Our Team

With decades of collective expertise in the teacher preparation space, our team is focused on amplifying the unique contributions that MSI’s offer in training highly effective diverse educators for America’s classrooms.

Mark Bailey
Manager of Organizational Learning & Analytics

Mark Bailey is the Manager of Organizational Learning and Analytics at Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Mark comes to BranchED from New Leaders. He joined New Leaders in 2013 as a Program Associate supporting the training and development of Baltimore teachers and school leaders.

Most recently, Mark served as the Senior Manager of Data Strategy and Analytics at New Leaders, where he helped lead much of the organization's surveys and data collection work while supporting program evaluation and key organizational learning efforts. Mark received his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Michigan Technological University.

Brooke Berrios
Faculty in Residence

Brooke Berrios is the Faculty in Residence for Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. She previously taught at California State University in their teacher preparation program. While at CSUF, she also coordinated the Central Teacher Residency Program. Brooke works as an adjunct professor at Madera Community College where she teaches in the Child Development

She has 18 years of experience teaching, training, consulting, and coaching within both public
and private P-16 educational settings. Brooke is an active board member for several professional communities. These collaborative communities include students at all levels of education, research partners, and program developers. Through the practice of intentional networking that is directly applicable to the profession, she has been able to refine the practices of leadership, field practices, community outreach, and program design. She is passionate about the “heart work” that goes into teaching. Her research, publications, and presentations
focus on the continuous improvement efforts needed in education to support the next generation of teachers.

Brooke holds her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Fresno Pacific University, a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from California State University, Fresno, and a post-graduate certification in Trauma Informed Education from California State University, East Bay. She currently resides in Clovis, California with her husband Ryan and son Cooper.

Dr. Luzelma Canales
Associate Vice President of Leadership Learning and Activation

Dr. Luzelma G. Canales is the Associate Vice President of Leadership Learning and Activation at the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED). Prior to joining BranchED, she served as the Senior Associate Vice President for Student Success for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). She was responsible for the overall leadership and administration of programming and services leading to student success in academic, college life, and the transition of students to the workforce or graduate school. In addition, Dr. Canales had a key leadership role in ensuring excellent and ongoing academic and student support services for all students, designed to increase retention and graduation rates while maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence. Dr. Canales served as the founding executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Dr. Canales provided leadership for a large-scale collective impact initiative launched to transform college readiness, access, and success across a four-county region in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. The collaborative is comprised of over forty partners including four postsecondary institutions, eleven school districts, two workforce boards, private funders, and numerous community based organizations and nonprofits. Dr. Canales served as a community college and university administrator for over twenty-five years. She led numerous institutional community college national reform initiatives including Achieving the Dream, Breaking Through, and several with Excelencia in Education. Dr. Canales serves on local, state and national boards related to closing equity gaps in voter turnout and educational attainment. She was born and raised along the Texas-Mexico border in deep South Texas. She and her family migrated to Washington and Oregon to work in the fields during the 1960s and 1970s. Her lived experience includes participating in the integration of schools and witnessing the efforts of the United Farm Workers to bring to light concerns over working conditions of migrant farm workers. These and other experiences formed her commitment to work with organizations to identify and eliminate barriers that are faced by Latino students as they navigate the high school and college experience. Dr. Canales earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Pan American University, master’s in business administration from the University of Texas – Pan American, and doctorate of philosophy in human resource development from Texas A&M University.

Cheryl Coleman
Executive Assistant to the President & Board Liaison

Cheryl Coleman has over 25 years of experience supporting C-level Executives, Vice Presidents, and Senior Leadership teams, as well as being the Executive Assistant for the Treasurer of the Republican Governors Association. Her expertise extends to office administration, record keeping and the coordination of meetings and conferences.  Cheryl has also worked for several nonprofit organizations developing extensive knowledge in database management, financial management, and program planning.  She is a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians and is a certified Registered Parliamentarian.

Aubree Evans
Director of Professional Learning

Aubree Evans has served in higher education for more than fifteen years, both as a faculty member and an educational developer. Most recently, she held the position of Coordinator of Teaching, Learning, and Academic Excellence at Texas Woman's University where she led initiatives such as the Authentic Assessment Collective, the STAR (Students for Teaching and Assignment Recognition) Symposium and founded and chaired the Maintaining Motherhood in Academia affinity group.

Previously, she was faculty at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates in the department of English and Writing Studies. Aubree also taught English as a second and foreign language at UT-Arlington, Clovis Community College, and at a private school in Taiwan. In addition, Aubree has worked as an instructional designer, is Quality Matters certified, and earned the recognition of Certified Advanced Online Facilitator.

Her academic fields are social stratification and the sociology of higher education where she studies power in the higher education classroom, assessment, transformative learning, and permission. Aubree is a third-year doctoral student in sociology at Texas Woman's University. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida.

Dr. Cassandra Herring
Founder, President, and CEO

Dr. Cassandra Herring is President & Chief Executive Officer of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity (BranchED), a start-up that she incubated for a year as Dean-in-Residence at Deans for Impact. BranchED is a national effort to maximize programming and drive innovation to prepare highly effective diverse educators for all learners. Her passion about culturally relevant educator preparation reform fuels her work.

Prior to BranchED, Dr. Herring served as Dean of the School of Education and Human Development at Hampton University. Under her leadership, struggling education programs were transformed, earning state approval and highest commendations by accrediting bodies. She doubled her school’s enrollment through strategic recruitment efforts and securing external resources for student support.

Dr. Herring also conceptualized and launched Hampton U Online, the university’s virtual campus for the delivery of online degree programs and opened the Hampton University International Office, a hub for supporting international students and faculty, promoting study abroad, and building global connections.

Dr. Herring has served on national and international boards, including serving as Chair of the HBCU Academic of Deans of Education Council and as a member of both Deans for Impact and the advisory board for The Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors for the international Online Learning Consortium and as a Salzburg Global Institute Fellow at Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Herring holds the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Educational Policy from Georgia State University, and Master of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. She is married to Theodore Herring, owner of University Insurance Agency and an international business insurance consultant; and they have three children: Emmanuel, Joshua, and Elizabeth.

Marvin McClean
Data Coach & Systems Manager

Marvin McClean comes to BranchED with over 12 years of experience in data management and analysis in both teacher preparation programs and K-12 schools, and formal training in instructional design and educational technology tools. Throughout his career, Marvin has refined his abilities to in the evaluation and assessment of EPPs; using and customizing data collection and monitoring tools; preparing and reporting educational, demographic and historical data to various stakeholders; managing data systems, special projects and compliance requirements; and collaborating and communicating with cross-functional teams, leadership, associates and stakeholders.

Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell
Vice President of Provider Engagement and Partnerships

Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell has held progressively responsible leadership roles in K-16 settings to include teacher and administrator; Education Associate for Educator Preparation at the South Carolina State Department of Education; Assistant Professor and Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Accreditation at Claflin University; academic administrator in the Office of the Provost as lead for the assessment of the SACSCOC Quality Enhancement Plan at the University of South Carolina-Columbia and its four regional campuses; and most recently as the Dean of Education, Health and Human Services and Associate Professor at her undergraduate alma mater, Benedict College.

A few highlights from her time as dean include restoration of National Recognition of the Elementary Education Program; Reaffirmation of CAEP/NCATE Accreditation, President of the South Carolina Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, Fulbright Hays Scholar in Cameroon and Ghana, Women of Distinction Honoree by the Kemetic Institute for Health and Human Development; and recipient of the Advocate for African American Students Award from the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students for leading the transformation of the Benedict College educator preparation curriculum to leverage African Diaspora Literacy to bolster student success.

Having earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English Education from Benedict College, a Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Supervision-K-12 from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Carolina; and studying education internationally as an ESL teacher in Holon, Israel, and as an International Perspectives in Higher Education Delegate in Dublin, Galway, and Limerick Ireland, Dr. Hightower Mitchell is clear her purpose is to help others create the lives they desire through education. Her scholarship and publications center on educational equity and access for underrepresented populations with an emphasis on first-generation students, African Diaspora Literacy, and the intersectionality of being a mother and educator.

While grateful for the 360-degree view of education her career has afforded, Damara’s greatest joy is found in those moments spent simply as Damara Mitchell, Roger’s wife and Drake’s “mom boss.”

Edie Morris
Chief Financial Officer

Edie Morris is the Chief Financial Officer at Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Previously, she was the Executive Director / CFO at the Integrated Care Collaboration and Senior Finance Director for the Seton Healthcare Network. Edie has over twenty-five years of experience in accounting / finance for non-profit organizations. She has a distinguished record of linking finance with operations to improve productivity, efficiency and results. She works with non-financial personnel to develop budgets and financial plans for their areas and performs monthly reviews of their results. Edie holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in hospital administration from Texas State University.

Edward Morris, Jr.
Vice President of Programs and Services

Mr. Edward Morris, Jr. comes to BranchED from New Leaders, where he served as Executive Director of Instructional Leadership and Special Initiatives. He led all strategy and development of adult learning content for the organization, which has successfully trained 14,000 leaders across the country.

Ed joined New Leaders in 2012 as the Chicago Director of Curriculum for the Aspiring Principals Program and then nationally as the Executive Director of Aspiring Principals, where he provided national program strategy, content development, and regional director support. Ed also previously served as the Director of the Pilot Network & Professional Development for LEAP Innovations. There he led programming strategy and support for schools currently piloting ed-tech solutions for personalized learning across Chicago Public Schools, Charters, and the Archdiocese.

He also provided content development and school leadership support for other LEAP programs. Ed was a teacher and principal in Chicago Public Schools for 11 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Cell and Structural Biology from the University of Illinois at Urbana –Champaign, a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Master of Education in Educational Administration from National Louis-University.

Susan Patterson
Administrative Assistant

Suzy Patterson is the Administrative Associate for Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Prior to joining the team, Suzy has served with various non-profits that served our military community and has done extensive volunteer work to include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Semper Fi Fund, USMC Spouses Groups and other community based organizations.

Suzy holds a Master of Management degree from Troy University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a minor in Marketing from Saint Louis University.

Dr. Tara J. Plachowski
Research Associate

Dr. Tara J. Plachowski has spent the last 18 years as an educator across the PK16 spectrum. Her most recent work has been as a teacher educator and researcher at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Hawai’i, Mānoa. Dr. Plachowski’s research and praxis includes collaboration within a large-scale Grow-Your-Own K12/Community Organization/Higher Education partnership in Las Vegas dedicated to supporting families and students of Color learn about, enter, and successfully navigate the teacher education pipeline. She attributes her passion for community-based research and social justice praxis to the students, families, and educators she worked alongside in Los Angeles’s South L.A. and Pico-Union areas in the first decade of her career as a high-school English and theatre teacher. Her research interests are teacher diversity, critical race studies in education, critical research methodology, multicultural teacher education, mentoring, and school climate. Dr. Plachowski holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College, an M.A. in Educational Leadership and Administration from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Dr. Sedef Smith
Continuous Improvement Coach

Dr. Smith is a Continuous Improvement Coach at BranchEd. She previously worked as Executive Director of Instruction and Faculty Development at University of Houston Downtown’s (UHD) Marilyn Davies College of Business, establishing strategy and direction for the College’s Office of Instructional Excellence and collaborating with deans, department chairs, and faculty to develop appropriate policy and guidance for the success of online, hybrid, and on
campus courses/programs. Prior to her appointment at UHD, Dr. Smith taught teacher education courses at Lamar University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a tenure-track professor.

Dr. Smith earned her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the State University of New York at Albany and completed her masters in Curriculum and Instruction/TESOL at Temple University. Her scholarly interests focus on two lines of work: online teaching and learning; and linguistic, socio-cultural, and political complexities of academic literacy. She has presented and published widely on these topics.

Dr. Smith has been an active participant in several professional communities. She served on committees for the TESOL International Organization and the American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL), served on the National Screening Committee for Fulbright U.S. Student English Language Teaching Assistantships Program, and served as an advocacy officer and board member for TexTESOL Houston Branch. She is currently on the Effective Practice Award Committee for the Online Learning Consortium.