Carolyn Dickson, O’Donnell Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: K-12, Advanced Placement, teacher training, higher education, and STEM education

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

PROFILE: For Carolyn Bacon Dickson, executive director of the O'Donnell Foundation, improving student achievement, especially in mathematics and science, and preparing students for success in college doesn't require magic or special programs. If students take academically rigorous courses taught by knowledgeable, qualified teachers, they are far more likely to achieve success in college and in the workplace.

That is why the O'Donnell Foundation has long championed initiatives designed to strengthen teacher knowledge so that they can better prepare students to take Advanced Placement (AP) and pre-AP courses in high school. Building on its work in the 1990s with a Texas public schools system, the O'Donnell Foundation has created non-profit organizations and funded programs designed to create outstanding teachers who can deliver an academically challenging curriculum, especially in math and science. This is a rather narrow focus for O'Donnell, but an important one. And Dickson is definitely a go-to person for all things AP.

Dickson's work with the O'Donnell Foundation has emphasized teacher training in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, but that doesn't mean she is not interested in other academic areas. The foundation also has supported AP incentive programs in art and music. 

Dickson's advocacy of greater academic rigor is not limited to AP-related programs in secondary schools or to traditional public schools. O'Donnell also has supported charter schools, giving grants such as $337,000 in 2010 to Dallas-based Uplift Education, a charter school operator. So if you're a charter school operator that's serious about challenging your students academically to better prepare them for success in college, Dickson is a funder you should get to know. It's important to remember, however, that the foundation concentrates most of its work in Texas. In addition, O'Donnell does not award grants or fellowships to individuals.

In addition to its K-12 programs, the O'Donnell Foundation under Dickson has supported higher education programs that emphasize STEM-related fields.