Citizens & Scholars is headed by Raj Vinnakota and a five-person leadership team who bring strong experience in both for-profit and nonprofit settings and have led start-up organizations as well as major, established institutions. This senior management team has experience in program design and operations, higher education, communications, fundraising, financial management, IT/data systems, and research and evaluation. They also bring experiences ranging from the classroom to the quad and from Main Street to Wall Street in both the nonprofit and private sector. The senior team is supported by 25 dedicated staff.
Rajiv is the seventh president of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. Prior to joining Citizens & Scholars in July 2019, Raj served as the Executive Vice President of the Youth & Engagement division at the Aspen Institute, a new venture focusing on youth leadership development, civic engagement, and opportunity. Before work at the Aspen Institute, he was the co-founder and CEO of The SEED Foundation, the nation’s first network of public, college-preparatory boarding schools for underserved children. Raj remains on the board of The SEED Foundation.
A graduate and former trustee of Princeton University, Raj has dedicated his career to educating, empowering, and supporting America’s youth, particularly those from disadvantaged communities. His work as a social entrepreneur and non-profit leader has earned him national recognition in the form of prestigious fellowships from Echoing Green, The Ashoka Foundation and the Aspen Institute, as well as awards such as Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, Harvard University’s Innovation in American Government Award, and Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life award.
Vice President / Secretary to the Board
Beverly is Vice President of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. She also serves as Secretary to the Board, a position elected by the Citizens & Scholars Board of Trustees. Prior to joining the Citizens & Scholars staff in 2002, Beverly served first as communications director for the president of the University at Buffalo (SUNY), then as associate director of the UB Regional Institute. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she completed an M.A. and Ph.D. coursework at the University at Buffalo.
Chief Financial Officer
Ram is the Chief Financial Officer of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. Before joining the team, Ram was CEO and CFO at TDA Group, an integrated marketing services firm. He has an extensive background that combines both “Main Street” and “Wall Street” skills, including senior level roles at UBS, Morgan Stanley, and Touche Ross & Co (now Deloitte). Ram received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from IIT Kanpur and holds an M.B.A. in finance from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Also, as Adjunct Faculty he teaches Strategic Management to MBA students at Adelphi University.
Chief Development Officer
Susie is the Chief Development Officer of the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. Prior to joining the team, Susie operated Apeira Revenue Solutions, a fundraising consulting firm focused on fundraising strategy, systems, and capacity building. She has also led the fundraising function at three education related nonprofits—Education Pioneers, Stand for Children, and IDEA Public Schools—and held positions with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) of Houston, Texas, and the Center for Reform of School Systems. Susie grew up in Michigan, lived in Texas for 16 years, before returning to Michigan in June 2018. She earned both her B. A. in English and M. A. in student affairs administration from Michigan State University.
Chief Communications and Engagement Officer
Jay is the Chief Communications and Engagement Officer at Citizens & Scholars. As a brand strategy and communications leader, he has worked with organizations across all sectors, including The Rockefeller Foundation, The World Bank, NYC Dept of Education, Mattel, Echoing Green, Boeing, and Pew Trusts. Jay is particularly proud of his cross-sector research on narrative and impact storytelling, which has been adopted by NGOs and communities of practice across the globe. He holds degrees from Drake University and NYU.
New Ventures & Chief Technology Officer
Bernard is the Chief Technology Officer and heads the New Ventures function at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. His career has spanned multiple industries, and in the 5 years ahead of joining the team he had focused on the field of higher education. Most recently he was a Director of Implementation at the Education Advisory Board in Washington DC. There he oversaw the launch and growth of technologies designed to further both initial enrollment as well as student ultimate outcomes for multiple institutions of higher learning, touching over 300,000 college students across the country. Bernard is a graduate of University College London, UK, and emigrated to the United States in 2014.
Director, Strategic Partnerships
Symeon is Director of Strategic Partnerships at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. He previously worked for over 14 years in higher education administration, first at The New School and then at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences. Symeon also worked in fundraising and communications for Neighborhood Housing Services of New York City and the Franklin Institute Science Museum. He holds a B.A. in English from Penn, an M.A. in media studies from The New School, and a doctoral degree in higher education finance from Penn’s Graduate School of Education.
Civic Learning Lead
Katie leads Citizens & Scholars’ Civic Learning portfolio. She has launched and led multiple successful education reform efforts at the local, state and national level by building sustainable coalitions in politically challenging environments. Most recently, Katie co-founded Strategic Collective where she supported leaders committed to transforming their organizations to be more inclusive and ultimately more impactful. Previously, Katie launched and led the Teach for America Buffalo region, served as the Assistant Secretary for Education in New York, and led Buffalo ReformED. She began her career working for the 2008 Obama Campaign and Democrats for Education Reform. Katie earned her B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis.
Arianna is the Program Officer for the WW HistoryQuest and Higher Education Policy Programs. She joined the Institute for Citizens & Scholars in 2018 as Executive Assistant to the President and EVP/COO, and prior to that served as office manager for a private elementary school. Originally from New York City, Arianna is a cum laude graduate of the City University of New York and holds a B.A. in communications and media and the psychology of management and organization.
Frances Micklow Hannan
Frances is the Program Officer for the WW Higher Education Media Fellowship and the Director of Multimedia Projects at the Institute for Citizens & Scholars. She joined the Foundation in 2014 as the communications associate. Prior to WW, she was a multimedia journalist and photo editor at The Star-Ledger and Inside Jersey magazine in Newark, NJ, where she won several award for her work from the National Press Photographers Association and the New York Press Photographers Association. A metro Atlanta native, she holds a B.A. in journalism from the University of Georgia.
Senior Program Officer
Caroline is the Senior Program Officer for the Mellon Foundation Fellowships. She earned her Ph.D. in Political Science with concentrations in Black Politics and International Relations from Howard University. As a National Diversity Scholar within the University of Michigan National Center for Institutional Diversity and previous Mellon/American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Public Fellow, Caroline’s work is focused on exploring the extent to which civic engagement reduces inequalities in education, housing, and career outcomes. Caroline has integrated research into practice by working with advocates and administrators to facilitate programs that encourage diversity in higher education and expansion of resources in underserved communities.
Jeré is the Program Officer for the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and the WW Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies. She joined the Foundation in 2010, working on the Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship Programs. Previously, Jeré served as the Assistant Director for Placement and Alumni Relations at New Jersey SEEDS, where she helped prepare high-achieving, low income students for admission to private schools across the nation. Jeré earned her B.A. in political science from Rider University and her M.A. in leadership and public administration from Centenary College.
Director, Strategic Fellowship Initiatives
Julie is the Director of Strategic Fellowship Initiatives at Citizens & Scholars. Prior to joining C&S, Julie led her own consulting practice, working with a mix of philanthropic and nonprofit clients, including the Ford Foundation on the development of the foundation’s new global fellowship program. She has held leadership roles at multiple education-related organizations, including the NYC Department of Education, New Leaders and Education Pioneers. Julie holds a BA and an MBA from Yale University. She began her career as a teacher in New York and Cape Town and was a Fulbright scholar in South Africa
Director, Marketing and Recruitment Strategy
Lindsay is the Director of Marketing and Recruitment Strategy. She joined the Institute for Citizens & Scholars in 2014 on the WW Teaching Fellowship team leading online recruitment efforts. Today she works across all of Citizens & Scholars programs designing and implementing print and digital marketing. She previously worked at Delta Phi Epsilon International Headquarters in Philadelphia in development and collegiate membership management. She holds a B.A. in political science from Northeastern University.
Audra M. Watson
Director, WW Teaching Fellowships
Audra is the Director of the WW Teaching Fellowships. Before coming to WW in 2010, she was a 19-year veteran of the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE). Her multiple leadership positions there included Principal, Director of Mentoring, Director of Professional Development, As NYCDOE’s Executive Director of Teacher Development, Audra led strategy and planning to increase alignment between pre-service and in-service teacher development and oversaw initiatives for early-career teachers. Audra received her master’s degree from Teachers College, Columbia University and earned her Ph.D. in education policy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
board of trustees
The Citizens & Scholars Board of Trustees provides tremendous experience and counsel for the organization. It includes leaders from higher education, business, government, nonprofit, social entrepreneurship, public affairs, biotech, philanthropy, law, and finance.
Jane Phillips Donaldson, Chair
Co-Founder, Phillips Oppenheim
Thomas C. Hudnut, Chair Emeritus
Rhian Evans Allvin
Chief Executive Officer, National Ass’n for the Education of Young Children
Former President, Wellesley College
Brooke B. Coburn
Deputy Chief Investment Officer and Chief Operating Officer, The Carlyle Group
Jeffrey A. Goldstein
Senior Advisor, Canapi Ventures
Robert F. Johnston
Founder, Educational Ventures
Martha J. Kanter
Executive Director, College Promise Campaign; Former Under Secretary, US Department of Education
Founder/Chairman, Noodle Education, Inc.
William W. Keating
Owner/CEO, Waste Acquisition Group LLC
Executive Director, George W. Bush Institute and Senior Vice President, George W. Bush Presidential Center
Senior Managing Director, Hudson Ventures
Senior Policy Advisor, Holland & Knight LLP
Founder/CEO, Carobar Business Solutions
Founder/CEO, Management Leadership for Tomorrow
Chief, Global Policy/External Relations, The College Board
David N. Shane
CEO (Retired), LDI Ltd., LLC
John L.S. Simpkins
Founder, Pahara Institute, and Entrepreneur in Residence, Marshall Street Initiatives
Jay P. Urwitz
President, Urwitz LLC
President, Institute for Citizens & Scholars
Managing Director, Ruxton Ventures, LLC