Fellows 2018-2019

California EPFP Fellows come from a variety of organizations and bring different perspectives to our discussion of educational leadership and policy. This page reflects the names and positions of each Fellow at the conclusion of their fellowship year, and may not reflect their current information.

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Fellows 2018-2019

Brianna Bruns

Director of Policy and Advocacy, California EDGE Coalition

Brianna Bruns currently serves as the Director of Policy and Advocacy with the California EDGE Coalition. Previously she was a budget analyst at the California Department of Finance where she worked on policy and fiscal issues pertaining to early education, child care, K-12 after school programs, and higher education. Prior to her time at the Department, she worked in the Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. as a Legislative Assistant. Brianna’s passion for education policy inspired her to participate in the Hansard Fellowship, where she studied at the London School of Economics and wrote her fellowship dissertation on early education policy.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola Marymount University and her Master’s degree in public administration from the University of Southern California.

Therese Grande

Student Life Coordinator, Golden West College

Therese Grande’s career in higher education spans over a decade at both public and private institutions and includes cross-functional experience in student affairs, curriculum and instruction, and institutional planning. In her current role as the Student Life Coordinator at Golden West College, she trains and advises student leaders, facilitates campus-wide programming, and helps foster an environment where students can meaningfully engage with peers, faculty, staff, and administration outside the classroom. Therese is passionate about creating access and equity in institutional governance and decision making structures, and has been recognized by both the California Community Colleges Classified Senate and the American Association for Women in Community Colleges for her leadership in this area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from New York University and is currently completing a master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration at California State University, Long Beach.

John Hetts

Senior Director of Data Science, Education Results Partnership

John J. Hetts is the Senior Director of Data Science at Educational Results Partnership and a member of the California Guided Pathways Advisory Committee, the Multiple Measures Assessment Project research team, and the statewide AB705 Implementation workgroup, and a Complete College America Fellow. Formerly, he helped lead the statewide Multiple Measures Work Group (as part of the Common Assessment Initiative), provided implementation support for the Student Transcript-Enhanced Placement Study (STEPS) conducted by the RP Group, and was the Director of Institutional Research at Long Beach City College during its implementation of multiple measures-based assessment as part of its Promise Pathways program. Building on twenty years of experience in instruction and research in higher education, his work focuses on identifying untapped potential in educational data. He received his doctorate from UCLA in Social Psychology with a specialization in Measurement and Psychometrics and holds a B.A. with Distinction and Honors from Stanford University.

Jacob Jackson

Research Fellow, Higher Education Center, Public Policy Institute of California

Jacob Jackson is a research fellow in the Higher Education Center at the Public Policy Institute of California. He conducts research about college readiness, college costs, access to higher education, and college completion. Prior to his career in research, he was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher in Sacramento, California, and Columbia, Missouri. He holds a PhD in education from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri.

Nadia Leal-Carrillo

Policy and Program Director, Success Center, Foundation for California Community Colleges

Nadia Leal-Carrillo is the Statewide Policy and Program Director of the Success Center at the Foundation for the California Community Colleges. In this role, she leads a team of talented policy specialist in identifying statutory and regulatory barriers to student success and providing research capacity on legislative and budget proposals to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. Nadia was born in Puebla, Mexico and immigrated to East Los Angeles California, at a young age.  As a first-generation immigrant college student, she has dedicated her career to gaining expertise and advancing policies to improve student access to educational opportunities. Nadia’s work in advancing education policies that provide social and economic opportunities for underrepresented students began in the State Capitol in 2002 when she was selected to the California Senate Fellows Program. As a Senate Fellow, she was assigned to the office of the State Senator Gilbert Cedillo and upon completion of her fellowship was hired as a legislative aide in his office. She then served as Legislative Director to Senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, Chair of the Senate Budget Committee. Prior to joining the Foundation for the California Community Colleges, Nadia was the Legislative Director of Academic Affairs in the State Governmental Relations Office for the University of California, Office of the President. Nadia is a proud mother of two daughters. She received her B.A in Urban Studies and Planning from the University of California at San Diego, where she was a McNair Scholar, and her MPA from the University of Southern California. She previously served as an appointed member of the City of Sacramento’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Redistricting, was the former Co-Chair of the California Latino Capitol Association, and a member of the selection panel for the California Senate Fellows Program. She currently volunteers as a mentor for the Mentorship Program of the California Capital Fellows Alumni Association.

Sara Pietrowski

Policy Consultant, California State Board of Education

Sara Pietrowski serves as a Policy Consultant for the California State Board of Education. In this role she supports the Board’s work of developing an Integrated Local, State, and Federal Accountability and Continuous Improvement System. Previously she served as Student Outcomes Coordinator in Sacramento City Unified School District where she led the development of the district’s Data Dashboard; supported the District’s state accountability work including the Local Control and Accountability Plan and the release of the California School Dashboard; and coordinated SCUSD’s CORE Districts’ efforts in data analysis and improvement science. She began her career in Sacramento as a Jesse Marvin Unruh Fellow in the California State Assembly. Sara earned a Master of Public Policy degree and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Southern California.

Daryton Ramsey

Director of the Regional Systems of District and School Support, Ventura County Office of Education

Daryton Ramsey is Director of the Regional Systems of District and School Support (RSDSS) for Region 8. He came to Ventura County Office of Education in 2016 from the Morgan Hill Unified School District, where he was the Principal at El Toro Elementary School. He has also served as a charter high school Dean of Academics, an educator quality administrator and a middle school classroom teacher. He has a proven track record of providing leadership that helps schools boost student achievement and reduce behavioral problems. As RSDSS Director, he is responsible for supporting Title I districts and schools as well as contributing to the overall efforts of ensuring that each student scholar has the opportunity to receive a world class education.

Kathleen Schock

Deputy Director of College Next, California College Guidance Initiative

As the Deputy Director of College Next for the California College Guidance Initiative, Kathleen R. Schock is working to improve postsecondary degree attainment by addressing some of the systemic barriers that have traditionally hindered student success. She currently manages College Next, an intersegmental education partnership to help Central Valley students develop and launch a plan for life after high school and to support an efficient approach to data sharing across the region. Kathleen’s previous experience includes teaching journalism at Fresno City College and serving as the Director of Strategic Communications at Fresno State. She has a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in Journalism from UC Berkeley and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from Fresno State.

Samantha Thompson

Early Education Program Manager, Merced County Office of Education, Early Education Department

Samantha C. Thompson is the Early Education Program Manager with Merced County Office of Education, Early Education Department. She is currently responsible for the administration of the Merced County Collaborative for Children and Families (also known as Local Planning Council) and Quality Counts! Merced (Quality Rating Improvement Systems.) She holds an Associate of Arts degree in Paralegal Studies from Merced College, a Bachelors of Sciences degree in Human Services and Masters of Business Administration, both from University of Phoenix. Samantha worked for many years as a Paralegal in Merced and Fresno counties and served as a Court Clerk for the Merced County Superior Court. Her transition to education began at a small Christian preschool/elementary school in Merced in 2002. Samantha worked for Madera County Office of Education prior to joining the leadership team at the Merced County Office of Education/Early Education Department in 2006. Her time at Merced COE has included oversight of the Centralized Eligibility List, the Local Child Care and Development Planning Council, Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant, CA-QRIS Block Grants and many other state and local initiatives. Samantha is a long-time resident of Merced County and is adjunct faculty in the business division at Merced College. She and her husband, Herschel have been married for almost 21 years and have two children, Alexis (20) and Desmond (17).

James Todd

Vice President of Student Services, Modesto Junior College

James Todd serves as the Vice President of Student Services of Modesto Junior College. Born and raised in central Florida, James attended Brevard Community College after high school, which was a transformative experience that engendered an interest in cultural anthropology. For several years, James lived and worked with contemporary Yucatec Maya groups in Mexico while pursuing an M.A. in Anthropology and International Development from The George Washington University. James also holds a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his doctoral research focused on the intersections of American capitalism, race, gender, inequality, and automobility. Indebted to community college after providing a second chance, James returned the system to teach anthropology at Modesto Junior College (MJC) in 2006. Nearly ten years later, and after several years of faculty leadership at the local and state level, James joined the executive leadership team at MJC in 2015. His current initiatives at the college include an intensive focus on student success and completion, with specific attention on equity and closing achievement gaps across various student populations. James is especially committed to serving system-affected individuals, including those who are formerly incarcerated, and he envisions the community college campus as a space to that brings education together with social justice work.

 Natalie Wheatfall-Lum

Natalie Wheatfall-Lum

Senior Policy Analyst, The Education Trust-West

In 2014, Natalie joined The Education Trust—West, a policy, research, and advocacy organization dedicated to education equity for students of color and low-income students. She supports the organization’s policy research, analysis, and position development, primarily in the areas of K-12 equitable funding and accountability. Natalie’s work is grounded in understanding the experiences of those stakeholders most impacted by education policy decisions: parent, student, and community advocates. Prior to her current position, Natalie was an Education Pioneers Graduate Fellow with Ed Trust—West. Before her work in education policy, Natalie practiced law, gaining experience in various civil rights issue areas, including LGBTQ equal rights, fair housing, and immigration. While in law school, Natalie worked as a student attorney in Howard University’s Civil Rights Clinic, representing clients in employment, housing, and education discrimination cases. A proud product of two of California’s higher education systems, Natalie earned an A.A. from San Diego Mesa College and a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego. Natalie earned her J.D. from Howard University, School of Law.

Margaret Garcia

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies California State University, Los Angeles

Margaret Garcia has served as Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Cal State LA since 2015. Prior to that, she served as the School Psychology Program Coordinator in the Charter College of Education for over 20 years. She has also served as Associate Chair for the Division of Special Education and Counseling. Margaret has been active in the California and National Associations of School Psychologists and served as the President of the School Psychology Education Committee which is comprised of statewide School Psychology university trainers. She earned a B.A. in Psychology at UCLA and a PhD. in Educational Psychology at UC Berkeley. Her primary interests in teaching and research are in the areas of Assessment, Counseling, and School-Based Consultation.

Michelle Hall

Director of Assessment and Program / Improvement, College for Educational Studies, Chapman University

Michelle completed her Ph.D. (2016) at the University of Southern California specializing in the politics of education with a specific focus on equity, policy, finance, leadership, and school-community engagement. Her research grows out of her past work in workforce investment policy and as a public school and university educator, and examines the ways in which power and politics affect and are affected by education reform policies. Her most recent research focuses on the role of local democratic engagement in statewide finance and accountability reforms in California. Michelle has been an active researcher with Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) since 2012, contributing to the development and analysis of annual voter polls and policy briefs. Under the auspices of PACE, Michelle was a member of a statewide research team documenting the impact and early implementation the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in California. Michelle has taught at Teachers College at Columbia University and is currently teaching, advising, and is the Director of Assessment and Program Improvement at Attallah College for Educational Studies at Chapman University.

Marianne Hew

Coordinator of Curriculum and Assessment, Fremont Union High School District

Marianne Hew serves as the Coordinator of Curriculum and Assessment for the Fremont Union High School District. In this role, she leads the district in implementing data-driven practices related to curriculum program and policy development, assessment, and accountability. In her prior experiences as a site Assistant Principal and as an English Literature and Japanese Language teacher, Marianne worked closely with school leaders to increase student access to courses and programs that support their college and career readiness. Marianne holds a B.A. in English from the University of Washington, an M.A. in Education and teaching credential from Stanford University, an M.A. in Educational Leadership from San Jose State University, and an Ed.D. in Organizational Change and Leadership from University of Southern California.

Hayin Kimner

Senior Program Director of State and Local Networks, The Opportunity Institute

Hayin is the Senior Program Director of State and Local Networks. Hayin leads Partners for Each and Every Child’s work in California, developing and maintaining strategic relationships in California’s complex network of advocacy, research, and education policy organizations. Hayin has been a practitioner, educational researcher, and evaluator, with a focus on community-based programs and partnerships that support healthy development of youth and their communities. Previously, Hayin has worked with San Francisco and Emery Unified School Districts, the John W. Gardner Center at Stanford University, the Children’s Aid Society, and the Coalition for Community Schools. She received her B.A. from Amherst College, and a Ph.D. from Stanford University, Graduate School of Education. She serves on the boards of Portola Family Connections, SF Peer Resources, and is a Scholar Advisory Committee member for the Jackie Robinson Foundation – Pacific Northwest.

William Nelson

Director of Secondary Education, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

William Nelson has over 22 years of experience in education as a teacher, school site, and District administrator. He is currently serving as the Director of Secondary Education in Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD). As a Director, he provides support, guidance, and direction to the Middle School and High School Learning Models of International Bachelorette, Linked Learning, and Project Based Learning. Previous experiences include being a Middle School History teacher for seven years, Assistant Principal for three years, and Comprehensive High School Principal for ten years. His focus and passion throughout his career are to ensure that all students are prepared for college and career, ensuring that they are competitive, can grow, and adapt to the 21st century workplace. William earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Pacific, Master of Arts in Educational with a Cross-Cultural focus from National University, and Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University of Irvine with his Dissertation focus on college and career readiness. He and his wife Christina (who is also an educator) have been together for 27 years, and they have three sons, Isaiah, Elijah, and Isaac.

Laura Szabo-Kubitz

Associate California Program Director The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS)

As Associate California Program Director at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Laura works to eliminate equity gaps and enable all Californians to attend and succeed in college by identifying and addressing college affordability challenges across the state. Along with research, policy analysis, and advocacy, Laura leads Californians for College Affordability, a diverse coalition of two dozen organizations united in strengthening need-based financial aid for the state’s underserved, underrepresented students. She received her BA in English from Oberlin College, and her MA in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Socorro Shiels

Superintendent, Sonoma Valley Unified School District

Socorro Shiels is honored to serve the Sonoma Valley Unified (SVUSD) community as superintendent. Before joining SVUSD, she served as the Director of Education for the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE). For over two years, she, along with the initial team members, crafted an identity of service of the newly formed state agency. Prior to that state- level opportunity, she served as the Superintendent of Santa Rosa City School (SRCS) District, also located in Sonoma County, California. She has nearly 20 years of public education experience at the administrative and classroom level. Her proudest accomplishments in SRCS includes an empowering district culture shift to restorative justice for the entire school community as well as creating a strategic plan that included all community stakeholders with a commitment to college and career readiness for each student. Additionally, she served on the Instructional Quality Commission for the California Department of Education and as a representative for the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). She continues to serve Sonoma County as a First Five Commissioner. She earned a Master of Arts degree in educational leadership from California State University, East Bay and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from Bowdoin College.

Ravneet Tiwana

Senior Research Associate, Office of Instititonal Effectiveness, San Jose State University

Ravneet Kaur Tiwana is currently a Senior Research Associate at San Jose State University’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Analytics. In this role, she leads institutional research and evaluation projects on student success and educational effectiveness by working in collaboration with various stakeholders to develop university policies and programs. Ravneet brings to this role over 10 years of experience humanizing the power of data by supporting educational institutions, governmental entities, and non-profit organizations in translating passion for social good into effective impact. Based on a utilization-focused perspective, her goal is to enhance the culture of inquiry within institutions to continuously improve programs and encourage evidence-based decision-making. Ravneet earned a Ph.D. in Social Research Methodology, from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Education and Information Studies and a B.A. from Occidental College.

Linda Vasquez

Senior Public Affairs Director, Campaign for College Opportunity

Linda serves as the Senior Public Affairs Director for the Campaign for College Opportunity, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on shaping California higher education policy, where she leads the organization’s strategic implementation efforts of critical statewide student success policies on college access, affordability, completion, and equity. She has nearly fifteen years of experience in higher education and advocacy, with a record of building partnerships and forming alliances with cross-sector organizations to expand the educational opportunities for low-income, first-generation college students like herself. She is a proud alumni of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Hispanas Organized for Political Equality Leadership Institute. Linda is a Board Member for Las Fotos Project, JOYA Scholars, and the USC Rossier of Education, Educational Counseling Master’s Program. She holds a Political Science B.A. from California State University, Fullerton, with minors in Spanish & Chicano/a Studies and an M.A. in Leadership, Policy, and Politics from Teachers College, Columbia University.