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.

Omar Abdullah
Chief of Staff

Chief of Staff, Ph.D., is BranchED’s Chief of Staff. Providing direct support to BranchED's President/CEO Cassandra Herring, Ph.D. Dr. Abdullah will help ensure executive effectiveness and further BranchED’s development and external relations efforts.

Prior to this role, Dr. Abdullah served as the Vice President of Marketing & Outreach at Cultivate Behavioral Health & Education, where he established a national outreach department that connected with care providers, non-profit organizations, and communities to provide resources to families navigating the autism treatment journey.

Dr. Abdullah also is an interdisciplinary scholar and communication consultant. He has taught courses at the University of California Davis and Texas A&M University. He has spoken at conferences and facilitated workshops at Trinity University and South by Southwest Conference and Festivals. Dr. Abdullah earned his Bachelor’s in Communication from Saint Mary’s College and he earned his Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from the University of California, Davis. Additionally, Dr. Abdullah is a former stand-up and sketch comedian performing in venues all across the San Francisco Bay Area.

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.

Dr. Owusu A. Boakye
Professional Learning Associate

Dr. Owusu Boakye has spent the last 9 years promoting diversity and inclusion in the K-16 spectrum. His most recent work has been as a teacher educator at the University of the People and a graduate recruiter at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Dr. Boakye's research includes enhancing female students' interest in STEM education at a younger age, and influential people in female minority students' decision to select STEM academic focus. His research interests are Women in STEM education, Black women in higher education, K-8 minority female students in STEM education, diversity and inclusion in STEM fields, postcolonial feminist theory, and adult learning experiences. He earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography and Resource Development and Study of Religion from the University of Ghana, Accra-Ghana, his M.ED. in Curriculum and Instruction from Columbia International University, Columbia South Carolina, and a Ph.D. in Adult, Professional, and Community Education from Texas State University in San Marcos.

Juvel Campbell
Operations and Outreach Coordinator

Juvel Campbell is the Operations and Outreach Coordinator for Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Mr. Campbell comes to BranchED from Verizon wireless after spending five years working with the public sector branch. He worked his way up from an entry-level phone coordinator position to a project manager, while also working on special projects in operations. Mr. Campbell has an entrepreneurial spirit and has two additional businesses, Captur3dfilmLLC and Herbalife. Captur3dFilms is a multimedia company for photography, videography and brand strategy. As a Herbalife distributor, he teaches others about health and nutrition and the Herbalife product. Mr. Campbell earned his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Relations, Advertising and Media Sales from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

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.

Meena Duguay
Graduate Research Assistant for Sr. V.P. and BIRCH Center

Meena Duguay is a consultant for the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity. Meena comes to BranchED as a graduate student from the University of La Verne in the La Fetra program and is a current Master in Teaching and Learning Single Subject and Education Technology candidate. She currently works in the University of La Verne Department of Theatre Arts as an Outreach Coordinator and as an educator in the Ontario-Montclair School District. Meena received her Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Pitzer College in Claremont California.

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.

Dr. Elizabeth Lisic
Data Coach

Dr. Elizabeth Lisic joins BranchED as a data coach. Before joining BranchED, Dr. Lisic was Assistant Director of the Center for Assessment and Improvement of Learning (CAIL) at Tennessee Tech University, where she leads regional training workshops to prepare institutions for the implementation of the Critical-thinking Assessment Test (CAT) as a performance measure of student critical thinking and as a faculty development tool and provides ongoing support to institutions across the country in the implementation of the CAT at multiple institutional levels. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at Tennessee Tech University teaching information literacy in psychology, quantitative research methods, experimental psychology and senior thesis. Educator with over 10 years of experience focused on professional development and student learning assessment and improvement, specifically related to outcomes such as critical and creative thinking and lifelong learning. Dr. Lisic earned her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Lee University and her Ph.D. from Tennessee Tech University.

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. Patricia Alvarez McHatton
Senior Vice President

Patricia Alvarez McHatton, Ph.D. is BranchED’s Senior Vice President. In this role, Dr. Alvarez McHatton oversees all MSI EPP faculty and leader facing programming, including capacity building and professional learning initiatives. Most notably, she overseas BranchED’s National Teacher Preparation Transformation Center and BranchED’s Inclusive Rigorous Content Hub & Professional Learning Center (aka The Birch Center). Dr. Alvarez McHatton brings to BranchED a wide range of experience in higher education. For the last two years she has served as the Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Student Success, and P-16 Integration at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). Prior to this role, Dr. Alvarez McHatton was UTRGV’s founding Dean of the College of Education and P16 Integration where she led multiple initiative to enhance educator preparation programs within the college, expand the educator pipeline, and cultivate and maintain strong, collaborative partnerships with districts and community members. Dr. Alvarez McHatton serves on the Executive Committee of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), on the selection commi1ee for the H-E-B Excellence in Education award, and as Professor of Practice for Arizona State University. She is the recipient of many awards, including the Hispanic Pathways Award, the Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, and the Council for Exceptional Children Teacher Education Division Outstanding Dissertation Award. She is the author and contributor of over 50 reports and publications and has presented at numerous conferences both nationally and internationally. Dr. Alvarez McHatton earned a bachelor’s degree in Special Education Behavior Disorders and Learning Disabilities, a master’s in Special Education Varying Exceptionalities, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Special Education and Urban Education, from the University of South Florida.

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.

Amy Murillo
Continuous Improvement Coach

Amy Murillo is an experienced educational leader having served almost two decades in public schools at the secondary level. She has served as a classroom teacher, a world languages department chair, and as a building assistant principal in large comprehensive high schools. Some of her past experiences include work in curriculum and assessment, teacher development, as well as initiatives related to culturally responsive teaching and educational equity. She is passionate about centering students in schools and ensuring all students have access to quality educational experiences; especially students from traditionally marginalized backgrounds. Additionally, she has personal and professional experiences working with Latinx communities and first-generation college students. Ms. Murillo holds a bachelor's degree in English education from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from University of St. Francis, and is a final stage doctoral student at Lewis University in the area of Leadership in Teaching and Learning.

Pat Ordañez-Kim
Graduate Research Assistant for Transformation Center

Pat Ordoñez-Kim (she/her/siya) is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Riverside. She studies social studies and Ethnic Studies curriculum and the experiences of Filipinos from a decolonial framework. She is a 1.5-generation immigrant from the Metro Manila, Philippines who came-of-age in Los Angeles, California. She holds an M.A. degree in Educational Administration in Higher Education and a B.A. in Sociology from California State University, Northridge. Outside of work, Pat enjoys learning about new technology, ergonomics, memes, music, dance, and Crossfit workouts.

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. Alicia Gonzalez Quiroz
Data Scientist

Dr. Alicia Gonzalez Quiroz’s experience is varied and multifaceted having worked in higher education in providing instruction and in student support services and administration for several years and over ten years in public health administration, promotion, policy and research. Dr. Quiroz’s area of interest is in the area of research methodology, analysis and interpretation, having extensive experience in statistical analysis for outcome assessments and program evaluations. Major roles have included developing, coordinating, administering and evaluating services to provide guidance and support; using her credentials as a Registered and Licensed Dietitian to teach in the college setting; and collaborating with national researchers to add to pool of knowledge in the areas of education, health and public policy.

Dr. Alicia Quiroz is a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Scholarship recipient. She earned her Ph.D. in Leadership Studies from Our Lady of the Lake University, her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from The University of the Incarnate Word, and her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin. She is pursuing her second doctoral. degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition from the North Dakota State University. Dr. Quiroz is bilingual in English and Spanish to fully encompass the nuance for Hispanic-serving populations.

Dr. Marrix Seymore
Continuous Improvement Coach

Marrix D. Seymore, Sr., Ph.D., is BranchED’s Continuous Improvement Coach. Seymore will chaperon educator preparation programs that are engaged in a three-year transformation effort to enhance the quality and scale of equity-oriented teacher preparation programming. He also will serve as a thought partner to program par2cipants, providing resources, data support and peer-to-peer collaboration and quality assurance. Previously, Seymore was Dean of the School of Education at Lincoln University, an HBCU located in Jefferson City, Mo., where he accomplished accreditation site visitor training Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP), and authored a three-year Continuous Improvement Plan to maintain teacher education standards of Missouri Teaching Credentialing (MoDESE), National Council of the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), and the Association for Advancing Quality Educator Preparation (AAQEP). While at Lincoln, he also was director of Title III Programs and Initiatives and was director of the Black Male Teacher Preparation Initiative. Seymore earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and master of education degree in Educational Administration from Prairie View A&M University and his doctorate degree from Northcentral University.Online Learning Consortium.

LaMarriol Smith
Director of Strategic Communications

LaMarriol Smith is BranchED’s Director of Strategic Communications where she leads executive and strategic communications, media relations, social media engagement, publications, and website management. Prior to joining BranchED, Smith’s more than 25-year career includes higher education and governmental administration. She formerly was Executive Manager of Strategic Communications and Education for the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA), where she developed award-winning magazines and other publications. Before GBRA, she was Executive Director of College Relations at Austin College, where she led comprehensive communications strategy, as well as campaign communications for the successful $120 million Campaign for the New Era. She was Director of Communications for St. Edward’s University, where she also was an adjunct instructor of organizational communications. Smith is a member of the Public Relations Society of America and is a former president of the American Association of University Women (Texoma Chapter). Smith earned her bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Baylor University and her master’s degree in Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas.

Dr. Sedef Smith
Lead Coach

Dr. Smith is a Lead 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.

Hawa Tuli
Project Manager

Hawa Tuli is a Project Manager at BranchED. Prior to joining BranchED, she served as a Project Delivery Associate for an international development company called Palladium. There, her primary responsibility was managing the operational aspects of multiple USAID-funded projects in several countries including Moldova, Guatemala, Kenya, and South Africa. Previously, she served as a Project Coordinator for non-profit organizations that worked within the education space.

Hawa was born in Tanzania, raised in the Middle East, and relocated to the United States to pursue a higher education. Having the fortunate opportunity to attend schools with diverse teachers and populations in her formative years played a key role in her life. Seeing the positive impact that such experiences had on her spurred her interest to explore the educator diversity field with the aim of creating similar experiences for others. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Meredith College and a Master of Science in Global Health from Duke University.