The Team

Meet people who make all this happened

Shannon M. Williams  /  Director, TRIO Programs (Student Support Services Program and Upward Bound Program)

Dr. Shannon Marie Williams is the Director of TRIO Programs at UIC: the Student Support Services (SSS) Program and the Upward Bound Program (UB). Dr. Williams received her PhD in Community Psychology from DePaul University. She has worked with the Arnold Fellows Mitchem Program, and both the TRiO McNair Scholars Program and TRiO Student Support Services Program, within the Center for Access & Attainment at DePaul. She was also the recent inaugural TRiO McNair Scholars Director at Roosevelt University. She has always been passionate about diversity, along with guiding and supporting other low-income, marginalized, first-generation college students to succeed in college and beyond, also connected to her experiences as a previous McNair Scholar. She served as the Illinois TRiO member of the Emerging Leaders Institute (ELI) within the Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) and was the keynote speaker at the EOA National TRiO McNair Research Conference. In addition, Dr. Williams had the opportunity to engage in the Global Growth Experience (GGE) in Dublin, Ireland, teaching and conducting research, and later as a member of the TRiO family taking students overseas to multiple countries for their own abroad research experiences.

She also loves to travel, and enjoys music, acting, and playing soccer.



Sonya Nelson  /   Program Coordinator (Upward Bound Program)

“All knowledge is spendable currency, depending on the market”Maya Angelou

As a Veteran who served during the Gulf War, Ms. Nelson’s drive for counseling and advocacy was sparked when she was confronted with the lack of emotional support available for the children and youth of service members and veterans.  She pursued this path and has earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree with a concentration in Counseling and Advocacy from DePaul University.


With over 10 years of Office Management and programming experience, Ms. Nelson is instrumental in the development, coordination, and implementation of programs and operations for Upward Bound at UIC. Her role also extends to serving as Residence Director for high school students in the Upward Bound Summer Enrichment program. She uses her academic training and skills acquired through mentoring youth in holistic and secular environments to provide the residential participants with a collegiate experience.  Through the coordination of work study, workshops and other activities she builds a platform that develops interpersonal relationships, critical thinking and a love for learning. This programing also pinpoints and develops internal and external strengths and promotes resiliency. Ms. Nelson knows that knowledge is power and has made assisting others in obtaining that power her life’s ambition.

Assistant Director(Upward Bound Program) /  Charles Collins

“The only impossible journey is the one that you never begin.”Anthony Robbins

Charles Collins is a TRIO alumna and has twenty years of experience working in higher education that include positions as advisor and administrator in TRIO programs.  As the Assistant Director of the Upward Bound Program, Mr. Collins provide the elements of academic and personal support that meets the challenging needs of underrepresented students.  He holds a Masters of Education degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and is a doctoral candidate in Education Stewardship at the University of St. Francis Joliet.

When not engaged in providing program services, he participates in extracurricular pursuits such as playing tennis, exploring nature, traveling, and reading detective mysteries



Jedell Hoskins  Administrative Assistant (Upward Bound Program)

Ms. Jedell Hoskins has served the TRIO Program for over twenty years and has assisted numerous students in achieving their graduation goal. With her administrative TRIO duties of communicating, monitoring and tracking students, one of her enduring characteristics is the ability to relate to students and parents while delivering a considerate and loving nudge forward when necessary.  She experiences often chance encounters with program graduates in locations external to the workplace and is given great accolades and testaments of how her advice and assistance was beneficial. Student-centered advocacy is a key component in her philosophy of providing meaningful services to the TRIO students.


Paula Benton-Pierce  Assistant Director (Student Support Services Program)

Paula Benton-Pierce is the Assistant Director of the TRIO Student Support Services Program.  Paula is a STEM and Education major with more than 30 years of experience in Engineering, Curriculum and Instruction and Education policies, practices and procedures. Paula started her career as an Electronic Engineer Technician for Motorola, RCA and Zenith before completing a Bachelor’s Degree from Chicago State University, which is where her passion for teaching technology began. While working as a Computer Hardware Engineering Instructor, Paula completed her M.A. in Education and Leadership from Concordia University and continued to teach and train a full range of learners. She has worked with learners of all ages and capacities in courses pertaining to STEM, career development, Curriculum and Instruction, Classroom Management and Database Operations. Paula believes that the key to economic autonomy for students will depend on their ability to learn and apply STEM.


Marisol Mastrangelo  /   Retention Specialist and Student Advisor (Student Support Services Program)

Marisol Mastrangelo is the Retention Specialist and Student Advisor in the TRIO Student Support Services Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In this role, she provides academic support in the form of advising and programming to help advance the mission of the organization.  Prior to joining UIC, she worked at Michigan State University as an Academic Specialist in the College of Social Science where she served on a number of student success initiatives. Marisol is currently completing her PhD in sociology from Northwestern University, where she also earned her master’s degree in sociology and bachelor’s degree in journalism.  While at Northwestern, she held appointments in Student Enrichment Services, which serves low-income and first-generation college students, Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs, and worked as both a research and teaching assistant. Marisol is originally from Chicago, enjoys exploring vegan restaurants, and spending time with her partner and two dogs, Diesel and Troy.

Michelle Williams  /   Program Services Aide

In this role, Michelle oversees the office, manages the files, data and administrative responsibilities. Michelle has worked 20+ years at the University of Illinois at Chicago in various capacities. Something interesting about Michelle is an avid reader and movie enthusiast. She enjoys working for TRIO.