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2018 Vertex Speakers

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adler Aaron Alder
Assistant Director of Admissions, Outreach
Howard Community College

Aaron Alder has been with Howard Community College for the last five years. Currently serving as Assistant Director of Admissions, Outreach, Alder oversees the recruitment and enrollment of high school students, including dual enrollment. Prior to this role, he served as the primary advisor for HCC's first two early college programs. Aaron earned a B.S. degree in Psychology from Stevenson University in 2011, and he is currently working on a master's degree in industrial and organizational psychology at Southern New Hampshire University.

Tonie Badillo
Dean of Dual Credit and Early College High Schools

El Paso Community College (EPCC)

Tonie Badillo coordinates efforts to support dual credit offerings at more than 70 high schools, 12 early college high schools currently in operation, and three more which will open in Fall 2019.

Badillo has fostered productive relationships with area schools, districts, and universities. Her current and previous roles include Dean of Math and Science; and Initiatives Coordinator and Faculty Liaison for Mission ECHS and EPCC's first early college high school in partnership with the Socorro Independent School District.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Badillo began her undergraduate education at Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia but transferred to the University of Texas at El Paso during her sophomore year to earn bachelor's and master's degrees in Linguistics.

Badillo is the chair of the Early College High School Leadership Council and the administrative liaison for the Dual Credit Instructional Committee at EPCC. She is a member of the Texas Community College Teachers Association (TCCTA) Dual Credit Council and co-chair of the Texas OnRamps Dual Credit Innovation Collaborative (DCIC)



barker Dianne Lassai Barker
Director of Secondary Education Initiatives/Dual Enrollment Program

Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG)

Working in the field of higher education for almost 20 years, Dianne Lassai Barker work effortlessly to promote seamless education for all students. As Director of Secondary Education Initiatives and the Dual Enrollment Prorgram for the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG), she provides leadership and guidance to the Dual Enrollment program staff at Georgia's 22 Technical Colleges. Under her direction, the system has experienced unprecedented Dual Enrollment growth over the last three years.

Having earned her degree in Social Services from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana, Dianne is part of a statewide, multi-agency collaborative team that monitors the college in high school program for the state of Georgia. Dianne serves as the TCSG Director and statewide Leadership Team member for GEAR UP Georgia Federal Grant.




Estela Mara Bensimon, Ph.D.
Dean's Professor in Educational Equity and Director of the Center for Urban Education

Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

Estela Mara Bensimon is Dean's Professor in Educational Equity at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, as well as Director of the Center for Urban Education (CUE), which she founded in 1999. She developed the Equity Scorecard – a process for using inquiry to drive changes in institutional practice and culture – helping them to reverse the impact of the historical and structural disadvantages that prevent many students of color from excelling in higher education.

In 2017, Dr. Bensimon was elected to the National Academy of Education, and she was presented with the 2017 Social Justice in Education Award by the American Education Research Association. Her opinion pieces have been published in Inside Higher Ed, The Denver Post, Sacramento Bee, and Zocalo. In January 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Dr. Bensimon to the Education Commission of the States. She is the 2018 AERA Division J Research Award recipient. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

Dr. Bensimon has published extensively about equity, organizational learning, practitioner inquiry and change ; and her articles have appeared in journals, such as the Review of Higher Education, Liberal Education, and Harvard Educational Review. Her most recent books include Critical Approaches to the Study of Higher Education (co-edited with Ana Martinez-Aleman and Brian Pusser), which was selected as the 2016 Outstanding Publication by the American Education Research Association, Division of Postsecondary Education; Engaging the Race Question: Accountability and Equity in US Higher Education (with Alicia C. Dowd); Confronting Equity Issues on Campus: Implementing the Equity Scorecard in Theory and Practice (co-edited with Lindsey Malcom).

Professor Bensimon's critical action research agenda has been supported by grants from the Ford Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Teagle Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The James Irvine Foundation.

Dr. Bensimon was associate dean of the USC Rossier School of Education from 1996-2000 and was a Fulbright Scholar to Mexico in 2002. She earned her doctorate in higher education from Teachers College, Columbia University.


M.J. Bishop, Ed.D.

Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation; University System of Maryland

Dr. M.J. Bishop is Associate Vice Chancellor and inaugural director of the University System of Maryland's William E. Kirwan Center for Academic Innovation, which was established in 2013 to enhance and promote USM's position as a national leader in higher education academic innovation. The Center conducts research on best practices, disseminates findings, offers professional development opportunities for institutional faculty and administrators, and supports the 12 public institutions that are part of the system as they continue to expand innovative academic practices.

Prior to coming to USM, Dr. Bishop was Associate Professor and Director of the Lehigh University College of Education's Teaching, Learning, and Teaching Program. In addition to being responsible for the institution's graduate programs in instructional technology, she also played a leadership role in guiding the general and special education teacher preparation programs through a curricular overhaul to address the new Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) guidelines for teacher certification. While at Lehigh, Dr. Bishop received several awards for her research and teaching, including the 2013 Stabler Award for Excellence in Teaching for leading students to "excellence in their chosen field," as well as "excellence as human beings and as leaders of society."



Antoinette Coleman, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

The University of System of Maryland

Dr. Coleman works closely with provosts of the 12 University System of Maryland institutions; the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC); leadership of the community colleges and independent colleges and universities; and the Maryland State Department of Education. She works with members of the offices of admissions, advising, transfer, records and registration, and financial aid of all USM institutions.

Coleman has more than 25 years of experience in public institutions of higher education. Prior to joining USM, she served as assistant vice president for academic affairs and professor of social work at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Coleman earned her B.A. in sociology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, her master's degree in social work in clinical social work from the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB), and her Ph.D. (social work administration, policy, and research) from UMB.




Barbara Damron, Ph.D., RN, FAAN
Cabinet Secretary

New Mexico Higher Education Department

As the New Mexico Higher Education Department Cabinet Secretary, and as the State Higher Education Executive Officer, Dr. Barbara Damron has oversight of the state's 28 public institutions of higher education, 4 tribal colleges, and more than 190 private and proprietary postsecondary schools. Additionally, she chairs the New Mexico Education Trust Board and is a Commissioner of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education (WICHE) and a Commissioner of the Education Commission of the States. She previously served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/National Academy of Medicine Fellow on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions in Washington D.C., for Senator Lamar Alexander. Dr. Damron has more than 30 years of experience as an advanced practice nurse, a health care executive, a college professor, an international consultant, and a cancer scientist.

Dr. Damron has led New Mexico's statewide Common Course Numbering System, aligning all lower division courses among community colleges, comprehensive/regional universities, research universities, and tribal colleges throughout the State. She has also reformed the General Education Core Curriculum across these higher education institutions and is establishing statewide meta-majors. In addition, Dr. Damron is leading the reform of dual credit in New Mexico, emphasizing quality and useful credential completion.




Emily A. A. Dow, Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary, Academic Affairs

Maryland Higher Education Commission

As the Assistant Secretary for Academic Affairs at the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Dr. Dow provides overall leadership, direction, and coordination for academic affairs, research, and policy analysis for all colleges and universities operating in Maryland, including private career schools. Dr. Dow recently led a statewide revision of the Maryland State Plan for Postsecondary Education. The 2017-2021 Plan, "Student Success with Less Debt," outlines three primary goals: student access, student success, and innovation, highlighting several strategies related to each goal. Additionally, Dr. Dow is the primary point-person for all statewide college completion initiatives, including the development of alignment initiatives across the P-20 spectrum, particularly transfer and articulation policies. Dr. Dow works closely with chief of academic officers, faculty, students, and other stakeholders, and uses statewide research and data to recommend well-informed policies.

Dr. Dow has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Before beginning a career in state government, Dr. Dow was a visiting professor at Loyola University Maryland and has teaching experience at several other institutions. Additionally, Dr. Dow spent several years working with the American Psychological Association team at the United Nations advocating for evidence-based international policies.


Lisa Eads, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator

North Carolina Community College System Office

Dr. Lisa Eads works for the North Carolina Community College System Office as the Program Coordinator for Career & College Promise, Public Service Technologies, and Early Childhood Education. She has 18 years of experience in the field of higher education as both a faculty member and program administrator. Dr. Eads is the Program Coordinator for North Carolina's dual enrollment program – Career & College Promise (CCP) and Cooperative Innovative High School (CIHS) programs (i.e., early colleges and middle colleges).

Dr. Eads received her Ph.D. and Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Keiser University, and her M.A. in Teaching and Leadership from Salem College.


Carl Einhaus
Senior Director of Student Success and Academic Affairs

Colorado Department of Education (CDE)

Carl Einhaus has worked in student services for more than 20 years in various roles, including student life, residence life, transfer student orientation, and admissions and enrollment management. Serving at the Colorado Department of Higher Education since 2014. Einhaus is currently the department's program lead for the statewide Concurrent Enrollment initiative. He promotes student success strategies that focus on erasing the state's equity gaps including intrusive advising; serves as the state's Director of GEAR UP; and is the liaison to the Colorado Department of Education's (K-12) efforts in college and career planning. He supervised the admission application and prospect student area at Colorado State University. He also served as the Director of Enrollment Services for the Colorado Community College System for more than six years. Einhaus earned a master's degree in Student Personnel in Higher Education from Western Michigan University.


Jessica Espinosa
Director of College Transitions

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU)

Jessica Espinosa is the Director of College Transitions at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System office where she provides system-level support in college access efforts, dual enrollment programs, developmental education, course placement, and collaborations with K-12 and adult basic education. Ms. Espinosa has served in both K-12 and higher education at the local and state level in Minnesota for the past 17 years. She has also served as a secondary teacher and adjunct faculty member.


Maureen Ewing
Senior Director, College Access & Readiness, Research

The College Board

Dr. Maureen Ewing is the Senior Director of the College Access and Readiness for the Research department at the College Board. She manages a team of research scientists and leads research related to college access, readiness, and success. Dr. Ewing also examines the validity of test score uses and interpretations, gathers evidence to support proper test score use, and evaluates the impact of educational programs and services on student outcomes. She has worked at the College Board for more than 15 years.  Dr. Ewing earned her M.A. in Psychology and her Ph.D. in Psychometrics from Fordham University.


John Fink
Senior Research Associate at Community College Research Center, Teachers College (CCRC)

Columbia University

John Fink's research seeks to uncover structural barriers within higher education that result in inequitable access to educational and economic opportunity for racially minoritized, low-income, and first-generation students. Fink uses national and state administrative data to study high school student access and acceleration into college, relationships between community college student outcomes, course-taking patterns, and program of study, and the effects of Guided Pathways reform on student success. In 2017 he was lead author on a national study of community college dual enrollment students, which tracked former high school dual enrollment student into postsecondary education, and provided national and state-by-state outcomes. Fink holds a master's degree in college student personnel from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a bachelor's degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Jacob Fraire
President & CEO

Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC)

Jacob Fraire serves as President and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). He leads the association's core mission and strategies to advance equity and sustainability among the state's 50 independently governed public community college districts. Together, Texas community colleges serve more than 700,000 students.

Before joining TACC, Mr. Fraire served as Vice President of philanthropy at Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, now known as Trellis Company. Acting as the chief architect of the corporate philanthropy strategy, Jacob stewarded $80 million in competitive grants to advance college access, success and research. Mr. Fraire also serves on multiple state and national board and advisory committees.

From 1987 to 1998, Mr. Fraire acted as an education advocate and lobbyist representing individual universities in Washington, D.C. He also served as the Director of Legislation and Policy Analysis for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

The son of migrant farm workers, Jacob grew up in El Paso, Texas. In May 2013, he was awarded an honorary associate degree from El Paso Community College, an honor he describes as his most cherished higher education credential. He holds a B.S. from St. Edward's University and a M.P.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.


Kelty Garbee, Ph.D.
Deputy Director, Programs

Educate Texas at Communities Foundation of Texas

Dr. Kelty Garbee is the Deputy Director of Programs at Educate Texas, leading the Texas Regional STEM Degree Accelerator initiative. Dr. Garbee previously worked at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) where she served as the Early College High School Program Manager. In this capacity, she developed expertise in dual credit and P-16 partnerships and was responsible for creating a designation process that allows school districts and colleges to join the statewide network of Early College High Schools. Prior to that, she served as Assistant Manager of Grants and Sponsorships in the Development Office at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Dr. Garbee earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin College of Education and her master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She earned a bachelor's degree in English and Studies in Women and Gender from the University of Virginia.


Matt Gianneschi, Ph.D.
Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff

Colorado Mountain College

Dr. Gianneschi is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief of Staff at Colorado Mountain College, a comprehensive, multi-campus community college in Colorado's central mountains. Prior to joining CMC, Dr. Gianneschi served as Vice President of Policy and Programs at the Education Commission of the States, a national, non-partisan education policy non-profit, work informed by his time as a senior officer in state government. Gianneschi was the Deputy Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education from 2011 to 2013, senior education advisor to Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. from 2007 to 2009, and Chief Academic Officer for the Colorado Department of Higher Education from 2004-2006. In between his work at the state level, Gianneschi was the Vice President of Student Services at the Community College of Aurora, a large, urban community college in the Denver metro region, and was the Director of Operations at the Daniels Fund, a major foundation located in Denver.

Gianneschi is an alumnus of the Denver Public Schools and received Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Denver and a Doctor of Philosophy from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. In 2011 Gianneschi was awarded a Marshall Memorial Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and in 2016 was awarded the Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence, a program jointly directed by the Aspen Institute and Stanford University.


Joyce D. Hammer, Ph.D.
Director of Transfer Education

Washington State Board for Community and Technical College (SBCTC)

Dr. Joyce Hammer is currently the Director of Transfer Education at the Washington State Board for Community and Technical College (SBCTC). She previously worked at Green River College for 19 years as mathematics faculty, mathematics division chair, and as a transfer dean for the business, English, and humanities divisions. In her current role at SBCTC, Joyce collaborates with Washington's 34 community and technical colleges and public/private universities to improve transfer and access to baccalaureate education; provides policy leadership for academic and transfer education; and connects with the K-12 sector to increase college readiness preparation through dual credit programs. Joyce earned a B.A. and M.Ed. at the University of Washington, and a Ph.D. in Adult Higher Education through Oregon State University Community College Leadership.


Larisa Harper, Ph.D.
Director of College Credit Plus

Ohio Department of Higher Education

Dr. Larisa Harper has been the Director of College Credit Plus (CCP) at the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) since October 2016. In this role, she is focused on providing ongoing assistance to the secondary and postsecondary field regarding CCP implementation, strategies, and tactics. This includes overseeing the coordination of effort, planning, and outreach to constituents and overseeing a team to develop and maintain programmatic work and coordination of policy and rules for CCP.

Prior to her role at ODHE, Dr. Harper was responsible for overseeing all dual enrollment efforts at Zane State College, including program and curriculum development, secondary school collaborations, and teacher credential review. She worked at Zane State for nearly 20 years and served in many roles there, including student services administrator; grant writer; and project director for several local, state, and federal grant projects. Dr. Harper also contributed to assessment accreditation and strategic plan initiatives. She also worked at Otterbein University in the graduate program department.

Dr. Harper earned her bachelor's degree in English and psychology from Ohio University. She earned a master's degree in English from Northern Arizona University before returning to Ohio University for her Ph.D. in higher education administration.


Victoria Harpool
Assistant Executive Director for Academic Affairs
Tennessee Higher Education Commission

Victoria Harpool is the Assistant Executive Director for Academic Affairs at the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). Victoria oversees the development and evaluation of the Quality Assurance Funding program, which promotes academic excellence and incentivizes continuous improvement at public community colleges and universities in Tennessee. Victoria serves as THEC's K-12 policy liaison as the state works to align K-12 and higher education standards and maximize student success. Victoria came to THEC in 2012 focusing on improving educator effectiveness through professional development and providing accountability for teacher training programs through production of the state's annual teacher preparation report card. Prior to joining THEC, Victoria worked as a high school social studies teacher and was honored as Teacher of the Year by the Louisiana Bar Association for her years of outstanding teaching. Victoria holds a B.A. from Loyola University New Orleans, a Master of Public Policy in Education from Vanderbilt University.


Aimee Hendrix-Soto
Research Fellow, Institutional Research & Decision Support, Office of Strategic Initiatives
The University of Texas System

Aimee Hendrix-Soto serves as a University of Texas System Research Fellow, working primarily on the UT System Dual Credit Study. In this role, Ms. Hendrix-Soto focuses on qualitative research of student perspectives regarding their dual credit experiences.

In addition to her work for the UT System, Ms. Hendrix-Soto is a teacher educator in the UT Urban Teachers Program at The University of Texas at Austin. This allows her to continue her work of contributing to educational equity that she began during her 15 years of service teaching English, including dual credit courses, in Texas public schools. Ms. Hendrix-Soto is completing a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with a specialization in Language and Literacy Studies, also at UT Austin.


Sarah Hooker
Senior Program Manager

Jobs for the Future (JFF)

Sarah Hooker is a senior program manager with JFF's Building Educational Pathways for Youth team. Ms. Hooker is responsible for documenting the expansion of Early College Designs supported by an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. She manages grants focused on high school redesign strategies and conducts research, analysis, and technical assistance for JFF-supported pathways in California and throughout the United States.

Prior to joinign JFF, Ms. Hooker was the associate director of Policy and Language Access at the Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA) in the City and County of San Francisco. She oversaw citywide implementation of the San Francisco Language Access Ordinance and delivered training and technical assistance for local government and nonprofit partners. Prior to moving to California, Ms. Hooker was a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute's National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy in Washington, D.C., where she led a five-state, multi-year research initiative focused on education and workforce development for immigrants and English-language learners. Ms. Hooker has also worked with the American Youth Policy Forum where she designed Capitol Hill forums, facilitated study tours for policymakers, and authored publications on college- and career-readiness programs.

Ms. Hooker holds a master's degree from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration and a bachelor's degree from Pomona College.


Jennell Ives
High School Success and Accelerated Learning Specialist
Oregon Department of Education

Jennell Ives joined the Oregon Department of Education in 2010. She has served as manager of CTE Health Science Programs, led graduation improvement efforts, acted as Director of Standards and Instructional Support, and managed accelerated learning (Dual Credit, AP, IB) programs and grants. She has advised on the Governors workgroup for sustainable funding for accelerated learning and collaborated with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to create a process for program approval of High School Based College Credit Partnership Programs. Prior to Oregon Jennell served as Director of Professional Development at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.

Among Jennell's accomplishments at WCS were the development of a Master of Art in Teaching program in partnership between the Bronx Zoo and Fordham University, creating of an online teacher academy, and the expansion of Urban Advantage – a partnership between the cultural institutions of New York City to ensure that every 8th grader had the opportunity to participate in authentic scientific research projects.

Jennell Ives holds master's degrees in Entomology from the University of California at Davis, and Microbiology from the University of Maryland at College Park. She earned her bachelor's degree in Biology from Swarthmore College.


Rebecca Karoff, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
The University of Texas System

As Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for The University of Texas System, Dr. Rebecca Karoff is responsible for leading and supporting student success initiatives system-wide. Her work addresses the student success continuum, PK-20 and into the workforce, and recognizes the remarkable responsibility and opportunity of the UT System to achieve more equitable access and outcomes for the state's increasingly diverse students. Through a number of projects, she is focused on identifying the touchpoints where the UT System and institutions can collaborate meaningfully together and across sectors, and on fortifying the levers and bridges that connect PK-12 to higher education. These projects work to strengthen educator preparation programs, dual credit in Texas, the critical literacies students need in the knowledge economy, and undergraduate student success at the System's academic universities. She is the primary architect of the UT System's student success framework, which is focused on student financial well-being, effective advising, and deepening students' sense of academic and social belonging. All of her work is data-informed, equity-minded, and quality-driven, and she is interested in expanded approaches to measuring student success.

Dr. Karoff has been successful in identifying internal and external resources to fund institutional and system student success work, has authored numerous published articles, and regularly presents at state and national conferences.

With more than 20 years working on public higher education at the system level, first in Wisconsin and now in Texas, Dr. Karoff is dedicated to utilizing the power of the system as a catalyst for equity and quality educational attainment, innovation, and transformation in the 21st-century global society.


Melinda Karp, Ph.D.

Phase Two Advisory

Melinda Mechur Karp, Ph.D., is the founder of Phase Two Advisory. Phase Two works with colleges, nonprofits, and foundations to design and implement evidence-based approaches to improving student success in college. Prior to founding Phase Two, Dr. Karp spent 17 years at the Community College Research Center (CCRC), Teachers College, Columbia University, most recently as assistant director. In that role, she oversaw internal capacity building and strategic planning, as well as a research portfolio focused on advising, student services, dual enrollment, and institutional reform.

Dr. Karp is a nationally recognized expert on smoothing student's transitions into college and supporting them once there. She has conducted research on expanding access to dual enrollment since the early 2000s. Her work has also formed the foundation of prominent first-year experience and advising redesign strategies being deployed at colleges around the country.

Dr. Karp holds a B.S. in human development and family studies from Cornell University; an M.A. in sociology and education from Teachers College, Columbia University; and a Ph.D. in sociology and education from Columbia University.


Gregory Kienzl, Ph.D.
Principal Strategist, Policy Research
ACT, Inc.

Dr. Gregory Kienzl is a Principal Strategist at ACT, Inc., where he leads a number of policy-relevant, postsecondary education-focused research projects. Prior to joining ACT, he served as the Director of Research and Evaluation for the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and before that, as the chief methodologist for a National Science Foundation-funded, multi-site research project at the Univeristy of Illinois that studied issues of underrepresentation in the STEM fields. He has authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and U.S. Department of Education-supported publications. Additionally, he has served on four Technical Review Panels for the National Center for Education Statistics covering the following topics: postsecondary faculty, first-time postsecondary education students, student financial aid, and career and technical education. Most of Dr. Kienzl's research focuses on programs and policies that seek to improve access and success of traditionally underserved populations in higher education.

Dr. Kienzl earned his Ph.D. in Economics of Education at Teachers College of Columbia University. He holds a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management.


Tari Lambert
Director, Transfer Indiana

Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Tari Lambert has been Director of the Transfer Indiana Central Office, a grant-based project of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education for more than 10 years. She leads the work on the implementation of Advanced Placement legislation, dual credit and Early College High School initiatives, the Common High School Transcript initiative, and Indiana's e-Transcript project for high school-to-college, college-to-college, and comprehensive learner records. Ms. Lambert is a member of the Midwest Higher Education Compact (MHEC) Technologies Committee, e-Transcript Initiative Committee, and the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit.


Gretchen Lohman, Ph.D.
Senior Associate for Academic Affairs

Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)

Dr. Gretchen Lohman leads the Degree Granting Unit under the Division of Academic Affairs for the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). Her portfolio includes dual credit compliance and institutional closure.

Prior to joining IBHE, Dr. Lohman served in many roles, including Dean of Students and Dean of Academic Enhancement at Georgetown College for more than 16 years.

Dr. Lohman earned her B.A. from the University of Northern Iowa and an M.A. from the University of Iowa. Her doctorate in Higher Education Administration is from Bowling Green State University.


Adam Lowe
Executive Director

National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP)

Adam is the first Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships, helping to steer a previously all-volunteer professional organization through a time of growth and transition.

For the decade prior to joining NACEP, he was an education policy consultant advising on education reform for a variety of universities, nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies in Washington, D.C.; Indiana, and North Carolina. While in Indiana he assisted in the launch of new, innovative high schools throughout Indianapolis and statewide for the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis. His previous consulting contracts include the University System of Georgia, the Indiana Department of Education, The Mind Trust, the charter school offices of the Mayor of Indianapolis and Ball State University, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, and the former D.C. State Education Office.

Adam is a graduate of Brown University and received his Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University.


Demarée Michelau, Ph.D.
Vice President, Policy Analysis and Research

Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)

Demarée K. Michelau is the Vice President, Policy Analysis and Research, at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). In this role, she manages WICHE's Policy Analysis and Research unit and oversees externally funded projects related to adult learners, projections of high school graduates, college access and success, and the development of a multi-state longitudinal data exchange. The author of numerous reports and policy briefs, Dr. Michelau also has experience in a variety of higher education policy issues, including articulation and transfer, equity and attainment, accelerated learning options, college affordability, common academic standards, and K-16 reform. Previously, she held positions with the National Conference of State Legislatures and with former Colorado Congressman David Skaggs.

Michelau received her bachelor's degree in public law from Northern Illinois University and her master's degree and Ph.D. in political science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.


Trey Miller, Ph.D.
Principal Researcher

American Institutes for Research (AIR)

Trey Miller is a principal researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) whose research focuses on postsecondary education policy. Miller has led quantitative and mixed methods research projects with multi-disciplinary research teams for clients, including the Institute of Education Sciences, the Lumina Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Houston Endowment, the Spencer Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Dr. Miller is currently leading an IES-funded Researcher-Practitioner Partnership with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), which is focused on working with a variety of stakeholders across Texas to develop, implement, evaluate, and refine policies and practices to improve student access and success in higher education while also reducing the cost of higher education to students and taxpayers. Among other accomplishments, the Texas Postsecondary Research Partnership has led to two additional IES-funded research projects with THECB, which are focused on the implementation of statewide reform to policies surrounding the delivery of postsecondary developmental education in Texas. Dr. Miller is also currently leading a statewide study of dual credit education programs for THECB. Dr. Miller communicates his research to diverse audiences, including researchers, policymakers, and practitioners in the form of research reports and briefs, conference presentations, and academic journal articles. His work has been published in leading journals, including American Educational Research Journal, Economics of Education Review, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Demography.


Jenny Parks
Director of Academic Leadership Initiatives

Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC)

Jenny Parks works for the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) as the Director of Academic Leadership Initiatives. She has worked at MHEC for five years and worked previously at public and private institutions, as well as public school districts, mainly in the area of institutional research. Ms. Parks holds a master's degree in Educational Research and Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University in Boston.

Areas in which Parks has conducted significant research and/or policy work include higher education compliance, state authorization, concurrent enrollment, and family-school relations. Currently, she is working on a regional, multi-state convening to help Midwestern states increase their use of Open Educational Resources to save students money on the cost of learning materials. Parks is also working on follow-up projects stemming from a similar convening concerning the credentialing of concurrent enrollment instructors. Parks is most interested in helping the higher education system become one that provides more opportunities for first-generation and underrepresented groups of students to access and have success in post-secondary education.


Denise Pearson, Ph.D.
Vice President of Academic Affairs and Equity Initiatives

State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)

Denise Pearson, Ph.D., currently serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs and Equity Initiatives for State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). As a member of the senior leadership team, she strives to be a leading voice to advance states' and SHEEO's academic affairs and equity agendas. Collaborating with chief academic officers at state higher education agencies and other education policy related entities, Dr. Pearson engages in collaborations, research, analyses, recommendations, and reporting on academic affairs and equity policy areas, including, but not limited to, student learning, educator preparation, minority serving institutions, accreditation, and student protection. She is also the principal investigator for Project Pipeline Repair: Restoring Minority Male Participation and Persistence in Educator Preparation Programs, which is a multi-year W.K. Kellogg-funded collaboration with state higher education agencies and educator preparation programs at four HBCUs (


Tina Polishchuk, Ed.D-c
Statewide Coordinator of Advanced Opportunities

Idaho State Department of Education

Tina Polishchuk is the statewide coordinator of Advanced Opportunities at the Idaho State Department of Education. During her time at the SDE, she has focused her efforts on efficient and effective implementation of its programs. Before coming to the SDE, Ms. Polishchuk spent time serving students as a teacher, instructional coach, and school principal. She is in the final stage of completing her doctoral work at Boise State University, focusing her studies on how leaders facilitate a College and Career Readiness Culture in schools. Polishchuk holds a master's degree in Educational Leadership and a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education with endorsements in Mathematics, Administration, and Gifted and Talented Education. She lives in Boise with family.


Patty Quinones
Assistant Superintendent of Innovation

St. Vrain Valley School District (Colorado)

Patty Quinones serves as Assistant Superintendent of Innovation for the St. Vrain School District in Longmont, Colorado. She oversees the Innovation Center and integrates STEM initiatives and innovative programs in the District. Ms. Quinones' visionary approach in the areas of K-12 programming – integrating STEM curriculum, developing teacher professional development, improving facilities, and creating the Innovation Center – are all under her facilitation and creating and have resulted in successful outcomes. The Innovation Center – are all under her facilitation and creation and have resulted in successful outcomes. The Innovation Center provides a pipeline for students in the St. Vrain School District, allowing them to be involved in mentorships, interships, and client-based employment projects. The new facility allows students to transcend the traditional classroom, and it provides experiential opportunities that are developing today's students into tomorrow's leaders, innovators, and change makers.

While serving as the principal at Skyline high school for five years, Ms. Quinones transformed and developed the STEM & Visual Performing Arts Academies, which currently have more than 600 students as part of the certification programs.

Ms. Quinones has presented at national and regional conferences (ASEE, NSTA, CASE, CoCo STEM Forums) and co-authored the paper: "Best Practices in High School and Higher Education." She is instrumental in securing grants, as well as business and educational partnerships for the school district.


Greg Rathert
Interim Director of P-20 and College Readiness

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

Greg Rathert is the interim Director of P-20 and College Readiness for the Minnesota State system, representing 37 colleges and universities across 54 campuses. He has a master's degree in British and American Literature from Oregon State University and is currently pursuing his doctorate in leadership at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. He recently served as the Dean of Arts & Letters at Anoka-Ramsey Community College after teaching English for 10 years at community colleges in both Oregon and Minnesota. He has extensive experience working with developmental education, course placement, and dual enrollment.


Misti Ruthven
Executive Director, Innovation & Pathways

Colorado Department of Education

As executive director of Innovation & Pathways for the Colorado Department of Education, Misti Ruthven currently leads the initiatives connecting K-12 programs with the next steps beyond high school, such as career and higher education for the State of Colorado. Prior to joining CDE in 2012, she held the position of College Access Director for the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Ms. Ruthven is considered a national subject matter expert on college and career readiness, paying for college and successfully transitioning underserved students to college. Her work has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the White House and highlighted in the Denver Post, Chicago Tribune and Insider Higher Education.

She is also often asked to provide national recommendations in these areas by request of the U.S. Department of Education. Ruthven has been a part of the Colorado education community for more than 20 years, holding administrator and faculty positions at Colorado Mesa University and Colorado School of Mines. While representing the State of Colorado for the Department of Higher Education, she provided consulting services for colleges and universities in 24 states, primarily in the Western U.S. In 2010 and 2015, Ruthven was recognized through a vote of her peers with the Cynthia Gales Award and Advocate of the Year for her service to Colorado students and families. Ruthven holds a B.A. from Colorado Mesa University where she was valedictorian of her college graduating class and an M.S. from Colorado State University in change management.


Ivette Savina
Assistant Vice President for Outreach & Student Access

The University of Texas at El Paso

Ivette Savina has dedicated her career to advocating for the educational opportunities of Texas youth. A daughter of immigrants born and raised in the border region of El Paso, Texas, Ms. Savina is a first-generation college graduate who personally understands the challenges and struggles communities face in eliminating poverty and helping students achieve postsecondary success.

Early in her career, Savina was instrumental in developing Mission Early College High School, a first of its kind early college high school (ECHS) in El Paso. As Mission's first assistant principal, she paved the way for ECHS students to earn an associate degree as juniors in high school, and enroll at The University of Texas at El Paso as high school seniors, effectively reducing the time to completion and money spent on earning a bachelor's degree. As a result of this work, Mission ECHS became a National Blue Ribbon School, and Savina went on to become the principal of Northwest ECHS.

As principal, she implemented changes that raised Northwest ECHS from a low-performing school on academic probation to a recognized campus identified by U.S. News and World Report as one of the best high schools in America for beating the odds. More recently, Savina led a turnaround school project in East Austin, successfully transforming an underperforming co-ed middle school into an all-girls middle school, Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy. Her efforts gave the local community a school that met standards for the first time in 15 years.

In addition to her position in Outreach and Student Access, Savina also manages the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, a nationally recognized strategic reform effort, at her alma mater, The University of Texas at El Paso.

smith ross

Camacia Smith-Ross, Ed.D.
Executive Director for Pre-College and Outreach

Southern University and A&M College

Dr. Camacia Smith-Ross serves as the Executive Director for Pre-College and Outreach Programs and is the former Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Southern University and A&M College. Dr. Smith-Ross has worked as an educator and administrator in PK-12 and higher education environments for a combined 24 years. Her passion has allowed her to work with projects and initiatives that have assisted underserved student populations accelerate their learning. As a tenured professor, she continues to work with future and current classroom teachers on evolving methodology and curriculum.

Post-Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Smith-Ross returned to New Orleans and revitalized the Upward Bound Program at Dillard University. As Director, Upward Bound became a premier program in Louisiana after Katrina. Dr. Smith-Ross was appointed as the first African-American Dean of the School of Education and Director of Graduate Programs at Louisiana College in its 107 year history. Being a reformer in her profession has allowed her to share experiences of diversity, empowering learning communities, academic leadership, and professional learning communities. Dr. Smith-Ross has made contributions through research and publications.


Jason L. Taylor
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy

The University of Utah

Jason L. Taylor is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in Higher Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a research specialization in evaluation methods and concentration in public policy. His broad research interests are at the intersection of community college and higher education policy, and educational and social inequality. The goal of his research is to examine and better understand how public policies impact students' equitable access to, transition through, and success in community colleges and institutions of higher education to contribute to both theory and practice. He is the 2016 recipient of the Barbara K. Townsend Emerging Scholar award from the Council for the Study of Community Colleges. Dr. Taylor has published extensively on the topic of dual enrollment, and has studied participation in, as well as the outcomes of, dual enrollment in Illinois and Arkansas, using state and national datasets. In 2015, he co-edited a volume of New Directions for Community Colleges on dual enrollment. Most recently he co-authored a paper for the National Center for Education Statistics on how to improve IPEDS data collection on high school students taking college courses.


David Troutman, Ph.D.
Associate Vice Chancellor, Institutional Research & Decision Support, Office of Strategic Initiative

The University of Texas System

David R. Troutman, Ph.D., is the Associate Vice Chancellor, Institutional Research and Decision Support for the Office of Strategic Initiatives at The University of Texas System. Dr. Troutman provides leadership to transform data into actionable information that higher education decision-makers can use to improve student success and post-collegiate outcomes. His team of researchers provides analytical support, such as research studies, dashboards (, and reports, for UT System administration and its institutions. His published works are avialable online at He earned his Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Bill Tucker
Senior Advisor, K-12 Program

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Bill leads the K-12 team's pathways work, focused on ensuring that students successfully navigate from high school into – and through – postsecondary education. Bill has served in leadership roles on both the K-12 and US Policy & Advocacy grantmaking teams, led the development and review of major strategy components, and managed the prioritization, budgeting, allocation, and evaluation of multi-million dollar grantmaking portfolios.

Before joining the Foundation, he served seven years as Managing Director at Education Sector, where he built and led all aspects of organizational management and growth – from start-up to mature organization – of a nationally prominent education policy think tank. At Education Sector, he also served as a nationally recognized policy expert, writer, speaker, and source on a wide-range of educational issues including technology, innovation, data use, and student assessment. Throughout his career, as both a founder and board member, he's helped to launch and grow many nonprofit and for-profit entities focused on improving education, civil society, and community engagement. Bill is a graduate of Duke University and earned both an MBA and a master's degree in Education from Stanford University.


Joel Vargas, Ed.D.
Vice President

jobs for the Future (JFF)

Dr. Joel Vargas leads the work of the High School Through College team at Jobs for the Future (JFF) and helps set the organization's priorities and direction. He also researches and advises on state policies to promote improved high school and postsecondary success for underserved students. He has helped policymakers and intermediary organizations develop state and federal policies that expand early college schools and other school designs incorporating college coursework into high school. Since joining JFF in 2002, Dr. Vargas has designed and implemented a research and state policy agenda for implementing Early College Designs; created policy frameworks, tools, and model legislation; written and edited white papers, research, and national publications; provided technical assistance to state task forces and policy working groups; served on a number of national advisory groups; and organized and presented at national policy conferences.

Dr. Vargas has directed, initiated, and studied a variety of middle and high school programs designed to help more underrepresented students get into and through postsecondary education. He also has been a teacher, editor, and research assistant for the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University. He is co-editor of two JFF books: Double the Numbers: Increasing Postsecondary Credentials for Underrepresented Youth (Harvard Education Press) and Minding the Gap: Why Integrating High School with College Makes Sense and How to Do It (Harvard Education Press). In 2005, Dr. Vargas was featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education as one of "Higher Education's Next Generation of Thinkers." He received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Boston University and an Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


Amy Williams
Dual Enrollment and Montana Career Pathways Program Manager

Montana University System

Mrs. Amy Williams oversees dual enrollment and Montana Career Pathways for the Montana University System. Dubbed "Montana's Dual Enrollment Czar" by Governor Steve Bullock, and widely recognized as a content expert, she has worked extensively in policy, as well as program development, management, and organization. Mrs. Williams works on policy at the system, state, regional, and national levels, and is the current chair of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships State Policy & Leadership Committee. She is a passionate advocate for programs that build relevancy into education, ignite a passion for learning, and give students an early start on college and career. Mrs. Williams received her B.S. from Montana State University, Bozeman and an M.S. from University of California, Santa Barbara as a research fellow.


Jennifer Zinth
Principal (High School and STEM)

Education Commission of the States

Jennifer Zinth serves as Principal: High School and STEM at Education Commission of the States (ECS), a Denver-based nonprofit, nonpartisan organization serving state-level education leaders across role groups, covering the 50 states, D.C., and territories. In this role, Zinth responds to questions from state policymakers and agency staff, conducts state policy research and analysis, authors reports, and offers counsel – including testimony, presentations, and other guidance. She is particularly known for developing and maintaining ECS' one-of-a-kind database of state dual enrollment policies, as well as publishing a portfolio of briefs that inform state leaders on various key aspects of dual enrollment policy.

Zinth is nationally recognized for her work on state dual enrollment policies. She has been cited in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She has contributed to several external publications – her most recent is an article on STEM for the Council of State Governments' 2017 The Book of the States.