2022 Conference Keynote Speakers


KEYNOTE SPEAKER Dr. Mandy Savitz-Romer, Director

Prevention Science and Practice; Harvard Graduate School of Education

Mandy Savitz-Romer’s professional experience has allowed her to link research to practice in the field of school counseling, specifically as it relates to college access and retention for urban students.

Before joining the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Mandy was the associate director of the Boston Higher Education Partnership, where she led research, policy and programmatic initiatives focused on promoting college access, readiness and support for Boston Public School students. She previously taught courses in school counseling and postsecondary planning at Boston University.

As a former urban school counselor, Mandy is particularly interested in how schools structure counseling support systems and college planning efforts to reach all students. Her work in promoting academic achievement for Boston students has also included directing various enrichment programs for middle school, high school and first-year college students in the Boston Public Schools, Boston University, Boston College and Simmons College.

Mandy is the author of Fulfilling the Promise: Reimagining School Counseling to Advance Student Success (Harvard Education Press 2019) and the co-author of Ready, Willing, and Able: A Developmental Approach to College Access and Success (Harvard Education Press 2012).

Mandy is the director of HGSE’s master’s program in Prevention Science and Practice (PSP). Her research interests include college access and retention for urban students; early college planning and awareness; school counselor development; K-16 policies and reform; and school-university partnerships.


KEYNOTE SPEAKER Duane Mayes, Director

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development

Duane Mayes, Director for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, began his career in social services just out of high school when he took a job in a nursing home. He found he loved the work, perhaps because he and his two siblings already had experience caring for their father, who had significant physical disabilities from polio; also, because both his parents are deaf. Mayes is fluent in American Sign Language, his first language.

Mayes went on to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Wisconsin Stout graduating in 1982. Mayes moved to Alaska in 1982, where he worked for many years with the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. He has 38 years of vocational rehabilitation experience, eight in the private sector and four as the owner of his own business. He went on to work for three years as the Operations Director with the Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education and then assumed the position of Division Director from 2010 to 2018 for Senior and Disabilities Services with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Two years ago, Mayes made the decision to come back to the Alaska Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and is often saying this is where he truly belongs. “Assisting Alaskans with disabilities in obtaining competitive and integrated employment is my passion,” he says.


KEYNOTE SPEAKER Rebecca Braun, Consultant

McKinley Research Group

Rebecca’s background in research, communications, and policy provide an excellent foundation for her McKinley Research assignments. Recent projects include an analysis of the Alaska Performance Scholarship.

She served as Policy Director for Governor Bill Walker, researching and advising on a wide array of issues including education, fiscal policy, healthcare, and transportation.

Prior to her work in government, she published and edited the nonpartisan Alaska Budget Report, which produced original coverage of all aspects of Alaska budget and policy issues. The weekly newsletter was valued for timely and accurate analysis by news outlets, lawmakers, local and state government entities, trade organizations, and numerous other subscribers.

Rebecca completed her undergraduate studies at Harvard, and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from University of Alaska Southeast. She enjoys running, writing, and helping her children navigate life.