Amanda Kruger Hill,

Executive Director

Amanda Kruger HillAmanda Kruger Hill, the Cowen Institute’s Executive Director, is a former principal and award-winning educational leader with a deep commitment to the success of the young people of New Orleans.  She holds a master’s of educational leadership and principal licensure from the University of California, Berkeley.  Amanda co-founded the first youth-initiated high school in the United States and a teacher development institute in California. Prior to leading the Cowen Institute, she was Director of School Reviews with New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO) and served on the faculty of Relay Graduate School of Education. Amanda continues to serve on the faculty of Columbia University as a coach for its Principals Academy, which trains aspiring school leaders.

Amanda lives in New Orleans with her husband, Graham, and sons, Benjamin and Louis.

Email Amanda | Phone: (504) 274-3688

Amy Barad,

Director of Strategic Initiatives

ABarad_8094Since joining the Cowen Institute in 2011, Amy has launched and now directs the Reconnecting Opportunity Youth initiative, which aims to create systemic solutions to New Orleans’ disconnected youth crisis. Over the past six years she has worked in the for- and non-profit sectors in business development, policy analysis, and systems and operational management. Most recently, she was an analyst for Urban Conservancy, a New Orleans non-profit organization, dedicated to research, education, and advocacy that promote the wise stewardship of the urban built environment and local economies. She has also held managerial positions in systems design, finance, and operations at McMaster-Carr and consulted on development projects in Johannesburg, South Africa with Urban, Inc. Currently, she serves on the advisory board for Bard Early College in New Orleans and the design team for the Youth Master Plan for New Orleans. Amy graduated with an A.B. in Urban Studies from Brown University in 2007.

Email Amy | Phone: (504) 274-3682

Vincent Rossmeier,

Director of Policy 


Vincent’s work focuses on the areas of post-secondary education, workforce development, and economic development. Vincent most recently worked as chief of staff to District “C” Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer of the New Orleans City Council. Prior to his work with the city, Vincent worked for the Bureau of Government Research and Partnership for Youth Development. He holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from New York University and has worked both at the New Yorker and

Email Vincent | Phone: (504) 274-3624

Kate Babineau,

Senior Policy Analyst

kbabineau_staff-photoKate joins Cowen Institute’s policy team as a Senior Policy Analyst. Kate first moved to New Orleans in 2002 and lived here for five years, first as a student at Loyola University and then as an elementary school teacher. During this time, she fell hard for the city and also developed a strong interest in education reform and policy. In 2007, she moved to Ireland where she earned an MSc in Applied Social Research Methods and a PhD in Social Policy from Trinity College, Dublin. While in Dublin, she taught university courses on policy and research methods. Kate’s academic research focused on social integration and inter-ethnic relations among elementary school students, as well as on issues related to public health. She has an interest in research design, methodologies, and the creative overlap between research and storytelling. She also enjoys traveling and reading other people’s (published) diaries. She’s excited to be back living and working in New Orleans.

Email Kate | Phone: 504-274-3616

Alison Barker,

Manager, Earn and Learn Program

barkerAlison Barker started her teaching career in 1999 with a start-up nonprofit in urban Boston neighborhoods whose central mission was to inspire middle school students’ unique voices in writing through a variety of hands-on activities.  Ever since she saw the caliber of creative writing produced after a night spent in a yurt in the middle of a Vermont pine forest, she’s been hooked on the healing power of the creative process in learning communities. Alison has spent the past 15 years in education; she has taught history and English at the middle school level and creative and research writing at the college level. She earned her B.A. and Teaching Certification in Political Science from Wellesley College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from LSU. She is a published creative and freelance edtech writer, and sees most writing projects as an opportunity to connect through story. Alison is particularly interested in how community partnerships can create transformative learning experiences, and before coming to the Cowen Institute, she founded and curated a community arts blog and co-created pilot enrichment programs with Historic New Orleans Collection, Bard Early College of New Orleans and Youth Empowerment Project. Most recently, she was a faculty member of the Communication Division at Delgado Community College, and before that, she was a post-doctoral instructor of English and creative writing at LSU. Her passion lies in supporting and bearing witness to growth and perseverance of the young people she works with.

Email Alison | Phone: (504) 274-3631

Eric Cherrie, Senior Program Coordinator, EMPLOY

E-Cherrie-Staff-Photo2Eric joins the Cowen Institute as Senior Program Coordinator for the EMPLOY initiative. He is responsible for coordinating programming, ensuring alignment across collaborative work, assisting with strategy development, communications support, and logistics management and support for EMPLOY. Eric is a native New Orleanian. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado—Denver. He served two years with AmeriCorps in Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colorado. During that time, he worked with youth on college and career readiness.

Email Eric | Phone: (504) 274-3631


Ryan Dalton, Program Coordinator, EMPLOY



Ryan is a New Orleans native bringing extensive national and local experience to the Reconnecting Opportunity Youth team. He is a Café Reconcile alumnus and former floor manager and has served as an advisory board member for The John Besh & Bride Mayor Scholarship at Chefs Move!, which prepares aspiring chefs for Management positions in the culinary profession. In that role, Ryan worked to recruit young minority chefs from New Orleans. Ryan is a founding member of The National Council of Young Leaders and Opportunity Youth United, and formerly served as a Youth Ambassador for the Youth Leadership Initiative. He helped form recommendations on the White House Council for Community Solutions’ report on opportunity youth and lead Mayor Landrieu’s NOLA for Life—Midnight Basketball initiative. In his role as Program Coordinator for EMPLOY’s Youth Action Team he is helping develop local young leaders and mobilizing youth voice to create change.

Email Ryan | Phone: (504) 274-3680

Aundrea Gregg,

Program Manager, Opportunity Works

Staff-Photo-A.GreggAundrea joins the Cowen Institute as Manager of the Opportunity Works, Social Innovation Fund grant. In this role, Aundrea oversees grant compliance measures for Tulane’s Earn and Learn program, the Youth Empowerment Project, and Delgado Community College’s Accelerated Career Education program. Additionally, she manages the collective impact efforts of the grant’s core partner programs. Prior to moving to New Orleans, Aundrea served as a project manager at the Clinton Global Initiative where she led the Reconnecting Youth Working Group. She also served as a college and career readiness research fellow at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. Aundrea graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor’s in Classic Civilizations and Political Science in 2011, and from the London School of Economic with a Master’s in Social Policy and Planning in 2012.

Email Aundrea | Phone: (504) 274-3634

Dave Hand,

Senior Policy Analyst

David Hand, Senior Policy AnalystDave came to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to work with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). As a certified teacher, he spent two years working in special education at an alternative public school and three years as a founding teacher at a public school where he focused on instructional technology. He has served as a Project Manager for the Compass Information System, Louisiana’s evaluation platform for managing student learning targets, observations, and evaluations. Recently, he led a team of Data and Technology Specialists at the Louisiana Department of Education that supported district leadership across the state in interpreting and using data to drive decision-making processes. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Politics from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where he worked for two sessions at the Oregon Legislative Assembly.

Email Dave | Phone: (504) 274-3659

Kerry Hegarty,

College and Career Success Counselor, 

Reconnecting Opportunity Youth – Earn & Learn 

Staff-Photo_K-HegartyKerry joins the Earn and Learn Program as the College and Career Success Counselor. She most recently worked for Communities in Schools as a clinical mental health counselor at Renew Accelerated High School. There, she provided therapeutic interventions to over-age and under-credited students in New Orleans. Prior to graduating from the Loyola University New Orleans Master’s of Counseling Program, she served individuals in the Orleans Parish Prison Reentry Program by providing post-traumatic stress and substance abuse counseling through the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Kerry also taught high school and middle school Art and English at Frederick Douglass High School and Renew Cultural Arts Academy. She is a licensed secondary education teacher, a certified guidance counselor and a provisionally licensed professional counselor.

Email Kerry | 504-274-3637

Nicole Jolly,

Senior Manager, EMPLOY

Staff-Photo-N.JollyNicole joined the Reconnecting Opportunity Youth initiative at the Cowen Institute to manage and support a local cross-sector opportunity youth collaborative called EMPLOY (Employment and Mobility Pathways Linked for Opportunity Youth). Her role includes serving as the Enterprise Manager for EMPLOY’s pilot initiative, the Opportunity Youth Data Sharing Council. She most recently served as the Manager of Data-Driven Policy at the Partnership for Youth Development and as the Data and Policy Analyst for New Orleans’ juvenile detention center. She has experience supporting the strategy development and coordination of multiple Collective Impact initiatives, instituting data and performance management systems, and managing and mobilizing data for strategy, decision making, and policy development. Nicole holds a Master’s in Sociology from the University of New Orleans and a B.A in Sociology and Certificate in Native American Studies from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, OR where she served two terms as the Director of Multicultural Affairs and member of the Oregon Students of Color Coalition Board.

Email Nicole | 504-274-3671

Ryan Mattingly,

Senior Manager, 

Reconnecting Opportunity Youth – Earn & Learn 

Staff-Photo_R-MattinglyBorn in New Orleans, Ryan has a deep loyalty to the city. For over a decade, his academic and professional pursuits have been guided by the goal of helping transform the region’s neighborhoods into healthy communities by improving quality access to education for all. Most recently, Ryan served as the Field Manager for Johns Hopkins University’s operations in Louisiana, where he oversaw numerous school reform projects in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Prior to his work with Johns Hopkins, Ryan taught high school social studies at Science and Math Charter High School immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Ryan obtained his master’s degree in urban history from the University of New Orleans with a concentration on the federal role in segregating neighborhoods and schools. In his current role as the Senior Manager for the Earn and Learn, Ryan is responsible for the development and growth of the Cowen Institute’s workplace learning initiative for 16-24 year olds who are disconnected from school and work. Ryan lives in New Orleans with his wife, Jessie, and two children, Lucinda and Wesley.

Email Ryan | 504-274-3623

April Rice,

Senior Manager, College & Career Readiness

CI- Staff Photo- AprilApril Rice has spent the past 10 years in education as a teacher, curriculum specialist, and coach. Her experience and passion lies with teaching disadvantaged students in extenuating circumstances. With a background in curriculum and instruction, April has implemented and developed programs and courses to help students transition between high school and college at the high school level. She has developed dropout prevention and credit recovery courses for her district. She has also trained new teachers for the Department of Education at the state level and presented at regional and national conferences on 21st century learning, Career Pathways, and STEM Initiatives. Although she enjoys training teachers, April’s passion is inside the classroom  with her students. April received the Teacher of the Year Award in 2008 and 2009 from Rankin County, Mississippi. She received her bachelor’s degree in Health Science from Brigham Young University-Idaho and her Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at Mississippi College.

Email April | Phone: (504) 865-5870 office, (813) 454-6140 cell

Latisha Robertson,

Administrative Program Coordinator, Upward Bound

CI- Staff Photo- LatishapngLatisha has been with Upward Bound since February 2006 as it began to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Latisha is very instrumental in developing administrative procedures, maintaining student records, and supporting staff and faculty in programming initiatives. Additionally, Latisha handles finances, budgets, reports, communications, field trips/college tours, and recruitment for Upward Bound. Latisha and her husband are proud parents of 5 children. In her spare time she enjoys coordinating weddings and events. Latisha looks forward to finishing her business degree in the near future.

Email Latisha

Liz Santos,

Operations Manager 

Staff-Photo-L.SantosLiz manages budget and accounting processes, oversees daily operations of the office, and assists with financial activities and personnel-related matters. Her inspiration to ensure all students receive a high-quality education derives from her personal experience in failing secondary schools. In addition to her experience leading operations support as the Operations Coordinator at New Schools for New Orleans, she has worked directly with students. Liz taught and mentored underserved students in the Science, Math and Technology (SMT) College Bound/GEAR-UP Program at the Passaic Country Community College in her hometown of Paterson, NJ. She also dedicated a year of service as a City Year Corps Member at Phyllis Wheatley Community School via Americorps, where she provided students in kindergarten through fourth grade with academic, behavioral and attendance support. She is excited to pursue a business degree in the near future.

Email Liz | Phone: (504) 274-3693

Shawn Vinnett,

EMPLOY Manager of Employer Partnerships

image001Shawn is a native to New Orleans. He attended Southern University at New Orleans where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Subsequently, he attended Xavier University of Louisiana, where he received a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. He has extensive experience with at-risk youth having held several mental health positions, working as a probation officer in the juvenile justice system, serving as the Director of Recruitment, Admissions, and Retention at Southern University at New Orleans. Most recently, he served as an industry liaison with the Network for Economic Opportunity, specifically as the Sector Lead for Hospitality and Healthcare pathways. As the EMPLOY Manager of Employer Partnerships, he will be tasked with facilitating collaboration with new and existing employers to create skill standards, implement career paths, influence wages and benefits and ultimately impact the Opportunity Youth in our communities by connecting them with quality employment and education opportunities.

Email Shawn 

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