About the Staff

Jenna Ashley Robinson

Jenna Ashley Robinson joined the Pope Center in January 2007 as campus outreach coordinator and later became the center's director of outreach. She was previously the E.A. Morris Fellowship assistant at the John Locke Foundation, where she had worked since 2001.

Robinson graduated from N.C. State University in 2003 with a major in political science and French. She has studied at the University of East Anglia School of American Studies in Norwich, England. She received her master's degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 and her Ph.D. in political science, with a concentration in American politics and a minor in methods, from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2012. Robinson is also a graduate of the Koch Associate Program sponsored by the Charles G. Koch Foundation.

Robinson's work has appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Roll Call, Forbes, American Thinker, Human Events, Carolina Journal, the Lincoln Tribune, the Hickory Daily Record, the Gaston Gazette, the Mountain Express, and the (Raleigh) News & Observer. She has taught courses in American politics at UNC-Chapel Hill, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Wake Technical Community College. In 2013, she testified before Congress on the Federal Pell Grant Program. She has served as a member of the North Carolina Longitudinal Data System Board since January 2014.

Robinson lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, son, and three cats.

Portrait of Jenna Ashley Robinson

George Leef
Director of Research

George Leef holds a bachelor of arts degree from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University School of Law. He was a vice president of the John Locke Foundation and director of the Pope Center until the Pope Center became an independent entity in 2003.

Previously, Leef was on the faculty of Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, where he taught courses in economics, business law, and logic. He has also worked as a policy adviser in the Michigan Senate and was book review editor of The Freeman from 1996 to 2012.

Leef is the author of Free Choice for Workers: A History of the Right to Work Movement (2005) and editor of Educating Teachers: The Best Minds Speak Out (2002). Leef has published widely, with articles and reviews appearing in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Regulation, the Christian Science Monitor, the Detroit News, the (Raleigh) News & Observer, the Cato Journal, and other publications. He has testified before committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and the legislatures of Michigan and North Carolina and has made numerous TV and radio appearances.

Leef is a regular columnist for Forbes.com, as well as National Review’s Phi Beta Cons, and SeeThruEdu.com.

Portrait of George Leef

Jay Schalin
Director of Policy Analysis

Jay Schalin joined the Pope Center in August 2007. A Philadelphia native, he began his writing career as a freelance journalist for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey and wrote for several other papers in New Jersey and Delaware. He also worked as a software engineer for Computer Sciences Corporation. Schalin has a B.S. in computer science from Richard Stockton College in New Jersey and an M.A. in economics from the University of Delaware.

His articles have appeared in Forbes, The Washington Times, Fox News Online, U.S. News and World Report, Investor's Business Daily, Human Events, and American Thinker. His op-eds have been published by the McClatchy News Service and the Raleigh News & Observer. He has been interviewed on ESPN, National Public Radio, and UNC-TV, and his work has been featured on ABC News and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.

Schalin is a regular columnist for SeeThruEdu.com.

Portrait of Jay Schalin

Jesse Saffron
Senior Writer

Jesse Saffron joined the Pope Center in the summer of 2013 as a writer and editor. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and the College of Charleston, where he studied economics. Saffron has also studied at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

In addition to writing articles and editing website content, Saffron manages the Pope Center's summer internship program. He also is a frequent contributor to the National Review’s higher education blog, Phi Beta Cons.

Saffron plays classical guitar, hikes, and watches basketball during his leisure time.

Portrait of Jesse Saffron

Ashley DeSena
Operations Coordinator

Ashley DeSena joined the Pope Center in 2015. She was previously program coordinator for the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she also worked as interim executive director. DeSena has a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s in public history from North Carolina State University, and has taken courses in nonprofit management studies at Duke University. She is a board member of the town of Hillsborough’s Parks and Recreation Board and Hillsborough’s Cemeteries Committee. DeSena also co-founded the Hillsborough chapter of Questers International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic sites and artifacts.

Portrait of Ashley DeSena

Karen Noon

Karen Noon joined the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in March 2014. She is responsible for the accounting and employee benefits aspects of the Pope Center.

Prior to spending the last few years at home with her children, Karen was a corporate accountant with Lenovo in Morrisville, North Carolina; Centennial Communications in Wall, New Jersey; and Dugan Valva Contess in Morristown, New Jersey. Karen graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in accounting and a minor in economics and earned her CPA license in March 2000. She is married with three children and lives in Raleigh, NC.

Portrait of Karen Noon

Stephanie Keaveney
Policy Associate

Stephanie Keaveney joined the Pope Center in 2015. She graduated cum laude from Southern Oregon University with a BA in political science and a minor in applied economics.

Prior to joining the Pope Center Stephanie completed research internships at the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Stephanie is a Pacific Northwest native and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Portrait of Karen Noon

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