Meet the 2019-2020 Texas Education Policy Fellowship Program cohort
TAMARA ANDERSON has been employed with the Alamo Colleges District since 2004. She currently holds the associate director of academic success position located at the district office. Anderson started as a part-time employee at St. Philip's College and quickly moved up to a full-time position working as a coordinator for the student success department. Anderson spent six years at St. Philip's before moving to San Antonio College, where she spent nine years.
She holds numerous certifications in social services, policies and procedures, and she sat on the board of the Texas Alamo Regional Counseling Association (TARCA). Anderson is a graduate of John Marshall High School and holds a doctorate in behavioral sciences from Arizona State University. She received a master's degree in counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Anderson's passion lies in education and social services, where she is always searching for a path to help educate and support student.
Leadership statement: "As I work through the Texas Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP), I seek to expand my skills and experiences in areas of leadership to help improve our organization. My goal is for my professional portfolio to shape into one that will help to develop others and create teams that work in tandem, pursuing the same vision with goals that align."
ALYSSA BENAVIDES serves as associate managing director over the Office of Clinical Informatics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. In addition to department administration, Benavides project manages various clinical quality programs and the institution's launch of its population health management and analytics system. Her department provides community outreach to promote STEM education to local students and offers instructional courses at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. Benavides is also a Ph.D. student in the inaugural cohort of Texas Tech University's Educational Leadership Policy program.
Benavides has worked as a policy and business strategist in county, state and local governments for Texas communities for the past 20 years, initiating such work as a legislative analyst for the Mexican American Legislative Leadership Foundation. In this role, she dedicated her work, research and advocacy on legislation to increase education and economic opportunity for Texas students and border communities. Her current research focus includes addressing the Latinx postsecondary education attainment gap.
Leadership statement: "In this esteemed program, together with fellow impassioned policy experts, I am enthusiastic to grow my knowledge in strategic policy development and advocacy for equal access and opportunity to quality education for all: to ensure every students' academic success to college completion (and beyond)."
WHITNEY DOVE is the manager of professional learning design and technology at the National Institute for STEM Education, a division of Accelerate Learning, Inc. in Houston. In this role, Dove is responsible for the design and delivery of a wide array of online professional learning options for STEM educators, including the National Certificate for STEM Teaching (NCST). Prior to joining the team at Accelerate Learning in 2013, Dove was a middle school science teacher and instructional coach. She is currently in the dissertation phase of a STEM-focused Ph.D. program at Texas Tech University and expects to graduate in the fall of 2019. Her policy interests are bringing relevant, meaningful STEM learning to all students by helping teachers, schools, districts and lawmakers personally redefine and examine what constitutes "good" instruction.
Leadership statement: "I believe the very best leaders are those that recognize, appreciate, and cultivate the talents and gifts in others. Therefore, my role as leader is to encourage and facilitate others at being their best."
KARLA DURAN works as an industry liaison at Alamo Academies, a program at Alamo Colleges District that trains high school students for high-demand science and technology careers. In her role, she focuses on identifying internship opportunities for students with industry partners in San Antonio. She has been an adjunct professor at University of the Incarnate Word for over 11 years, teaching business courses to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. Duran holds a Ph.D. in organizational leadership and a dual MBA in international business and management. She earned her bachelor's degree in human resource management with a minor in Spanish.
Duran serves as secretary on the board of directors for the Bexar County Family Justice Center. Additionally, she sits on the City of San Antonio's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and serves as historian on the San Antonio Board of Directors for the Texas Hispanic Women's Network. Duran also currently serves on the steering committees for the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Alex Briseño Leadership Development Program and the chamber's Latina Leadership Institute. She is an alumna of both organizations. Duran was the vice president for the Northside Independent School District's Educational Improvement Council in 2018, and she was selected to serve as a 2018 Young Leader representing the United States Spain Council in Spain.
Leadership statement: "Since a young child, I always dreamt of attending Texas Tech University and am delighted to be a part of the Texas Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP) for 2019-2020. I hope to gain new knowledge in the areas of higher educational policy, strategic leadership and networking opportunities with like-minded individuals impacting higher education."
STACY YBARRA EVANS is a native of San Antonio and since 2014 has been director of student engagement for Catch the Next, a non-profit college readiness and completion organization. In her role, Evans has responsibility for social media outreach and co-directs the Transfer Motivational Program. She currently works as an adjunct instructor at San Antonio College, one of San Antonio's oldest colleges, where she teaches learning frameworks and student development courses. Evans has also worked in various positions at Alamo Colleges District for 16 years. In her current role as curriculum analyst, she works on transfer advising guides as part of a guided pathways initiative.
She enjoys enriching learning opportunities and recently graduated from the master teacher and certified adjunct certification programs at Alamo Colleges District. Evans' main focus is on community collaboration, which has led her to a number of collaborations and into community leadership participation as a member of the first Leadership SAISD cohort and member of the second cohort of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's Latina Leadership Institute. She completed the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators' (NASPA) 2016 Escaleras Institute, a national symposium for emerging Latinx leaders in higher education.
Evans received her associate degree from Palo Alto College and her bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She is pursuing her doctorate at Capella University.
Leadership statement: "I hope to learn how to support my community in its efforts towards social mobility and higher education as a Texas EPFP Fellow."
RAY HERNANDEZ is the director of high school programs at San Antonio College, a part of Alamo Colleges District. He has worked at Alamo Colleges District since 2005, starting at Palo Alto College as a senior-level administrator before quickly being promoted to director of recruitment and dual credit. Hernandez is also an adjunct instructor in the Public Administration & Leadership Department at San Antonio College. He has taught Texas government at Palo Alto College and was an adjunct instructor in the Political Science Department at Delta College in Michigan.
Hernandez received a bachelor's degree in political science and public policy from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in public administration and leadership from Saginaw Valley State University. He has served on numerous community and state organizations and has participated in numerous leadership and certification programs, including the prestigious Vision 2020 Award that identified 1,000 leaders in Michigan. As a first-generation college graduate, he has come to understand the importance of education and has dedicated his life to the students and communities to which he currently serves.
Leadership statement: “As I read through the mission and philosophy of Texas Education Policy Fellows Program, I am motivated to continue my leadership exploration and to continue developing my skills. My goal and objective is to improve in all areas of leadership and communication so I can bring this collective experience back to San Antonio College. My preferred leadership style is servant leadership, and I truly believe this is most effective when empowering and maximizing true potential.”
ASHAUNA LINDO is the facilitator of mathematics for online learning at Aldine Independent School District in Houston. Lindo has received multiple rewards for outstanding service to the online learning department.
Prior to joining the online learning department, she was selected to join several other staff members to open a new high school in the district and serve as a team leader. At the high school, Lindo co-sponsored an organization that increased social awareness and helped equip young ladies with academic integrity while providing service within the community.
Throughout her career, Lindo has presented at various conferences, training and sharing best practices that meet the needs of diverse learners and foster classroom environments that help increase academic performance. Her policy interest includes curriculum and budgetary reforms that enable accessibility to equitable resources and technology helping to increase student success and academic achievements.
Leadership statement: "As a Texas EPFP fellow, I hope to gain new insight on policymaking and implementation at the local and state level. I look forward to enhancing my leadership qualities, collaborating with other professionals and becoming a change agent in public education."
RYAN LITSEY is the associate librarian and head of document delivery at Texas Tech University. He has two master's degrees: one in political science from California State University Northridge and one in library and information science from Florida State University. He is currently completing a doctorate in higher education at Texas Tech University. Litsey's dissertation is on the origins of university governance from the perspective of the faculty. Faculty perspective is also the focus of his interest in policy. Litsey believes it is in understanding the dissemination of policy objectives from the national, state and administrative level to the faculty that universities can gain a better understanding of how and why certain policy objectives are achieved.
Leadership statement: "Through participation in this program, I hope to learn more about how policy goals and expectations can be conveyed from the national, state and administrative level to faculty who may be ultimately responsible for implementation."
CATHERINE NUTTER serves as senior director for University Advising at Texas Tech University. She has been with Texas Tech for a short nine years, but has learned much about higher education in that time. Her previous experience includes more than a decade in K-12 education as a teacher and campus administrator, primarily on campuses serving at-risk youth. Having experience on both sides of the P-20 corridor has given Nutter a unique perspective in defining the steps required for student success, retention and graduation at the college level.
Leadership statement: "My goal as part of the Texas EPFP fellowship is to learn ways in which my role, my departments and my university can enhance the college transition process for students entering college for the first time."
CAMERON PETTY began with Texas Aspires in 2014 and is the organization's communications director. Previously, Petty served as a field representative in a high-profile statewide political campaign, where he managed campaign activities and increased voter participation in three counties. This experience, coupled with his tenure handling constituent casework and legislative correspondence for a former Texas State Senator, gave Petty a unique understanding of politics and policy that fuels his work. From 2009 to 2013, Petty served as program assistant, team leader and corps member for Americorps Jumpstart, a literacy program that pairs adults with children of low-income backgrounds for a full academic year to cultivate a passion for learning in early childhood. As a native Texan with siblings attending public schools, he has a vested interest in improving learning outcomes and readiness to meet the demands of Texas' unique workforce. Petty graduated in 2013 from Pepperdine University with a degree in political science.
Leadership statement: "I hope to gain new strategies for crafting high-quality public policy, increase my ability to leverage relationships, and improve my skills in communicating education policy issues."
TAMIRA SAMUEL is the founding dean of instruction at YES Prep Northline and has over a decade of experience in developing and leading teams throughout the education, nonprofit and public policy sectors.
Samuel's professional experience includes working for Teach for America Summer Institutes, as a U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top district grant competition consultant, as an assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards for English language arts, and as an assessment consultant for a Texas Education Agency STAAR committee. She has helped write policy on effective school leadership development for Dallas Independent School District, lobbied for school finance in Austin and led research on school reconstitution impact in Houston.
Samuel has a strong interest in school choice, charter school, school finance, educator preparation and school reconstitution polices. She received her bachelor's degree in English and Master of Arts in teaching from Austin Peay State University. Samuel earned a master's degree in public policy and administration from Northwestern University.
Leadership statement: "The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." – Former President Ronald Reagan
KELLIE WILKS has dedicated 21 years to K-12 education as a teacher, instructional technology specialist, instructional technology coordinator and instructional technology director. She is currently the chief technology officer for Ector County Independent School District. In addition, Wilks served eight years in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.
She earned her Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Master of Arts in educational technology from Pepperdine University and education doctorate in education leadership from Texas Tech University.
Her interest in education policy stems from her broad K-12 experience and how macro- and micro-governance issues are translated at the local district level. Wilks' pursuit is based on the acceptance that education policy and school reform are intrinsically linked and critical as a means to meet the diverse needs of every public school student.
Leadership statement: "Education policy impacts priorities in public education, often creating a continuous feedback loop impacting both learning intentions and learning experiences. Today's students need a new and diverse advocate that recognizes this type of organizational disruption as an avenue for opportunities, success and self-renewal."