Our Team

Meet our dedicated team members who work every day to track the latest research, develop shared knowledge, and work across the network to share best practices in developmental education reforms.

Our Funder Advisory Board supports our work in an advisory capacity.

  • Maxine Roberts

    Maxine Roberts

    Director

  • Alina Deluna

    Alina DeLuna

    Project Manager

  • Ms Headshot 5.2

    Molly Sarubbi

    Senior Project Manager

  • Emily Warren Sstf

    Emily Warren

    Senior Project Manager

  • Sharmila Mann

    Sharmila Mann

    Principal

  • Sarah Pingel

    Sarah Pingel

    Principal

  • Sara Olan

    Sara Olán

    Meeting and Events Assistant

  • Matt Padilla

    Matt Padilla

    Chief Financial Officer, ECS

  • Josh Ruiz

    Joshua Ruiz

    Senior Accountant

Maxine Roberts

Maxine Roberts

Director

In her role as director of Strong Start to Finish, Maxine elevates effective practices and processes for reforming developmental education in university systems. She has dedicated her career to advancing system-changing, equity-focused initiatives that promote access, persistence and completion for minoritized students in higher education. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Maxine directed youth-based programs in urban areas, worked with community college faculty to improve their course outcomes and conducted research on the factors that contribute to success and progress for Black and Latinx students in community college developmental math courses.

Alina Deluna

Alina DeLuna

Project Manager

As a project manager, Alina is responsible for daily operations and providing project support for the Strong Start to Finish initiative. She brings experience relating to finance, public policy and administration, as well as the implementation of Colorado law and regulation. Alina is dedicated to the mission of Strong Start to Finish and believes that through informed leadership and sustained commitment, we can better serve our communities and contribute to an educational system that provides equal opportunities for all. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, making memories with her family and spending time outdoors.

Ms Headshot 5.2

Molly Sarubbi

Senior Project Manager

As a consulting senior project manager for the Solutions Network for Strong Start to Finish, Molly counsels the national network of partner organizations that provide technical assistance to systems and institutions. She has over 15 years of nonprofit leadership, strategy development and project management experience, and earned her doctorate in higher education from the University of Denver. Molly believes in the power of integrative education policy to positively impact equitable outcomes for students and communities at scale.

Emily Warren Sstf

Emily Warren

Senior Project Manager

As a senior project manager for Strong Start to Finish, Emily focuses on engaging systems that commit to implement actionable, evidence-based policy and practice at scale to improve student entry and success in their initial year of college. Emily comes to Education Commission of the States with over 12 years of experience in higher education and program management at the university level. She also has a passion for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of an organization. When she is not at work, Emily can be found hiking, camping, skiing and generally enjoying all of the outdoor activities that Colorado has to offer.

Sharmila Mann

Sharmila Mann

Principal

As principal, Sharmila provides leadership on the development and execution of Education Commission of the States’ strategic policy initiatives and fosters internal and external relationships. Sharmila brings more than 15 years of education policy experience to her role, including 10 years at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association engaging with state and federal policymakers, funders and national associations in pursuit of policy to smooth transitions between education sectors. Sharmila holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Cornell University and a master’s and doctorate in human genetics from the University of Michigan.

Sarah Pingel

Sarah Pingel

Principal

Sarah supports the research and analytical capacity of the Policy Team in her role as Principal at Education Commission of the States. She is a skilled presenter and facilitator on a variety of education topics, but especially issues of postsecondary finance and college affordability; She can often be found behind a spreadsheet or with her nose in state statutes. Sarah is passionate about supporting education leaders in their roles as decision makers and supporters of students across the education spectrum.

Sara Olan

Sara Olán

Meeting and Events Assistant

As the meetings specialist, Sara plans and executes all logistics pertaining to each event, including the National Forum on Education Policy, Winter Commissioners Meeting, the Arts Education Partnership Annual Convening and the Strong Start to Finish Learning Network Convening. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Sara earned her degree in event management and worked as a meeting planner for Kinsley Meetings and a brand ambassador for the Colorado Lottery. When not immersed in logistics, Sara can be found enjoying time with family, watching documentaries, learning new phrases in different languages and being a cliche outdoor-loving Colorado native with a craft beer in hand.

Matt Padilla

Matt Padilla

Chief Financial Officer, ECS

As chief financial officer, Matt leads the finance, human resources and information technology operations for Education Commission of the States. Matt has 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, primarily in operations and leadership roles. When Matt is not at work, he can be found volunteering for nonprofit boards or enjoying the great Colorado mountains.

Josh Ruiz

Joshua Ruiz

Senior Accountant

As a senior accountant, Josh develops and maintains budgets and financial reports, assures compliance with federal grants, coordinates the month-end close and performs other accounting duties. Currently licensed as a CPA in California, Josh brings experience auditing federal and state programs, bonds, internal controls and financials for school districts, charters and nonprofits. When he is not working with numbers, Josh enjoys hiking, painting, eating Thai food and snowboarding with his wife.