Meet The Team
HOST Program Coordinator
Libby Stephens brings over twenty years of non-profit experience to her role leading the program development and ongoing management of the HOST Program. Libby grew up in West Virginia, graduated from Marshall University with a B.A. in History, and received a Masters of Divinity from the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, VA. Outside of work time, Libby enjoys cooking and camping (even better is cooking while camping) with her husband and son. She is also a very persistent, but inept, gardener and an avid reader.
Libby is excited to work with the HOST Program because it is a solution to housing instability that is about building connections and relationships between people. Before a student moves into a host home, the student and host will sit down together to get to know each other and talk about expectations and boundaries. Whether a student stays a week, a month, or a semester, sharing a home and intermingling their lives can be a life-changing experience for both hosts and students.
Student Housing Advocate
Alden Hearn is working with the HOST program through Passage Home, a local non-profit, partnering with HOST. They bring their experience providing case management services and navigating the difficulties of securing housing in Raleigh at a time when the cost of living for students continues to rise rapidly. In their spare time, Alden enjoys walking around Raleigh, relaxing with their cats, and organizing games of Dungeons and Dragons.
A Raleigh native, Alden has been on NCSU campus as a student and as an employee for over 15 years. They are thrilled for the opportunity to assist students in accessing resources and connecting them with the support they need to achieve housing stability and academic success.
Board of Directors
The board works in partnership with HOST staff and are ambassadors of the HOST program in community.
Sarah Gould Wright
Elizabeth Benefield, MA, Duke University, BA, College of Wooster, is beginning her tenth year at NC State University as Program Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is leading a campus wide effort to create and nurture a strong social innovation campus ecosystem, and build external partnerships with social sector leaders and organizations to empower students to use their unique skills to become engaged citizens of the world. She established the university’s Social Entrepreneur in Residence program, its TEDx-style COMx series and Dinners With Purpose events. She designed and launched the NC State Social Innovation Fellows in fall 2017 and manages all operations. Prior to coming to NC State, Elizabeth spent fifteen years as a consultant to nonprofits and social sector organizations in fundraising, and worked ten years prior as Director of Development and Assistant Dean for the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work. Passionate about blending the expertise of diverse sectors, she launched a social enterprise, the Rosie Group, to help nonprofits innovate in the areas of sustainability and social entrepreneurship. Elizabeth co-authored the book, Building a Strong Foundation: Fundraising for Nonprofits. She loves to travel, practice yoga and champion social justice, especially for women and girls.
Amy is an Education Law attorney at Poyner Spruill. Her practice group represents local school boards, private schools, and charter schools across North Carolina. Amy focuses her practice on special education, including issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504, and North Carolina state policies governing services for students with disabilities. Amy received her law degree from Campbell University School of Law and a doctorate in school psychology from North Carolina State University. While at NC State, Amy participated in program evaluation of an NIH-funded program designed to support minority students in STEM degree programs, as well as program evaluation of community-based programs focused on supporting children and families experiencing homelessness, and on providing on-site parent training and support in a pediatric clinic setting.
I am a pediatrician at WakeMed and enjoy caring for a very diverse patient population of babies, children, and teens. I see first hand how hard families are working, and know there are way too many in our community struggling to make ends meet. One clear path to reducing family stress and improving outcomes is education. I became interested in the HOST home program because I am passionate about helping students reach their potential. I have so much respect for the hard work my young patients have put into their schooling, and am incredibly proud when they are able to overcome the many obstacles and jump through the many hoops needed to get them into college. I have seen too many times how small things--a needed car repair, an illness, a job change--can derail the delicate balance and force young people to drop out of school. To be so close to obtaining a degree and breaking the cycle of poverty, to have already invested time and money and then have to abandon this goal, is absolutely heartbreaking to me. My family and I want to do what we can to help students through a hard patch so that they can move forward to pursue a productive career. Being a pediatrician is all about prevention, and I’m hopeful that playing a small part in helping a student complete a college degree will go a long way to prevent bad outcomes not only for that student, but for their future children, and even their children’s children. What a great investment in the future of our community!
Dr. Vonda M. Easterling is a vision-driven and student-centered leader with over 25 years of experience in higher education in Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Enrollment Management. She is a collaborative and transformational leader with a steady record of accomplishments and initiatives that focus on fostering environments that promote equity, inclusion, and student success. Although her work is germane to all students and all institutional types, her passion is working with first-generation college students on HBCU campuses.
Dr. Easterling is the Executive Director of Student Engagement and Leadership at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, NC. Prior to this role, she served as the Assistant Dean of Student Conduct and Community Standards and Director of Housing and Residence Life at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC.
Sarah Gould Wright
Sarah currently works at North Carolina State University for the Student Support Services TRIO Program ensuring low-income first-generation college students are competitive applicants for graduate school and career employment upon earning a bachelor’s degree. She also serves the greater campus community as Co-Chair of the campus Steering Committee on Student Food and Housing Security at NC State and Chair of the community Steering Committee on Student Food and Housing Security at NC State. In these roles, I work with housing insecure and homeless students in a myriad of capacities. To meet the mission of her different roles at NC State, she started several new programs. One is a podcast for TRIO students by TRIO students, Beyond The Bell Tower Podcast. Two, a partnership between TRIO and Wake County DHHS was established to increase the number of eligible students applying for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Before NC State, Sarah worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters Services, as well as the University of Connecticut, the University of Maine, and the University of Massachusetts.
Sarah earned an M.Ed. in Counseling and Psychological Services from Springfield College (Springfield, MA) and a B.S. in Sport Behavior from West Virginia University.
Mary is a professor in the Department of Psychology at NC State. In addition to serving on the HOST Advisory Council, she is a member of the Advisory Council for REACH, a program of Passage Home that serves families experiencing homelessness. Mary also serves as the University/College representative on the new Wake County Affordable Housing Advisory Working Group.
Keith G. Martin
Keith G. Martin joined NC State University in January 2018 and currently serves as the Senior Academic Advisor for the Student Success & Advising Center within the College of Education. In his role, he uses proactive and appreciative advising for 1st and 2nd-year education majors with course selection, university and tutorial resources, student success, and degree attainment.
Martin is a Ph.D. student in the Higher Education Opportunity, Equity, and Justice program area of study at NC State. His research interests are in the following: college access,
retention, and student success; food and housing insecurities; and college environment and climate impact on underrepresented student experiences. He received his Master of Education in College Student Affairs at the University of South Florida, and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from the University of Tampa.
Prior to his current role at NC State, he served as an academic advisor for the Poole College of Management. He also worked in Residential Education at UNC Asheville as a Community Director. Additional experiences of his include working as an academic advisor for Hillsborough Community College (Dale Mabry campus), and advising first-generation and low-income students at the University of South Florida (Tampa campus).
For Martin, having the opportunity to serve with HOST is something that is both personal and rewarding to him. He believes that HOST is a great resource for a vulnerable and sometimes unseen student population. It is his hope to help bring awareness while also sharing with others ways that they can support students who are housing and food insecure.
Martin is happily married and has a toddler son. He enjoys a good mix of food, music, and travel. One of his favorite past times is hopping in his car and driving miles on end with his radio blasting!
I have worked as a pathologist at UNC-Rex Hospital since 2002. Having three college students of my own, I know how stressful this time can be, even without housing being an issue. When I became aware of the work HOST planned on doing in the Triangle, I was happy to serve on the board and volunteer as a host family for students now that we have extra room with our children out of the house.
Hello, my name is Shivani Surati. I am an NC State alumni, graduating with the class of 2020. I majored in Science, Technology, and Society with a concentration in Global Public Health. While an undergrad at NC State, I did undergraduate research on food and housing insecurity and as the co-founder of the Students Basic Needs Coalition. I then went on to do a master's in Global Health at Duke University. My experiences as an undergraduate researcher in food and housing insecurity, my graduate education in Global Health at Duke University, and my current role as a clinical research study coordinator at UNC have all inspired and reinforced my commitment to serving as a board member for Housing Opportunities for Study Today (HOST). The understanding I gained throughout my education and work inspires me to address housing insecurity among students through informed decision-making and sustainable solutions. Being a board member of HOST allows me to apply my knowledge, passion for social justice, and dedication to global health, creating a more equitable educational environment for all students. I joined HOST to serve and empower students.
When I worked for University Student Legal Services (a non-profit organization providing legal services to NCSU students on campus), I witnessed the situations that put students at risk for homelessness. When Dr. Mary Haskett and Sarah Wright presented the results of the first student survey on homelessness at NCSU, I volunteered immediately to help. Later, I joined the committee tasked with researching and evaluating practical and affordable answers. This committee led to the establishment of HOST.
I now work in the immigration department at Ogletree Deakins. When not working, I spend my free time researching for fun and listening to K-Pop. I also actively support Wounded Warriors and several animal rescues.
Christina Davis Tew
I am a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist who volunteered as a member of Pullen Church to sit on the Advisory Board of HOST Homes. As a therapist I have always taken deep satisfaction in walking alongside clients, who are struggling with life's challenges, and assisting them in building a life they find satisfying and purposeful, and which is lived in accordance with their most deeply held values. I hope to use my training and experience to support our staff and help our students and the families who host them as they work toward optimal outcomes relative to their education and college experiences.
North Carolina State University liaison and higher education consultant