Board of Directors

Richard Binswanger

Richard Binswanger

Board Chair

Richard is a Philadelphia entrepreneur, investor and connector in finding new ways to make an impact. He is a lifelong educator who is focused on helping people innovate on important problems. He is currently working on a number of projects that include helping organizations measure their social outcomes, bring more diversity onto the tech industry, and make Philly a world recognized hub for developing impactful organizations. He also serves on boards of Jounce, CB Community School, Russell Byers Charter, The Trust for Public Land, GreenLight Foundation, Triskeles Foundation, MilkCrate, XMOD, and ImpactPHL. ImpactPHL is Richard’s latest passion project and promises to reshape Philadelphia. 

René Bryce-Laporte

René Bryce-Laporte

Board Member

René is a Washington, DC –based facilitator and consultant. For over 25 years he has supported organizations that help disadvantaged people and communities find social and economic opportunity. His particular areas of interest are diversity, equity and inclusion, workforce development and asset-building.

As a consultant, he has worked with a number of for-profit and non-profit organizations – notably including Believe in Students – as a facilitator, advisor, researcher, writer and program evaluator. Prior to launching his consultancy, Renéworked for several think tanks and advocacy groups including the Aspen Institute, CFED (now known as Prosperity Now) and Results, Inc. He has also served on several boards including the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Pacifica Foundation, Campaign for Youth Justice and the Bridge Lab.

René is a graduate of Columbia University and UCLA School of Law.

Mark Hays

Mark Hays

Board Treasurer

Mark is Director of Sustainable & Impact Investing at Glenmede. Mark and his team are responsible for the development of new investment capabilities, the creation and delivery of innovative thought leadership, and the deepening of relationships with clients and industry partners. Previously, Mr. Hays served as Vice President of Sustainable Investing for J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Vice President of Impact Investments for Flat World Partners. Mark started his career at Cambridge Associates, serving endowments and foundations on portfolio construction.

Bill Kiolbasa

Bill Kiolbasa

Board Member

Bill is the CEO and co-founder of Joule Growth Partners, creating the organization to address social sector challenges he’s seen across prior experience in philanthropic management and nonprofit leadership. Prior to Joule, Bill worked at Ballmer Group Philanthropy, helping launch their national philanthropic efforts by building a $250+ million portfolio of leading national K-12 nonprofits, underwritten to support effective national scaling by organizations with both research-proven results and sound financial and business models. Prior to his time in WA, Bill’s other experience includes serving as financial lead for a number of other organizations and work across Chicago, New York, New Orleans, and Los Angeles. Bill graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and earned CPA credentials in 2007. Bill currently serves on the advisory board of Stand for Children WA and lives in South Seattle with his wife and two sons.

Stephanie Owens

Stephanie Owens

Board Member

Stephanie serves as the Executive Director of Reach Higher and as the Vice President of Student Advocacy & Engagement at Common App. In those roles, she leads former First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to increase diversity, access, and equity in higher education for first generation, low-income, and minority students and advocates for all students seeking higher education. Prior to joining Reach Higher, Stephanie served in multiple roles in the U.S. Department of Education during President Obama’s administration. In previous capacities, she advocated on Capitol Hill for middle grade and high school reform at the Alliance for Excellent Education; supported the Chief of Staff at the School District of Philadelphia on special projects; and staffed various political campaigns. Stephanie earned a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics and a citation in Women’s Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She earned a master’s degree in Government Administration, with a concentration in Politics, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jesse Thompson

Jesse Thompson

Board Member

Jesse is a Senior Consultant and the Director of Community and Technical College Searches for RH Perry and Associates, an executive search firm for higher education. Before joining RH Perry and Associates in January 2014, Jesse spent 16 years at Boston’s Bunker Hill Community College. As Executive Vice President and Chief Finance Officer, in addition to the division of Finance and Administration, Jesse supervised 10 other divisions, including Marketing and Communications, Information Technology, Human Resources and Labor Relations, Student Payments, and Financial Aid.

In Michigan, Jesse won a countywide election to the Mott Community College Board of Trustees and served as Board Treasurer and Chair of the Board’s Finance and Personnel Committees. He was also employed as CEO of a large non-profit community service organization and later as the Chief Human Resources and Labor Relations Officer for the City of Flint. For 15 years as an adjunct professor, he taught college management courses. A first-generation college student, Jesse earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a master’s degree in human resources and labor relations administration from Central Michigan University.

Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera

Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera

Board Member

Dr. Vaquera is the inaugural Director of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute and Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. Dr. Vaquera’s research focuses on vulnerable and diverse groups, particularly Latinos/as and immigrants. Her work has analyzed the character and importance of immigrant status, race, and ethnic identity in outcomes such as education, health, and emotional and social well-being. In her role as Director of the Cisneros Institute, she translates this work by designing and leading programs for high-achieving Hispanic students at the pre-college and university level. In addition to an extensive body of work published in leading peer-reviewed journals, she is the co-author of several books, the most recent of which, Education and Immigration, examines the educational experiences of immigrants and their children living in the U.S. Dr. Vaquera is also the recipient of several federal grants by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Our Founder

Dr. Sara Goldrick -Rab

Dr. Sara Goldrick -Rab

Founder | Board Member

Sara Goldrick-Rab is a scholar-activist whose visionary research, teaching, and advocacy has forever changed how higher education understands and supports college students. A sociologist by training, she focuses on reducing poverty by revealing unheard truths and sharing that knowledge with multiple publics. Sara’s award-winning book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream, documents the failures of policymakers and higher education institutions to make college affordable.  Her dozens of pathbreaking studies identifying and addressing college students’ basic needs for food, housing, childcare, transportation, and health supports sparked the internationally-known #RealCollege movement and inspired federal and state legislation as well as countless privately-funded programs.

Sara has created, led, and supported the growth of multiple organizations changing the face of higher education including founding Believe in Students in 2016. In 2013 she founded the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, and until 2022 oversaw its growth into The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, a 50-person national university center with an annual budget of more than $8M. In 2019 she translated her research findings into a product that makes it possible for low-income people to access emergency support quickly and with dignity; that work is now carried forward by Beam, a Brooklyn-based company.These days Sara writes, consults, and teaches about anti-poverty and education issues from an independent perch in Philadelphia that affords her the space to be creative, responsible, and nimble. Her next book, #RealCollege, is under development.

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