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Faculty Mentors

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Peter Forrest, Ph.D.

Dean of Humanities


Peter Forrest, Ph.D., received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford in 2015, after having previously received a B.Phil. in philosophy from Oxford in 2011, a M.A. in philosophical theology from Yale University Divinity School in 2009, and a B.A. in English from Yale University in 2005. His primary area of research has been in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Prior to coming to Thales College, Dr. Forrest spent time teaching undergraduates in the philosophy department at Auburn University. He is married and is father to two young children, and in his spare time he enjoys coaching his son’s soccer team.

“I was excited to join the faculty of Thales College at its inception, because I believe that the status quo of American higher education is ineffectual and unsustainable, and that the vision of Thales College offers students a better path forward to a life well-lived. I believe ideas can change the world, that training in wisdom and training in practical skills are not in conflict, and indeed that gaining wisdom is the most practical goal a student can pursue while in college. I also believe that the artistic and intellectual treasures of our cultural heritage are a great gift to aid us in this pursuit, a gift we must steward and pass on to the next generation. I greatly enjoy exploring these treasures together with the bright and pioneering students of Thales College.”

Phillip Johnson, Ph.D.

Dean of Engineering

Philip Johnson

Phillip Johnson, Ph.D. received a doctorate in Energy, Environment, and Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 2020. Previously, he completed a B.S. in Engineering with a Mechanical concentration from Union University and also worked as an HVAC Manufacturing Engineer in West Tennessee. He comes to Thales College from the University of Alabama, where he was a post-doctoral researcher. His research topics have included combustion, nanoparticle formation, internal combustion engines, and turbomachinery. He resides in Raleigh with his wife and children.

“I joined Thales College as a faculty member due to its ability to train and educate engineering students innovatively. With its strong connections to the world of classical education and its ties to local industry, Thales College offers engineering students the unique ability to both engage in historic disputations of the natural philosophers and solve modern engineering problems during their courses and integrated internship experiences. I enjoy seeing our students learn to think in a critical, creative, and innovative fashion.”

Anthony Esolen, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor of Humanities

Nate Antiel

Originally from northeastern Pennsylvania and the grandson of southern Italian immigrants, Dr. Anthony Esolen received his A.B. in English Literature from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Renaissance English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Esolen has been a professor of literature and humanities for 35 years and is the author or translator of more than 30 books, which include a range of English translations, analyses of culture, literary and Biblical criticisms, meditations on modern education, meditations on the Christian life, and original poetry. Dr. Esolen also serves as a senior editor and regular writer at Touchstone magazine, has published well over 1000 articles in various journals, and publishes a web magazine dedicated to language, music, poetry, and classic films called Word and Song with his wife, Debra.

Thales College is honored to have Dr. Esolen serving on our faculty in a dynamic role that includes teaching and public lectures with Thales College and publishing work with Thales Press.

“I've long believed that, in an earthly sense, the great hope for our nation and our culture lies in an enterprise that is entirely delightful and ready to hand: to recover our great heritage of arts and letters, a heritage that calls upon our gratitude and wonder. At Thales College, we stand on the shoulders of – or we wrestle with, or we walk beside – giants. I am honored to offer my part toward realizing the college's mission.”

Joe Davison

Professor of Entrepreneurial Business

Greg Hanford

Joe Davison holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University and an M.S. in Software Management from Carnegie Mellon University. With more than 15 years of experience in the technology industry, his work has included senior engineering and leadership roles at Google and Apple, where he led interdisciplinary teams designing global-scale media, identity, and payments infrastructure. Earlier in his career, he founded an internet-based publishing company and a management consulting firm. He also spent time abroad in China, where he taught English to middle school students in the southwestern province of Sichuan. His academic and professional interests include decentralization, complexity, and the business of technology. He currently lives in Cary, North Carolina with his wife and two children.

“I am honored to join the faculty of Thales College, an institution with the potential to revitalize higher education in America. I hope to build upon students' strong foundation of classical thinking, and equip them with the tools and ideas they need to succeed in the practical world of modern business and commerce. Drawing from my experience in the technology industry, my goal is to inspire students to push the boundaries of their capabilities, and to choose to pursue careers at the forefront of human and economic advancement.”

Josh Herring, Ph.D.

Professor of Classical Education

Josh Herring

Josh Herring, Ph.D. received a doctorate in the Humanities with a concentration in Literature from Faulkner University in 2023. He also holds a M.Div. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (2016) and a B.A. in History from HIllsdale College (2011). He taught humanities courses at Thales Academy for eight years and was active in Thales Academy administration for three years as a Dean of Students, Assistant Administrator, and Dean of Classical Education. He enjoys helping Thales College develop a new model of higher education, specifically with attention to shaping future teachers intending to join the classical renewal movement. He and his wife live in Wendell, NC. Dr. Herring is a voracious reader, a regular writer with the Acton Institute, Liberty Fund, and the Federalist. He also hosts The Optimistic Curmudgeon podcast.

“I've watched Thales College grow from an idea to reality, and it is truly fulfilling seeing how the marrying of liberal arts and technical skills enables the pursuit of wisdom. I love the liberal arts, and I believe that they provide the best foundation for teaching. Thales College's insistence that all students must obtain a liberal arts core and a professional degree drew me to want to teach here.”

Sydney Leonard

Professor of Humanities,
Student Life Coordinator

Sydney Leonard

Sydney Leonard received a B.A. in English and a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester in 2013 and then earned a M.A. in Literature from George Washington University in 2014. She has spent several years teaching history and literature courses in a variety of private K-12 schools, most recently Thales Academy Apex JH/HS. Ms. Leonard is passionate about education and enjoys helping students develop self-confidence and leadership skills. She is a voracious reader, with interests in the classics, literary fiction, memoirs, and translated fiction. In her free time, she enjoys reviewing books and traveling.

“I am thrilled to join the Thales College team. I truly believe in the mission of Thales College: providing high quality, affordable education and assisting students in succeeding in a wide range of areas of life beyond college. I initially pursued a career in education because I wanted to be a part of the movement that inspires young minds to fulfill their potential. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring this energy and mindset to the college level, and I look forward to working with students and developing their unique skillsets both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Steve Wilcenski

Assistant Professor of Science and Engineering

Steve Wilcenski

Steve Wilcenski has dedicated over 25 years to contributing to teams involved in the design and development of technologies and products at the micro and nano scales. Throughout his career, he has played a pivotal role in creating disruptive solutions for various markets, including defense, aerospace, biomedical, automotive, communications, and consumer electronics. In 2016, Profesor Wilcenski co-founded BNNano, Inc., an advanced manufacturing company located in Burlington, NC. BNNano has successfully developed a proprietary methodology for manufacturing a patented morphology of Boron Nitride Nanotubes. In 2023, Steve co-founded Invicta Water, a company that uses nanotechnology to help remove and destroy toxic chemicals, including PFAs, from water supplies around the world. Prior to his entrepreneurial activities, Steve served as the president and general manager of the MEMS Business Unit at MEMSCAP, SA. He is credited as an inventor on multiple patents and holds a B.S. in Material Science and Engineering from North Carolina State University, a M.S. in Chemistry from Clemson University, and a M.B.A. from North Carolina State University. In 2022, Steve embarked on his latest venture as a co-founder of Invicta Water, a public benefit corporation. The primary focus of this venture is to implement large-scale processes for removing and destroying PFA chemicals from both domestic and international water supplies.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the faculty of Thales College. Thales College is committed to providing a new college experience and one that blends academic pursuit with relevant real-world and real-time experiences, which enhances students’ education and provides insights into life after graduation.”

Paul Cwik, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Economics and Finance

Nate Antiel

Paul F. Cwik completed a Ph.D. at Auburn University after receiving an M.A. from Tulane University and a B.A. from Hillsdale College. He is a Fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute and is a coordinator for the Mises MeetUp group, an informal group of business leaders who focus on integrating Austrian economics into daily business practice. In addition to teaching at Thales College, he is Professor of Economics and Finance at the University of Mount Olive and earned the title of Full Teaching Professor at NC State University. Dr. Cwik lives in Garner with his wife and three children.

“I am excited to be teaching at Thales College. I think that a strong foundation in Austrian Economics and Finance is essential for getting ahead in the workplace. Unlike other schools of economics which mimic the natural sciences, Austrian Economics begins with an axiom and then deduces truths and models for us to better understand the world around us. The world is a messy, chaotic place and understanding Austrian Economics, by allowing us to decipher the social orders that arise spontaneously, gives students a distinct advantage.”

Karen Palasek, Ph.D.

Visiting Professor of Economics and Business

Karen Palasek

Karen Palasek, Ph.D. completed her undergraduate degree at the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford, earning a Bachelor of Music Education degree, before going on to earn an M.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. In 2008, Dr. Palasek returned to graduate school to complete a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University, and in 2010 completed a Master of Organization Development degree from Bowling Green State University. Dr. Palasek has served in a variety of roles including both faculty and adjunct positions at a number of prestigious colleges and universities, as an independent consultant, as a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a policy analyst and director of several foundations. Dr. Palasek is married and is mother to adult children.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to teach at Thales College because, institutionally and within its student body, it embraces the principles of sound thinking, hard work, reasoning, and discourse, and demonstrates genuine reverence for mutual respect within a framework of moral thinking and action. This is so rare as to be almost entirely absent—even reversed in some aspects—in most educational, and particularly in college, environments. In short, I receive as much value from working with the character and quality of students at Thales College as I hope to impart to them in class, and that, for me, is more rewarding than many of the full-time positions I have previously held in my long career.”

Nate Antiel

Instructor of Classical Education

Nate Antiel

Nate Antiel received a M.Phil. in Anglo-Irish Literature from Trinity College - Dublin before matriculating to Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music for a M.A.R. in Theology and the Arts. He recently completed a M.A. in Classical Teaching from the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University. Having spent the last fifteen years teaching primary text based courses, he now works as an editor for Classical Academic Press and as the Assistant Editor for Principia: A Journal of Classical Education. He has also designed and written curriculum, conducted teacher training, and currently serves as a consultant for classical schools. His research centers on theological aesthetics, modernist poetry and literature, and Dante, Milton, and Shakespeare. His writing has been published in Principia, the “Close Reading” blog at Slant Books, and First Things.

“I joined Thales College because of the unique approach, bridging humane education with the practical and vocational. The world of classical education has long struggled with how to reconcile education as a preparation for the good life with the practical concerns of the modern world. Thales College is exciting as it proffers a thoughtful way forward.”

Greg Hanford

Instructor of Entrepreneurial Business

Greg Hanford(Portrait coming soon)

Greg Hanford obtained a B.S. in Marketing and a M.Acc. from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in 2008. After completing his education, Professor Hanford obtained his CPA license, solidifying his commitment to the highest standards of professional performance and integrity. His diverse professional background includes working as an auditor in public accounting, as well as holding key positions in private industry. With experience as an accounting manager, assistant controller, and controller for companies across various industries, he brings real-world insights to the classroom. Professor Hanford's teaching philosophy revolves around fostering a stimulating and inclusive learning environment where students can develop a strong foundation in accounting principles while understanding their practical applications in the business world. He also remains actively engaged in the accounting profession, staying abreast of the latest industry trends, regulations, and advancements through continuous professional development. This commitment allows him to bring relevant and up-to-date knowledge to his students, preparing them to excel in their future careers.

Kristen Rudd

Instructor of Classical Education

Kristen Rudd

Kristen Rudd received a M.A.T. in Classical Education in 2022 from the Templeton Honors College at Eastern University, where she wrote her thesis on Dante’s Divine Comedy. She graduated from the CiRCE Institute Apprenticeship program in 2019 and is a CiRCE-certified master classical teacher. She did her undergraduate work at the University of North Texas where she graduated in 2000 with a B.S. in Photojournalism, double-minoring in both Religion and Communication Studies. She homeschooled her two children for fifteen years and teaches online literature and writing classes to high school students. She also leads the Dante Atrium, an online program for adult learners, for the CiRCE Institute. Kristen is the founder and director of both the Independent Classical Educator Fellowship, a convivial group of entrepreneuring classical teachers, and the Triangle Classical Forum, an initiative that provides community, resources, and professional development to classical educators in the Raleigh-Durham area. In her spare time, Kristen writes fiction and poetry, lifts heavy weights, eats tacos, reads a lot, and contemplates getting a Ph.D. She and her family have lived in the area since 2014.

“I am thrilled to be a part of the Thales College team! We should teach students to pursue wisdom and virtue as the ultimate ends of their education, and we should nourish their minds and souls on True, Good, and Beautiful things. Thales College is a place where we, faculty and students alike, can pursue this ennobling vision. I enjoy passing on our Great Tradition and training the next generation of classical educators in the Thales College community.”