Equity Leadership Academy for States

Building Capacity to Implement and Support the Postsecondary Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment and Local Application under Perkins V

Congratulations to our Cohort 2 Academy Participants!

What is the Equity Leadership Academy for States?

The Equity Leadership Academy for States seeks to engage teams of administrators from state departments of higher education in (1) adopting an equity lens, (2) building institutional capacity, (3) creating community, and (4) sharing lessons learned with national partners planning and implementing the Comprehensive Local Needs Assessments (CLNA) in accordance with Perkins V. Over the course of the next year, we will provide meaningful, focused, and effective technical assistance (TA) through the following engagement opportunities for selected cohort members:

  • 4 Virtual Equity Training Workshops
  • Support with an Action Research Project
  • 4 Monthly Virtual Technical Assistance Meetings
  • 3 Virtual Capacity Building Training Workshops
  • 1-day In-person Showcase

All of the curriculum and facilitation for this project will be directly guided by cohort members through a design thinking phase prior to group engagement to ensure we provide appropriate support. We will also offer one-on-one TA upon request to address needs specific to local contexts.

Why should I participate?

Adopt an Equity Lens

You will learn how to place equity at the center of your work and build the skills necessary to have equity-minded conversations with colleagues both in the planning and implementing your local CLNA processes.

Build Capacity

We will provide guidance and technical assistance to fully prepare you to provide support to LEAs conducting the new analysis of special populations, particularly around how to look at data to identify root causes in performance gaps.

Create Community

This program will provide you with a platform you need to build relationships with other states spearheading CLNA efforts in their communities and institutions.

Share Lessons Learned

Your participation will help us create sustained pathways of support by sharing lessons learned with members across the nation implementing the CLNA in their local context.

Who should apply?

We are looking to work with postsecondary state agencies and local education agencies (LEAs) conducting and implementing a CLNA in accordance with Perkins V. Our goal is to work with up to 10 states; each state will be required to develop a team of 3-5 leaders who are committed to integrating an equity lens into their CLNA process to ensure knowledge is shared and resources and approaches are effectively institutionalized. These teams can include postsecondary agency personnel, specialists, consultants, community leaders, and students who represent one or more of the “special populations” outlined in Perkins V. Learn more in our FAQ Sheet. 

How do I apply?

Applications are currently closed. We will open the application process for cohort 3 in the summer of 2023. If you’d like to join the waitlist, please email Ashley at aconrad@napequity.org.

Cohort 2 Academy Participants

Congratulations to the 7 states who have been chosen to be a part of cohort 2! We are excited to be working with Arizona, California, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Tennessee. Learn more about our talented teams below.

Meet the 2022 Equity Leadership Academy Participants

Reetika Dhawan Reetika Dhawan, vice president of Workforce Development and Career & Technical Education, Arizona Western College. Dhawan’s experience includes working effectively with a diverse student body and staff, planning, prioritizing, problem-solving, overseeing multiple projects, meeting deadlines, managing budgets and helping prepare students for success. She served as division chair for Arizona Western College’s Math and Engineering Department before advancing to dean. In her experience as dean for Career and Technology, she learned about the workings of the larger community, giving her greater insight in her ability to lead and direct students. Dhawan has taught at the college and university level for 19 years. In addition to higher-level math courses, she has taught courses in statistics, astronomy and physics. Dhawan’s education includes a bachelor of science in math, physics and chemistry; bachelor of education in teaching sciences; and master’s degrees in physics and applied math. Her awards include AWC Vice President Innovation Award, AWC Excellency Medal. Teacher of the Year, Endowed Faculty Member and a NISOD Teaching award. She also had the opportunity to create a successful learning center for math, physics and engineering in her home city in India.
Kimberly Faust  Kimberly Faust has more than 22 years’ experience in administration, operations, fiscal management, workforce development, grant management and project management, most currently as the Fiscal Manager for External Relations: Community, Government Relations & Economic Development within Maricopa Community College District. Her background includes management, oversight, coordination and strategic planning for programs and projects. Kimberly has been instrumental in redesigning programs, processes and building relationships within her positions at Maricopa Community Colleges, City of Phoenix and Maricopa County. She has been responsible for ensuring compliance for Federal, State and local grant funds. She has developed policies and procedures while working hand-in-hand with peers on delivering highly successful and quality programs. Kimberly has a Master’s in Public Administration and a BS in Pre-Law from Ball State University in Muncie, IN. In her spare time, she enjoys swimming, SCUBA diving (preferably in exotic places!), traveling with friends, hiking in the desert, photography and reading. Arizona is the longest place she has lived and now considers it her home.
Jennifer Kaufman Fourness  Jennifer has more than 20 years of experience serving the Greater Phoenix region in community development, workforce development, and postsecondary education. As a member of the Maricopa Community Colleges Workforce and Economic Development office, Jennifer's work advances the development of career and educational pathways that support business & industry, P-12 systems, workforce agency & community partners, workers seeking advancement, re-careering workers and lifelong learners. Jennifer has served on the boards of a number of state and national organizations including the National Association of Career and Technical Education Information, Arizona Career and Technical Education Association, and the Arizona Occupational Administrators Council (past President). She holds an M. Ed in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Arizona State University’s Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
Jason Gee  Gee joined Mohave Community College in 2012 as Academic Chair for the Bullhead Campus and has transitioned through Associate Dean positions and took the helm of Career and Technical Education in 2015 and was named Interim Dean in July 2022. Prior to his time at MCC, he performed doctoral studies in Higher Education Administration--Community Colleges at Idaho State University. He has also served as Associate Professor in English at Williston State College in Williston, ND and Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado. Gee currently serves as Vice-President of the Arizona Occupational Administration Council.
Anthony Amboy 
Anthony Amboy is the Program Lead for Student Equity and Achievement Program and Guided Pathways at the Chancellor’s Office. He is a San Francisco Bay Area native and former community college faculty. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from University of California Riverside and Master’s degree in Writing from the University of San Francisco. Anthony’s experience as a community college student and his efforts teaching equity-centered curriculum in the classroom inform his work at the Chancellor’s Office. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate in Education to better serve California’s community college students and improve his efforts developing systemwide policy recommendations and guidance.
Gina Browne
Assistant Vice Chancellor (interim), Gina Browne, joined the Chancellor’s Office team in December of 2018 and works to support a variety of areas in the Educational Services and Support division with a focus on financial aid, basic needs and equity programs. Prior to joining the Chancellor’s Office, she was with the California Student Aid Commission managing the Cash for College and Chafee Grant programs. Prior to that she was the Financial Aid Coordinator at Evergreen Valley College for 10 years.
Ebony Jeffries 
Ebony Jeffries serves as the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. She has dedicated her career to educating and enriching the lives of low-income Californians to create more equitable opportunities for minoritized individuals. Prior to joining the Chancellor’s Office, Ebony served as the Senior Project Management Specialist at the Foundation for California Community Colleges Success Center where she focused on advancing the implementation of the systemwide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Integration Plan. She also brings over a decade of experience from the financial industry where she helped to educate clients on understanding financial products and improving their financial well-being. As a first-generation college student and former community college student, diversifying the California Community Colleges and centering the student experience in policies and practices to help students reach their educational goals has been Ebony’s commitment to higher education. Ebony obtained her bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communications from Sacramento State University and a Master of Public Administration and Public Policy certificate from the University of Southern California.
Lupe Maldonado
Lupe Maldonado is a Program Manager for Perkins at the Chancellor’s Office in the Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD). Prior to coming to the Chancellor’s Office, Lupe worked at the Colusa Indian Community Council as an Education Department Manager. Lupe was an advocate for the tribe’s higher education students in building successful educational pathways to local colleges and universities. Lupe graduated from California State University Sacramento with a bachelors in Liberal Studies, as well as from Kaplan University with a Master of Business Administration with a concentration of Human Resources.

LaCandice Ochoa 
LaCandice Ochoa serves as the Dean/Administrator for the Chancellor’s Office Perkins program in the Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD). Prior to becoming Dean, she served as the Operations Manager for WEDD. LaCandice has over 10 years’ civil service experience in program and grants management, fiscal stewardship, program evaluation, strategic planning and policy work aimed at increasing access for California’s underserved and underrepresented communities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego and a Master of Science degree in Assistive Technology and Human Services from California State University, Northridge. As a Louisiana native raised in a predominately African American community, her Southern upbringing as the oldest daughter of a single parent shaped her personal and professional dedication to civil rights and equity work.

Katie Leishman  Katie has worked at Idaho State University since 2017, but married into the College of Technology family nearly two decades ago when her husband graduated from the Robotics Program. She loves working with students and being a small part of their journey. Katie has a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Education from Portland State University and a Master of Science in Human Resource Development with an emphasis in Career and Technical Education from Idaho State University. She is a mom to five kiddos ranging in age from 11 to 17. One of her favorite family activities is traveling and exploring America's National Parks, Monuments, and Historic Sites. Some of the pastimes she enjoys are trail running, going to her kid’s games, performances, and meets, and listening to audiobooks.
Shannon Phelps Shannon grew up in rural Idaho as the only sister to 3 brothers. She went to work and enjoyed many years of being an industrial insulator, fabricator and painter for the family business. Her experience in a non-traditional field has given her an understanding and passion to be involved in the success of special populations students. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her husband, best friend, cats, books and watching baseball!
Jennifer Pope Jennifer was born and raised in Eastern Idaho and moved to attend Boise State University. She is a product of the education field since her parents met at Boise State University. Her first degree was a Bachelor of Business Administration and she worked at several private companies. Realizing that she missed working in the education field she went back to school to earn a Master of Public Administration and has been working in the public sector ever since. She thoroughly enjoys the collaborative nature of the public sector and has a passion for public administration. Jennifer is a collector of random activities and several cats. She enjoys outdoor activities with family.

Shavina Baker 
Shavina Baker has been in education for over 13 years.  She has been a Middle School and Elementary School Principal, Director of Operations, Elementary and Middle School Teacher.  Prior to that she worked in the financial services industry and as a small business owner.

Sergio Hernandez Jr.
Sergio Hernandez Jr is the Equity Lead with the Project Management Department at the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE). Sergio coordinates internal and external equity projects at ISBE and is the first Latine Board President of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 School Board.
Deja Luckett
Deja Luckett is an Associate Director for Career and Technical Education for the Illinois Community College Board. Currently, Deja assists the Illinois community colleges by helping Perkins coordinators navigate the requirements of the Perkins V grant. Ultimately, Deja participates in the production, development, review, and evaluation of Perkins postsecondary guidelines, procedures manual, and college programs. Deja received her Bachelors in Political Science from Blackburn college and got her Master’s from the University of Illinois in Springfield majoring in Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy. In her free time, Deja likes to study Christian apologetics and runs a Christian Facebook group.
Yash Sharma
Yash Sharma is currently a senior attending Warren Township High School in d121. Yash is proud to serve as the Illinois State President of Future Business Leaders of America and the Illinois State President of the new IL CTSO Student Board. Yash’s passion lies in serving the community by partnering with local leaders as an intern for his mayor and district congressman and growing his business expertise as an intern at Abbott Laboratories and as a Morgan Stanley Financial Scholar.
Janelle Washington
Janelle Washington currently serves as Director for Career and Technical Education at the Illinois Community College Board where she is responsible for overseeing the administration of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). Washington previously worked in the criminal legal system prior to pursuing a career in higher education. Her academic achievements include a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies, a Master of Public Administration, and a master’s in college student personnel administration.

Dr. Brittney Baptiste Williams 
A native of Baton Rouge, LA, Dr. Brittney Baptiste Williams is committed to strengthening the educational opportunities of students in both vision and scope. She earned her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University and her graduate degrees from Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Dr. Williams worked extensively with the Carl D. Perkins Grant at Baton Rouge Community College for 10 years before joining the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS). As the State Director for Career and Technical Education (CTE), her focus areas include compliance, equity, CTE program alignment, training and partnerships. Dr. Williams has been an active supporter of multiple initiatives to champion career and technical education including most recently Advance CTE’s Career Cluster Kitchen Cabinet (2020- cabinet member), Associate of Career and Technical Education (ACTE)’s Postsecondary Leadership Program (2020- fellow), Advance CTE Board of Directors (2022-Region B board member), and Advance CTE’s Postsecondary State CTE Leaders Fellowship (2022-coach).

Domingo Carrasquel
Domingo Carrasquel lives in Zachary, Louisiana with his wonderful family (his wife, two sons: 12 and 7 years old, his mother, and their dog). Domingo was born and raised in Venezuela. He earned his B.S. in Business Management at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Domingo is currently working toward a master's in adult learning and development at Northwestern State University. Domingo has worked in higher education for 16 years in various roles on the business side of things. Approximately 10 of those years were at the community college level. He currently works as a Records Manager for the Louisiana Community and Technical College System in Baton Rouge. Domingo is looking forward to learning and implementing best practices for equity.

 Kelsey Satterfield
Kelsey Satterfield is a student at River Parishes Community College and is currently pursuing her certification in welding. She’s very enthusiastic about her education and eager to learn more. Aside from that she is an avid reader and enjoys spending time with her dog Bucket.

Dr. Esperanza Zenon
Dr. Esperanza Zenon is a Professor of Physical Science at River Parishes Community College (RPCC). She serves as the Primary Investigator on an NSF ATE Grant Project aimed at improving RPCC’s instrumentation program. She is also a member of the RPCC Online Course Review Committee, which establishes standards and practices for all online classes at RPCC. Dr. Zenon is very passionate about STEM equity and has served on the Executive, Membership, and Strategic Planning Committees for the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE), a consortium of state and local agencies, corporations, and national organizations that work to build educators’ capacity to implement effective solutions for increasing student access, educational equity, and workforce diversity. She is also involved with several organizations that work to make education more affordable for students through the utilization of Open Education Resources (OER), to include the Regional Leaders for Open Education (RLOE) and MERLOT. Dr. Zenon has a Master of Arts degree in Physics from Wayne State University, and a Ph.D. in Science/Mathematics Education from Southern University.

Carrie Hanson 
Carrie Hanson is the grant writer for both the secondary and postsecondary sides of Alexandria Technical and Community College’s Perkins V consortium. Carrie oversees the budget and coordinates a number of the initiatives within their grant work. She partners with Career and Technical Educators at both the secondary and post-secondary levels, as well as counselors, principals and superintendents. Carrie also assists with some of the duties for the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) students, and works with the Online College in the High School (OCHS) program.

Robert Arthur-Fleming Lowe (Robb)    
Robb Lowe has spent over 35 years working in Career and Technical Education, with five years serving in community based organizations, 15 years in secondary education at St. Paul High School, and over 17 years serving Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. His leadership roles include director, counselor, professor, and researcher. Robb holds an Master of Science in Clinical Psychology with a focus on vocational rehabilitation as well as a Education Specialist degree in Counselor Education with a focus in career development. Robb is a proud ACTE Hall of Fame member.

Jeannie Meidlinger
Jeannie is the current CTE Specialist – Perkins Grant Coordinator at Rochester Community and Technical College. She has been a student supporter for over 17 years in the field with her first 11 years in Admissions and Advising and the following 6 years in Perkins Grant management.  In her current position she manages the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Grant. Her passion is making connections, whether that is with secondary, post-secondary, or workforce contacts or helping a student connect with the career field they are interested in.

Eva Scates-Winston 
Eva serves as the CTE Equity Specialist in the Workforce Development Unit at Minnesota State. Her leadership role includes partnerships with the Minnesota Department of Education, other state agencies as well as Academic and Student Affairs to provide professional development, technical assistance or resources that support local CTE consortia in serving special populations. The most satisfying work includes the establishment of the equity capacity grant program and building relationships with internal and external partners through various joint initiatives that serve diverse populations. Her most recent service includes an active role in the Minnesota State Academic Equity Committee and the IAED advisory committee, contributions to Techniques, along with providing consultation to local equity initiatives in Minnesota. Currently she is a policy fellow in the Minnesota Association of CTE Administrators.

Carrie Schneider 
For the last four and a half years, Carrie Schneider has been a Research Associate in the Academic and Student Affairs division in the Minnesota State system office.  Prior to joining the Research unit at the system office, Carrie was the Associate VP of Strategic Initiatives at Inver Hills Community College and Dakota County Technical College for three years, and the Director of Institutional Research and Planning at Dakota County Technical College for six years. Before joining the Minnesota State system, Carrie worked in the market research industry for four years directing research projects.  Carrie has a Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Management from St. Catherine University where she also earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology.

Dr. Tera S Howerton
Tera Howerton has been a member of the Walters State faculty for 13 years. During her time at Walters State, she has served a variety of roles including Faculty Senate Vice President and Department Head of Agriculture.  She is a proud graduate of Walters State Community College. Her graduate work was focused on the transfer of community college students to senior institutions. In her spare time, she enjoys playing piano and spending time with her two sons. 
Francois Odenthal-Cruz
Francois was born in Southern California and moved to East Tennessee when he was 10. He is a first-generation American Citizen and a first-generation high school graduate/college student.  Francois plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville after completion at Walters State with the ultimate goal of completing Vet School.  His hobbies include cooking ethnic foods, reading fantasy adventure and mythology, and archery.  He enjoys all types of music and watches anime.
Vijay Ramcharan
Vijay Ramcharan became an educator after spending twenty-five years as a Dental Lab Technician, including ten years as a Dental Lab owner. He brings his expertise to TCAT (Tennessee College of Applied Technology), Nashville, where he has spent the last nine years as the Dental Lab Technology instructor. Vijay believes that it is important to educate the whole person, and not just impart the skill required to do the job. Consequently, in addition to the required curriculum, he uses the opportunity to teach his students valuable life skills that would allow them to successfully interact with the world, both inside and outside the dental lab. Vijay holds an Associate Degree in Dental Lab Technology from Southern College in Orlando, Florida. As well as a Bachelor's Degree in Biology from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. He is currently pursuing his Master's in Education at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
Michael Tinsley 
Equity in education has been a large part of Michael’s life as far back as high school where he assisted differently abled and lower performing students grasp and apply educational concepts to their everyday lives.

As a secondary educator for nearly two decades, Michael was an instructor, assistant principal, principal, and district leader responsible for closing achievement gaps while ensuring students had opportunities to realize their dreams through a successful educational path.

As a Perkins Coordinator, Director of College Initiatives, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Success at the Tennessee Board of Regents Michael’s role has comprised working with over fifty institutions of higher learning that benefited more than 200,000 students annually. The overarching goal has been to increase retention & post-secondary credential attainment among all, but in particular, students of varying race, color, national origin, gender, ability status, income level, non-traditional occupation, single parent, out of workforce, homeless, military families, those from foster care, English as a second language, or those facing additional barriers to academic achievement.

Michael has been recognized with national awards and currently serves as an active member in many non-profit organizations while actively participating on various non-profit boards/executive committees: one as the President, another as Program Chair, along with an Executive Committee and Chair of a national Public Policy Committee.

In Michael’s words, “The core of what I do daily, is to fight for those whose voices can’t be heard above the noise of the majority. Partnering with like minded states, local institutions, and nonprofit organizations around equity, provides opportunities for those individuals with barriers by advocating through legislative priorities, while researching and evaluating effective equity practices and programs, technical assistance and professional development. All the while, providing more equitable opportunities to those who otherwise would not be heard. It is an honor to partner with such organizations to make a difference in students’ lives.”

Jaci Whitaker
Jaci Whitaker is an educator with experience teaching, developing curriculum, managing employees in higher education administration, and working with education policy & federal grant operations. She is passionate about helping students reach their educational goals. She holds two master’s degrees in Education, one in teaching, and another in Education Administration & Policy. Her experience in the field of Education is broad and she has taught middle & high school public education and has also worked in management at the college level cycling through & mastering the job of every functional department of a college campus including, admissions, financial aid, registrar's office, academics, & career services. Her current role is working with Career Technical Education at the Tennessee Board of Regents System office with Perkins Federal funding. 

Jaci states, “I have seen the powerful impact & generational change having a quality education can have on a person's life. As a Student Success Coordinator for the Tennessee Board of Regents I work diligently to ensure all students, regardless of their race, color, national origin, sex, or different abilities, have access to quality higher education in both Career & Technical Adult Education programs.”

 Zania Word, RDA
Zania is passionate about the field that she is in as she believes that a perfect smile is contagious and a path to happiness. She has always been interested in helping people get the smile they always wanted. Zania assisted alongside a very experienced dentist for five years where she gained an exorbitant amount of knowledge. Zania was invited to lead the dental assisting staff as her experience and knowledge grew. Instead of taking the offer to lead the dental assisting staff, she decided to develop and expand her knowledge outside of the dental office and into a dental lab. Zania’s long term goal is to own her own dental lab and continue to put smiles on peoples faces.

Working with NAPE has really shown me the power of planning and taking action, especially when it comes to student voice and centering people who are less represented. Taking action can be something as simple as students sharing their learnings with their peers, a teacher asking a student what’s important to them, or a legislature making equity systemic. If we are not always asking “How can we do better?”, we can’t get to the solution. No matter who you are or where you are coming from, you can start the process and make a difference.

Felix Wilson

South Carolina

Seeing is believing. My biggest takeaway from the Equity Leadership Academy is knowing that so many people are involved on a national scale working behind the scenes to bring equity to our educational system. I am just happy to see everyone fighting for what’s right. The Academy has allowed me to share my own story about experiencing racism at my school with a group of people who are choosing to surround me with support and come together towards a common cause. My hope is that we continue to see the effects real time locally; It’s good to sit and talk about it, but eventually we’ve got to stop talking about it and take action.

Shadrach Banks


Student voice is important to me because all of us, as students, are affected directly by the CTE and education in general. Many students like me belong to underserved populations, with different backgrounds or special conditions and we need extra support or conditioning to accomplish similar objectives that students who are part of the dominant culture.  I am a Latina adult English learner, with great motivation to continue with higher education in this country. Unfortunately, I have a strong accent. It has often been a cause of discrimination, probably because I have been perceived as a person who has "broken English" instead of a person who is perseverant and is working hard to achieve her goals. The Equity Leadership Academy provided me a space to use my own voice even "broken" in a constructive way to be able to share my own and others student’s experience from similar backgrounds like me as a way to find alternatives for improvements and help future students’ generation to close equity gaps for underserved populations.

Edith Ramirez


Curious but need more information?

Honoring your time and setting clear expectations for your participation is of utmost importance to us. Please read through our FAQ Sheet and watch our informational webinar below to learn more about our facilitators, timeline of events, expected time commitment, and expanded explanation of program offerings. We also have a sample application that you can access to help support your planning process.

If you’d like to learn more about how our first implementation of the Equity Leadership Academy went, read our Executive Summary and/or our Full Report. 

If you have any additional questions, please reach out to Ashley at aconrad@napequity.org.

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Applications Open Summer 2023