The STEMWorks team has a strong passion for helping youth become interested and succeed in STEM career fields. STEMWorks currently operates with an interdisciplinary team of six  professionals. 

 Melissa Dean, PhD, Lead Consultant & Instructional Designer 

Melissa received a bachelor’s in Psychology from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and is completing her doctorate in instructional design at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. For the last 15 year, Ms. Dean has been working in the informal and formal STEM education fields, serving as Education Director at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and the K-8 Education Director at the Mobile Area Education Foundation. At STEMWorks, Ms. Dean serves as the Research Associate and Instructional Designer for the NSF JROTC Academy Award. As Research Associate Ms. Dean is primarily responsible for carrying out research activities including developing and deploying data collection instruments, cleaning data, conducting direct observations of the intervention, analyzing the data, and assisting the Lead Researcher with preparing annual reports and other tasks as required to ensure the successful implementation, analyses and dissemination of results of the research project. Additionally, as Instructional Designer Ms. Dean assists with the adaptation or development of STEM Curriculum to meet the Academy STEM curriculum outcomes, support feasibility testing of STEM Curriculum activities, and review and provide feedback on STEMWorks developed lessons.

Susan received a bachelor degree in Mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, Masters in Secondary Curriculum at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a doctorate in Mathematics Education from Auburn University. For the past 25 years, Dr. Pruet has been dedicated to both helping administrators and teachers improve the teaching and learning of mathematics and engaging youth in the importance of mathematics and science through the use of integrated STEM curricula.  Prior to forming STEMWorks, she taught math to students from middle grades to graduate level, served as director of the Columbus (GA) Regional Mathematics Collaborative (1995-97) and as Program Director for the Mobile (AL) Area Education Foundation (1998-2013).  Besides being a prolific and successful grant writer securing over 8 million dollars in awards, she has led STEM curriculum writing teams and summer STEM camps for elementary, middle and secondary students.  Currently, as STEMWorks CEO, she serves as Principal Investigator and Project Director for the NSF-funded grant researching the Mobile County School System’s JROTC STEM Leadership Academy. In this role, Dr. Pruet oversees not only the Academy’s STEM curriculum development, related STEM Instructor professional development and implementation of all STEM components during the JROTC Academy, but also the related research and evaluation activities.

 Susan Pruet, PhD, Founder & CEO  

James (Jamey) Duke graduated from Davidson High School in 1995 and the University of South Alabama in 1999. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology with a Minor in Mathematics. Mr. Duke worked as a forecaster in Houston, TX before returning to Mobile to pursue a master’s degree in Math Education from USA. For the past 20 years, he has been teaching upper-level math and science courses at Davidson High School, including AP Calculus, AP Physics, and AP Statistics. He achieved National Board Certification in 2019. In addition to teaching, Mr. Duke has been involved in several projects as a STEM curriculum developer at both the middle and high school levels. Most recently he has been working with JROTC STEM Leadership Academy as the lead curriculum writer. 

Laniese Howard is the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy Coordinator.  She received her bachelors in Elementary Education and her Master’s in Gifted Education for the Gifted and Talented at the University of South Alabama.  She has been an educator for 29 years in 3 states. For the last 14 years, Ms. Howard has been working in the informal and formal STEM education fields serving as a classroom STEM Educator for grades 3-8, an Engaging Youth through Engineering camp Co-Director, and has served on numerous STEM education and curriculum writing teams. At STEMWorks, as the STEM Academy Coordinator, Ms. Howard is primarily responsible for coordinating logistics for all activities, schedules, professional development, and day to day operations of the JROTC STEM Academy.  Ms. Howard believes in STEM Education for all levels of students and that it is an important part of the learning process.  Working at STEMWorks allows her to continue sharing the love of STEM both inside and outside the school setting.

 Jamey Duke, MEd, Curriculum Writer & National Board Certified Teacher

 Laniese Howard, MEd, Academy Coordinator & Teacher Coach

 John Parker, MA, Accounts Manager 

Jim Van Haneghan, PhD, Lead Researcher & Psychologist


Jim Van Haneghan is the lead researcher for the JROTC STEM Leadership Academy longitudinal study. He received a bachelors in psychology, a masters in experimental psychology, and a doctorate in applied developmental psychology. Jim is a professor at the University of South Alabama in the Instructional Design & Development program and has over 25 years in education research experience, with a specialty in evaluating STEM programs. As the lead researcher for the JROTC Academy, he commits his extensive knowledge in education research to organize the research team and implement the research design. He also supervises data collection and analysis activities of the research team.


John Parker received a BA, MA and AA from the University of South Alabama in Mobile, majoring in Education.  After retiring from the Mobile County School System in 2001 (where he served as teacher, local school administrator, and central office administrator), he served as accounts manager for several grants awarded to the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF). These grants included Disney Learning Partnership, National Science Foundation, Alabama Department of Education, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

As Accounts Manager for the STEMWorks, his responsibilities include maintaining financial information (income and expenses), reconciling dedicated bank and credit card accounts, approving payments to contract workers, and preparing invoices.