BHEF Staff

Suzanne Amoonarquah
Associate Director, Operations and Administration

Suzanne Amoonarquah joined the Business-Higher Education Forum in 2014 as the operations manager, where she manages the operational and administrative needs for the organization. Key functions of this role include accounting, member services and outreach, and planning BHEF’s semi-annual member meetings.

Prior to joining BHEF, Suzanne served as an associate at a boutique food policy consulting firm in Washington, D.C. As a contractor in the food policy space, she supported a number of consultants and nonprofit organizations in their efforts to create an accessible, healthy, and sustainable food system. She has experience in research, multi-organizational meeting planning, data analysis, and government relations. While working in the accounting department of an international law firm, Suzanne was responsible for handling the billing and collection needs for a number of attorneys across multiple practice areas.

Stephen Barkanic
Senior Vice President and Chief Program Officer

Stephen Barkanic, BHEF’s senior vice president and chief program officer, joined the organization in 2011. In this role, Barkanic provides overall leadership for BHEF’s National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative aimed at bridging industry and higher education to increase the persistence and diversity of students who go on to earn degrees or credentials in key emerging fields, and align undergraduate education with workforce needs.  He also provides leadership in BHEF’s work in Deeper Learning, or 21st century workforce skills and competencies that focuses on the business need for such skills as critical thinking, creative problem solving, and teamwork in the workforce of the future, and advocating for the importance of those skills on a national level.

Prior to joining BHEF, Barkanic was senior program officer at the Bill & 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; was a member of the CBE-Life Sciences Education editorial board, and was a member of the Maryland Governor’s STEM Task Force.

Stephanie Blochinger
Associate Program Director

Stephanie Blochinger joined BHEF in 2019 as associate program director. In this role she is responsible for the day-to-day management of workforce development projects and supports proposal development.

Prior to joining BHEF, Stephanie served as program officer at the Global Business School Network where she managed the Johnson & Johnson Management Development Institute. The training program upskilled healthcare professionals in sub-Saharan Africa with critical business and management skills and knowledge to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery.  She also has extensive experience managing higher education and exchange programs through her work at the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the British Council. At IIE, she administered the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program. While at the British Council, Stephanie managed the Global Innovation Initiative, a multilateral university research grant program to increase international STEM research partnerships. 

Stephanie received a B.S. in International Affairs from Georgia Tech and a M.S.Ed. in International Educational Development from the University of Pennsylvania.

Stacey Brown
Senior Director, Finance and Administration

Stacey Brown joined Business-Higher Education Forum in 2016 as the senior director for finance and administration. Before arriving at BHEF, Brown spent four years as the senior financial officer for a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization where she was responsible for the organization's financial, accounting, budget, reporting, and grants management functions. Prior to entering the nonprofit sector, Brown served as both a budget and finance manager in the State of Maryland Higher Education System for 15 years and six years in state government. As a budget and finance manager, Brown analyzed and assessed the funding and performance of University System of Maryland institutions and provided recommendations for funding to be included in the governor’s proposed annual budget. Brown held roles that included grants management, which required preparation of project budgets for large-scale, multi-year federal and private research initiatives. Additionally, Brown was responsible for automating several budget functions in an effort to simplify reporting requirements, produce ad hoc requests, and manage data.

Brown earned master’s degree in accounting and financial management from the University of Maryland University College and a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration, with a concentration in accounting, from Bowie State University.

Janet Chen

Janet Chen joined BHEF in 2016 as associate director. In this role, Chen engages in project management, including tracking reporting requirements, ensuring that projects meet their milestones and provide deliverables, overseeing working groups, and providing programmatic support networks for BHEF.

Prior to joining BHEF, Chen served as director of programs for the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, which advised Congress and the Secretary of Education on higher education and student aid policy. During her tenure, she led a study on nontraditional students, which identified the barriers and best practices for these students as well as emphasized the need for a federal-state-institutional-private-sector partnership. Previously, she conducted public policy research and consulting on STEM initiatives. She also supported assessment efforts for the launch of the Harvard College Program in General Education by researching general education curricula and academic program assessment models. Prior to entering the field of higher education, she served as an honors paralegal for the Federal Trade Commission.

Chen earned her master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her bachelor’s degree in social policy from Northwestern University.

Brian K. Fitzgerald
Chief Executive Officer

Dr. Brian K. Fitzgerald, an internationally recognized leader in creating innovative talent solutions, has served as the Business-Higher Education Forum’s chief executive officer since 2005. Under Dr. Fitzgerald’s leadership, BHEF developed and implemented a long-term strategic plan, through which BHEF has formed dozens of successful partnerships between the nation’s leading business and academic institutions to create new talent development solutions in high-demand emerging fields and utilized insights from case studies and cutting-edge market intelligence to influence thought-leaders and policy makers. Dr. Fitzgerald is an internationally recognized expert on the future of the American workforce, and his work has been widely published in domestic and international publications. He regularly presents the organization’s latest market intelligence and insights to business and academic audiences and provides them with recommendations for successfully implementing BHEF’s talent models.

Dr. Fitzgerald has served on a number of commissions and working groups during his tenure as CEO, most notably, he played a major role in the STEM working group under President Obama for the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which produced the widely cited 2012 report Engage to Excel, and the National Academies of Science study group of undergraduate computer science enrollment. Dr. Fitzgerald currently serves as a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center Higher Education Task Force, which will advise Congress on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 

Dr. Fitzgerald earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he currently serves on the Dean’s Leadership Council. Previously he was a member of the alumni council for four years, and chairman for one. He received his bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, where he was named a Distinguished Alumnus and awarded an honorary doctorate in public service. An avid sailor, Dr. Fitzgerald has sailed the Western Atlantic Ocean from Maine to Grenada and crewed on 11 Newport and Marion-Bermuda races, finishing 1st in class five times. He resides in Washington, DC, with his wife and three dogs.

Amanda Pumphry
Executive Assistant

Amanda Pumphrey joined the Business-Higher Education Forum in 2016 as an administrative assistant and transitioned to executive assistant to Dr. Brian K. Fitzgerald in 2017.  In this role, she is responsible for handling the administrative tasks at BHEF, scheduling for Dr. Fitzgerald, and coordinating BHEF’s semi-annual member meetings.

Pumphrey earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Marymount University.  She previously interned with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute where she was a paralegal policy intern responsible for adoption policy research and writing, and helping to coordinate the Angels in Adoption event attended by various congressional members. She has experience in event management, restaurant management, marketing, product management, and freelance writing.

Jennifer Thornton
Vice President, Programs

Jennifer Thornton is the vice president of programs for the Business-Higher Education Forum where she engages business and higher education in the development of strategic partnerships to meet workforce needs. In this role, she works with BHEF members to improve alignment between business and higher education, developing partnerships that foster diverse, highly skilled graduates with emerging skills in digital technologies.  

Previously, Jennifer was the director of workforce initiatives for the Greater Washington Partnership, where she led the formation of the Capital CoLAB, one of the nation’s foremost collaborations between academia and business.  She developed deep partnerships with university and business leaders to design industry-recognized digital technology credentials and supported their launch in universities throughout the Capital Region.

Prior to joining the partnership, Jennifer managed initiatives for the Pew Charitable Trusts focused on identifying business-led strategies to increase youth employment and assessing states’ use of data analytics to inform budget and policy decisions. Before Pew, Jennifer spent nearly two decades in workforce policy and leadership in Washington state, where her roles included chief administrative officer of WorkForce Central, senior research analyst for the House of Representatives’ Higher Education Committee and Technology & Economic Development Committee, and workforce education program administrator for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. 

Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from Cornell University and a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

Danielle Troyan
Vice President, 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 5,000 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 became president of the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Alumni Association in July 2012, and is a member of the college's board of trustees. Governor Martin O'Malley appointed her in 2013 to the Historic St. Mary's City Commission, which is responsible for museum operations and curation of archeological exhibits of Maryland's first capital and fourth British colony in North America. She also sits on the Historic St. Mary’s City Foundation, the fundraising arm of the museum.

Troyan is an alumna of the Harvard Business School (PLD), the University of Oklahoma (M.A., communications), and St. Mary's College of Maryland (B.A., history and political science). She also completed studies at the Centre of Medieval & Renaissance Studies, associated with Keble College, in Oxford, England.