Investment and Innovation in Adult Learning

Liza Mcfadden

Liza McFadden is President and CEO of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, an organization that has championed the cause of literacy as a civil right for all Americans for the past 25 years. The Foundation’s efforts have focused on the power of early childhood education and supports parents who, driven by their desire to provide a better life for their children, are learning to read, writeand gain critical job skills. With more than 20 years of success leading visionary change, Liza is recognized for her entrepreneurial efforts. During the past two years she successfully transitioned the Barbara Bush Foundation from a donor-advised fund to a public charity, instituting a talented and respected board to oversee these efforts.

Matthew Muench

Matthew Muench is a Program Officer in Joyce’s Employment Program, where his grant making seeks innovative and business-centered approaches to helping underprepared adults acquire the skills and credentials they need to get good jobs and advance in careers. His work stresses the essential role of business in effective and sustainable solutions. In addition, he manages the program’s Innovation Fund, which aims to identify or generate and then scale innovations with transformational potential. Mr. Muench holds degrees from the University of Michigan, London School of Economics, and Tulane University.

Shruti Sehra

Shruti is a Partner at New Profit, where she leads New Profit’s Reimagine Learning focused fund. In this role she facilitates a collaborative of social entrepreneurs, funders, researchers, policy influencers, and members of the creative/entertainment community aligning actions to fundamentally reimagine the future of learning in America through investing in individual learners through personalized learning, social and emotional development, and supporting learner agency. Shruti holds an S.B. in chemistry from MIT, an M.B.A. from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, and an M.P.A. from Harvard Kennedy School.

Jean Hammond

Jean Hammond is a co-founder and partner at LearnLaunch. She is also the founder of JPH Associates. A serial entrepreneur, she co-founded AXON Networks, which was acquired by 3Com, led 3Com WAN marketing activities and also founded Quarry Technologies. Jean is an active angel investor focusing on early stage high-tech and high-growth start-ups. She is a member of Hub Angels and Launchpad Venture Group, and she is the founder of the Boston Forum of Golden Seeds. Jean received her MS from MIT Sloan School of Management in 1986 and her BS in Biology from Boston University.

adam newman

Adam is a founding partner of Tyton Partners. Adam has more than 15 years of experience in consulting and market research, management, banking, and teaching across all segments of the education sector. Prior to founding Tyton Partners, Adam was a director at Berkery Noyes, a mergers and acquisitions firm serving the information industry. Adam originated the firm’s strategic advisory practice for education companies and investors. Adam began his professional career as a K–12 educator and athletic coach at schools in Boston, MA, and New Orleans, LA. He holds an AB in English from Duke University.

Esteban Sosnik

Esteban is an entrepreneur passionate about leveraging play in education. He is the Executive Director at co.lab, an accelerator for startups at the intersection of games and learning. He is also a Partner in Reach Capital, an early stage venture fund for K12 edtech startups. Before working in education Esteban co-founded and led two gaming studios, both successfully acquired by Vivendi and DeNA respectively. Before that he was the CEO of Penguin Holdings, an early stage seed fund for Latin American startups and an M&A analyst at JP Morgan.

Don Burton

Don has more than two decades of experience in educational innovation. An alumnus of McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, Allen & Company, Disney Education, Kaplan and Harvard Business School, he has built education companies for large corporations as well as his own successful edtech companies as a serial entrepreneur.

Deborah Quazzo

Deborah is an advisor and small business owner. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of GSV Advisors, which she started in April 2009. GSV Advisors is a broker dealer providing advisory services to the education and business services sectors. Additionally, GSV Advisors co-hosts an annual Education Innovation Summit in Scottsdale, AZ with Arizona State University, the nation's largest public university. This event, now in its fifth year, and attended by over 1,400 people, celebrates innovations and innovators across the education landscape from early childhood to lifelong learning.

Denine Torr

Denine Torr is the director of Community Initiatives at Dollar General Corporation in Nashville, Tennessee and in the role has been instrumental in advancing the company’s strong commitment to literacy and education efforts nationwide. She oversees corporate and foundation giving, employee volunteer engagement efforts, and assists with the development of cause-related partnerships for Dollar General.

Denine joined the Dollar General Community Initiatives team in 1999 and has designed and executed funding initiatives that have raised more than $100 million for charity. She was instrumental in the creation of the Dollar General Employee Assistance Foundation and growth of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation (DGLF). To date, the DGLF has awarded more than $98 million to literacy initiatives, helping more than 5.8 million individuals learn to read, prepare for the high school equivalency or learn English. Under Denine’s leadership, the DGLF has supported adult, family, youth and community literacy programs, and has helped build national awareness for the cause of literacy.

Barry F. Malkin

Barry F. Malkin is currently the Co-­‐‑Founder and CEO of Education Alley, a new venture focused on advising and investing in the educational services sector. Education Alley is also creating the first equity crowdfunding platform for the education and training sector. Prior to Mr. Malkin’s new venture, he was Vice President and Head of Corporate Development at Apollo Education Group. Mr. Malkin joined Apollo Group in June 2009, heading corporate development and strategy for one of the world’s largest educational services companies. Mr. Malkin’s activities included overseeing all domestic and international acquisition and investment activity, global strategy, integration services, and strategic partnerships across Apollo and its subsidiary companies including Apollo Global. Mr. Malkin’s activities included the acquisition of BPP Holdings, Apollo Group’s largest acquisition to date and its first foray into the professional education sector; the acquisition of Carnegie Learning, a leading adaptive learning software platform founded by Carnegie Mellon University; and a new post secondary education joint venture in India with the Hindustan Times.

Prior to joining Apollo Group Inc., Mr. Malkin was a managing director and head of Bear Stearns’ educational services practice responsible for providing investment banking services to the education and training industry. Prior to joining Bear Stearns, Mr. Malkin worked as a vice president of mergers & acquisitions for Career Education Corporation where he was responsible for domestic and international post secondary acquisitions. Prior to joining Career Education Corporation, Mr. Malkin worked as a vice president in Credit Suisse First Boston’s Investment Banking Group focusing on mergers & acquisitions for the global services sector. Mr. Malkin earned his bachelor of science from American University in Washington D.C. in 1991 and his MBA from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 1996.


Multiple cities, Nov. 18, 2015, 12-6pm EST

Designing a better future for adult learners: a cross-country collaboration

Alison Ascher Webber

Alison Ascher Webber

As a consultant and non-profit leader, Alison Ascher Webber designs and directs innovative initiatives to bring education and critical services to some of the world's hardest to reach adults and families. As a partner with World Education's new EdTech Center and as Education Advisor for the mobile learning startup Cell-Ed, Alison is exploring how cellphones can become effective anytime, anywhere learning tools for low-wage workers and other adults in need of English as a Second Language, workforce, health, and other instruction. In her previous position as Executive Director of the Leadership Training & Education Fund, she helped establish a training collaboration between the SEIU-USWW janitors' union and leading California businesses to advance the skills and opportunities of immigrant janitors and other building service workers. Alison also helped grow the initiative into the award-winning non-profit Building Skills Partnership and now serves on its Board of Directors. She has served as a Director on the NOVA Silicon Valley and Oakland Workforce Investment Boards and on the core committee for the ALLIES Silicon Valley federal grant for improving outcome for English language learners. She is co-author of the ESL textbook Winning at Work published by the University of California Press.
G. Martinez Cabrera

G. Martinez Cabrera

For over fifteen years, G. Martinez Cabrera has worked with community-based organizations, such as the United Way, Children’s Aid Society, and the Mission Neighborhood Center, as a teacher and community organizer for underserved communities in New York, Los Angeles, Boston and San Francisco. He has also produced multimedia content and written articles for media outlets includingNewsweek, WNYC, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and others. He holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Columbia University and a master's of divinity from Harvard, where he concentrated on the intersection of education, literature, and community identity.

Karen Cator

Karen Cator is President and CEO of Digital Promise and a leading voice for transforming American education through technology, innovation and research. From 2009-2013, Karen was Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, where she led the development of the 2010 National Education Technology Plan and focused the Office’s efforts on teacher and leader support. Prior to joining the department, Cator directed Apple’s leadership and advocacy efforts in education. In this role, she focused on the intersection of education policy and research, emerging technologies, and the reality faced by teachers, students and administrators. She began her education career in Alaska as a teacher, ultimately leading technology planning and implementation. She also served as Special Assistant for Telecommunications for the Governor of Alaska. Cator holds a master’s in school administration from the University of Oregon and recently received the 2014 College of Education Distinguished Alumni award. The American Association of Publishers has awarded Cator with the 2014 Visionary Award. She received her bachelor’s in early childhood education from Springfield College, and she is a member of the Aspen Pahara Fellows. She is a past chair for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and has served on boards including the Software & Information Industry Association-Education.
Patti Constantakis

Patti Constantakis

Patti has a long-held commitment to innovation, technology and education and has spent the bulk of her career in the educational technology field largely working with adult learners. Prior to Digital Promise, Patti was the Director of Product, Content and Curriculum at GreatSchools.org and was responsible for several large parent education initiatives that included developing digital media components, implementing on-the-ground workshops and events, and managing community-based media campaigns. Prior to GreatSchools, Patti worked with several start-ups, developing and implementing e-learning courseware, online educational games, and mobile apps for a variety of audiences, including English language learners, older returning community college students, parents and families, and teachers. Patti earned her PhD from the University of Texas at Austin in communications, with an emphasis in Spanish-language media and Latinos in the U.S. She received her master’s degree in Radio, Television, Film, also from the University of Texas at Austin, and a dual bachelor’s degree in journalism and Spanish from New Mexico State University.


Dr. Estrada is a nationally recognized education scientist and the architect of new and innovative educational models and methodologies especially in the adult education and workforce development field. Dr. Estrada is a frequent speaker at national conferences and summits organized by the US Departments of Education, Labor, Human Services and Transportation and is one of only 20 educators nationwide invited by the White House to serve in President’s Obama Expert Committee in education in 2013. Dr. Estrada Work in Education and workforce development has been referenced in several documents and studies by scholars, and researchers. His later publication “How to Build Career Bridges that Fit into Career Pathways” has been endorsed by the US Department of Labor, Education and Human Services. Dr. Estrada has a Bachelor degree and MBA from North Park University of Chicago, and a Doctor in Education from National Louis University of Chicago. Currently Dr. Estrada is the Vice President for Education at Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago, Illinois.

Shlomy Kattan

Shlomy Kattan is Senior Director of the $7M Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation. As a former educator, academic, EdTech entrepreneur, and strategy consultant with over 15 years of experience in both eLearning and traditional education, Dr. Kattan brings a unique ability to bridge the gaps among educational practice, research, technology, and industry.

Prior to joining XPRIZE, Dr. Kattan was the Co-Founder & CEO of Kudo Learning, an award-winning EdTech startup. He was previously a Consultant at The Boston Consulting Group. Dr. Kattan earned his PhD in Education from the University of California, Berkeley, where he researched second language and literacy acquisition and was a Wenner-Gren Foundation fellow.

Michael H. Levine

Michael H. Levine is the founding executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The Center conducts research, builds multi-sector alliances, and catalyzes industry and policy reforms needed to advance high quality media experiences for all children. Levine serves on the senior team at Sesame Workshop where he focuses on educational initiatives and philanthropic partnerships for the global non-profit.

Prior to joining the Center, Levine was Vice President for Asia Society managing interactive media and educational initiatives to promote knowledge and understanding of other world regions and cultures. Michael previously oversaw Carnegie Corporation of New York’s groundbreaking work in early childhood development and educational media, and was a senior advisor to the New York City Schools Chancellor, where he directed dropout prevention and afterschool programs. Levine serves on several boards including the Forum for Youth Investment, We Are Family Foundation, Classroom, Inc, Journeys in Film, Woot Math and DigiLearn. He was named one of the United States’ 25 most influential leaders on family policy issues by Working Mother magazine.

Michael is a Pahara-Aspen Education Reform Fellow and a frequent adviser to the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. He writes for professional and public affairs journals, including a column for Huffington Post and is a frequent keynote speaker at education and technology conferences around the world. His new book co-authored with Lisa Guernsey, Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens was released in October 2015. He received his PhD from the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis University and his BS from Cornell University.


Cooper Union, NYC, Nov. 18, 2015, 6:30pm EST

Adult Literacy XPRIZE Kickoff

Peter Diamandis

Dr. Peter Diamandis is the Chairman and CEO of XPRIZE, which leads the world in designing and launching large incentive prizes to drive radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. Best known for the $10 million Ansari XPRIZE for private spaceflight and the $10 million Progressive Automotive XPRIZE for 100 mile-per-gallon equivalent cars, XPRIZE is now launching prizes in Exploration, Life Sciences, Energy, and Education.

Diamandis is also an international leader in the commercial space arena, having founded and run many of the leading entrepreneurial companies in this sector including Zero Gravity Corporation, the Rocket Racing League and Space Adventures.

As co-Founder & Chairman of the Singularity University, a Silicon Valley based institution partnered with NASA, Google, Autodesk and Nokia, Diamandis counsels the world’s top enterprises on how to utilize exponential technologies and incentivized innovation to dramatically accelerate their business objectives.

Dr. Diamandis attended MIT where he received his degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, as well as Harvard Medical School where he received his M.D. Diamandis’ personal motto is: “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself!”

Jake Schwartz

Jake Schwartz is Co-Founder and CEO of General Assembly, where he is responsible for guiding the organization’s global growth and expansion. Under his leadership, General Assembly has scaled to 14 cities in less than four years, and has helped more than 70,000 students create opportunities through educational programming in technology, business and design. General Assembly was recently voted Fast Company’s #1 Most Innovative Company in Education and #28 Most Innovative Company in the world.

Prior to founding General Assembly, Jake worked for Associated Partners, a multi-stage private equity firm focused on telecommunications, media, and technology co-funded by Liberty Media and Goldman Sachs. He has a BA from Yale University, and earned an MBA with Honors from The Wharton School.

Stephanie Dua

Stephanie Powell Dua is the Founder and CEO of Homer, a company producing handcrafted early education experiences for children and parents.

Homer's first product, Learn with Homer, launched on the App Store for iPad August 1, 2013. Learn with Homer is the first comprehensive reading app, designed by top literacy experts. It debuted on the App Store as a New and Noteworthy App. See below for a related blog post by Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, plus a review at Forbes.com

Prior to founding Homer, Stephanie served as Senior Advisor to both David Coleman at Student Achievement Partners and the Gates Foundation's Shared Learning Collaborative.

From 2006 to 2011, Stephanie served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Fund for Public Schools. Stephanie previously served as the Director of the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. She came to the Department of Education from the Robin Hood Foundation where she spent much of her tenure working in their Special Projects group, which helped to forge the partnership that brought the Robin Hood Libraries to the city’s schools.

Prior to joining Robin Hood, Stephanie worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, consulting to Fortune 100 businesses, across a broad range of industries. She was named to Crain’s New York Business “40 Under Forty” in 2009. She received her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and received her B.S. from UCLA summa cum laude. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three daughters.

Paul Gollash

Paul Gollash has 15 years of experience building businesses as an operator, investor, and entrepreneur. He is currently the CEO of Voxy, a venture-funded education technology company based in NY that he founded in 2010. He is passionate about learning, education technology, and global brands. He sincerely believes that what the team at Voxy is doing will change the world.

Prior to starting Voxy, Paul was a venture investor for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, the team that created Virgin Mobile, Virgin America, and Virgin Galactic. Before Virgin, Paul was a management consultant with Booz Allen, where he advised senior executives in media and consumer-facing businesses on strategy and operations. Earlier in his career, Paul spent three years in Madrid, launching a new retail business for GM Europe, and also helped start an import/export business in Santiago, Chile.

Jonathan Harber

For over 20 years, Jonathan Harber has been a pioneer in education technology. Mr. Harber serves as the Co-founder at EDge Edtech, LLC. As Chief Executive Officer of Harber Advisors, LLC, he advises private equity funds and large education companies on mergers and acquisitions. Until January 2014, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Pearson K12 Technology following its acquisition of Schoolnet. In this role, he was responsible for Pearson's K12 Technology business, managing a team of 1,000 employees. Mr. Harber was the Chief Executive Officer of Schoolnet, Inc, which he co-founded in 1998. Prior to launching Schoolnet, he was the co-founder of two other EdTech companies that were sold to public companies; Diva and NewKidCo.

Anthony Tassi

Anthony Tassi serves as the Executive Director of Literacy Partners NYC, setting the vision and overall direction for the agency. Under Anthony’s leadership and building on a 40+ year legacy, Literacy Partners has focused its programming to meet the needs of parents of young children with the goal of achieving positive outcomes for two generations at once. Anthony previously served as the Founding Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education from March 2006 through October 2010. Prior to his role with the Mayor’s Office of Adult Education, Anthony spent many years in the health sector, working at both public and private enterprises, starting on the staff of U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy and culminating in a role advising former Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott on health policy and financing issues.

Michael Preston

Michael has developed, implemented, and studied technology and learning for more than 15 years. At the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness, he designed programs that promote student-centered, technology-driven teaching and learning, computer science education, and nonprofit and industry partnerships for schools. At the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning (CCNMTL), he led the development of web-based multimedia analysis tools. He has taught courses in psychology and research methods at Teachers College, Columbia University, where he earned a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology. He received a B.A. from Harvard University.

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