

Dr. Underwood guided the state's COVID-19 Equity Leadership Task Force and the health equity pilot program, where her team partnered with 65 local governments to advance equity reforms and distribute PPEand public health information to underserved communities.

Dr. Underwood was named one of 20 "Agents of Change" in 2020 by the Virginia Museum of History and Culture.

She earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from Hampton University in psychology and behavior/learning disorders, in 1998 and 2002. In 2015, she earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Old Dominion University, where her research focused on culturally relevant pedagogy.

Department of STEM Education & Professional Studies

Dr. Nickolaos Karvounis

Nickolaos (Nikos) Karvounis has been working in Beijing, China, at the new Mercedes-Benz truck plant, after being hired for the position of the first senior manager of general assembly in 2018.

In this transitional position, he manages the final assembly and customer validation operations as well as supports various new plant ramp-up activities. Karvounis joined Daimler Trucks North America in 2011 as a final chassis production supervisor where his achievements led him to be selected to the first group of DTNA Lean Experts.

His experience is directly related to his research interests of organizational excellence, transformation, and lean management.

Dr. Karvounis earned his PhD in Occupational and Technical Studies from the Darden College in 2021.