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.
Manager of Organizational Learning & Analytics
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.
Faculty in Residence
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.
Executive Assistant to the President & Board Liaison
Director of Professional Learning
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
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.
Data Coach & Systems Manager
Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell
Vice President of Provider Engagement and Partnerships
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.”
Chief Financial Officer
Edward Morris, Jr.
Vice President of Programs and Services
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.
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
Dr. Sedef Smith
Continuous Improvement Coach
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.