As President and CEO, Jacob Fraire provides leadership to the association’s core mission and strategies to advance equity and sustainability among the state’s 50 independently-governed public community college districts. Together, Texas community colleges serve more than 730,000 students.
Before joining TACC, Mr. Fraire served as Vice President of philanthropy at Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, now known as Trellis Company. Acting as the chief architect of the corporate philanthropy, Mr. Fraire stewarded $80 million in competitive grants to advance college access, need-based financial aid, success, and research. Mr. Fraire has served on multiple state and national boards and advisory committees.
For more than a decade, Mr. Fraire served in advocacy and lobbying positions in Washington, DC. He also served as Director of Legislation and Policy Analysis for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and a senior legislative coordinator for a DC-based law firm representing colleges and universities.
The son of migrant farm workers, Mr. Fraire grew up in El Paso, Texas. In May 2013, he was awarded an honorary associates degree from El Paso Community College, an honor he describes as his most cherished higher education credential. He holds a Bachelor of Science from St. Edward’s University and Master in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin.
As vice president of the Texas Success Center, housed at the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), Cynthia Ferrell supports the implementation and scaling of student success strategies and policies for the 50 community college districts in Texas.
Prior to joining the Texas Success Center, Cynthia served as director of Student Success Initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as national director of leadership coaching for Achieving the Dream, director of the Board of Trustees Institute, director of Gulf Coast Partners Achieving Student Success, and UT director of the Governance Institute for Student Success. In these roles, she provided training and ongoing support for community college trustees, chancellors, presidents, and leadership teams to implement data-informed policies and practices to improve the success of all students.
Formerly the director of the Texas Developmental Education State Policy Initiative, Cynthia supported strategies jointly developed by TACC and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) to scale successful innovations statewide and establish policy supports to improve developmental student success.
She earned a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin.
Mary Battjes serves as the Office Manager at TACC. Her strengths include organizing materials and schedules, planning events, hosting guests and building relationships with those she deals with daily, from service technicians to college presidents. She’s committed to effective communication, being helpful to her colleagues and nurturing a productive office environment.
Prior to joining TACC, Ms. Battjes was the Project and Office Manager for an eco-farming book and magazine publisher and has served as Office and Project Manager in the private and non-profit sectors. She is a certified Master Gardener from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and ran a successful garden design/build business in Boston, Massachusetts before moving to Austin in 2011.
Ms. Battjes completed the certificate program at New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute and was the first recipient of the Outstanding Leadership Award. Ms. Battjes also holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Calvin College.
Outside of the office, Ms. Battjes enjoys painting with oil or watercolors, drawing, printmaking, exploring the outdoors and collecting late 19th to early 20th century European and American art.
Chris Fernandez serves as the Director of Policy Analysis at TACC. He assesses the progress of key goals and outcomes of community colleges, tracks higher education research and policy, and recommends areas for additional data collection and research. He seeks to communicate findings in ways that are useful and actionable for policymakers, practitioners, and/or fellow advocates.
Prior to joining TACC, Mr. Fernandez was a researcher for Trellis Company where he analyzed financial barriers to college access and success, focusing on financial aid and student loans. He also spent time with the Swarthmore College admissions office helping bring underrepresented students to campus.
Graduating in 2012, Mr. Fernandez earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology with a minor in Public Policy from Swarthmore College. While in college, he received the McKitterick Scholarship and Glant Scholarship for academic merit, as well as the Bramson Prize recognizing the excellence of his senior thesis.
In addition to contributing to TACC’s goals, Mr. Fernandez enjoys trail running, all kinds of reading, and attempting recipes beyond his abilities.
As a project manager for the Texas Success Center, Johannah helps coordinate grant-funded initiatives promoting the Center’s mission as a statewide hub providing community colleges strategies to bolster student learning and success.
Prior to joining the Center, Johannah worked in higher education for eight years. As the Center Manager and Faculty Initiatives Lead at UT Austin’s Faculty Innovation Center, Johannah helped manage grants and programming for instructors seeking to improve the quality of their teaching and students’ learning. From 2007-2012, Johannah worked at UT Austin’s Center for Mexican American Studies, where she managed the Center’s budget and administrative operations.
Johannah earned a baccalaureate degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.
Rose M. Martinez is the Director of Trustee Strategies for the Community College Association of Texas Trustees (CCATT). She helps support and fulfill the successful implementation of a strategic plan alongside the 400 elected officials of trustees and regents. These strategies included, developing a policy agenda and advocacy plan, improving trustee engagement and education, growing financial resources and ensuring continuity with a strong board succession.
Prior to TACC, Dr. Rose was the State Policy Consultant for Lumina Foundation in Texas where she assisted with the advancement of the foundation’s state policy agenda. She also served multiple years in higher education leadership roles at UC Irvine, UT Austin and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board focusing on the access, success, affordability, and completion of undergraduate college students.
Dr. Rose holds an Associate of Arts from Del Mar College, a Bachelor of Arts from TAMU Corpus Christi, a Master of Public Affairs from LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT Austin and a Ph.D. from the College of Education at UT Austin. During her higher education academic career, she received several graduate fellowships to support her doctoral studies and research grants for her dissertation, along with a student excellence award named in her honor.
Beyond the office, Dr. Rose enjoys spending time with her family and dog, running, hiking and cheering on her kids during their volleyball and football games.
Dustin Meador is the Director of Government Relations at TACC. He helps develop and implement legislative policy goals and strategies for the association, as well as monitor legislation and regulatory changes relevant to Texas community colleges. Alongside TACC’s advocacy team, Mr. Meador strives to build relationships at the capitol between colleges and legislators.
Prior to joining TACC, Mr. Meador worked five legislative sessions in the Texas House of Representatives; including three sessions serving as a Committee Clerk for the House Committee on Higher Education and one session as Chief of Staff to a State Representative.
Mr. Meador received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Texas at El Paso in 2006. In 2017, he was named a “Rising Star” lobbyist by Capitol Inside in its Texas Lobby Power Rankings.
Outside of TACC, Mr. Meador enjoys running in Austin, traveling anytime possible and seeing live music in the city.
Katie Ragusin serves as the Executive Assistant for the Texas Success Center, housed at TACC. She diligently manages the workload of the Center, prioritizes tasks within the fast-paced working environment, performs a number of administrative duties and works in conjunction with senior staff in purist of common goals.
Previously, Ms. Ragusin worked as an Administrative Assistant to the Associate Dean of Operation at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. While there, she assisted with the management of calendars, events, student services and served a term in the staff advisory board. Ms. Ragusin also served as an event manager in Los Angeles, California where she operated corporate events ranging from 20-600 guests.
Graduating in 2014 from California Lutheran University, Ms. Ragusin holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing Communications. When outside of the office, Ms. Ragusin can be found spending time with friends and family, listening to country music and exploring the city of Austin and the state of Texas at large.
Ellie Rodriguez serves as the Communications Associate for the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC). She helps maximize the impact of TACC and CCATT by realizing the successful implementation of contemporary communication strategies with a focus on policy advocacy. She also spends time developing suitable methods to broaden the reach of the association and its affiliates.
Before joining TACC, Ms. Rodriguez attended St. Edward’s University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in public relations and advertising. While at St. Edward’s, Ms. Rodriguez formed part of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society and served as an officer for St. Edward’s Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter. She graduated Magna Cum Laude in the spring of 2019.
Outside of work, Ms. Rodriguez enjoys attempting to play all instruments, spending time with her family, and traveling to Mexico on random weekends.
As director of the Texas Success Center, Kristi Short supports the implementation of the Texas Pathways strategic plan, documents and reports the Center’s work, coordinates statewide convenings and helps design the Center’s knowledge development and communications strategies.
Previously, Kristi served 12 years at Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina as a faculty member, program coordinator, grant manager, and unit director. From 2012 to 2017, Kristi led the implementation of guided pathways at GTCC, the lead institution for Completion by Design in North Carolina. Kristi also managed articulation agreements for the college and served on the board of directors of the statewide College Transfer Program Association. At GTCC, Kristi established the Center for Academic Engagement, which unified tutoring, supplemental instruction, and student success courses, and expanded non-academic supports including an on-campus food pantry, transportation assistance, and emergency loans.
Kristi earned baccalaureate and master’s degrees in communication studies from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and an education specialist degree in higher education and doctor of education degree in educational leadership from Appalachian State University.
Outside of the office, Kristi enjoys traveling, attending concerts, and riding her horse Mosby.
Lori Stalheber is the Director of Finance at TACC. She oversees accounting, payroll, maximizes the return on financial assets and is responsible for human resource management. Ms. Stalheber ensures the association remains fiducially responsible and provides accurate reporting to TACC’s members and CEO.
Before joining TACC, Ms. Stalheber lived in Houston, Texas and was the Director of Finance at the St. Martin’s Episcopal Church— the largest Episcopalian church in the country. Prior to this, she contributed to various non-profit organizations.
Having graduated in 2003, Ms. Stalheber holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas. While attending St. Thomas, Ms. Stalheber was a member of the accounting honor society along with various other clubs within the university.
Beyond TACC, Ms. Stalheber enjoys cooking, a variety of outdoor exercises and spending time with her family.