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Higher Education Team

Michael Bishop

Lead Data Specialist

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Michael Bishop is a lead data specialist with over 30 years of database management experience. Michael has been with Graduation Alliance since January 2021 and served in several positions before becoming his current role, including Academic Success Coach and Account Manager. Michael possesses strong analytical, programming, and collaboration skills and a passion for utilizing data to solve complex problems and drive business growth. He believes data analysis helps us understand our customers better and allows for the creation of problem-solving strategies. Before joining Graduation Alliance Michael was the property manager for Computer Sciences Raytheon and was responsible for managing a contractor-operated property (equipment) department with accountability for over $320M of government-furnished property. Michael, a 32-year veteran, also served in the Marines and the Army.

Catherine Castillo

Vice President of Program Development

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Catherine Castillo brings over two decades of expertise in forging impactful alliances in higher education and corporate partnerships. With a proven track record in spearheading successful partnerships, she has navigated collaborations with esteemed institutions such as the California State University system, Los Angeles Unified School District, and prominent entities like Cigna Health, Disney, and Toyota. Catherine’s dedication lies in empowering learners from diverse backgrounds to realize their educational and professional aspirations.

Before joining Graduation Alliance, Catherine served as vice president of partnerships at both Wiley University Services and Pearson Online Learning, where she held pivotal positions driving business development, operations, and marketing initiatives. In her current capacity, Catherine is dedicated to collaborating with community colleges and universities to facilitate student enrollment and re-enrollment, support academic and workforce program success, and remove obstacles for adult learners, guiding them from high school to post-secondary education pathways.

Catherine holds a degree in business science with a focus on marketing from the University of California, Riverside. Additionally, she possesses a digital marketing certification from General Assembly, further enriching her expertise in the field.

Donald Dement

Senior Vice President, Higher Education

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Dr. Donald Dement joined Graduation Alliance after a series of leadership positions within the higher education market including tenures at Ellucian, Academic Partnerships, and Oracle. Once a director of teaching and learning working directly with provosts, deans, and faculty on improving the use of academic technologies, Donald went on to lead management consulting and sales teams in the higher education industry. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education, Donald’s responsibilities at Graduation Alliance include the growth and success of the higher education team. Donald earned his doctorate in social psychology from The University of Houston.

Jason Ferguson

Vice President of Program Development

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Jason Ferguson has a diverse background in sales and program development within the higher education sector. Before joining Graduation Alliance as a Vice President of Program Development, Jason served as an account executive at CBORD responsible for sales of campus cards, cashless software, and point-of-sale systems across a seven-state territory. While a managing director at Academic Partnerships, he played a key role in facilitating university growth by eliminating enrollment barriers, supporting strategic marketing efforts, and forging new partner programs. Earlier in his career at Ellucian, he served as a customer relationship manager, dedicated to ensuring client satisfaction and identifying opportunities for software solutions to align with institutional goals. Jason has also worked in the nonprofit sector with the Boy Scouts of America, in manufacturing, and in retail software. Originally from Atlanta, Jason now lives in Florida with his wife and three daughters.

Laura Fretz

Vice President of Program Development

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With over 20 years of experience in the education sector, Laura
Fretz is passionate about making education accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. As a vice president of program development at Graduation Alliance, Laura works with stakeholders at every level to successfully plan, advocate, and operationalize programs based on research, metrics, and mission that enroll and retain students. Laura graduated from Indiana University and Olivet Nazarene University. In her spare time, she acts as an advisor to the Indiana
Speech and Debate Association. She enjoys spending time with her kids, theater, music, stand-up comedy and travel.

Ed Hildy

Vice President of College Enrollment

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For the past 20+ years, Ed Hildy has been involved in the recruiting, training, and education industries, building high-performance teams to deliver exceptional results. In his role with Graduation Alliance, Ed manages all aspects of the higher education enrollment team. This includes process design and development, strategy and execution, and partnership relations. Before joining Graduation Alliance, Ed was involved in two different large-scale online program management providers, assisted in creating global training programs, and ran an executive search firm. Ed is a passionate servant leader focused on helping students make their lives better and helping colleagues become the best they can be. Ed received his bachelor’s in psychology from Western Illinois University and did graduate studies in industrial organizational psychology at Western Illinois University.

Wendy King-Fisher

Senior Director of Operations

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Wendy King holds a B.S. in management and has worked in the education and online program management field for over 11 years as a project, change, and enrollment manager. Her focus and passion is streamlining processes and communication to ensure a positive student experience, resulting in increased enrollment and graduates. Prior to working in education, Wendy was both an insurance and business solutions sales agent.

Petra Kohlmann

Vice President of Program Development

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With a career spanning over 25 years, Petra Kohlmann has dedicated herself to fostering relationships and collaboration across all levels of higher education. Her commitment to making a positive impact on student success led her to Graduation Alliance where she leverages her extensive experience. As a vice president of program development for Graduation Alliance’s higher education team, Petra forges institutional partnerships that empower students to reclaim their path toward academic success.

Throughout her career, she has cultivated relationships with higher education institutions that align with mission-driven objectives. Petra’s background includes teaching at Florida International University, developing institutional and system-wide partnerships at ACUE, advocating for personalized learning with Knewton, and crafting solutions to enhance affordability, access, and achievement at Pearson.

Previously, Petra supported vital initiatives such as the American Democracy Project with AASCU, quality enhancement plans, and first-year seminars during her 10-year tenure at The New York Times. She earned her B.S. in International Business and Marketing from Florida Atlantic University. A proud mother of four and grandmother of two, she resides in Miami, Florida, where she continues to be instrumental in shaping the future of higher education.

Scott Pruitt

Vice President Program Development

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Scott Pruitt has been providing enterprise services for 30-plus years working with many key providers (Ellucian, SunGard, Microsoft, NCR, Teradata, EDS, and Unisys) across technology and industry verticals. Currently, he is with Graduation Alliance helping colleges and universities with supplemental enrollment services using a
multi-channel outreach strategy to boost enrollment. Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.

Melissa Soria

Director of Student Success

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Melissa Soria has worked in education for 18 years. During that time, she has coached water polo at all levels, has been an academic coach in both college and high school settings, and taught an intro college class. She has been with Graduation Alliance since July 2017 and has held positions as an Academic Coach, college and career services advisor, student services manager, and now director of student services for our higher education programs. She holds a bachelor’s in general studies from Indiana University where she also played water polo. She continued on to earn a master’s from National University in teaching with a specialization in teaching and learning in a global society.

Darin Surrey

Vice President of Program Development

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Vice President of Program Development Darin Surrey is passionate about supporting higher education institutions in their recruitment and retention efforts. Despite nearly 23 years in higher education software and services, Darin began his career in MLB ticket sales. In 2000, he found his niche in higher education when he started working for Hobsons. He also worked with Education Systems, Inc., Ellucian, and Cornerstone on Demand before joining Graduation Alliance in January of 2022. Darin graduated from Centre College where he played both football and baseball, sports he now enjoys coaching. Based in Kentucky, Darin has been married for 25 years and is a father of three.

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