Team

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.

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 info@collaborativecommunications.com.

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

partner

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

partner

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.

Maggie Burke

Associate

About Maggie

“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” — Oprah Winfrey

Maggie is a versatile event planner, conference coordinator, and communicator, dedicated to helping clients present their best virtual or in-person events. Maggie’s natural organization, leadership, and project management abilities ensure that each event or project goes off without a hitch. Her can-do attitude and problem-solving mindset have contributed to her recent client success stories. Since joining Collaborative Communications, Maggie has facilitated dozens of virtual events, ranging from targeted informational webinars to national multi-day conferences.

Before Collaborative, Maggie worked at the Society of Conservation Biology as its International Conference Intern, collaborating with the Society’s Director of Events and Executive Director to plan the 2019 International Congress for Conservation Biology in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In this role, Maggie demonstrated her knack for conference planning by managing the registration of more than 2,000 presenters, attendees, and VIPs, overseeing the conference sponsorship program, and working with an array of international exhibition companies and volunteers.

Maggie graduated cum laude from Cornell University, where she received a bachelor of science degree in food, agriculture, and society. At Cornell, Maggie’s research, titled “Bolstering the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Food Program: An Analysis of Adopting Pre-Existing Policy Solutions” was recognized as one of the top three papers in her cohort, exemplifying her exceptional research and writing abilities.

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.

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

associate

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.

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.

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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.

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.

Joseph Vladic

Digital Strategist

About Joseph

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

Joseph is an online marketing expert who has directed teams and led projects for agencies, non-profits, and corporations. He sets strategies that apply best practices to website design, audience segmentation, and acquisition programs that enhance the user experience. He determines the direction for the best approaches to leveraging user behavior to attain campaign objectives, such as deeper user engagement and expanded brand awareness. He monitors technology trends and user expectations to deliver solutions that align with a client’s goals.

By developing customized analytics reporting, Joseph derives data-driven insights that have delivered significant gains to lead generation campaigns and customer lifetime value returns across digital channels. These reports isolate the most pertinent takeaways on user activities, focusing attention on website traffic, campaign performance, and visitor participation.

Joseph has an extensive record as a highly-skilled strategist who leads digital initiatives for new streams of revenue and improved demand generation tactics. In consulting with clients and senior management to frame strategies for digital roadmaps, Joseph has increased prospect conversions through demand generation tactics such as defining use case segments and publishing more relevant content throughout the site.

Joseph holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from DePaul University in Chicago.

Nicole Wilkins

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.

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