Brian K. Fitzgerald
Chief Executive Officer
Brian K. Fitzgerald is a leading analyst and advocate for higher education and science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Dr. Fitzgerald serves as BHEF’s chief executive officer and has led the organization to develop an ambitious policy and programmatic agenda focused on college readiness, access, and success, particularly in high-need disciplines such as science and math, and spearheaded major programmatic initiatives to support this work. Under Dr. Fitzgerald’s leadership, both of BHEF’s key initiatives—Securing America’s Leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) that, in partnership with Raytheon Company, produced a groundbreaking simulation model of STEM education, and the College Readiness, Access and Success Initiative (CRI): An Agenda for Educational Success—have grown as signatures of the organization.
Prior to joining BHEF, Dr. Fitzgerald served as staff director for the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which advises Congress on higher education and student aid policy. During his tenure, the Advisory Committee released several influential reports, including: Access Denied, Empty Promises, and The Student Aid Gauntlet; and also commissioned The Condition of Access (edited by Donald Heller). Dr. Fitzgerald has written numerous magazine articles, papers and book chapters on policies to improve college access and success. He also served as an adjunct associate professor of government at American University, teaching advanced studies courses on the politics of education. In the private sector, Dr. Fitzgerald held senior project management positions for large-scale education research projects for federal agencies. Earlier in his career, he served as assistant dean and as a lecturer in education at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
Dr. Fitzgerald earned his master’s degree and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also served on the alumni council for four years and as chairman during the 2006-7 academic year. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, which named him Distinguished Alumnus in 2000 and awarded him an honorary doctorate in public service in 2009.
Senior Director of STEM Policy and Programs
Stephen Barkanic is BHEF’s senior director of STEM policy and programs, a position he assumed in 2011. In that role, Barkanic leads BHEF’s work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education aimed at bridging industry and higher education to strengthen undergraduate teaching and learning in STEM fields, increase the persistence of students who go on to earn STEM degrees, and connect undergraduate STEM education to emerging workforce needs.
Prior to joining BHEF, Barkanic was senior program officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where his work encompassed an array of policy and programmatic areas focused on improving student readiness and success in college. At the Gates Foundation, his responsibilities included managing grants portfolios in STEM education, early college high schools, and initiatives linking public and private stakeholders in local and state-wide education reform. In STEM, he worked at both the national and state levels to catalyze networks of companies, K-12 and higher education, government agencies, and other organizations to improve education outcomes for all students.
He is former director of undergraduate science education and grants management at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where he led the design and implementation of grants programs in STEM higher education, particularly in the biological sciences. A major focus of these programs, which included the HHMI Professors, the Exceptional Research Opportunities Program, and multi-faceted awards to research universities, colleges, and minority-serving institutions, was to help bring the creativity and rigor of research into undergraduate teaching and support hands-on laboratory research experiences for students. He was program officer and director of grants management at the Charles A. Dana Foundation, which included managing a national grants program in support of liberal arts education, and served as a consultant to the Ford Foundation and other organizations, and as a teacher at the Istanbul International Community School in Turkey.
Barkanic has served as chair of Grantmakers for Education, a national philanthropic affinity group; member of CBE-Life Science'; editorial board, and member of the Maryland Governor’s STEM Task Force. Barkanic earned degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park and Stanford University.
Executive Assistant and Membership Coordinator
Remy Bracey joined the Business-Higher Education Forum in January 2012 and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the BHEF office. In addition, she works directly with our director of external relations in her role as membership coordinator, ensuring the integrity of our membership database, serving as an important liaison between BHEF staff and members, and analyzing member activity. She brings over a decade of experience working in administrative support positions in higher education and business. Prior to BHEF, Bracey worked in several support roles, including as a legal assistant at the D.C. office of LeClairRyan, and as a research assistant at polling firm Belden Russonello & Stewart.
Bracey holds a bachelor’s degree in French from Georgetown University.
Jeanne B. Contardo
Senior AdvisorJeanne B. Contardo joined the Business-Higher Education Forum in 2008. After five years as the director of programs and policy analysis, she moved into a senior advisor position, where she manages the organization's finance and operations, and contributes to initiatives as well as policy and research activities. Prior to joining BHEF, she worked as a research fellow at the National Defense University, focusing in part on the changing workforce needs in the United States. Dr. Contardo's employment history includes the Institute for Higher Education Policy, where she collaborated on studies targeting underserved populations in higher education, including prisoners and foster youth; University of Maryland, where she worked with a group of women engineers to address issues around STEM undergraduate education; as well as three years with the University of Washington Honors Program in Seattle, where she helped design and implement policy to increase access and success in higher education. Dr. Contardo has also been a professorial lecturer of higher education at The George Washington University.
Dr. Contardo earned her Ph.D. in higher education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. She has published and presented widely on the topic of access to higher education, specifically focusing on how interagency partnerships form to provide postsecondary education for underrepresented groups. Dr. Contardo holds a master's degree in higher and postsecondary education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her bachelor's degree (cum laude) in English from the University of Washington.
Associate Director of STEM Policy and Programs
Debbie Hughes joined BHEF in 2011 as the associate director of STEM policy and programs. In this role Ms. Hughes manages the research platform of BHEF’s STEM agenda, supports the execution of the STEM Higher Education and Workforce Project, and is coordinating the development of a national undergraduate partnership strategy.
Prior to joining BHEF, Hughes was the director of public/private partnerships for Project Lead the Way, leading the organization’s development of strategic relationships and a national STEM education agenda. Hughes was also a program manager in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. In this position, she focused on creating opportunities for students and educators to participate in America's research enterprise as a means to improving the competitiveness of U.S. industry and overall scientific literacy. Hughes also served as the executive liaison to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s Science of Science Policy Interagency Task Group.
Hughes received her M.S. in International Science and Technology Policy from The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, and her B.S. in Business from The George Washington University School of Business.
Assistant Director of Policy and Programs
Erica Kashiri joined the Business-Higher Education Forum in 2010 and is responsible for the development and execution of the policy, advocacy, and programmatic goals of BHEF’s college readiness, access, and success (CRI) initiative.
Prior to joining BHEF, she performed a number of consulting projects for K-12 and higher education clients. Her work includes a program evaluation of Berkeley Unified School District’s student assignment plan for the BUSD Office of Evaluation and Assessment, as well as a faculty labor market analysis for the University of California Office of the President. In addition, she has experience in the California State Legislature with a particular focus on workforce development.
Kashiri received her master's in public policy from the University of California-Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, and her bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.
Director of External Relations
Danielle Troyan joined BHEF in 2012 as its director of external relations, and is responsible for the organization’s strategic communications initiatives with members, academic institutions, corporations, foundations, and other entities. Prior to BHEF, she held the position of managing director of Enterra Solutions, a software development firm. As director of operations at the United Service Organizations (USO), Troyan managed delivery of core services to America’s military and their families at USO centers located throughout the United States and around the world. She also served as director of external relations for MENTOR, a national non-profit that supports more than 5000 youth mentoring organizations through its national network of state and local mentoring partnerships. In addition, she worked as a professional staff member for three executive officers of the American Red Cross.
Troyan received her M.A. (summa cum laude) in Communications from The University of Oklahoma and holds B.A.s (magna cum laude) in History and Political Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She has completed studies at the Centre of Medieval & Renaissance Studies, associated with Keble College, in Oxford, England.
Troyan became president of the 13,000+ member St. Mary’s College of Maryland Alumni Association in July 2012. She also sits on the executive committee of the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation Board, which supports the museum activities on the site of Maryland’s first capital.