Meet the NISOD Staff

Meet the staff who work hard to bring you the exceptional NISOD benefits and tools that promote teaching, learning, and leadership excellence! They share their thoughts regarding the future of NISOD, their favorite NISOD benefit, what they do when they aren’t working, and their favorite spot to hang out in Austin, Texas.

Dr. Edward J Leach     
Executive Director

  • “Change or die” is an expression that’s been around for a really long time. However, it’s still as relevant as ever when it pertains to organizations such as NISOD. A failure to look to the future and change with the times will cause any organization to no longer remain relevant. I’m extremely proud of NISOD’s staff who continuously analyze our member colleges’ needs and take the steps necessary to address those opportunities. NISOD’s future certainly looks bright as we look for new ways to help faculty, staff, and administrators at our member colleges learn, connect, and grow. Possibilities on the horizon for NISOD include credentialing options and other continuing education opportunities; allowing members to customize which of our benefits and information they receive, as well as how and when they receive them; and new partnerships with a variety of other entities that share NISOD’s commitment to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership at community and technical colleges.
  • My favorite NISOD benefit is our annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence. It’s such a powerful experience to see our community of educators come together every year to spend a few days learning from and with each other. Our conference is a nice mix of participants who have been returning to Austin for years, as well as first-time attendees. Not only do I get see longtime friends each year during the conference, but it’s always fun to make new friends, as well as to see new friendships form among conference participants. I would be remiss if I didn’t say how much I enjoy the Excellence Awards Dinner and Celebration, which is held in conjunction with the conference every year. During the dinner and celebration, faculty, administrators, and staff from member colleges from across North America receive their medallions, hear essays written by students who want to thank individuals who helped them reach their goals, and share the entire experience with family, friends, and colleagues. For many of the award recipients, being recognized, thanked, and honored in this manner is the first time they’ve ever received such profound acknowledgement and appreciation for the work they do. Needless to say, the dinner and celebration is a very moving occasion and a highlight of the conference every year.
  • Most readers might not be aware of this, but for my first four years with NISOD, I split time between Austin, Texas, where NISOD is located, and Phoenix, Arizona, where my wife, Susan, and I lived prior to me joining NISOD. Susan has a couple of businesses that she could not effectively manage from Austin. Therefore, for that and a handful of other reasons, we decided she would remain in Phoenix and I would do the “back and forth thing” until other arrangements could be made. I provide this context to say that when I’m not working, I’m enjoying the many amenities the Phoenix area has to offer. There are numerous hiking trails in the area; frequent music and art fairs and festivals; and a host of other outdoor activities in which Susan and I enjoy participating, especially in the fall, winter, and spring. (Yes, it gets a little warm in Phoenix during the summer!) You can also often find me at the movies, practicing yoga; or simply watching The Bachelor (or The Bachelorette), Dateline20/20, or 48 Hours; or a football game or some other sporting event, either in-person or televised, with Susan.
  • As noted above, I’m now living full time in Phoenix and returning to Austin on an as-needed-basis for meetings and other occasions. However, I recall having a few favorite hangout spots in Austin during my time there. One of my favorite spots was the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. Lady Bird Lake is a river-like reservoir on the Colorado River. The trail runs, among other locations, alongside the lake/river and through downtown Austin, providing outstanding views of Austin’s skyline, trees and other plant life, as well as the occasional animal. Austin being the “Live Music Capital of the World,” it’s probably no surprise that a music venue is also included on my list. The Elephant Room is a no-frills, sort of dive bar with great music that includes a mix of jazz and blues. It’s not fancy, but it’s a great place to visit if you’re in the mood to listen and dance to good music.
Edward Leach photo

Beth Helberg
Associate Director

  • I think NISOD has so many new plans for the next few years that the future of NISOD is going to be very exciting. Just in the last year, we developed the regional workshops and morphed those into on-campus workshops so NISOD can bring educational opportunities closer to the colleges we serve. I predict we will continue to expand our webinar offerings, as well as make them more interactive. NISOD will also continue to offer a Virtual Conference that showcases exceptional sessions from our annual conference. As we listen to what our members tell us, we will continue to develop new programs and benefits using new technology and resources to address their professional development needs. Over the past 40 years, NISOD has evolved to fit the needs of our members; we will continue to adapt to meet our members’ needs and be an important resource for community and technical college faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • The Excellence Awards is my favorite member benefit. What a great and EASY way for colleges to celebrate the achievements of their faculty, staff, and administrators! Because colleges set their own criteria and can submit as many names as they want, anyone from a member college can be recognized. The best part is that colleges only have to submit their employees’ names, and NISOD does all the rest! We create certificates and awards for the individuals, then the college can decide if they want to honor the individuals further by sending them to NISOD’s annual conference or at ceremonies on their campus – or both. This is an honor that stays with recipients forever because they have a tangible medal they can display in their offices and wear at graduation and other official events.
  • As a native Austinite, I like to spend time with my family and friends. All of my family members are local, so we have frequent family dinners during which we like to play games. I also have no problem calling myself a cat lady. I currently have two kittens that take up a lot of my time.
  • I enjoy trying out new restaurants and shopping. There are so many new places opening all the time, it’s hard to name a favorite. On weekends or on weekday evenings, it’s fun to go to any part of town (i.e., South Congress, Downtown, Burnet Road, East Austin, etc.) and see what’s new!
Beth Helberg

Mike Dobecka
Information Technology Coordinator

  • I believe the future looks great for NISOD. We have started to offer regional and campus workshops, will be introducing some new technology after this year’s conference, and we continue to expand our benefits, all while keeping member colleges’ dues low.
  • The Excellence Awards is my favorite NISOD benefit. All year we work toward the Excellence Awards Dinner and Celebration held in conjunction with NISOD’s annual conference. It’s very rewarding to see those outstanding educators honored for their hard work and dedication to their colleagues and communities.
  • When I’m not working, I’m usually spending time with my daughter or trying to find great Mexican food.
  • I think my favorite hangout spot is actually my backyard. I enjoy watching my dog chase squirrels, listening to the birds, and petting the occasional stray cat that visits to watch the sun set with me.
Mike Dobecka Photo

Nicole Novelli
Administrative Assistant, Membership and Webinars

  • I believe the future of NISOD holds great things! NISOD will continue to stay on top of trends in the ever-changing world of higher education, and offer the best resources for faculty and staff to advance student success. I am excited to be a part of this 40th year milestone!
  • My favorite NISOD benefit is the Monthly Webinar Series because of the large variety of topics that are discussed by presenters from all over the country. Faculty, staff, and administrators from member and non-member colleges learn best teaching practices and new ways to engage their students.
  • If I’m not in the office, I’m often out hiking, trying a new restaurant in town, or seeing live music!
  • My favorite hangout spot in Austin is Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin. It’s a beautiful spot to relax, drink delicious coffee, and people watch.
Nicole Novelli photo

Brigitte Pentecost
Publications and Communications Manager

  • My favorite NISOD member benefit is access to the weekly Innovation Abstracts publication. I taught at the college level for several years, during which I quickly came to understand how integral testing out new, and fine-tuning existing, classroom strategies is to student learning and success (and how difficult it can be to dedicate time to researching new ideas). Innovation Abstracts is an amazing resource for instructors because it is a curated collection of unique best practices to experiment with from colleagues across the country. Plus, Innovation Abstracts pieces are incredibly accessible and quick reads, giving instructors plenty of time to juggle reading them with lesson planning and grading!
  • When I’m not working, I’m usually on a run, at a park with my dogs, or exploring the Greenbelt.
  • My favorite place to hang out in Austin is Barton Springs (people watching at its finest).
Brigitte Pentecost photo

Annecy Liddell
Administrative Assistant, Conference and Workshops

  • My favorite NISOD benefit is the webinar series. The issues college campuses face change as rapidly as the world around them, and what better way to address those challenges than bite-size, accessible lessons from presenters all over the country.
  • When I’m not at the office, I’m usually playing music, cooking, or trying out new restaurants with my husband. I also spend a lot of time yelling “Don’t eat that! That’s not food!” at my baby girl.
  • My favorite hangout spot in Austin is the Parlor in Hyde Park. Cheap drinks, pool table, really good jukebox, pinball machines, and totally unpretentious.