WHY IT MATTERS
The importance of Comebackers in the greater picture of degree attainment.
Meet the Board of Directors, our staff and the people behind our special projects.
Every adult who aspires to earn a college degree has access to the resources and supports they need to start and complete a college degree
- Every adult is connected to an individual who knows how to go to and through college.
- Understanding the value of a degree and knowing how to succeed in college are ubiquitous within all communities, and across socioeconomic groups.
- Adults have affordable college options at accredited institutions.
- The practice of investing in adults completing college is mainstream in talent, workforce, and economic development strategies.
To increase the number of adults completing college, by engaging business, higher education, government, organized labor, workforce and economic development, community building organizations, social service providers, and college graduates to align existing resources, remove barriers, and create new pathways for adults to complete a college degree.
There are thirty-six million adults in America who could find better jobs, career satisfaction and financial opportunity by completing their postsecondary education. The Graduate! Network has proven that these adults, including those with multiple barriers, can finish what they started and find the path to more fulfilling lives, careers and economic well-being. The Network provides a comprehensive national solution that is delivered locally, combining a proven methodology that enhances and accelerates a community’s assets, technical assistance and peer support. Focused on the needs and outcomes of Comebackers, our approach is to build awareness among leaders, engage a broad partnership, align policies and practices, and deliver services at scale. New and established communities grow through sharing of experiences and expertise, and the Network continues to provide additional training, benchmarks, new resources, a national knowledge and evidence base, messaging, professional development, and funding opportunities.
THE FOUR PILLARS
We think of the work of The Graduate! Network as a structure that supports and aligns actions at many levels: nationally, locally, and individuals within these partnerships and organizations. A commonality for all levels of this structure are the four Pillars that support and organize our work.
Support adults with research-based educational programs, services and academic practices that increase college completion.
Strengthen partnerships to influence policies and practices within and between sectors, particularly higher education, employers and communities, in and across regions as well as states.
Communicate why it matters for adult students to complete their degrees for civic, economic, and personal benefits, and how talent strategies can achieve goals through adult college completion.
As a national consortium of support for adult college success, align and invest in research and design of sustainable and scalable business and funding models that can be duplicated across communities.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Chair & Co-Founder
Vice President US Workforce Portfolio Bluedrop Performance Learning, and Principal SJM Consulting
President, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO
Chief Operating Officer, JEVS Human Services.
President, The Graduate! Network, Inc
CEO, Burning Glass Technologies, Inc.
Hadass.Sheffer@Graduate-Network.org / 215.869.7569
Hadass Sheffer is President of The Graduate! Network, Inc. and founding executive director of Graduate! Philadelphia, the program that launched the Network. Under her leadership, Graduate! is building regional capacity in Philadelphia and across the country for getting more adults to finish college. Much of Hadass’ career has centered on education and creating opportunities for positive change in higher education on behalf of underserved populations. Prior to Graduate! Philadelphia, she served as Director of Higher Education Fellowships and Program Development at the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Her portfolio included several higher ed fellowships, campus-community grants for the 2000 White House initiative Imagining America, and Humanities@Work, a program that introduced doctoral students to non-academic careers. Earlier, she taught adult students at Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania’s College of General Studies, and “traditional” students at Swarthmore College. In between, she worked for an electronic publishing company. Hadass earned an MBA from Temple University and completed doctoral coursework in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her B.A. in Linguistics is from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
Vice President, Network Engagement
Kathy.Zandona@Graduate-Network.org / 502-797-4849
Kathy Zandona is the Vice President of Network Engagement with The Graduate! Network. She focuses engaging the business community and providing technical assistance to new member communities.
Kathy is also a consultant for Z Consulting, a company she started in January 2014. She provides education and workforce development consulting to help business and community leaders see the potential for improving the educational attainment of their citizens. Prior to starting her own company Kathy was the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development for Greater Louisville Inc. the metro chamber of commerce where she was responsible for connecting the business community with our educational systems – Pre-K to PhD. She served as Greater Louisville, Inc. (GLI) key liaison in the community-wide collaborative of increasing educational attainment leading to the signing of the Greater Louisville Education commitment and the formation of 55,000 Degrees. It is through strong education we can create the workforce of the future and make sure that Greater Louisville remains a competitive business region.
Kathy’s strong education focused background has provided her with many outlets to make sure that Greater Louisville education goals will be reached. Prior to joining Greater Louisville Inc., Kathy was the Director for Interactive Learning for the Health Enterprises Network, a GLI Affiliate. Her other previous experience includes over four years at the National Center for Family Literacy as the Senior Director of Training and Professional Development Services, five years at PNC University Leadership College and more than four years as a Quality Advisor for Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation. A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Kathy has extensive background in meeting facilitation, leadership training and development and Organizational Development
Bridgett R. Strickler
Director of Network Engagement
Bridgett Strickler is Director of Network Engagement. Bridgett is passionate about educational attainment issues related to adult learners and has encouraged advancement in the greater Louisville region through her work with two Graduate! Network sites– Degrees At Work and Education Matters Southern Indiana. Bridgett is also the co-principal investigator and business engagement lead of Bridging The Talent Gap, a new project funded by Lumina Foundation and sponsored by The Graduate! Network. She has a unique 20-year background combining education and entrepreneurship. Bridgett recently earned her Master’s in Business Administration as part of University of Louisville’s and University of Kentucky’s Joint Executive MBA program. She also holds a Masters in Teaching from University of Louisville. Strickler earned her Bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Relations from Bucknell University in 1988 where she was a Division I student athlete. Recently she was awarded an honorary Associates Degree from Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, IN.
Originally from Maryland, Bridgett has called the Louisville area home for the past 25 years. She is married to Stuart Strickler, of Louisville, and they have two daughters, Caitlin and Bethany.
Data & Research Manager
Zach@Graduate-Network.org / 267.761.0017
Zach Zimmerman is the Data and Research Manager at The Graduate! Network. Zach tracks the progress of current and developing Graduate! Network communities and provides them with technical assistance and training around the use of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools for data collection. He is also the community liaison for The Graduate! Network’s data projects, Bridging the Talent Gap and Data That Moves Us.
Prior to joining The Graduate! Network Zach spent time working in the private sector, specializing in project management and coordination. Zach has always been involved in education and continues to pursue this passion by supporting students through tutoring in Mathematics. He has always found supporting students in this capacity to be extremely gratifying. Zach completed his undergraduate work at Ithaca College earning a degree in Mathematics. He is a lifelong music lover and musician.
Dan Ash, Ph.D.
Research Director, Bridging the Talent Gap
Dr. Dan Ash, who developed the survey and project to this point, will serve as Research Director. An expert in workplace psychology and training program development, Dr. Ash served as the founding executive director of Metropolitan College at its inception in 1998, which has since established itself as a national and international model for education business partnerships and has received praiseworthy coverage by a multitude of media outlets including CNN, the Chronicle for Higher Education, the New York Times, U.S. News and World Report, and the Wall Street Journal. Metropolitan College provided more than $7 million in educational benefits to more than 8,000 participants who successfully completed more than 89,000 college credit hours. Dr. Ash was instrumental in establishing similar programs at Norton Healthcare, Humana, ResCare, and the UPS Chicago Area Consolidation Hub.
Since 2009, Dr. Ash has served on the leadership team responsible for creating a regional education initiative—55 Thousand Degrees—with the goal of moving Louisville into the top tier among its peer cities by raising education attainment so that by 2020, 40% of working-age adults hold a bachelor’s degree and 10% an associate’ s degree.
Data Scientist, Bridging the Talent Gap
Michael Kennedy is the data scientist for Bridging the Talent Gap, In that role, he creates data dashboards for local partners, as well as customized individual reports for participating organizations. He also designed and maintains the data warehouse holding the data. As his day job, Kennedy works for Humana as the Sr. Business Intelligence Data Analyst for the Consumer Marketing and Data Analytics department, where he does similar work.
Prior to that he worked for 55,000 Degrees, Louisville, Kentucky’s educational collaborative, where he first became acquainted with The Graduate! Network. Kennedy holds a B.S. in Political Science and an MBA from the University of Louisville.
Project Director, Data That Moves Us
Annette B. Mattei is a research consultant with more than 20 years of experience supporting non-profit organizations and government programs in developing and executing research projects and other mission-related activities. She is Principle of Metro Metrics LLC, an independent research consulting practice and certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) based in Philadelphia, PA. Ms. Mattei has completed a range of research projects, from large-scale regional economic impact studies, to sector analyses, to organizational-level strategic plans and program evaluations. Before becoming an independent consultant, Ms. Mattei served as Director of Research for the Eastern Division of the Pennsylvania Economy League (now known as the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia), the Commonwealth’s leading regionally based statewide public policy organization. Currently, she also is serving as Project Manager for the Data That Moves Us initiative, a project of The Graduate! Network. In this role, she is facilitating the work of a national advisory board, which is charged with evaluating the network’s shared measurement system and developing recommendations to leverage it in support of significant growth projected over the next five years.
Misty recently relocated to the Philadelphia area and is delighted to join and support The Graduate! Network team. A native of Northern California, Misty enjoys travel and diversity in cultures around the world. She has always valued the importance of education for those of all backgrounds, motivated by the thought that we share a responsibility to each other in the community. Misty spent the last 9 years volunteering in the Cambodian community and assisting with advancing education among second language learners. She’s been deeply shaped from life changing experiences while living and volunteering in Cambodia, along with assisting the deaf Cambodian community within the rural areas of the country. She finds the deepest satisfaction knowing she can help teach or motivate others to learn, even when they come from a background of little to no education. Misty’s motivation for helping others is driven by the knowledge of how education and exposure to other possibilities can change the course of a person’s lifetime, that outcome is well worth any effort involved.