Meet the Staff
Dr. Rolando Herts
Director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning
Dr. Herts is a native of the Arkansas Delta region. As director of The Delta Center, he serves as executive director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, a Congressionally designated partnership with the National Park Service. As a 2016 Executive Academy Fellow with the Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Leadership Institute, he was awarded an executive education certificate from the 2017 Authentic Leadership for the 21st Century Program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Herts serves on the Alliance of National Heritage Areas governing board, the Mississippi Blues Commission, and the Mississippi Historical Society Board of Directors. He also recently received a gubernatorial appointment to the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Services.
Previously, Dr. Herts served as Associate Director with the Office of University-Community Partnerships at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. As a Leadership Newark Fellow, he received the Berkowitz Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to the Greater Newark community. He also is an alumnus of the Teach For America Mississippi Delta corps and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium's Emerging Engagement Scholar Program.
Dr. Herts holds a Ph.D. in planning and public policy from Rutgers Graduate School-New Brunswick. He also holds a M.A. in Social Science from The University of Chicago and a B.A. in English from Morehouse College. His interest areas include university-community engagement and partnership development, community-based tourism planning, place branding/marketing, and regional development.
Program Associate for Education and Community Outreach
Lee Aylward is a transplant from the hills of Mississippi to the Delta. Education and learning were instilled in her early, and she tried almost all of the universities in Mississippi and the University of Alabama in order to further that education. Reading has always been paramount to her. It is this love of reading that prompted her to get both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Library Science, and she went on to get certification in Reading. Since graduating from college, she has been a mother, administrator of a U.S. Army education center, a public librarian, a school librarian, reading teacher, real estate agent, and finally an associate in the Delta Center for Culture and Learning where she coordinates community outreach and education.
Program Associate for Projects
Shelia was born and raised in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a town she still calls home. After receiving her AA from Coahoma Community College, she began working for the school before eventually receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Leadership from Lemoyne Owen College. In 2008, she returned to Delta State University where she completed a Master's in Business Administration.
While employed at Coahoma, she worked in a variety of roles, eventually retiring after twenty-eight years as the Grant Accountant for Institution Advancement and Federal Programs. She then went on to work for the Delta Regional Authority as their finance administrator for two years, followed by a position at Merit Health Northwest Mississippi Medical Center as an HIM Analyst. In 2017, she joined the team at the Delta Center for Culture and Learning.
Shelia is the proud grandmother of two beautiful children, who live with their father (Shelia's son) and mother in Alabama.
Project Manager, Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area
After a short-lived tenure as a middle school English teacher and athletic coach, Will Jacks finally settled into a career as a photographer and documentarian. After finishing Journalism graduate studies at the University of Mississippi in 1996, he returned to his hometown of Cleveland, MS and opened a photography studio. Eventually, that grew also to serve as a regional photo gallery, and in September 2013, Time Magazine recognized its Eudora Welty exhibit as one of the top thirty ways in the world to experience photography offline.
He has taught in the journalism school at the University of Mississippi as well as the Art Department at Delta State University. He is currently an MFA candidate at the Maine College of Art and is scheduled to graduate in May 2020. His undergraduate studies were performed at Millsaps College in Jackson, MS (BA, Spanish) where he also played on the varsity football and baseball teams.
Will’s first monograph documents the juke joint Po’ Monkey’s Lounge. It was published by University Press of Mississippi in October, 2019.