Here to Serve Our Membership
Joseph Sawasky
President & CEO

Joe Sawasky possesses extensive IT leadership experience, spanning higher education, healthcare and manufacturing. He is an active member of the Merit Services Innovation Group and Merit Security Summit Planning Committee.

Prior to joining Merit on August 31, 2015, Joe served as Chief Information Officer and Associate VP for computing and information technology at Wayne State University (WSU). During his time at WSU, he served as the University’s representative on the Merit Board of Directors, and most recently served as Board chair prior to becoming Merit’s president and CEO. At Wayne State, he was responsible for the university’s computing and networking facilities, datacenter operations, enterprise software applications, learning management environments, high-performance research computing, voice services, information security, and information technology support services. Under Joe’s leadership, his IT organization transformed technology services for the campus — consolidating and modernizing IT, improving the customer experience, and developing noted innovations. Joe and his team also received national recognition for innovative software solutions, including Academica-ESP, a new enterprise social portal service designed to facilitate and encourage real-time collaboration between students, faculty and staff.

Joe worked for the University of Toledo and University of Toledo (UT) Medical Center as Chief Information Officer and associate VP for information technology, prior to joining Wayne State University. During nearly 22 years with UT, he served in a series of increasingly responsible positions, focusing on IT strategic planning, organizational leadership, project portfolio management, and customer satisfaction/quality programs. In a unique and highly publicized event, the University of Toledo merged with the Medical University of Ohio on July 1, 2006. So, in addition to leading the information technology division of a research extensive institution of higher learning, he was given the opportunity to also lead IT for the University of Toledo Medical Center hospital and clinics. Merger activities involved team integration, ERP integration, infrastructure integration and launching a transformational Digital Hospital initiative.

Joe participated on the Board of Directors for the Michigan Technology Leaders group and the Detroit CIO Executive Summit annual forum. He also was the convener of the Presidents Council of the State Universities of Michigan CIO Committee.

Joe is a University of Toledo graduate.

Dr. William J. (Joe) Adams
Vice President

Dr. William J. (Joe) Adams is the Vice President of Research and Cyber Security.

He joined Merit Network after retiring from a 26-year career in the United States Army where he achieved the rank of Colonel. Adams was previously CIO of the National Defense University. He has also served as a professor and research scientist at West Point, and network engineer for the Supreme HQ, Allied Powers Europe.

He has a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), MS degrees from the Army War College and University of Arkansas as well as a BS in computer engineering from Syracuse University.

Elwood Downing
Vice President
Business Development & Community Networks

Elwood Downing is Vice President for Business Development & Community Networks for Merit Network, Inc. — Michigan’s high-speed research and education network. He is responsible for new member acquisition, membership growth and helping communities build networks to collaborate, share resources, and promote their economic development.

Since joining Merit in 1995, he has provided strategic leadership, technical consulting, and service engagement to Merit’s 475 (and growing) member organizations, which include public universities, private colleges, community colleges, K12 organizations, research organizations, government, health care, and nonprofit organizations.

Previously he lead Merit’s Member Relations, Sales, Marketing and Communications, Product and Software Development, and Professional Development departments, ensuring Merit’s membership always receives superior service through technology, outreach, and educational initiatives. He, along with his staff, assisted current and potential members in the educational and research sector with network strategy and service implementation.

Elwood has project managed and provided leadership with fiber-optic network builds as well; most recent geographical fiber projects included Alpena, Hillsdale, and Escanaba. He and his team led the communication and outreach efforts for the ARRA NTIA/BTOP funded REACH-3MC project, which encompassed over 2,300 miles of fiber-optic network infrastructure in 52 counties in Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

He has also served as Merit’s liaison to the Merit Advisory Council, and is a member of the Internet2 U.S. UCAN Advisory Committee and the SHLB (Schools, Health, & Libraries Broadband Coalition).

Joining Merit in 1995 as a Computer Systems Consultant on the Merit/CoNDUIT project team, Elwood was responsible for providing Internet connectivity training for the project’s small business partners and served on the small business advisory board. He came to Merit from the business industry with over 15 years of IT management and customer relations’ experience. Elwood holds a B.A. degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Business Information Systems from Eastern Michigan University.

Karen Smith
Vice President & CFO

Karen Smith is Vice President of Administration and Finance and CFO for Merit Network, Inc. She directs finance, legal, insurance, contracting, human resources, and facilities within Merit and is a key participant in helping the company determine its strategic direction.

In 2000, Karen joined Merit to transition the company from a cash method to an accrual method of accounting and institute an annual financial audit for the organization upon the request of the Merit Board of Directors. One year later the finance and administration staff successfully completed its first financial audit. Along with setting up the financial mechanisms for future audits, Karen and her team went on to restructure corporate processing, the financial architecture, tax preparation, and setting new administration and financial policy. Early in the restructuring process Karen worked with Merit’s programmers to develop financial tools that are still heavily utilized throughout the organization today. Karen’s team, besides financial transaction processing, now manages capital requests, budgeting, forecasting, fund investment, best practices deployment, development and monitoring of control systems, and regulatory requirements.

Karen co-directed both rounds of the ARRA NTIA/BTOP funded REACH-3MC project for Merit. Her team worked on both administrative and operational components of the project and was instrumental in the project’s successful completion with the building of over 2,287 miles of fiber-optic infrastructure across three states.

She has a broad range of experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arenas. Prior to joining Merit, she worked seven years for the Veterans Health Administration as a manager and budget analyst, developing a new system to track hospital narcotics usage and facilitated the implementation of a major hospital pharmacy cost reduction program. She also spent a number of years working in various financial management roles in for-profit health care corporations and in 1996 joined the University of Michigan.

Karen holds a B.B.A in accounting from Eastern Michigan University.

Bob Stovall
Vice President

Bob Stovall, Vice President of Network Strategy and Architecture, has an extensive background in networking and has served in several technical and managerial capacities since joining Merit in 1989. Prior to becoming vice president, Bob served as director, department manager, team leader, supervisor, engineer, and technician. He has lead Merit Operations, Engineering, the Network Operations Center, and IT departments. Bob and his team have engineering and operations responsibility for Merit’s backbone network, member access circuits and IT services.

Providing technical and strategic leadership for nearly 30 years, Bob has lead or been involved with many high profile and critically important projects contributing to Merit’s growth and service to its community. In the ’90s, Bob was the technical leader for Merit’s dial-in expansion to provide local access to every telephone exchange in Michigan. In 2003 he and his team provided engineering and operational direction and support to move Merit from a circuit leased infrastructure to an owned fiber optic infrastructure based on obtaining fiber IRU access and lighting over 600 miles of infrastructure by 2008.

In 2010, Merit was a recipient of two federal ARRA NTIA BTOP grants to build and light over 2400 miles of fiber optic infrastructure through Michigan and Wisconsin to expand Merit’s capability to provide high capacity services into rural unserved and underserved communities. As of 2016, Merit’s optical network is nearly 4000 miles and reaches into Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada.

Bob has represented and continues to provide outreach to both the local, national and international communities by giving presentations at Internet2, the North American Network Operations’ Group (NANOG), Merit Joint Technical Staff (MJTS) meetings, as well as other network related venues. Bob is an executive team member of the Northern Tier Network Consortium (NTNC) and The Quilt’s Facilities Futures Group. He also represents Merit at NANOG and EDUCAUSE.

In 2008, Bob testified at the U.S. Department of Education public hearings regarding matters related to research and education networking, specifically the Higher Education Act of 2008.

Bob holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Cleary University and an Associate in Electronic Engineering Technology degree from Jackson Community College.

Charlotte Bewersdorff
Executive Director

Charlotte Bewersdorff is the Executive Director of Member Engagement and Marketing. She provides executive leadership for the Member Relations, Sales, Member Engagement Support and Marketing teams. Previously, Charlotte served as Merit’s Director of Sales and oversaw the sales and services managers staff.

Charlotte joined Merit from M&O Marketing, where she served in the role as Vice President of the Annuity Sales Team. She established the Annuity sales team and through her leadership and professional development efforts the team grew to one of the leading annuity wholesaling teams in the country. Her major accomplishments in that position were implementing a sound sales training and development platform, managing rapid growth, and collaborating with other executive and management team members to identify opportunities that enhance offerings or systems and working closely on continuous improvement for the organization and the Sales Team.

Charlotte graduated from Detroit Mercy with her BA in Business Management and Finance. Charlotte brings over nine years of extensive sales and marketing experience to Merit. On a more personal note, she enjoys athletics, traveling, and spending time with her family.

David Dennis
Executive Director

David Dennis is the Executive Director of Product Management. He is responsible for leading Merit’s Product Development, Software Development, and Professional Development Teams.

David joined Merit Network in 2012, after 15 years in the web and software development industry, most recently as the vice president of operations for Ann Arbor-based Fluency Media. David led a team of marketers, designers, and programmers to provide marketing, web development, hosting, and analytics service offerings for national brand accounts. He also managed the company’s research and development initiatives and proprietary technology products.

David holds a Bachelor’s degree from The University of Michigan.

Michael Milliken
Executive Director

Michael Milliken is the Executive Director of Technology Operations. His responsibilities include capacity planning, engineering, network architecture, and operations of Merit’s network.

Prior to his role as Director, Michael served as network engineer at Merit with responsibilities ranging from engineering, field operations, provisioning and service delivery, inclusive of network maintenance and monitoring.

Michael’s background includes over 12 years in the Internet network operations, security and telecommunications industry. This work ranged from experience in the service provider (SP) and large enterprise arenas, designing, deploying, securing, operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting large-scale networks.

Kathy Micheli
Controller, Director of Financial Services

Kathy Micheli is the Controller and Director of Financial Services where she leads the Finance team and Merit in the management of all financial transactions and processes. A major part of Kathy’s responsibilities involve the implementation and monitoring of internal controls to ensure policies and procedures are in compliance with professional standards and state and federal regulatory requirements.

Kathy graduated with a BS in accounting from Purdue University and then joined an Ann Arbor CPA firm where she gained audit and tax experience in a variety of industries but enjoyed her work in the nonprofit sector most of all. Kathy earned her CPA license in 2007 and left public accounting for work in private industry in 2009. Kathy joined Merit in 2010 as Accountant Intermediate and was promoted to the Controller role in 2013.

Karen Alberti
Finance Specialist
Kimberlee Conolly
Senior Accountant
Christine Hines
Financial & Facilities Support
Dawn Khan
Financial & Facilities Support
Austin Wagley
Accounting Associate

Michael Prieur
Manager, Human Resources & Facilities

Michael Prieur is the Manager of Human Resources and Facilities, where he leads the Human Resources and Facilities team which support 100 + regular and temporary staff members. A major part of Michael’s responsibilities include Human Resources management, planning, training and other related responsibilities.

Michael graduated with a BBA in accounting from Eastern Michigan University and then joined Border’s Books & Music as a store accountant for over 50 stores. In 2003 he joined Merit Network, held a Financial Analyst position within Accounting and Finance and then moved into Human Resources in 2008. In 2014, he earned his Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification from the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI).

Aaron Eleby
Shipping/Receiving & Facilities Assistant
Allen Yokie
Human Resources Assistant

Graydon Krapohl
Director of Business Operations

Graydon Krapohl is the Director of Business Operations where he assists the Chief Financial Officer in the management of the Merit’s support functions to include administration, finance and budgeting, forecasting, and general management.

Graydon came to Merit with a broad range of cross functional and industry experience gained from working in the Federal, State, and private sectors. He has expertise in systems planning, strategic and operational planning, policy formulation, organizational development, and project management.

Graydon served as a Colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve where he held a variety of senior leadership, staff, teaching, training, and command positions.

Graydon holds a master’s of strategic studies, with an emphasis on national security strategy from the U.S. Army War College; a MBA from George Mason University; and a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the University of Michigan.

Riva Milliken
Director of Process and Management

Riva Milliken is the Director of the Business Process and Management. In her previous role, Riva was the Director of the Merit Support Center. Riva joined Merit in 2008 as part of the Network Operations Center. She moved to the Merit Services team in 2009. Riva oversaw the 24×7 Merit Support Center team supporting the Merit Community Members for all issues and questions relating to Merit and Merit Services.

Riva came to Merit with extensive engineering, customer service and managerial background from previous work in carrier, project management and engineering teams.

Alysia Giatas
Administrative and Facilities Assistant
Sara Cortez
Project Associate Specialist

Lori Hextall
Executive Assistant
Mary Paulus
Executive Assistant
Keiyana Chambers-Peeple

Jameka Williams
Senior Manager for Member Engagement

Terry Carew
Member Engagement Manager for Southeast Michigan
Jim Lundberg
Member Engagement Manager for Upper Peninsula
Rob McSwain
Member Engagement Manager for Southeast Michigan
Jim Moran
Sales Engineer
Member Engagement Manager for Southwest Michigan
Mary Shindell
Member Engagement Manager for South Central Michigan & National
Heather Todorov
Member Engagement Manager for South Central Michigan & National
John Winfrey
Member Engagement Manager for Central Michigan
Katie Jensen
Member Engagement Manager for Northern Michigan
Jessica Spicer
Member Engagement Administrative Support
Member Engagement Team

Jameka Williams is the Senior Manager for Merit’s Member Engagement Team. She provides leadership to the Member Engagement Managers for the Southeast, South Central, Southwest, Central, Northern and Upper Peninsula regions throughout the state.

Jameka joined the team at Merit in May of 2014 as the Non Member Sales Manager dedicated to Fiber Asset Sales and Cyber Range Sales with a focus on commercial organizations. Jameka excelled in her previous role, evident by Merit’s expanded market positioning within the commercial sector.

During her tenure at Merit, Jameka has played an integral role in establishing Merit as a trusted partner for Cybersecurity Training for both member and non-member organizations as well as expansion of the Michigan Cyber Range product line.

Jameka’s previous sales experience stems from serving in the hospitality industry for nearly 10 years as a Director of Sales for Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton. Her hospitality background includes opening new hotels, rebranding existing hotel properties, and improving market share of her properties to leaders among their competition.

Jameka, a native of Birmingham, AL, holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and enjoys spending time with her family.

Jason Russell
Director of Member Engagement Support

Geoff Cost
MSC Project Lead
Ryan Fuller
Member Engagement Support
Tracy Hamill
Member Relations Project & E-Rate Coordinator
Deanna Jones
Member Engagement Support
Angela May
Member Engagement Support Manager
Karen Michon
Inside Sales Associate

Jason Russell is the Director of Member Engagement Support and is responsible for the first level support and quoting for Merit’s Member Relations Managers, Sales Managers, E-Rate Coordination, and Merit’s Members.

In addition to daily responsibilities within the Member Engagement Support department, Jason is the primary liaison to the Merit Advisory Council and is a member of the Internet2 U.S. UCAN Advisory Committee. Jason also sits on many of Merit’s event program committees and is a member of Merit’s security cabinet.

Jason oversaw Merit’s efforts to engage with and connect 141 grant-funded fiber attachments to community anchor institutions as part of Merit’s ARRA NTIA/BTOP-funded REACH-3MC project, as well as another 80+ fiber connections to other organizations along Merit’s statewide fiber routes.

Since joining Merit in 1997, Jason has held several positions in the Member Relations department, including most recently Director of Member Relations; Outreach Coordinator/Member Relations Manager for Merit’s Non-Profit, Government, Health Care, and Commercial Members; Streaming Media production for Merit events and NANOG meetings; videoconferencing support; and document creation and maintenance.

Jason has a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science, Honors Program from the University of Michigan-Flint, and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Pierrette Templeton
Director of Communications & Marketing

Pierrette Templeton is a creative director, designer and leadership expert with more than fifteen years in the field. She joins Merit from Crain’s Detroit Business, where she held the position of Creative Services Director.

Her experience includes international broadcast production, b2b and b2c e-commerce platform creation, product packaging for national retailers, print magazine and newspaper design, infographics and responsive web design. She has been the recipient of multiple awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, PRism, the National Academy of Television Officers and Advisors and was also an Emmy nominee.

An instructor for How Design University, her most recent class covers New Management Fundamentals and the ways in which managers’ roles must adapt to the changing landscape of 21st century organizations. She also lead and managed the redesign of Crain’s Detroit Business, a 30 year-old news-magazine, in partnership with Ron Reason consulting. Using the Kotter 8-step change leadership model, Pierrette successfully rebranded the magazine, improved readability, and introduced new revenue opportunities.

Pierrette graduated from the University of Toledo in Interdisciplinary Studies and earned the Magna Cum Laude distinction. She was also a member of Phi Kappa Phi and was named the Distinguished Graduating Scholar by the College of Adult and Lifelong Learning.

Pierrette is currently pursuing an Executive MBA from the University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation.

Jeremiah Cook
Marketing & Communications Specialist & Designer
Katherine Johnson
Marketing & Communications Specialist & Designer
Brian Warkoczeski
Web Administrator & Marketing Specialist

Robert Duncan
Director of Infrastructure Architecture & Strategy

Robert Duncan is the Director of Infrastructure Architecture and Strategy. His responsibilities include capacity planning, forecasting, network architecture, and design of Merit’s network.

Robert’s background includes 26 years working in IT with a major telecommunications hardware manufacturer. This work ranged from supporting large mainframe timesharing systems used for product development and business systems to enterprise strategy and architecture.

He started in networking connecting mainframes to various SNA, X.25 and TCP/IP networks in both terminal and peer to peer environments. Robert was on the strategic planning team that led the corporation into the client-server environment and a transition from mainframe to UNIX based servers. He was then part of the architecture group that migrated the corporate network from a leased line TCP/IP WAN to an ATM services based backbone.

Robert has also worked in carrier services planning, security standards, business continuity planning, and desktop infrastructure architecture groups. He has experience with MPLS VPN and strategic technology planning.

Larry Blunk
Network Engineer
Carlos Ramos
Infrastructure Engineer
Bert Rossi
Network Engineer


Jay Aiken
Infrastructure and Participant Documentation
Phil Hirt
Network Operations
Ian Krass
GIS Documentation Specialist
Glenn Wiltse
DNS/IP Registration Administrator



Jenny Kirshman
MISEN Program Manager


Melissa Wlodkowski
Product Manager


Shane Burgess
Software Team Lead
Russell Dwarshius
Software Development
Dale Johnson
Senior Database Administrator
Mitchell Kuch
Application Programmer/Analyst Associate
Stephen Opal
Senior Application Programmer/Analyst

Cristy Cardinal
Lead Professional Development Manager

Cristy Cardinal joined Merit in October 2014 as the Lead Professional Learning Manager. She has a wealth of experience in event planning, course development and content delivery. Most recently, she was the Director of Prevention Education for HAVEN, in Oakland County.

Cristy holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan, and has done graduate work in public administration at Eastern Michigan University.

She is also a graduate of Specs Howard School of Media Arts, and in a previous career was the morning host on a classic country radio station.

Sara Blacklock
Professional Development Program Coordinator

Jason Brown
Chief Information Security Officer

Jason Brown’s passion is security and education. For the past eight years, he has been working his way up in the industry, starting as a network technician at Ferris State University, one of Merit’s governing members, to recently being named as one of only two enterprise security architects for the State of Michigan. Jason earned his bachelor’s degree in information technology from Central Michigan University in 2007, and his master’s in management information systems from Ferris State University in 2009.

His dedication to continuing education has earned him several certifications, including CCNA and CISSO. Jason has always aimed to become a leader in information security, and says he is thrilled to be in the role of Merit Network’s 1st Chief Information Security Officer.

Nathan Dragun
Director of Cyber Range Development

Nathan Dragun is the Director of Development for the Michigan Cyber Range. Over the past 13+ years he has led solutions to complex technical issues in the areas of security, computer networking, software development, and architectural design for various industries; ranging from small medical practices to Fortune 500 organizations. In his current position, Nathan leads his team in designing tactical scenarios for groups to engage in digital warfare against each other. He designed and built Alphaville, a virtual environment used for offensive and defensive security training; which is utilized by military worldwide, local government, education, and the private sector.

Nathan received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Western Michigan University. He has completed advanced training in network security, artificial intelligence, and holds the following certifications: CISSP, CEH, GREM, and GXPN.

Jacob Brabbs
Cybersecurity Analyst
Evan Carew
Cybersecurity Research Analyst
Tonia Cronin
MiC3 Manager, MCR Business Development
Lori Hextall
Executive Assistant
Zak Montville
Cybersecurity Analyst
Chaitanya Nidadavolu
Cybersecurity Research Analyst
Bryan Robinson
Cybersecurity Research Analyst

Michael Kallitsis
Research Scientist

Dr. Michael (Michalis) Kallitsis received the Diploma degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the National Technical University of Athens, Greece, in 2005 and the Ph.D. degree in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University, Raleigh in 2010. He was a postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Statistics at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor from 2010 to 2012. Michalis joined Merit’s research team on September 2012.

His research interests include resource allocation for communication networks, machine learning, statistical modeling of complex systems such as the Internet and the Smart Grid, large-scale Internet measurements and network security. He currently serves as a Primary Investigator on research projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation.


Adam Bisaro
Systems Programmer/Analyst
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Mitch Harmon
IT Engineer
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Sue Joiner
Systems Programmer/Analyst
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John Liggett
Systems Programmer/Analyst
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Matthew Promenchenkel
Systems Programmer/Analyst
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Nicole Trinka
Project Engineer
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Will Turner
Storage Engineer
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Wayne Woodward
Systems Programmer/Analyst
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David Gilbertson
Network Engineer
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Roy Hockett
Network Engineer
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Brett Nelson
Network Engineer
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Richard Reinecke
Network Engineer
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Nick Andrus
Infrastructure Engineer
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Adam Myers
Network Operations Engineer
Travis Spickerman
Network Operations Engineer
    Robert DeWolf
    Infrastructure Engineer
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    Dale Vermilye
    Infrastructure Engineer
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    Steve Weiland
    Infrastructure Engineer
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    Teresa Atkinson
    MSC Analyst
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    Deb Boyer
    MSC Analyst
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    Kevin Hogan
    MSC Manager
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    Deb Krasner
    MSC Analyst
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    Todd Kuebler
    MSC Analyst
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    Mohamed Mohamed
    MSC Analyst
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    John Parott
    MSC Analyst
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    William Phillips
    MSC Analyst
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    John Ray
    MSC Manager
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    Douglas Redman
    MSC Analyst
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    Interested in Joining the Merit Team?