LaSTEM Advisory Council Member Biographies
LaSTEM Advisory Council Members
As per Act 392: “The Council shall be chaired by the Commissioner of Higher Education (or his designee), The secretary of the Department of Economic Development (or his designee) shall serve as initial vice chairman of the council. Thereafter, the vice chairmanship shall alternate on a triennial basis between the state Superintendent of Education (or his designee), the secretary of Economic Development (or his designee) and the Executive Director of the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council (or his designee).
Dr. Kim Hunter Reed
Kim Hunter Reed, Ph.D., was unanimously selected as the ninth Commissioner of Higher Education by the Louisiana Board of Regents in April 2018.
Prior to being named Commissioner, Reed served as executive director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education. Working with the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Dr. Reed led efforts to drive increased educational attainment and erase equity gaps as identified in the statewide strategic plan for higher education, Colorado Rises.
Reed has extensive higher education and government experience. She served in President Barack Obama’s administration as deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education, leading postsecondary diversity and inclusion work, supporting strong student and outcomes-focused policies and aggressive national outreach efforts. She also led the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Before serving in the administration, Reed was a principal at HCM Strategists LLC, a public policy and advocacy consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
A Lake Charles native, Reed chaired Louisiana’s higher education transition team in 2015 and served as the State’s policy director. Reed also served as chief of staff and deputy commissioner for public affairs for the Louisiana Board of Regents and executive vice president of the University of Louisiana System.
She has received numerous honors, including LSU Alumna of the Year, Public Administration Institute; and Mom of the Year, Jack and Jill of America, Baton Rouge Chapter. She has been featured in Daughters of Men, a national publication highlighting outstanding African American women and their fathers.
Reed received a doctorate in public policy from Southern University, a master’s degree in public administration and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Louisiana State University.
Reed is a wife, proud volleyball mom and relentless student advocate.
Senator Sharon Hewitt
District 1 Senator Sharon Hewitt, author of Act 392 of 2017 that created the LaSTEM Advisory Council, came to the Louisiana State Senate as a recognized civic and community leader with decades of volunteer service to area children and families. The Lake Charles native and long-time resident of Slidell is a graduate of Barbe High School and holds a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from LSU. As an engineering executive, Senator Hewitt managed major deepwater assets in the Gulf of Mexico for Shell and earned a reputation as a passionate, committed problem solver. As the demands of a young family grew, the Slidell Republican focused her energies on her children, husband, and community. Over the years, she worked to improve education policies and to grow STEM programs in local schools, earning the National PTA Life Achievement Award for her leadership. The Senator continues to support families and children through her volunteer work with East St. Tammany Habitat for Humanity and Junior Auxiliary of Slidell. As a state senator, Hewitt has focused her efforts on stabilizing the state budget, improving education, creating jobs, investing in infrastructure, advocating for families, and restoring Louisiana’s coast. She currently serves as vice-chair of the Senate Transportation, Highways & Public Works Committee, and is a member of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, and the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the state budgeting process.
Dr. David Lafargue
Dr. David Lafargue is the LaSTEM Program Administrator. Dr. Lafargue is charged with managing day-to-day operations of LaSTEM Council activities and oversees the coordination of STEM Programs and the alignment of STEM pipeline education in Louisiana. As full-time staff for the Council, Dr. Lafargue oversees strategic partnership building and development, fundraising, and marketing.
Dr. Lafargue earned a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology, a Master’s degree in Management and Leadership, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in higher education. His research focuses on post-secondary students in STEM fields using augmented and virtual reality as tools for learning.
Dr. Lafargue began his career in the industrial field spanning ten years while advancing within petrochemical operations, project management, analytics, quality control, and training. He later transitioned to Louisiana’s higher education system and taught as a faculty member for approximately six years. Dr. Lafargue later served in administrative roles as Department Chair and Dean for industrial programs spread over multiple districts in southwest Louisiana. This role led to responsibilities serving areas of supervision, curriculum oversight, program creation, facility design and workflow, training equipment procurement, creating and sustaining stakeholder partnerships, and fundraising. He now serves at the Louisiana Board of Regents as the LaSTEM Program Administrator. Dr. Lafargue’s work experience spans approximately 22 years building relationships and partnerships among businesses, educational stakeholders, and community-minded citizens throughout Louisiana and beyond.
Dr. Mahyar Amouzegar
Dr. Amouzegar is a STEM Faculty appointee of the Commmissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Rallo. As Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, he is the Chief Academic Officer for the University of New Orleans. He earned a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from San Francisco State University, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering, D. Engineering and Ph.D. in Operations Research from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Amouzegar was also a Senior Policy Analyst at RAND Corporation, which is internationally recognized as a premier policy think tank. He began his career as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Massey University in New Zealand. Dr. Amouzegar then spent several years at California State University, Long Beach, serving as the Associate Dean for Research and Development. He previously held the position of Dean of the College of Engineering at Cal Poly Pomona where he oversaw more than 300 faculty and staff, 12 accredited programs and more than 5,000 students. He is the founding editor of the Journal of Applied Mathematics and Decision Sciences, a contributing editor of the International Abstract in Operations Research and on the editorial boards of Advances in Operations Research and International Journal of Strategic Decision Sciences. Amouzegar is also a fellow at IMA (UK) and ICA (Canada), and a Senior Member of IEEE. Mahyar belongs to Tau Alpha Pi (engineering honor society), Alpha Iota Delta (business honor society) and honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. He is also the past president of the Western Decision Sciences Institute and an active member of the board of Military Application Society, as well as serving on several industry advisory boards. Mahyar has numerous refereed journal publications, monograph and edited books in the fields of logistics, engineering and operations research. He has also published two novels and a short story.
Larry Carter has been president of the United Teachers of New Orleans since May 2008 and also serves as interim president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. Previously, he was a member of the UTNO executive council as well as a union grievance specialist. Carter began teaching in 1993 at Murray Henderson Elementary School on the West Bank of New Orleans, where many of the children come from households without fathers or other male adults. The position gave Carter the chance to be a strong African-American male role model for students. Carter also has been an active member of UTNO since entering teaching. After seven years in the classroom, he was offered the opportunity to serve both children and his fellow educators as a staff representative for the union. His work with UTNO has allowed him to extend union solidarity across all New Orleans school systems—New Orleans Public Schools, the Recovery School District and charter schools.
Dr. Bianca Deliberto
Dr. Bianca Deliberto is the designee for the Louisiana Science Teachers Association. She earned primary and secondary education degrees, including a Ph.D. in science education, from Louisiana State University. Dr. Deliberto has been a science and social studies curriculum specialist in the Zachary Community School District for three years. Prior to that, she completed twelve years in the classroom. Dr. Deliberto currently serves on the Achieve Science Peer Review Panel, most recently facilitated the Nintendo Labo Classroom with the Institute of Play Program and has participated in the OpenSciEd Field Test Program since 2018. She has National Board Certification and has presented at many national and state science conferences. She currently serves as the Region 2 Representative for the Louisiana Science Teachers Association. Dr. Deliberto was a member of the Louisiana State Standards for Science Workgroup and Committee and has also worked with the Department of Education since 2015 as a Teacher Leader Advisor for social studies and science.
Kellie Taylor-White is the designee of the Secretary of the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Kellie has spent nearly 30 years in the fields of Education and Government After completing her Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and Sociology with a minor in English Literature, Kellie began her career in state government at the then Department of Social Services (now DCFS). She left the state to pursue a federal government career in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate working as a constituent service representative for Louisiana’s Congressional delegation.
Upon returning to state service, Kellie worked with the Louisiana Department of Elections while furthering her education in Special Education. Kellie began teaching and continued until hurricane Katrina moved her and her family to San Antonio, Texas. Forced to change schools as well as jobs, she restarted and completed her Master’s program in Curriculum and Education and began working in educational assessment.
Through the Educational Testing Service (ETS), Kellie worked to create and improve educational assessments at the K-12, higher education, and professional levels while also pursuing a doctoral degree. She focused on managing a team of mathematics and special education assessment specialist to create the framework for the assessment consortia that would become Race to the Top, Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for Colleges and Careers. While collaborating with Dynamic Learning Maps and American Institutes for Research, Kellie and her team worked to improve alternative assessments for all students regardless of their levels of ability.
Returning to state service after so many years, Kellie is now helping to facilitate the seamless interaction of education and workers to provide the skills, training, and quality credentials needed to support the growth and development of the workforce of Louisiana.
Dr. Frank Neubrander
Dr. Frank Neubrander serves as the Louisiana State University System designee.
Michael Gaudet is the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) designee. Mr. Guadet, a native of Raceland, LA, received a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Business Administration from Louisiana State University. He completed a 40-year career with Albemarle Corporation (formally part of Ethyl Corporation) and retired in 2014 as a Division Vice President. He began his career in Research and Development and later moved into various management positions. He led Albemarle’s project to implement a single global ERP system (SAP) in multiple languages, which was one of the first in the chemical industry. He served as the business lead for several global businesses for Albemarle and was also CFO for the billion-dollar Polymer Additives Global Business Unit. Later in his career, he focused on acquisitions and divestitures in Albemarle’s Strategic Development department and continues to work in this arena as a consultant to Albemarle.
Mr. Gaudet has been married for 42 years to Margie John Gaudet and is the father of three children and the proud grandfather of four grandchildren.
Dr. Patty Glaser
Dr. Patty Glaser serves as the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools representative. Her career includes more than 20 years of school leadership experience and 18 years as a speech-language pathologist. Patty, a proud native of New Orleans, earned a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of New Orleans. Patty is The Founding Head of School and CEO of Kenner Discovery Health Sciences Academy; an open enrollment, high demand “A” rated charter school established in 2013. In five years, Patty has grown the charter school from 420 students to a bustling student body of 1,215 students serving PreK-10th grade. Prior to serving Kenner Discovery, Patty held leadership roles at Lusher Charter School and founded Holy Rosary Academy & High School & the Freeman Learning Center. Patty is the recipient of the Christopher Columbus Award for finding new solutions to community problems and also a member of the University of New Orleans College of Education & Human Performance Hall of Fame. In her downtime, Patty enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, water sports and reading.
Crystal Williams Gordon
Crystal Williams Gordon, representing the Louisiana Association of Educators, is a lifelong learner and biology teacher in East Baton Rouge Parish Schools. She holds a B. S. degree in Biological Sciences from Southern University, M.Ed. degree in Secondary Science Education from Louisiana State University, and has done further studies in Educational Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University. During her 25-year career, Crystal has taught seventh through twelfth grades in integrated science, physical science, and biology, including advanced placement and dual enrollment courses. She has also taught adults by serving as a curriculum content trainer for elementary science teachers. Crystal has received various awards. She was one of five teachers nationwide to be awarded the prestigious Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence given by the NEA Foundation. She has also been honored with the California Casualty teaching award, Louisiana Association of Educators Teacher Image Award, Teacher of the Year for her school twice, and Cox Teacher of the Week. She has been featured in a number of publications including the NEA Today and the LAE Voice. Currently, Crystal serves as science department chairperson, member of the instructional leadership team, science curriculum writing team, coordinator of STEM night, blood drives, and the Student Government Association. Crystal is passionate about fostering her students’ love of learning and preparing them for college and career by utilizing 21st Century skills.
Dr. James Henderson
Dr. James Henderson became the University of Louisiana System President Jan. 1, 2017. Prior to this role, he served as president of Northwestern State University from 2015 to 2016. Henderson was chancellor of Bossier Parish Community College from 2009 – 2014. In that time, BPCC grew its enrollment by more than 84 percent and increased annual certificate and degree completions by 90 percent. From 2011-2013, BPCC was among the five fastest growing community colleges in the nation with enrollments of between 5,000 and 9,999. Henderson was senior vice president, workforce and economic development/career & technical education for the Louisiana Community & Technical College System from 2005 to 2009. He served as appointing authority and chief executive officer of the LCTCS comprised of eight regional technical colleges serving more than 26,000 students. Under his leadership, the statewide technical college system with 42 individually accredited campuses was transitioned into eight regionally accredited technical colleges.
Melissa Mann serves as an appointee for the LaSTEM Advisory Council by the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development. Since joining CenturyLink in 2016, Melissa has served as the company’s principal advocate with state government in Louisiana. She was most recently named Vice President, Government Affairs and Public Policy. Her responsibilities include leading the company’s regulatory and government affairs activities across a 16-state region. In addition, she oversees the company’s external affairs activities engaging with Attorneys Generals and Governors across the country on technology issues relevant to CenturyLink.
Melissa brings far-reaching experience and relationships to CenturyLink serving previously as the first female Chief of Staff to a Louisiana Governor. Prior to serving as Chief of Staff, Melissa held senior level roles within both the Department of Transportation and Development, and the Governor’s Executive Offices. She is a Louisiana native, and a graduate of Louisiana State University. Melissa and her husband, Jason, reside in Baton Rouge where they are raising their 7-year-old daughter, Adeline.
Ronnie Morris is an elected member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). Ronnie was born in Shreveport, Louisiana. He graduated from Louisiana State University and is an engineer. He is the founder/president of We Produce Grads, is board treasurer of BASIS School, and a mentor in the ExxonMobil Diversity Scholars Program
Dr. Calvin Mackie
Dr. Calvin Mackie was appointed to the LaSTEM Advisory Council by Governor John Bel Edwards. A lifelong resident of New Orleans, Dr. Calvin Mackie graduated from high school with low SAT scores requiring him to undertake special remedial classes before he was admitted to Morehouse College. He completed his degree in Mathematics, graduating Magna Cum Laude and a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society. He was simultaneously awarded a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech, where he subsequently earned his Master and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering. While pursuing his doctorate degree, he served as an instructor of mathematics at Morehouse College. Following graduation, he joined the faculty at Tulane University, where he researched heat transfer, fluid dynamics, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. In 2002, he was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure. Mackie’s eleven-year academic career ended in June 2007, when Tulane University disbanded the engineering school in response to financial hardship induced by Hurricane Katrina. During 2004 and 2005, Mackie was a visiting professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan, where he performed research on fuel processors for PEM fuel cells. He enjoyed a respected academic career, before refocusing on consulting and professional speaking. Mackie has won numerous awards including, in a White House ceremony, the 2003 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, in 2002 the Black Engineer of the Year Award for College Level Educator, the 2002 New Orleans Data News Weekly Trailblazer Award, and the Pi Tau Sigma/ASME Excellence in Teaching Award in Mechanical Engineering for 2000 and 2002. Following the catastrophic Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco appointed Dr. Mackie to the thirty-three member board of the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LRA), the guiding agency to lead the state’s rebuilding efforts. In 2009, Louisiana Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu appointed Dr. Mackie to the Louisiana Council on the Social Status of Black Boys and Black Men. The board elected Mackie to the chair position and he is leading the state’s effort to create policy and programs to positively impact the quality of life for black males and families in the state of Louisiana. Committed to community service, Mackie is also an active member of the National Speaker Association and the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans.
Meridith Trahant is the appointee for the Louisiana Workforce Investment Council.
Dr. Kenya Messer
Dr. Kenya Messer is the president for the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (LAICU).
Trisha Fos is the current president of the Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics (LATM). She holds a B.S. degree in Elementary Education and M.A. degree in Curriculum and Instruction with additional certifications in gifted education and reading/literacy, both from LSU. She is entering her 15 th year of teaching at University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, currently serving as the 3-5 Math and ELA Interventionist. She previously taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades. Over the years, she has mentored many preservice teachers through the LSU College of Education. She also teaches and writes curriculum for Tiger Challenge through LSU Pre-College Programs. Trisha has been a member of the LATM Executive Council for 8 years and has served on the board for the Baton Rouge Area Council of Teachers of Mathematics for 11 years.
Dr. Janet Pope
Dr. Janet Pope was selected by the Louisiana School Boards Association as its Executive Director in August 2015 after being their Board Development/Legislative Specialist the last five years. Prior to joining LSBA, she served nineteen years in a traditional public school system in south Louisiana whereby she held various teaching and administrative positions in both the elementary and secondary school settings. Dr. Pope possesses National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification, undergraduate degrees and completed her dissertation at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette titled “How do GEAR UP Program Experiences Support College Readiness: A Qualitative Narrative Multiple Case Study Exploring College Readiness.” During Dr. Pope’s tenure as a GEAR UP Cohort Manager, STEM initiatives were a major component of regular programming for Louisiana students.
Kristen Reeves was appointed to the LaSTEM Advisory Council by Governor John Bel Edwards. She is the Executive Director and co-founder of Louisiana Women in Technology (LaWIT). A non-profit organization dedicated to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), providing career development opportunities for women in these fields, and most importantly supporting young girls to pursue education and future professions in STEM. Kristen graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and an MBA in Management Information Systems. She started her career as a Data Warehousing consultant where she worked in both Boston and Atlanta. After five years of traveling, she decided to put roots down and return home to Louisiana. Kristen is currently a Senior Systems Administrator for Geocent, LLC where she is responsible for Oracle database development and data management. In addition to her career, Kristen is passionate about encouraging other women to also follow their dreams and pursue careers in STEM. She shares her knowledge through discussion panels and lectures in both technical and professional development topics. With LaWIT she organizes multiple outreach events that expose middle and high school students to technology. Through her leadership, from 2016-2017 Baton Rouge joined the international community in hosting two RAILS Girls programming events; from 2014-2017 helped co-host four IT Girls workshop where middle school female students attended a coding camp, and from 2015-2017 LaWIT hosted three Environmental Engineering workshops called Engineer IT.
Susana Schowen, Vice-Chair of the LaSTEM Advisory Council, joined LED FastStart, a division of Louisiana Department of Economic Development, in June of 2011. As the Director of Workforce Initiatives, she is tasked with implementing high-level strategies focused on systemic workforce reform. Based on analyses of workforce supply and demand, she is collaborating with educational stakeholders to align offerings to the needs of Louisiana employers. Prior to joining LED, Susie managed a private technical college in Baton Rouge after creating a nationwide basic skills program focused on underperforming high schools for Thomson Peterson’s. Before that, she held a number of positions with Kaplan, Inc. managing test preparation courses, financial services training, and online college programs. She received degrees in chemistry from Wellesley College and Columbia University.
Mr. Scott Stevens is the Louisiana Association of Principals’ representative. Since July 2014, Mr. Stevens has served as Principal of Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge. During his tenure, Woodlawn has added multiple Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes, along with a Magnet program to complement its Gifted and Talented program. He continues to support STEM programs, clubs, and activities at Woodlawn. Mr. Stevens and the Woodlawn Robotics team, Panthrobotics, has been invited to the FIRST World Championships, two of the last three years, hosts the DOW Red Stick Rumble. It is a FIRST robotics exhibition which for the last five years, has brought in teams from various states to compete and showcase their robots. He has served the East Baton Rouge Parish School System for thirteen years as teacher and administrator. Mr. Stevens earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Louisiana State University and a Masters of Education from Southeastern Louisiana University. He currently resides in Prairieville with his wife and two children
Ken Tucker is Director, State and Local Government Operations, Southeast Region, for The Boeing Company and Louisiana Department of Economic Development appointee. His responsibilities include representing the company at the local and state levels of government in all legislative, administrative and public agency matters in Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee.Ken is a native of Alabama. He earned a BA degree in American Studies and History from the University of Alabama in 1982 and received a Master of Administrative Science degree in Business/Public Administration from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1984. After graduate school, Ken was employed by the University of Alabama in Huntsville as their Director of Governmental Relations, representing the University and its interests before local, state and federal elected officials.He joined Boeing in 1988 as a Public Affairs Specialist, with responsibility for community relations and local government relations. Since then, he’s held positions of increasing responsibility including Community and Education Relations Specialist, Government and Community Affairs Manager, and State and Local Government Relations Manager for Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee.Ken is active in several professional and civic organizations at the local and state level. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Business Council of Alabama, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama and the Alabama Aerospace Industries Association. He also is a member of the Huntsville Rotary Club and the Committee of 100. Ken resides in Huntsville with his wife Leigh and they have two adult sons.
Dr. Rachel Vincent-Finley
Dr. Rachel Vincent-Finley, Southern University System designee, is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Sciences and Engineering at Southern University and A & M College. She earned a B.A. in Mathematics from Bryn Mawr College and a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Rice University. She worked at the Rice School in the Houston Independent School District for 7 years in various educational enhancement roles.
Dr. Vincent-Finley joined the faculty at Southern University in 2009 as a Louisiana Optical Network Initiative fellow and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science. Soon thereafter, she became and continues to serve as the XSEDE Campus Champion for Southern University. Dr. Vincent-Finley is now a member of the faculty in the Department of Mathematics and Physics.
Dr. Vincent-Finley serves as the secretary/treasurer of the Louisiana Optical Network Infrastructure (LONI) management council. Her general research interests include numerical methods and mathematical modeling with research applications to molecular biophysics, materials science and the use of technology to enhance scientific discovery.
Dr. Vincent-Finley’s education and outreach efforts include broadening participation in STEM for underrepresented groups and enhancing the connections between higher education and industry through workforce development partnerships.
Dr. William Wainwright
Dr. William Wainwright, a resident of Madisonville, LA was appointed Chancellor of Northshore Technical Community College in August 2011. In 2018, Dr. Wainwright accepted the Interim Appointment of Chancellor of Delgado Community College to lead the college through the search for a new Chancellor. He officially returned to his post as Chancellor of NTCC July 1, 2019. Dr. Wainwright began his higher education career as a faculty member and grant writer. He later served as Campus Dean and Dean of Workforce Development within the Louisiana Community and Technical College System and Vice President of Business Services for the Safety Council.
Career Highlights include Harvard Institute for Educational Management Fellow, Salzburg Global Leadership Institute Fellow, Accreditation Consultant for Jeddah Community College in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and publication in The Community College Journal of Research and Practice. Dr. Wainwright currently serves his community as Immediate Past President of the Board of Family Promise of St. Tammany and serves as a board member of GNO, Inc. the Northshore Business Council, former member of the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce and a Commissioner for the St. Tammany Corporation.
Local, state and national highlights include being recognized as the 2014 St. Tammany Economic Development Innovator of the Year, 2015 Partner of the Year, and 2017 St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership award recipient. National and state higher education highlights include 2016 nomination to the American Association of Community Colleges Commission on Research, Innovation, and Emerging Trends and 2017 nomination to the La STEM Advisory Council. His college was distinguished as the Louisiana ACT Exemplar for College and Career Readiness for 2015, recognized nationally in the December 2015 Community College Week publication for growth, ranked top in the nation by the Brookings Institute for greatest economic value of graduates, ranked 3rd in the nation for fastest growth by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2018, and of recent the college has been distinguished as a 2018 & 2019 Top Workplace by NOLA.com. He currently serves as Immediate Past President of The Council of Louisiana Colleges & Universities and President of COMBASE; a national community-based education organization. He completed his doctoral studies at the University of New Orleans in December of 2011 in Higher Education Administration.
William resides in Madisonville, LA with his wife Misty and two children.
Jill Cowart is the designee for the Louisiana Department of Education and currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for the Louisiana Department of Education. In this role, Jill focuses on ensuring Louisiana’s students engage in high quality instruction in every class, every day. She leads the development and implementation of content standards, primarily focusing on helping school systems create coherent systems with standards-alinged curriculum, limited yet informative assessments, and aligned professional development. Jill is currently working on a number of innovative projects such as implementing STEM pathways for high school students, partnering with local and national organizations to develop quality curriculum, implementing curriculum-aligned remediation tools for struggling students, and increasing student engagement in learning.
With three kids of her own in the public school system, Jill understands the importance of a quality public school education. As a teacher, school administrator, and now state level leader, Jill has spent her career working with Louisiana students and educators. She earned a B.A. in Education from Southeastern Louisiana University and a M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from Louisiana State University.
Jaimee McCullen Williams
Jaimee McCullen Williams was appointed to the LaSTEM Advisory Council by Governor John Bel Edwards. Originally from Los Angeles, CA by way of Natchez, MS, Dr. Williams is currently an Instructional Supervisor of Middle Schools employed by the Ascension Parish School Board. Dr. Williams earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Southern University A & M in Baton Rouge, LA and earned her Doctorate in Educational Leadership at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA. In her 15th year with serving the school system, Dr. Williams has been the principal of Gonzales Primary School where she was a finalist for Louisiana State Principal of the year. She also has served as an assistant principal, instructional coach, reading coach, and teacher. Before her pursuit in education, Dr. Williams worked for the New Orleans Saints in sales and marketing upon graduating from college. Dr. Williams lives in Gonzales LA with her two daughters.
Laura Younger serves as Interim Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) at Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC). Formerly, she served as Associate Professor of Biology and Department Chairperson of Science at BRCC from 2009 to 2017. As such, she was directly involved with the development of a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technician program. She also served as principle investigator for two Louisiana Board of Regents’ Enhancement grants focused on the development and support of environmental and engineering technician programs for Louisiana’s workforce. Ms. Younger has a Master’s degree in Zoology and Physiology from Louisiana State University. Her current projects at BRCC include work as a co-investigator of a NASA-LSU initiative, Launching Louisiana Community College Students into STEM and a National Institute of Health Bridges to the Baccalaureate grant with LSU that assists BRCC biological sciences and biological engineering students in their transition to LSU and provides undergraduate research experiences. She is also involved in a National Science Foundation STEM Talent Expansion Program (STEP) grant with the goal of increasing the number of STEM majors successfully transferring to LSU over five years. The grant supports Supplemental Instruction (SI), a non-remedial peer-tutoring program that provides regular review sessions outside of class in which students’ work collaboratively with each other and an SI leader to improve their understanding of historically difficult math and science course material and to develop strategies for course success.
Tom Yura is Chief Operating Officer of Cornerstone with 29 years of experience in chemical manufacturing. In addition to his corporate responsibilities, Tom serves on the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Louisiana Chemical Association (Chair of the Safety and Health committee), the Greater Baton Rouge Industry Alliance (Chair) and the Boy Scouts of America Istrouma Area Council. He also serves as a LaSTEM Advisory Council Member, and he serves on the Energy Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
Prior to joining Cornerstone, Tom was the Senior Vice President and General Manager for BASF’s Geismar, La. site, the largest of the corporation’s North American manufacturing locations. He has led both U.S. and European-based manufacturing organizations through growth and transformation. He was responsible for overseeing the daily operation of 28 plants manufacturing many different products, including urethanes, chemical intermediates and surfactants.
Tom received his Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.