The National Fund is governed by a Board of Directors and its Strategic Advisory Council with leaders from diverse perspectives across business, education, labor management, workforce organizations, and philanthropy.
Whitney S. Smith leads the Global Philanthropy team for the Central Region (13 states in the U.S. and Canada), which includes $40MM in grant-making aimed at improving economic opportunity for people in the region. Specific priorities include workforce readiness, consumer financial health, small business development, and affordable housing.
Prior to joining JPMorgan Chase, Whitney was with the Joyce Foundation for ten years where she was a Senior Program Director managing both the Employment Program portfolio supporting workforce and skill development initiatives, as well as the Joint Fund for Education and Employment. Prior to joining the Joyce Foundation, Whitney was associate director of the Chicago Jobs Council and worked with homeless families in New York.
Whitney is Chair of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions Board of Directors, and is the co-founder of Workforce Matters and of the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance. Whitney holds a Bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and a Master’s degree in social service administration from the University of Chicago. She, her husband, and middle school twins live in Oak Park with their many pets.
Ivye L. Allen, Ph.D. is President of the Foundation for the Mid South, a regional foundation serving Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The Foundation supports programs and initiatives that focus on community development, education, health and wellness, and wealth building. The organization’s successes include assisting new and incumbent workers secure and retain employment, improving school district performance, and supporting more than 75,000 families improve their financial knowledge and assets. Dr. Allen previously served as Chief Operating Officer for MDC Inc. and was Director of Fellowship Programs for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. She has held finance and marketing positions in Fortune 100 corporations. Her education includes a Ph.D. in social policy from Columbia University; an M.S. in urban affairs from Hunter College; an M.B.A. in marketing and international business from New York University; and a B. A. in economics from Howard University.
Earl Buford joined the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) as president in April 2021 and oversees the national nonprofit organization’s work to improve education-to-career pathways for adult learners. Buford most recently served as chief executive officer of Partner4Work, the leader of the public workforce system for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, where he managed public and private funds to deliver innovative solutions to ensure that current and future needs of businesses and job seekers are met.
Buford also served previously as chief executive officer of Employ Milwaukee, where he was nationally recognized for the implementation and integration of a sector-based approach to workforce development. Employ Milwaukee provided employer engagement through Industry Advisory Boards and created Midwest Urban Strategies, a national consortium of urban workforce boards that built an innovative supply-demand model to cultivate talent development and employer engagement in Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Detroit, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and with the U.S. Department of Labor.
Buford also led Milwaukee-based WRTP/Big-Step, which aimed at recruiting and building a diverse workforce in construction, manufacturing, and emerging sectors. He has extensive experience in planning and executing workforce development programs aimed at youth.
Appointed in 2014 to serve on Vice President Joe Biden’s Advisory Taskforce on Workforce Development, Buford is active with several national organizations including the Board of Directors for the National Fund for Workforce Solutions and advisory boards of the Council of State Governments, National Network of Sector Partners, and National Skills Coalition. His published works include “Connecting People to Work: Workforce Intermediaries and Sector Strategies'' and “The Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership: The Evolution of an Intermediary, the Shifting Target of Twenty-First Century Manufacturing, and the Continuing Relevance of Unions in Labor Markets.”
Buford is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in History. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA.
Denise Cherenfant is the Director of Education at 1199SEIU League Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF). With more than 300 contributing employers, TUF is responsible for providing educational services to 150,000 health care workers in 44 healthcare facilities in the greater New York City metropolitan area.
Denise directs the academic and support services for entry-level health care workers seeking to become nurses, serving more than 1200 nursing students annually. She led TUF’s efforts to increase enrollment in Bachelor-level nursing programs and created an innovative series of transition-to-practice programs for newly licensed nurses.
Mrs. Cherenfant has been a healthcare worker since the 1980s and has had the privilege of working in various titles caring for those in need. Denise has worked as a homecare worker; certified nursing assistant; physical therapy assistant; and a registered nurse.
Denise has been a member of 1199SEIU since 1990; and has served in various capacities in the union, including contractor administrator; organizer; and member of the Executive Council.
Denise holds a Master of Science in Nursing Education from Aspen University. She is a member of the Nursing Honor Society, Sigma Theta Tau International-Delta Zeta Chapter, NYONEL and SEIU National Nurse Alliance. Like many other nurses her giving back is not limited to her career. She loves serving her community. She is a member of several boards, including the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, The Haiti Education Alliance (THEA), and Aspen University. She volunteers with NYC Medical Reserves, Community of Hope where she utilizes her love of cooking to prepare meals for homeless New Yorkers.
United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut
Paula Gilberto joined United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut (United Way) in Hartford, CT, in March of 1998 as vice president, community services, with oversight for annual funding of programs and initiatives and its nonprofit resource and volunteer centers. She provided leadership in developing United Way’s community priorities, associated multiyear goals, and an outcome-based orientation to program investments.
In January 2007, Ms. Gilberto was named senior vice president with expanded responsibilities in strategic planning, resource development, community engagement, and initiatives with local, regional, and national partners. She became president and CEO in April 2016.
Ms. Gilberto has led development of public/private partnerships addressing grade-level reading, student achievement, financial security and workforce development. She chairs the steering committees of Hartford Generation Work and Workforce Solutions of Metro Hartford and is on the board of directors of Capital Workforce Partners, the region’s workforce development board.
On a national level, Ms. Gilberto has served on various United Way Worldwide task forces and project teams developing organizational standards and replication of successful education and financial security initiatives.
Prior to joining United Way, Paula was with the American Red Cross in various managerial positions for the area chapter and Connecticut Regional Red Cross Blood Services.
Since Michael B. Gritton's appointment as executive director of KentuckianaWorks in August of 2002, the agency has made several changes geared to creating a 21st-century workforce while improving services to its seven-county region. The result: 12,000 people found jobs, 46,000 received financial aid and career counseling, and more than 5,000 adults completed postsecondary training and found work in the past decade.
Mr. Gritton was the co-founder and policy director of MassINC for five years, a non-partisan, nonprofit, state-level think tank in Massachusetts focused on expanding the size of the middle class in that state. While in New England, he also served as the communications director for a state political campaign. He is a member and past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Workforce Development Council and serves on the boards of Greater Louisville, Inc. (the Louisville Chamber of Commerce) and the University of Louisville’s Community Partnership. He also chairs the Jefferson County Public School’s Adult and Continuing Education Committee.
Mr. Gritton, has a law degree from Columbia University School of Law in New York City.
Ale’s foundation of experience and desire to work collaboratively with others was obtained while serving in the United States Air Force from 1998 – 2006. As the Human Resources Director at Optimax, Ale’ has an integrated role serving as a cross functional bridge within the organization’s strategy while supporting Business unit functions in their strategic roles. Externally, Ale’ works to collaborate and build relationships and alliances with institutions, agencies, colleagues, and potential employees. Ale’ holds an associate degree from Monroe Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, a master’s degree from St. John Fisher College.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Senior Director of Workforce Development and Community Relations
Joanne Pokaski is the Senior Director of Workforce Development and Community Relations at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Under Joanne’s leadership, BIDMC has launched programs that sponsor employees’ training and promotion to 13 hard-to-fill occupations, including medical coders and central processing technicians. BIDMC also provides career and academic counseling and free on-site pre-college courses and college-level science courses for all employees.
She founded and for seven years chaired the Boston Healthcare Careers Consortium, which convenes Boston’s employers, academic institutions and workforce system to improve training pathways that lead to healthcare jobs. Prior to BIDMC, Joanne worked as director of a one-stop career center and worked at Goodwill Boston and the Clinton White House. Joanne earned a Bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard College and a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from Princeton University. Joanne is a member of Boston’s and Massachusetts’ workforce investment boards.
Peter S. Strange is Chairman Emeritus of Messer, Inc., the parent company for Messer Financial Services and Messer Construction Co., a regional general contractor and construction manager. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati in Civil Engineering, Mr. Strange began his career with Messer as a co-op student. In 1989, he led negotiations resulting in the purchase of all outstanding Messer stock by management and employees. He served as CEO of the Messer companies from 1990 through 2013.
Mr. Strange has served on many community and industry boards, including serving as board chair for the Cincinnati Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, board chair of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber and board chair of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Currently he serves on the board of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and on the boards of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum, and the Employee-Owned S Corporations of America.
Mr. Strange's test for leadership is simple: If you think you are a leader, look behind you. If there is no one there, you're just out for a stroll.
Mr. Strange and his wife Ginger reside in Erlanger, Kentucky. Their greatest accomplishments are their children—Andrew, Carrie, and Matthew, and their eight grandchildren.
Matthew Bruce became the first Executive Director of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance in 2012. CWFA is a workforce development funder collaborative engaging employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. Previous to joining the Alliance, Matt was Manager of Regional Sector Initiatives for the Boston Office of Jobs and Community Services, where he started sector workforce initiatives such as Green Jobs Boston and the Skilled Careers In Life Sciences initiative. Matt has a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, and lives with his wife and 2 children in Oak Park, Illinois.
Ellen Buchman brings to The Opportunity Agenda a breadth of knowledge, expertise, experience, and relationships having worked among leaders at local, state, national, and international levels for more than 25 years. Prior to joining The Opportunity Agenda in 2018, she served as Executive Vice President for Field and Communications at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, where she piloted the organization's field and organizing program, and developed and oversaw the vision for the integrated field, communications, and policy work at the center of the organization; led and put into place dozens of successful campaigns; spearheaded mobilization, training and support to national, state, and local coalitions; and created innovative organizing and communications training models for advocacy around the country and at the international level.
Ellen is an internationally-known trainer, leader, and practitioner of organization and coalition building, campaign initiating and implementing, and training in the intersection of organizing, advocating, and communicating for social justice. Her career has focused on building effective and inclusive teams and partnerships for progress toward racial and gender equity. Ellen's work has centered mainly on issue areas including but not limited to criminal justice reform, immigration and immigrant human rights, and voting rights and access to democracy; and she has developed training curricula for advocates on the state, national and international levels on not only issues such as these but also on the skills needed for effective organizing, communicating and advocating for social change. Her expertise and vision is in building campaign and organizational structures to build power, and she is trained in outreach, leadership development, organizing and social work for change.
Dr. Chavis is internationally recognized for his work in the implementation, support, and evaluation of community and systems change initiatives. The focus of his work is equitable community development as a central strategy to promote community resilience, economic and educational opportunities, improved health and well-being, and a more powerful citizenry. He also specializes in the design and implementation of community capacity building systems to bring about sustainable and scaled systems changes.
Linda serves as the Director of the Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative, a group of public and private funders committed to advancing equity, job quality and systems change efforts that lead to family-sustaining wages, strengthened communities and a vibrant local economy. The Collaborative is hosted by the Maryland Philanthropy Network and is a partner of the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. Linda began her career working with out-of-school youth in Tijuana, Mexico and has remained devoted to the work of enhancing economic opportunities for individuals and communities through direct supports and systems changes. She formerly served as the Executive Director of the Garment Industry Development Corporation in New York City – a labor + management + government partnership which was one of the first nationally recognized sector-based workforce partnerships; as Senior Consultant to the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative where she helped build the field of industry sector partnerships; and as a workforce/corporate social responsibility consultant to a number of national and international organizations. Linda currently sits on the Board of two industry sector partnerships and participates in a wide range of committees and workgroups in Baltimore. Linda holds a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and a post-graduate certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Columbia University School of Business. She is most proud of being mom to her tenacious teen daughter.
Andrea Glispie serves as Senior Director, Career Pathways at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. In this role, she oversees investments that United Way makes in job training, career development, and adult literacy programs. She also manages the Pathways to Work initiative, a cross-sector collaboration of funders, employers and training providers working to create innovative solutions for moving entry-level workers into good middle-skill jobs and ensure employers have a pipeline of skilled and ready-to-work employees. Before joining UWMD, Andrea served as Senior Field Organizer for National Skills Coalition. In this role, she implemented outreach and advocacy strategies to bolster policymaker support of workforce development policies on state and federal levels. She also managed state-based policy and communication campaigns to improve education attainment outcomes for adult workers through public will building and policy change. One of the most successful campaigns motivated lawmakers in Iowa to increase funding for adult education and related programs by $10 million. Prior to National Skills Coalition, Andrea worked in Illinois to improve the coordination of publicly funded youth programs and services. Her efforts helped to facilitate the passage of state legislation that created the Illinois Commission on Children and Youth. Andrea holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a Master of Social Work Degree from Washington University –St. Louis.
Annelies Goger is an economic geographer focused on developing innovative policy solutions to address rising inequality and increase access to economic opportunity. Dr. Goger’s recent work investigates how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the hospitality industry in the U.S., how to fix the unemployment insurance safety net, and how to increase access to quality jobs and investments in talent to foster ongoing learning and innovation. She is an expert in U.S. workforce development policy, global supply chains, and inclusive economic development. Dr. Goger’s work has been prominently featured in CNN, NPR, Washington Monthly, the Hill, and a number of local outlets and podcasts.
Dr. Goger’s work has challenged the dominant “skills gap” narrative, arguing that building stronger education and labor market institutions and making long-term investments in talent development are the key to unleashing regional innovation and addressing racial and gender inequities in the labor market. Her vision is to build an education and training ecosystem with multiple paths to a quality job that is designed around the needs of a diverse set of learners, workers, and employers. Dr. Goger has outlined state policy frameworks to scale earn-and-learn opportunities such as apprenticeship and other forms of employer-based training.
Dr. Goger’s current research focuses on digital transformation in labor and education data systems, the employer role in talent development, state credentialing policies that recognize diverse forms of learning, and closing the opportunity gap for displaced hospitality workers and returning citizens. She is a member of the Better Employment and Training Strategies task force, a coalition of more than 40 workforce experts and practitioners that focuses on modernizing America’s outdated and inequitable workforce policies.
Before coming to Brookings, Dr. Goger spent more than 10 years conducting field research to evaluate American workforce development and food security programs at Social Policy Research Associates and IMPAQ International. Her doctoral research focused on the links between global supply chains, ethical trade initiatives, production processes, and inclusive growth. Dr. Goger was a Fulbright scholar in Sri Lanka and Social Science Research Council Fellow. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and edited a book of case studies on values-based food procurement called Institutions as conscious food consumers: leveraging purchasing power for systems change with Dr. Sapna Thottathil (Elsevier, 2019).
Adrian joined The Workers Lab in 2017 as Managing Director. In that role, he oversaw the formation of The Workers Lab non-profit corporation and doubled the budget and staff. Before his promotion to CEO, Adrian served as our interim leader to oversee a critical transition period. Prior to joining The Workers Lab, Adrian built a career in progressive politics, government, and public affairs. He started as a field organizer on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, served as a Confidential Assistant at the U.S. Department of Education, and then served as the speechwriter to United States Secretary of Labor, Hilda L. Solis. He then spent four years at Civitas Public Affairs Group, a leading national public affairs firm. Adrian had a brief but beloved stint in Hollywood working under the mentorship of acclaimed Latino entertainment executive, activist, and entrepreneur, Moctesuma Esparza. Adrian holds a degree in rhetorical studies and political science from California State University, Long Beach and grew up in East Los Angeles.
Workforce Solutions Collaborative of Metro Hartford
Enrique Juncadella is an economist and educator dedicated to helping people and organizations reach success. Enrique’s career includes strategic management consulting with an international firm. He focused on the healthcare sector during the previous decade with a holistic approach to addressing social determinants of health, including housing and employment, and the pervasive racial and ethnic disparities that define the industry. He teaches the Business Seminar at Yale University Summer Session, a part time faculty appointment held for the past twenty years.
In addition, Enrique has volunteered with town government commissions and as an advocate of refugee resettlement programs with IRIS in New Haven. He was a member of the board of directors of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain. He is currently a board member of Fair Haven Community Health Center.
Enrique received graduate degrees in economics, with concentration in economic development from Yale University. Enrique and his wife live in Guilford, CT, where they had the joy of raising their three children.
Seung helps LISC offices throughout the country design and establish Financial Opportunity Centers®. She also leads her team to implement and test innovative initiatives such as Bridges to Career Opportunities, with a strong focus on outcomes measurement. Prior to joining our national staff in 2012, Seung was a consultant for LISC Chicago’s Centers for Working Families and worked with the national office on FOCs. Seung was also a VP of fixed income analytics for ANB Financial Group, an analytics associate for Performance Trust Companies and a financial coach. She has a bachelor’s from Northwestern University and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Anne E. Price is the first woman President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development. She previously served as Director of the Closing the Racial Wealth Gap Initiative at Insight. She has worked in the public sector on a wide range of issues including child welfare, hunger, workforce development, community development and higher education.
Anne’s work has been featured in the New York Times, The Nation, The Washington Post, The Mercury News, The Wall Street Journal, Citylab, O Magazine, the Stanford Social Innovation Review and other publications. She currently serves as Board Chair at United for a Fair Economy in Boston. Anne holds a BA in Economics from Hampton University and a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the Milano School of Management and Urban Policy in New York City.