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.

Learn more about our board and staff–and how they got here.

Bonnie Anderson
Professional Development Specialist

Bonnie Anderson leads the organization’s specialized programs related to Deeper Learning and Open Educational Resources. Before coming to BranchED, Bonnie served as Director of Assessment for the Educator Preparation Programs (Teacher Education, Educational Leadership, and School Counseling), CAEP Coordinator, and LiveText Coordinator in the College of Education at Albany State University (an Historically Black College or University). In this role, Bonnie provided leadership for several successful accreditation reaffirmations and State of Georgia Program Reviews. At the national and state level, she is trained as a CAEP Site Visitor and State of Georgia Site Reviewer. She has served as a Member of Planning Team, South West Georgia P-20 Collaborative; Public Relations Chair, Georgia Assessment Directors Association; Treasurer, Research and Scholarship Committee; Data Consultant, CREST Education Grant; Member, Georgia Professional Standards Assessment Advisory Committee and Member, Georgia Professional Standards Preparation Program Effectiveness Measures Committee. Bonnie earned the B.S in Visual Communications from Westwood College, before going on to earn an M.B.A in Business Administration and an M.S. in Higher Education from Walden University.

Dr. Luzelma Canales
Board Member (2017-2020)

Dr. Luzelma G. Canales serves as the Senior Associate Vice President for Student Success for The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). She is 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, Luzelma is has 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. Luzelma served as the founding executive director for RGV FOCUS, a collaboration with Educate Texas. Luzelma 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. Luzelma 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. Luzelma 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. Luzelma 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.

Dr. Amber Lynn Diaz
Continuous Improvement Coach

Dr. Amber Lynn Diaz serves as a Continuous Improvement Coach, supporting the peer-to-peer continuous improvement community of practice in BranchED’s Transformation Center. Amber Lynn served as the Director of Educator Preparation Services, the Certification Officer, and an Assistant Professor at Texas A&M University-Central Texas (a Hispanic Serving Institution). Prior to Texas A&M, Amber Lynn spent 15 years in public education, as an elementary classroom teacher, an English Language Learners teacher, a Response to Intervention Supervisor, and an Elementary Administrator in Killeen ISD. She served 2 years as the Director of Intervention & At-Risk in Copperas Cove ISD serving a high population of at-risk youth. Amber Lynn earned the Doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and a Master of Education degree in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University-Central Texas. She obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from the University of Wyoming with a minor in Multicultural Education.

Katherine (Katie) Fleming
Coordinator of Special Projects

Katie Fleming is the Coordinator of Special Projects at Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Prior to joining the BranchED team, she taught middle school Language Arts and Latin at Hill Country Christian School of Austin for seven years. Katie earned her bachelor’s degree in Classical Languages and Religious Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and is currently pursuing the master’s degree in Professional Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Dr. Alice Ginsberg
Director of Research and Evidence-Based Practice

Dr. Alice Ginsberg is the Director of Research and Evidence-Based Practice at BranchED.

Dr. Ginsberg previously worked as the Assistant Director of Research at the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI), where she directed all programs related to teacher education. She is co-author of the CMSI national report: A Rich Source for Teachers of Color: Minority Serving Institutions (2016). Dr. Ginsberg has also taught graduate courses in teacher education and higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on action research, social justice pedagogy, and culturally relevant teaching and learning.

She holds a Ph.D in “Education, Culture and Society” from the University of Pennsylvania, and is the author or editor of six books, including: Difficult Dialogues about 21st Century Girls (SUNY Press, 2015), Embracing Risk in Urban Education (Roman and Littlefield, 2012), The Evolution of American Women’s Studies (Palgrave, 2008), and Gender and Urban Education (Heinemann, 2004). Her work is also published widely in academic journals such as Teachers College Record, Teacher Education Quarterly, and The Journal of Educational Controversy.

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.

Dr. Damara Hightower
Vice President of Provider Engagement and Partnerships

Dr. Damara Hightower has been an educator and administrator for more than 22 years. Within one year of beginning her career as an English teacher, she was promoted to Dean of Students and went on to become an assistant principal by the age of 24. Since that time, she has held progressively responsible leadership roles in K-16 settings to include Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Benedict College, Education Associate for Educator Preparation at the South Carolina State Department of Education, Assistant Professor and Director of Curriculum and Instruction and Accreditation at Claflin University, and an academic administrator in the Office of the Provost as the lead for assessment of the SACSCOC Quality Enhancement Plan entitled USC Connect: Integrating Learning Within and Beyond the Classroom for the University of South Carolina-Columbia and its four regional campuses: Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Union, and Sumter.

Having earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Education from Benedict College, a Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership and Supervision K-12 from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Hightower is clear her purpose is to help others change their lives through education. In August of 2015, Dr. Hightower proudly returned to her undergraduate alma mater to serve as Dean of the School of Education and was later appointed Dean of Education, Health and Human Services. A few highlights from her time as dean include: Restored National Recognition of the Elementary Education Program; Reaffirmation of CAEP/NCATE Accreditation; 2019 Advocate for African American Students Award from the Center for the Education and Equity of African American Students at the University of South Carolina for leading the transformation of the Benedict College educator preparation curriculum to leverage African Diaspora Literacy (i.e. knowledge of African history and African American culture); 2018 and 2017 Fulbright Hays Project Scholar (Cameroon and Ghana West Africa respectively); 2017 Celebrating African Life: Honoring Women of Distinction Honoree, Kemetic Institute for Health and Human Development; 2017 Founding Board Member of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity; 2016 Deans for Impact Leadership Academy Fellow; and 2016 President of the South Carolina Association for Colleges of Teacher Education.

Allana Jackson
Board Member (2017-2019)

Allana Jackson is a manager in Bridgespan’s Boston office where she focuses on the Education and Children, Youth, and Families practices. Her work with nonprofit organizations and foundations has included strategic planning, talent strategy, organizational design, and customer strategy with public school districts, charter management organizations, foundations, and innovative nonprofits.

Prior to joining Bridgespan, Allana was a manager at Bain & Company in its Consumer Goods & Retail Practice where she helped clients with a range of issues including organizational effectiveness, growth strategy, and mergers & acquisitions. Allana was also a member of Bain’s pro-bono Education practice where she worked with clients in K-12 education and led Bain’s relationship with Rowe Elementary School, a Bain-sponsored school in Chicago.

Allana graduated from Harvard University with her BA in Economics and Sociology. She also has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, where she was a Siebel Scholar. A native of Atlanta, Allana currently lives in western Massachusetts with her husband and son.

Rashi Jawade, Esq.
Vice President of Strategy

Rashi Jawade is the Vice President of Strategy at Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Prior to joining BranchED, Rashi was the director of special projects for Deans for Impact. She also previously worked for Baltimore City Public Schools as the special assistant to the CEO. Rashi received her bachelor’s degree in information systems and biology from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law.

Dr. John Luczak
Board Member (2018-2012)

John Luczak is a leading expert on teacher evaluation, leadership and preparation reforms. He has worked closely with district and state reform, union, and management groups to build these new systems and help overcome implementation challenges. He also led projects to build a five-year human capital strategy for Delaware, a new turnaround principal pipeline in New Jersey and currently leads two school turnaround projects in Syracuse to build new turnaround leadership teams and new teacher leadership roles. John has advised several teacher voice and state-level advocacy organizations.

John began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher and became passionate about education policy after working in an urban public school district. Prior to joining Education First, John worked at the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and SRI International. He took a brief leave of absence from Joyce to work in the Illinois Governor’s office and helped develop the state’s performance evaluation reform act and alternative certification legislation that were passed in January 2010.

John is a founding board member of Teach Plus and in 2012 he was selected as an Aspen Institute-NewSchools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellow. He has a Ph.D. and M.A. from Stanford University in education administration and policy analysis and a B.A. from Brown University. John enjoys volunteering in his children’s classrooms in Evanston, IL, and coaching baseball. He remains a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs.

Dr. Curtis Martin
Chairperson of Board (2017-2020)

Dr. Curtis E. Martin has served in the field of education for forty-four years. He has served as a classroom teacher, graduate teaching assistant, professor at the community college level, as an associate member of Ph.D. faculty, as a Department Chairperson, as a College Dean, as Executive Vice president, as Dean of Students, and as Interim President.

Having earned the Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, his interest and energies have been devoted to equity in education and closing the gaps in achievement between the different ethnic groups. The focus of these efforts has been the accreditation of teacher preparation programs through activities which were based on standards-based curriculum and program delivery and enhancement of programs through evidence supported decision making. This work led to the development and funding of the Charter Teacher Education Program at Fort Valley State University where candidates advanced to the next level through the achievement of standards rather than through the earning of letter grades.

He has served in several leadership positions beyond his campus including as a member of the executive committee of AACTE and as a representative to NCATE. He has written grants, obtaining more than five million dollars, all geared toward improving the quality of education of minority learners. He has devoted years to serving on accreditation review teams and continues to do so, while consulting with institutions of higher education on going beyond accreditation to becoming leaders in preparing teachers and advocating for and championing the cause for quality education for all learners.

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 B.S. in Cell and Structural Biology from University of Illinois at Urbana –Champaign, an M.A. in Teaching and an M.Ed. in Educational Administration from National Louis-University.

Dr. Inger Swimpson
Vice Chairperson of Board (2017-2019)

A native of North Carolina, Dr. Inger Swimpson moved to Maryland after earning her bachelor’s degree in Biology and her teaching certification at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Passionate about teaching and education, she worked as a middle school science educator for 25 years at the Montgomery County Public Schools—and attained progressive leadership roles that included: department chairperson and Supervisor, Staff Development Programs, Director, Certification and Staffing, and Director, Talent Acquisition.

Dr. Swimpson is a skilled facilitator and excels at helping leaders discover their creativity and passion through shared leadership challenges and aspirations. Dr. Swimpson’s most gratifying professional accomplishment lies in the establishment of the BOND (Building Our Network of Diversity) Program, a networking, leadership, mentorship, and fellowship program created for African American and Latino male educators in Montgomery County Public Schools. This program allows these men of color to connect, share, and build upon a shared craft: teaching.

Dr. Swimpson uses her extensive leadership and K-12 experience to assist institutions of higher education, such as Howard University, the University of Maryland College Park, Hood College, and Towson University, in the development of partnerships with school districts.