Emergency Aid Network (EA Net)
Jason Briseno has been in higher education for nearly 18 years. Jason started his career as a work-study and worked his way up to Associate Director of Financial Aid at Austin community College. Jason is not only an administrator but an educator and serves in the capacity of an Associate Professor of History for nearly 10 years. Jason has spent his entire career in the community college sector helping first generation students achieve an education. Jason holds two Baccalaureate degrees in History and Anthropology as well as a M.L.A. in History. Jason is an avid collector of military artifacts from all eras and active in Archaeology field work.
Ben Dobner serves as a Director of Education
Grantmaking at Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation. Great Lakes’ philanthropic
initiatives strive to increase college access and success for students from
low-income households, students of color, and first generation students. These
initiatives include grants to community-based organizations, colleges, and
universities through competitive opportunities to learn from experts in the
field, and grants for research and scaling projects nationwide. Ben has dedicated
his career to college access and success through his current role and through
his experience as a financial aid director at both a two-year public and a
four-year private college. Over the years, Ben has been actively involved
at the state, local, and national level regarding college access and success,
financial literacy and financial aid administration. Ben holds a B.A. in
Communication from the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and an M.S. in
Student Personnel Administration from Concordia University – Wisconsin.
David W. Gardner is the Deputy Commissioner for
Academic Planning and Policy and Chief Academic Officer, Texas Higher Education
Coordinating Board (THECB). Gardner leads the Board’s Academic Quality and
Workforce Division, College Readiness and Success Division, Strategic Planning
and Funding Division, and Innovation and Policy Development Division. His
primary responsibilities have included coordination of the Board’s efforts
toward Closing the Gaps by 2015 through academic excellence and research
at Texas institutions of higher education. His continuing responsibilities will
include coordination of the Board’s efforts toward meeting the goals of the new
Texas higher education plan, 60x30TX.
Previously, Gardner served the agency as the Associate Commissioner for Academic Excellence and Research and as the Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Information Resources. Gardner provided leadership for statewide initiatives such as Texas’ higher education plan Closing the Gaps by 2015; the college and university electronic library resource sharing consortium; the Texas Accountability System for Higher Education; and the Texas Public Education Information Resource, which includes information on all students enrolled in Texas public schools, as well as both public and private higher education institutions in Texas. He served as an affiliate for Columbia University’s Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), and currently is a member of the Texas Workforce Commission’s Jobs & Education for Texans (JET) Advisory Board and the Texas Space Grant Consortium.
Prior to joining the Coordinating Board staff in 1985, Gardner was on the faculty at Hofstra University where he taught in the master's and doctoral programs in the Administration and Policy Studies Department. While at Hofstra, he was director of the master's program, chaired the university's planning committee, and served on the graduate council and the scholarships committee. He also has been a visiting professor at Texas A&M University and an adjunct professor at The University of Texas at Austin.
Gardner earned his Ph.D. and master's degree from Texas A&M University and his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Houston.
Ted Gonder is the co-founding CEO of Moneythink, the nation's only national technology nonprofit tackling the college affordability crisis through financial coaching. Since 2009, Moneythink has trained over 2,000 college leaders to serve as financial mentors and college role models to over 12,000 teenagers across 10 states, and has built award-winning blended-learning tools that have advanced the field of financial education. From March 2014 until June 2015, Ted served as the youngest member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. In 2015, Ted was named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list as the youngest in Finance.
Prior to Moneythink, Ted served as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, advising the Obama Administration on immigration policy for foreign entrepreneurs. Previously, he worked with the Kauffman Foundation and the Chilean government, research immigrant entrepreneurship and publishing through MIT Press and McKinsey.
Ted got his start in social entrepreneurship working on climate change, and notably being appointed and serving as the student advisor to The Climate Project, an organization founded by Al Gore.
Ted has also played an active role as a community builder, founding the World Economic Forum's Chicago Global Shapers Hub, as well as the University of Chicago Entrepreneurship Society.
Besides work, Ted enjoys spending time with his wife and son, practicing martial arts, admiring wild animals, and writing on his blog.
Monique Lee is the Program Coordinator for the Emergency Aid Network, Deputy Commissioner’s Office, Academic Planning and Policy, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). Before joining the THECB staff in Austin, Texas, Ms. Lee lived and worked in Houston, Texas. She was a College Access and Success Advisor and Program Coordinator for Project GRAD Houston until February 2017, helping students by connecting them with available campus services and giving guidance on balancing the demands of college, work, and family life. Monique spent almost six years in the Office of Financial Aid at Lone Star College-Tomball (LSC-TB), where she successfully coordinated the Scholarship, Hazlewood, and Financial Aid Outreach programs for the Tomball campus and trained other LSC campus leads on program best practices. She received her Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Lone Star College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences from the College of Public Affairs and Community Service at the University of North Texas. Ms. Lee brings over 30 years of experience in management, administration, and customer service to her current role at the THECB.
Russell Lowery-Hart currently serves as President for Amarillo College. His leadership is focused on improving student success through systemic and cultural change. In his career, he created several institution-wide initiatives targeting a systemic approach to poverty, a common reader program, international travel programs for first year students, curricular reform, instructional improvement, advising and academic orientation expansions, first year seminars, service-learning across the curriculum, and partnership development across campus “silos.” Dr. Lowery-Hart previously served as Vice-President of Academic Affairs for Amarillo College.
While his calling is education reform, his passion is family. His wife, Tara Lowery-Hart, is the Director of Service-Learning for St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. His eldest son, Christopher, is a professional, working actor. His teenage son, Campbell, desires to be a professional basketball and Oboe player. His youngest daughter, Cadence, is following her older brother’s footsteps on the stage as a performer and musician. Their dog, Sadie, fills their lives with beauty and joy.
Dr. Lowery-Hart received his Ph.D. in Gender and Diversity in Communication from Ohio University in 1996. He received his MA in Communication Studies from Texas Tech in 1993, and his BS in Speech from West Texas State University in 1991.