February 24, 2022

NM Southern Summit Bios

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing learnings and takeaways from the 2021 Carl & Marilynn Thoma Foundation New Mexico Education Funders Southern Summit. To read more about this blog series and the Southern Summit, please refer to our introductory blog post

Because our upcoming posts will be frequently referring to our panelists and fellow facilitators, we thought it would be helpful to share their bios in a separate post. 


André Gonzales is a proud product of Las Cruces Public Schools and graduate of The George Washington University. Named a Harry S. Truman Scholar of New Mexico and recipient of the Manatt-Trachtenberg Prize for Transformative Social and Intellectual Conscience, André is a leading voice from southern New Mexico on community school expansion, youth engagement development, and eliminating barriers of anonymity between educational stakeholders. André has been a staff appointee for U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, Weave: The Social Fabric Project at The Aspen Institute, the New  Mexico Senate Majority Office, and he is now a Digital Media Associate for GMMB Media in Washington, DC.

Danielle LaJoie serves as the Senior Program Coordinator for Groundworks New Mexico where she leads the organization’s sector-spanning collaborative grantmaking programs and grantmaker member learning programs. She has worked throughout her career to help create a more community-centered social sector. Before joining Groundworks, Danielle served as the Graduate Assistant for the Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy. In this role, she worked with foundation clients to improve their giving strategies and streamline their grantmaking processes. Prior to this, Danielle developed and implemented programs for regional and national philanthropic infrastructure organizations including the Council of Michigan Foundations and the National Center for Family Philanthropy. Her work in philanthropy began as a youth grantmaker in a participatory grantmaking program. Danielle holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Michigan and a Master of Public Administration degree in Nonprofit and Philanthropy Leadership from Grand Valley State University. On weekends, you can find Danielle reading, cooking, or listening to podcasts. Occasionally at the same time. 

Frank R. Lopez was the previous Executive Director of Groundworks NM and has dedicated most of his professional career to working with community and nonprofit organizations. He has a strong business background and extensive experience in nonprofit capacity building, including strategic planning, board and leadership development, fundraising, grant writing, fund development and social enterprise. Prior to joining Groundworks, he was the Director of New Mexico Programs for the WK Kellogg Foundation.  Prior to joining WKKF, he served as the executive director for Ngage New Mexico, a nonprofit organization located in Las Cruces New Mexico. “Ngage” is focused on improving education through “collective impact,” which is a model for facilitating change by bringing together key partners for greater community impact. In that capacity, he facilitated the development of the county-wide “early childhood education coalition.  He has assisted hundreds of organizations with strategic planning and development.  He served as a coach for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s fellowship program. He is a teacher at heart and has delivered presentations throughout the United States. He has also taught at several universities, including the University of California at Berkeley, UT El Paso, New Mexico State University and Texas Tech University School of Law. He is an attorney, licensed to practice law in California and Texas.  He has a BBA in Accounting from UT Austin and JD from UC Berkeley, School of Law.  


Educational Stakeholder Panelists

Lucía V. Carmona is the Director of Operations and Community Engagement and Co-Founder of Raices del Saber Xinachtli Community School. She is a native of Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, from Rarámuri (Tarahumara) ancestry, and learned to play guitar at the age of 16, and sings traditional Mexican music. Lucía has lived in Las Cruces, NM for the last 15 years. She immigrated to the U.S. where she was involved with the Bi-National Organization for Human Rights and Environmental Justice (COREF), a lead organizer for the Colonias Development Council, board president of the farmworkers Sin Fronteras Organizing Project, and the Regional Project Coordinator in Southern New Mexico for the National Immigrant Farming Initiative. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a Minor in U.S./Mexico Border Studies from New Mexico State University. In January 2013, she joined Ngage NM, a nonprofit organization based in Doña Ana County, to advance an Initiative on Education from prenatal to Career Countywide as the Community Engagement Coordinator. In May 2014, she becomes a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Fellow as part of the 1st Class of Community Leadership Network Program hoping to create an interactive educational project based on Mexican indigenous tradition. In July 2015, she became a new fellow member of the Native American Community Academy (NACA) Inspired Schools Network Program: https://www.nacainspiredschoolsnetwork.org/our-fellows.

Dr. Timothy Hand is the Chief of Staff of Las Cruces Public Schools. Timothy is a proud product of Las Cruces Public Schools as a graduate of Loma Heights, Zia Middle School, and Las Cruces High School. He has served in administrative roles in Las Cruces at LCPS and NMSU and also around the state including a stint with the legislature and serving as Deputy Secretary of Education – but his most cherished role is that of a high school coach where he spent 15 years teaching and learning from high school students. This experience sets his priorities as a strengths-based, growth-oriented champion for the education of the whole child.

Professor Dulcinea Lara is Director of the Borderlands & Ethnic Studies program and a Professor at New Mexico State University. She identifies as Chicana Indigena, honoring her Apache and Rarámuri ancestry that is deeply-rooted in the region now called southern New Mexico. Dr. Lara earned a Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies from University of California-Berkeley in 2006. Her teaching and research center the critical viewing and questioning of systems and knowledges that are designed and operationalized to advance some people/groups while creating obstructions for other people/groups. Dr. Lara’s scholarship is multi-method and multi-media. She collaborated in the creation of an interactive, bilingual museum exhibition about social justice and inequalities in the Borderlands region called, Pasos Ajenos that will show in Bernalillo, New Mexico, and El Paso, Texas in 2022. Along with Dr. Marisol Ruiz and Dr. Dana Greene, she co-authored the article, “Mirrored Repressions: Students and Inmates in a Colonial Landscape” in the Critical Education journal in 2018. Her current book project details the story of teachers, Nadine and Patsy Cordova, in their reasonable-radical commitment to a social justice-centered education in Vaughn, New Mexico, in the late 1990s. Dr. Lara’s work explores various kinds of residual evidence of colonization in colonias, poor and rural communities, and other “sacrificial zones.” Her generative work aims to restore these zones into sacred places through collective dreaming, healing, and making.  

Julia Rivera-Tapia is the Principal at Raices del Saber Xinachtli Community School. She is a graduate from the University of New Mexico. She received a bachelors in Elementary Education and Spanish. Her teaching career began in the summer of 2005. In 2009 she moved to New York to obtain a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Columbia University. She was an intern principal at Coronado Elementary school in Albuquerque, a magnet Bilingual School. In 2010, she obtained her administrator license from the Public Education Department of New Mexico. Most recently, she was the School Director at New Mexico International School a trilingual K-8th School. Mrs. Julia is passionate about bilingual education and being a part of the magic that occurs when students begin to read and write in multiple languages! Besides teaching kindergarten over ten years, she has taught first grade, has been an early childhood liaison, instructional coach, IB coordinator, bilingual coordinator and an advocate for non-profit organizations throughout the community. Mrs. Rivera-Tapia is truly fortunate to have the opportunity to be at Raices del Saber and is beyond excited to be a part of this new phase of the school! Paz y Salud!

Dr. Mónica Torres has been at Doña Ana Community College for eight years—first, as vice-president for academic affairs and, since 2018, as president. Prior to that, she was an associate professor in the English department at New Mexico State University. Her work was focused on 20th century uses of word and image in both academic and popular cultures as they shaped our understanding of race/ethnicity, gender, and class in the United States. As DACC’s president, she is marshalling the college’s efforts to ensure that residents in the region can not only access the services of the college but can benefit from their experience at the college. That work includes creating learning environments that are healthy and productive for members of the communities the college serves; developing and cultivating resources—at the college and in the local communities—that support student success; adopting technologies that deepen learning while students are in school and promise social mobility once graduates enter the workforce.

Erica Surova is the Senior Program Manager and Data Analyst for the Center for Community Analysis at New Mexico State University. She holds master’s degrees in Sociology and Geography from New Mexico State University. Surova worked as a research assistant in the Office of Institutional Analysis at NMSU before serving as the first manager for the Center when it was established in 2016. She collaborates with organizations across the county and state to gather data that is often hard-to-find or spread across many organizations. Through surveys, assessments, and data analysis, she works to centralize, analyze, and disseminate data to the community in order to improve evidence-based decision making and collective impact. Surova created the Education Context Report for Doña Ana County, conducted gap analyses on Early Childhood Education, and has conducted numerous surveys, evaluations, and analyses focused on advancing education and social equity. 


Nonprofit Leader Panelists

Tracey Bryan is the outgoing Executive Director of The Bridge of Southern New Mexico, a non-profit organization that brings together Doña Ana County’s business, education, economic development and government communities together to support two things: increases in high school and college completion rates and aligning systems to support the skilled and ready workforce needed for strong workforce talent pipelines to spur economic growth. The Bridge has emerged as one of New Mexico’s most successful collective impact initiatives, creating the state’s first-ever workforce development plan aligned to economic development targets and is now working with a broader set of partners to implement their plan. Tracey holds leadership positions with New Mexico First, Ngage New Mexico, Arrowhead Investors Advisory Network, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Business and Community Advisory Council and chairs the New Mexico State Workforce Board.

Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Anna, Age Eight Institute. She holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from Texas Christian University, where she studied at the Institute of Behavioral Research. Dr. Courtney worked with the State of New Mexico for eight years, first as the Juvenile Justice Epidemiologist, then as Bureau Chief of the Child Protective Services Research, Assessment and Data Bureau. An advocate for data-informed decision-making, Dr. Courtney championed and co-developed the New Mexico Data Leaders for Child Welfare program. She has worked in policy, research and has led community initiatives through her work at the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership. She is also the co-author, with Dominic Cappello, of Anna, Age Eight: The data-driven prevention of childhood trauma and maltreatment, which served as a catalyst for the development of the Anna, Age Eight Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she serves as co-director. Dr. Ortega Courtney and Dominic Cappello wrote the follow-up book 100% Community to guide local leadership in every county in their work designing trauma-free and truly family-friendly cities and towns. Email: koc@nmsu.edu

Daisy A. Maldonado, MA possesses 15 years of experience in working with educational, non-profit and community engagement initiatives. Maldonado joined the Empowerment Congress in 2018 as its Coordinator, where she develops its community leadership curriculum, community organizing campaigns, and the EC’s organizational design structure. Now, as the Director, Maldonado is further expanding the work of Empowerment Congress to reach more families and youth within Doña Ana County colonias with the goal to empower communities to exercise their agency, take ownership and transform their communities where every voice matters, and the needs of everyday residents are the priority.

Lori Martinez is the Executive Director of Ngage New Mexico, a nonprofit with a mission to serve as a catalyst to advance the well-being of all people of southern New Mexico. The focus of that mission is the SUCCESS Partnership, a prenatal-to-career education initiative aimed at improving education outcomes in Doña Ana County, using collective impact as their framework for making change. Lori is a social worker with almost 20 years’ experience working in settings from early childhood to higher education.

Hope Morales is the New Mexico Executive Director at Teach Plus.  In this role, she partners with champion teachers across the state to lead change in policy and systems that have a direct impact on students. Prior to joining Teach Plus in 2017, Hope taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 7th grades in Roswell Independent School District and was the district’s Teacher on Special Assignment.  In 2015 and 2016, she was recognized as Chaves County’s “Teacher of Character.” During her nine years in the classroom, Hope was active in her school and district in a variety of leadership positions, including as a member of the superintendent’s advisory council and of the hearing authority committee. Hope is an alumna of the 2016-17 New Mexico’s inaugural Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship and has launched Teach Plus’ inaugural statewide Teach Plus Network. She has served on the New Mexico Secretary’s Teacher Advisory and as a member of the New Mexico Teacher Leader Network. Hope was elected to a four-year term as a local school board member for the Roswell Independent School District in 2019. She earned a BA in University Studies and a MA in Education Administration from Eastern New Mexico University. She lives in Roswell with her husband and three children.