Commission Senior Fellows
Brandon Mack is the Senior Assistant Director of Admission & Coordinator of Transfer Admission at Rice University. He has been with the Office of Admission since 2009. Mack works specifically on minority recruitment initiatives, community based organization partnerships, and community outreach efforts to educate students on highly selective college admissions. He also oversees and manages the transfer admission process and is the liaison to the Rice School of Architecture. Mack is also community activist and sociologist dedicated to issues related to the intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation. He has conducted research on effemiphobia, the negativity related to effeminate gay men. His work has been featured in a GLAAD Media Award winning article and he has presented his work at national conferences such as the National LGBTQ Task Force: Creating Change and NBJC's Out on the Hill. Mack graduated from Rice University in 2006 with a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology & Political Science. In 2013, Mack earned a Masters of Education in Higher Education Administration & Supervision from the University of Houston. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of Houston in the Higher Education Leadership & Policy Studies program. His research focuses on LGBTQ student support services and college access for marginalized and underrepresented student populations.
Doctoral Student, University of Houston
As a proud Filipino-American, son of a union-nurse, and product of New Jersey public schools, Gabriel has strong roots as an educator-activist. He started teaching economics in the wake of a collapsed global economy at Bergenfield High School, located in one of the most culturally diverse working-class communities in the state. Beyond the classroom, Gabriel has advised the National Social Studies Honor Society, Model United Nations, and served as a STEM Mentor to help cultivate the next generation of student leaders. Active in his union, Gabriel has built capacity at the local, state, and national levels by cultivating networks, organizing members, and facilitating leadership training. He has worked to build coalitions around the intersecting issues of racial, social, and economic justice within his local community. Gabriel has strongly held beliefs that leadership rooted in democratic values, purposeful collaboration, and robust diversity is vital to our rising progressive movement.
Gabriel currently teaches AP U.S. History, and U.S. History I Honors and at Bergen County Vocational Technical Schools in Teterboro, NJ. He advises two student-powered clubs that raise funds for pediatric cancer research, and organize humanitarian service-learning events, respectively. Gabriel serves as chair of the PRIDE Committee for community engagement through his local association, consultant for the NJEA Professional Development division, and member of the New Leaders Council National Diversity Committee. Gabriel earned an MA in Economics Education and Entrepreneurship from the University of Delaware, an MS in Teaching, and BA in Political Science from Pace University.
Educator, New Jersey Education Association
(New Jersey '17)
Alex Serna is a Program Director for Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano, an education nonprofit with the mission to support highly motivated, but underserved students become the first in their families to graduate college where he has overseen a comprehensive college preparation program since 2014. Prior, he managed a mathematics and literacy program for youth returning to receive their high school diploma with the Youth Policy Institute in Los Angeles, in addition to coordinating two workforce and service-learning grants through UnidosUS, formerly the National Council of La Raza. He earned his B.A in American Studies with a focus on the Political Economy of Education from UC Berkeley in 2011, later enrolling at UCLA Center X Teacher Education Program where he received his master’s degree in urban education and secondary social studies teaching credential. He’s a 2017 New Leaders Council, Los Angeles fellow, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Emerging Leader and serves on the advisory board for the UCI School of Social Ecology field study program. He’s thoughts on college access, educational policy and equity have been published in the Washington Post, The Hill, The Hechinger Report, Diverse Issues in Higher Education and the New Leader Journal of Generational Policy and Politics. He has four daughters and resides in San Diego, CA.
Program Director, Breakthrough San Juan Capistrano
(Los Angeles '17)
For the past eight years Blake Kastle has committed herself professionally to the field of education: she worked as a special education teacher at a traditional public school in New York City, a researcher and data analyst at Brown University, a graduate program administrator at Brown University, and, currently, as a special education teacher at Helensview School, a public alternative high school in Portland, OR. With her teaching, Blake strives to develop culturally relevant curriculum, understanding the needs of her unique student populations, while also ensuring meaningful connections between concepts and disciplines. She is currently leading her school in developing and implementing a new interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum to engage students who are traditionally underserved or pushed out of schools. This work has led to increased academic success for her students. All of Blake’s teaching has been in Title 1 schools, primarily serving students of color. She is constantly striving for equitable outcomes for students. Her past work as a researcher and data analyst also centered on equity, aiding school districts in assessing their college preparedness outcomes for Hispanic/Latino students and creating initiatives to utilize school data to improve degree attainment levels. Outside of her work in education, Blake serves as a Co-Chapter Director and Curriculum Chair of NLC Portland, building and training a strong network of diverse professionals in Portland, Oregon. She holds an M.A. in Urban Education Policy from Brown University, an M.S. in Special Education from Pace University, and a B.A. from Grinnell College.
Special Education Teacher,
Commission Senior Advisors
Tariq Habash is a Senior Policy Associate at The Century Foundation, working on education policy in the think tank's Washington, D.C. office. His research is focused on accountability, affordability, and consumer protection within higher education. Tariq graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Miami, and his Master’s in Higher Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining TCF, Tariq worked with the Lumina Foundation, where he focused on federal higher education policies and financial aid models to support changing demographics within the American higher education system.
Senior Policy Associate, The Century Foundation
Stephanie Olmore serves as NAEYC’s Senior Director of Global Engagement. She spearheads all Global efforts. NAEYC works with international governments and other large-scale systems to create guidelines to support early learning, as well as to support early childhood professionals throughout the world. She facilitates customized support to early childhood communities by adapting NAEYC’s resources and expertise into culturally appropriate packages that support optimal early learning based on developmentally appropriate practice. Prior to her current role at NAEYC, she served as Deputy Director of NAEYC’s Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation. Stephanie’s passion and work in early childhood education began as a student assistant in a campus child care program. Over the course of her 20 year career as an early childhood development advocate, she held a variety of roles including a staff member in the Governor of Colorado’s, First Impression policy office on families and children. She’s presented on topics such as the development of democratic skills, quality assurance, and accreditation. Stephanie holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Master’s Degree in early childhood education from the University of Colorado at Denver. Her dedication to support high quality early learning has taken her to more than 30 countries.
Senior Director, Global Engagement, National Association for the Education of Young Children
Robin Vitucci is a Senior Associate at the American Federation of Teachers in Washington, D.C. where she has worked for the past seven years. At the AFT, Robin focuses on teacher quality research and has helped support local unions on issues around teacher leadership, teacher development and evaluation, and international education comparisons. She most recently has started developing resources for new teachers. Prior to joining the AFT, Robin worked for former Secretary of Education Rod Paige as his research assistant, working on topics including the achievement gap and student motivation. She also served in the City Year AmeriCorps program, working in elementary schools and communities across Boston. Robin completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin and graduated from Boston College with a JD and Masters in Education.
Senior Associate, American Federation of Teachers
Commission on Education
Terry Kim is the Senior Policy Analyst at Children’s Aid, a leading non-profit organization providing comprehensive supports to children, youth, and their families in New York City so they can succeed and thrive. In this role she manages the agency’s education and federal policy agenda. Terry also organizes Children’s Aid’s legislative and advocacy strategy for community schools at the city, state, and national levels. Prior to Children’s Aid, Terry worked as the Director of Communication & Strategic Planning on a cluster team for the New York City Department of Education's Division of School Support. In this role she managed 12 Children First Networks providing operational support to over 300 district schools citywide. A California native, Terry's passion to advance educational equity began in Los Angeles. She was a City Year AmeriCorps member providing individualized support to middle school students in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Central Los Angeles. During her undergraduate years at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), she directed a mentoring program working with youth and families in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Terry continues to support young people and communities volunteering her time with the Korean American Community Foundation and as a mentor through iMentor NYC. In 2017, Terry was selected as a New York City New Leaders Council Fellow and currently serves on the New York City Executive Board. Terry has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from UCLA and a Master of Arts in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University.