Judging panel

The judging panel included leading U.S. experts in adult education, career navigation, edtech, industry, and inclusion and accessibility. Judges scored submissions according to the selection criteria.

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock

Senior Fellow
National Skills Coalition

Stage 2 judge

Amanda Bergson-Shilcock is a Senior Fellow at National Skills Coalition where she leads the organization’s work on adult education and workforce policies to expand opportunities for US-born and immigrant adults. Throughout her career, Amanda has worked with state and federal policymakers and skills advocates to develop policy solutions that address the challenges facing adult learners and jobseekers, including immigrant workers.

As a workforce development expert for more than a decade, Amanda has authored numerous publications and policy recommendations – on immigrant integration, workforce development, and adult education – which have helped educate policymakers, journalists, and the public, and inform public policy at the state and federal levels. Her policy expertise, insights, and commentary have been cited and published in local and national media outlets, including TIME, Fortune, BBC News, Inside Higher Ed, POLITICO, Business Insider, The Wall Street Journal, HR Dive, and many others.

Prior to joining National Skills Coalition in 2015, Amanda served as Vice President of Policy and Evaluation at the nonprofit Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia. In that role, she led the Welcoming Center’s policy and communications work on adult education, workforce and economic development issues. She also served as Policy and Communications Director for IMPRINT, a national coalition of nonprofit organizations focusing on the integration of immigrant professionals. Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied American Civilization with an emphasis on minority populations. She is based in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Sameer Gadkaree

Sameer Gadkaree

President
The Institute for College Access & Success

Stage 2 judge

Sameer Gadkaree has been a leader in college access and success for over a decade. Sameer Gadkaree is the President of The Institute for College Access & Success. Prior to the Institute, Sameer was a Senior Program Officer at the Joyce Foundation, where he led the philanthropy’s efforts on higher education. His portfolio focused on addressing racial and economic disparities in college access, including improving the longstanding racial disparities in access to public flagship universities, supporting graduation for community college students, supporting college access for rural students through regional public universities, and access for economically disadvantaged students at selective universities.

Prior to his work at Joyce, Sameer was an Associate Vice Chancellor at the City Colleges of Chicago, the system of seven community colleges that serves the City of Chicago. He led the Adult Education division, with a focus on helping adults who were learning English or getting their high school equivalency get access to college level coursework. He also was on the strategy team, helping the system improve its retention and graduation outcomes. Sameer has also worked at Discovery Communications, the parent company of the Discovery Channel, and at the management consultancy McKinsey and Co. He has been quoted by outlets including CNN, Politico, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, and Crain’s Chicago Business. He has testified before the House Education and Labor Committee.

Bill Hughes

Bill Hughes

CEO
Education Design Lab

Stage 1 judge

Bill Hughes is the CEO of Education Design Lab, a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements innovations at the intersection of learning and work. Prior to the Lab, Bill founded and led JobReady (acquired by LearningMate), a skills-as-a-service venture that transformed corporate learning courseware and assessments into micro-credentials and career navigation delivered through colleges and workforce programs.

Previously, Hughes was chief strategy officer at Learning Objects (acquired by Cengage) and led Business Development at Pearson, where he co-founded Intellus Learning (acquired by Macmillan) and created its flagship MyLabs platform. Over the past 25 years, he has held leadership positions at Sapient, Mercer (now Oliver Wyman), and CIC. Bill currently serves as a board member of Berkshire Bank (NYSE: BHLB) and a trustee of the Education Development Center. Hughes holds an AB from Harvard and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School, where he was a Seley Scholar.

Dr. E. Paulette Isaac-Savage

Dr. E. Paulette Isaac-Savage

Professor, Adult Education / President
University of Missouri-St. Louis / American Association for Adult and Continuing Education

Stage 1 and 2 judge

Dr. E. Paulette Isaac-Savage is a professor of adult education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). Her primary line of research is adult education in the Black Church. During her tenure at UMSL, she has served as a program coordinator, department chair, and associate provost for planning, assessment, and accreditation. Additionally, she has been a grant reviewer for the University of Missouri system. She is on the editorial board for Adult Education Quarterly, Adult Learning, Dialogues in Social Justice: An Adult Education Journal, and Education and Urban Society.

She is the 2022-2023 President of the American Association for Adult and Continuing Education and President/Chair of the Adult Basic Education Foundation of Metropolitan St. Louis and a member of the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fame. She regularly donates blood to the American Red Cross.

Ash Kaluarachchi

Ash Kaluarachchi

CEO
StartEd

Stage 1 judge

Ash Kaluarachchi advises and enables growth for organizations solving problems in education and workforce learning. He has launched and operated multiple accelerators, including the most financially successful EdTech accelerator to date. These accelerators have enabled 2,000+ companies, including global EdTech unicorns, in partnership with organizations such as Techstars, Google, Amazon, Kaplan, Intel, NYU, USC, and the University of Pennsylvania. He was voted one of the Top 100 Influencers in Education Technology by Edtech Digest.

He continues to provide support for founders solving problems for educators, administrators and learners in Pre-K, K-12, HigherEd, Workforce and Adult Learning as CEO of Started Inc (www.started.com), which provides intensive mentorship and access to a network of the most seasoned and supportive mentors and investors in EdTech. He is also the Producer of EDTECH WEEK (www.edtechweek.com), a global distance learning and networking event for global education leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, policymakers, and educators. Ash has an MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown and a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and economics from Grinnell College.

Rahim Rajan

Rahim Rajan

Impact investor

Stage 2 judge

Rahim Rajan recently led the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success team responsible for developing and delivering high-impact, evidence-based solutions to help transform postsecondary institutions. Solutions aimed to help low-income, students of color achieve greater momentum and success in their undergraduate educations, to close attainment gaps in order to increase social mobility, and to help students prepare the modern workforce (2011-2023). In various roles, he led investment grant making and strategy and managed an expert team of impact investors across multiple evidence based portfolios. The portfolios ranged from developmental education reform t0 digital learning,  and from digital infrastructure to digital holistic student supports.

Prior to that, Rahim led efforts at both ITHAKA and JSTOR, where he focused on helping higher education institutions, learners, and the global scholarly community benefit from advances in innovation, R&D, and emerging technologies. Born in Rwanda, Rahim is both a first-generation American and college graduate. Rahim holds degrees from the University of Chicago, the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London), and the University of Cambridge. Rahim serves on various boards and advisory groups, including the Seattle Colleges Foundation, Global Research Alliance for AI in Learning and Education (GRAILE), and the Global Learning Council.

Denine Torr

Denine Torr

Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy
Dollar General

Stage 1 and 2 judge

Denine Torr is Dollar General’s vice president, corporate social responsibility and philanthropy, and executive director of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. She leads strategic development and execution of national, regional and local philanthropic-related programs and initiatives for Dollar General’s 18,000+ store communities, distribution centers and corporate headquarters. In addition to her philanthropic responsibilities, she also leads Dollar General’s social responsibility activities and initiatives, as well as the company’s environmental, social and governance reporting on sustainability and other related disclosures.

Denine brings more than 20 years of Dollar General and corporate philanthropy experience to the position. She currently serves as chairperson of the board for Governor’s Early Literacy Foundation and on the board of directors for the American Indian College Fund and the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee

Senior Fellow, Center for Technology Innovation
The Brookings Institution

Stage 1 judge

Dr. Nicol Turner Lee is a senior fellow in Governance Studies, the director of the Center for Technology Innovation, and serves as Co-Editor-In-Chief of TechTank. Dr. Turner Lee’s research focuses on public policy designed to enable equitable access to technology across the U.S. and to harness its power to create change in communities across the world. Her work also explores global and domestic broadband deployment and internet governance issues. She is an expert on the intersection of race, wealth, and technology within the context of civic engagement, criminal justice, and economic development.

Her current research portfolio also includes artificial intelligence (AI), particularly machine learning algorithms and their unintended consequences on marginalized communities. Her expertise on the subject explores global and domestic AI governance, ethics, online bias, and the intersection between technology and civil/human rights. She is also an expert on topics that include online privacy, 5G networks and the digital divide. Dr. Turner Lee has a forthcoming book on the U.S. digital divide titled Digitally Invisible: How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass (forthcoming 2022, Brookings Press). She sits on various U.S. federal agency and civil society boards. Dr. Turner Lee has a Ph.D. and M.A. from Northwestern University and graduated from Colgate University.

Stage 1 review panel

The Stage 1 review panel scored submissions according to the Stage 1 selection criteria. A subset of the highest scoring submissions advanced for review by the judging panel.

  • Judith Alamprese, Principal Scientist, Social & Economic Policy, Abt Associates
  • Ahmmad Brown, President and Co-Founder, Equity Based Dialogue for Inclusion
  • Baltazar De Anda Santana, Executive Director, Latino Academy of Workforce Development
  • Donna Davis, Senior Manager Employee Social Responsibility, Upward Academy, Tyson Foods
  • Nell Eckersley, Director of Digital Equity Projects, Literacy Assistance Center
  • Marty Finsterbusch, Executive Director, VALUEUSA
  • Sue Grosdidier, High School Equivalency State Administrator, Kansas Board of Regents
  • Tiffany Gusbeth, Vice President, Student Success Services, American Indian College Fund
  • Sara Haghighi, Instructional Program Manager, Refugee Education Program, Prima Community College
  • Jessica Haselton, Director of Education Innovation Ventures, ECMC Foundation
  • JT Kim, Director, BD Enterprise, Career Karma
  • Yeny Madrid, Director – Partner Innovation, Scalable Solutions, Year Up
  • Ana Negoescu, Assistant Vice President, Business Engagement and Inclusion, National Immigration Forum
  • Ken Oliver, Vice President, Checkr Foundation
  • Chrissie Powell, Chief Growth & Impact Officer, Byte Back
  • Victor Rivero, Editor-in-Chief, EdTech Digest
  • Priyanka Sharma, Vice President, World Education
  • Mohona Siddique, Associate Director, Economic Opportunities Program, Aspen Institute
  • Shaketta Thomas, School Assessment Coordinator, Virginia Department of Corrections

Learn more about the winners