From our coaches to staff to leadership, we are committed to making college possible for all. We are dedicated to creating and maintaining an inclusive culture that embraces diversity. This commitment is realized through a comprehensive, action-oriented, Diversity and Inclusion Plan that promotes a welcoming and equitable environment throughout all levels of College Possible.
Mr. Fan recently stepped down from his role as National Board Chair for College Possible to assume the role of Interim CEO for College Possible in May 2022. Prior to this role, Mr. Fan was the Founder/Executive Director for MN Comeback, a funder collaborative with a goal of ensuring all children in Minneapolis are enrolled by 2025 in rigorous and relevant schools that prepare them to thrive in college, career and community. Mr. Fan was also the founding Executive Director for Charter School Partners in Minneapolis and led the nonprofit for six years in its work to support the startup, growth and expansion of high-quality schools. In 2013 Mr. Fan was named by the Walton Family Foundation as one of the national “Ed Reformers to Watch.”
Mr. Fan worked for 16 years at General Mills, a global food manufacturer based in Minneapolis, in various marketing and sales positions in the areas of Brand Management, Category Management, Consumer Research and Strategic Planning. Prior to General Mills, Mr. Fan was at Accenture, a global strategic consulting firm, and worked with numerous organizations in the areas of technology, systems development and strategic planning.
Mr. Fan currently serves on the board of directors for Great MN Schools. He has also previously served on the board of trustees for The Minneapolis Foundation, the Cookie Cart in north Minneapolis, Social Venture Partners/MN, Hiawatha Leadership Academy, and was the founding board chair for KIPP Minnesota. Mr. Fan has been a volunteer for Best Prep, Junior Achievement, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters.
Mr. Fan has an undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master of Business Administration degree from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He has been married for 34 years and is the proud father of three adult daughters who have officially left the nest.
Senior Vice President, Program & Tech Innovation
Austin Buchan joined the College Possible team in 2021. He previously served as College Forward’s CEO, collaborating with national leaders to help shape the organization’s strategic vision. He joined College Forward in 2010 as a persistence program manager, and took on lead roles in developing strategy and technology for the organization.
Throughout his tenure, Austin has expanded College Forward’s services to over 10,000 new students and families across the country, and oversaw the development and release of CoPilot – a leading student data management tool built on the Salesforce platform and currently reaching 400,000 students across 22 states.
Before joining College Forward, Austin worked in rural Nicaragua developing college persistence programs and managed national political campaigns in Boulder, CO and Boston, MA. He received his undergraduate degree in sociology from Trinity University and is a 2016 graduate of the UPenn Center for Social Impact Strategy’s Social Entrepreneurship program.
Scott Del Rossi
Vice President, College & Career Success
Scott joined the College Possible team in 2021 as vice president of college and career success. Before that, he was College Forward’s managing director of programs and student services, and oversaw the design, execution, and evaluation of services to its students. Scott originally joined College Forward as an AmeriCorps member, serving as a college completion coach from 2009-2011. Prior to College Forward, he held several positions as a designer and architect in Philadelphia.
Scott holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Philadelphia University and certificates in social entrepreneurship and strategy from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University and the University of Pennsylvania. He enjoys all things Star Wars and hopes to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
Arvin Frazier III
Senior Executive Director
Arvin Frazier III is senior executive director of College Possible Omaha, which began providing services to students in the 2011-12 academic year. He leads the Omaha team in all day-to-day management and operational issues, leading strategic organizational development, raising funds, coordinating communications and building relationships with partner schools, universities and organizations in the Omaha metro area.
Arvin comes to College Possible with a long career in public service and education. For nearly 30 years, he worked for the Nebraska Department of Education, progressing to serve as area administrator for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. There, Arvin managed a large staff in delivering vocational rehabilitation services across a multi-county area. Prior to College Possible, Arvin served educational support organizations as the senior director of community programs for Building Bright Futures, a nonprofit dedicated to improving educational outcomes for children in poverty. Arvin received his B.S. from Knoxville College and his M.S. from University of Tennessee.
He is a native Omahan, an Omaha North High Magnet School graduate, and an active community member. In service to the city’s educational and workforce development efforts, Arvin serves with such entities as the Inclusive Communities, 100 Black Men, North Omaha Cradle To Career Advisory Committee, Metro Community College President Committee on Equity and Diversity, UNO’s African American Advisory Cabinet, Millard Superintendent Service Advisory Committee and others.
Additionally, Arvin is a member of Salem Baptist church and an active member with the Omaha Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi. In his spare time, Arvin enjoys officiating basketball for the Iowa and Nebraska State Athletic Associations. Himself a first-generation college attendee and proud Historical Black Colleges and Universities graduate, the work of College Possible greatly motivates him as he works to empower young adults and future leaders of our community by fulfilling their educational potential.
Contact Arvin at AFrazier@CollegePossible.org.
Jesse joined College Forward in November 2021 after serving as the director of college persistence at KIPP Texas Public Schools. In this role, he led the implementation of the post-secondary success strategic plan at one of the largest KIPP public school charter management organizations in the nation, serving 28 schools and 14,500 students.
Jesse comes with extensive experience in college access and college success at both secondary and post-secondary institutions. Before working at KIPP, he was the assistant director of multicultural affairs and leadership at Rice University. Prior to his tenure at Rice, Jesse was the director of enrichment services at Columbia University in the City of New York. In both roles he designed and implemented strategies around college retention, academic progress and success, and professional development for undergraduate students.
Vice President, Partnerships
For more than twenty years Catherine Marciano has devoted her professional career to equity through education as a teacher, evidence-based program innovator, data collector and analyst, and dynamic senior leader of New York City based educational non-profits for social good.
As an ally and competent strategist, Catherine has a proven track record of developing best-in-class programs that support individuals from traditionally underserved groups, in particular Black, Latino, low-income and first-generation students, in achieving post-secondary success. Most recently, as Managing Director of College Services for KIPP NYC Through College (KTC NYC), Catherine led design and implementation of internal strategies and external partnerships that boosted college completion rates for KIPP NYC alumni from 38% to a historically high 54%—all while the program scaled from serving 400 students to more than 2,200.
Known for her expertise in making data-driven decisions, Catherine worked collaboratively with KIPP NYC's secondary school data team to use student outcomes and indicators as predictors of college success and then leveraged that data in KTC's flagship one-to-one college and career advising program. Beginning in 2010 and revised annually since Catherine developed KTC NYC's student-centered transition-to-college programming yielding an annual summer melt rate of 4%, as compared to 10% for KIPP alumni nationally.
From 2015-2018 Catherine participated on a committee to inform KIPP's national college and career strategy resulting in the national adoption of a rubric and algorithm she co-designed in NYC in order to benchmark and segment college students’ academic and socioemotional growth semiannually. Under Catherine's leadership, KIPP Through College's NYC region became the highest performing of all 20 KTC regions nationally.
Prior to her work with the KIPP CMO, Catherine was the Program Director of Student Sponsor Partners (SSP), a New York City nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide low-income, high potential students with a quality high school education. In that role, Catherine led SSP to its highest historical high school graduation rate - 90%, an increase of over 10 percentage points. In addition to her skills developing people and programs, Catherine has deep technical expertise in database management; she served as the regional Salesforce administrator for KIPP NYC and the Raiser’s Edge database administrator at SSP. A native of Cleveland, OH, Catherine has lived in New York City for 22 years. Catherine holds a BS in Mathematics from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, IN.
Precious Mines, M. Div., B.A. is a strong proponent for education and has committed her life to giving back to her community by building a career in education to help low-income students acquire the tools necessary to successfully navigate higher education and obtain a college degree. Since matriculating into the higher-ed landscape, Precious has worked at the Community College of Philadelphia, where she served as the inaugural program coordinator for the ACE+ (Ace Plus) program, a dual enrollment program designed for youth attending alternative schools who were notoriously marginalized, providing an opportunity for them to redeem time and college credits while pursuing a high school diploma.
Precious joined College Possible Philadelphia in 2016 as the program manager and later as senior program director. Her commitment to building a program that was efficient, outcome-producing, creative, and met the unique needs of the students served has been evident through the many initiatives her team trailblazed and the consistently high outcomes of students matriculating to and through college. Precious has been able to exercise her passion for building strong relationships with key stakeholders as well as advocating for the needs of students to colleges and universities. Additionally, Precious served on the #ReachHigherPhilly team for four years, in which she was an integral part of planning Philadelphia’s College Signing Day, landing the former first lady Michelle Obama as a keynote speaker and she has been called on to bring her voice to the table, sharing her knowledge with the Philadelphia Prep Roundtable, Sara Goldrick-Rab’s #RealCollege conference, and the statewide PACAC conference.
Precious has been working in the education sector for over 20 years and has most recently been promoted to the role of executive director of College Possible Philadelphia. She is a visionary and shares an affinity to her work at College Possible as a first-generation college student herself. Precious’ strategic leadership in fortifying the next generation of leaders and equipping low-income students to achieve their educational goals will continue to result in more students being empowered to steer their future in a way that will break generational cycles of poverty and allow students to achieve their greatest desires. Precious is looking forward to leading College Possible Philadelphia into the future and expanding the reach of their programming to the students who need it the most.
Emielle Nischik (she/her/hers)
College Possible Oregon Executive Director Emielle Nischik joined the organization in 2015 and previously served as their director of development and communications, helping to triple the budget and expand programming and students served across the state.
Nischik brings more than 15 years of experience in business development, nonprofit leadership and fundraising. As a first-generation college graduate, she believes strongly in the power of education and is honored to be able to meld her personal experience and passion to further the mission of College Possible. She holds a Masters of Public Administration and a certificate in nonprofit management from Portland State University and volunteers with several community based organizations focused on educational equity in Oregon, including KairosPDX, Ninety-nine Girlfriends Women’s Giving Collective and on the Partnership Council with All Hands Raised. The greatest joy and challenge of Nischik’s life is being a mother to two small children and teaching them to love all the outdoor adventures her home state offers.
Contact Emielle at ENischik@CollegePossible.org.
Christine Poorman joined College Possible Chicago as the founding Executive Director in 2015. In this role, she leads programmatic strategy, board development and fundraising in support of a $2.7MM annual budget. As leader of the Chicago office, Christine has grown College Possible’s reach and impact to support more than 1,400 Chicago Public School students from low-income backgrounds on their path to earning a college degree.
Christine brings 20+ years of experience in educational access and success to this work. Prior to College Possible, she led the Chicago office of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which she launched as a start-up and grew to be one of their highest performing program offices. Christine holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management, Executive Education from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration from Michigan State University.
Senior Vice President, External Relations
Steve Ragan is an experienced nonprofit executive and board member, having led and consulted for some of the most impactful education, social service, and arts and culture nonprofits.
Steve Ragan most recently served as executive vice president for Hope Network. Previously, he was the senior vice president of development and external relations for Southwest Solutions, a position he held from 2015 to 2019. Ragan joined Southwest Solutions from Focus: HOPE, where he led the successful conclusion of their $100 M capital campaign. From 2009 to 2017 he served as chief development officer and then senior advisor to Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation.
Steve brings a strong background of experience and success leading philanthropy, communications and advocacy programs for nonprofits. He spent the first half of his career in education, beginning at Eastern Michigan University where he led development and alumni affairs for their College of Arts and Sciences and, later, directed the University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign. He was the vice president and later senior vice president for university advancement at Lawrence Technological University, where he led their first capital campaign. Since then, Steve has expanded his work to include leadership in the arts, social justice and human services as both chief development and communications officer, and as a consultant to impactful regional and national nonprofits.
Equitable educational opportunity has also been a priority in Steve’s volunteer work. He served as a publicly-elected community college trustee and board chair for nine years; helped co-found an innovative charter academy that serves Detroit students from low-income households; and is a tutor and serves as a board member at All Saints Literacy Center.
Steve received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and is a graduate of Harvard University’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education. In 2021 he was the recipient of Association of Fundraising Professionals for Greater Detroit Dr. John S. Lore Award for Outstanding Fundraising Executive.
Dr. Joanna Ramirez
As executive director, Joanna is responsible for leading College Possible Minnesota in its mission to make college admission and success possible for students from low-income backgrounds. Joanna has a deep familiarity with College Possible Minnesota through her work as our vice president of site leadership in which she led a team of seven College Possible executive directors across the country. In that role, she advised and coached College Possible executive directors on regional growth strategies including resource development, and she also facilitated a community of practice for executive directors sharing cross-site learning and innovations.
Joanna’s background spans the nonprofit, philanthropic, social enterprise and for-profit sectors, develops innovative programming that facilitates community change. A strong voice for the organization, Joanna leverages technology and quality assessment to discern appropriate investments and maximize social impact. Through development and continuous learning, she empowers staff to deliver on critical outcomes. Joanna’s toolbox includes fundraising, board engagement, partnering on community initiatives, advocacy and program evaluation. She is recognized as a thought leader in diversity and inclusion that creates and implements effective solutions to reduce disparities within diverse communities.
In addition to her work at College Possible, Joanna currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits board of directors, is active in LatinoLEAD (a local group of Latinx leaders) and part of a cohort of Adaptive Leaders for Race Equity. Joanna brings her passion and her prior experience as a Bush Leadership Fellow, vice president of business solutions with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association, and experience in both corporate and private philanthropy to benefit Minnesota students served by College Possible. Prior to coming to the Twin Cities, Joanna was also a research scientist at the University of WI-Milwaukee and the University of Texas San Antonio. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas, Austin.
Vice President, Advancement
Jaclyn Schroeder joined College Possible as the vice president, advancement, in June 2020. Jaclyn brings over 16 years of leadership and fundraising success in responsive philanthropic organizations, and a passion for impact, strategic vision for innovative social enterprise, and aggressive resource development. She became a licensed attorney in 2018, and her legal skills and familiarity with tax, business structures, and corporate finance adds to the experience with nonprofit management and passion for fundraising. She brings a unique blend of technical skills, leadership strength, and the ability to develop and execute a strategic vision. Jaclyn’s career path is a proven track record of inclusive and responsive leadership in human service organizations and one of the largest community foundations in the nation, managing both local and remote teams to define and reach shared objectives.
Jaclyn serves as an active mentor for law students at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and provides pro-bono legal services to help individuals who face barriers become U.S. citizens. She has served on the boards of several Twin Cities nonprofits, with a focus on governance and development. She has served as a presenter, panelist, and moderator at various community events, continuing legal education programs, and industry conferences. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Evansville, a master’s degree from Purdue University, and a juris doctor from Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Additionally, she has earned a Certificate in Fundraising Management (CFRM) and the Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP) designation.
Kellie J. Sigh
Vice President, Site Leadership, Milwaukee Executive Director
Kellie has more than 25 years working in the private and public school sectors. Kellie has extensive knowledge of the Milwaukee funder community and experience in cultivating relationships. She has a track record of building and cultivating valuable partnerships in service of students. Kellie’s experience and connections with Milwaukee Public Schools, her passion for students, and her approach to building and maintaining effective, healthy and whole teams adds value to her role as executive director.
Kellie is a member of Professional Dimensions, serves as chair of the Salvation Army advisory board, is vice chair of the MENTOR Greater Milwaukee board of directors, and is a member of the Alverno College Vanguard Honor Society. She holds a bachelor’s degree (conferred with honors) from Alverno College, an MBA from Concordia University-Wisconsin and is currently pursuing a doctorate in transformational leadership in higher education at Alverno College.
Contact Kellie at KSigh@CollegePossible.org.
Chief of Staff
Brianna joined the College Possible team as the chief of staff in 2021. Most recently, Brianna was an investment director at Charter School Growth Fund where she sourced, evaluated and supported high-quality public charter schools through their growth planning and execution. Previously, she served as chief of staff and chief strategy officer at Distinctive Schools, a Midwest charter school network, and began her career as a consultant at Deloitte, working with national consumer product and health care clients on various strategic engagements.
Brianna was an Education Pioneers fellow and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana University.
Vice President, Site Leadership
JR Tomkinson is a seasoned operations executive with leadership experience spanning the K12 public, private and nonprofit sectors. He most recently served as Managing Director for City Year Chicago, where he led service implementation for the largest of City Year’s 29 regions. Under his leadership, City Year Chicago deployed 265 AmeriCorps members to serve as near-peer mentors to students in 32 Chicago Public Schools partnerships at the height of the pandemic, driving significant gains in the rate of students on-track to graduate at City Year’s partner schools from SY19 to SY21 even as the district’s overall average on-track rate declined.
Among other previous experiences, JR led the development and launch of a $6 million shared services center at the Chicago Public Schools district, an initiative that encompassed the restructuring of the district’s non-instructional departments into a new multisite, cross-functional unit that would substantially improve the quality of principal support by the district’s central office, leading all CPS departments in principal satisfaction ratings in its inaugural year.
JR earned his bachelor’s’ degree from Dartmouth College, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Lauren comes to College Possible Washington with more than 10 years of leadership in the education and nonprofit sectors. Her experience as a first-generation college graduate and an AmeriCorps member guide her focus on college access and success. Lauren recently served as the interim executive director at City Year Seattle/King County where she continued to build strong partnerships in Seattle Public Schools and promote a return to in-person service. Servant and adaptive leadership coupled with a community centered approach, drives the work culture Lauren builds.
Her experiences include strategic planning, donor cultivation, staff learning and development, race and equity programming and building transformational partnerships. Lauren attended Gonzaga University for her undergraduate studies and holds a M.Ed. in school counseling from Louisiana State University. In her free time Lauren enjoys coaching volleyball at Rainier Beach High School, traveling with her partner, and spending time with their two cats at home in West Seattle.
Senior Vice President, People & Culture
Lavada is a global transformation leader with 20+ years of experience leading global change initiatives for high performance organizations such as Cargill, Bank of America and Deloitte. She has a proven track record developing, redesigning and implementing complex, large-scale solutions and driving multiple projects to completion. Lavada has advised and provided strategic leadership to C-level executives on leading highly effective and efficient global teams. Her areas of expertise include: Business Start-up & Transformation, Change & Education Management, Leadership Assessment, Alignment & Development, Learning & Organizational Effectiveness, Mergers & Acquisitions/Culture Integration, Performance Improvement, and Talent Development. While at Deloitte, she authored the Business Models, Culture, Leadership and Vision/Strategy sections of a white paper on Creating a High-Performance Organization.
Lavada has experience creating and leading charitable foundations and non-profit organizations. Along with her husband Ron, she co-leads The Ron and Lavada Williams Foundation where she is President and Global Programs Director. The Foundation supports the Les Freres Unis (The United Brothers) school in Fort Liberte’, Haiti. Other past charitable and service leadership includes Founding Member of Build the Future USA (South Africa mission’s organization) and coleader of the Hampton Roads campaign fundraisers for the Office of U.S. Congress and Governor of Virginia.
In 1993, Lavada was selected to coordinate the Governor’s Annual Meeting luncheon and program on behalf of Governor Douglas Wilder. That same year, she was awarded the Small Business Minority Advocate of the Year from The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. In 1994, Lavada was appointed by Governor Wilder to a 4-year Commission to the World Trade Alliance of the Blue Ridge. Lavada holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from Christopher Newport University and is a graduate of the Leadership Institute of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Lavada resides in Delray Beach, Florida with her husband Ron where she is Owner of Ksquared Events and sits on the board of Pace Center for Girls Palm Beach.
Managing Director, Monitor Institute by Deloitte
Joanna Burleson is a Managing Director with the Monitor Institute, a fully integrated unit of Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Her work is focused on social change with innovative leaders at nonprofits and foundations nationwide to advance social impact across a diverse range of issues. She works closely with social entrepreneurs, leaders and their organizations to deepen and scale their impact on some of society’s most complex social challenges. Her work is driven both by her passion for deep strategic insight and a fascination with the human system at the heart of every organization.
Joanna’s work builds on over a decade of experience across the for-profit and non-profit world, both in the United States and abroad. She began her life as a strategist with The Monitor Group, working with organizations as they wrestled with some of their most pressing strategic problems in the midst of rapidly changing environments. She brings this experience to the Institute, where she helps to tackle some of the most meaningful and important strategic problems facing society today.
Joanna obtained her B.A. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley and her MBA from the University of California at Los Angeles. She presently lives in Boston with her husband and three children.
Daniel Lugo, JD
President, Queens University of Charlotte
Daniel G. Lugo, J.D., began his service as president of Queens University of Charlotte on July 1, 2019. He was named president after serving in key leadership positions at three top-ranked liberal arts institutions. These roles included vice president of college advancement at Colby College, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Franklin and Marshall College, and associate dean of admissions at Carleton College.
As vice president for college advancement at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, Lugo orchestrated the strategy, launch and execution of a $750 million fundraising campaign, the largest of its kind for any liberal arts college in history. In the first two years of the campaign, Colby secured $415 million in philanthropic commitments including 40 gifts that exceeded $1 million. Colby will use these funds to:
- Establish an institute for the study of American art
- Create multidisciplinary initiatives in biosciences and data science
- Develop new facilities and programs in partnership with the town of Waterville
- Provide financial aid to global students
- Guarantee that all students have access to a funded research opportunity, internship and global experience
In addition to overseeing Colby’s fundraising, Lugo worked to strengthen the campus and alumni communities, both individually and collectively. He co-chaired the diversity, equity and inclusion task force, partnering with faculty members on Colby’s inclusivity efforts. Lugo also initiated innovative technology and programmatic solutions for alumni to mentor current students and impact the student experience through philanthropy. These efforts led to Colby’s top 10 national ranking in alumni participation.
At Franklin & Marshall, Lugo collaboratively developed a global talent strategy that led to a 45 percent increase in applications and yielded a more academically talented and diverse — socioeconomically, ethnically and geographically— incoming class. Earlier in his career, Lugo supervised the admissions process and enrollment marketing strategy, as well as helped to develop cultivation and solicitation strategies for leadership donors at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
A first-generation college graduate, Lugo strongly believes in the transformative power of education. He earned his bachelor of arts in political science from Carleton College, and his juris doctorate from the University of Minnesota School of Law, where he was an editor of The Journal of Law & Inequality. Prior to his career in higher education, Lugo was an intellectual property and entertainment attorney, representing national music artists.
Dr. Donnell Butler
Founder and President, Opportunity College
Dr. Donnell Butler is the founder and president of Opportunity College. In partnership with public high schools, career pathway programs and innovative universities, Opportunity College is piloting two programs beginning summer 2021 to evaluate an affordable, career-connected, student-centered, online, postsecondary model that seeks to accelerate first-generation, low-income students into purpose-filled lives and upward mobility.
Donnell has over 15 years of research and practice experience in identifying and enhancing individual capabilities and institutional actions that improve college student access and success. Most recently, he co-led the Next Generation Initiative, as the senior associate dean for planning and analysis of student outcomes at Franklin & Marshall College (F&M). He is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.
Before F&M, he directed research and development of background survey questionnaires for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at Educational Testing Service (ETS). Previously, he served as a joint American Education Research Association (AERA) and ETS postdoctoral fellow working primarily on the NSF-ITEST funded College Ambition Program at Michigan State University, project director in Princeton University’s Office of Population Research for the Ford Foundation-supported Campus Life in America Student Survey, evaluation specialist for the Princeton University Preparatory Program, coordinator of the Goldman Sachs Foundation-supported Opening Doors and Paving the Way Forum for increasing college access and success for talented low-income students, senior policy research analyst at APPRISE Incorporated, senior business advisory services professional at Ernst & Young, and intern with the White House's Office of Communications Research.
He earned his B.A. in business administration and sociology from F&M and his Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University.
Vice President, Community Relations, Travelers and President & CEO, Travelers Foundation
Vice President, Community Relations, Travelers and President & CEO, Travelers Foundation
As a key leader of Travelers’ corporate citizenship strategies, Marlene manages charitable giving and is responsible for community-related employee involvement activities. Marlene has developed a strategic approach for the company’s philanthropy, designed to align business interests with community needs and assets, and helping to generate academic & career success, thriving neighborhoods and culturally enriched communities.
Under her direction, the Travelers Foundation and Travelers have successfully implemented signature programs. The first to launch was Travelers EDGE® (Empowering Dreams for Graduation & Employment), a nationally recognized, comprehensive, career pipeline program intended to increase the number of historically underrepresented individuals who complete bachelor’s degrees and are prepared for a career in the insurance and financial services industry.
Other signature initiatives include the Travelers Small Business Risk Education program, which provides women-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses with information related to business continuity and risk safety, and Travelers Fortifies Communities, which focuses on building capacity in the nonprofit building and disaster recovery sector for construction of stronger houses for America’s most vulnerable families.
In addition, Marlene has led the development and implementation of an employee community involvement strategy in support of the company’s talent recruitment, retention, development, and diversity & inclusion initiatives.
Prior to her role in community relations, Marlene served in a variety of public relations and communications management roles at Travelers. Before joining Travelers, Marlene worked as a writer/producer and public relations consultant and has experience working in communications and fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
A first-generation college graduate, she holds a Bachelor of Science degree in radio-TV-film from Texas Christian University and a Master of Science degree in communications management from Syracuse University.
In addition to her commitment to College Possible, Marlene serves on the boards of directors of Hartford Promise and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in Connecticut. She is also a member of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Executive Forum and serves on the KABOOM! Leadership Council.
Dr. Doreen James Wise
Nurse Entrepreneur and Co-Founder of College Forward
Doreen Wise was the first college graduate in her family and believes that education can change a family in a generation. Educated as a nurse at Vanderbilt University, she has worked clinically in pediatrics and mental health nursing After earning a master’s degree she served on the faculty at The University of Texas School of Nursing. Because of her passion for education, she later completed a doctorate in that field. She helped to launch College Forward, served several terms on its board of directors and worked on the due diligence team to merge with College Possible.
Doreen founded Medical Research Consultants (MRC), a medical legal consulting company specializing in mass tort medical products litigation. She built the company from one employee to 450 with top line annual revenues of $30 million. She sold the company as an employee stock ownership plan to her employees who sustain it as an industry leader today.
MRC employees and leadership have always been community facing, including offering an “incubator” for promising nonprofit startups including College Forward and Texas Center for the Missing, an Amber Alert partner.
Doreen advises and provides angel investment dollars to promising “for profit” companies including ChartSwap, a force.com based medical records company recently selling for 20+ times initial investment. Doreen and her husband Frank Crapitto have owned and sold Crapitto’s Cucina Italiano and Frank’s Chop House in Houston, Texas. They so loved the artisan bread created by Slow Dough Baking Company that they served it in both restaurants and have invested in the company since its inception. And because they love to fish the Texas coast they bought Mowdy Boats of Texas from its founder, keeping the brand alive and building the company.
Dr. Fayneese Miller
President, Hamline University
Dr. Miller became president of Hamline University in 2015. She is the first African American and second woman to serve as president. Previously, she was a professor and dean at the University of Vermont, and before that was associate professor of psychology at Brown University, where she was the first coordinator of education studies and founding chairman of ethnic studies. She has served with national professional organizations and has extensive experience with local and community boards as well.
Chief Public Affairs Officer, M Health Fairview
Andrea Mokros has spent a career in communications and event production at the local, state and national level. Currently, she serves as Senior Vice President at Weber Shandwick. where she leads Public Affairs in their Minneapolis office. She most recently served as the Vice President of Communications for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, one of the world’s pre-eminent sporting events.
Previously, Andrea served in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Strategic Planning for the First Lady. In this role, she oversaw the strategic planning process for all aspects of First Lady Michelle Obama’s schedule, managing an active Scheduling and Advance team that takes every event from inception to completion. During her tenure, Andrea led the First Lady’s travel to China, Africa, the 2012 London Olympics, as well as countless other domestic and international trips; created programming for the spouses of world leaders at US-hosted summits, including NATO and the UN General Assembly; and produced major national tours on behalf of the First Lady’s Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher and Let Girls Learn initiatives.
Prior to joining the White House, Andrea served as Deputy Chief of Staff in the office of Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton. She led communications and outreach efforts; serving as spokesperson, crafting and executing communications strategies in support of the Governor’s initiatives, and leading major events from the State of the State address to bill signings.
As founder and principal of Mokros Strategies, LLC, Andrea worked with local, state, and national clients to develop speeches, op-eds, and events-based communications strategies that used the power of pictures to communicate a message. She regularly served on Advance teams for the White House and the Presidential campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry; traveling the country and the world to execute principal participation in events from the G20 Summit in Toronto, to the Presidential Debates, to the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Andrea began her career in Minnesota politics as scheduler to Attorney General Hubert H. Humphrey, III in his campaign for Governor. She went on to serve as scheduler and later as Director of the Executive Office to former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty in his international consulting firm, Kissinger McLarty Associates. As Communications Director in the Minnesota State Senate, Andrea worked with Senators to communicate legislative priorities and make them relevant to constituents. As Deputy Chief of Staff to US Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Andrea spearheaded strategic planning and managed the Senator’s communications operation, executing countless press conferences, tours, speeches and interviews.
Andrea is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts, Class of 1999. She currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Joelle A. Murchison
Principal and Founder, ExecMommyGroup LLC
Joelle A. Murchison is the Special Advisor, Diversity and External Partnerships at The University of Connecticut, Hartford campus. Prior to joining UCONN, Joelle served as Vice President, Enterprise Diversity & Inclusion at The Travelers Companies, Inc. (Travelers) where in partnership with management, she developed the framework of the company’s diversity & inclusion focus and led the execution of Travelers’ diversity & inclusion strategy.
Joelle previously served 2 terms on the board of directors of both the Morgan State University Foundation and Leadership Greater Hartford and spent 10 years as a diversity trainer with the Anti Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute. Joelle is the recipient of numerous awards including most recently, the Trailblazer Award from the Voices of Women of Color and the Living Waters Award from the Connecticut Conference of the UCC.
Currently, Joelle serves as a director/trustee on the boards of the Amistad Center for Art and Culture (Hartford, CT), The Discovery Center, and College Possible, a national nonprofit focused on college access. She is also a Corporator of the Village for Families and Children and a member of the Board of Ambassadors of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
A native of Queens and Long Island, NY, Joelle holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy and educational studies from Brown University, a master’s of education degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and a master’s of science degree in Communication Management from Syracuse University.
Dr. Jenny Rickard
President & CEO, Common App
President & Chief Executive Officer Jenny Rickard joined Common App in August 2016. Her expertise embodies each area of college enrollment management, including admission, technology and financial aid. Her extensive service within the national higher education community includes a wide range of roles with the College Board, Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools (ACCIS), and US Department of Education.
Dr. Suzanne M. Rivera
President, Macalester College
Dr. Suzanne Rivera is the president of Macalester College. She also is a professor of public affairs, and her scholarship focuses on research ethics and science policy. Rivera has written numerous journal articles and book chapters, and she co-edited the book Specimen Science. Her research has been supported by the NIH, the NSF, the DHHS Office of Research Integrity, and the Cleveland Foundation. She is engaged in numerous civic and municipal leadership roles, including chair of the board of Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R), appointed member of the executive council for Minnesota’s Young Women’s Initiative, board member of the Science Museum of Minnesota, board member of College Possible, and member of the TeenSHARP National Advisory Board. Rivera received a BA in American civilization from Brown University, an MSW from UC-Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in public policy from UT Dallas.
Founder and CEO, AstrumU
Adam Wray is the founder and CEO of AstrumU, a Seattle-based data science startup that translates educational experiences into economic opportunity. Prior to founding AstrumU, he held a variety of senior leadership and founding roles at data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud and machine learning-focused companies. He was one of the founders and CEO of Tier 3, a public sector cloud services provider acquired in 2013 by CenturyLink (NYSE:CTL), one of the largest U.S. enterprise telecommunications companies. As a board director for Observable Networks, he helped lead the cloud-based cybersecurity providers’ Series A investment and exit to Cisco Systems in July 2017.
Active in community and civic life, Adam serves as a member of the national board of directors for the University of Kansas’ Alumni Association and the board of College Possible, a national nonprofit that connects high school and college students with near-peer success coaches. He is also a board director for the Washington Policy Center, an independent, nonprofit think tank that promotes sound public policy in Washington State that focuses on issues ranging from education, environmental conservation, government accountability, health care and small business. Adam is also an advisor to Big Sky Bravery, a civilian-based organization that works to provide active-duty members of U.S. special forces with post-deployment decompression programs, mentorship and support in the restorative outdoor surroundings of Montana.