2021-2022 Board of Directors

Kate Hillenbrand, President

Board Seat: Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (Term ends with Office)

Kate Hillenbrand is a longtime supporter of postsecondary education and access, and has been a Network member since its inception in in 2015. Growing up in Massachusetts, Kate moved to Alaska in 2005 and has been grateful and fortunate to call this beautiful land her home ever since. After moving to Alaska, Kate held positions at public and private postsecondary institutions, with responsibilities and oversight in admissions, recruiting, marketing, strategic planning, and change management. Currently, Kate serves as the Director of Communications & Outreach for ACPE and was appointed to the State Agency seat on the Network Board of Directors in early 2020. Earning a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Alaska Southeast, Kate is committed to the mission of the Network in building and strengthening partnerships to increase the percentage of Alaskans completing postsecondary education.

Arth Brown III, Vice President – Immediate Past President

Non-Voting Member

I dropped out of college the first time and joined the Carpenter Joint Apprenticeship. During my apprenticeship, I quickly realized that the more knowledge gained, the more opportunities opened. Rising through the ranks, I went from the field to the office as an estimator and project manager. The office required a new set of skills and I needed more credentials. I returned to community college some ten years after the first time. Nervous but determined, I registered for a full load. My employer said, no raises until I earned a degree. Working full time, family and children at home, I was determined not to fail. After three years of evenings, online, and Saturday classes, I did it! My AAS was now transferrable to the next step. After three years without a raise, I was faced with, “That’s not a real degree.” Now even more determined, I pushed forward. I completed my bachelor degree in four consecutive semesters, again working full time. A career shift and using my new degree, received an Alaska Type M Teaching certificate for vocational education. My new found peers were quick to remind me, that I was “not a real teacher” since I did not have a teaching degree. Challenge accepted. Attending UAS, I completed the MA in Teaching program. After a few not-so-stellar educational leaders, it was time for additional skills and education. In twelve months, I completed my MA in Educational Leadership. All of this has lead up to my current position at Iḷisaġvik College. I have a strong desire to give back to those who started in the same shoes. Everyone deserves an opportunity to thrive in life. At Iḷisaġvik College we say: More education, More options, More out of life.

Dr. Pearl Kiyawn Brower, Treasurer

Board Seat: Alaska Native (Term 2020-2023)

B.A. Anthropology and B.A. Alaska Native Studies from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2004. Masters in Alaska Native and Rural Development from University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2010. Ph.D. in Indigenous Studies, with an emphasis in Indigenous Leadership from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, May 2016. Dr. Brower is currently the President and CEO of Brower Consulting Services, and independent consulting service around the state of Alaska. In October of 2020, Dr. Brower left the President of Iḷisaġvik College, Alaska’s only Tribal College where she had been at the college for 13 years, the last 8 serving as President. Dr. Brower grew up in both Barrow, Alaska and in northern California practicing a subsistence lifestyle in both areas. She and her husband, Jesse Darling, have two daughters, Isla and Sindri. Brower was named one of Alaska’s Top 40 Under 40 in 2015, the First Alaskans Institute Young Alaska Native Leader in 2019, and received the 2019 YWCA Women of Achievement award. Brower is active around Alaska. She serves as the Alaska Native representative on the Alaska Postsecondary Access and Completion Network, serves on the Alaska Airlines Community Advisory Board, on the Foraker Group’s Operations Board as Chair in 2021, as a Commissioner for the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE), and a board member on the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) Board of Directors. 

Janelle Vanasse, Secretary

Board Seat: Secondary Education (Term 2019-2022)

Janelle Vanasse has served in Alaska education for over 25 years. Currently the Superintendent of Mt. Edgecumbe High School, Janelle has focused much of her career in secondary education and helping under-served and low income populations successfully prepare for post-secondary transitions. Prior to Mt. Edgecumbe, Janelle worked in the Lower Kuskokwim School district for 20 years, 10 years as an administrator at Bethel Regional High School. While at Bethel Regional High School, Janelle led school improvement efforts around drop out prevention and building a college-going culture. During her tenure, the graduation rate improved over 15% and the college-going rate reached 70% as measured by National Clearinghouse. Much of the college-going culture work Janelle engages in is aligned with the Redefining Ready research and includes multiple pathways through high school courses, building student goal-setting and accuracy in self-assessment, providing scaffold ways for students to reach highly rigorous college-prep course work, and early integration of college-navigation skills particularly targeting first generation students. Janelle believes both an understanding of cultural relevance and a deep look at current data is essential to meeting the 65 by 2025 goal.

Tiffany Caudle

Board Seat: Community Organization/Non-Profit (Term 2020-2023)

My name is Tiffany Caudle and I’ve been a proud Alaskan since I was 2 years old. I love the outdoors, my rescue dogs, and my beautiful family. With my background in education from a degree in Education at the University of Idaho, I have always had a passion for educating youth about postsecondary opportunities including apprenticeships. I have been working for a non-profit called Alaska Works Partnership that offers free construction training to youth and adults in our community for 12 years. As the program coordinator, I also do case management and enjoy working with our community members to help them gain skills that lead to better jobs and careers. It is very rewarding to work with youth and adults and offer educational and career guidance that can help to better their lives, and in turn better our great community. I have an ambitious, positive attitude and am always learning and working in creative and innovative ways.

Suzanne McCarthy

Board Seat: Registered Apprenticeship (Term 2020-2023)

Suzanne comes from the Copper Basin region where she spent 20 years serving as the director of the Copper Basin campus of the University of Alaska, focusing on creative ways to bring education to remote communities and villages. In 2013 she became the statewide director for the Alaska Laborers Training School, providing vocational education and career pathways into commercial and heavy construction. She has a MS degree in Natural Resources Management, a BS degree in Geology and 35 years of experience in education and workforce development. She is passionate about empowering others and helping to provide opportunities through education that will help individuals to prosper while developing a strong, skilled workforce for the State of Alaska. She oversees three registered apprenticeship programs in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast Alaska, which provides opportunities for those with little or no construction experience a pathway into a solid, high-wage career that includes full benefits. Registered apprenticeship is considered the other four-year degree, which can help Alaskans gain post-secondary credentials while earning a living wage: earn while you learn without educational debt.

Barbara Mongar

Board Seat: At Large (Term 2020-2023)

I grew up in Florida and joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 18. For 20 years I traveled throughout the world as an Air Weapons Control Technician.  Realizing how important education was and the fact that I would need a degree once I left the Air Force, I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology while still on active duty. After leaving the military, I eventually moved my family to Alaska to work as the Youth Instructional Program Specialist on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER).  In that position, I researched and obtained the Darden “Recipe for Success” College-Going Experience Grant for the youth program which funded Career Nights and local College Campus Tours. I went on to accept a position with the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE), first as the Community Liaison and then as the Community Partnership Manager.  In my last position with ACPE, I worked closely with the Network Board of Directors on the different projects they had to increase the percentage of Alaskans who complete postsecondary education. In my current position, as the Mat-Su Reentry Coalition Coordinator, I work with the coalition in identifying and implementing strategies that increase former prisoners’ well-being within the community and reduce the likelihood of them recidivating. One of these strategies is providing educational opportunities to inmates prior to and after their release from prison. I believe I would bring a unique perspective to the Board regarding an Alaska population that sometimes gets overlooked.

Stephanie Sanderlin

Board Seat: Postsecondary Student Services (Term 2020-2023)

Stephanie Sanderlin is an enrolled member of the Curyung Tribal Council and Bristol Bay Native Corporation shareholder originally from Dillingham, Alaska. Her parents, Jim and Jeanie Timmerman, raised Stephanie along with her three younger siblings in a subsistence and commercial fishing family with an appreciation for traditional values and a high priority on learning. Stephanie was taught that education is a tool for helping others and improving self; both vital parts of building stronger and healthier communities. After graduating from Dillingham High School, Stephanie attended Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and received her B.A. in English Teaching. She spent a career in secondary education before moving to the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) School of Nursing to work for Recruitment and Retention of Alaska Natives into Nursing (RRANN), a support program housed in the UAA School of Nursing. As a secondary education teacher for the Anchorage School District (ASD), Stephanie managed a successful classroom through a balance of engagement, challenge, and constructive discipline, and served as a cross-country running coach. She also created two novel study curriculums for use District­ wide, hosted multiple student teachers who got teaching jobs of their own in desired school districts, served as a Mentor Teacher through the ASD Teacher Mentor Program, and served as a delegate for the Alaska Teacher Delegate Assembly. In her work at RRANN, Stephanie has participated in the Associates of Applied Science (AAS) in Nursing Science Admissions Committee, the Della Keats Program (a bridge program for high school students interested in healthcare career pathways) Selection Committee, and was a presenter at the Pathways into Health National Conference on the effectiveness of infusing traditional Alaska Native and American Indian values into student support initiatives. Most importantly, she works every day with students determined to become nurses, helping students discern their challenges and strengths and determine how to address those challenges and maximize strengths.

Felicia Swanson

Board Seat: State Agency (Term 2020-2022)

Felicia Swanson is the main contact for federal Carl Perkins related data questions at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development. She has been part of the department for 21 years with the majority of her time spent on the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Team; she has extensive historical knowledge of CTE at the Department and a breadth of experience in navigating the federal supports and requirements of federal CTE funding. Felicia also serves as the Statewide Coordinator for the Alaska Performance Scholarship (APS).