Cass Conrad

University Dean, K-16 Initiatives

Cass Conrad currently serves as the University Dean, K-16 Initiatives. She began her work at CUNY in 2004 as the founding Director of the Early College Initiative, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded effort to establish 12 early college schools in partnership with the Department of Education. She now oversees CUNY’s School Support Organization, and the Graduate NYC! work with the New York City Department of Education, in addition to the Early College Initiative.
Prior to coming to CUNY, Ms. Conrad gained significant experience developing education programs at both the secondary and post-secondary levels. She has worked with states and school districts across the country to create k-12 professional development curriculum focused on classroom-based best practices. She also helped launch the Alliance for Lifelong Learning, a consortium of Stanford, Yale and Oxford Universities dedicated to creating ground-breaking continuing education curriculum for students of all ages. Ms. Conrad holds a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago.

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Brian Donnelly


Brian Donnelly is currently the Director of the Early College Initiative. In his previous position as Program Officer, Brian supported the network’s school-college partnerships by engaging leadership and staff in the development of policies and structures that support the early college model. Brian began his career as a teacher in Houston, TX with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps where he came to understand the importance of improving educational paths for young people so that they could access college.
For the past 20 years, Brian has worked as a 6th grade teacher at a Brooklyn parochial school, high school social studies teacher at a Manhattan public school, Lead Project Manager for Social Studies Curriculum at Kaplan K12, and a member of the CUNY ECI team. He holds a BA in history from Boston College, an MA in the Teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an MPA with a focus on Program Management from Baruch College

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Arway Boker

Mentoring Program Developer

Arway Boker is a Program Developer with the CUNY Early College Initiative, primarily supporting mentoring initiatives in collaboration with industry partners and students and staff at the seven 9-14 Early College & Career schools. Prior to joining the ECI team, she gained significant professional development and youth leadership experience supporting sports-based youth development and service-learning initiatives at various community-based organizations, schools, and school districts throughout the country.
Arway holds an undergraduate degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University and expanded her learning in the Youth Development Leadership graduate program at the University of Minnesota.

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Claire Riccardi

Program Manager, Early College & Career School Development

Claire Riccardi is a former high school social studies teacher in the New York City public schools. At ECI, she has worked as a Program Officer and Project Manager, primarily on the planning and launch of several early college schools, including Kingsborough Early College Secondary School, Bronx Early College Academy, and more recently, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH).
She holds a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MA in the Teaching of Social Studies from Teachers College, Columbia University.

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Ellen Hogarty

Work-Based Learning Program Coordinator, Youth Career Connect Grant

Ellen Hogarty is the Work-Based Learning Program Coordinator at the CUNY Early College Initiative (ECI), where she assists with building the capacity of schools to develop meaningful work experiences into their high school and college sequence, and with tracking student experiences and outcomes for individual, institutional and funding stakeholders. Prior to joining ECI, Ellen was a founding team member and Partnership Coordinator of the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology.
At UA Gateway, she worked with organizational partners to implement work-based learning sequence programming, coordinated internship and enrichment opportunities, developed grant-funded initiatives in health, service, work-based learning and capital improvements, and successfully brought two Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs through the state program approval process. Prior to UA Gateway, she supported students and faculty in an innovative blended learning graduate engineering program at Stevens Institute of Technology, assisted union members returning to school at Queens College, and has been involved in work with high school students in New York City since arriving as a student to Eugene Lang College at the New School for Social Research, where she graduated with a BA in Social and Historical Inquiry. She has a MA in Public Communications from Fordham University, and a Work-based Learning Extension Certificate from New York City College of Technology.

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Michael Steele

Grades 6-12 Program Manager, Leadership Development and Instructional Support

Michael Steele is a former high school English teacher and Administrator (Loyola High School Detroit), College Professor (University of Detroit Mercy), Principal (Nativity School of Worcester), Academic Dean (Cambridge School of Weston), and Network Administrator (Believe High Schools Network). He joined the CUNY staff in 2012 as a School Support Coordinator. In that role, he was responsible for developing positive working relationships with teachers and principals, and working with them to identity school goals, priorities and challenges. He also had to coordinate all aspects of the school support to assist principals in achieving their goals and addressing challenges. In 2016, Michael joined the ECI team as the primary support of the 6-12 schools. His focus is on making sure that the transition from middle school to high school is an easy one. Michael has spent over 20 years educating the whole child.
He holds a BA from Alabama State University and a MA in Teaching from Central Michigan University. Michael did his principal training at Harvard University.

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Rodrigo Ramirez

Program Officer

Rodrigo Ramirez joins the ECI Team as Program Officer, his work will include cultivating the relationships between our college and school partners, managing and developing policy, in collaboration with CUNY Central and ECI Network partners, coordinating the research agenda and analyzing data to improve program implementation, and assess impact. Additionally, he will explore areas of advocacy, funding, and budget management, and lead aspects of ECI strategic planning aimed to address ECI program goals.
Rodrigo graduated from Dartmouth College in 2006 with a double-major in Psychological & Brain Sciences and Asian and Middle Eastern Languages & Literatures (Japanese). After graduating, he returned to Dartmouth to join the Student Activities team, and later Career Services. In his various roles, his work focused on assessment, data management, strategic planning, and educational programming. As Assistant Director of Career Services, he developed a new marketing and branding strategy for the office, coordinated outreach, and advised students on their career and educational development. For his last five years at Dartmouth he served as Assistant Dean & Advisor to Latinx Students in the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, there he helped create divisional policies on inclusion, student support, assessment, as well as oversee the Latinx Community at the College. In 2014, Rodrigo received a Masters in Liberal Arts & Sciences degree with a Globalization concentration from Dartmouth. His master’s thesis entitled, “Examining the Social and Economic Benefits of Education as an Instrument for Economic Growth,” analyzed the positive pro-social, and micro- and macro-economic benefits to investments in education, and discussed the pedagogical structures of national systems which achieve the best outcomes for their respective students.

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Sharae D. Brown

College Completion Specialist & Alumni Manager

Sharae D. Brown is the College Completion Specialist & Alumni Manager for the CUNY Early College Initiative. In this role, Sharae supports initiatives for CUNY Early College graduates as they transition to becoming fully matriculated college graduates. She works with ECI high schools, receiving colleges, and various partners to implement best practices and decrease challenges that may impede college success and degree completion. Prior to joining ECI Sharae was the Senior Project Manager for Graduate NYC, a citywide initiative that worked closely with CUNY, the NYC DOE, and nonprofits to help students transition to, persist in, and graduate from college. She has vast experience cultivating partners, managing grants, strengthening marketing and media engagement, and executing large events and professional development for organizations as diverse as CUNY, the New York State Health Foundation, The After-School Corporation (TASC now ExpandED), the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation (SoBRO) and the YWCA of the City of New York. Sharae was an INROADS-NYC intern during three summers in college at her sponsoring company, Lord & Taylor and also began her career there as an Assistant Buyer.
Sharae graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Morgan State University and has a Masters of Public Administration from the City University of New York’s Baruch College School of Public Affairs where she was a National Urban Fellow.

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Stephanie Gilman

Senior Manager Youth Development and School Culture Initiatives

Stephanie Gilman is the Senior Manager Youth Development and School Culture Initiatives for the CUNY Early College Initiative. Prior to working at CUNY, Stephanie was the NY Regional Manager for buildOn, a national nonprofit organization that provides urban teens with intensive local and global community service opportunities.
At BuildOn she oversaw youth service, leadership development and education programs in 24 NYC public schools. She was the co-founder and co-artistic director of Collision Theory, a non-profit theatre company; she taught acting at several institutions, including the New Actors Workshop, Bard College, and New York University; and she freelanced as a director at regional and NYC theaters. She's additionally been a teaching artist in NYC public schools, where she developed and taught a variety of arts-integrated curricula and inquiry-based learning projects. She holds a BA in Women’s Studies and Political Science from Oberlin College, and is a graduate of the New Actors Workshop Conservatory.

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Stephanie Ricks

WBL Program Developer, and Employer Partnerships Manager

Stephanie Ricks is the Work Based Learning Program Developer and Employer Partnerships Manager for the CUNY Early College Initiative, primarily supporting businesses, corporations, and non-profits in developing work-based learning opportunities in collaboration with seven 9-14 Early College & Career schools. She believes that only through education and goal centered post-secondary planning can the cycle of urban poverty and crime be broken within our communities. Prior to working at CUNY, Stephanie worked for the Osborne Association developing internship opportunities throughout the five boroughs for individuals being released from incarceration, allowing for the opportunity to gain hands on work experience in high demand fields. Stephanie holds a Bachelors Degree in Criminology, and a Masters Degree in Public Administration specializing in Human Resources and Operations from CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Read More