Amy Barzach joined The Women's Education and Leadership Fund as director in November 2011 bringing her experience as a social entrepreneur and life coach. Founded by Barzach in 1997, Boundless Playgrounds is the first national nonprofit dedicated to helping communities create inclusive, barrier-free playgrounds where children, with and without disabilities, can play and learn together. During Barzach's tenure as its founding executive director, this award-winning organization defined a new standard for children's playgrounds in the United States and beyond, and partnered with 135 communities in 25 states to develop inclusive playgrounds for schools, parks, and hospitals.
Barzach has been the subject of countless articles about her work and received numerous awards, including the Martha Stewart Dreamers Into Doers Award. In 2008, she established Powerful Inspiration LLC to help people and organizations find their passion, capitalize on their unique strengths, and discover their own power to make a difference.
When elected into Ashoka's global fellowship of social entrepreneurs in 2002, Barzach was one of the first Ashoka Fellows in North America. Before founding Boundless Playgrounds, Barzach served as vice president of marketing for The Hutensky Group in Hartford, Conn., and did training for the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C. She holds a bachelor of science in economics from the University at Albany, and a Master of Business Administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Hartford Graduate Center.
"As a resident of West Hartford, I have been inspired by the University of Hartford and WELFund's programs and events," Barzach said. "Serving as the director of WELFund is the opportunity of a lifetime and I look forward to joining the team."Grants & Programs Manager Profile
Donna Haghighat joined The Women's Education and Leadership Fund as grants and program manager in February 2010. Upon Founding Director Jennifer Sanborn's departure, Donna was named interim director. As grants & programs manager, Donna helped raise over $75,000 through major gifts and a first ever fundraiser which raised nearly $20,000. Prior to joining WELFund, Donna served as executive director of Aurora Women & Girls Foundation from 2008 until 2010, and has been a consultant since 2007 for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Under her direction, Aurora Women & Girls Foundation significantly increased both its visibility and the number of its donors and fundraising events. Her community leadership includes Program Chair of The College Club, One Big Summer Night Event Committee for Hartford Public Library, and member of CT Women's Council. She has previously served in leadership positions on the boards of The Trinity Club of Hartford, Trinity College Alumni Association and Our Children's Center Day Care Center. Donna also enjoys singing in the West Hartford Women's Chorale. Donna's former domestic and international work experience includes small business consulting, education, and legal work.
An economics major and women's studies minor at Trinity College, as well as a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Law, Donna takes inspiration from the quote "From the cradle to the grave, seek knowledge!" and is excited to be in a community of higher learning not only as an employee but also an M.A. candidate in Communications.
Lucille M. Nickerson
WELFund Chair, is president of Nickerson-Zegarelli Consultants, LLC, and specializes in strategic planning, leadership, governance, and board-related issues for non-profits and small businesses. Over a number of years, she served successively as legal counsel, corporate secretary, and senior business executive at a Fortune 100 company. Lucille's education credentials include a J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law, a master's degree from the University of Connecticut, and a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College. In addition to being chair of the WELFund Board, she is chair of the University Board of Regents and was a trustee of Hartford College for Women.
WELFund Vice Chair, is General Counsel-Americas for LEGO Systems, Inc. of Enfield, Connecticut. LSI, the U.S. affiliate of the Danish LEGO Group, distributes LEGO® brand toys for the Americas market. For the past 15 years, Mr. Arakas has been responsible for all of LSI's legal affairs, ranging from employment and immigration law to intellectual property rights and product liability.
Mr. Arakas received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master's of Social Work from the University of Connecticut. After eight years of practice as a social worker, he received his law degree with highest honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law.
Following law school, Mr. Arakas clerked for the Honorable Ellen B. Burns of the U.S. District Court. Before joining LSI, he was employed in the law department of Aetna Life and Casualty.
Peter is a volunteer with a number of non-profit legal service providers, was formerly a Regent of the University of Hartford, and is an active board member of a number of Boards of Directors. Peter is also Chairman of the James W. Cooper Fellows of the Connecticut Bar Foundation.
WELFund Secretary, is the Community & Program Development Officer at the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and is responsible for the facilitation and development of new programs and products for the Authority.
Prior to her joining the Authority, Diane worked at the Department of Economic and Community Development, where she held the position of Executive Director over the divisions responsible for urban development and housing development. During her tenure she was responsible for administering both state and federal programs associated with business, community, and housing development.
During her years of public service she has worked in the disciplines of planning and public policy, business recruitment, urban and regional development, program development and administration, housing development, and marketing. She is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is completing service on the Board of Regents for the University of Hartford, is a steering committee member of the Hartford Studies Project for Trinity College and is listed in the Who's Who Among African Americans.
Dr. Elizabeth Ivey
WELFund Treasurer, is a physicist who was a faculty member for 34 years, followed by serving as the provost at two institutions of higher education, including the University of Hartford. Her research expertise is in the area of indoor and outdoor noise and vibration reduction. Gender equity for women students and women faculty has been the focus of her service efforts for over 35 years. She serves on several college Boards of Trustees, has testified before Congress on gender equity in the sciences and engineering, developed the first engineering program solely for women (at Smith College) and recently completed a two-year term as the president of the national Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She remains on the AWIS board as chair of their Endowment Committee and co-chair of their Grants Committee.
Valerie Lewis retired after serving more than eight years as the Commissioner of Higher Education for the State of Connecticut. She worked in many different areas of the Department of Higher Education, including both Assistant and Deputy Commissioner. In October 2003, she was elected the national President of the State Higher Education Chief Executive Officers organization, which provides the 50 states with opportunities to share data, undertake multi-state initiatives, and work collaboratively to address the nation's most difficult higher education issues.
As Connecticut's commissioner, her responsibilities included: developing and implementing collegiate policies of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, providing oversight to multiple areas of state investment such as financial aid, research, teacher education, international educational partnerships, and workforce development. In her work as commissioner, she was especially concerned with aligning all levels of education from preschool forward so students were prepared to move through the various levels of education and into the workforce. She has a special interest in adults returning to complete their education.
An alumna of Hartford College for Women, Ms. Lewis completed her bachelor's degree in English at Mount Holyoke College and then taught English and coordinated the General Equivalency Degree Preparation (GED) Program in East Hartford and New Jersey. While studying for her M.A. in Education at the University of Connecticut, she worked as a special assistant in the offices of both the provost and the president. She was Director of Admissions and a member of the faculty at Hartford College for Women and also served in a variety of administrative positions in both public and private colleges. At retirement, she was awarded two honorary doctorates for her work to improve educational opportunity for Connecticut citizens.
Patricia Salner (Pat) is the Community Programs Director for Achieve Hartford! and is a long time Hartford area resident with deep roots in the not for profit and arts community. In her role, she incorporates her passion for creating and administering educational opportunities for children with her long developed knowledge of Hartford as she works collaboratively with Hartford community members, including educational professionals, civic leaders, community based organizations and business professionals.
Prior to her joining the staff of Achieve Hartford! she was the Executive Director of the Hartford Education Foundation, the predecessor entity of Achieve Hartford!, which largely focused on supporting innovative teaching in Hartford. She is a Board member of the Connecticut Consortium of Education Foundations, The Women's Education and Leadership Fund at the University of Hartford, and the Hill-Stead Museum. She is an honorary docent at the Wadsworth Atheneum. Pat is a member of the Association of Fundrasing Professionals, and is involved in a host of local community organizations. Pat has a Bachelors of Arts degree from Wheaton College and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Hartford. She has received numerous academic honors including Phi Beta Kappa and a Woodruff Fellowship.
Joan Sittard is an implementation and training manager for McCracken Financial Solutions Corp. She is responsible for client software installation and training. Her background includes over 17 years of commercial loan servicing experience.
Joan is a 1981 graduate of Hillyer College and a 1983 graduate of ENHP at the University of Hartford. Joan currently serves on the Hillyer College Board of Visitors. She has served on the board of the University of Hartford Alumni Association. Joan and her husband, Paul, reside in the Boston Area.
Kate F. Stoddard (CFRE), is the assistant director of the Development Core Center for interdisciplinary research on AIDS at Yale (CIRA). She was previously with the Alzheimer’s Resource of CT. She has been a development professional since 1981, with 30 years of advancement experience in higher education at Quinnipiac University and Saint Joseph College. Kate served as director of corporate and foundation relations, director of development, associate vice president for development and vice president of development and alumni relations at Quinnipiac University. She managed $1 million annual fund programs, 3 capital campaigns, major and planned gift programs and worked closely with the President of Quinnipiac on strategic planning and Board development. She is a certified fundraising executive, recognized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Kate holds an associate's degree from Hartford College for Women, her bachelor's degree from University of Connecticut and a master's degree from Saint Joseph College. Kate is an avid reader, gardener, and runner.
Dr. Diane Ullman is interim chief talent officer at the state of CT Department of Education. Previously she served as superintendent of schools in Simsbury,CT. She also served as the assistant executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). Dr. Ullman also served for seven years as the assistant superintendent of the Farmington, CT school district. Dr. Ullman earned a Ph. D. in Educational Administration from the University of Colorado in Boulder, a master’s degree from Northeastern University in Boston, and an undergraduate degree from Regis College in Weston, MA. Dr. Ullman serves as a Commissioner for the NEASC Commission on American and International Schools Abroad and is a council member of the New England Secondary Schools Consortium. She is also a member of the Connecticut Superintendent’s Network. Dr. Ullman is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at the University of Connecticut. Dr. Ullman and her family reside in Simsbury.
Arnold West is a senior vice president at ING Investment Management, where he is responsible for new business development. He began his career in 1990 at Aetna, where he served as an attorney supporting various Aetna Financial Service businesses and also served as counsel to Aetna Foundation, Inc. He received a B.A. in organizational behavior and management from Brown University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia, and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. Arnold was a participant in Leadership Greater Hartford and has been involved in organizations focusing on education and mentoring. He also served as a trustee on the City of Hartford Municipal Employees' Retirement Fund. Arnold and his wife, Nadine Francis West, live in Hartford.