Director of College & Career Readiness
Erik Anderson is the Director of College & Career Readiness with the Office of Postsecondary Policy for the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development. Born and raised in Missouri, Erik earned his undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Brigham Young University and his Master’s in Anthropology and Education from Columbia University. Before joining the MDHEWD in 2014, Erik taught middle school in rural Mississippi with Teach for America and worked for the Office of Disability Services at Columbia University.
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Dr. J. Cameron Anglum
J. Cameron Anglum is an Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Equity at Saint Louis University. He holds a PhD in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania. His research focuses on the economics of education policy, quantitative research methods, and education finance.
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Assistant Professor of Special Education, College of Education
Dr. Lindsay Athamanah received her PhD in Special Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and worked as a speech-language pathologist for 10 years before pursuing her doctorate. She is currently an assistant professor of special education at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Her research interests include building effective peer mentoring programs for individuals with and without IDD in postsecondary and employment settings, exploring friendship development between individuals with and without IDD, and developing employer capacity for hiring and working with individuals with IDD in integrated employment settings.
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Assistant Vice President for Academic Diversity and Outreach
Trent Ball is Associate Vice President for Equity and Access at Southeast Missouri State University, where he provides leadership and management of the Academic Support Centers. Ball is the Past Board Chair for the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), Past President of The Educational Opportunity Association (EOA) and Past President of MO-KAN-NE. Currently, Ball serves on the Ferguson Youth Initiative Board (FYI), Lumina’s Federal Policy Corps 2019-2020, The Board of Directors for Gene Slay’s Girls and Boys Club, St. Louis Graduates Co-Chair, and as the TRIO and College Access Programs Representative to the CAS Standards Board of Directors. Ball has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Culver-Stockton College, a Masters of Arts in Psychological Counseling and Therapy and is completing a Masters in Public Administration at Southeast Missouri State University.
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Senior Research Associate
Sam Bezjak is a Senior Research Associate with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development in the Division of College and Career Readiness. Sam came to the Department in January of 2019 after getting degrees in Journalism and Public Affairs from the University of Missouri Columbia.
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Dr. Kimberly Beatty
Dr. Kimberly Beatty began her tenure as Metropolitan Community College’s eighth chancellor on July 1, 2017. She came to MCC from Houston Community College, the nation’s fourth-largest community college system, where she served as vice chancellor for instructional services and chief academic officer.
A champion of access and equity, she is devoted to the community college mission of providing access to higher education for all. “I am passionate about the community I serve and excited about the ability to provide higher education access to the underprivileged and underrepresented,” Dr. Beatty says.
Dr. Beatty is equally committed to workforce development in Kansas City. She prioritizes building relationships with business and industry leaders to ensure that the College is offering educational opportunities that will lead to the credentials that students need to start their careers.
Dr. Beatty has served on a number of boards at the state and national levels. She has demonstrated a strong commitment to student success and diversity, and a passion for strengthening the pipeline of college-ready students entering community college.
A three-time graduate of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Dr. Beatty received a B.A. in English, an M.A. in English, and an Ed.D. in higher education, with a specialization in community college leadership. She brought to MCC 28 years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education, including 21 years of progressive leadership experience at community colleges in California, Virginia and Texas. She has also served as a tenured associate professor in English.
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Dr. Angie Besendorfer
Dr. Angie Besendorfer is the Chancellor of WGU Missouri and Regional Vice President, WGU Midwest. She champions college attainment for working Missourians who wish to pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. WGU Missouri offers advanced degrees in business, education, information technology, and health professions. Besendorfer leads the efforts to connect students and community stakeholders with WGU Missouri’s online competency-based model for increasing levels of higher education throughout Missouri.
Besendorfer has spent over 25 years in the field of education in Missouri, implementing innovative and technology-focused learning strategies. Before joining WGU Missouri, Besendorfer was the assistant superintendent of Joplin Schools leading advancement in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and facilities. She was also an adjunct professor at Missouri State.
Besendorfer holds a bachelor’s in education from Missouri Southern State University, a M.S. in Elementary Administration from Central Missouri State University and a doctorate in Education Leadership from the University of Missouri.
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Rep. Rusty Black, District 007, Republican
Subcommittee on Appropriations – Education, Chairman
Rep. Rusty Black, a Republican, represents Grundy, Livingston Counties and a majority of Linn County (District 7) in the Missouri House of Representatives. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2016.
In addition to his legislative duties, Rep. Black worked as an Agriculture Educator for thirty-two years before retiring in 2016. During his time as a teacher, Rep. Black worked at Nodaway-Holt R-7 for five years and Chillicothe R-2 Schools for twenty-seven years.
A graduate of the University of Missouri – Columbia, Rep. Black earned his Bachelors of Science in Agriculture in 1983, and went on to graduate with a Masters in Agriculture Education by 1993.
Rep. Black was born in St. Joseph, MO, living in Amazonia then moving and graduating High School from King City, MO. He currently resides in Chillicothe with his wife. Together they have four children and four grandchildren. Rusty and his wife attend the United Methodist Church and both are active with various community organizations.
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Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe
Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe is an educator with more than 35 years of high-quality postsecondary education experience. He is the founder and current CEO-President of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB) Organization—-a national organization with over 355 chapters in 41 states that endeavors to instill a “spirit of care” and enhance the experiences of young males of color in our country. Before transitioning to his role with SAAB, Dr. Bledsoe served as Vice President for Student Life and Special Assistant to the President at the University of Toledo.
He received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from Mississippi State University–and went on to complete a Ph.D. in Counseling and Student Affairs Administration 25 years ago with an emphasis in Counseling Psychology at the University of Georgia. Dr. Bledsoe’s academic and professional prowess is underscored by his recognition as Outstanding Doctoral Student in the State of Georgia, along with his honors as Outstanding Doctoral Alumnus by the University of Georgia and Mississippi State University.
Dr. Bledsoe is one of the nation’s most trusted voices in championing success for students of all backgrounds in K-12 and higher education. Of the many articles and book publications, he is most proud of his contributions as an author and co-inspiring the book African American Men in College, and his scholarly publications and contributions were further solidified through his appearances on several talk shows where he has discussed issues pertaining to African American and Latino males. Further, his expertise was requested by an international research team that addressed issues affecting men of color in London and male challenges in Germany. In 1999, he was invited to serve as guest lecturer at the Oxford University Roundtable Institute in Oxford, England to discuss his work with the latter. Dr. Bledsoe is universally recognized by several professional associations for his research, publications, presentations, and scholarly work. Because of his many contributions to Student Affairs in higher education, his membership with the American College Personnel Association led to his being distinguished as a Diamond Honoree. The University System of Georgia awarded him with the “Impact Award” for his contributions and impact to Georgia’s efforts to graduate more African American males in their state system. His work has been featured in the Harvard University Educational Review Journal and recently the College Board awarded him the “Dr. Asa G. Hilliard Model of Excellence Award for his considerable work mentoring and supporting African American Males in the country.
Also, the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA) awarded him their “Beloved Community” Award for his impact on black males. In the April 7th- 2020 article of Forbes Magazine he’s cited as a “Contemporary Inspiration”!
His international work has earned him notoriety with Ashoka, a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs, which selected him in 2006 as one of the most outstanding social innovators in the world. In 2014, he was invited by Bermuda College [of the island of Bermuda] to serve on their editorial journal board for the “Voices in Education” and currently serves that journal today.
Former President Bill Clinton invited him to participate in the “Clinton Global Initiative” (CGIAmerica) in Chicago (June 2011) to help shape discussions on how the U.S. could strengthen its workforce. President Clinton deemed Dr. Bledsoe’s voice critical to the conversation given his efforts to address the existing achievement gaps for minority students. Recently, he was invited by the White House to attend a National Summit on the Success of Black Males hosted by Secretary of Education (Arne Duncan) as a direct response to President Obama’s executive order for an initiative to address the success of African American Students. Recently, he was featured in the national newsletter of the Campaign for Black Male Achievement and deemed a “National Treasure” by CEO (Shawn Dove). Lumina Foundation for Education’s President (Jamie Merisotis) recently celebrated him as an enduring and inspiring leader that’s helping America develop the future talent our country needs. The City of Detroit (Michigan) bestowed the “Spirit of Detroit Award” to him and the late, Queen of Soul (Aretha Franklin) for their work in and throughout the Greater Detroit Metro Area.
In 2015, he was nominated to the “CNN Heroes” Class of 2015 for his contributions to humankind and his impact as a world innovator, followed by an invitation to the White House in May 2016 to receive the Presidential Service Volunteer Award for his innovation with SAAB as a best practice in the country coupled with SAAB’s impact to communities across the nation. Recently, he was featured as a keynote speaker for his fraternity’s (Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.) international conclave in Las Vegas and was selected by Rotary International (RI) to be featured in their magazine (The Rotarian) which showcased him around the world; spanning across 200 countries and reaching millions of Rotarians and others for his international prowess.
Dr. Bledsoe was born and raised in Grenada, Mississippi. He currently resides in Toledo, Ohio. He is a proud member of (40 years) Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc and one of the past presidents of the Rotary Club of Reynolds Corners (Toledo, OH). He is an Eagle Scout who serves the Erie Shores Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Northwest Ohio. The thousands who have heard him speak have deemed him one of the most gifted and dynamic inspirational speakers in the country and a very critical voice of our time. He is a very spiritual, charismatic leader and lecturer, but most importantly, he is the father to three sons: 34-year old Tyrone, Jr, 27-year old Exon and 25-year old Ronnie.
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Director of THRIVE
Mr. Brunkhorst received his MSE in Special Education from the University of Central Missouri in 2005. He received his Bachelor of Science in General Management from UCM in 1992. He has over 13 years of retail management experience and 14 years of teaching experience, including working in the middle school, elementary, and high school settings. He has been a special education teacher, process coordinator, and transition coordinator, as well as various positions in the THRIVE program. In August 2018, he became the THRIVE Director. He uses his past work and job experiences to assist students with their careers.
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District Director, Financial Aid/Scholarships, St. Louis Community College
Kristin Copeland, serves as the District Director of Financial Aid at Saint Louis Community College where expanding minds and changing lives is there mission. In this role Kristin is responsible for providing leadership to financial aid offices across the STLCC district. Kristin earned her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and Masters of Public Administration from Southeast Missouri State University. As a first generation, low-income student that struggled with college affordability , she decided to take her student experience and turn it into her career. Kristin’s financial aid career spans close to 10 years holding roles from retention coach, counselor, and campus manager. All of those roles, helped mold the vision of having a comprehensive counseling model to assist students through the financial aid process from start to finish. Her department has executed Fight For Financial Aid campaigns that involved giving the students a voice on the federal and state level, advocating for continued funding of their federal financial aid programs. Kristin, has served on several panels to help pre-collegiate and higher education professionals support students in financing their education. Kristin was recently featured in the “Degrees with Less Debt” docu-series premiered by Saint Louis Graduates in September of 2020 . Apart from working at STLCC, Kristin enjoys spending time traveling with her husband where they both share a passion for higher education and being a soccer mom to her two teenage boys.
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MCC Blue River Chemistry Faculty
Experienced college educator with over 13 years of training and practice in educating students in the field of Chemistry. During his B.S. of Chemistry studies at Langston University he was inspired by elite professors and researchers to pursue graduate studies. Leading him to spend one-year honing laboratory and peer-reviewed writing skills on a fellowship with National Institute of Drug Abuse at Oklahoma University of Health Science Center. This training was pivotal in later success of earning a M.S. in Organic Chemistry from University of Tennessee and M.A. in the Teaching of Science from Christian Brothers University. Christian Brothers University molded him into a reflective-practitioner his craft and as a servant-leader. In lecture halls and labs, he practices the “constructivist theory” of learning. By engaging learners with a lens of equity he provides his authentic self to meet students where they are and embark on academic journey to their goals.
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Associate Director of Research and Policy
Leanne Davis is an Associate Director of Research and Policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), where she handles projects and research focused on postsecondary degree completion, including leading IHEP’s Degrees When Due initiative. As part of this nationwide project to reengage adult learners and promote degree reclamation, Leanne develops learning experiences for practitioners to apply IHEP’s research in practice and conducts groundbreaking research focused on postsecondary completion. Her foci include state policy and funding for postsecondary education, equity in postsecondary access and completion, and innovative programs that support students from historically underrepresented populations.
Leanne’s nearly one decade as a college counselor fueled her interest in understanding how students decide where to attend college and how resources available to them inform that decision. Prior to joining IHEP, Leanne conducted in-depth research into adult college completion and college financing. Leanne earned her M.A. from the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at The George Washington University, with a concentration in higher education policy and finance. She graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. degree in Political Science and served as a Naval Aviator.
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Assistant Dean for Student Support and Director for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs
Keichanda Dees-Burnett serves as the UMKC Assistant Dean for Student Support and Director for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. Keichanda has 18 years of experience in the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs. Her areas of focus over the span of her career include academic success, retention and recruitment initiatives for underrepresented ethnic minority students and first-generation students. In her Assistant Dean role, Keichanda provides support and leadership to retention efforts for the Division of Student Affairs and oversight of the Counseling and Disability Services, Student Health and Wellness, the Women’s Center and Student Veteran Support Services. Keichanda was raised in Kansas City, Missouri and educated in the Kansas City Missouri Public School District. She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and M.A. in Educational Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).
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Regional Communications Manager
Jessica Denham has earned a reputation as an accomplished engagement & communications leader with expertise in the design, development, rollout, and management of captivating campaigns and strategic communications that motivate internal and external stakeholder. Her progressive experience in the field has led to resounding success for nonprofit organizations and high-profile companies alike. Easily able to move from high-level planning and thought leadership to hands-on campaign management and collateral development, Jessica ensures that organizations enjoy the best results.
In her current role as Regional Manager, Communications and Outreach at Western Governors University, Jessica partners with marketing and other cross-functional departments to help engage students, alumni, and the community at large in impactful, respectful and authentic ways. Under her leadership, the organization has seen rapid advances in visibility and brand cohesion, with a focus on helping underrepresented populations navigate pathways to higher education. Among her peers, she is respected for her capacity to build key relationships, oversee long-term engagement initiatives, and organize extensive marketing efforts.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Jessica holds a Master of Business Administration, two bachelor’s degrees, and an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certificate.
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Inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
I am … evolving lived and learned experiences, Black, Womxn, Queer, Gemini, Cisgender, Full Figured, Army Brat, She/her pronouns, Natural hair rocker for 24 years, First Born, Big Sister, Daughter, GodMom x3, Blessed by Family and Framily, 10x tatted, Partner to Tuffy, Aspiring co-conspirator, Founder of Voycetress Media LLC, Doctoral student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Womxn’s College grad, Twice survivor of structural violence by grown adult bullies, Dialogue facilitator, story teller, connector of people to people and people to information, possessor of a literary legacy – 2 books and 1 cd. Aware of my gift (VOYCE), locating vehicles for which to deploy it, knowing all is happening for me and not to me – the universe is conspiring on my behalf for my benefit. I am a documenter of HERstory/ THEIRstory/ HIStory/ THEMstory. I am Founder of Voycetress Media, LLC. I serve as the Inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Stephens College. A Creative. An Innovator. A “fit for radio voice possessor”. I was nicknamed, “The Voyce” by the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Poetry scene and my Bestie. I am not Shaashawna, Shawan, Shawn, Sasquatch or Shawshank (according to spellcheck). My Mother named me Shaashawn, so I am.
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Director Financial Aid, Missouri Southern State University
Becca Diskin is currently serving as President of the Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel (MASFAP) during 2021. She works as the Director of Financial Aid at Missouri Southern State University and has been in this role since 2010. Becca began her career in Financial Aid as a federal work-study student during her college years. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Pittsburg State University in Business Administration. Prior experience included work at USA Funds Services/Sallie Mae as a Training and Sales Executive.
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Managing Partner, Moventra LLC
30+ years working with private, public and governmental organizations. As Director of Siemens Environmental Solutions, a Fortune 100 global technology firm, his participation in the Siemens Executive Leadership Team led to multiple awards recognizing Siemens unique workplace culture and commitment to diversity including being ranked number one in the Forbes Most Admired Companies list.
Director of Admissions
Joanna Finch joined Webster University in May of 2019. With over 21 years of experience in the field of admissions she has been engaged with helping students find their passion in selecting a future career. Ensuring that all students have the same access to quality education and opportunities for financial assistance has been at the forefront of her mission.
At Webster, she has already made an impact by increasing our incoming class of 2020 over 12% of incoming students of color. She has worked with our members of administration and our financial aid director to increase our scholarship opportunities as well, in her first year growing our Suggs Scholarship program from a 160,000 a year commitment to now a 1.1 million dollar a year commitment for our incoming students of color in our local metro area.
Prior to Webster University, Finch worked with students at St. Louis College of Health Careers as the Director of Enrollment Management and Lindenwood University as the Director of Enrollment Services. She holds a Bachelors of Social Work and Non Profit Management from Lindenwood University along with a Masters in Management. She also holds a Masters of Higher Educational Leadership from Purdue.
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Melissa Findley is the Executive Director of the Missouri Scholarship & Loan Foundation, where her work helps students pay for college with scholarships, interest-free loans, degree completion grants and emergency grants. In addition to the Foundation’s programs, the Foundation supports Missouri families by funding other initiatives that reduce barriers to higher education. Melissa is Co-Chair of St. Louis Graduates and serves on the Boards of Directors of the Missouri College Access Network (MOCAN) and Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel (MASFAP), the Ava’s Grace Advisory Board, and My Scholarship Central Oversight Committee. Melissa has a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Missouri – Columbia.
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Chief Diversity Officer
Vincent C. Flewellen joined Webster University in October, 2018. He provides key leadership for the University’s core value of advancing diversity and inclusion as part of the educational mission through the University’s network of domestic and international locations.
With almost two decades of experience weaving diversity, inclusion and equity into the culture of education in the St. Louis area, Flewellen most recently served as director of equity & inclusion at The College School in Webster Groves. Before taking his role at The College School, he taught in the Ladue School District and for Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School. He also served as center director of the University City Children’s Center. Additionally, Flewellen has served as an adjunct professor at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis for the past six years, and he served as a consultant to Washington University in St. Louis in 2006 and 2007. For the past 16 years, he has served as a consultant on diversity and inclusion issues for a variety of schools and organizations, including: the Kirkwood School District; the John Burroughs School; the Forsyth School; the Cochran Community Center; and FOCUS St. Louis.
Flewellen has also served as the director of development for St. Louis non-profit Neighborhood Houses (now known as Unleashing Potential). Flewellen served as managing director of program for Teach For America-St. Louis and he was the speakers bureau coordinator for the Missouri Coalition for Lifesaving Cures. Flewellen holds a Master of Social Work from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and his BA in education is from Maryville University.
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Dr. Omid Fotuhi
Director of Learning Innovation
Dr. Omid Fotuhi is a Director of Learning and Innovation at WGU Labs, where he leads a national collaborative to support the evolution of innovation through the College Innovation Network. Dr. Fotuhi’s work focuses on the psychology of performance and motivation in the domains of academics, athletics, and workplace achievement.
Dr. Fotuhi earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Waterloo, after which he worked at Stanford University where he co-founded the College Transition Collaborative—one of the largest multi-institution collaborations to deliver proven psychological interventions to over 40,000 students—as well as the Stanford Interventions Lab—a collaborative research group committed to sharing and scaling proven insights from psychology to promote better performance and well-being. Dr. Fotuhi is a skilled trainer, having led 45 professional development workshops across the United States to help students, faculty, leaders, athletes, and corporations better understand the psychology of success, and equip those groups with the tools they need to perform at their full potential.
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MCC Executive Director of Institutional Research & Analytics
Ms. Melissa Giese is the Executive Director of Institutional Research & Analytics at Metropolitan Community College. She has worked in the area of Higher Education Research for 20 years, fifteen of which are at MCC. Ms. Giese is a member and past President of MidAIR (The Mid-America Association for Institutional Research) as well as a member and past Chair of the Missouri Community College Association Research Council.
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Dr. Reshma Gouravajhala
Dr. Reshma Gouravajhala (she/hers) is the Research Scientist at WGU Academy, where she designs, implements, and evaluates interventions to better understand and improve student learning.
She earned her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, where her work focused on applying key cognitive psychology research concepts to education. Dr. Gouravajhala’s area of expertise is on identifying and mitigating individual differences in memory and complex learning (in and out of the classroom) using both quantitative and qualitative research methodology. Her research has helped to identify scalable strategies for individuals across the lifespan to improve their learning outcomes on typical educational measures and routine life tasks.
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Dr. Clarence Green
Vice President of Culture
Clarence was named the vice president of culture in April 2019; he manages human resources, institutional research and effectiveness and police. Clarence previously served as interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, interim vice president of human resources and the police chief position for more than a decade.
Clarence has developed a philosophy of listening, aligning and acting. He has served on implementation teams for engagement, inclusive excellence and strategic planning that has led to several promising practices. His recruitment, hiring and onboarding process has led to the police unit being more than 60% racially and ethnically diverse while also having 45% of its members being made up of those who identify as female.
Clarence Green has served in law enforcement for more than 25 years. Clarence currently serves on the United States Attorney General Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee. He is a state and regional trainer in the areas of implicit bias, racial profiling and community policing.
Clarence Green has a bachelors in Sociology, a masters in Higher Education Leadership and a doctorate in Educational measures and routine life tasks.
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Dr. Kurt Gunnell
Director, Institutional Research
Kurt Gunnell, Ph.D. has been the Director of Institutional Research at Western Governors University (WGU) in Salt Lake City, UT for the past ten years. Previous to his current position, he was the Associate Director of Institutional Research at the Kansas Board of Regents for 10 years. As part of his previous duties, he worked with Kansas public and private universities/colleges on several statewide workforce and institutional reporting efforts. Kurt currently is involved in several national higher education reporting, training, and research efforts with the U.S. Department of Education as an IPEDS educator and NPEC committee member. Additionally, he has held several adjunct faculty positions at Washburn University, Baker University, and Kansas State University. He received his doctorate in Human Ecology from Kansas State University. Kurt has presented at many national and regional conferences on various topics such as competency-based education, non-cognitive impacts on college student engagement, emerging distance education issues and data management advancements in higher education.
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Associate Director of Diversity Recruitment
Elemuelle Harris joined Webster University in March, 2018. He works in our admissions office and provides a positive experience to all our incoming students, helping them understand that they can attend a private university at an affordable price and take on key student leadership roles here at the University to effectively make positive change. Recently, Elemuelle was named as the Associate Director of Diversity Recruitment due to his strong work in assisting our Director increase our recruitment of diversity candidates to the university.
With seven years of experience Harris has always focused on providing all students that they can have the best opportunities and can succeed with anything they put their mind to. Prior to Webster, Elemuelle has worked with St. Louis Community College, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Job Corp.
Harris holds a Bachelors Degree from Southern University of Edwardsville in Health and Human Behavior and a Masters Degree in Public Administration and Policy Analysis.
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Dr. Warren Haynes
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Warren E. Haynes is an American scholar-practitioner and a defining figure in modern day leadership. Haynes’s career and dedication brings 25+ years of service predominately in the public, nonprofit and higher education spaces. Dr. Haynes was recently appointed to a district-wide role as the Interim Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Previously, he served as the inaugural Vice President of Instruction and Student Services on both the Blue River and Business & Technology Campuses in the Metropolitan Community College District. With more than 18,000 students across six campuses in the Greater Kansas City Region, Metropolitan Community College educates a dynamic and diverse student body that take classes for personal enrichment or enroll in courses which lead to earning industry certifications, associate degrees or a transfer pathway towards baccalaureate completion at a four-year institution.
Prior to his role at Metropolitan Community College, Dr. Haynes served in both faculty and administrative roles at various institutions. Haynes began his higher education career at Passaic County Community College (NJ) and progressively migrated into positions at Northern Virginia Community College (VA), Frederick Community College (MD), Rutgers University (NJ), Kentucky State University (KY), Halifax Community College (NC), and the University of Central Missouri (MO). His fundraising and philanthropic endeavors began when he served as a development officer with the United Negro College Fund and on the Resource Investment Team at the United Way. Haynes also served in the division of workforce development (Formerly Private Industry Council/PIC Employment and Training) as a discretionary grants planner in the State of New Jersey.
Dr. Haynes completed a two-year postdoctoral appointment at Rutgers University and holds an earned doctorate in public administration from the University of Baltimore, a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration from the City University of New York (CUNY) – Bernard M. Baruch College, a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning, and a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Morgan State University. He is a graduate of the Gardner Institute’s – Equity in Retention Academy, Thomas Lakin Institute for Mentored Leadership – Presidents’ Roundtable (An American Association of Community Colleges Affiliate), Leadership Lee’s Summit (MO), The President’s Leadership Development Institute at Halifax Community College (NC), and Leadership Frederick County (MD). His dissertation — Social Equity in the Academy: State Policy and Diversity in Higher Education examined the implementation of Senate Bill (SB) 438 and House Bill (HB) 905, Institutions of Higher Education – Plans for Programs of Cultural Diversity in its first and earliest stages.
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MCC Blue River Sociology Faculty
Ms. Heddlesten is currently serving as interim Division Chair for the Natural and Social Sciences at Metropolitan Community Colleges – Blue River. She has an MA in Sociology from University of Missouri-Kansas City and over 13 years of teaching experience. She was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Teaching Excellence in 2018. In 2020 she published her first sociology textbook, The Social World Unmasked, and also received the NSF CCREST grant to research the proliferation of Ah-ha! Moments in the classroom. She continues to strive to build a more equitable college experience at MCC by engaging students, faculty, and staff in meaningful conversations focused on producing systemic changes.
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Dr. Kristi Holsinger
Senior Vice Provost for Student Success
Dr. Kristi Holsinger, Senior Vice Provost for Student Success, provides leadership and vision in administering a comprehensive portfolio of strategic initiatives to promote and enhance student experiences at UMKC. Her duties in this position include achieving university student success and enrollment-growth goals as outlined in the UMKC strategic plan; incorporating diversity, inclusion and equity principles in student success efforts to implement the university’s mission and vision; and leading the development of high-quality academic support programs to enhance student engagement on campus and to improve student persistence and completion.
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Dr. Makini King
Interim Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Inclusion
Makini L. King PhD is a licensed psychologist who currently serves as the Interim Vice Chancellor and Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. She received her B.A. from Emory University and her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
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Dr. Paul Katnik
Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality
Dr. Paul Katnik is the Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Educator Quality. Dr. Katnik has been in education for over three decades working with children of all ages, K-12, as both a teacher and a building principal. He has served at the Department of Education for over ten years, and has been instrumental in coordinating the state model Educator Evaluation System, revising teacher and leader preparation programs, developing the state’s Educator Equity Plan and creating the Missouri Leadership Development System. Dr. Katnik earned his BA in Elementary Education from Texas Tech University and his Masters in Educational Psychology from University of Mississippi and received his doctorate degree at University of Missouri-St. Louis in Spring 2014.
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Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight
Executive Director & COO
Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight is Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of The DeBruce Foundation where she leads strategic and operational efforts to advance the mission to uncover pathways to economic growth and opportunities. An accomplished educator and community leader, Dr. Taylor Knight served as Executive Director of the Kansas City Area Education Research Consortium, facilitating the collaborative efforts of four research institutions to provide powerful tools for data-driven educational research informing practice and policy. As a former high school teacher, principal, and assistant superintendent, she has expertise in bringing together stakeholders to improve learning experiences. She has advised school districts across the nation, as well as led the curriculum development for an international technology company. Dr. Taylor Knight values identifying talents and strengths in others, coaching them to improve their capabilities and finding roles in which each can maximize one’s potential to result in optimal team success. She’s a certified Gallup Strengths Coach who has facilitated leadership training for groups including the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge and the Griffiths Leadership Society for Women. Dr. Taylor Knight also serves as a Director on the Governing Board of the Mizzou Alumni Association. Dr. Taylor Knight holds graduate and advanced degrees in educational leadership and policy from the University of Missouri, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Kansas.
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Director of Undergraduate Admissions
Micaela Lenhart is the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Rockhurst University. She works with aspiring prospective students to help them start their educational journey to success.
Micaela is a first-generation college student originally from a small town in Missouri. She believes there is an educational opportunity for all students and has worked in higher education for over 10 years. Her experience includes Financial Aid, First-Year Experience, Instruction, and Admissions.
Micaela holds her Bachelor of Science in Corporate Communication and Master of Arts in Speech Communication from the University of Central Missouri and is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Education at Rockhurst University.
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Director, Succeed Program
Jonathan has been a member of the UMSL community for over a decade, and worked with the SUCCEED program for 5 years before becoming its Director in August 2017. He received an M.Ed. in Counseling from UMSL in 2005 and is currently working toward a doctorate in Education. Jonathan joined UMSL in 2002 as a graduate student in the Office of Student Life and was brought on full time in 2005. In 2007 Jonathan joined the Office of Residential Life where he became the Director. He has extensive experience with the Succeed Program as he was part of the planning team that was instrumental in bringing the Succeed Program to UMSL Jonathan’s academic research interests are in the area of intellectual and developmental disabilities in Higher Education.
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Mindy Mazur is passionate about helping others expand their career pathways. As a consultant to The DeBruce Foundation, Mindy assists with integrated communications, partnerships, and special projects to advance this mission.
Mindy serves as the Managing Director of Lents & Associates, LLC, a strategic communications and consulting firm that helps clients tell their stories, advance their missions, and grow their businesses. Earlier in her career, Mindy was one of the first principals at GPS Impact, helping build a new national public affairs and multi-media advertising agency from the ground up. Prior to that, she served as the first COO to Missouri Health Connection, Missouri’s statewide health information technology network. Mindy has also served as the executive director for a nonprofit organization that helped women entrepreneurs grow their businesses and as the state director of a coalition of nonprofit advocacy organizations. She’s owned her own business as well.
Mindy’s career began in public service. Her first job out of college was as a legislative aide to Congressman Ike Skelton in his Washington, DC., office. From there she went on to work on electoral campaigns, including managing Robin Carnahan’s successful statewide run for Secretary of State in 2004. After Sec. Carnahan’s election, Mindy served as her first chief of staff in the Office of Secretary of State, where she directed policy and had shared management responsibilities for the activities of approximately 280 employees and the administration of a $50 million operating budget.
Mindy is the founder of Hired Up! Missouri, originally a volunteer-led job board, and now an interactive database, used by LeadMO 501(c)(3), that connects do-good people with do-good work. She serves on boards for the Mizzou Alumni Association, LeadMO, Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, and WePower’s Chisholm’s Chair. Mindy is an alumna of the Greater Missouri Leadership Challenge and Leadership St. Louis, is a former chair of the Griffiths Leadership Society, and has been featured as one of the “100 St. Louisans You Need to Know to Succeed in Business” by Small Business Monthly and “30 Women Changing Politics” by The Missouri Times. She earned her BA in Communications with a Minor in Music from the University of Missouri and an MA in Political Management from The George Washington University. Mindy lives in Missouri with her partner, Jeff, and their twin daughters.
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Special Assistant for External Relations, DHEWD
For over an decade, Gerren has worked in various areas of federal and state government. In 2010, he began his career serving as an intern in the U.S. Senate and became a legislative aid on policies pertaining to commerce, labor, transportation, and appropriations. Before joining the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development as the Special Assistant for External Relations, he served in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Legislation and Congressional Affairs where he advised on policy and budgetary matters before Congress. In his current capacity, he oversees both federal and state legislative activities, several department initiatives, and external partnership efforts.
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College and Career Counselor and Counseling Manager
Ms. Amber Mitchell is new to Hazelwood East this year and is currently serving as the College and Career Counselor and Counseling manager.
She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and two master’s degrees in Secondary School Counseling and Adult Higher Education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She has over 16 years of experience in implementing postsecondary programming and providing college and career readiness services to students and families in the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Ms. Mitchell has a passion to work with students to help them develop their career direction and find their best post-secondary fit. She is committed to helping students navigate the process not only to but also through their post-secondary choice.
Ms. Mitchell is a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Missouri. She currently serves on the Missouri Association for College Admissions Counseling (MOACAC) Executive Board Committee as a Co-Chair for the Access, Inclusion, and Success Committee, and Delegate for the NACAC National Assembly. Also, she serves on the Steering Committee and Professional Development Committee for St. Louis Graduates. Additionally she serves on the Executive Board for the St. Louis HBCU Alumni Association and is a member of the Harvard Club of St. Louis Educational Disparities group.
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Zora Mulligan has served as Missouri’s Commissioner of Higher Education since August 2016. During her time as commissioner, Ms. Mulligan led efforts to restructure state government to bring the agencies responsible for postsecondary education, workforce development, and economic research together to form one new department, the Missouri Department of Higher Education & Workforce Development. This transformation was in response to efforts in 2018, when Ms. Mulligan and Missouri’s Director of Economic Development co-led Talent for Tomorrow, an initiative that built a statewide coalition of corporate executives, educators, community leaders, legislators, and members of the executive branch to develop and advocate for a comprehensive suite of proposals to address workforce needs. Other initiatives resulting from Talent for Tomorrow included funding for public colleges and universities to develop or expand academic programs that lead to jobs in high-demand occupations, and the creation of a full-tuition grant program for adults, both of which were supported by Gov. Mike Parson, and adopted by the General Assembly in 2019.
Ms. Mulligan and her team have partnered with colleges and universities around the state to address equity gaps in higher education, substantially improve transfer for Missouri students, increase graduation rates by offering alternatives to remedial coursework, and implement new rules that give public colleges and universities greater ability to meet statewide and regional workforce needs.
Ms. Mulligan is a native of West Plains, Missouri, and a graduate of Drury College and the University of Kansas. She previously served as chief of staff to the University of Missouri System president, executive director of the Missouri Community College Association, and assistant attorney general. She lives in Jefferson City with her daughter Anna Lea.
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Matt Newlin, Ed.D., is a higher education consultant, practitioner, and faculty member who has been engaged in postsecondary access and equity for 15 years. Matt has worked at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, Washington University, College Advising Corps, and NASPA’s Center for First-generation Student Success. He is a first-generation student from a low-income family which has driven his passion for educational equity. He lives in St. Louis.
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DeBruce Career Corps Member
Alex was born and raised in the Kansas City metro. Alex has been affiliated with the DeBruce Foundation through the Career Corps since the summer July 2018 and interned with the foundation in the summer of 2020.
Alex is a graduate of Saint Louis University with a B.A. in Political Science. During his time as a Billiken Alex was a 4-year Division I high jumper and has been a part of 100 Black men in St. Louis through SLU’s African American Male Scholars Initiative, and is a charter member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity incorporated; the first historically black fraternity and/or sorority at Saint Louis University.
Alex has a desire to impact policy and has been on national boards for adoption advocacy. He was a 2019 member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute: Foster Youth Intern Program, a member of the Youth Engagement Team in 2020 for Health and Human Services, and an AdoptUS Kids member.
Alex is currently in the Orr Fellowship, a 2-year business and entrepreneurial fellowship in Indianapolis dedicated to creating the next generation of business leaders. Through the fellowship Alex is placed at an Indy based tech-startup called Woven and is a member of the fellowship’s Civic Engagement team.
Today Alex continues to be engaged in the mission of the DeBruce foundation and is a member of the DeBruce Early Career Group.
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Dr. Anthony Parker-Gills
Director, McNair Scholars Program
Anthony Parker-Gills is the Director of the McNair Scholars Program at Saint Louis University. Within the McNair Scholars Program, he is responsible for overseeing the day to day operations including managing five partnering institutions, a summer research program, strategic planning, budget management, and program management. In his time in academia, Anthony has successfully matriculated a plethora of first-generation, low-socioeconomic and underrepresented college students into graduate programs across the country. Anthony has over five years of professional experience in the academy, his roles in higher education has involved teaching, counseling, research, mentoring, recruitment and program management. His research and professional interest include evaluating the academic and social experiences of minoritized students at Predominately White Institutions, P-20 pipeline programs, student retention, first-generation college students, graduate education, TRIO programs, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is also involved in multiple educational organizations and associations including the Educational Opportunity Association, St. Louis Graduates, and the McNair Association of Professionals to name a few. Anthony has presented his research and best practices initiatives at conferences across the country, he also holds additional educational certificates from Columbia University and the University of Michigan.
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Govenor Mike Parson
Governor Parson is a veteran who served six years in the United States Army. He served more than 22 years in law enforcement, including 12 years as the sheriff of Polk County. He also served in the Missouri House of Representatives from 2005-2011, in the Missouri Senate from 2011-2017, and as Lieutenant Governor in 2017-2018.
Governor Parson and First Lady Teresa live in Bolivar. Together they have two grown children and six grandchildren. He was raised on a farm in Hickory County and graduated from Wheatland High School in Wheatland, Missouri. He is a small business owner and a third generation farmer who currently owns and operates a cow and calf operation near their hometown of Bolivar. Governor Parson has a passion for sports, agriculture, Christ, and people.
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Dr. Sarah Pingel
Senior Policy Analyst
Sarah supports the research and analytical capacity of the Policy Team in her role as Principal at Education Commission of the States. She is a skilled presenter and facilitator on a variety of education topics, but especially issues of postsecondary finance and college affordability; She can often be found behind a spreadsheet or with her nose in state statutes. Sarah is passionate about supporting education leaders in their roles as decision makers and supporters of students across the education spectrum.
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Jennifer Pocai is a Research Analyst at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and provides project management for IHEP’s Degrees When Due national equity and completion initiative. Jennifer is passionate about removing barriers to postsecondary access and success for underserved student populations. Her research interests include increasing academic outcomes for both parenting and adult students.
Prior to joining IHEP, Pocai worked as an Initiative and Program Manager for Northern Virginia Community College’s Pathway to the Baccalaureate programs. Pathway to the Baccalaureate provides students from traditionally underserved populations multifaceted, individualized support from high school through transfer to a four-year institution. Jennifer also serves on George Mason University’s Student Parent Working Group.
Jennifer holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Higher Education from George Mason University. During her undergraduate studies, Jennifer focused on underserved student populations, taking coursework in social justice and human rights. At the graduate level, her concentration was Student Services with an emphasis on diversity.
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Executive Director, MOCAN
Francine Pratt, MOCAN Executive Director since 2020, is an accomplished Project/Program Director with over 25 years’ experience in leading government, private, public, and non-profit organizations with a focus on developing sustainability, customer service, and addressing organizational behavior to increase program performance in the public and private sectors. She had extensive responsibility for local and statewide operations while consistently increasing program improvements and strategies that enhanced community engagement and program performance.
Her past positions include Missouri State University, Multicultural Programs Executive Director, Drury University Diversity Coordinator, Springfield Chapter NAACP President, Isabel’s House Executive Director, Missouri Department of Social Services Deputy Director, and other private industry and State of California leadership positions. Her most recent position was Director of Prosper Springfield, a Springfield, Missouri community collective impact model, charged with reducing poverty by five percentage points and increasing postsecondary educational attainment to 60 percent, both by 2025.
She is also co-owner of Pratt Consultants with a focus on community engagement, business infrastructure development, conflict resolution, strategic planning, and diversity training (including bias-based police training). Francine has been recognized at the local and state level for her commitment to helping others. The Springfield Business Journal named her one of the twelve People You Need to Know in 2019. In 2020, Francine received the Springfield Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Award for her excellence and commitment to helping other women in their professional journey.
In addition to her work with MOCAN, Francine serves on the Board of Directors for Leadership Springfield, as well as the Parkview High School Leadership Academy Advisory Council and the Missouri State University Bears LEAD Advisory Council. Her greatest passion is to share opportunities for career and college pathways with youth and adults who do not know all that Missouri has to offer anyone who calls Missouri home. Her favorite saying is: If you always do what you have always done then you will always get what you already have so do something different!
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Sen. Greg Razer, District 07, Democrat
Member of the Senate Committee on Education
Greg Razer, a Democrat, is the State Senator for the 7th Senatorial District, serving a portion of Jackson County. He was first elected to serve in the Senate in 2020. Senator Razer previously served two terms in the Missouri House of Representatives.
Prior to his legislative duties, Sen. Razer was the Deputy Regional Director for U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from 2008-2016.
Senator Razer graduated from Cooter High School (Cooter, Missouri) in 1996. He received his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2000.
Senator Razer spent the first 18 years of his life being raised in Cooter, MO, and has made Kansas City his home since December 2001.
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Senior Associate, Financial Assistance
Kelli Reed is a senior associate in the Financial Assistance area of the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development (MDHEWD). She is celebrating her 25th year with the department, having worked in the former Missouri Student Loan Program’s Information Center and Compliance areas before moving into the Financial Assistance area, where she has worked with the state student financial aid programs for the last 20 years. She is a past president of the Missouri School-College Relations Commission and is a member of the Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel and the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.
Dr. April Regester
Associate Professor, Inclusive Education
Dr. April Regester, is an associate professor in inclusive education at UMSL and holds a doctorate in Special Education, Disabilities & Risk Studies. She currently serves as the Director of Faculty Support and Engagement for the College of Education. She has published over 25 peer-reviewed articles and secured over $2,550,000 in external funding. Dr. Regester established the Missouri Peer Supports Project in 2012, which was implemented in three high schools throughout the state over 3 years. She helped to establish UMSL Succeed in 2013 with campus and community partners via funding from three regional DD boards. She has continued to partner with UMSL Succeed on every aspect of their programming and has helped to secure ongoing funding. She brings expertise in higher education systems, postsecondary education for students with disabilities, transition services, inclusive education, and peer supports.
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Dr. Evan Rhinesmith
Director of Research and Evaluation
Evan Rhinesmith is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Saint Louis University Policy Research in Missouri Education (PRiME) Center. He holds a PhD in Education Policy from the University of Arkansas. His research focuses on postsecondary access and outcomes, college remedial and development coursework, and teacher quality and evaluation.
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STEP & McNair Academic Advisor
A St. Louis native and graduate of the Normandy High School. First generation college non-traditional college graduate. LaVada holds a BS in Human Resource Management, an MA in Nonprofit Administration, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Lindenwood University.
LaVada has over 20 years in a wide-range of experiences to include entrepreneurship, nonprofit, leadership in both administration and higher education. I have devoted my personal and professional endeavors to increasing equitable educational access for students particularly for underrepresented students like myself and fostering environments where all students and the team can thrive.
Currently the academic advisor for historically underrepresented students in STEM programs at Truman State University. I am also the Co-Founder of No More Hiding Ministry, orchestrator and presiding President-elect for the Missouri Association for Blacks in Higher Education (MABHE).
I credit my own success to several dedicated higher education professionals who pushed me to become the best version of myself possible as a leader and lifelong learner.
Married to the wonderful Dr. Saint Rice with blended family lifestyle. Complete with 7 adult children and 5 grandchildren. I love chocolate, football (Dallas Cowboys, Tom Brady, & Notre Dame), antiquated dictionaries, and traveling.
One of my favorite quotes is “You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness.” Zig Ziglar
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Dr. Rolundus Rice
Vice President of Academic Affairs
Dr. Rolundus R. Rice is a thought leader, orator, professor and university administrator. Dr. Rice has used these platforms to inspire thousands of students to earn high school diplomas, baccalaureate and advanced degrees by sharing his firsthand experiences as a troubled youth who spent his elementary years in the behavior and learning disorders programs in the Dekalb County School System in Metropolitan Atlanta before dropping out of high school. Rice’s “Pilgrimage to Purpose” narrative arc, which he has shared with more than 800,000 people, chronicles his life from a GED to a Ph.D. recipient.
Dr. Rice was lured into university leadership at a young age. At 33, he was appointed Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts at Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama — one of the youngest academic deans at an accredited four-year institution in the United States. The “Dapper Dean,” as he was affectionately referred to by his students, was responsible for leading the reorganization of the History, English, Music, Mass Media and Fine Arts curricula, respectively. He was also instrumental in securing a $1.25 million implementation cluster grant from the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Career Pathways Initiative to fund projects to increase Talladega College students’ chances of finding meaningful employment upon graduation. Dr. Rice’s subsequent work and experiences at various institutions of higher education include Chief Diversity Officer, Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs, and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and Central Region Director of Adult Education. He is currently serving as the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs at Rust College.
Dr. Rice is a professionally-trained historian who has taught a variety of lower and upper division undergraduate courses, including World History, United States History, The Civil Rights Movement and American Religious History, respectively. His research and publishing agenda are focused squarely on the Modern Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Rice’s book, Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Bull in a China Shop”: A Lifetime of Defiance and Protest Lieutenant, will be published by the University of South Carolina Press in October.
Dr. Rice has also worked in the non-profit sector. Dr. Rice coordinates many of the strategic initiatives for the Southern Youth Leadership Development Institute in Montgomery, Alabama, under the direction of Ms. Doris Crenshaw. He has also worked at The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, where he served as the Special Assistant to Dr. Bernice King – the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King. After the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Dr. Rice traveled with Ms. King as part of a team which included civil rights activists and trainers that engaged educators, law enforcement officers, civic leaders, gang members and business leaders in the philosophy and techniques of her father.
Dr. Rice has also been identified as a subject-matter expert on the Civil Rights Movement who has been interviewed by CNN, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the Montgomery Advertiser.
As the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Dapper Dean Education Empowerment Firm, Dr. Rice sees the world as a global classroom and grooming ground for greatness. For additional information, please visit his website at www.thedapperdean.com.
Dr. Rice graduated from DeVry University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Magna Cum Laude. He holds two advanced degrees. Rice earned the Master of Arts in History from Alabama State University and the Doctor of Philosophy in History from Auburn University. He is the first GED recipient to earn a Ph.D. in Auburn’s 163-year history.
Dr. Rice is married to the former Dana Lee. They have four children: Madison, Marley, Rolundus II and Remington.
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Dr. Saint Rice
Director, Center for Diversity and Inclusion
A graduate of the Riverview Gardens School District, Dr. Saint Rice Jr. holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Public Relations emphasis) and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration degrees. He completed a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership at Maryville University wherein his research focused on the experiences, struggles, and strengths of the African American male students entering higher education from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Currently, Dr. Rice is the Director of Truman State University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Rice’s self-initiated desire to understand the historical political, racial, ethical, and social influences on the modern day criminal justice system in the United States has guided his teaching pedagogy. As a result of his research of historical issues in criminal justice, Dr. Rice developed his passion for issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Dr. Rice has held many positions in higher education including Associate Professor, Assistant Dean and Program Director. Dr. Rice has worked directly with adult or non-traditional students in various academic settings for over ten years. His research in Andragogy provides a foundation for the strategies he has developed to support the academic and socio-emotional needs of this demographic of college learners.
Prior to higher education, Dr. Rice enjoyed a 20-year career with the Missouri Department of Corrections (MODOC) working with individuals with a myriad of barriers. Rice has collaborated or trained with many local and national criminal justice agencies, providing him with an in-depth understanding of the criminal justice systems. Dr. Rice possesses a keen understanding of what is necessary to successfully prepare for the challenges that life will bring.
Finally, Dr. Rice has first-hand experience with challenges of being a traditional, non-traditional, returning, low-income, and first-generation college student. These personal experiences fuel his passion to create equitable and inclusive pathways for all students matriculating into higher education.
Dr. Rice is married to LaVada Rice. Their blended family consists of seven adult children and five grandchildren.
Dr. Rice is a 30-year member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and the Jake Gaston 18 Lodge of the Prince Hall Masonic Order.
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Interim Co-Director of the Missouri State University Bear POWER
Kim Roam has been a member of the Missouri State University community for many years as student, staff and faculty. In addition to teaching in the College of Education she is also Interim Co-Director of the Missouri State University Bear POWER (Promoting Opportunities for Work, Education and Resilience), an inclusive college program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, that launched in the 2019 Spring Semester. In her position she assists in overseeing the Bear POWER program, raising awareness for inclusion within education settings, the community, and the workplace. Kim has been involved with the program development and day to day operations for 4 years as a volunteer and Faculty Advisor to the Bear POWER Ambassadors who help provide a circle of support to the students enrolled in the program.
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Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education
Magen Rooney-Kron, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of inclusive education at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. Her teaching and research focuses on supporting students with significant support transition from high school to work. Previously, Magen was a high school special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools
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Dr. Ayanna Shivers
Director, Student Support Services School of Education
Dr. Ayanna Shivers is the Director of the School of Educations’ Student Support Services. Also, she oversees the Bachelor of Liberal Studies program and Degrees When Due initiative at Lincoln University, located in Missouri. She received her Ph.D. in Education from the Southern Mississippi in 2008. Ayanna is active in her community of Mexico, MO where she serves as a councilwoman–and the immediate past mayor. She is the founder of Anointed Life Saving Ministries, Inc.–a 501c3 organization that’s mission is to “be the bridge that closes the gap that exists between people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.” Dr. Shivers passion is helping others succeed.
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Rep. Brenda Shields, District 011, Repubilcan
Committee on Higher Education, Chairman
Subcommittee on Appropriations – Education, Vice-Chairman
Representative Brenda Kay Shields, a Republican, represents Buchanan County and parts of Platte County (District 11) in the Missouri House of Representatives. She was elected to her first two-year term in November 2018.
Prior to serving in the legislature, Shields worked for Quaker Oats Company in St. Joseph for more than 17 years, culminating in the role of logistics specialist. After closure of the St. Joseph Quaker Oats facility, she followed her passion for service and entered Missouri’s Alternative Teacher Certification program teaching business education in the St. Joseph School District. In 2006, she was selected by the community board to serve as the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Joseph.
Shields’ commitment to community and service shows through her service on several boards and commissions, including board chair for the United Cerebral Palsy, board member for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce, board member for the Allied Arts Council and board member of the YMCA of Greater Kansas City. She served as Mid-Buchanan PTA president, on the Commerce Bank CRA Advisory Board, Girl Scouts Leadership Circle and Boy Scouts Troop 216 committee. Her service to Missouri includes serving on the Governor’s Complete Counts Census Committee and Missouri’s Coordination Board for Early Childhood Education.
Shields is a graduate of the University of Missouri – Columbia and lives in rural Buchanan County with her husband, Charlie. They have two sons.
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Sady Mayer Strand
Student Success Center Director and ADA/Section 504 Coordinator
My name is Sady Mayer Strand, and I use she/her pronouns.
At Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, I currently serve as the College’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)/Section 504 Coordinator and as the Director of the Margaret Campbell Student Success Center. My office is a member of the campus’s Equity Offices (comprised of the offices of DEI, Title IX, and ADA).
I find fulfillment in working toward a more accessible, equitable, and inclusive campus environment for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities— and in directing the Student Success Center’s day-to-day support operations: tutoring in writing and undergraduate general education courses, coaching undergraduate academic skills, advising first-year students, and providing ADA accessibility accommodations for the Stephens community.
I earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Women’s Studies (now Women’s and Gender Studies) from the University of Missouri in 1998 and earned an M.A. in Teaching/Education from Columbia College in 2009.
When I am not on campus, you will find me writing poetry, exploring the outdoors, teaching gentle yoga, and guiding meditation practices.
I am a lifelong learner, and I strive to lead each day with humility, humor, curiosity—and a whole lotta kindness.
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Senior Director, HCM Strategists
Martha Snyder is an education policy specialist with high-level experience supporting federal and state policymakers. At HCM Strategists, she provides policy expertise and strategic counsel on a wide range of areas from finance to accountability to college readiness and affordability. Martha is a primary lead for Lumina Foundation’s Strategy Labs, where she provides non-partisan expertise and facilitation on affordability, outcomes-based funding and other finance policies to improve higher education attainment. She also serves as the key strategist on state postsecondary policy work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In addition to this work, Martha contributes to the postsecondary team on issues of aligning postsecondary financing to advance improved outcomes for underserved populations, transitioning between K-12 and postsecondary education and evaluating policies that support K-12 and postsecondary student transitions.
A believer in the link between higher education and economic success, Martha has worked both personally and professionally to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students. While at Villanova University earning her bachelor’s degree, Martha tutored inner-city students and witnessed the education system challenges that allowed many students to fall through the cracks. Martha later graduated from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in public administration and, inspired by a graduate professor, pursued a career in education policy to help expand educational opportunities for students.
Before her tenure at HCM, Martha worked as a senior policy advisor at the United States Department of Education, focusing on K-12 accountability, high school reform and special education. She also served as an associate director for The White House Domestic Policy Council, developing budget priorities and providing analysis and counsel on all federal education issues. Her legislative branch experience includes a stint as a legislative assistant to Rep. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania.
Living in a state capital, Martha has a strong understanding of the role state-level leadership plays in advancing strong policies that lead to growth and innovation. This perspective has been an important foundation to Martha’s work with state policymakers. Across the U.S., Martha has worked with state leaders, including state legislators and higher education policy officials, to facilitate the development, grounded in research-based expertise, of outcomes-based funding recommendations and related strategic higher education policies.
Martha lives with her husband and four children in Albany, New York, where she has put her passion for creative educational approaches to work on the board of directors for two local charter schools. A 13-time marathon finisher, Martha is an enthusiastic runner and dedicated fan of the Buffalo Bills.
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Assistant Vice Provost for Enrollment Management
Doug Swink serves as the campus lead for enrollment management initiatives which includes maintaining the strategic enrollment plan and collaborating with campus stakeholders to use data to drive best practices around recruitment, retention and persistence to positively impact student experiences and student success. In addition to these duties, Doug provides executive leadership to the offices of Admissions and Financial Aid. Additionally, Doug has served in higher education for over 24 years, which has included work in campus admissions, academic advising, student information systems, data analytics and reporting. Most recently, Doug has been working closely with the Kauffman Foundation’s KC Scholars program to assist high school students with navigating the college application and decision-making process as well as to provide opportunities for financial aid workshops for students and their families to better understand how to best finance their college education.
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