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Kauffman Education Fellowship
Who we are

Class of 2018 Fellows

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Noah Devine

Director of Educational Investments, SchoolSmartKC

Class of 2018

Amy Gale

Senior Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018

Sophia Garcia

Postsecondary Retention Specialist, Kauffman Scholars, Inc.

Class of 2018

Jessica Hembree

Principal, Platform Civic Strategies

Class of 2018

Lia McIntosh

Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018

Laura Palacios

Education Marketing Project Specialist, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018

Rodney Smith

Co-Founder and Consultant, Sophic Solutions, LLC

Class of 2018

Kanyetta Wansley

Senior Project Manager, PPD

Class of 2018

Precious Washington

Executive Assistant, Education, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018

Investigative Auditor, Missouri Attorney General’s Office

Class of 2018

Gene Willis

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, GEHA Health

Class of 2018



Noah Devine

Director of Educational Investments, SchoolSmartKC 

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Noah is the Director of Educational Investments at SchoolSmartKC, an education non-profit in Kansas City, MO that philanthropically supports K-12 education by directly funding schools. Prior to that, Noah was a consultant with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, MO where he supported data and strategy for the education work at the foundation and also consulted for districts, charters, and non-profits around the country, including Newark Public Schools.

Noah has also previously worked as the Director of Accountability Policy and Director of Portfolio Planning and Analytics for the Louisiana Department of Education, where he has led data, analytics, and stakeholder engagement to drive policy improvements across teacher, leader, school, and district evaluation and accountability systems.

Noah holds master’s degrees from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Missouri and a bachelor’s degree from Truman State University. In his spare time, Noah enjoys golfing, running, walking his dog, Truman, and spending time with his wife, Kate.


Amy Gale

Senior Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation 

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Amy Gale is a senior program officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she manages strategic initiatives and grants that foster equitable and real-world relevant education and learning opportunities for Kansas City students.

Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Amy worked for nine years in the Chicago Public Schools as an educator, district lead arts liaison and as a Local School Council member. She also worked as a program coordinator for the Chicago New Teacher Center, where she supported policy and programming efforts. Her career began as a Teach For America Chicago corps member.

Amy is a National Board Certified Teacher and holds a master’s degree from Dominican University and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Amy doing something active outside with her family – her husband Derek, and their two children, Mira (2.5) and Eli (5), and their dog, Wallace.


Sophia Garcia

Postsecondary Retention Specialist, Kauffman Scholars, Inc.

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Sophia Garcia is a devoted wife and mother. She is a proud Kansas City native, who is passionate about youth and leadership development, education, social justice, fine arts, and serving the community. In her current role, Sophia is a postsecondary retention specialist for Kauffman Scholars, Inc. She assists scholars who attend local universities and colleges, guiding and nurturing their academic, social, and emotional growth. Since joining KSI in 2014, Sophia has worked in various roles, promoting secondary scholar success and postsecondary advising.

Sophia earned a Master of Arts in Management with a concentration in Organizational Leadership and Development from Rockhurst University. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Mass Communications and Spanish from Benedictine College. Sophia is a Kauffman Ed Fellow, Avanzando mentor, CX AHEAD Scholar alumna, and former Girls on the Run Coach.

On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Sophia enjoying a hearty breakfast with her family.


Jessica Hembree

Principal, Platform Civic Strategies

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Jessica Hembree is the principal of Platform Civic Strategies, a consulting firm that provides nonprofits with strategic planning and policy advocacy. In this role, Jessica has helped to incubate ballot initiatives, facilitate federal planning processes, and create strategic plans.

With twenty years of experience in policy change, including ten years as policy director at a regional health foundation, Jessica has experience across multiple issues. From starting new advocacy organizations to researching complex issues to developing model policies, Jessica is an insightful leader in nonprofit policy and civic change.

Jessica received her master’s in Public Affairs from Princeton University. She serves on the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of three sons.

On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Jessica taking an excessively long walk to her favorite coffee shop.


Lia McIntosh

Program Officer, Education, Kauffman Foundation 

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Lia McIntosh is a program officer in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she supports education-focused initiatives through program development, project management, building relationships, and conducting research.

Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, McIntosh was an international coaching federation certified coach, speaker, and consultant, where she partnered with entrepreneurs, as well as corporate and nonprofit leaders, in a process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential. Earlier, McIntosh was an associate director of congressional excellence and missional strategist at the United Methodist Church of Missouri, where she collaborated, consulted, and coached ministry leaders to develop new and existing church and community ministries that reach across generations to become sustainable communities of faith.

She volunteers on the Citizen Advisory Council board for Lee’s Summit School District, is a leader of the Equity team at Suburban Balance, and is part of the Kauffman Foundation Faith & Education Steering team.McIntosh holds a Master of Divinity from Saint Paul School of Theology, a Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Louis, and a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Missouri–Columbia.


Laura Palacios

Education Marketing Project Specialist, Kauffman Foundation

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Laura Palacios is an education marketing project specialist in Public Affairs for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she supports the strategic growth in audience engagement within three education initiatives: Skilled KC Technical Institute, Real World Learning, and Amplify.

Prior to joining the Kauffman Foundation, Laura was a program management consultant for TEACH Kansas City, where she helped manage events including Energize and the Avanzado Conference. Earlier, she was a program manager of marketing – Latino initiatives and operations for H&R Block, where she created a new strategic national partnership program with high-profile Hispanic organizations, improved the marketing strategy alignment for the island of Puerto Rico, and increased revenue through the development of multilingual digital marketing strategies through social media channels. Laura is a member of the United Way Governance Committee and was appointed to the Cost of Water Task Force by Kansas City, Missouri’s former Mayor Sly James in 2016. Laura was named one of Central Exchange’s EPIC 13 KC Influencers for Inspiring KC Young Professionals.

Laura has a Master of Science in organizational leadership from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Houston.

Laura is known for her spirited energy and compelling ideas and is a recognized community activist and political champion. On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Laura watching funny videos on Youtube.


Rodney Smith

Co-Founder and Consultant, Sophic Solutions, LLC

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Dr. Rodney D. Smith is the Co-Founder and a consultant with Sophic Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm aimed at helping individuals and organizations reach their greatest potential. The firm specializes in diversity, equity & inclusion training, along with a host of other management improvement services. The firm has provided services to a number of educational institutions, community groups, and international organizations.

In addition to co-founding Sophic Solutions, Smith serves as a Graduate Adjunct Professor for the School of Education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC). As well, he serves as an Adjunct Professor for UMKC’s University College. He is also the founding advisor for the Men of Color Campus Initiative, a program designed to enhance life and learning for male students of color.

Dr. Smith’s career in higher education spans 20+ years. Over those years, he has been a frequent guest speaker on various topics to include group and collaborative learning, organizational and administrative leadership, group and individualized mentorship, the academic achievement of African American male students, culturally responsive pedagogy, the intersections of identity, diversity, inclusion, and equity, and the Sociology of Education.

Dr. Smith holds a Doctor of Education Degree from Tennessee State University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Morris Brown College.

Dr. Smith recently wrote and published his first book entitled Are We Really Crabs in a Barrel: The Truth and Other Insights About the African American Community as well as a chapter in an anthology entitled The Trayvon Martin in Us: An American Tragedy. He also serves as a copy editor for the Journal of African American Males in Education (JAAME). He lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where he and his wife, Stephenie, are active community members and the proud parents of two wonderful children.


Kanyetta Wansley

Senior Project Manager, PPD

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Dr. Kanyetta Wansley is a wife, mother, and working professional whose education and career path have yielded broad experience across several pharmaceutical sectors. Her greatest professional passion is contributing to clinical research to develop innovative drug and device therapies that positively impact patients and improve health outcomes. She directs her personal energy to volunteer efforts that enhance educational opportunities and provide character-shaping guidance to youth.

In her current role as Senior Project Manager for PPD, Dr. Wansley manages a $10+ million project portfolio in which her responsibilities include creating and executing global business strategies to deliver clinical supply solutions worldwide. Prior to joining PPD, she served as a Clinical Research Pharmacist at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Sarah Cannon Research Institute where she managed investigational drug therapies for over 350 clinical trials. She has also served as a Scientific Board Member at Schulman Institutional Review Board where she provided analytical review of drug and device clinical research protocols to ensure compliance with government regulations and ethical principles.

Dr. Wansley highly values education, youth development, and community service. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she supports its Five-Point Programmatic Thrust which focuses on the following: educational development, economic development, international awareness and involvement, physical and mental health, and political awareness and involvement. She currently serves as a PTA Board Member and YouthFriends volunteer at her daughter’s elementary school. She is also a lead teacher in the children’s ministry at her church.

Dr. Wansley earned her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Jackson State University. She became a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)® in 2018. She is a proud wife and mother of two amazing kids.


Precious Washington

Executive Assistant, Education, Kauffman Foundation 

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Precious Washington is the executive assistant in Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Previously, she provided administrative support to the campus vice president and academic dean of National American University for seven years. She also was the community relations coordinator for the Kansas City Royals, where she provided administrative support to the department director and Royals charities director. She is an active member of the American Cancer Society, Lutheran Women’s Ministry, and the Calvary Community Outreach Network’s KC Fun & Fit Day.

Washington is completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in management from National American University.


Lisa Weaver

Investigative Auditor, Missouri Attorney General’s Office

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Lisa Weaver is an investigative auditor with the Missouri Attorney General’s Office. Her passion is building programs that help people and communities reach their highest potential.

She began her career as a performance auditor for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, specializing in nuclear energy and defense systems. The opportunity of a lifetime led her to Wisconsin’s Welfare Reform Team where she focused on programs for special populations, including the medically fragile, teen parents, and those with developmental disabilities. When President Clinton passed the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Act, Governor Thompson told the team they had six months to implement their six-year plan. In meeting the challenge, they led the nation by constructing an entirely new program and administration to provide better pathways to training and work. From there, she moved to Columbia where she served as an independent consultant, working for various large and small, private and public entities, developing training and assisting with evaluation and strategic planning.

Needing a change, and tackling her bucket list, she also spent six years building a successful food service business and a few years in development for the University of Missouri Concert Series and KBIA, the local NPR radio station, and a lectureship. She found her way back to public policy with the MU Office of Charter School Operations. Hired as the first full-time employee in the office, she helped grow the portfolio from four schools to eight, and as Assistant Director, she was responsible for all new school development, financial reviews, and general internal administration.

Lisa earned her M.S. in Public Policy and her B.S. in Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In her spare time, she swims, still caters occasional parties, and cooks for a church that serves the Columbia homeless community every Saturday.


Gene Willis

Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, GEHA Health

Class of 2018, Year 2 Fellow

Gene Willis is corporate social responsibility manager for GEHA Health. A leader in the marketing/communications field with more than 20 years of experience in digital marketing, brand management, strategic planning, social media engagement, large-scale event planning, and public relations, Gene has worked as a citizen, volunteer, community leader, and advocate for urban youth mentoring/development and the arts, with both of these passions coming together in his work at UICS.

Gene’s life was forever changed by a Kauffman Foundation/Project Choice college scholarship and Ewing Kauffman’s simple advice to “choose well” and “give back.” On Saturday mornings, you can usually find Gene sleeping in but being awakened by his two dogs, then getting takeout breakfast for himself and his wife before reading the news, scrolling through Twitter, and watching college football.