Our Board is comprised of dynamic business, education, and community leaders who generously volunteer their time and expertise to guide Education Alliance in its mission. Three permanent members include the Superintendent of the Washoe County School District, and both Presidents of the University of Nevada, Reno, and Truckee Meadows Community College. We are thankful for our Board’s 100 percent financial support!
|Marc Johnson, Ph.D.
|Karin Hilgersom, Ph.D.
Senior Financial Advisor
|Melissa Burnham Ph.D.
UNR Associate Dean, College of Education
City of Reno
Customer & Code Enforcement
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|Joe Cline Ph.D.
Construction Engineering Manager, Truckee River Flood Management Authority
Dean’s Future Scholars Director
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Community Outreach Liaison
VP Human Resources
|Melissa Deadmond Ph.D., MPH
Associate Dean of Assessment & Planning / Accreditation Liaison Officer
WCSD Chief of Staff
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|Natha Anderson||Brent Boynton||Bill Cathey||Mariah Evans|
|Lauren Garfinkel||Kris Layman||Chris Morgan||Charles Pasillas|
|Nanette Quitt||Ben Rogers||Ann Silver||John Slaughter|
Mr. Bianchi, a second generation Nevadan, currently serves as a Senior Financial Advisor at Northwestern Mutual. He earned his finance degree at University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and has a strong commitment to the community as a founding president of the Boys and Girls Club and help found Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. With a wife as a retired educator, a daughter who is a principal, and two grandsons in the Washoe County School system, Bianchi knows the importance of a quality and engaged educational system.
A teacher that inspired him: I was inspired in high school by two teachers, one of English and the other of Government, who made learning fun. The Education Alliance provides an opportunity to make a difference in the educational life of our community.
Communications consultant Brent Boynton is well known in northern Nevada as a television journalist and as an emcee. The son of two teachers, Brent has utilized his master’s degree in education as a journalism instructor at the University of Nevada and conducts communications analysis, training and coaching with Boynton Communications. He serves or has served on the boards and councils of Step 1, Inc. and Make-A-Wish, and he began volunteering for Partners in Education more than 20 years ago.
Melissa Burnham, Ph.D.
Dr. Melissa Burnham is the Associate Dean for the College of Education and a Professor of Human Development and Family Studies and Early Childhood Education. Dr. Burnham obtained her Ph.D. in Human Development from the University of California, Davis.
Most memorable experience as a volunteer in education: Being involved directly with students and teachers by volunteering in my son’s classrooms throughout his education in the district
Bill Cathey, Ph.D.
Dr. Cathey started his professional career as a physics faculty member at the University of Nevada, Reno 1967 and retired as Vice Provost for Undergraduate Programs and Professor of Physics in 2013. Professor Cathey’s research was related to the electronic structure of metals and alloys, including alloys that absorb large amounts of hydrogen. His teaching experience included introductory through graduate-level physics as well as interdisciplinary courses and lectures on the history and social impact of the automobile. Cathey holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics, University of Tennessee, a Master’s of Science in Physics, University of Tennessee; and Ph.D. in Physics, University of Tennessee.
Joe Cline, Ph.D.
Dr. Cline is professor of chemistry and vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of Nevada, Reno. As vice provost, Cline oversees University assessment and accreditation, the development of academic curricula, and the periodic review of all instructional programs. The Advising, Writing, Math, and Tutoring Centers, the Honors Program, the Intensive English Language Center, Service Learning, and the Core Curriculum report to the vice provost for undergraduate education.
Dr. Cline earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at the University of Virginia and a Doctorate in Chemistry from the California Institute of Technology. As professor of chemistry, Cline’s expertise is in molecular spectroscopy and dynamics and he has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate researchers in his research activities
As the Superintendent of the second largest school district in Nevada, Ms. Davis oversees the day-to-day activities of the district. Prior to her current role, she served as WCSD deputy superintendent. As a native Nevadan, Davis is committed to closing all achievement gaps for students with her motto “Achievement is not a place, it is a belief!” She holds a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and master’s degree of Education from Lesley University.
Melissa earned her B.S. in Biology and French from Albertson College of Idaho and Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Nevada, Reno. She joined the Biology Department faculty at Truckee Meadows Community College in 2005. Seeing the need to broaden students’ perspectives and opportunities in health, Melissa co-developed the Associate of Science in Community Health Science degree and returned to UNR to earn a MPH, Epidemiology so that she would have expertise in the discipline. Melissa has since transitioned to administration and serves as TMCC’s Associate Dean of Assessment and Planning. Melissa is married with two children and loves soccer.
Mariah Evans, Ph.D.
Dr. Evans is a Professor in the Department of Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA), Coordinator of the Applied Statistics Program (APST), faculty member of the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, and faculty member of the Interdisciplinary Social Psychology Ph.D. Program at UNR. Dr. Evans received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. Before joining the University of Nevada, Reno in 2006, Dr. Evans was Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Evans has written many journal articles on how and why children succeed in education, most notably on the influence of books and reading.
Ms. Garcia currently serves as the Director for the Dean’s Future Scholars program at UNR. In her role, Garcia works with low-income, first-generation college students in a variety of settings to focus students on achieving college success. She earned her master’s degree in School Counseling from the University of Nevada, Reno, and is currently working on her doctorate in Equity & Diversity.
Most memorable experience as a volunteer in education: Volunteering for the AmeriCorps program for one year in Longmont, Colorado.
Lauren Garfinkel moved from Las Vegas to attend the University of Nevada, Reno in 2004, and takes great pride in calling “The Biggest Little City” her forever home. Her professional career began while earning her undergraduate degrees, working in casino marketing positions for two of the region’s largest resorts over the course of nearly a decade. In early 2017, she made the industry switch from tourism to technology, accepting her current position as Recruitment and Branding Specialist for Panasonic Energy of North America, inside the Tesla Gigafactory. Lauren wears many hats, overseeing all marketing and public communication functions for Panasonic, including community engagement. She has made workforce development and corporate philanthropy for the Reno/Sparks community primary pillars of her role, with a large passion for being the bridge between Panasonic and Washoe County Schools.
Most memorable experience as a volunteer in education: Volunteering for the Skills USA competition! What an experience to interview so many inspiring young adults!
Karen Hilgersom, Ph.D.
Prior to joining Truckee Meadows Community College, Dr. Hilgersom served as the president of Sullivan County Community College, SUNY Sullivan, in Loch Sheldrake, New York. Dr. Hilgersom earned her master’s degree in Rhetoric and Communication at and a doctorate in Educational Policy and Management from the University of Oregon. She began her community college career as a faculty member in 1986, which included full-time faculty and chair experience at Spokane Community College in the Communication Studies department.
Marc Johnson, Ph.D.
Dr. Johnson’s tenure as president of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) has been marked by record student enrollment and academic achievement, advancement of the University’s research and innovation agenda and a deep commitment to partnering with the state of Nevada and its communities to further business, industry and economic diversification.
A career as a faculty member, researcher and administrator – including roles at several notable land-grant universities – led Dr. Johnson to the University, where he was named the institution’s 16th president in April 2012.
Prior to joining UNR, Dr. Johnson was dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University. Johnson received his bachelor’s degree in biology from Emporia State University, a master’s degree in international development from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree in economics from Michigan State University, and a doctorate of agricultural economics from Michigan State.
Mr. Lasic currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the Washoe County School District. In this capacity, Mr. Lasic is responsible for the coordination of resources to schools and departments in order to make sure the goals of the District’s Strategic Plan Envision WCSD 2020 are met. Working in collaboration with Academics and Operations, the Chief of Staff assists other departments with communication between the Leadership Team, Superintendent, and Board of Trustees. Lasic holds a bachelor’s degree from Regis University of Colorado and a master’s degree from National University of California.
Mr. Morgan currently leads the Mobile Lab Program for Deloitte’s Leadership Center for Clients in the United States. In the Lab, He applies design thinking and research-based content to create immersive, interactive facilitated sessions to help teams achieve breakthrough solutions to their most complex strategic and adaptive challenges. Mr. Morgan has accelerated the performance of over a hundred teams from around the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, and India. Mr. Morgan completed his undergraduate studies in economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and the Institut d’Etudes Politique in Grenoble, France and his master’s degree from the Haas School at the University of California, Berkeley.
Early education included a deep appreciation of the book, “Where The Wild Things Are” which fed his imagination and gratitude for home.
Charles began his career in Reno, Nevada as a drafter in 1985. After building his career in the Sacramento area market, Charles returned to Reno in 2014 and is currently Project Manager with Verus AEC whose core design services include Electrical and Technology Systems design with market sectors in High Tech, Education, Healthcare, Commercial and Industrial systems automation.
Charles brings hard work, drive and a passion for what he does to the Education Alliance Board and is proud of his upbringing in Reno, attending Elmcrest Elementary, Clayton Middle School, and Procter R. Hug High School graduating with honors in Metals and Architectural Drafting. He cites the programs that were in place when he went to school afforded him career options right out of high school, and hails the faculty and members in the construction industry for taking an interest in his success.
Ms. Quitt has more than 15 years’ experience in Human Resources management with a comprehensive resume comprised of work in the private and public sectors, technology, utilities and healthcare industries. In her positions, she has overseen a variety of key Human Resources functions including recruitment and employment; training and development; risk and compliance; workers compensation, compensation and benefit programs; and labor and employee relations. Quitt earned her bachelor’s degree from Oregon Institute of Technology, is a Certified Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and holds her Senior Professional in Human Resources Credential (SHRM-SCP)
A teacher that inspired her: My middle school English teacher who inspired and continues to inspire me today – She recognized my unique perspectives, curious personality and afforded me opportunities to take risks while being supported and encouraged!
Mr. Rogers has worked as a business analyst, a newspaper reporter, a teacher, and a scientist at various labs, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Since 2004, he has been the Principal Engineer at NevadaNano. Ben is an accomplished author, including The Flamer (Aqueous Books), Nanotechnology: Understanding Small Systems (CRC Press), the first-ever comprehensive college textbook on nanotechnology, and Nanotechnology: The Whole Story (CRC Press). Both his bachelor and master’s degrees are from the University of Nevada, Reno.
A teacher that inspired him: I had an English teacher my senior year of high school — he stood six foot six, had a big mustache. He was born in China to Russian emigrants. He’d played forward in the NBA for a decade, during which he once held the league record for fouls. He later became a poet and an English teacher, where in the late 90’s he could be found looming over the desk of a young and impressionable Ben Rogers while reciting for the class, in his booming voice:
WHENAS in silks my Julia goes
Then, then (methinks) how sweetly flows
That liquefaction of her clothes.
Ms. Sanchez-Bickley joined Renown Health in 2002 and has been the vice president of Human Resources since 2008. She has more than 20 years of HR leadership experience and 14 years have been in healthcare. Prior to joining Renown, Michelle was living in the San Francisco Bay Area and worked in consulting and financial service industries. With a bachelor’s degree in political science and justice studies from Frostburg State University in Maryland, Michelle earned her Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development from Georgia State University in Georgia. She is a certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR) and a Senior Professional Human Resources Credential (SHRM-SCP).
A teacher that inspired her: There have been several teachers that have inspired me throughout the years, but the very first one I remember well was my first grade teacher who always greeted each student every day with a smile, and told us we could do anything we put our minds to.
Ann Silver was born and raised in New York City as the oldest of five. She’s been a resident of Nevada for over 20 years, with positions in government, the private sector, and non-profit organizations.
Since January 2017, Ann has been the CEO of the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce, the largest business organization in northern Nevada with 1,500 members employing over 75,000 individuals.
In conjunction with NNHRA and TMCC, the Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce conducts “HR Boot Camp” twice each year to assist small business professionals with education and information regarding recruitment strategies, onboarding, development of personnel policies, employee performance evaluations, and termination procedures.
Ann previously served as the Executive Director of J.O.I.N, the WIOA-funded career training organization that serves 8 counties in Nevada. Its mission is to link out-of-school youth, eligible adults, veterans, and underemployed individuals with the skills and education needed to meet employers’ growing needs. In this capacity, she founded the “Workforce Consortium”, now grown to over 50 organizations representing employers, training organizations, educational institutions and non-profit groups that meet quarterly to identify critical workforce challenges, employer needs and career opportunities that provide for sustainable careers.
Ann’s professional career includes serving as the Sr. VP and General Manager of Radio City Music Hall in New York City where she produced the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” for seven (7) seasons, negotiated collective bargaining agreements with stagehands, electricians, costume makers, the orchestra, and famous Radio City Rockettes.
Ann later served as Sr. Vice President of Human Resources & Labor Relations for Compass Group, an international food service, cafeteria and public restaurant company.
Ann is a graduate of Cornell University in Ithaca, NY and Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Indiana and maintains Sr. Certification as a Human Resources Professional.
She presently serves on the Governor’s Energy Choice Committee and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, the Board of the Northern Nevada Literacy Council, The Eddy House, and the Women’s Fund, and as a Trustee of the Nevada Art Museum.
As Washoe County Manager, Mr. Slaughter serves as liaison between the Board of County Commissioners and elected and appointed department directors, governmental jurisdictions, community and business groups, employees, and county customers. He also oversees the Manager’s Office, which facilitates presentation of issues to the Board for their consideration and ensures effective implementation of direction given by the BCC. The Manager’s Office also houses the Communications division, Internal Audit division, and Management Services division. Slaughter holds a bachelor’s degree from Emporia State University and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas. He has also received the Continuing Education Certificate in Public Management from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Jill Tolles has lived, learned and worked in Nevada for over 20 years and proudly calls the Silver State her home. In 2005, she began teaching at TMCC and soon after at UNR where she has taught Communication Studies for the past 10 years. In 2013, she also joined the faculty of the National Judicial College. This led her to open her own small business leading trainings and consulting with companies and individuals on effective communication strategies.
Throughout her life Jill has been passionately engaged in giving back to her community and serving others. Jill has also become an outspoken and staunch advocate for the safety of one of our most vulnerable populations, our children. She served on the Task Force for Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, established by the 2013 legislature, and developed and lobbied for the successful passage of SB394 which established statewide curriculum standards to teach personal safety to children in 2015.
Jill is passionate about high quality education to ensure a sound economic and socially stable future in Nevada. As a private citizen and now as a Nevada State Assemblywoman, Jill has successfully advocated to improve the state of public education and is proud of the reforms passed during the 2015 session and others impacting the safety of our students, such as AB362, in the 2017 session. Jill loves to spend time with her family, run, hike, and fly fish.
Alex Carlos Woodley has worked at the City of Reno since 2004, currently serving as the Code Enforcement Manager. He has served in many different capacities for the City as the Downtown Revitalization Manager, Customer Services Manager, and Acting Community Development Director. Prior to his 20 years in municipal service he served in the United States Marine Corps during Desert Storm as a Sergeant. He is a first-generation college graduate (Nevada) who attended public schools in The Bronx.
My fondest memories as a volunteer in education is when I speak to young Latinos and African Americans and have the privilege to share my experience of growing up in the projects, attending public school, being raised by a single grandparent in poverty, and yet able to become a professional, working in government and I get to show them how important education is and how anything is possible with the proper education.