BHEF Staff

Elizabeth Alvarado
Senior Advisor

Photo: Elizabeth Alvarado

Elizabeth Alvarado serves as a senior advisor to BHEF, a consultant at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), and a research associate at AGB Search. She brings nearly two decades of experience collaborating across diverse industries in the areas of governance, leadership, and strategic partnerships.

As a consultant, coach, and researcher, Alvarado is committed to supporting the success of individuals. With a doctorate in human and organizational learning from George Washington University, her research explores how individuals can reshape their tasks, relationships, and mindsets to find deeper meaning in their work. Her expertise extends to guiding individuals through challenges and helping them find purpose in their work as a dedicated career and wellness coach.

Grounded in the belief in the transformative power of equitable education, mental health resources, and career pathways, Alvarado aims to contribute meaningfully towards bridging existing gaps in these critical areas. Her work extends beyond the academic realm, seeking to create a more inclusive and supportive professional landscape.

Suzanne Amoonarquah
Director, Operations and Human Resources

Photo: Suzanne Amoonarquah

Suzanne Amoonarquah serves as BHEF’s director of operations and human resources, where she manages the operational, personnel, and administrative needs of the organization.

Amoonarquah played a pivotal role in BHEF’s COVID-19 response and transition to the adapting work environment by applying new technologies and streamlining internal processes. A passionate diversity advocate, she leads BHEF’s DEIB efforts, implementing employee training and serving as the BHEF representative for CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion. Additionally, Amoonarquah supports the financial management of the organization and works closely with the membership team, leading the logistical planning of BHEF’s semi-annual member meetings.

Amoonarquah has over a decade of experience in operational and administrative management, data analysis and research, event management, and government relations. In previous positions, Amoonarquah worked in the finance departments at Peace Corps and Akin Gump. She also spent several years as a consultant in the food policy space where she worked with nonprofit organizations in their efforts to create an accessible, healthy, and sustainable food system.

Amoonarquah holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University with a concentration in gastronomy and entrepreneurship.

Frank Avery
Managing Director for Partnerships

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Frank Avery joins the Business-Higher Education Forum as its inaugural managing director for partnerships. In this role, he will lead the organization’s engagements in national, state, and local partnerships with a focus on emerging and expanding skill areas such as artificial intelligence, clean energy, and cybersecurity.

He joins BHEF after serving as a program officer for the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Good Jobs Challenge under EDA Assistant Secretary Alejandra Castillo. There, he oversaw a $500M investment under the 2021 American Rescue Plan, aimed at making once-in-a-generation investments in high-quality, locally led workforce systems to accelerate economic recovery following the peak impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. During his tenure, he advised on key workforce issues such as the implementation of high-performing business-led sector partnerships strategies and the rollout of EDA’s CHIPS & Science Act programs like Recompete Pilot Program. He was a founding lead for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Workforce Council Community of Practice, led by the Office of the Secretary of Commerce, and continues to regularly advise agencies, national partners, and regional leaders on best practices for implementing effective and equitable talent ecosystem strategies.

Before joining EDA, Avery served as the director of regional initiatives for the Business-Higher Education Forum. He previously served as executive director of an award-winning multi-county Florida-based public workforce development board. He has served as a senior consultant and subject matter expert in workforce development, registered apprenticeships, and work-based learning programs for a global consulting firm. Avery began his career as a program manager with a regional economic development organization where he specialized in establishing business-led coalitions in the Carolinas and Florida to accelerate the growth of clean tech, IT, and innovation economies.

He is first generation college graduate from the University of South Carolina and resides in Washington, DC.

Stephanie Blochinger
Senior Director of Member Engagement

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Stephanie Blochinger joined BHEF in 2019 as associate program director and is now the senior director of member engagement.  Prior to joining BHEF, Blochinger 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
SVP and Chief Financial Officer

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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.

Kristen Fox
CEO

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Kristen Fox joined BHEF as CEO in January 2024 and is focused on expanding the impact and reach of BHEF. She brings 20 years of leadership experience working at the intersection of education, digital learning, and workforce development and has advised foundations, institutions, and companies on the design and implementation of successful strategies that drive impact, growth, and sustainability.

As managing director at a leading strategy consulting firm, Fox led organizational growth and advised leaders of foundations, companies, and institutions in the education and knowledge sector. In her work she brought university and employer executives together to design regional workforce development pathways, led university-wide strategy and revenue sustainability engagements, informed the development of equity-centered products and go-to-market strategies for edtech firms, and published nationally regarded research on the impact of the pandemic on teaching, learning, and equity in higher education.

Fox previously worked as a special advisor at Northeastern University, where she led initiatives focused on building new models to scale experiential and work-based learning, developing alternative credentials, scaling career services, and creating new pathways to recruit underserved students into high-demand fields. Prior to that, Fox was a managing vice president at Eduventures, where she built high performing teams and worked with hundreds of institutions to develop strategy and track market trends and innovations. Early in her career, Fox taught undergraduate global history and writing courses at the University of California, San Diego.

Fox has a BA in international relations and Chinese from Colgate University and a MA in international affairs and economic development from the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego. 

Myk Garn
Senior Advisor, Faculty Innovation Fellowship

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Myk Garn is an academic leader, strategist, and innovator. His current areas of emphasis include artificial general intelligence, competency-based education, workforce skills, faculty development, and learning engineering and analytics. In his career, Dr. Garn has worked for and with colleges, state systems, regional collaboratives, and national organizations. At BHEF, Dr. Garn is lead curriculum designer for the BHEF/ECMC Faculty Innovation Fellowship. He is excited to bring his years of experience building learning experiences for faculty to the design of the fellowship program. Melding the insights of the BHEF's Creating Purposeful Partnerships with a design-thinking framework and expert-led leadership and change management sessions, the fellowship participants will be part of an expertise-building and career-enhancing experience.

Focusing on the innovations (and disruptions) that occur in the opportunity spaces where teaching and learning are catalyzed by technology, he has produced an award-winning television series of The Learning Channel, established an Instructional Technology Development Center for Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, directed statewide distance learning and faculty development efforts in Georgia, led a virtual university in Kentucky, managed a 16-state technology cooperative for the Southern Regional Education Board, participated in an internet startup, led systemwide strategic planning and technology initiatives in Georgia, and most recently was founding principal investigator for the NSF funded AI Institute for Adult Learning and Online Education at the Georgia Research Alliance and Georgia Institute of Technology.

Dr. Garn holds a Ph.D. in educational policy and evaluation from the University of Kentucky, an MA in educational system design from Michigan State University, and a BA from Brooks Institute of Photographic Arts and Sciences.

Deb Hodge
Senior Advisor

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Deb Hodge serves as a senior adviser to BHEF.  She brings nearly 20 years of higher education and program development experience to the role. She was most recently the managing director of the Capital CoLAB, the skills and talent division of the Greater Washington Partnership, where she led post-secondary partner engagement, supported implementation of the Digital Tech Credential at 20 regional universities, and oversaw student engagement efforts. In previous roles with Excelsior College and SUNY Empire State College, she helped to research, design, and implement programs centered around non-traditional learners. As CIO at the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, Deb led the Transformation Initiative aimed at creating accessible and scalable online learning resources for boards of directors. She is passionate about the accessibility, persistence, and retention of all learners.  Hodge has a master’s degree in higher education administration and a BA in sociology both from the State University of New York at Albany.

Elizabeth Hughes
Consultant, Research and Insights

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Elizabeth Hughes serves as a research and insights consultant to BHEF. To this role she brings nearly 20 years of experience in applied, mixed methods research and data analysis spanning a diverse range of policy areas. Prior to working with BHEF, Elizabeth served as vice president of research for the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, where she stood up and ran a highly respected regional research center, Insight Region; and associate manager of research review and support at the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she was responsible for the review of all research conducted by the institution and for advising internal teams on strategy, methods, and products. Elizabeth has also worked as a performance analyst for two local governments and a researcher for the Urban Institute. Elizabeth holds a B.S. in policy analysis and management from Cornell University.

Madison Myers
Manager, Workforce Partnerships

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Madison Myers joined Business-Higher Education Forum in 2021 as a research assistant and is now a manager of workforce partnerships.   In her role, Myers produces analytical reports, provides technical assistance to regional partnerships, conducts data gathering and research, and supports the planning and execution of project-related meetings. Previously interning as research assistant at BHEF, Myers provided qualitative and quantitative research and supported a variety of programmatic and membership initiatives.   Myers recently earned a bachelor’s of science degree in actuarial science from High Point University.

 

Jennifer Thornton
SVP and Chief Programs Officer

Photo: Jennifer Thornton

Jennifer Thornton is the SVP and chief programs officer 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. 

Candace Williams
Director of Regional Initiatives

Photo: Candace Williams

Candace Williams is director of regional initiatives at BHEF. In her role, she leverages postsecondary education and workforce expertise and strategic planning capabilities to develop strong partnerships in support of regional talent ecosystems. 

Formerly, she was the data and research manager at Advance CTE, overseeing work on postsecondary CTE data systems, credit for prior learning and state CTE funding. Before joining Advance CTE, Candace was the director of policy and research at the New England Board of Higher Education. In addition to guiding the organization’s policy agenda and producing reports and analysis, she acted as project director on a number of grant-funded initiatives covering credential transparency, recognition of learning, upskilling, employability and micro-credentialing. Candace started her career as an aide in the Massachusetts state senate, working for Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington). 

A native of mid-coast Maine, Candace earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in economics at Northeastern University.