Who We Are

Our Mission

At the Virginia Digital Maritime Center, our mission is to support Virginia’s maritime enterprise by leveraging applied research & cutting-edge technology to advance the maritime workforce, foster collaborative partnerships, and drive economic growth in Hampton Roads.

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Our Vision

To be a valuable partner in Virginia’s maritime enterprise, contributing to the resolution of Naval sustainment challenges and the emergence of Hampton Roads as a national standard of maritime excellence.

Our Team

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Mark Whitney

Executive Director
Mark brings his extensive industrial base and sustainment experience in shipbuilding, modernization, and repair, including tours as the 47th Commander of Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility; Deputy Commander, Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations (SEA04), Naval Sea Systems Command; Director, Fleet Maintenance, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Vice President, Deputy General Manager, BAE Systems, Inc, Ship Repair, Vice President, General Manager BAE Systems Inc., Norfolk Ship Repair, and Vice President of Industrial Operations, R&P Technologies.
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Robert Allen Baker

Strategic Planning Lead
Allen has more than 30 years of defense sector experience in delivering innovative technologies, with emphasis on mission-based approaches to technology integration program planning and management and related policy formation, program health, and process improvements. Allen has degrees from Washington U. – St. Louis, UCLA and Harvard.
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Russell Czack

Russell Czack

Assistant Director
Russell brings his extensive leadership skills and supply chain management expertise from his 25 years of service as a Navy Supply Corps Officer. He also served eight years as a Strategic Analysis Officer for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including a tour as Special Assistant to Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO’s North American Strategic Commander, responsible for the transformation of the Alliance’s military forces, structures, and capabilities.
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Jessica Johnson

Dr. Jessica Johnson

Research Assistant Professor
Dr. Jessica Johnson is a Research Assistant Professor and Learning Engineer for the Virginia Digital Maritime Center and Director for STEM and Educational Partnerships at the Office of Enterprise Research and Innovation (OERI) a research enterprise of Old Dominion University. She has expertise in both cognitive and learning sciences, coupled with a background in human-factors psychology for use in field applications of multi-modal learning and training systems. Her applied research encompasses the intersection of cognitive and knowledge engineering, aiming to inform the design and evaluation of immersive learning environments that optimize cognitive, performance and training outcomes. She also advocates and leads Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) outreach efforts in multiple capacities across K-12 pipelines.
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Dr. Katie Smith

Research Assistant Professor/Digital Analytics Lead
Katie is a Research Assistant Professor and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Old Dominion University. She holds a Ph.D. in Modeling and Simulation Engineering, an M.S. in Computational and Applied Mathematics, and B.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mathematics, all from Old Dominion University. She was previously a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics.
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Jessica Galassie

Senior Program Manager
Jessica brings a wealth of maritime expertise. From sailing on container ships to supporting the US Navy, Jessica's diverse background promises exciting technology insertion for the Center.
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Dr. Deri Draper-Amason

Research Assistant Professor
With a PhD in Instructional Systems, Dr. Draper-Amason has dedicated her career to refining the processes that drive organizational success. Her pioneering work in Performance Improvement models has transformed how organizations organize, diagnose, strategize, and execute their development plans. She is charged with supporting the workforce development pillar of the VDMC mission by focusing on research that improves training effectiveness using maturity models and instructional technology.
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Jennifer Renne

Jennifer Renne

Learning Engineer
Jennifer Renne is a Curriculum Coordinator for the Virginia Digital Maritime Center at Old Dominion University's Office of Enterprise Research and Innovation. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Technology Education from SUNY Oswego and a Master of Arts in Education degree in Integrative STEM Education from Virginia Tech. She was previously a high school Technology Education teacher with Virginia Beach City Public Schools. She has served on state curriculum committees and is a member of several state and national engineering educator associations. She has developed maritime curriculum for grades K-12 as well as modeling and simulation curriculum for grades 9-12.
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John Snell

Senior Program Manager for Maritime Trades
John most recently served as the Training and Workforce Development Program Manager (Naval Shipyards) at Naval Sea Systems Command. Prior to NNSY, he served 26 years in the Navy, excelling in various leadership roles, including Command Master Chief onboard USS Nassau during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Navy’s Command Master Chief of Naval Personnel Development Command, overseeing the training and education of over 320,000 Sailors.
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Jason Dudley

Learning Engineer
Jason is an enthusiastic educator that has successfully developed and delivered honors level math courses at the middle school level, taught Hampton’s S.T.R.E.A.M. Summer Program for three years, and has mentored several new teachers. Jason holds a Collegiate Professional License with 6-8 Mathematics, Algebra 1, and Visual Arts (PreK-12) endorsements. He also possesses a Master’s in Education with Mathematics Specialist Endorsement from Old Dominion University, and a B.S. in Christian Ministry from Lee University.
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Gul Ayaz

Extended Reality Developer
Gul Ayaz is a Game and Extended Reality Developer at the Virginia Digital Maritime Center at Old Dominion University's Office of Enterprise Research and Innovation. She has designed and developed serious and interactive games and immersive experiences relating to maritime skilled trades and coastal resilience across many disciplines. She has earned a M.S. in Modeling and Simulation Engineering and a B.S. in Computational Modeling and Simulation Engineering with a concentration in gaming from ODU.
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Devon Nelson

Multimedia Artist and Animator
Devon is a Multimedia Artist and Animator. An ODU graduate with a passion for 3D art, Devon crafts immersive 360 environments and characters for maritime projects at VDMC.
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