About Us

As former faculty members and higher education administrators, business start-up and operations specialists, and on-the-ground technical assistance providers, we understand the challenges faced by today’s higher education leaders. And by virtue of our leadership and work in our country’s most critical higher education reform movements, we bring deep experience and expertise to our clients seeking to create lasting change.

Our Team

Alison Kadlec

Alison Kadlec

Founding Partner

Alison Kadlec specializes in building cultures and climates for innovation in higher education and workforce development.

She has worked with dozens of colleges and universities across the country to support the capacity of institutional leaders and faculty at every level to effectively engage members of their communities as constructive partners in the hard work of change on behalf of student success. Alison and her team also work with the U.S. Department of Education, state policymakers and system leaders in more than half the states in the U.S. to help improve the quality of policy development and implementation around higher education and workforce issues.

Before launching Sova, Alison was Senior Vice President at Public Agenda, a visiting professor in the political science department at Macalester College and an adjunct professor in the political science departments at the University of Minnesota, Baruch College and Hunter College.

Alison is the author of a book on the democratic theory of John Dewey, Dewey’s Critical Pragmatism. She is also the author or co-author of a number of articles on subjects related to stakeholder engagement and public deliberation both within and outside of higher education including: “Putting it All Together: Strengthening Pathways Between Comprehensives and Community Colleges”; “Deliberative Democracy and the Problem of Power”; “Changing the Conversation About Productivity”; and “Play and Public Life.”

She holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Minnesota and BAs from Michigan State University in Political Theory, Constitutional Democracy and English Literature.

Paul Markham

Paul Markham

Founding Partner

Paul’s work focuses on building and sustaining cultures for innovation and change.

Prior to launching Sova, Paul served as Vice President for Organizational Strategy at Public Agenda and Vice President for Strategic Partnerships & Development at Achieving the Dream, Inc. Paul also served as Senior Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he led the Foundation’s work focused on Developmental Education redesign and the creation of Pathways for student success. As a faculty member, he served as Associate Professor of Education at the University of Washington Bothell (UWB) and Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Western Kentucky University (WKU), both broad access universities committed to the success of all students who seek a postsecondary education.

Paul has extensive experience in building capacity for social change organizations and initiatives through his roles as Director of Strategic Partnerships & Community Engagement at UWB and Director of the ALIVE Center for Community Partnerships and Director of the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility at WKU. In all these roles, Paul focused on developing organizational capacity to contribute to healthy communities, strong economies, and an engaged democracy.

In the private business sector, Paul has led a number of implementation and improvement efforts as both a Process Engineer and Quality Assurance Manager.

Paul’s academic background includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Western Kentucky University. He also completed a Master of Arts in Social Ethics from Asbury Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. in Social and Moral Development from Durham University (UK), and post-doctoral studies in Sociology from Western Kentucky University.

Tiffany Yoon

Tiffany Yoon

Senior Program Manager

Tiffany’s work focuses on building great organizations to ensure economic opportunity and mobility.

Prior to joining Sova, Tiffany served as a Senior Program Manager at Opportunity@Work, where she was tasked with identifying opportunities for strategic partnerships to achieve collective collaboration around building inclusive hiring ecosystems. Previously, as a senior manager at the Aspen Institute, Tiffany led a portfolio of projects aimed at significantly improving student success outcomes at community colleges across the nation. Tiffany also served as an Office Manager for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, where she built operational systems to maintain the daily functions of the office.

As a child of immigrant parents, Tiffany has personally experienced the power of opportunity and has lived to see the full potential of people who are given a shot at success. She has since dedicated her career to supporting and growing organizations that ensure such opportunities for all, and especially for those who are often overlooked or marginalized.

Tiffany is a Certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and holds a BA from Georgetown University and MBA from American University.

Ivan Barron

Ivan Barron

Director

Ivan Barron is an entrepreneur and educator. Over the last decade, Ivan has designed and launched nationally-recognized leadership and professional training programs in partnership with leading universities, foundations and Fortune 500 companies including the University of Washington, Deloitte and JP. Morgan Chase. He has also served as a consultant on innovation initiatives at Harvard Business School, IDEO, Teach for America and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ivan was born in Mexico, but a crippling economic recession drove his family to immigrate to the United States in search of a better life. Ivan’s experience growing up as a low-income, immigrant serves as the inspiration for his work to create education, and economic opportunities for people from all backgrounds.

Ivan is a Lecturer at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, where he teaches courses on executive leadership and entrepreneurship. Civically, Ivan is volunteers with Social Venture Partners (a strategic philanthropic firm) and is on the Board of Directors of Harborstone Credit Union.

Ivan earned a Master degree from Harvard University and is currently finishing up Doctoral work in education leadership and policy at the University of Washington.

George Mehaffy

George Mehaffy

Senior Advisor

George L. Mehaffy serves as a senior advisor at Sova Solutions. 

Prior to joining the Sova team, he served for 20 years as the Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in Washington, D.C. He was responsible for developing and managing programs for member institutions in areas such as leadership development, undergraduate education, technology, international education, teacher education and student success.  Each year his division organized a number of national conferences and meetings, including two conferences each year for AASCU chief academic officers, as well as a civic engagement national conference.

He has also designed and managed a number of innovative national projects. In 2003, he launched the American Democracy Project, a civic engagement initiative. Most recently, he created a series of national projects around student success, with more than $ 13 million in external funding. Before coming to AASCU, he had more than twenty years of teaching and administrative experience in higher education in Texas, New Mexico, and California.  In addition, he served for 33 years in the United States Coast Guard Reserve, retiring as a Captain in 2000.   

Ashmi Patel

Ashmi Patel

Program Manager

Ashmi’s work focuses on equity, inclusion, and diversity within higher education. 

Prior to joining Sova, Ashmi served as the Director of the Center for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity at Eastfield College, where she developed programs to enhance students’ social and intellectual development, eliminate barriers to student access and success, and develop a culture of equity-mindedness and inclusivity.

Previously, as a Program Associate at the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program, Ashmi worked on executive leadership development for aspiring community college presidents.

As a first- generation child of immigrant parents from India, Ashmi has experienced the importance of student success support structures and identity development within colleges.

Ashmi holds a BA from Southern Methodist University and an MA from Rutgers University.

Kara Davidson

Kara Davidson

Digital Brand Manager

Kara specializes in online storytelling and visual branding that effectively communicates a brand’s mission and provides a meaningful user experience.

While growing up at the brink of the burgeoning digital age, Kara found herself captivated by the Internet and all the information it had to offer. Over the years she discovered her knack for authentic storytelling and her passion for helping small businesses fight for space in an ever-saturated digital world.

She gained her expertise by working at a digital marketing agency in Nashville for 4 years, where she managed social media marketing and advertising strategies for businesses and non-profits such as The PEDIGREE Foundation, The Elephant Sanctuary, and Bart Durham Injury Law before setting off on her own to pursue brands that she felt most passionate about.

Mina Dadgar

Mina Dadgar

Research Fellow

Mina is an independent higher-education strategy consultant and a Research Fellow at SOVA.  Mina’s passion is to close the gap between education policy, research and on-the-ground practice. She has over 15 years of experience researching equity centered post-secondary reform efforts and has partnered with policy makers and practitioners to strategize around implementing them.

As the Associate Vice Chancellor for Guided Pathways at the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, she helped shape California’s regional strategy for guided pathways’ design and implementation, and oversaw the work of its 18 Guided Pathways Regional Coordinators. Her other previous experience includes leading quantitative and qualitative studies at the Community College Research Center and West Ed.  At the Career Ladders Project, Dadgar worked directly with college and K-12 administrators, faculty and teachers to design evidence-based reform strategies and implement them.

In 2014, Mina published a study of the labor market value of community college credentials and encouraged states to invest in long-term credentials and degrees, instead of short-term certificates. The study was covered by over a dozen media outlets and was recognized by NPR among the most influential educational publications of the year. She holds a PhD in Economics and Education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College.

Basilia Yao

Basilia Yao

Partner, Matter + Form

Basilia Yao, founded Matter & Form to bring financial and risk management solutions to organizations addressing society’s most critical challenges. She works with clients on business transformation, helping build the capacity of their organizations to use operational and financial data to measure, plan, improve and deliver results.

Education

  • MBA, Harvard Business School
  • Master’s in City Planning, MIT
  • BA, Columbia University
  • Certified Project Management Professional (PMP)
Lana S. Price

Lana S. Price

Principal, Matter + Form

Lana S. Price, has expertise in building financial management capacity for non-profits and connecting strategy with sustainable business models. Her experience includes a combination of management consulting in financial management and strategic planning, grant-making in education reform, and hands-on operational leadership in strategy and finance roles.

Education

  • MPA, Financial Management, New York University
  • BA, University of Washington
Jillian Donatto

Jillian Donatto

Project Manager, Matter + Form

Jillian Donatto, Project Manager, specializes in working with clients to plan and implement complex projects. She brings a background in urban planning and economic development, and works with state and local government clients and non-profit organizations to apply data-driven approaches to project management.

Education

  • Masters in Urban Planning, NYU
  • BA, University of Texas at Austin
  • Project Management Professional (PMP), Project Management Institute