Staff

Jenna Ashley Robinson Headshot of Jenna Robinson

jarobinson@jamesgmartin.center
President

Jenna Ashley Robinson joined the Martin 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.


George Leef Headshot of George Leef

georgeleef@jamesgmartin.center
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 John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy 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 and See Thru Edu.


Jay Schalin Headshot of Jay Schalin

jschalin@jamesgmartin.center
Director of Policy Analysis

Jay Schalin joined the Martin 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 Raleigh’s 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 See Thru Edu.


Jesse Saffron Headshot of Jesse Saffron

jsaffron@jamesgmartin.center
Managing Editor

Jesse Saffron joined the Martin Center in 2013. 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.

His articles have appeared in Modern AgeNewsweekMinding the CampusBusiness North Carolina, the Carolina Journal, Greensboro’s News & Record, and See Thru Edu. He also has contributed frequently to National Review Online’s Phi Beta Cons, a higher education blog. In addition to editing and writing Martin Center articles, Saffron manages the Center’s summer internship program.


Shannon Watkins

swatkins@jamesgmartin.center
Policy Associate

Shannon Watkins joined the Martin Center in March 2017. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has also studied at the University of Carlos III in Madrid, Spain. She speaks Spanish fluently and has previously worked as a Spanish tutor. She currently leads a reading group for college women discussing topics related to marriage, family, and culture. 

In her free time, Watkins enjoys reading philosophy, history, and classic literature. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband.


Ashley CampbellHeadshot of Ashley DeSena

adesena@jamesgmartin.center
Operations Coordinator

Ashley Campbell joined the Martin 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. Campbell 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. In addition to planning the Center’s events, Campbell also manages the Center’s communications internship program.


Karen Noon Headshot of Karen Noon

knoon@jamesgmartin.center
Accountant

Karen Noon joined the Martin Center in March 2014. She is responsible for the accounting and employee benefits aspects of the Martin 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.