Staff and Senior Advisors

​​​​CIC staff support the operations of the Council and work in partnership with senior advisors to support member programs, services, and activities.

 CIC Staff



  • Sherita C.

    Sherita C. Ashmon

    Conference Manager

    ​​Sherita C. Ashmon joined CIC in November 2010 as conference and program coordinator and was promoted to conference manager in June 2016. She is a graduate of Delaware State University from which she earned a BA in communications and has completed some graduate work in communications management at Towson University. She previously served as membership coordinator for the Community Technology Centers’ Network and as operations and membership manager for the Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG), both in Washington, DC. In her last position, Ashmon managed all aspects of conference registrations for NFG’s annual meeting and provided programmatic support for NFG’s work groups.​​

  • Allison

    Allison Blackburn

    Executive Director of Conferences

    Allison Blackburn joined CIC in October 2005.  As director of conferences, her responsibilities include contract negotiations and logistical management of CIC’s conferences. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Blackburn brings with her a wealth of experience and training, including a master’s degree in Tourism and Travel Management from New York University, professional certification in meeting planning, and more than 15 years of experience in planning events. Prior to joining CIC, Blackburn served as manager of conferences and meetings for the International Life Sciences Institute where she worked for eight years with responsibility for managing multiple international conferences each year, both large and small.​​

  • David G.

    David G. Brailow

    Vice President for Development

    ​David Brailow became CIC’s vice president for development in August 2016. He is responsible for the solicitation and management of corporate sponsorships and foundation grants and oversees selected CIC leadership and faculty-development programs. Previously, he served for 15 years as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college at Franklin College (IN), and in 2016 he was awarded the rank of professor emeritus at Franklin. Brailow was professor of English and served in various administrative roles at McKendree College, now McKendree University (IL), from 1982 to 2001. In the last several years, he has been active in CIC initiatives, including the Workshop for Chief Academic Officers in Their Third or Fourth Year of Service, the Degree Qualifications Profile Consortium, and the CIC/Walmart College Success Awards program. Brailow has served on the boards of arts and education organizations and has published articles and book chapters on general education reform, faculty scholarship, and contemporary performances of Shakespeare. He received his BA in English from Amherst College and his PhD from the University of Oregon.

  • Alana K.

    Alana K. Cassidy

    Development Manager

    ​Alana K. Cassidy joined CIC as development manager in February 2017. Her responsibilities focus on enhancing CIC’s relationships with corporations and foundations. She also works closely on CIC’s leadership development programs, including the Executive Leadership Academy and the Senior Leadership Academy. Previously, Cassidy spent more than five years as director of business development for Academic Search, Inc., serving as the lead proposal writer and point of contact to secure new contracts for the executive search firm. She also established the firm’s overall marketing presence and served as a representative at national conferences, including CIC’s Presidents Institute and the Institute for Chief Academic Officers. Earlier, Cassidy held positions as events operations manager and as marketing assistant at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing and a minor in Spanish from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.

  • Sheila L.

    Sheila L. Cooper

    Office Manager

    Sheila Cooper is administrative/membership assistant at CIC. She works with the president and executive vice president and with the membership director on the Tuition Exchange Program (TEP). She joined the Council in 2001 as administrative assistant and began assisting the membership director this spring. Sheila is responsible for preparing office correspondence and other written materials, maintaining files, scheduling appointments, and coordinating mailings. She also maintains TEP annual reports and registration forms. Prior to CIC, Sheila held numerous positions in human resources and sales in the hotel industry in the DC area.

  • Heather M.

    Heather M. Cox

    Publications Manager/Designer

    ​Heather M. Cox joined CIC as publications manager/designer in August 2019. Previously, she worked at the International Monetary Fund where, as senior graphic designer, she produced reports, brochures, infographics, and presentations. As long-time art director and co-owner of MillerCox Design, she has worked with clients including the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, the Brookings Institution, Georgetown University—and CIC. Cox graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a major in business administration and economics, a minor in computer science, and a concentration in art.

  • Christopher

    Christopher Dodds

    Director of Digital Communications and Strategy

    ​Christopher Dodds serves as director of digital communications and strategy after joining CIC through the merger with the Foundation for Independent Higher Education in 2010. His responsibilities include CIC's website, listservs, email communications, and overall digital strategy. Dodds previously held research positions for several policy and research organizations, including the Commonwealth Foundation, Americans for Tax Reform, and the U.S. Army War College. Dodds studied international business and political science at Messiah College (PA) and, upon completing his bachelor’s degree, moved to China where he studied economics at Xiamen University and taught English as a foreign language. Dodds also holds a master's degree in applied economics from Johns Hopkins University.

  • Richard

    Richard Ekman


    Richard Ekman has served as president of the Council of Independent Colleges since 2000. During this time, Ekman has led the 50 percent growth in CIC’s membership and participation in CIC’s major programs. He has initiated many new programs and services to colleges and universities on major issues in independent higher education. During his tenure, CIC has formed partnerships with the American Academic Leadership Institute to offer the Executive and Senior Leadership Academies, and with the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to manage the Visiting Fellows program. Also, Ekman facilitated the merger into CIC of the Foundation for Independent Higher Education—with 29 state-based affiliates and the distribution of approximately 550 scholarships each year funded by the CIC/UPS Educational Endowment. CIC also created and manages the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education, which now has more than 200 college and university members. Under Ekman’s leadership especially generous financial support has been obtained for CIC’s programs from foundations including Lilly Endowment Inc., Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UPS Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Walmart Foundation, and Strada Education Network.

    Previously, Ekman served as vice president for programs of Atlantic Philanthropies and as secretary and senior program officer of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In his early professional life, he was at the National Endowment for the Humanities, successively as director of the Division of Education Programs and the Division of Research Programs; at Hiram College as vice president and dean, where he also was a tenured member of the history faculty; and at the University of Massachusetts at Boston as assistant to the provost. He currently serves as a member of many boards, including those that provide guidance to the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, Harvard University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, American Academic Leadership Institute, Emeriti Retirement Health, and Project Pericles. He has been awarded honorary degrees by Alvernia, Otterbein, St. Edward’s, and Marywood Universities, and Alderson-Broaddus, Bethany, Davis & Elkins, Georgetown, Hastings, and Ursinus Colleges, and is a recipient of the W.E.B. DuBois Medal of Harvard University. He is co-author, with Richard E. Quandt, of Technology and Scholarly Communication (University of California Press, 1999). His essays have appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, Inside Higher Ed, Carnegie Reporter, and Washington Post. Ekman earned his AB in history and PhD in the history of American civilization from Harvard University.

  • Michelle

    Michelle Friedman

    Director of Programs

    ​Michelle Friedman serves as director of programs for CIC with primary responsibilities for the day-to-day management of the Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program and supporting roles within CIC meetings and events including the Presidents Institute and the Presidential Vocation and Institution Mission seminar. A staff member since 2007, her original duties focused on logistical administration of CIC meetings but have expanded. Previously, she served in positions related to membership and meetings at the International Real Estate Federation. Friedman graduated magna cum laude from The George Washington University (GWU) and majored in American studies with a minor in American art history. During her time at GWU, she held internships with The National Museum of Women in the Arts and The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute. She recently earned her MBA from University of St. Francis (IL).

  • Stephen

    Stephen Gibson

    Director of Programs

    ​Stephen Gibson, CIC’s director of programs, oversees a wide range of projects, including the Davies-Jackson Scholarship, Art History Seminars, Ancient Greece Seminars, American History Seminars, and the Information Fluency Workshops. He began at CIC in 2001, serving as projects coordinator, and later as projects manager, for an array of CIC programs, including assisting with the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education. Before joining CIC, he served as editor and office assistant at Swobo Clothing in San Francisco, California, and earned an MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington, Seattle.

  • Harold V.

    Harold V. Hartley III

    Senior Vice President

    Hal Hartley has lead responsibility for CIC’s Presidents Institute, the largest annual meeting of college and university presidents in the country, and other CIC initiatives for college presidents, including the annual Presidents Governance Academy and the Presidential Vocation and Institutional Mission program. He also provides leadership for CIC’s data and research activities, which include the annual Key Indicators Tool (KIT) and Financial Indicators Tool (FIT) benchmarking reports, CIC’s “Making the Case” website, and various research reports. In addition, he oversees CIC’s Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE), a membership organization of 232 colleges and universities committed to supporting the intellectual and theological exploration of vocation among college students. He is co-author of Rethinking College Student Retention (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Hartley joined CIC in 2005 having served for a decade with the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education & Ministry. He earned a BA from Westminster College in Pennsylvania and an EdD in higher education leadership and policy from the Peabody College of Education of Vanderbilt University.
  • Philip M.

    Philip M. Katz

    Director of Projects

    ​Philip M. Katz returned to CIC as director of projects in September 2013. Trained as an American historian, he has taught at Princeton and the University of Maryland University College, rose from program officer to acting executive director of the New York Council for the Humanities, and directed a national study of graduate education for the American Historical Association. He also helped develop the American Graduate Fellowships program as a CIC senior advisor. Most recently, he served six years as assistant director for research at the American Alliance of Museums, where he helped create the Center for the Future of Museums. Katz was educated at Harvard and Princeton Universities and is the author of the award-winning book, From Appomattox to Montmartre: Americans and the Paris Commune.

  • Christoph M.

    Christoph M. Kunkel

    Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff
    Christoph Kunkel is responsible for CIC’s administrative and financial operations, and he plays a key role in shaping CIC's technology and investment activities. He serves as the main liaison to the CIC Board of Directors. A native of Germany, Kunkel studied political science, economics, and history at Heidelberg and Hamburg Universities and the London School of Economics, was a Fulbright Fellow, and received a master’s degree from Cornell University (NY) in government. He occasionally teaches for Cornell’s Summer in Washington program. Kunkel joined CIC in February 2004 as assistant to the president and later also served as assistant director of research and director of operations.
  • Vanessa N.

    Vanessa N. Long

    Manager of State Council Programs

    ​Vanessa Long was promoted to manager of CIC’s State Council programs in June 2016 after serving as CIC’s conference and program coordinator since January 2015. In her new role she oversees the annual conference, grant initiatives, scholarship programs, and membership services for CIC’s State Council Members. After assisting with CIC’s NetVUE grant programs, Long brings a year and a half of grant program development and tracking experience to her new position. With over eight years of event planning and administrative experience, Vanessa previously served as office assistant for the American Association of Community Colleges, event and outreach coordinator for the DC Bar, and convention services coordinator for the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Long graduated summa cum laude from Delaware State University with a bachelor of science degree in general management and earned her master of tourism administration degree in event and meeting management from George Washington University.

  • Paula M.

    Paula M. Miller

    Editorial and Communications Director

    ​Paula M. Miller is CIC’s editorial and communications director. She has primary responsibility for editing CIC’s print and electronic publications. Previously, Miller worked at the U.S.-China Business Council (USCBC) as deputy director and editor of communications and publications. While at USCBC, she edited, managed, and wrote for the China Business Review magazine; edited newsletters, reports, testimonies, and press releases; and co-managed websites and social media platforms. Earlier, she was a China program officer for CET Academic Programs, a division of Academic Travel Abroad in Washington, DC. Miller holds a master’s degree in Asian studies from the University of Michigan and a graduate certificate in Chinese studies from the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language and literature from Michigan State University.

  • Kerry E.

    Kerry E. Pannell

    Vice President for Academic Programs

    ​Kerry E. Pannell joined CIC as vice president for academic programs on February 4. Previously, she served Agnes Scott College (GA) as vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college as well as professor of economics. While at DePauw University (IN), Pannell was QG Noblitt Professor of Economics and Management and served as dean of the faculty and chair of the department of economics and management. She also taught at Stanford University, Bowdoin College, Kiev Polytechnic Institute (Ukraine), and the University of Colorado-Boulder. Pannell has published many book chapters, articles, and other writings, ranging in subject matter from “Creating and Maintaining a Supportive Environment for Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity” to “Policy Gaps and Theory Gaps: Women and Migrant Domestic Labor.” She has made presentations at many conferences, including for CIC’s Institutes for Chief Academic Officers. Pannell earned a BA and MA in economics from the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she was inducted to Phi Beta Kappa, and a PhD in economics from Stanford University.

  • Jo Ellen

    Jo Ellen Parker

    Vice President for Communications

    ​Jo Ellen Parker joined the CIC staff as vice president for communications in February 2019. As vice president for communications, she serves as the lead for CIC’s media relations activities, oversees all print and electronic communications, and plays an important role in articulating the case CIC makes for the liberal arts and private higher education. As a member of CIC’s leadership team, she will play a key role in developing new CIC programs and services. Parker brings extensive experience to this position, including appointments as president of Sweet Briar College, founding executive director of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education, president of the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and associate dean at Bryn Mawr College. In addition, she served beyond the field of higher education as president of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. She has contributed as author and editor to many education and scholarly publications, writing on subjects from George Eliot’s early novels to digital pedagogy, and has authored numerous newspaper op ed pieces, interacted with many journalists, and led in creating some of the more important innovations that are now taken for granted in campus technology and social media. Throughout her career, Parker has championed collaboration and innovation to strengthen private colleges and universities, with a focus on advancing the liberal arts in the digital age. Parker earned a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in English literature and is a Bryn Mawr College graduate.

  • Robert

    Robert Powers

    Director of Finance

    Robert Powers was named CIC’s director of finance in May 2020, after joining CIC as an independent contractor managing CIC’s accounting and human resources activities in April. Previously, Powers served as the business manager of the Alexandria Country Day School, the director of finance for the Ford’s Theatre Society, and controller for Maret School. He is currently the treasurer of the Westchester Corporation and has served on the finance committee of the board of trustees of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW). Powers earned a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Mississippi and did graduate studies in education at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.

  • Leslie A.

    Leslie A. Rogers-Brown

    Conference Manager

    ​Leslie A. Rogers-Brown is CIC's conference manager. She joined the Council in June 2001 as administrative assistant to CIC's Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education (CAPHE), and she was promoted to conference coordinator in fall 2004. Soon after, she was promoted to conference manager and is responsible for maintaining registration databases, arranging the myriad logistical details involved in each event, and staffing workshops and conferences on-site. A native of Washington, DC, Leslie attended the University of the District of Columbia for two years before entering the work force. Prior to coming to CIC, Leslie was a secretary at the U.S. Department of Justice, and she worked briefly for the GED Testing Service of the American Council on Education.

  • Samantha

    Samantha Sabalis

    Development Officer

    ​Samantha Sabalis joined CIC as development officer through the Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows program for recent PhDs in the humanities in September 2018 and became a full-time CIC employee in September 2020. As development officer, she works on the solicitation and management of foundation and federal grants and assists with management of grant-funded programs. Before joining CIC, Sabalis was a postdoctoral teaching fellow at Fordham University during the 2017–2018 academic year. Earlier, she served as coordinator of a National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project at Fordham and chaired a professional development grant committee for the university. She also worked as an educator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. Sabalis received an undergraduate degree in English from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and an MPhil in medieval language, literature, and culture from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. She received a PhD in English from Fordham University in 2017.

  • Carol M.

    Carol M. Schuler

    Vice President for State Council Programs

    Carol Schuler joined CIC as vice president for State Council programs in June 2016. In this role, she directs the CIC/UPS Scholarships Program and other grant initiatives that are designed to support independent higher education through state-based collaboration, scholarships, career pathways for students, and public information. She also provides State Council members with professional development opportunities, including the State Councils Annual Conference, webinars, and special events at CIC’s Presidents Institute, as well as other member services. Previously, Schuler served as vice president for development at Davis & Elkins College, where she secured gifts for the college’s endowment, capital projects, and operations, and oversaw the launch of the college’s $100 million Secure the Future campaign. Schuler designed and led fundraising campaigns, organized major special events, and was the college’s principal liaison to congressional offices. Earlier, she led the college’s communications and marketing, media relations, publications, and website initiatives. Schuler served as a member of the CIC task force that planned the 2015 Institute for Chief Academic and Chief Advancement Officers and previously served on the CASE District II board of directors. She earned her master’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her bachelor’s degree from Purdue University. She began her studies at DePauw University, a member of CIC.
  • Kelsey A.

    Kelsey A. Sherman Creech

    Executive Assistant to the President and Assistant Secretary, Board of Directors

    ​Kelsey Sherman Creech joined CIC in August 2014 as staff assistant to the president and the senior vice president. Previously, she was project consultant for the Capacity Group and served as a teaching assistant at Brown University. Earlier, Sherman Creech worked at the Rhode Island Campus Compact as a project manager, meeting and event organizer, researcher, and report author. In addition, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA for South Carolina Campus Compact at Converse College. Sherman Creech graduated from Oberlin College in 2011 with a bachelor of arts degree in politics and French; she recently completed a master of public policy degree at Brown University.

  • Kathleen

    Kathleen Smith

    Projects Manager

    ​Kathleen Smith joined CIC as projects manager in August 2019. In this new position, she will handle responsibilities for the president’s office as well as for CIC’s Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education. Previously, Smith worked in the University Career Center as well as the Office of Student Conduct at Auburn University while completing graduate work. Earlier, she was an undergraduate intern at Lobbyit, a public policy advocacy group based in Washington, DC. Smith earned BA degrees in philosophy and political science from Furman University (SC) and an MEd in the administration of higher education from Auburn University.

  • Tabitha

    Tabitha Truscott

    Conference and Program Coordinator

    ​Tabitha Truscott was appointed conference and program coordinator in May. She is the lead conference team member for the Institute for Chief Academic Officers and the NetVUE Conference, and she handles registrations, evaluations, and reimbursements for several other CIC workshops. Previously, Truscott served at the Airports Council International-North America as sponsorship and partnerships manager and was responsible for planning and executing events with up to several thousand participants. Earlier, she worked at the American Public Transportation Association as the conference and education department coordinator.

  • Keith A.

    Keith A. Wallace

    Director of Administration

    ​Keith Wallace has been director of administration at CIC since 2001. He assists with staff hiring, acts as liaison with the building manager and engineers, and oversees office management, administrative, and technical issues for CIC. Prior to joining CIC, Wallace was office manager for the American MidEast Education and Training Services (AMIDEAST) and Phillips Publishing Inc. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of the District of Columbia.

  • Kate

    Kate Webber

    Director of Membership Services

    ​Kate Webber joined CIC in August 2008 as membership manager. She is responsible for working with the staff and Board of Directors to recruit and retain members, managing CIC’s Tuition Exchange Program, and maintaining CIC’s database. Webber started her professional career at Bank One, holding positions as trainer, business analyst, and auditor. She is a graduate of Wilson College (PA), where she double-majored in psychology and sociology. While at Wilson, she served as student ambassador of the Women with Children program and later as president of the Wilson College Student Government Association.

 CIC Senior Advisors