Our Team

Kim Smith
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

kim-150x180Kim Smith is the founder and chief executive officer of the Pahara Institute. She is widely recognized as an innovative and entrepreneurial leader in education, and was featured in Newsweek’s report on the “Women of  the 21st Century” as “the kind of woman who will shape America’s new century.” Immediately prior to the Pahara Institute, Kim was co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit organization working to improve educational outcomes for low-income students. Earlier in her career she served as a founding team member at Teach For America, created and led an AmeriCorps program for community-based leaders in education, managed a business start-up and completed a brief stint in early online learning at Silicon Graphics. After completing her MBA at Stanford University, she co-founded and led NewSchools Venture Fund, a philanthropy focused on transforming public education through social entrepreneurship, where she helped to catalyze a new, bipartisan, cross-sector community of entrepreneurial change agents for public education. Kim has helped to incubate numerous education and social change organizations and has served on a range of boards, which currently include those of Bellwether, NewSchools, and Rocketship Education, and she has authored or co-authored a number of publications about innovation and social entrepreneurial change in education. She is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.

Adria Goodson
Chief Program Officer

Adria GoodsonAdria Goodson is the chief program officer of the Pahara Institute. Adria also serves on the faculty of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education teaching personal mastery courses. She has spent over 15 years coaching and supporting the learning and development of national non-profit and education leaders. From 2005 to 2015, she was the founding director of Hunt Alternatives’ Prime Movers fellowship program, a program that supports social movement leaders in the United States. Adria earned her PhD from Boston College in sociology, specializing in social movement theory, public policy, and philanthropy. She has authored several pieces on movement leadership and has been a featured speaker at TedXBeaconStreet.

Saamra Mekuria-Grillo
Vice President of Strategy and Operations

saamra-150x180Saamra Mekuria-Grillo is the vice president of strategy and operations at the Pahara Institute. Prior to joining the Pahara Institute, Saamra was an associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners. Before Bellwether, Saamra was a consultant at Bain & Company, where she worked on organizational design, strategy, and due diligence projects for clients in education, private equity, healthcare, and pharmaceuticals. Saamra also spent several years at Google, during which she focused on training and management of Google’s customer service sales and operations team. While at Google, Saamra spent over a year in India, as one of the founding team members of Google’s Hyderabad office. Saamra has a deep passion for education reform, which she has tapped through several projects with KIPP Bay Area Schools, and as a founding board member of the Mission Preparatory School, a charter school serving low-income students in San Francisco’s Mission and Excelsior districts. Saamra holds an MBA with a certificate in Public Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, where she double majored in History and International Studies. She is also a proud graduate of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in the United States. Saamra lives in San Francisco, CA with her husband.

Brandon Malmberg
Director of Network and Selection

Malmberg Headshot_swc2011Brandon Malmberg is the director of network and selection at the Pahara Institute. Prior to joining the Pahara Institute Brandon was executive director of the Western Region for Education Pioneers. In this role he led a team that recruited diverse groups of leaders, placed them into high-impact professional roles within education organizations and provided programming to accelerate their success. Brandon established Education Pioneers’ presence in Los Angeles and rapidly expanded operations by creating new partnerships and programs across the Western US. Brandon began his career working directly with young people with emotional and behavioral challenges and held management roles in school-based, residential and summer programs serving youth. He has also served as an executive coach to leaders from Head Start and Health Care organizations on issues related to strategic planning and general management. Brandon holds an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies from Colgate University. Brandon grew up in Minnesota where he attended his local rural public school. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons.

Traci Dove
Director of Selection

Headshot 030115Traci Dove is the director of selection at the Pahara Institute. Traci plays a significant role in supporting Pahara’s efforts to build outstanding cohorts of leaders for our programs. Previously, Traci spent seven years with the Talent Services practice of Bellwether Education Partners, where she provided strategic and tactical support on numerous chief-level, executive searches for nonprofit organizations in the education reform community. Prior to Bellwether, Traci was engaged as a recruiter in the education practices of A.T. Kearney Executive Search and Storbeck Pimentel and Associates, executing searches for senior administrators at liberal arts colleges and research universities nationwide. Earlier in her career, she was employed as an analyst in the Regulatory Advisory Practice at KPMG, LLP. Traci attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., and currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida, with two teenagers and dog.

Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili
Director of NextGen Network

Idrissa Simmonds Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili is the director of the NextGen Network at the Pahara Institute. Prior to Pahara, she served as the senior associate director of organizational learning for Uncommon Schools, where she led organizational-wide diversity initiatives and directed the Summer Teaching Fellowship, a program geared towards increasing the diversity of Uncommon’s teaching staffs. During her time with Uncommon, she led the growth of the Summer Teaching Fellowship from ten fellows to one hundred. As a 2009 Education Pioneers fellow, Idrissa worked with the New York Department of Education’s Office of Academic Intervention Services to produce a college readiness resource guide. She was actively involved with New York University’s Center for Multicultural Education and Programming, serving as an Instructor for the Center’s Intergroup Dialogue Program, a Fellow in the Center’s ISM Project, and a Mentor in the Focus Mentorship Program. She received a 2009 NIA Award from the Center for her work on campus diversity and social justice. Prior to graduate school, Idrissa managed the health education program for the Ghana Cooperative Credit Union’s Association in Accra, Ghana. She taught adult ESL in Vancouver, Canada. Idrissa holds a BA in English Literature and International Relations from the University of British Columbia, and an MA in Educational Leadership, Politics, and Advocacy from New York University.

Christine Whitley
Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer

Christine headshotChristine Whitley is the special assistant to the chief executive officer at the Pahara Institute. Christine joins Pahara after five years as an educational entrepreneur and founder of Christine Whitley Education Consulting, a school search and consultation service. In this capacity, she established her reputation as the premiere resource for parents navigating the educational landscape in Chicago, Illinois. During this time, she also served as Board President for Families Together Cooperative Nursery School in Chicago. Prior to CWEC, Christine worked in the mental health field specializing in women and children. She holds a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago, Illinois and a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. A native-born Texan, Christine spent most of her schooling years in South Bend, Indiana. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, mother, and two daughters.

Maggie Scott-Weathers
Manager of Strategic Initiatives and Learning

Maggie Scott-WeathersMaggie Scott-Weathers is the manager of strategic initiatives and learning at the Pahara Institute. Before joining Pahara, Maggie worked at the Democratic National Committee for two federal election cycles. As a Senior Paralegal and Information Specialist in the Voter Protection Department, Maggie worked to ensure that every eligible voter was able to successfully cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. Her work focused on voter education efforts and tracking laws that impacted voter access. Maggie graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a bachelor’s degree in English, and spent several years after college working in public libraries, first as a young adult librarian and then as a public law librarian, in Richmond, Virginia. A native of northwestern Pennsylvania, Maggie currently lives in Napa, CA.

Morgan Thrower
Program Manager, Pahara-Aspen Fellowship

Morgan ThrowerMorgan Thrower is the program manager for the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship at the Pahara Institute. Before joining Pahara, Morgan worked at the Pepperdine University School of Law as the director of events and assistant director of alumni affairs. At Pepperdine, she was responsible for the logistical development and execution of events produced by the law school dean, faculty, and programs.  Her work in alumni affairs focused on fostering alumni engagement through events and professional development programs. Morgan is a graduate of Stanford University where she majored in Communication and minored in Creative Writing. Originally from Southern California, Morgan currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Andrew Dinh
Manager, Data and Analysis

Andrew Dinh is the manager of data and analysis at the Pahara Institute. Previously, Andrew was a director at a premiere consulting firm in Washington, D.C. In this role, Andrew worked on human capital, strategy and operations, and technology implementation projects for clients in education, publishing, and non-profit organizations. Andrew began his career in finance strategy in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer at the Environmental Protection Agency and Citigroup Smith Barney. Andrew has a passion for education equality and, in his free time, he serves on a college scholarship committee that targets outstanding students from underserved communities throughout the D.C metro area. Andrew is an Education Pioneers Fellow and native of Northern Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech, where he majored in Finance. He currently resides in Oakland, CA.

Melinda Ellis
Manager of Operations

Melinda Ellis Melinda Ellis is manager of operations at the Pahara Institute. Prior to joining Pahara she worked at First Christian School, a private preschool through 8th grade school in the Napa Valley. In her position as Finance Manager, she implemented and trained faculty on the school-wide classroom management system, initiated and executed the sales and data tracking system for the gift card fundraising program and managed the financial aid program. Melinda was also a member of the Administrative Team and served as President and Treasurer of the Parent Faculty Committee. Melinda graduated from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri where she majored in Accounting and minored in Business Management. Melinda grew up in Kansas and currently resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Kate Graham
External Relations Coordinator

Kate Graham Kate Graham is the external relations coordinator at the Pahara Institute. Before joining Pahara, Kate worked as global leadership program associate for blueEnergy, a San Francisco based non-profit organization connecting isolated communities along the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua to energy, clean water and sanitation solutions. While there, Kate managed the outreach, recruitment and interview process for blueEnergy’s Global Leadership Program. She also worked closely with the Executive Director on fundraising and development campaigns. Prior to moving to California in 2010, Kate lived in Atlanta, Georgia where she served as a team leader for Hands on Atlanta Schools-Based AmeriCorps program. She also held roles as senior special events manager for Special Olympics Georgia and marketing team leader for Whole Foods Market. Kate holds an MA in Organizational Management and Development from Fielding Graduate University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Guilford College. Kate grew up in rural Western Maine and currently resides in Napa, California.

Pricilla Perez
Program Coordinator, Selection

Pricilla PerezPricilla Perez is a program coordinator for selection at the Pahara Institute. Before joining Pahara, Pricilla worked for Staples as an operations manager and later as a print account manager, serving the Napa and Sonoma Valley areas. In this role, she was responsible for portfolio management and new business development, along with maintaining & growing established accounts. Prior to Staples, Pricilla was a sales and marketing coordinator for West-Com Nurse Call Systems, Inc., directly supporting the Director of Sales & Marketing and the Regional Management team. Pricilla attended California State University, Sacramento, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with an emphasis in Human Resources & Organizational Behavior. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Celina Culver
Program Coordinator, Selection

Celina Culver is a program coordinator for selection at the Pahara Institute. She graduated from Princeton University in June 2015, earning her AB in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs with certificates in Latin American Studies and Dance. Prior to Pahara, Celina worked as a development intern at Dance/NYC, concentrating on arts advocacy and arts education. She also has experience teaching in both Brazil and Peru. Celina was born and raised in Sacramento, California and currently lives in the Bay Area.

Emily Salas
Program Coordinator, Pahara-Aspen Fellowship

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 9.10.12 AMEmily Salas is the program coordinator for the Pahara-Aspen Fellowship at the Pahara Institute. Prior to joining Pahara, Emily worked as the assistant to the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the Chicago International Music and Movies Festival in Chicago, Illinois. Prior to CIMMFest, Emily worked as a freelance production coordinator and associate producer, focusing mainly on independent full-length and short feature films. During her time in film production, She was responsible for logistical pre-production planning and on-set management. Emily attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Media and Cinema Studies. She was born and raised in Chicago, IL and currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Jenny Brooks
Program Coordinator, NextGen Network

Jenny Brooks Jenny Brooks is the program coordinator for the NextGen Network at the Pahara Institute. Before joining Pahara, Jenny worked for the County of Napa assisting the County’s Auditor-Controller. Prior to working for the County, Jenny was the Office Manager at Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, a non-profit organization providing one-on-one mentorship opportunities for underprivileged and socio-economic disadvantaged youth in grades k-12. As Office Manager, Jenny directly supported the Executive Director and Program Director with executing fundraising and program events, in addition to being responsible for tracking newly trained mentors, recording all donations, and completing daily clerical and budgeting tasks. Jenny attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Comparative Ethnic Studies and minored in Spanish. During her time in San Luis Obispo, Jenny completed an internship with the local Independent Living Program where she created a Cultural Awareness Training Guide for the program’s employees and consultants. Jenny grew up in Sonoma, CA, returned to the San Francisco Bay Area three years ago, and currently resides in Napa, CA.

Marisa Remez
P55 Fellow

Marisa Remez joined the Pahara Institute through the Project 55 Fellowship program, a mentorship program affiliated with Princeton University. Prior to Pahara, Marisa attended Princeton University, graduating in 2016 with a BA in Anthropology. Previously, she worked as a marketing and development intern for American Repertory Ballet. Marisa grew up in Washington, D.C. and currently resides in San Francisco.