Our people make the difference. We have diverse experience, knowledge, and skills, but we are all united by a belief that education and learning are fundamental to improving the lives of children, families, and society. We are action- and service-oriented. We take on challenges enthusiastically. We take pride in doing our work well, and we celebrate when our clients succeed.

Our Collaborative Team

Join Our Team

Collaborative is always looking for talented people who want their work to make a difference. If you have an interest in joining the Collaborative team, please send a resume and compelling cover letter to

Kris Kurtenbach

Founding partner

About Kris

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.” – Rumi

Kris has provided trusted strategic and communications counsel to scores of nonprofit leaders, philanthropists, government officials, education entrepreneurs, and educators for more than 30 years. Her expertise includes strategic and organizational planning and design, communications strategy and execution, and facilitation and moderation. Kris has helped to create eight national, statewide, and community-based education nonprofits, and has led strategic planning processes for dozens more. She has also helped to create networks of mayors working for education improvement in two states—California and Arizona—the only such existing networks in the country. She has written extensively on education and community engagement in support of education improvement. She is a trusted adviser to foundation presidents, nonprofit CEOs and organizational boards of directors.

In 2000, Kris created Collaborative Communications, building on a career in journalism and education. She was a reporter and editor at Congressional Quarterly and Governing magazines. She wrote the National Assessment of Title I at the U.S. Department of Education. And she led education practices at Widmeyer Communications, KSA-Plus Communications, and Millennium Communications.

In 2004, Kris endowed a scholarship for editing and copy editing at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. The scholarship is named after John B. Bremner, an influential mentor.

Kris has a master’s degree in education policy and administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She holds both a bachelor of science degree in magazine journalism and a bachelor of arts degree in literature from the University of Kansas.

Terri Ferinde


About Terri

“While we might feel small, separate, and all alone, our people have never been more tightly tethered. The question’s not if we will weather this unknown, but how we will weather the unknown together.” ― Amanda Gorman The Miracle of Morning

Terri is a connector, convenor, and communicator who believes that all young people should have opportunities and supports to explore their passions and achieve their dreams. She excels at bringing together like-minded organizations and people to support a vision for a well-rounded education that meets each student’s unique academic needs, learning styles, and interests.

For 30 years, she has created and led solutions and systems that build capacity in networks, foundations, nonprofits, and education organizations that address inequity and help children and youth learn and thrive. A champion for afterschool learning, in 2014, Terri was named one of the 25 most influential people in the afterschool sector by the National AfterSchool Association. Known for her work in afterschool systems building, she manages the 50 State Afterschool Network funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Terri is the publisher of and a contributing author to the groundbreaking compendium focused on afterschool and summer learning, Expanding Minds and Opportunities, and the publisher of a companion collection, STEM Ready America. She has managed hundreds of convenings–from small task forces to large conventions–bringing to each a sharp focus on outcomes that lead to student success.

At Collaborative, Terri leads teams that develop innovative solutions with extraordinary results and lasting impact, offering deep expertise in education, out-of-school time learning, and youth development with exceptional skills in media and engagement, organizational learning, events, and digital solutions. Her specialties include strategic communications, network development, design and management of both live and virtual convenings, complex project management, facilitation, speech writing, and video production.

Prior to her work at Collaborative, Terri served for 10 years at the U.S. Department of Education, where she produced a live, interactive television program featuring school and community leaders. For this work, she was recognized as a Fellow with the Council for Excellence in Government. She is the past board chair of Aspire! Afterschool Learning, has served as a PTA president, and was appointed by the Arlington, Virginia school board to chair an out-of-school time advisory committee.

Terri is currently an Ed.D. candidate at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College focused on organizational leadership and learning. She holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University and a bachelor’s degree in communications and government from American University.

Katherine Hunt


About Katherine

“The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

A strong leader with deep knowledge of the education landscape, Katherine is most fulfilled when helping clients become more effective and become more well-known among the right people. She has a proven ability to lead teams to success on complex projects, and extensive experience serving government, business, non-profit, and philanthropic clients and partners.

Katherine is recognized for shaping the work of organizations paving the way to more effective use of data in decision-making. Leading efforts that support thriving and equitable school systems and that make education data more meaningful and actionable for families, educators, and policymakers. Katherine develops and directs user experience design and public engagement processes to develop and launch innovative data tools and initiatives to accomplish these goals. Her ability to nurture relationships leads to long-term success.

She is dedicated to creating high-impact communications and engagement strategies, building campaigns and tools that support measurable impact, and advising senior leadership of agencies, public school districts, and institutes of higher education nationwide, as well as the organizations and companies that support them.

Katherine earned a bachelor of science degree in Culture and Politics from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She also is an alumna of the Institute for Education Leadership’s Education Policy Fellowship program and Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research Strategic Data Project program for developing education data leaders. She is a board member of the Maryland Coalition of Families.

Aybriel Beckham


About Aybriel

“Choose to win each day, defy the odds, embrace challenges, and never let adversity steal your dreams.” — Billy Cox

Aybriel Beckham is an Atlanta native with a true passion for storytelling, event management, and communications. She has always had a passion for helping others and finding solutions to problems. She believes there is never just one way to do something and learning new skills is what makes life worth living.

Aybriel is a seasoned creative—with experience in print, digital, social marketing, media relations, and video—and has worked with national news outlets, government leaders, and local representatives. She began her career in the news industry as a news anchor and reporter for WTVY News 4, after which she transitioned to corporate communications.

Before joining Collaborative, Aybriel worked as a Senior Communications Specialist for the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce, where she coordinated various outreach events for healthcare professionals and worked closely with the Georgia Governor’s Office.

Aybriel has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the illustrious University by the Sea, Savannah State University. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.

Melinda Colón, CMP

Vice President of Meetings and Events

About Melinda

“Working hard for something we do not care about is called stress, working hard for something we love is called passion.” – Simon Sinek

Melinda Colón is an enthusiastic meeting professional with a track record of exceptional meeting and conference management experience. She is passionate about event planning and uses her extensive knowledge of what makes a great event to develop, coordinate, and execute successful in-person and virtual meetings, workshops, conventions, networking activities and more. She has 20 years of association management experience and a diverse skillset and knowledge base includes governance, membership, award administration, program content, and budget development. Melinda believes that the most effective events are informative, allowing participants to gain knowledge or learn new skills, but should also be engaging, fun, and memorable, so that participants are still talking about it for months or even years afterward.

Before joining Collaborative, Melinda served as Director of Conferences and Events at the Society for Conservation Biology, where she produced conventions all over the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Asia, an event that promoted the science and practice of biodiversity for a global audience of up to 1,500 attendees. At the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, Melinda worked to advance education for health professionals through continuing education programs, conferences, and seminars. At the Society for Neuroscience, Melinda honed her speaker preparation skills and ability to provide customized, top-tier service to VIP speakers.

Melinda has a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of South Carolina and earned a professional certificate in event management from George Washington University. She has been a certified meeting professional (CMP) since 2012, and is committed to professional development, trends, and innovations in the industry. She is an active leader in the Professional Convention Management Association.

Carolyn Dorf


About Carolyn

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.” — E.B. White

Carolyn loves to see an event come to life! With seven years of association and non-profit event management experience, she knows how to take an event from an idea to a full-blown experience. A self-styled task master, Carolyn has a natural tendency for organization and a can-do attitude.

Before joining Collaborative, Carolyn worked as the Events and Communications Manager at the Energy Solutions Center. There she was responsible for planning and executing the Center’s virtual and in-person conferences across the United States.

Prior to that, Carolyn was the Events Manager at the Eno Center for Transportation, where she primarily planned leadership training for transit agencies throughout the United States and Canada. While at Eno, Carolyn was the lead logistical manager for a delegation of U.S. city department of transportation professionals who traveled abroad to learn best practices from the London and Stockholm city governments. 

Carolyn holds a B.A. in Political Science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. In January 2020, she became a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP).

Jen Dougherty

Senior Associate

About Jen

“Ubuntu – the essence of being human…We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” ― Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Jen develops comprehensive communications plans that drive digital presence and impact.

With more than a decade of communication and project management experience in the non-profit, sports, and technology industries, she has a keen sense of the messages and content that resonate with diverse audiences. Jen’s expertise enables our clients to elevate their profiles, hone their digital strategies, and make the most of their social media efforts.

Jen earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Currently, she is pursuing a master’s degree in Non-Profit Leadership at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.

Elizabeth Gettelman Galicia

Senior Digital Strategist

About Elizabeth

“Write what you know, learn what you don’t.” ― Jamaica Kincaid

Liz has more than two decades of experience at the nexus of public policy, communications, and media. She has worked as a policy and communications consultant to foundations, public agencies, and nonprofits on a range of issues with a focus on supporting equity outcomes for children and families.

Liz has built statewide public education campaigns, advocated for the passage of local, state, and federal legislation, coordinated broad-based coalitions for collective action, and has fashioned and refashioned brands and websites for impact. Liz served as the vice president of advocacy for Common Sense Media; the managing editor at the national investigative news outlet Mother Jones; and as a policy analyst at the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families.

Liz graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in biological anthropology, and earned a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Deneen Gillespie

Senior Vice President

About Deneen

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” — Paulo Coelho
Deneen Gillespie believes in harnessing the power of storytelling to inspire action and produce results. As an experienced creative and strategic marketing and communications leader, Deneen has earned a formidable reputation for building relationships, developing impactful work, and leading teams. Polished over her 20-year career in higher education, Deneen’s multifaceted skill set spans the full spectrum of print, digital, and social marketing communications campaigns, media relations, design, video, photo, and experiential events. Before joining Collaborative, she served as the University of Chicago and Loyola University’s in-house marketing and creative agency director, leading branding projects for institutional initiatives and creating award-winning marketing materials, including helping to secure the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side. She was instrumental in developing the marketing strategy for Loyola University’s historic Final Four campaign and oversaw the communications strategy for the University of Chicago’s most ambitious fundraising campaign in the university’s history. In her most recent role at the University of Chicago, Deneen served as Senior Director for Alumni Relations and Development, overseeing the engagement and communications strategy for 186,000 alumni. She was also the co-chair of the university’s DEI Staff Council. Deneen’s ability to cultivate meaningful relationships and develop resonant messaging produce long-term results, and she is motivated by the opportunity to deliver high-impact marketing and communications strategies for mission-driven organizations.

Makaya Gittens


About Makaya

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” ― Nelson Mandela
Makaya has always had a passion for event planning; she loves being a part of the team that makes the magic happen. Her project management and creative problem-solving skills have helped her bring a myriad of diverse events to life, from the inaugural TEDx Talk at the University of Maryland, College Park, to the first virtual Leading Together Conference for the Council on Foundations.   As an Events Associate, Makaya is a savvy user of multiple web-based project management tools, to ensure a smooth process for designing, planning, and managing events from initial inception to the day of the event. She has expertise planning in-person, virtual, and hybrid events.    Prior to joining Collaborative, Makaya supported the production of corporate conferences, networking events, and social gatherings for the Council on Foundations, the American Bankers Association, and San Diego State University, and also helped coordinate logistics for a city-wide DJ Battle at the House of Blues in San Diego.    A Washington DC resident for the past decade, Makaya enjoys exploring the capital’s extensive cultural offerings and also spends her free time traveling and studying dance, including modern, West African, hip-hop, and acrobatics. Makaya holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a masters of arts degree in Theater/Live Event Production from San Diego State University.

Itzel Gutierrez


About Itzel

“Inspiration is perishable. Act on it.” — Naval Ravikant

Itzel has more than 10 years of experience helping youth-serving organizations design and improve high-quality afterschool and summer programs, bring them to market, and scale their impact. She is an expert in STEM and entrepreneurship education for girls.

Most recently, Itzel served as a Program Manager at VentureLab where she was integral in helping the organization become a prominent provider of entrepreneurial education, reaching 211,000+ students and 13,000+ educators and community members in 2022.

Itzel has presented at numerous state and national conferences to promote opportunities for youth and educators, including SXSW EDU 2022. In 2019 Itzel was selected as one of the National AfterSchool Association Convention (NAA) Next Generation of AfterSchool Leaders.

She earned her MBA from Concordia University Texas and her BA in Urban Studies and Geography, with a Minor in Spanish, from the University of Texas at Austin. She is also a graduate of Emerge Leadership Austin.

Itzel grew up in Mexico and now calls Austin, TX home.

Erika Hernandez

Administrative Associate

About Erika

Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” ― Andy Rooney

Erika is a bilingual professional with an impressive background in administrative support and finance. With 12 plus years of administrative experience, she is meticulous, an attentive listener, great communicator, and displays intuitive judgment. Erika has connected her diverse career background to grow into a proficient administrative professional. 

Before joining Collaborative Erika worked at Booz Allen Hamilton, where she supported two Principal Directors and their teams of over 100 people, to lead work planning, organizing, and scheduling. Erika was an AR Analyst at Benchmark Utility Services. At Benchmark she primarily supported the CFO; her main responsibilities included invoicing and creating and managing processes to make the daily business operations of the AR/AP department more efficient. 

Erika was born in Havana, Cuba and raised in Sterling, VA. She has an associate degree in Criminal Justice from Northern Virginia Community College.

Ian Hickox

Editorial Director

About Ian

“Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads.” –Gloria Anzaldúa

Ian leads content development and strategy at Collaborative, helping clients tell their stories and communicate their ideas in ways that build influence, shape key conversations, and accelerate progress. An experienced writer and editor, Ian partners with clients to develop persuasive messages that challenge the education field to think differently about how to increase access to opportunity for more students.

Ian has directed the production of many of Collaborative’s most ambitious client publications and digital assets—including books, major reports, policy briefs, innovative websites, and multimedia projects—and advised on sustained advocacy and public education campaigns. His primary focus issues include college access and attainment, educational inequities, and social-emotional learning.

Before joining Collaborative, Ian conducted strategic research for school districts, higher education institutions, and advocacy organizations to help them identify and evaluate potential solutions to operational challenges.

Ian has a master’s degree in humanities from the University of Chicago. His bachelor’s degree, in English literature, is from the University of Virginia. He was a founding editor of an online journal showcasing fiction, poetry, visual arts, and cultural criticism and is an alumnus of the Education Policy Fellowship Program at the Institute for Educational Leadership.

Rhyla Holley

Creative Director

About Rhyla

“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good” ― Paula Scher

Rhyla delivers compelling visual campaigns that stand out from the crowd and are deeply rooted in the psychology of what makes people take the next step. She works closely with clients to amplify their messages through strategic and creative imagery that leads to action. She believes that good design is more than just interesting visuals: It’s also about how the design makes people feel and what it inspires them to do.

She has developed brands and marketing approaches for a wide range of organizations, from established global companies to startups. Her design process begins with extensive research and an understanding of the client’s needs and business goals, and she uses those insights as the foundation for developing cohesive and thoughtful branding platforms. Rhyla has extensive knowledge and experience designing and managing the development of websites.

Rhyla started her career in fashion marketing and luxury home good products and then shifted to government information technology and education. She has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with a minor in art history, from Herron School of Art and Design.

Liv Jacobson

Senior Associate

About Liv

“Education must inspire faith that each of us has both the power and the responsibility to affect positive change on a global scale.” ― Daisaku Ikeda

Liv is a writer with a keen eye towards ensuring that content is seen by who needs to see it, whether it be in print, online, or on social media. She provides media and digital support to our clients, developing comprehensive communications strategies, connecting them with national, state, and local media networks, and implementing dynamic social media campaigns. Liv is skilled at crafting a wide range of internal and external communications collateral—from press releases and fact sheets to commentaries and blog posts—and she conveys complex ideas and information using clear language, making it more accessible to general audiences.

Liv is an adept project manager, coordinating teams and initiatives to ensure that all key milestones are met and that no small detail goes unattended. Liv manages social media profiles for leaders and organizations. In addition, she is well-versed in design platforms such as Adobe Creative Suite and Canva, and assists our design team in developing materials such as one-pagers, brochures and social media templates.

Before joining Collaborative, Liv worked as a senior communications officer for Medical Care Development International, an international health nonprofit, and has interned for Phi Beta Kappa and the National Museum of American History. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and Spanish from Tulane University.


Maura Keaney

Vice President

About Maura

“Those who say, ‘It can’t be done,’ are usually interrupted by others doing it.” ― Joel Barker

For the last 20 years, Maura has developed and implemented communications and engagement strategies to improve outcomes for children, families, and communities. Over her career, she has worked with clients from a wide variety of sectors from nonprofits, to foundations, to corporations, and government entities. Whether through compelling messaging, engaging stories, targeted pitching, or creative materials and branding, Maura ensures that clients are well-positioned among the audiences they need to influence.

Before Collaborative, Maura created communications and engagement strategies on issues ranging from child welfare, violence prevention, education, and employment pathways. Earlier in her career, with APCO Worldwide, Maura led the development and management of partnerships between major corporations, including ExxonMobil, Nike, Walmart, and Pfizer and global nonprofit organizations, including the UN Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative, Africare, and Malaria No More.

Maura’s experience also includes working with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and as a policy analyst for the Mayor of San Jose, California. She also participated in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp and the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs in San Francisco. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and English from James Madison University.

Eliza Panike

Senior Associate

About Eliza

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.” ― Fred Rogers

Eliza has long understood that strong, vibrant communities are built by providing young people the tools and resources they need to succeed. For the last decade, she has built her career supporting government and non-profit organizations working to improve the lives of children and families. Most recently, she developed key messaging and content for delivering Common Sense Media’s ratings and reviews to parents and caregivers. Prior to that, she provided support to California’s First 5 system through program management, event planning, and public policy campaigns.

Eliza excels at project management and will be using her skills to create effective communications campaigns for her clients.

Born and raised in Northern California, Eliza currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in child development from San Francisco State University.

Jen Peters

Jen Peters

Senior Associate

About Jen

“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” – Jane Goodall

Jen has a decade of experience managing programs for recreation, public safety, and education nonprofits. This includes programs at the East Bay Regional Park District, Playworks Northern California, and the University of California Berkeley. Most recently, she supported advocacy campaigns for Common Sense Media.

She has experience working on issues ranging from digital equity, data privacy, technology, and education. Jen has strategically managed the execution of research reports, public policy campaigns, thought leadership events, and public interest awareness initiatives. By identifying problem-solving opportunities, and creating scalable solutions to fit organizational needs, Jen’s contributions to campaigns have assisted in major public policy wins, including the passage of state privacy legislation in California, and a federal appropriation of $10 billion to expand broadband access.

Jen grew up in the Bay Area. She has a bachelor’s degree in human development from California State University, East Bay, where she developed a particular interest in understanding how effective public policy can positively shape the human experience, including how government can impact individuals over the span of different ages and stages in their lives.

Samantha Stevens

Events Associate

About Samantha

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” — Winston S. Churchill

Samantha is a dedicated event-planning professional. She is fulfilled by the work that she does to bring visions to life for her clients, team, and audience. Samantha has years of experience in events along with an extensive record of attention to detail, creativity, and innovation.

Before joining Collaborative, Samantha worked as an Events Associate at Axios. In this role, she coordinated and supported over 140 events, focusing on topics including education, healthcare, technology, and more. She lead outreach for high-level events to thought-leaders,CEOs, and members of Congress. Prior to Axios, she interned with the Americans for the Arts meetings and events team.

Samantha grew up in Jersey City, NJ. She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations and strategic communications from American University.

Nicole Wilkins-Zott

Vice President

About Nicole

“Remember that it is all about the people.” ― William S. White, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Nicole is an accomplished manager of complex, multi-year projects that require innovative approaches, thoughtful processes, and exacting standards. She has led successful efforts to redesign websites, rebrand initiatives and organizations, develop long-term messaging and strategy for national networks, and advance concepts and materials for annual meetings and convenings. She works with teams to identify strengths, build relationships, and solve problems throughout the life cycle of a project, establishing and sustaining clear work plans and strong internal communications to ensure that her teams reach key milestones on time, and with high-quality products in hand.

She is an expert in afterschool, out-of-school time and summer learning systems and networks, as well as their intersections with STEM and social and emotional learning. Before joining Collaborative, Nicole worked with the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership, a member of the 50 State Afterschool Network, where she oversaw the development of policy and legislative campaigns and implementation of statewide budgetary and advocacy efforts.

Nicole is also an alumna of the national White-Riley-Peterson Fellowship Program, through which she worked to strengthen alignment between Massachusetts afterschool and summer learning opportunities and early education programs. She has a master’s degree in political communication from American University and a bachelor’s degree in political science, with concentrations in public policy and administration, from Northeastern University.

Dan Wilson

Graphic Designer

About Dan

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.” — Elvis Presley

Dan is a versatile designer who focuses on elevating client brands and campaigns, and supporting their missions through the development of deliberate creative assets. His knowledge of print, digital, web, and motion design helps to guarantee that clients’ assets have an unmistakable look and a powerful message across all touch points.

With more than ten years of design experience — including for non-profits, event marketing, and the entertainment industry — Dan has helped to educate people about animal welfare and protection, raise millions for cancer research, and make beloved storytelling more accessible around the globe.

He grew up in Maryland, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication Design from Stevenson University. Just before graduating, he received the Art Department Achievement Award.

Stay Connected

Subscribe To Our News and Updates

Get updates about our clients’ achievements and featured news.