Staff & Board

Kim Cook, Executive Director

Kim Cook, NCAN's executive director since 2008, has worked in the higher education and college access field for her entire professional career, including experience in undergraduate admissions and financial aid, administration of a last-dollar scholarship program, and a succession of responsibilities at NCAN. As a former Pell Grant recipient herself, she personally understands the imperative to help more Americans--especially those who have been historically underserved by higher education--get a postsecondary credential. At NCAN, she sets the vision for supporting 400 member organizations across the country serving an estimated 2 million students annually in their mission to achieve significantly higher college enrollment and graduation rates than national averages for low-income students and students of color.

She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of College Access, the advisory board of the American University Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success, and the TXCAN Statewide Scaling Committee. She is often consulted to speak on federal policy issues and building college access and success collaboratives. In 2016, she was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for College Opportunity.

Prior to joining NCAN in 1999, she was a Senior Program Associate at Plan for Social Excellence, Inc., a foundation supporting innovative projects in education, and served as its Grants Manager and Scholars Program Manager. Previously, she was as a college admission counselor at Pace University in New York. She holds a Masters in Public Administration from Pace University and a Bachelors degree in Communications, Law, Economics and Government from The American University (Washington, DC). She has completed continuing professional development through courses in Georgetown University’s Certificate in Non-Profit Management and Harvard University’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management institute.

Email: cook(a)

Twitter: @NCANCook

Jamese Carrell, Member Services Associate

As the Member Services Associate, Jamese Carrell provides NCAN members with support through use of and sharing best practices, webinars, conferences, and online resources with the goal of increasing members’ ability to increase the number of underrepresented students entering and completing a higher education. Ms. Carrell also contributes to maintaining and expanding NCAN’s membership base, along with recognizing the work and achievements of members. Ms. Carrell also represents NCAN externally at events and authors communications in official NCAN newsletters and blog posts.

Prior to joining NCAN, Ms. Carrell served as a Hall Director at Virginia Commonwealth University where she was responsible for community management and development of two first-year residence hall communities, including a living-learning program, The Honors College. She completed her undergraduate degree at Western Illinois University as a communication major with an emphasis in interpersonal and organizational communication, and a minor in sociology. After undergrad, Ms. Carrell served as an ISACorps Member for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) in Rockford, where her passion for working with first-generation, low-income populations bloomed. She also holds a master’s degree in student affairs and higher education administration from Indiana State University. As a first-generation college student herself, college access and equity work is central to her story.

Email: carrellj(a)

Twitter: @JameseBCarrell

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Crystal Courtney, Office and Events Manager

For more than 15 years, Crystal Courtney has worked in web production, publications, and executive administration for the telecommunications, government, and nonprofit sectors. At NCAN, she is responsible for office operations, website management as well as office and event planning.

Prior to joining NCAN, Ms. Courtney worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, American Geophysical Union as an Editor's Assistant where she was responsible for editing and managing technical, scientific, and college publications. She has also worked for EMC and Verizon in Communications, Internet and Business Services where she was an integral part of developing Home Monitoring and Controls systems, developing vendor partner relationships; and managing and maintaining numerous websites. She studied computer science at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD, and is completing a bachelor’s degree in business management.

Email: courtneyc(a)

Lindsay Broderick, Communications Intern

Before working with NCAN, Lindsay was a Research and Analysis Intern at the First Star Institute. She conducted legal research on state laws surrounding a child’s right to counsel in placement and custody hearings, as well as research regarding state and university programs meant to support first generation, low-income, homeless, and foster youth applying to, enrolling in, and attending college. After First Star, Lindsay worked as a Legislative Intern in the Office of Senator Cory Booker. She worked closely with the office’s Legislative Correspondents for foreign relations, education, and health policy in crafting co-sponsorship recommendations for the Senator, bill synopses, and background fact sheets for committee hearings.

Lindsay is entering her senior year at American University in the fall. She will be graduating in May 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with concentrations in Human Rights and Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution.

Email: broderickl(a)

Twitter: @Lb8970a

Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation

Bill DeBaun is NCAN’s Director of Data and Evaluation. In that role he researches and writes about college access and success programming that demonstrates significant results for students’ college enrollment and graduation rates while additionally providing technical assistance to other initiatives. Mr. DeBaun leads NCAN’s Benchmarking Project, an on-going collaborative research effort with NCAN members that examines the enrollment and completion outcomes of students served by college access and success programs. The Benchmarking Project contains key demographic, service, and outcome data on more than 500,000 member-served students and provides insight into the college access and success field.

Other activities include the creation, development, and maintenance of NCAN’s Data and Evaluation Toolkit and the Form Your Future FAFSA Tracker and the provision of technical assistance to school districts in projects like the To & Through Advising Challenge and the Rural Student Success Initiative. Prior to these Mr. DeBaun oversaw the three-year Common Measures Learning Community, which convened 20 NCAN members in an effort to use data to improve program outcomes and scale program capacity.

Prior to joining NCAN, Mr. DeBaun was a policy and advocacy associate at the Alliance for Excellent Education in Washington, DC, where he authored the white paper “Inseparable Imperatives: Equity in Education and the Future of the American Economy” and co-wrote several reports on the need for federal student aid reform. Mr. DeBaun has a bachelor’s degree in political science, with a minor in education studies, from American University and a master’s degree in public policy from the George Washington University.

Email: debaunb(a)

Twitter: @BillDeBaun

Colette Hadley, Director of Consulting Services

As NCAN’s director of consulting services, Colette Hadley helps foundations, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and schools to deploy best practices in college access and financial aid advising services for underserved students, strategic need-based scholarship management, fundraising, and related organizational and board development. Services include program assessment and recommendations for improvement, strategic planning, and technical assistance to implement new approaches.

Ms. Hadley has unparalleled credentials and commitment to help communities increase rates of college-going and completion. She was the executive director of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara (SFSB) from 2006 through early 2015, where she had a proven track record of strong scholarship program management and fundraising. Under Ms. Hadley’s leadership, the SFSB increased its net assets by 85 percent to $43.4 million, doubled the number of college scholarships awarded, and increased the average scholarship amount by 35 percent. SFSB program advisors reached more than 37,600 Santa Barbara County students and parents in 2013-14 with rigorous FAFSA trainings, targeted scholarship workshops, early awareness financial aid presentations, and intensive one-on-one counseling sessions. Beginning in 2008, Ms. Hadley also provided nonprofit consulting services to organizations including the Pedrozzi Scholarship Foundation, Scholarship Sonoma County, California College Access Consortium, Storyteller Children’s Center, and the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum on best practices in scholarship development, fundraising, governance, and organizational culture.

Before joining the SFSB in 1992, Ms. Hadley worked as a student affairs officer and then marketing manager for the University of California-Irvine. She studied biological sciences at the University of California-Irvine and has completed certificate programs in nonprofit management and executive leadership. Ms. Hadley has significant nonprofit board experience as the chairman of the Santa Barbara Cal-SOAP (Student Opportunity and Access Program) Consortium and as a board member for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Santa Barbara County (CASA) and the Santa Barbara Special Olympics. She served as an NCAN board member during the organization’s formative years in the late 1990s and early 2000s as well as from 2011 through 2015.

Email: hadley(a)

Zenia M. Henderson, Director of Member & Partner Engagement

As NCAN’s Director of Member & Partner Engagement, Zenia Henderson is responsible for attracting and retaining NCAN members through professional development, support services, and networking as well as increasing engagement with K-12 schools and higher education institutions.

Before joining NCAN, Mrs. Henderson served as the Senior Director of Programs for NCAN member CollegeTracks in Montgomery County, MD where she provided strategic and data-driven programmatic oversight of the college access and success programs operating in several Montgomery County Public High Schools.

With 15+ years in the nonprofit sector, Mrs. Henderson has an extensive background in the field of college access, persistence and completion. Her first-hand experience as a first-generation college graduate led her to pursue endeavors with organizations that afford low-income and first-generation-to-college students the opportunity to pursue higher education, such as with NCAN member College Summit, now PeerForward, where she worked regionally and nationally to recruit volunteers for seven regions across the country. In addition to her work as a certified youth facilitator with PeerForward, she has a range of experience in leadership development, nonprofit management and direct service experience with various nonprofit and federal programs such as the Latin American Youth Center and Communities in Schools as well as Trio programs such as Student Support Services and Upward Bound.

Mrs. Henderson completed her undergraduate studies with a bachelor’s degree in English and Ethnic Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management from Trinity Washington University. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two sons.

Email: hendersonz(a)

Twitter: @ZeniaNCAN

MorraLee (Holzapfel) Keller, Director of Technical Assistance

Ms. MorraLee Keller serves as Director of Technical Assistance and provides professional development to both direct service providers and managers to help ensure the success and sustainability of new and existing college access programs. She offers consultation services with advice on governance issues, programming, data collection, research and best practices and also develops comprehensive training materials.

Mrs. Keller has a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in higher education administration, both from The Ohio State University. A former financial aid coordinator at OSU, Mrs. Keller has extensive experience in student financial aid. In her time at the Columbus, Ohio-based NCAN member program, I KNOW I CAN, Mrs. Keller developed a program with K-12 early college awareness programming and developed a comprehensive college advising program and last dollar grant program. Mrs. Keller is the past president of NCAN and served as the treasurer of the Board of Directors of NCAN.

Email: kellerm(a)

Twitter: @MorraLeeK

Tong Lee, Database Administrator

As NCAN's Database Administrator, Ms. Lee's responsibilities include managing records in the NCAN database, event registration, and member renewal and billing.

Previously, Ms. Lee served as director of membership services for the Rights Working Group, which promoted civil liberties and human rights in the United States. She has also worked for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and Hmong National Development, Inc. She is passionate about museums and has many years of experience as a Smithsonian volunteer information specialist. Ms. Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Grinnell College in Grinnell, IA, and is a proud first-generation college graduate.

Email: leet(a)

Sara Melnick, Deputy Director

Sara Melnick, Deputy Director of the National College Access Network, has nearly 20 years of experience helping schools and communities work together to enhance outcomes for K-12 students. As Deputy Director, Ms. Melnick oversees projects focused on college access and success, manages the organization’s annual conference and provides technical assistance on the development of statewide college access networks.

Prior to joining NCAN, she spent seven years as the Associate Director, K-16 Initiatives with the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) where she worked with college access programs across the country, including the federally funded GEAR UP grantees. In that role, Ms. Melnick managed projects, provided technical assistance to communities and co-authored training curricula on developing partnerships to support early college awareness initiatives.

Ms. Melnick has also worked with America’s Promise, the National Association of Partners in Education and as a public school teacher in New York City. She has written publications on the intersection of service-learning and school-to-work, integrating telecommunications technology into education, developing school-to-career initiatives and after-school programs and creating safe learning environments, and has served on the Community and Civic Organization Steering Committee of the United States Department of Education's Partnership for Family Involvement in Education and the board of the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education.

Ms. Melnick holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Vassar College and a Master of Business Administration degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Baruch College. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children.

Email: melnicks(a)

Elizabeth Morgan, Director of External Relations

Elizabeth Morgan is Director of External Relations for the National College Access Network, where she has overseen fundraising and strategic communications since 2010. She works to engage more communities, organizations, and leaders in supporting proven strategies for helping more underserved students to enter and complete postsecondary education.

Previously, Ms. Morgan was director of youth programs at the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, where she oversaw the development and management of up to $7.5 million annually in grants to other nonprofit organizations as well as the foundation's scholarship program helping low-income students attend highly selective colleges and universities. Through the foundation’s grants, Elizabeth helped to launch or grow several NCAN member programs, including the University of Virginia College Guide Program, the National College Advising Corps, CollegeTracks, SoMD CAN, and the Rappahannock Career and College Access Program. She has significant expertise in college access and success issues, nonprofit management and evaluation, out-of-school-time programs for youth, and communications.

Before joining the foundation, Ms. Morgan was a grant officer for the Michigan State Bar Foundation, which awards more than $8 million annually to provide civil legal assistance to the poor. Ms. Morgan has also worked as a journalist and editor for the Bureau of National Affairs, the World Bank, and the alumni magazine of the Washington College of Law.

She served on the NCAN board of directors from 2008 to 2010 and on the board of the Duke Student Publishing Company, the nonprofit owner of Duke University's daily student newspaper, from 2008 to 2016. She holds a J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University and an A.B. in history from Duke University.

Email: morgane(a)

Twitter: @Elizbeth_Morgan

Jack Porter, Advocacy Associate

As NCAN’s Advocacy Associate, Jack Porter supports NCAN’s federal policy and emerging state policy agenda. He develops resources for NCAN members’ advocacy efforts, tracks relevant legislative action, and contributes to official communications from NCAN to the executive and legislative branch. Additionally, Mr. Porter assists in the grant management for state policy grantees, represents NCAN at convenings and meetings, and authors official NCAN memoranda such as Request for Comments.

Prior to joining NCAN, Mr. Porter served as a Policy Research Intern at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP). While at IHEP, Porter composed the weekly newsletter, helped edit briefs and primers, and drafted social media posts. Mr. Porter completed his undergraduate degree at Springfield College as an American studies major, and received minors in education and political science. He also holds a master’s degree in higher education policy from the University of Texas at Arlington, where he founded a student organization that later achieved nonprofit status.

Email: porterj(a)

Janai Raphael, Graduate Assistant for Research & Data Analysis

Prior to working with NCAN, Janai served as a college adviser with the Georgia College Advising Corps (GCAC), a partnership between the National College Advising Corps and the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. As a college adviser, she worked at a high school in Atlanta, Georgia to increase the number of underrepresented and first-generation students who enter and complete higher education by helping students complete college applications, register for college admissions tests, apply for financial aid, and more. After GCAC, Janai worked as a Summer Transition Specialist with Achieve Atlanta to provide outreach and scholarship assistance to Achieve Atlanta scholars to prevent summer melt and encourage college matriculation, persistence, and graduation.

Janai is almost at the midpoint of her graduate program at the University of Maryland, College Park. She will be graduating in May 2020 with a master’s degree in higher education. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the University of Georgia in 2016.

Email: raphaelj(a)

Kelly Mae Ross, Communications Manager

As NCAN’s communications manager, Kelly Mae Ross curates and edits the content of NCAN’s main communication channels, uses data to recommend improvements to communication strategies and facilitates media requests. She also supports NCAN marketing and contributes to strategic communication planning. 

Prior to joining NCAN, Ms. Ross was an education reporter at U.S. News & World Report, where she wrote consumer-focused articles that helped demystify the college search and application process for prospective students and their families. Prior to writing for U.S. News, Ms. Ross was a legislative information researcher at CQ Roll Call. In this role, she processed and published legislative documents and penned articles about members of Congress and the legislative process.

Ms. Ross holds a bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University, where she majored in both journalism and politics.

Email: rosskm(a)

Twitter: @KellyyMaee 

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Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Ms. Carrie Warick is the Director of Policy and Advocacy for the National College Access Network. She leads NCAN’s policy and advocacy work to promote policies that support students who are low-income, first-generation, or of color access and succeed in higher education. This includes managing NCAN's policy priorities at both the federal and state level.

Joining NCAN in May 2008, Ms. Warick has also served as a Program Associate, the Director of Member Services, and the Director of Partnerships and Policy. In these positions, she managed NCAN's technical assistance to statewide and regional networks, developed and disseminated resources and training to NCAN members as well as managing membership events, communications, recruitment, and renewal.

Ms. Warick holds a Masters of Public Policy, with a concentration in education policy, and a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and History, both from The George Washington University. While pursuing her Masters, Ms. Warick was a Presidential Administrative Fellow and worked in various areas of communication within GW.

Warick is a five year member of Women in Government Relations and currently serves as co-chair of the Education Taskforce. She lives with her husband and daughter in Northeast DC.

Email: warickc(a)

Twitter: @CarrieWarick

Board of Directors

Marlene Ibsen, Board President
President and CEO
Travelers Foundation

Nathaniel Easley, Ph.D., Board Vice President

Steve Colón, Board Treasurer
Bottom Line

Jamie Sears, Board Secretary
Head of Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility
UBS Americas

Board Members
Adam Berg
AEM Corporation

Tina Fernandez
Executive Director
Achieve Atlanta

Paul Luna
President and CEO
Helios Education Foundation

Candy Marshall
The Dream.US

Lori McFarling
Senior Vice-President & Chief Marketing Officer
Discovery Education

Gloria Nemerowicz, Ph.D.
Yes We Must
Stephen Smith

Herb Tillery
Executive Director
College Success Foundation – District of Columbia

Ricardo Torres
President & CEO
National Student Clearinghouse


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Marlene M. Ibsen is chief executive officer and president of Travelers Foundation and vice president, Community Relations, for The Travelers Companies, Inc. In her role, she manages the company’s giving practices, overseeing the distribution of approximately $20 million in charitable and civic support each year. She is also responsible for the company’s community-related employee engagement and development activities. Ms. Ibsen took on her current responsibilities in November 2007, and since then has developed a strategic approach for the company’s charitable giving, with a significant emphasis on increasing educational opportunities for underrepresented students. 

Under her direction, the Travelers Foundation and Travelers have launched three signature programs designed to meet community needs and align with business interests, including Travelers EDGE® (Empowering Dreams for Graduation & Employment), a nationally recognized, comprehensive, career pipeline program intended to increase the number of underrepresented individuals who complete bachelor's degrees and are prepared for a career in the Insurance and Financial Services industry. In addition, Ms. Ibsen has also led the development and implementation of an employee community involvement strategy in support of the company’s talent recruitment, retention and development priorities. 

Prior to her role in Community Relations, Ms. Ibsen worked as a vice president in Travelers Corporate Communications, supervising the communications staff responsible for media relations, corporate issues and business unit support. She has also worked in a variety of communications management roles at Travelers, including internal communications and marketing communications. Previously, Ms. Ibsen worked as a writer/producer and public relations consultant. In addition, she has experience working in communications and fundraising for nonprofit organizations. 

Ms. Ibsen holds a B.S. in Radio-TV-Film from Texas Christian University, and an M.S. in Communications Management from Syracuse University. 

Ms. Ibsen currently serves as chair of the board of directors for the National College Access Network in Washington, D.C. In addition, she is a director of College Possible National in Saint Paul, Minn.; Hartford Promise (Conn.); and the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (Conn.). She also is a member of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship's Executive Forum.

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Gloria Nemerowicz is president of Yes We Must, a coalition of 33 U.S. nonprofit, independent colleges and universities with strong commitments to enrolling and graduating significant numbers of low-income and first-generation college students. Goals of the coalition include increasing degree attainment for low-income students, disseminating information about how colleges can effectively serve them, and developing valid measures for demonstrating their success.

From 1996 to 2011, Dr. Nemerowicz served as the ninth president of Pine Manor College, a four-year college for women. Under her leadership, Pine Manor adopted a framework of inclusive leadership and social responsibility to craft educational experiences and campus decision-making. This distinctive approach, coupled with a 34 percent reduction in tuition and extensive community partnerships, produced a 70 percent growth in the enrollment over ten years. In addition, Pine Manor significantly increased the diversity of its students and was recognized many times by U.S. News & World Report as one of the most diverse colleges in the country. For her leadership in accomplishing this diversity, Dr. Nemerowicz received the Arnold Z. Rosoff Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in 2005 from the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the Ad Club. She was also inducted into the YWCA-Boston’s Academy of Women Achievers, Class of 2005.

Dr. Nemerowicz came to Pine Manor College from Wells College, where she served as the founding executive director of the Women’s Leadership Institute. Previously, Dr. Nemerowicz served as vice provost and dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Monmouth University, where she was also a tenured member of the sociology department. She received widespread recognition and grant awards for the philosophy and design of “Education for Leadership and Social Responsibility” — a comprehensive, college-wide educational plan of curriculum, co-curriculum, faculty development, and community programs to explore inclusive models of leadership.

An active scholar, writer, and speaker, Dr. Nemerowicz is the author of Children’s Perceptions of Gender and Work Roles (1979) and co-author, with JoAnn Gora, of Professionalism in Unpaid Work (1989) and, with Eugene Rosi, of Education for Leadership and Social Responsibility (1997). Her op-ed pieces have appeared in national newspapers. She received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

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Steven Colón

Steve Colon (Board Treasurer) is CEO of Bottom Line, a nonprofit with a mission to help low-income and first-generation students get into college, graduate, and go far in life. Steve’s lifelong advocacy for educational equity comes from personal experience. He grew up in Brentwood, New York, a majority LatinX community and was the first in his family to earn a college degree. This experience helped to solidify his belief in the transformative impact a bachelor’s degree can have on a family for generations.

Prior to joining Bottom Line, Steve was the Senior Vice President of Organization-Wide Learning and Strategy for Teach For America (TFA). His work focused on catalyzing TFA’s growth into a world-class learning organization.

Before TFA, Steve spent 12 years with the College Board where he led strategic, analytic, and operational teams for large national programs including, Advanced Placement (AP), SAT, PSAT/NMSQT, and His last three years at College Board focused on managing their portfolio of college access programs and services and finding innovative ways to improve the college-going and completion rates of low-income and first-generation students on a national level.

Steve spent three years on the board of St. HOPE Leadership Academy and two years as a member of Univision Communications’ Educational Advisory Board. Additionally, Steve spent 13 years as an adjunct political science instructor, teaching courses on mass media, political and civil rights, the civil rights movement, race and ethnic relations, and Hispanic culture and community.

Steve holds a master’s degree in political science, with a focus on political psychology and quantitative methods, from SUNY Stony Brook. He also has a master’s degree in international relations and diplomacy and a bachelor’s degree in comparative government, with a minor in secondary education, both from St. John’s University. He currently lives in Queens, New York with his wife, Danielle, and their two sons.

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Nathaniel Easley

Nathaniel Easley, Ph.D., is Founding Chief Executive Officer of RootED, a 501(c)(3) public charity focused on increasing the availability of high quality public schools in Denver through quarterback investments in educator/leader talent, high performing schools, and a supportive policy environment. Prior to joining RootED, Dr. Easley served as CEO of the Denver Scholarship Foundation, a 501(c) (3) public charity whose mission is to inspire and empower Denver Public School (DPS) students to achieve their postsecondary education goals by providing the tools, knowledge and financial resources essential for success.

Dr. Easley served as President and Secretary of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education from 2009 to 2013. He also worked as Vice President for National and International Programs for the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) in Washington, DC. COE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to furthering the expansion of educational opportunities in postsecondary education for low-income and disabled youth and adults. He is a current member of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s Education Compact, the National College Access Network Board, the Colorado Education Initiative Board, and co-chairs the Denver Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce Education Committee. He previously served as a member of the Community College of Denver Advisory Council, the Colorado School of Public Health Advisory Council, the Denver School of Science and Technology Public Charter School Board, the Denver Public Schools’ Roots Public Charter School Board, and Colorado Latinos for Education Reform. He is also a past member of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s Education Leadership Council and the National Advisory Council for Texas Guaranteed Inc. (the third largest student loan guarantee organization in the United States).

Dr. Easley has extensive experience helping disadvantaged students realize their dream of a college education and securing grant funding to sustain student programs. His master’s and doctorate focused on how higher education can better support the academic success and college completion of Black and Latino/a students. Dr. Easley has nearly 30 years of experiencing working at the state, national and international levels to create opportunities for first-generation, low-income and ethnic minority students. He is a proud graduate of Denver Public Schools’ Montbello High School.

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Adam Berg is a Director with AEM Corporation, a leader in education data management and information technology, where he is responsible for strategic business development.  AEM is highly regarded for its work with K-12 data collection and analytics, P20W education data standards, as well as providing technical assistance for state longitudinal data systems and grant programs across the nation.

Prior to joining AEM in 2017, Mr. Berg was Vice President of Education Services at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) where he led a $100M/year portfolio with nearly 800 employees. An accomplished P&L leader adept at forging strategic and customer partnerships, he led numerous successful new business initiatives for both international and domestic accounts. Mr. Berg was also responsible for customer engagement strategies across GDIT’s Education Services business line.

While at GDIT, Mr. Berg led the team that delivers the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) serving more than 20 million students annually. Mr. Berg and his colleagues played a key role in recent efforts to simplify the form, improve the student experience and ultimately reduce barriers to access. Under his leadership, the FAFSA has become one of the most highly rated government websites for customer satisfaction in its class. Mr. Berg also worked closely with the U.S. Department of Education during the launch of the William D. Ford Direct Loan Program. He developed and delivered training and assisted schools with reengineering their business processes in transition to the new program.

He takes special pride in turnaround projects, innovative service models, and his clear conviction that technology can and should dramatically improve the way everyone interacts with government.

Mr. Berg is a graduate of Boston College with a B.A. in political science.

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Having experienced first-hand the transformative power that a college degree can have, Tina Fernandez has committed her life to ensuring that all kids have the opportunity to get an excellent education and lead opportunity-rich lives. She leads the nonprofit organization Achieve Atlanta as executive director. Achieve Atlanta works to help students from the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) system apply to college, pay for college, succeed in college, and earn their degrees through a collaborative model. As an intermediary, the organization brings together nonprofits and higher education partners to assist students with the college application process, offers need-based scholarships to thousands of students, and ensures that Achieve Atlanta scholars have support to persist in higher education and earn their degrees.  

Prior to this role, Ms. Fernandez was a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit providing strategic, talent, and policy consulting to education organizations.  She also served as a clinical professor at the University of Texas School of Law, where she was twice named Clinical Professor of the Year. In addition, she was the founding director of the school's pro bono program. Prior to that, Ms. Fernandez was managing director of alumni engagement and infrastructure for Teach for America (TFA). She began her professional career as a TFA ’94 corps member and bilingual elementary teacher in the South Bronx.  

Ms. Fernandez currently serves on TFA's Atlanta regional board as well as The New Teacher Project’s and Latinos for Education’s national boards of directors. Previously, she served on the State of Georgia’s Education Reform Commission. She earned a B.A. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia University School of Law. Ms. Fernandez lives in Atlanta with her husband Frank and their two children, Franky and Lucia, who attend Atlanta public schools.

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Paul J. Luna is President and Chief Executive Officer of Helios Education Foundation, an NCAN member based in Phoenix, AZ. Helios is the largest nonprofit organization serving Arizona and Florida focused solely on education and it is committed to creating a high-expectations, college-going culture in both states by investing in initiatives that prepare students for college and career success.

Created in 2004 through the sale and conversion of Southwest Student Services Corporation and with an initial endowment of $525 million, Helios made its first investments in education in 2006. Since that time, the Foundation has invested over $133 million in programs and initiatives across its impact areas of Early Childhood Education, the Transition Years and Postsecondary Success that are changing lives through education.

Mr. Luna is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the Foundation, cultivating strong community relationships, and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida. Prior to his role at the Foundation, Mr. Luna served as President of Valley of the Sun United Way where he led a community-wide fundraising effort approaching $50 million.

A graduate of Stanford University, Paul holds a degree in Civil Engineering. He serves as a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership, Center for the Future of Arizona Board of Directors, Arizona Community Foundation Board of Directors, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, and is the Founding Chair of the Expect More Arizona Board of Directors.

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Candy Marshall joined the TheDream.US after serving 8 years as a leader at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As chief human resources officer, Candy led the expansion of the foundation and then joined the Global Health Programs where she led the implementation of a comprehensive plan to implement and improve the effectiveness of the Foundation’s 25+ global programs with over 500 people and a $3.0B annual budget. Prior to joining the Gates Foundation, Candy was Executive Vice President and General Counsel of WRQ, Inc. – a northwest technology firm.

Candy is a philanthropic leader in the Pacific Northwest. She is immediate Past-Chair of the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Research Foundation Board of Trustees and serves as an advisor on the Advisory Committee for the YUSA Strategic Initiatives Fund. She has previously served on a number of other non-profit boards including the Washington Global Health Alliance, the Seattle Arts and Sciences Academy, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and Seattle City Club.

Candy earned a law degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law, with distinction, Order of the Coif, and a bachelor’s degree in public administration.

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A highly respected industry leader with more than 20 years of media, marketing, partnership strategy, and business development expertise, Lori McFarling oversees Discovery Education's global marketing initiatives, including public-private partnerships, events and public affairs activities worldwide. Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content that supports the implementation of Common Core, professional development, assessment tools and the largest professional learning community of its kind.

In this role, McFarling leads the development and execution of marketing initiatives that support educators in transitioning classrooms to digital learning environments, optimizing the power of media and the resources of Discovery to accelerate academic achievement. Partnering with Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, foundations, trade associations and philanthropists, McFarling also leads the development of community engagement, corporate citizenship and educational initiatives designed to support digital learning in under-resourced areas such as STEM, college and workforce readiness, life skills, sustainability, social media literacy, health and wellness, and environmental education. She manages a team which extends Discovery Education's mission of transforming teaching and learning by developing strategic, customized education solutions that are delivered to educators, students and their families at no cost. Aligned to educational standards, these solutions span partnerships with a variety of like-minded organizations and include nationally-recognized and award-winning programs such as the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, and the Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, among others.

Previously, McFarling served as chief operating officer for Animal Planet and Discovery Kids Media. In this position, she oversaw business operations and administration, led cross-functional activities across the divisions business units and directed the networks strategy for brand extension, digital media and product development. McFarling also partnered with the company's international leadership team to support worldwide growth of the Animal Planet brand across all platforms.

Prior to that, McFarling served as senior vice president of distribution and marketing strategy, overseeing all aspects of Discovery's relationships with the country's four largest distributors (Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV and Echostar), as well as distribution strategy and affiliate marketing for Discovery's stable of U.S. cable networks nationwide. She also has held posts as vice president, affiliate marketing, and as director of TLC sales strategy and planning.

McFarling serves in several industry leadership roles as a member of the National Education Association Foundation's Board of Directors, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, Women in Cable & Telecommunications (WICT), the Association of Cable Communicators, PEER 150, and has been named to Leadership Montgomery's 25th Anniversary Class. She is a graduate of the WICT Betsy Magness Leadership Institute fellowship program, and in 2006, was named to the "Wonder Women" class of television executives. McFarling has been recognized with numerous awards, the Vanguard Award for Marketing, the industry's highest honor for marketing excellence, and the WICT Liberty Award, acknowledging her "demonstrated excellence in the areas of leadership, innovation, excellence, risk taking, teamwork and dedication to the cable and telecommunications industry." She was also named one of CableFax's Most Powerful Women in Cable for 2014.

McFarling earned her bachelor's degree in English and journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder and resides with her husband and three children in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Jamie Sears is Head of UBS Community Affairs & Corporate Responsibility, Americas. She also leads the UBS Foundation USA.

Since joining UBS in 2012, Jamie co-led the development of our philanthropic strategy, overseeing the firm's high-impact flagship initiatives and launching our signature programs in the areas of education and entrepreneurship. As the architect and program head for UBS Elevating Entrepreneurs, a portfolio of programs focused on driving inclusive entrepreneurship, she oversaw the creation of Project Entrepreneur, which seeks to build the pipeline of female founders of high-growth companies, and UBS NextGen Leaders, a multi-year commitment to increasing college and career success for first-generation and low-income students.


Jamie and her team are responsible for grant making, partnerships with national nonprofit organizations, community stakeholder engagement, and employee volunteering and giving programs. UBS's philanthropic efforts have received media coverage in outlets including The New York Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Inc.


Prior to UBS, Jamie held a variety of roles in the Office of Corporate Engagement at Goldman Sachs, including serving on the launch team for the firm's global 10,000 Women initiative to support women entrepreneurs, designing and managing the engagement strategy for the 10,000 Small Businesses domestic education program, and working as a program officer with leading scholarship organizations to advance underrepresented female undergraduates pursuing careers in business.


Her previous experience includes establishing and managing the New York University Reynolds Foundation Program in Social Entrepreneurship and working at Teach for America on the Corps Member selection and national development teams. Her early experience at TFA influenced her life-long commitment to education equity, social innovation, and impact investing.


Jamie holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Politics and Spanish from Pennsylvania State University. She is on the board of the National College Access Network and is a member of Entrepreneurship Funders Network, NationSwell Council, and the Social Innovation Summit Council. She lives with her husband and son in New Jersey.

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Stephen M. Smith is CEO of Intellispark, vice chair of the national board at College Possible and a member of the board of the National College Access Network. Steve is co-author of Who Do You Think You Are: Three Critical Conversations for Coaching Teens to College & Career Success, published by John Wiley & Sons.

Steve was previously president and chief product officer at Hobsons where he led global product strategy, corporate development, student data privacy, and R&D. Steve joined Hobsons through the acquisition of Naviance, a leading college and career readiness technology platform used in 12,000 schools in more than 100 countries, where he was co-founder and chief executive.


Earlier in his career, Steve served as vice president of digital product development at Peterson’s, as a founding member of the Internet consulting practice at Thomson Technology Services Group, and as a practitioner faculty member at The Johns Hopkins University and Montgomery College.


Steve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, cum laude, and an MBA from Cornell University.

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Herb Tillery has been the Executive Director of the College Success Foundation – District of Columbia (CSF-DC) since 2006. Prior to coming to CSF-DC, he was the District of Columbia deputy mayor for operations. He has also been the executive director of The George Washington University Center for Excellence in Municipal Management and chief of staff for the District of Columbia Public Schools. Previously, Mr. Tillery served his country with distinction for over 26 years and retired with the rank of Colonel, U.S. Army. His community service includes board service for the Greater Washington Urban League; the Center for Leadership and Management, Graduate School, USDA; the George Washington University Center for Excellence in Public Leadership; the George Washington University School of Public Policy & Public Administration; Leadership Greater Washington; and the DC Chamber of Commerce. He received his bachelor’s degree in sociology from North Carolina A&T State University. While on active duty, he earned a master’s of public administration from Jacksonville State University.

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Ricardo D. Torres joined the National Student Clearinghouse as its CEO and president in 2008. The Clearinghouse, a non-profit organization founded in 1993, is the nation’s most trusted source for enrollment and degree verification. Its members include more than 3,300 U.S. colleges and universities.

Prior to joining the Clearinghouse, Mr. Torres had a long and distinguished career in the private sector, both in the U.S. and abroad, including serving as COO at BestPractices, a nationally-recognized provider of emergency medicine and physician practice management, and Capital One (a financial services company). Mr. Torres has also held management positions in leading organizations such as PepsiCo and Philip Morris/Kraft Foods (now known as Altria Group). His diverse background includes financial and strategic planning, marketing and sales, general management, and executive leadership.

Mr. Torres is a board member of the American Association of Community Colleges, the John Tyler Community College Foundation, and the Advisory Board of Cohesive Knowledge Solutions (a knowledge management company). In 2013, The Washington Business Journal named him the Minority Business Leader of the Year.  He has an MBA in International Finance from Georgetown University and undergraduate degrees in both Marketing and Management from Manhattan College.

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