Meet Our Experts
Optimal Board Advisor
Dr. Richard Vedder
Vedder is an esteemed figure in the higher education sector, writing frequently for numerous notable outlets including Forbes, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Opinion, and Inside Higher Ed. He has also authored several books regarding issues within the higher education sector, including "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much" and "Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America." Much of his writing challenges the current American higher education system and proposes solutions for economic, societal, and institutional changes.
Sara Austin is an academic researcher and technical writer with an M.Ed in Instructional Technology and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership. Her most recent research focuses on classroom equity and strategies for unlocking the limitless potential of all students through positive representation and culturally relevant instruction.
Peter deFur has been a professor of environmental studies for 30 years. For the past 20 years, he has been a part-time professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to his work in academia, Peter has worked for a national environmental organization as a senior scientist, evaluating federal policy and regulation. He holds a PhD in biology from the University of Calgary and has completed two different fellowships.
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker, university faculty member, and health and fitness professional with an interest in the relationship between physical health and mental wellness. She has experience as a writer and researcher on numerous topics within psychology and the social sciences, and she is in the dissertation process for a doctorate in psychology.
Clinton works at Northwest Education Access (formerly Seattle Education Access) as an Education Advocate supporting low-income students and reengaging at-risk youth to achieve their higher education goals. Before joining NWEA, Clinton was an AmeriCorps Member with College Access Now as an 11th and 12th Grade College Coach.
Kathleen Putnam has been a professional nutritionist for 20 years, and she has extensive experience in many facets of the nutrition field. She earned a Bachelor of Science in nutrition and dietetics from Oregon State University, and a Master of Science in nutrition from Bastyr University. For the past 10 years, she has been in private practice at NutritionWorks Seattle, where she counsels individuals and groups.