Staff and Team
Amanda Kruger Hill, Executive Director
Amanda is an award-winning educational leader with a deep commitment to the success of New Orleans youth. She co-founded the first youth-initiated high school in the United States and the Reach Institute for School Leadership in California. Additionally, she was a lead design team member of New Harmony High, the award-winning XQ Super School. Amanda is a former principal, master teacher, and college counselor. Prior to leading the Cowen Institute, she was Director of School Reviews with New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO). Amanda holds her Master’s in Educational Leadership, Principal Licensure, and Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and is pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Johns Hopkins University. She has served as an adjunct faculty member with Columbia University, Tulane University, and Relay Graduate School of Education. She also serves on the boards of Bard Early College New Orleans and the Tulane Center for Teacher Preparation and Certification as well as on various task forces for the Department of Education. Amanda is the Cowen Institute’s lead for Harvard University Strategic Data Project Fellowship. She enjoys living in New Orleans with her husband, Graham, and sons, Benjamin and Louis.
Amy Barad, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Amy launched and now directs the Cowen Institute’s Reconnecting Opportunity Youth initiative, which addresses youth disconnection in New Orleans. Over the past 10 years, she has worked in the for- and nonprofit sectors in program and project management, business development, policy analysis, and systems and operational management. Prior to joining the Cowen Institute, she held managerial positions in systems design, finance, and operations at McMaster-Carr and consulted on development projects in Johannesburg, South Africa. Amy serves on the boards of Tulane Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Cookbook Project. In her free time, she enjoys teaching group exercise classes at Barre3 New Orleans. Amy holds her Masters in Business Administration from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business and a Bachelor’s from Brown University.
Vincent Rossmeier, Director of Policy
Vincent’s work focuses on the areas of post-secondary education, workforce development, and economic development. He most recently worked as chief of staff to District “C” Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer of the New Orleans City Council. Prior to his work with the city, Vincent worked for the Bureau of Government Research and Partnership for Youth Development. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from New York University and has worked both at the New Yorker and Salon.com.
Kate Babineau, Senior Policy Analyst
Kate is a Senior Policy Analyst and a Research Fellow with Harvard University’s Strategic Data Project. Her work focuses on college persistence, early warning systems, accountability, and mixed-methods research methodologies. Prior to joining the Cowen Institute, Kate earned her MSc in Applied Social Research and her PhD in Social Policy in 2014 from Trinity College, Dublin. Her academic research focused on diversity and social integration in elementary schools. Prior to that, she earned a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from Loyola University in 2006 and taught elementary school in New Orleans. She’s interested in data visualization, graphic design, multimedia, and making research more pleasing to the eyes/ears.
Alison Barker, Manager, Earn and Learn Program
Alison Barker started her teaching career in 1999 with a start-up nonprofit in urban Boston neighborhoods whose central mission was to inspire middle school students’ unique voices in writing through a variety of hands-on activities. Ever since she saw the caliber of creative writing produced after a night spent in a yurt in the middle of a Vermont pine forest, she’s been hooked on the healing power of the creative process in learning communities. Alison has spent the past 15 years in education; she has taught history and English at the middle school level and creative and research writing at the college level. She earned her B.A. and Teaching Certification in Political Science from Wellesley College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from LSU. She is a published creative and freelance edtech writer and sees most writing projects as an opportunity to connect through story. Alison is particularly interested in how community partnerships can create transformative learning experiences, and before coming to the Cowen Institute, she founded and curated a community arts blog and co-created pilot enrichment programs with Historic New Orleans Collection, Bard Early College of New Orleans and Youth Empowerment Project. Most recently, she was a faculty member of the Communication Division at Delgado Community College, and before that, she was a post-doctoral instructor of English and creative writing at LSU. Her passion lies in supporting and bearing witness to growth and perseverance of the young people she works with.
Christina Carr, Program Officer, Office of Advancement
Christina holds a joint appointment to Tulane University’s Department of Corporate and Foundation Relations and the Cowen Institute. In this role, she is responsible for coordinating the fundraising efforts of the Cowen Institute, including managing the institute’s annual fund program and the stewardship activities for both corporate and foundation representatives and individual prospects. Before joining the Cowen Institute, Christina served as Grants Manager at the New Orleans Museum of Art; Assistant Director of Development Writing at Tulane; and Director of Development at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from Boston University and a Master of Arts in Arts Administration from the University of New Orleans. A long-time New Orleans resident, Christina is an arts advocate and volunteers as a writing coach for Posse Foundation and to help restore Louisiana’s coast.
Eric Cherrie, Senior Program Coordinator, EMPLOY
Eric is a native New Orleanian. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado – Denver and is a dual MBA and Global MBA candidate at Tulane University. He served two years with AmeriCorps, working in Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colorado. During that time, he worked with youth on dropout prevention, college access, and career readiness. In his role as EMPLOY’s Senior Program Coordinator, he assists with EMPLOY’s strategic development, communications management, ensures alignment across all of EMPLOY’s initiatives, handles logistics, helped launch the Youth Action Team, and supports a multisector soft skills community of practice.
Ryan Dalton, Program Coordinator, EMPLOY
Ryan is a New Orleans native bringing extensive national and local experience to the Reconnecting Opportunity Youth team. He is a Cafe Reconcile alumnus and former floor manager and has served as an advisory board member for The John Besh & Bride Mayor Scholarship at Chefs Move!, which prepares aspiring chefs for Management positions in the culinary profession. In that role, Ryan worked to recruit young minority chefs from New Orleans. Ryan is a founding member of The National Council of Young Leaders and Opportunity Youth United, and formerly served as a Youth Ambassador for the Youth Leadership Initiative. He helped form recommendations on the White House Council for Community Solutions’ report on opportunity youth and lead Mayor Landrieu’s NOLA for Lifeâ€”Midnight Basketball initiative. In his role as Program Coordinator for EMPLOY’s Youth Action Team, he is helping develop local young leaders and mobilizing youth voice to create change.
Jeff Ellerbach, Program Coordinator, Upward Bound
Jeff has worked in and with New Orleans charter schools to expand student opportunities and improve teacher impact since 2007. Following several years teaching social studies at New Orleans Charter Science & Math High School (SciHigh), his path shifted to special education and emphasized academic and behavior remediation through intervention programs that focused on teacher skill acquisition and student empowerment. At FirstLine Schools, Jeff developed remediation and personalized learning systems that increased student independence and academic performance by using online learning tools, and he leveraged teachers’ efforts through strategic use of data. Jeff’s passion for finding systems that help others achieve their potential stretches back to his previous career administering Department of Commerce grant programs to new minority- and female-owned businesses. He graduated from UW-LaCrosse with Bachelor’s degrees in History and Political Science and received his teaching certifications from Viterbo University. He loves data, efficiency, books and graphic novels, movies, hikes, dogs, cats, and NPR.
Shakari Fraser, Manager of On-the-Job Training, Reconnecting Opportunity Youth – Earn and Learn
Shakari, a New Orleans native, joined the Earn and Learn Program as the Manager of On-the-Job Training. She is a former high school social studies teacher and former lead of the College and Career Readiness Team at ReNEW Accelerated High School. In that role, she developed, organized and tracked individual college and career plans for nearly 100 over-age and under-credited seniors annually. Shakari attended LSU, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, and she also possesses an advanced degree in Computer Information Systems from Southern University at New Orleans. She is responsible for strengthening existing and cultivating new apprenticeship sites along with professionally developing business partners that supports them in effectively hiring, retaining, and advancing opportunity youth.
Aundrea Gregg, Program Manager, Opportunity Works, EMPLOY
Aundrea joins the Cowen Institute as Manager of the Opportunity Works, Social Innovation Fund grant. In this role, Aundrea oversees grant compliance measures for Tulane’s Earn and Learn program, the Youth Empowerment Project, and Delgado Community College’s Accelerated Career Education program. Additionally, she manages the collective impact efforts of the grant’s core partner programs. Prior to moving to New Orleans, Aundrea served as a project manager at the Clinton Global Initiative, where she led the Reconnecting Youth Working Group. She also served as a college and career readiness research fellow at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. Aundrea graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor’s in Classic Civilizations and Political Science in 2011 and from the London School of Economic with a Master’s in Social Policy and Planning in 2012.
Dave Hand, Senior Policy Analyst
Dave came to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to work with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). As a certified teacher, he spent two years working in special education at an alternative public school and three years as a founding teacher at a public school where he focused on instructional technology. He has served as a Project Manager for the Compass Information System, Louisiana’s evaluation platform for managing student learning targets, observations, and evaluations. Recently, he led a team of Data and Technology Specialists at the Louisiana Department of Education that supported district leadership across the state in interpreting and using data to drive decision-making processes. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Politics from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where he worked for two sessions at the Oregon Legislative Assembly.
Kerry Hegarty, College and Career Success Counselor, Reconnecting Opportunity Youth – Earn and Learn
Before coming to the Cowen Institute, Kerry most recently worked for Communities in Schools as a clinical mental health counselor at Renew Accelerated High School. There, she provided therapeutic interventions to over-age and under-credited students in New Orleans. Prior to graduating from the Loyola University New Orleans Master’s of Counseling Program, she served individuals in the Orleans Parish Prison Reentry Program by providing post-traumatic stress and substance abuse counseling through the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Kerry also taught high school and middle school Art and English at Frederick Douglass High School and Renew Cultural Arts Academy. She is a licensed secondary education teacher, a certified guidance counselor, and a provisionally licensed professional counselor.
Nicole Jolly, Senior Manager, EMPLOY
Nicole guides and supports a local cross-sector collaborative of over 30 organizations whose mission is to decrease the number of disconnected youth in New Orleans by engaging them in quality education and employment pathways. She has previously served as the Manager of Data-Driven Policy at the Partnership for Youth Development and as the Data and Policy Analyst for New Orleans’ juvenile detention center. She has experience supporting the strategy development and coordination of multiple Collective Impact initiatives, instituting data and performance management systems, and managing and mobilizing data for strategy, decision making, and policy development. Nicole’s background in social science research has included work on the intersection of race and gender within the reproductive justice movement, racial disproportionality in Oregon’s Jackson County Child Welfare system, and disparities in the New Orleans juvenile justice system. Nicole holds a Master’s in Sociology from the University of New Orleans and a B.A in Sociology and Certificate in Native American Studies from Southern Oregon University, where she served two terms as Director of Multicultural Affairs and board member of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition, mobilizing the voices of students of color to impact policy.
Ryan Mattingly, Senior Manager, Reconnecting Opportunity Youth – Earn and Learn
Born in New Orleans, Ryan has a deep loyalty to the city. For over a decade, his academic and professional pursuits have been guided by the goal of helping transform the region’s neighborhoods into healthy communities by improving quality access to education for all. Most recently, Ryan served as the Field Manager for Johns Hopkins University’s operations in Louisiana, where he oversaw numerous school transformation projects in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Prior to his work with Johns Hopkins, Ryan taught high school social studies at Science and Math Charter High School immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Ryan obtained his Master’s in Urban History from the University of New Orleans with a concentration on the federal role in segregating neighborhoods and schools. In his current role, Ryan is responsible for the development and growth of the Cowen Institute’s workplace learning initiative for 16-24 year olds who are disconnected from school and work. Ryan lives in New Orleans with his wife, Jessie, and two children, Lucinda and Wesley.
April Rice, Senior Manager, College & Career Readiness
April Rice has spent the past 10 years in education as a teacher, curriculum specialist, and coach. Her experience and passion lie with teaching disadvantaged students in extenuating circumstances. With a background in curriculum and instruction, April has implemented and developed programs and courses to help students transition between high school and college at the high school level. She has developed dropout prevention and credit recovery courses for her district. She has also trained new teachers for the Department of Education at the state level and presented at regional and national conferences on 21st century learning, Career Pathways, and STEM Initiatives. Although she enjoys training teachers, April’s passion is inside the classroom with her students. April received the Teacher of the Year Award in 2008 and 2009 from Rankin County, Mississippi. She received her Bachelor’s in Health Science from Brigham Young University-Idaho and her Master’s in Higher Education Administration at Mississippi College.
Latisha Robertson-Williams, Administrative Program Coordinator, Upward Bound
Latisha has been with Upward Bound since February 2006, as New Orleans began to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. She is instrumental in developing administrative procedures, maintaining student records, and supporting staff and faculty in programming initiatives. Additionally, she handles finances, budgets, reports, communications, field trips/college tours, and recruitment for Upward Bound. Latisha and her husband are proud parents of 5 children. In her spare time, she enjoys coordinating weddings and events. She looks forward to finishing her business degree in the near future.
Liz Santos, Operations Manager
Liz manages budget and accounting processes, oversees daily operations of the office, and assists with financial activities and personnel-related matters. Her inspiration to ensure all students receive a high-quality education derives from her personal experience in secondary schools. In addition to her experience leading operations support as the Operations Coordinator at New Schools for New Orleans, she has worked directly with students. Liz taught and mentored underserved students in the Science, Math and Technology (SMT) College Bound/GEAR-UP Program at the Passaic Country Community College in her hometown of Paterson, NJ. She also dedicated a year of service as a City Year Corps Member at Phyllis Wheatley Community School via Americorps, where she provided students in kindergarten through fourth grade with academic, behavioral and attendance support. She is excited to pursue a business degree in the near future.
Shawn Vinnett, Manager of Employer Partnerships, EMPLOY
Shawn is a native to New Orleans. He attended Southern University at New Orleans, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Subsequently, he attended Xavier University of Louisiana, where he received a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He has extensive experience with at-risk youth, having worked as a probation officer in the juvenile justice system and as the Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Retention at Southern University at New Orleans. Most recently, he served as an industry liaison with the Network for Economic Opportunity, specifically as the Sector Lead for Hospitality and Healthcare pathways. As the EMPLOY Manager of Employer Partnerships, he is tasked with facilitating collaboration with new and existing employers to create skill standards, implement career paths, influence wages and benefits, and ultimately impact the opportunity youth in our communities by connecting them with quality employment and education opportunities.