Russlynn H. Ali, Emerson Collective

TITLE: Managing Director, Education


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

IP TAKE: Ali has been a key figure in the growing ed philanthropy of Laurene Powell Jobs 

PROFILE: Russlynn Ali leads education work at the Emerson Collective, LLC, an organization quietly established by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, more than a decade ago that mixes traditional grantmaking with social investing. 

Ali earned her Bachelor's from American University and a JD from Northwestern. She worked as an attorney at several California-based law firms and has also taught the subject at UC Davis and University of Southern California.

In the nonprofit sector, she's served on the review board for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, as well as several review boards of education programs such as College Track, Great Schools and Institute for College Access and Success. The Aspen Institute has awarded Ali their New Schools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship. She has also served as vice president of Washington, DC's Education Trust, and was the founding managing director of Education Trust West.

Working in the government sector, Ali first served on former California Governor Schwarzenegger's Advisory Committee on Education Excellence. Later, President Obama appointed her as US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in May of 2009. There, Ali worked as "US Secretary of Education [Arne] Duncan's primary adviser on civil rights and [was] responsible for enforcing US civil rights laws as they pertain to education." She made sure the "nation's schools, colleges and universities [received] federal funding [that did] not engage in discriminatory conduct related to race, sex, disability or age," according to the Department of Ed's site. She also directed an army of around 600 attorneys to this end.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education says that during Ali's time at the Office for Civil Rights, she directed their focus more toward discrimination complaints, a topic that did not receive adequate attention under the aegis of former president George Bush. She also "issued new guidance for how colleges and universities should respond to incidents of sexual assault."

Laurene Powell Jobs hired Ali to oversee to play a key role at the Emerson Collective in 2012. 


Elizabeth A. Smith, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, Lettie Pate Evans Foundation, Lettie Pate Whitehead Foundation

TITLE: Grants Program Director

FUNDING AREAS: Cultural activities, health, education, environment, human services and public affairs.

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

PROFILE: It was April 2005, and Elizabeth Smith had just spent seven years advising nonprofits on how to obtain funding. She was campaign director for the consulting firm Coxe Curry & Associates. But then she found herself in a new role: She'd be the one offering the funding. That month was the beginning of her new job as grants program director at the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, a position she has holds to this day. 

Her foundation bio shares:

Lizzy joined the Foundations’ staff as Grants Officer in 2005 and became Grants Program Director in 2011. She previously worked for the fundraising consulting firm of Coxe Curry & Associates for more than seven years, and also served as Director of Special Events for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Raleigh, NC. Lizzy is a former trustee of the Southeastern Council of Foundations and a past chair of the Foundation Center-Atlanta Advisory Board. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. degree in economics.

Carla D. Thompson, W.K. Kellogg Foundation

TITLE: Vice President for Program Strategy

FUNDING AREAS: Education and vulnerable families

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

PROFILE: For Carla Thompson, the key to impacting the lives of children, especially those from low-income families, is to invest early. Her career in social work, education, philanthropy, and government has convinced her that early childhood education is a smart investment that yields future benefits—not only for the children themselves but for society overall.

Her foundation bio shares: 

In her current position, she is responsible for overseeing the national implementation of the Child Care Development Fund by managing 10 regional offices. The fund supports 1.7 million children monthly and distributes more than $5 billion annually.

Prior to joining the Office of Child Care, she served as Assistant Superintendent for Early Childhood Education for the District of Columbia public schools, where she managed all aspects of the system’s early childhood education program. Her professional experience in Early Childhood Education began in 2004 with United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, where she managed fund development and parenting and public engagement programs for United Way’s “Early to Learn” partnership.

In 2005, she became a special assistant in the Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Public Welfare, where she helped shape and launch a new statewide early childhood education program.

Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pennsylvania and expects to receive her doctorate from Penn in 2013.

After graduating from college, she worked as a social worker for the Children’s Hope Foundation in New York City and at the Center for the Study of Youth Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2000 and 2001, she was a presidential management intern in Washington, D.C., working with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

John Stephenson, J. Bulow Campbell Foundation

TITLE: Executive Director

FUNDING AREAS: Education, human services, youth development, arts and cultural institutions, and Christian-based charities

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

PROFILE: John W. Stephenson is executive director of the Atlanta-based J. Bulow Campbell Foundation, a position he has held since 1985. Previously, Stephenson worked for Emory University as vice president for development.

Atlanta businessman J. Bulow Campbell established the foundation in 1940, and it has since provided grants for education, youth development, cultural amenities, and Christian charities. Campbell was a devout Christian and an active member of the Presbyterian Church. He was committed to Christian education and was instrumental in bringing Columbia Theological Seminary to Atlanta from South Carolina.


Christopher Nelson, Doris & Donald Fisher Fund

TITLE: Managing Director

FUNDING AREAS: Charter schools; advocacy; United Way programs

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

PROFILE: In the two-man Donald & Doris Fisher Fund, Managing Director Christopher Nelson holds a lot of sway in the charter school funding space. His CCSA bio shares: 

Christopher Nelson is the Managing Director of the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, a San Francisco-based philanthropy created by Doris and Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap, Inc. The Fund seeks to leverage change in K-12 public education, especially in schools serving disadvantaged students, by making strategic investments in organizations whose products, policies or services bolster student academic achievement, or otherwise expand the public's ability to provide a high quality education to all students. Chris manages the Fund's portfolio of philanthropic investments and directs the Fund's policy initiatives and research and advocacy efforts in California and nationwide. Prior to joining the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Chris spent six years as a litigator at Keker & Van Nest in San Francisco where he specialized in complex business litigation, intellectual property matters, state and federal government investigations, and white collar criminal defense. Chris serves on the Board of Directors of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a national nonprofit organization committed to advancing the charter school movement. Chris also serves on the Board of Directors of the California Charter Schools Association, the membership and professional organization serving charter public schools in California. Chris received a B.A. from Duke University and a J.D. from Duke University School of Law.

Kevin Hall, Charter School Growth Fund

TITLE: President & CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Charter management organizations, charter schools, elementary and secondary education

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

PROFILE: Kevin Hall is the CSGF's President and CEO, and has led the fund’s investment strategy since 2009. His foundation bio shares: 

Kevin has served as CEO of CSGF since 2009. Before joining CSGF, Kevin was chief operating officer of the Broad Foundation, where he led various aspects of the foundation’s grant investment strategy. Prior to Broad, he cofounded and led business development for Chancellor Beacon Academies, a manager of charter and private schools across the United States. Previously, he also ran a division of infoUSA and worked at McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Teach for America. Kevin taught elementary school in central Los Angeles. He earned his MBA from Harvard Business School and BA from Swarthmore College.

Holly Nuechterlein, Louis Calder Foundation

TITLE: Grant Program Director

FUNDING AREAS: Charter management organizations and parochial schools, teacher development, school choice advocacy, and capital projects

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

PROFILE: In terms of the dollars they've given to school reform efforts, the Louis Calder Foundation isn't turning heads by making tons of million-dollar grants each year. But that doesn't mean they should be ignored. In fact, Calder has recently developed into a distinct charter funder, consistently making significant grants in that realm.

That makes Holly Nuechterlein, the foundation's grant program director, an interesting funder, and it's essential that interested grantseekers dive deep into Calder's grant making strategy, as Nuechterlein uses a focused approach to charter giving. For the past several years, the foundation has bestowed between 50-70 grants each year, totally between $6-$7 million each year.

It should be noted too that Calder is a strictly education reform focused foundation, and by far their largest focus is in delivering grants directly to charter and parochial schools (and the larger organizations that oversee them). Calder's second-largest focus is teacher and leadership development. An overarching interest in all of their funding arenas is how academics and instruction are delivered. 

When evaluating a proposal, program staff—which is Nuechterlein plus one program assistant—uncover what is taught at each school, how it is taught, and when it is taught. Organizations with a strong grasp on how all three intersect will likely bubble to the top of Calder's grant pile. 

A signature focus of the foundation is their support for charter management organizations and parochial schools. For instance, Calder supports both Seton Education Partners and the KIPP Foundation. For Seton Education Partners, a national network of Catholic schools, Calder's grant went to the founding year of a new school in the Bay Area. (Expansion is often key in Nuechterlein funding approach.)

Calder also provided recent grants to Uncommon Schools and TEAM Charter Schools, which are charter management organizations located in New York and New Jersey, respectively. Both are organizations in urban locations, and they target underserved populations. The grants show the Nuechterlein's willingness to build relationships with charter organizations and really get a grasp of their approaches to education.

Bruno V. Manno, Walton Family Foundation

TITLE: Senior Advisor, Systemic K-12 Education Reform 

FUNDING AREAS: K-12, charter schools

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

PROFILE: Bruno V. Manno, Ph.D. has had a long and accomplished career in education, dating back to 1975 when he became the director of the Office for Moral and Religious Education at the University of Dayton. His Fordham Institute bio shares: 

Bruno V. Manno is a Trustee Emeritus of Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation and Senior Advisor to the Walton Family Foundation's K-12 Education Reform Initiative. He previously worked as the Senior Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland.
Prior to his appointment with the Hudson Institute, Dr. Manno was Assistant Secretary of Education for Policy and Planning in the United States Department of Education. In that post, he was a principal advisor to both Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander and Deputy Secretary of Education David Kearns. Dr. Manno first came to the U.S. Department of Education in 1986 as Director of Planning for the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). He then held several senior policy and management positions in that office, including Chief of Staff and Acting Assistant Secretary.
A graduate of the University of Dayton (B.A., 1970; M.A., 1972), Dr. Manno received his Ph.D. from Boston College in 1975. He is the author of numerous articles and book reviews. He has also been a Senior Fellow with the Hudson Institute. He is the co-author of Charter Schools in Action: Renewing Public Education and The Strategic Management of Charter Schools, and also the co-editor Customized Schooling.


John Fisher, Charter School Growth Fund; KIPP Foundation

TITLE: Chairman, KIPP Foundation; Co-Chair, Charter School Growth Fund; Board member, Silicon Schools Fund

FUNDING AREAS: Charter management organizations, KIPP Foundation, charter schools

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

PROFILE: John Fisher's Charter School Growth Fund bio shares:

John is president of Pisces, Inc., a company he founded in 1992 as a family investment and management office for the Fisher family. In addition, John is a founding partner of Sansome Partners, a private equity investment group with investments in timber, hotels, and several operating businesses. He has a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University.

Kevin Byrne, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

TITLE: Managing Director, United States

FUNDING AREAS: K-12 education, charter schools, urban education

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

PROFILE: Kevin Byrne is the managing director of U.S. programs at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, based in Austin, Texas. He has been with Dell since 2004, and previously served as their director of U.S. education, where he led efforts to improve urban school districts through performance management. Byrne holds a master’s degree in business strategy from University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, as well as a bachelor’s degree in finance from Mississippi State University.

His foundation bio shares: 

Kevin manages the foundation’s giving in the United States which ranges from large education technology work for better student-centered information for the classroom to projects supporting local nonprofits providing vital services to low income families in Central Texas.  Leveraging more than two decades of working to provide better lives for low income students, he joined the foundation to create the Dell Scholars Program, a college retention and graduation program that is graduating scholars at four times the national rate.  Kevin has been heavily involved in ways to leverage technology and data for the benefit of students and parents through his work with the Texas Student Data System, Ed-Fi, and Scholar Snapp.  In addition, he has worked with national, regional, and local charter management organizations and college preparation and completion programs to get more low income students through college.
Kevin works with our Central Texas grantees that encompass programs working to better prepare students academically to programs that enrich the lives of foster and adoptive children.  He also works with our Health portfolio on projects ranging from transforming health outcomes for a local community to the creation of Dell Medical School.  He has served on boards such as the National Scholarship Providers Association, Animal Welfare League of Alexandria, and Saint Louise House in Austin.  Kevin and his wife are also active with several organizations involved in foster care and adoption as well as the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Family Support Group.