Joy PughExecutive Director
Joy Pugh is the Executive Director of Virginia College Advising Corps. Under her leadership VCAC has tripled the number of college advisers serving across the Commonwealth and now provides exceptional near-peer mentoring and college advising to 48 high schools and almost 10,000 seniors annually.
During her 18 years in higher education Joy has gained experiences in functional areas of college access, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), housing and residence life, orientation, first-year experience, LGBTQ communities, crisis response and management, governance and compliance, and organizational development. She has facilitated numerous trainings, primarily in DEI and leadership development, and planned curriculum for multi-day and multi-week trainings. Joy has demonstrated success in coalition-building, strategic planning, project management, and raising and stewarding philanthropic funds to support mission-driven organizations. Joy’s board service also reflects her commitment to equity, currently as President of Virginia College Access Network and as Vice-President of LilyPads Housing, and previously with the board of Piedmont Housing Alliance .
Joy earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication Studies from the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, a Master of Education (M.Ed.) in College Student Personnel Administration from James Madison University, and is pursuing a Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Learning in Organizations from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. She lives in Charlottesville with her wife Bizz, enjoys running, hiking, and cycling, and is continuously inspired by the work of the college advisers.
Annie BarnesFiscal and Administrative Coordinator
Annie joined the Virginia College Advising Corps in 2021 with a diverse background across multiple industries, including higher education, federally subsidized housing programs, and continuing care retirement communities.
After completion of her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Communication Science and Disorders from James Madison University, Annie worked with James Madison University Conference Services. During this time, she became very involved with the homeless population and housing rights advocacy groups, leading to her employment with Open Doors, a temporary thermal shelter for the unserved homeless population in the Shenandoah Valley, and Harrisonburg Redevelopment and Housing Authority. She worked with a caseload of over 250 households annually, assessing continued eligibility and compliance with federal policy for subsidized housing.
In her most recent role as the Resident Services Director of Brandon Oaks Life Plan Community in Roanoke, VA, she oversaw the contract initiation and compliance, monthly billing, and orientation of independent living residents, in addition to managing customer service and life enrichment support staff.
Annie lives in Charlottesville with her partner Parantapa and is thrilled to work and serve an organization that expands education opportunities for all.
Alex JohnstonAssistant Director
After graduating from the University of Virginia in 2013, she served as a college adviser in Pittsylvania County at Chatham and Gretna High Schools. After the Corps, Alex attended UNC-Chapel Hill, receiving her M.Ed. in School Counseling. At UNC she was honored with the Dean E. Smith Opening Doors award. The award annually recognizes one outstanding School of Education student who demonstrates leadership, service, and excellence.
Alex worked as a school counselor at the high school level in Apex, NC, supporting students holistically through personal, academic, career and social support. She served on the school’s Equity Team which addressed racial, gender, sexuality and socio-economic bias, and developed strategies to reduce the school’s racial achievement gap. In her most recent role as Program Coordinator in the Office of the Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer at UVA, Alex focused on the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership. She provided program management to this premier fellowship experience for undergraduate students, amongst other responsibilities in VPSA.
Alex serves as Assistant Director for the eastern region of VCAC. Our eastern region includes 21 college adviser placements in: Alexandria, Amelia, Caroline, Charles City, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Dinwiddie, Essex, Fauquier, Fredericksburg, King & Queen, Lancaster, Louisa, Northumberland, Rappahannock, Richmond City, Richmond County, Sussex , and Westmoreland.
Jeron BakerAssistant Director
Jeron brings an extensive background in higher education and program evaluation to VCAC. After completion of his B.A. in Social Work from Goshen College, Jeron was the Head Tennis Coach at Hesston College in Kansas. Jeron developed and recruited for both men’s and women’s teams, and secured a national ranking in four short years. Following his time in collegiate athletics, Jeron served in roles of increasing responsibility within college admission. He was Assistant Director of Admission at Hesston, Associate Director of International Admission at William Peace University, then Associate Director for Undergraduate Admission at Eastern Mennonite University. At EMU Jeron managed a staff of seven admission counselors, five office support staff, and 50 student employees.
He completed his M.A. in Public Administration at James Madison University. While at JMU, Jeron was a highly valued and productive Research Assistant who was awarded his department’s Outstanding Student Award. Most recently, Jeron has been the Associate Evaluator on a federal grant in which he developed assessment plans and data collection tools while measuring a variety of process and outcome indicators.
Jeron serves as Assistant Director for the western region. Our western region includes 21 college adviser placements in: Buckingham, Charlotte, Covington, Danville, Fluvanna, Greene, Harrisonburg, Henry, Lee, Martinsville, Nelson, Norton, Orange, Patrick, Pittsylvania, and Wise.