Advisory Board

We are thrilled to have such an extraordinary Advisory Board to offer its insights and guidance to the Adult Literacy XPRIZE. These leaders in their fields are contributing their broad expertise to ensure maximum rigor in this competition.

Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier
is the Former Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the United States Department of Education. Dr. Dann-Messier has worked her entire career to expand education and workforce opportunities for low income youth and adults, with a primary emphasis on adult education, career and technical education, correctional education, and supporting community colleges. Dann-Messier was the Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education (2009-2014) and also served as Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Post-Secondary Education (2013-2014) in the United States Department of Education.

Previously, Dann-Messier served as the president of Dorcas Place Adult & Family Learning Center in Providence, R.I., which provides educational and workforce services, college preparatory classes and family literacy programs for low income adults and disconnected youth. She also served on the RI Board of Governors for Higher Education.

Currently Dann-Messier works for the Institute for Public Research in Arlington VA., is a faculty member in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program at Johnson and Wales University and is an Education and Workforce Consultant. She is a member of the board of the National Skills Coalition, the Institute for Educational Leadership, College and Community Fellowship and a Trustee of Johnson and Wales University.

John Danner
is the co-Founder and CEO of Zeal Learning, focusing on low-cost technology-enabled on-demand tutoring, working with students for whom the current education system is not working. Previously, John was co-Founder and CEO of Rocketship Education, which originated the concept of blended schools combining online and classroom learning. John was a fifth and second grade public school teacher before starting Rocketship.

John’s first startup was NetGravity, the first Internet adserver company, where he was co-Founder and CEO. John took NetGravity public in 1998 and sold the company in 1999. John has a B.S. and M.S. Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and a M.Ed. in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University. He is an Aspen Institute Crown Fellow, Ashoka Fellow, and was the 2010 winner of the McNulty Prize for Social Entrepreneurship from the Aspen Institute. 

Marty Finsterbusch
is the Executive Director of VALUEUSA. Marty Finsterbusch has made literacy a lifetime commitment. From his early childhood days, diagnosed with learning differences, he realized the need for a better way to educate and support people with learning differences. Marty became involved in adult literacy in 1986, and immediately recognized a vital need to draw on the wealth of knowledge from adult learners themselves.

In 2001, he was hired as the first Executive Director for VALUEUSA, the only national nonprofit adult literacy organization in the United States governed and operated by current and former literacy students. Currently he is involved in conducting leadership trainings around the country through the Adult Learner Leadership in Education Services (ALLIES) research on adult learner involvement improving their program. Marty helped the organization develop and deliver leadership trainings throughout the U.S., conducting nine National Adult Learner Leadership Institute events, and achieve national prominence as the authority on learner involvement in adult literacy.

Marty has served on Pennsylvania's Adult Basic and Literacy Education Interagency Coordinating Council, having been appointed by three different Governors. During his National Institute for Literacy Fellowship in 2000, he studied adult learner involvement in all 50 states. Marty has served on the governing boards of several national and state organizations including the National Coalition for Literacy for six years as board member and two as president, Laubach Literacy Action (ProLiteracy), SCALE, and Pennsylvania's State Coalition for Literacy. In 2009, he testified before the House Committee on Education and Labor’s Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness Subcommittee on improving our nation’s adult education and literacy system.

Michael Horn
speaks and writes about the future of education and works with a portfolio of education organizations to improve the life of each and every student. He is the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a non-profit think tank, and he serves as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions, which offers innovation services to higher education institutions.

Horn is the author and coauthor of multiple books, white papers, and articles on education, including the award-winning book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and the Amazon-bestseller Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools.

An expert on disruptive innovation, online learning, blended learning, competency-based learning, and how to transform the education system into a student-centered one, Horn serves on the board and advisory boards of a range of education organizations. He is on the board of Fidelis Education, Education Elements, Global Personalized Academics, the Silicon Schools Fund, the National Association of Independent Schools, and the Minerva Institute. He serves as an advisor to Intellus Learning, Pedago, Knod, Everest Education, AltSchool, Degreed, the Education Innovation Advisory Board at Arizona State University, and the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University, and he is an executive editor at Education Next.

Horn was selected as a 2014 Eisenhower Fellow to study innovation in education in Vietnam and Korea, and Tech&Learning magazine named him to its list of the 100 most important people in the creation and advancement of the use of technology in education. He holds a BA in history from Yale University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Dr. Karen D. Lincoln
is an Associate Professor in the USC School of Social Work, Director of the USC Hartford Center of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work, Associate Director at the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging and Founder and Chair of Advocates for African American Elders at the University of Southern California. Dr. Lincoln has published over 50 articles and book chapters in the areas of stress, aging and mental health disparities. She has been published in The New York Times and has contributed to articles published in The Washington Post, US News & World Report, Los Angeles Magazine, Los Angeles Daily News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal.

Dr. Lincoln has received more than $2 million in grant funding to support her research which focuses on improving clinical and community-based treatment of African Americans with mental health disorders and chronic health conditions. She also contributes to a blog where she fuses social commentary with her vast knowledge of health and mental health of African American communities; posing questions such as “Is Being Black Bad for Your Health?,” disseminating information about how the Affordable Care Act will impact African Americans, and sharing her inspiration for a “Healthy Black America.”

Dr. Lincoln is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a Hartford Faculty Scholar. She is also Owner and CEO of Karen D. Lincoln Consulting Services. Her company provides a full range of applied research and evaluation services and cultural competency training to nonprofits, community-based organizations, government agencies and major universities.

Dr. Lincoln is an honors graduate from UC Berkeley where she received a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in African American studies and a graduate from the University of Michigan where she earned a MSW, a M.A. in Sociology and a Ph.D. in Social Work and Sociology.

In 2014, Dr. Lincoln was ranked third among the most influential African American social work scholars in the United States. In 2015, she was ranked twelfth among all female social work scholars in the United States.

Mari Riddle
is a Community Development Professional and Former President and CEO of Centro Latino for Literacy. An urban planner by training, Mari Riddle approaches adult literacy from a community economic development lens advocating for access to basic functional literacy for youth and adults with zero to 3rd grade education. From April 2010 - September 2015, Ms Riddle led Centro Latino for Literacy, a 25 year-old non-profit adult literacy organization that developed a proprietary Spanish language literacy curriculum, Leamos™ (Let’s Read).

The curriculum consists of a web-based, mouse driven, interactive basic literacy course (www.leamos.org) that teaches non-literate Spanish speakers how to read and write to a 2nd grade level; and a Functional Spanish Literacy curriculum that teaches very low literate Spanish speakers grammar, math and financial education to a 4th grade literacy level. A little over one-third of Leamos adult students are indigenous speakers and speak Spanish as their second language. English will be their third. Teaching people how to read and write in Spanish first allows for higher success rates in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

Leamos was used by LAUSD Division of Adult and Continuing Education as the Pre-ESL offering at the Belmont Community Adult School located in a dense Latino immigrant community. Since 2008, over forty non-profit organizations in eight states, primarily Southern CA, have used Leamos to teach non-literate Spanish speaking youth and adults to read and write.

In 2014 Ms. Riddle received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for bringing thousands of non-literate Spanish speakers online for literacy, learning, and a lifetime of opportunity.

Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D.
is the The Charles and Helen Schwab Professor in Dyslexia and Learning Development at Yale University and Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Both a child neurologist and neuroscientist, Dr. Shaywitz is dedicated to ensuring that scientific progress in dyslexia is translated into policy and practice. His research applies functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to understand the neurobiology of reading and dyslexia in children and adults. These studies have been critical in identifying a neural signature for dyslexia, making a previously hidden disability visible, and for the first time demonstrate the brain basis for the lack of fluency in dyslexia. His neurobiological studies of the development of neural systems in dyslexic children has shown that these have many similarities to the memory based Kanji writing system in Japanese.

Recent research by Dr. Shaywitz examines differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, revealing that in dyslexia brain connectivity is disrupted to the word-form area, an area critical to reading fluency and that connectivity is disrupted between reading and attention systems. Other recent studies focus on: the economic costs of dyslexia in adults; the emerging achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers as early as first grade and its persistence; potential pharmacotherapy for dyslexia as an adjunct treatment for dyslexia; and an inexpensive, teacher-administered kindergarten and first grade screener for dyslexia. Studies in progress use fMRI to investigate attentional mechanisms in dyslexia and the development of vocabulary in dyslexic children.

The author of over 300 scientific papers, Dr. Shaywitz’ honors include election to membership in the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and recipient of the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Washington University. By invitation he has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and here, in the US, at the Congressional Wives Club, at the US Senate Field Hearings October, 2015 as well as before many policy and educational forums. Dr. Shaywitz was selected, along with Dr. Sally Shaywitz, as recipient of the Lawrence G. Crowley Distinguished Lectureship at Stanford University; The Annie Glenn Award at Ohio State University; the Distinguished Lectureship at Bank Street College of Education; and the Stoll Distinguished Lecture at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Shaywitz currently serves on the Boards of the Park Century School and the Westmark School. He previously served on the Institute of Medicine Immunization Safety Review Committee, on the National Vaccine Program Safety Subcommittee and on the Scientific Advisory Board of the March of Dimes. Dr. Shaywitz has been selected annually for Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors. Dr. Shaywitz has served for much of his career as Chief of Child Neurology at Yale School of Medicine, stepping down in 2015 to focus his energies on increasing public awareness and understanding of dyslexia and ensuring that 21st Century knowledge of the science of dyslexia is used to inform the education and approach to children and adults who are dyslexic.

Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D.
is The Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at Yale University and Co-Director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. A physician-scientist (Developmental Pediatrician), Dr. Shaywitz’ studies provide the basic framework and details for the 21st century scientific understanding of dyslexia. Her ongoing longitudinal epidemiological studies continue to track a population-based cohort from kindergarten entry to mature adulthood and have provided contemporary knowledge of the prevalence, gender composition, universality and precursors, persistence and long-term outcome of dyslexia. Dyslexia is highly prevalent, affecting 17.5% - 21% of the population and represents over 80% of all learning disabilities.

Her more recent studies have provided the long-sought empiric evidence for the unexpected nature of dyslexia. Dr. Shaywitz is currently studying reading and dyslexia in a disadvantaged population attending a charter school system and in disadvantaged students attending a public charter school specialized for dyslexia. Her most recent paper is published in the November, 2015 issue of Journal of Pediatrics: “Achievement Gap in Reading is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists Through Adolescence.” Studies in progress include both the economic and personal impact of dyslexia on adults and the development of vocabulary in children and adults. She is finalizing a new instrument, the Dyslexia Screening Measure (DSM) for use by teachers to screen kindergarteners and first graders for dyslexia.

Dr. Shaywitz is the author of over 250 scientific articles and chapters, as well as her award-winning, “Overcoming Dyslexia” (Alfred Knopf, 2003) which details fundamental scientific findings on dyslexia and how to translate this scientific knowledge into policy and clinical practice. Overcoming Dyslexia has received critical acclaim and has been the top selling book on dyslexia since its publication.

An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Shaywitz is annually selected as one of the Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors. Her awards include, among others, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Williams College; the Townsend Harris Medal of the City College of New York; the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the Achievement Award in Women’s Health from the Society for the Advancement of Women’s Health Research, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s Sidney Berman Award.

Dr. Shaywitz has served on the Congressionally-mandated National Reading Panel and the Committee to Prevent Reading Difficulties in Young Children of the National Research Council and, by Presidential appointment (President Bush, President Obama) on the National Board of the Institute for Education Sciences of the US Department of Education. Most recently she testified in Congress on “The Science of Dyslexia” before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, September 2014; presented a Congressional briefing sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) September 2015 and to US Senate field hearings on October 13, 2015. She also co-chaired the National Research Council Committee on Gender Differences in the Careers of Science, Engineering and Mathematics Faculty; served on the WISC V advisory panel; is a Trustee of the Park Century School and serves on the Advisory Board of the Korchak Center of USC, the Laurel School and the Westmark School. She has also served on the Advisory Council of the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke (NINDS), the National Research Council Committee on Women in Science and Engineering and as Chair, Steering Committee for AXXS Workshop; Committee on Women in Science and Engineering Policy and Global Affairs Division, National Research Council; and the Scientific Advisory Board of the March of Dimes.

Emily Dalton Smith

is a strategic partnerships manager for Social Good at Facebook. She was previously a senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed investments in personalized learning tools for K-12 students. Prior to the Gates Foundation, Emily was the director of student services and technology partnerships at Arizona State University Online and special assistant to the provost. She began her career in education as a speechwriter and policy analyst at the State University of New York and a holds a master's degree in political science from ASU.

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