Jamilah is a native of New Haven, Connecticut, a graduate of Yale University, and a life-long champion for children and education. As Executive Director of FaithActs for Education, Jamilah has changed the conversation about public education in Connecticut. FaithActs is a faith-based education advocacy organization in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, that builds relationships, leaders and power through community organizing and civic engagement of thousands of congregants across 100 predominantly Black churches.
Under Jamilah’s leadership, FaithActs works to secure critical wins for children in its mission of improving education opportunities for Black, Brown and low-income students so that they can graduate from college, take care of their family, and fulfill their God-given potential. She is also a member of Education Leaders of Color.
FaithActs’ success is rooted in Jamilah’s background in community organizing and ability to affect large-scale change at the state level. Prior to beginning her role at FaithActs in 2014, Jamilah worked as the Director of Community Engagement at ConnCAN, a statewide advocacy organization. During her time at ConnCAN, Jamilah began a robust Clergy organizing initiative that garnered major wins for Connecticut’s education reform movement and an important bond with Pastor William McCullough that would lead to the creation of FaithActs for Education.
Jamilah lives in New Haven with her husband and daughter.
Bernadette “Bernie” Park has been an SVP partner since 2019. She is currently serving on the Executive Committee as Secretary, on the Investments and Strategic Planning Committee as co-chair of Workforce Development Investments, and working on the workforce development system change team assisting the Governors Workforce Council and Office of Workforce Strategy with statewide and regional healthcare workforce development efforts.
Bernie has over 15 years of advocacy, community organizing, and fundraising experience and has served on several executive boards for area non-profits. Before her service in the non-profit sector, Ms. Park worked at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center as a critical care nurse, Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, and ultimately as a Nurse Practitioner of their Cancer Prevention and Wellness Program. She was also an adjunct clinical professor at Fairfield University.
Bernie has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) from Yale School of Nursing. Park holds a BS in Nursing from the College of Mount St. Vincent, an MS in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, and an Advanced Certificate as an Adult Nurse Practitioner with a focus in Primary Care and Oncology from Columbia University. She is a member of the ANA, CNA, and Sigma Theta Tau International, Delta Mu Chapter, Yale School of Nursing
Susan is Lead Partner of the SVP Building One Community (B1C) team, and is a member of B1C’s board where she co-chairs Governance and Program Evaluation, and further supports advocacy for the immigrant community. She also served on the Governor’s Workforce Council project team leading work on Adult Education and career pathways in the Business Services and IT industry sectors.
In 2019, Susan retired from JP Morgan, where she held a variety of roles in investment banking and wealth management for over 33 years. She graduated from Claremont McKenna College and received her MBA from UCLA. Susan served on the Stamford Symphony board for many years and has been an active volunteer and contributor to a variety of humanitarian and environmental organizations.
Wes Alexander is currently responsible for leading Travelers Workforce Solutions department. This function serves as a trusted resource for our employees by providing another safe avenue for employees to share candid and real-time feedback with respect to their experiences at Travelers.
Wes advises on enterprise-wide practices to continue to ensure fair and equitable treatment of all employees through engaging in proactive sensing sessions, being an open door for employees to bring their individual concerns, and following up with employees who specifically raise issues of fairness. Prior to taking on this role, Wes was a Second Vice President of Employee Relations at Travelers for almost six years. Before working for Travelers, Wes worked in several roles for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company including AVP & Director of Employee Relations and In-House Employment Law Counsel.
Wes resides in West Hartford, CT with his wife Nakia and two sons August and Hudson. In the rare moments when he is not chasing after his boys, he can be found either hitting errant shots on the golf course, watching or coaching some athletic competition, or commandeering the music selections at somebody’s cookout.
Althea currently serves as the Executive Director of Waterbury Bridge to Success (BTS) Community Partnership in Waterbury, CT. A native of Waterbury, Althea has an ardent commitment to holistic excellence and service. Under her leadership, BTS has intentionally shifted power to the City’s youth, birthers, grassroots leaders and caregivers to increase community-based engagement, impact and sustainable change. Althea’s ability to streamline collaborative action supports BTS’s mission of ensuring the city’s youth and families have access to quality care, education and supports for their social, emotional, physical and economic development and success.
Her commitment to servitude is evident, as she serves the community through her church, Gathering Place Community Church, and sits on various philanthropic and community impact boards and committees, including the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Care, Governor’s Workforce Council, Gateway Community College Foundation Board, Yale Divinity School Black Church Studies Certificate Program Advisory Committee, Emerge Connecticut, Inc. and Beulah Land Development Corporation Board of Directors, Waterbury School Readiness Council and Co-Chair, City of Waterbury Diversity Committee to name a few.
Her greatest service is to her family – her husband Darrell, and their children – DJ, Paige and Chelsea.
One of SVP Connecticut’s co-founding Partners, Karen is the Executive Director of The Tudor Foundation in Stamford, a private foundation established in 1997 and funded entirely by the Tudor Group. The Tudor Foundation primarily supports nonprofit organizations in the communities of Tudor’s regional offices in the areas of food and shelter, children and youth, education, and health and mental health. She joined The Tudor Foundation in October 2022 after 20 years at Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, where she served in several different senior leadership roles.
Karen has extensive experience in the philanthropy sector with a focus on the NYC metro/Fairfield County, CT region and has a deep knowledge of philanthropic advising, grantmaking, strategic planning for foundations, and nonprofit capacity building. Karen is a Board Member of Asset Funders Network, a national grantmakers’ affinity organization focused on the asset-building field in the U.S. She previously served on the Steering Committee of Workforce Matters, a national grantmakers’ affinity organization focused on the workforce development sector and is a past Board Member of The Support Center for Nonprofit Management in Manhattan. In 2009 she was the recipient of Connecticut Council for Philanthropy’s Martha S. Newman Award.
She earned a B.A. from Brown University and a MPA from The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University
Peter Denious leads the AdvanceCT team as its President and CEO. He came to AdvanceCT in August 2019 as an accomplished private equity and venture capital professional who helped realize commercial and economic opportunity by connecting ideas, people, and capital. Prior to taking on the leadership role at AdvanceCT, Peter had a 17-year tenure at FLAG Capital Management and its successor, Aberdeen Standard Investments, based in Stamford, CT.
He was a member of the senior leadership team responsible for growing the FLAG private equity platform to over $6.5B in AUM from approximately $1B when he joined in 2001. Before FLAG, he worked for J.H. Whitney & Co. a direct private investment firm based in Stamford, CT.
A graduate of Trinity College, Peter received his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where he is a board member of the Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital. He is an Ex-Officio member of the Governor’s Workforce Council and has been a Partner of Social Venture Partners Connecticut since 2018
DR. Monette Ferguson
Dr. Monette Ferguson has worked in the non-profit sector for over 20 years at Alliance for Community Empowerment (Formally known as Action for Bridgeport Community Development Inc. (an urban community action agency). She was born and raised in the same community of Bridgeport CT. where she serves the most vulnerable community members with life changing resources. Dr. Ferguson began her non-profit leadership career as a Head Start family case-worker at this agency. She quickly advanced to directing the Early Learning division here. In this role Dr. Ferguson oversaw more than 300 staff members who provide quality school readiness, SEL experiences and comprehensive family resources to over 1000 families in Bridgeport and the surrounding area. She had worked in this role for almost 9 years.
Dr. Ferguson has grown her leadership development over the years in this position while writing grants, managing multi-million dollar budgets, and collaborating with community partners toward the common goal of ensuring quality early childhood experiences for all children while assisting families with breaking the cycle of poverty. She has participated in several State Department workgroups assisting in defining “school readiness”, and creating standards for the Connecticut Early Childhood Teaching Credential. She is a past Connecticut representative for the New England Head Start Association and has been honored and travels locally and nationally as a strong advocate who fights for quality education for all in the early childhood space. She spearheads statewide work to end homelessness in early childhood populations and works tirelessly for equity in education.
Dr. Ferguson is currently the Executive Director of Alliance for Community Empowerment (formally known as Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD Inc.) and holds Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Bridgeport.
She serves as Vice -Chair on the Governor’s Workforce Council Equity and Access Committee, serves as vice-chair on the Board of Directors for Read to Grow and serves on the Board of Director for the Workplace. She is an advisor to the MPH program at Sacred Heart University and is Co-Chair on the Bridgeport Area Non-Profit Collaborative (BANC), she is the chair of the Black Executive Coalition, she is a member of the Housatonic Community College CEO Advisory Council, an SVP-CT board member, a member of the Office of Early Childhood External Steering Committee, a member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel and she is also a member of Senator Murphy’s City Council and is a member of the Milford Chapter of the Links Incorporated.
Jim is a growth activist passionate about “lighting up the possible.” He has done this consistently over his 40-year, for-profit career as a global CEO, Board Director, Board Chair, and Strategic Advisor. In 2020, he transitioned into the world of philanthropy, social impact, and non-profit, currently supporting initiatives in workforce development, racial justice, and global forest conservation.
Jim joined SVP in 2020. He currently serves as the lead partner for the engagement team supporting Open Doors in Norwalk, CT, and their aim to end homelessness. Jim also served as a grant reader for workforce development funding proposals during 2022 as CareerConneCT was being formed. He serves on the Board of Five Frogs, a non-profit leadership development organization serving diverse leaders across the state. Jim also serves as a marketing advisor and capacity funder to MISSION GREEN, a global forest conservation initiative to preserve our planet’s biodiversity. Finally, Jim serves as a Vice Chair of the Alumni Fund at his alma mater, Williams College.
Before 2020, Jim co-founded and ran two different consulting practices serving CEOs, executive teams, and P/E firms in the market research, data, and insights services markets. During this period, he also served on two for-profit boards (one as board chair), one non-profit board and in advisory roles for various companies, including one NYC investment bank serving the media, marketing, and technology markets.
Before this, Jim spent 12 years as a portfolio CEO or COO for five private equity or corporate-owned global market research, data, and insights services companies. Jim was proud to have re-engineered each of them, which resulted in accelerated growth for all five companies and sales transactions for three of them.
His early career was defined by a series of marketing management positions of increasing responsibilities at four world-class consumer packaged goods companies. He later transitioned to one of the more innovative services providers in the market research, data, and insights services market, where he spent twelve years, culminating in becoming president of the client services & 1 consulting division.
Jim is a graduate of Williams College with a BA in History and from Columbia University Graduate School of Business with an MBA in Marketing
Will has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven since 2000. For Will, this work is the culmination of a career devoted to community issues, as he has worked at the local and national levels in community economic development, community banking, and community philanthropy.
Will serves on the boards of numerous organizations including New Haven Promise, Yale-New Haven Hospital, ReadyCT (formerly the Connecticut Council on Education Reform), and the John B. Pierce Laboratory and Foundation. In 2011, Will received the Community Leadership Award from the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce, the community’s highest recognition for lifetime civic leadership.
Will served in the Clinton Administration from 1994 to 2000. In 1994 he was confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development in the U.S. Department of Commerce, and served in 1995-6 as Chief of Staff to the late Secretary of Commerce Ronald H. Brown. Following Secretary Brown’s death, he served as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer of the Federal Housing Finance Board, the Federal regulatory agency for the twelve regional Federal Home Loan Banks, from 1997-2000.
Before going to Washington, D.C., Will lived and worked in New Haven for a decade. As Development Administrator under Mayor DiLieto from 1984 to 1988, he was responsible for all development-related activities of New Haven’s municipal government. Will was President of the Science Park Development Corporation, a nonprofit inner-city technology economic development entity, from 1988 to 1994.
A 1980 graduate of Columbia Law School, Will practiced law in New York City from 1980 to 1984. He graduated from Trinity College in 1976. He has been married for 42 years to Ellen Kelly and they live in New Haven.
Chuck serves as a Special Advisor to Blue Meridian Partners, providing strategic input to the Investor Relations team and overall operations, fundraising, and governance. Outside of this role, Chuck continues to explore ways to be most effective in the philanthropic sector.
Before transitioning to Advisor in February 2021, Chuck served as Blue Meridian’s Chief Development Officer, and prior to that as Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer. Having helped to launch Blue Meridian from its inception, he provided the leadership necessary to build the initial partnership structure and steward Blue Meridian’s relationships with philanthropists. He spearheaded continuous fundraising, allowing Blue Meridian to become an independent 501 c3 in 2018 and raise over $2B in investable capital by 2020. He helped hone a pooled funding method that pulls insight and tactics from the best models in both the private and public sectors. Chuck’s work and advisement was key in establishing Blue Meridian’s capital aggregation and investing approach, pioneering a new, sustainable model of philanthropic giving.
Prior to joining Blue Meridian, he served as Portfolio Manager and Director of Capital Aggregation for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF), where he managed relationships with various grantees and oversaw the Foundation’s capital aggregation activities. Previously, Chuck co-founded and served for five years as Executive Partner of SeaChange Capital Partners, a financial intermediary designed to enhance the flow of capital to outstanding nonprofits serving children and youth in low-income communities in the United States. Chuck also spent 23 years in the banking business before retiring in 2002 from his position as a Partner and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs, where he served as co-head of the East Coast High Technology Group in the firm’s Investment Banking Division and as co-head of Corporate Finance in the Americas.
Chuck has served extensively on the boards of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations as well as privately held and publicly traded for-profit corporations. Additionally, he has spoken broadly on the role of capital formation in advancing social change.
Chuck is a graduate of Harvard College and holds a master’s degree in finance from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
Carol Heller serves as Senior Vice President and Market Executive for Bank of America in Southern CT. She works alongside the Southern CT President and a line of business managers to ensure that her team is delivering the resources and expertise of the entire company to their clients and communities.
Carol is also accountable for business integration and leadership, community impact (philanthropy, sponsorship, and community leadership), corporate reputation and employee engagement and satisfaction.
Prior to her tenure with Bank of America, Carol was the Director of Financial Education for the CT State Treasurer’s Office and had an 18-year career with Fleet Bank including a role as Manager of Government and Community Affairs.
Maggie is Executive Vice President and General Manager for Job Seeker at Indeed. In her role, she leads product, engineering, design and operations teams in support of Indeed’s mission to help all people get jobs. Maggie was previously General Manager of Enterprise, helping the world’s largest employers hire with speed and simplicity.
Prior to joining Indeed in 2016, Maggie was the Director of Sales Strategy & Operations at Google, focused on Google’s largest advertising customers in the Americas. Maggie also spent several years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, serving clients in the retail and CPG industries.
Maggie graduated cum laude from Harvard with a BA in Economics and received her MBA with distinction from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Don has been the catalyst and driving force in the creation of SVP Connecticut. He was one of the founding Partners and served as the organization’s first Board Chair until July 2022. A serial entrepreneur and philanthropist with a passion for creating and leading startups, Don uses the power of business models to solve pressing social problems and works with founders to help their dreams come to life.
In response to the COVID pandemic, Don co-founded 4-CT, a nonprofit to coordinate the statewide philanthropic response to the COVID pandemic focused on the State’s most vulnerable and low-income citizens. Raising nearly $20M in 7 months, the nonprofit provided grants to frontline nonprofits responding to the surge in demand due to the pandemic and launched CT’s first statewide direct cash assistance program. Today the organization continues to provide direct cash assistance to low-income families through community based organizations and federally qualified health care centers and Don serves as Executive Chair.
DR. VANESSA LILES
Vanessa Monique Liles is a proud community organizer in Bridgeport, CT, working specifically with low income public housing residents at PT Partners – a grassroots organizing initiative. Her work in this context includes examining and dismantling oppressive systems. This address of systemic racism includes raising funds and supporting dynamic and innovative community organizing actions. Additionally, she consults with nonprofits to examine their policies, practices, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Vanessa is a proud graduate of a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction with a specific focus on Urban Education from Texas A&M University. She was the recipient of a competitive award, the Diversity Fellowship, during her time at Texas A&M and an advisor for an undergraduate student group with a focus on urban education. Her current research focuses on community, race, and education policy and practice using a qualitative lens, with a specific focus on Participatory Action Research. Additionally, Vanessa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Black Studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Bridgeport.
As passionate as she is driven, Vanessa brings extensive experience with youth programming and management to her current organizing work, including time spent as a Violence Prevention Specialist at the Norwalk Housing Authority as well as work with the Bridgeport Board of Education and the George Washington Carver Community Center in Norwalk.
Vanessa enjoys giving her time. She is the president of her local neighborhood revitalization board (NRZ), and is a board member of the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund. Her academic memberships include the American Education Research Association, The Dark Room, and the National Association of Multicultural Education. Her past service includes board membership of Hall Commons, a low-income senior citizen apartment complex in Bridgeport.
Shannon is the Executive Director of ReadyCT and has led the organization to become a vital conduit for collaborative innovation among education, business, and civic communities, and shaping policies and practices that equitably serve all children in Connecticut.
Shannon has worked in PK-12 and higher education for over two decades. As a graduate of Connecticut’s public school system, Shannon is committed to narrowing the state’s achievement gap and raising academic outcomes for all students through policy advocacy, public awareness, and capacity building. She also aims to better align our educational system with our workforce needs in order to best prepare students for the world of work.
Before stepping into her role at ReadyCT, Shannon was Director of Talent and Operations for the CT RISE Network, responsible for establishing, advancing, and monitoring organizational goals related to student on-track achievement and college and career readiness.
Prior to RISE, Shannon was Division Director for the Bureau of Educator Effectiveness at the Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE). During her five years with the CSDE, Shannon provided leadership and support to districts and schools to expand talent management systems and strategic planning efforts. Her team was responsible for recruitment and retention of educators to the teaching profession, program approval for educator preparation programs, implementation of the state’s teacher induction program (TEAM) and educator evaluation and professional learning system, as well as various leadership development initiatives.
Shannon was a Partner and Director of Site Launch with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) and spent seven years working in higher education in such roles as Student Services and Outreach Manager for study abroad programming at Stanford University, Associate Director of Admissions at Stanford Law School, and Associate Director of Development for the Yale Schools of Art and Architecture.
Shannon holds an MBA with a focus on nonprofit and public sector management from the Yale School of Management, an M.A. in art history from Stanford University, and a B.A. in art history and Spanish literature from Dartmouth College. She resides in West Hartford, CT, with her husband and two daughters.
With over thirty years of experience in the commodities industry, Jeff likes to say that his conversion to the clean energy business began after watching a documentary about global warming. “I feared that someday my children or grandchildren might turn to me and ask, ‘What were you thinking?!’ ” He is now a serial entrepreneur and investor in growth companies, principally in the clean energy field and is the CEO of Soluxe Inc. Prior professional experience includes tenures with MXEnergy (President and CEO), Sempra/AIG Trading (Managing Director), and Goldman Sachs (Manager, Energy Futures). Jeff earned his B.A. degree from Yale University and a J.D. degree from New York University.
A Westport resident since 1993, Jeff serves on the Board of the Friends of Westport Parks and Recreation and previously served on the Westport Board of Finance. He serves on the Kingsley Trust Association Board and previously served on the Board of the Connecticut Institute of Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI), formerly known as the International Institute of Connecticut.
Stefano is a member of McKinsey & Company’s Advanced Industries practice, and the Managing Partner for McKinsey’s Stamford, CT office. Over his 20 years of experience, he has worked in several sectors, including manufacturing, the engineering and construction value chain, engineering and design, mechanical and electrical subcontracting, construction-equipment OEMs, electronic-building equipment OEMs, and construction and building service providers. He specializes in serving midsize multiple business unit companies, both publicly and privately owned.
Stefano joined McKinsey in 2003 in Italy, worked for several years in South America, and now lives in Connecticut. He is fluent in English, Spanish, and Italian. Stefano graduated with honors in Electrical Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan and received an MBA from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 2007.
Dr. Leslie Torres- Rodriguez
Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez is the Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools. Born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Dr. Torres-Rodriguez moved to Hartford as a multilingual learner at the age of nine and is a product of Hartford Public High School. She has served as an education leader in Greater Hartford for over twenty-five years.
Prior to her appointment as Superintendent, Dr. Torres-Rodriguez was Acting Superintendent and the Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Leadership within Hartford Public Schools, where she provided culturally courageous leadership to support the comprehensive improvement efforts of a network of schools. Dr. Torres-Rodriguez successfully served as Assistant Principal, Director, and Principal in neighborhood and magnet schools. She also taught social and behavioral science at Capital Community College for seven years, and served students and families at the CT Technical High School System as a School Social Worker.
Dr. Torres-Rodriguez received a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and a Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut, and she earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Central Connecticut State University.
Most recently, she was awarded the Equity Warrior Award at the June 2023, When Women Lead Summit. She is currently a Pahara Institute Fellow and was nominated and selected for the inaugural class of the Google & Global Silicon Valley Education Innovation Fellowship. Dr. Torres-Rodriguez was the recipient of the 2022 Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS) Latino Superintendent of the Year Award. She was also the recipient of the 2019 National Brillante Award for Educational Excellence from Prospanica. She is a fellow of The Broad Academy. Dr. Torres-Rodriguez serves on the Trinity College Board of Trustees, the American Heart Association CT Board of Directors, the Hartford Promise Board, The Children’s Museum Board, co-chairs the Mayor’s Cabinet for Young Children in Hartford, and is a member of the Governor’s Workforce Council.
She is a proud resident of Hartford, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
In September 2014, Chris concluded his 26-year tenure with J.P. Morgan Securities. At the time of his retirement, Chris was a Managing Director in J.P. Morgan’s Corporate Finance Advisory Group and Global Co-Head of Ratings Advisory. He also has experience in the areas of Acquisition Finance, Mergers & Acquisitions, and Credit Risk Management.
Chris is Lead Partner on SVP’s engagement with Career Resources, Inc. and is a member of CRI’s board. He is also a board member and volunteer with ConnectUs, a nonprofit offering after-school enrichment and job training opportunities for Bridgeport youth.
Maria Isabel Mojica