Leadership and Staff

Board of Directors

Dora Ann Verde, Board Vice ChairDora Ann Verde is a Certified Public Accountant with a private practice in San Antonio that exclusively serves nonprofit organizations. Previously, she served as chief of internal audit for the San Antonio Water System and was a partner in a public accounting firm. Her community involvement includes board service for many nonprofit organizations, including ACE Academy in the Northeast Independent School District, National Association of Corporate Directors, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, and Trellis Company. She serves as a corporate board member and chair of the audit committee for a privately held corporation. She is also a member of Impact San Antonio, a women’s giving group, and two women’s networking groups, SA100 and Oakes Club. Dora holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in accounting from the University of Texas at San Antonio and an Associate in Arts degree from San Antonio College. Her professional organizations include membership in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Texas Society of CPAs, San Antonio Chapter of CPAs, and Institute of Internal Auditors.

An image of Alma Garcia.Alma Garcia started her career as a bilingual education teacher in the Brownsville Independent School District, where she went on to serve as an elementary and secondary school principal. She later joined the University of Texas at Brownsville, where, as an adjunct professor, she designed instructional methods courses for graduate and undergraduate students in secondary education programs and later served as director of GEAR UP, a college awareness, readiness, enrollment, and outreach program.  She joined Educate Texas in 2004 and is among the foremost experts on dual enrollment, dual credit, and innovative school models like Early College High Schools (ECHS) and Pathways in Early College High Schools (P-TECH). In 2015, she established a consulting practice dedicated to supporting school districts, administrators, and nonprofits statewide with leadership and instructional guidance. Alma holds a bachelor’s degree in education from UT-Pan American and a master’s degree in educational administration from Stephen F. Austin State University.

Mark Milliron, Ph.D, Board ChairDr. Mark Milliron serves as President and CEO of National University (NU), one of the largest private, nonprofit universities in the United States. NU is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) and has a 50-year history of innovating around the needs of military, working, and nontraditional students. Prior to his presidency at NU, Mark served as Senior Vice President of Western Governors University (WGU) & Executive Dean of the Teachers College. Previous roles have included serving as the co-founder and chief learning officer of Civitas Learning; deputy director for Postsecondary Improvement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; founding chancellor of WGU Texas; endowed fellow and director of the National Institute of Staff and Organizational Development at The University of Texas at Austin; vice president for education and medical practice with SAS; and president and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College. Mark helps catalyze positive change in education through his service on the boards and advisory councils of leading-edge education organizations, including Bennett College, the Global Online Academy, Civitas Learning, the Mastery Transcript Consortium, and ISKME/Open Education Resource Commons. He also holds an appointment as a Professor of Practice in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin. Mark received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in organizational communication from Arizona State University and his doctorate in education administration from The University of Texas at Austin.

Josh HuntJosh Hunt is executive vice president and member of the board of directors for Hunt Companies, Inc., headquartered in El Paso, Texas. Josh is also president of the Hunt Family Foundation and serves on several other Hunt governance boards and committees. In addition to his duties at Hunt Companies, Josh serves on numerous civic, non-profit, and professional boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for the Texas State History Museum Foundation; WestStar Bank; the Medical Center of the Americas Foundation (former Chair); the Paso Del Norte Foundation; and La Nube – El Paso Children’s Museum and Science Center (founding Chair). Josh is a member of the Executive Committee of the Borderplex Alliance and a member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) El Paso/Juarez Chapter. He is also chair of MountainStar Sports Group (MSSG), which owns several professional sports teams.

Richard Rhodes, Ph.D., Board PresidentDr. Richard Rhodes is the president of Texas A&M University-Central Texas. He previously served as chancellor of the Austin Community College District, having served as its chief executive since September 2011. In that time, Richard has worked to improve pathways into higher education, strengthen awareness of the community college mission, and give students the tools to accomplish their educational, professional, and personal goals. He also serves on the boards of many national and local organizations, including Trellis Company, chair of the American Association of Community Colleges, a member of the League for Innovation, a gubernatorial appointment to the Texas Workforce Investment Council, and a member of the Association of Governing Boards – Presidents Council.  Richard holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration in accounting and a Master of Arts degree in educational management and development from New Mexico State University. He earned his doctorate through the Community College Leadership Program at the University of Texas at Austin, where he received the Distinguished Graduate Award. Richard is also a Certified Public Accountant in Texas and New Mexico.

Suzanne WalshSuzanne Walsh is the current president of Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She was most recently deputy director of postsecondary success for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, leading and developing a team and a portfolio of more than $70 million in postsecondary investments in institutional transformation in the United States. She previously served in leadership roles with the Lumina Foundation for Education and The Heinz Endowments. Suzanne has been a frequent speaker and workshop leader at conferences such as the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and the Global Learning Council, of which she is an active member. She has published and edited several books and journal articles on the topic of educational transformation and is the recipient of numerous awards, honors, and fellowships. Suzanne has her juris doctorate and master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University, a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and an associate degree in applied science from Hudson Valley Community College. She is a member of the Ohio Bar.

An image of Trellis Foundation Board Member Welcome Wilson, Jr.Welcome Wilson, Jr. is president and CEO of Welcome Group, LLC, a real estate development firm specializing in single-tenant office buildings and industrial buildings, including lab, warehouse, and manufacturing facilities in the state of Texas. He is also the joint venture partner in Kingham ∙ Dalton ∙ Wilson Ltd., a design/build construction affiliate of Welcome Group, and is a director of River Oaks Financial Group, Inc. Welcome currently serves as chairman of the Alamo Trust and serves on the board of directors of the Remember the Alamo Foundation in San Antonio. He was appointed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to serve on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in Austin. He also serves on the board of directors of the Texas Higher Education Foundation, Greater Houston Partnership, the Trellis Company, the Trellis Foundation, the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, and the Texas Business Hall of Fame. In addition, he is chairman of the board of the Southwest Houston Redevelopment Authority and, by appointment of the Mayor of Houston, is chairman of Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone #20 (TIRZ # 20). Welcome is a former gubernatorial appointee and former vice chairman of the University of Houston System Board of Regents. He is the immediate past chairman of the Houston Region Business Coalition and has served as vice chairman of the Houston Food Bank, chairman of the End Hunger Network, director of the Houston Chapter of the American Lung Association, director of the Houstonian Club in Houston, and president of the Kinkaid School Alumni Association. In 2018, The Houston Business Journal named Welcome Wilson, Jr. one of its “Most Admired CEOs.”

Staff

Kristin J. Boyer, Executive DirectorKristin Boyer leads Trellis Foundation’s efforts to advance equitable postsecondary outcomes for students across Texas. Her recent professional service includes several terms as an Advisory Committee member for the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education – the research arm of the Council for Opportunity in Education, chairing the Latino Student Success Funders Group, and serving as leadership committee chair of Philanthropy Advocates, a funders’ organization that informs policy and legislation in Texas. Prior to joining the Trellis Foundation at its inception in 2017, Kristin served as the director of the public benefit grant program for TG (now Trellis Company). In addition, she has held positions in higher education development, communications, admissions, and financial aid, and she served as a public school teacher in a Title I middle school in rural Kansas. Kristin holds a Master of Arts degree in communications, and bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish, with a secondary education endorsement.

Erica Villarreal Ekwurzel joined Trellis Foundation in 2023 with more than two decades in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, most recently as founder and principal of CivicAIM. This philanthropic advisory firm strengthened foundation governance, grantmaking, and social impact in Texas and beyond. She also served as a frontline fundraiser connecting resources to opportunities and a foundation program officer at an education-focused Central Texas family foundation. Erica has earned professional designations of Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy (CAP®) from The American College of Financial Services; 21/64 Certified Philanthropy Trainer & Facilitator; and Certified Fund Raising Executive. She also serves as the Secretary to Trellis Foundation board of directors and on the nonprofit boards of Austin Together, Austin Ed Fund, and The New Philanthropist’s Legacy Leadership Circle. Erica is a graduate of Austin College and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her master’s degree in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management and philanthropic studies.

Jenny Achilles joined Trellis Foundation (then Trellis Company/ TG) in 2013 with nearly a decade of higher education service in various capacities, including student affairs and study abroad advising. She serves on local and national committees, such as the Funders Collaborative for Higher Education in Prison & Reentry Support, Central Texas Education Funders Network steering committee, the Texas Rural Funders Membership & Dues Task Force, and the Grantmakers for Education Learning, Evaluation & Data (LEAD) Impact Group and Postsecondary Access & Attainment Impact Group. She previously served on the Membership Committee for the National Scholarship Providers Association from 2015-2017. She also leads the board of directors for a nonprofit dance and wellness studio in Austin. Jenny earned a Bachelor of Science in communication from Lamar University and master’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in journalism and public policy, with a focus on nonprofit studies.

Dr. Jay L. McCullar is a community leader, equity advocate, and educational consultant. He holds degrees from Texas State University, St. Edward’s University, and Grand Canyon University. Dr. Jay has held teaching positions at several higher education institutions as a professor of Humanities, Student Development, and Psychology. As an education consultant, he has supported several initiatives focused on early childhood education, out-of-school time, and post-secondary education. In 2017, he co-created The Greater-Austin Area My Brother’s Keeper Scholars initiative, where he acted as director and lead fundraiser, securing over $3 million to support young men of color. He serves on several boards, including LatinX Leaders Austin and Mainspring Schools, and has been recognized in Austin’s Forty Under Forty Community Awards. He is a Fellow in the African American Leadership Institute, Class of 2024. Dr. Jay is also a devoted family man who loves to spend quality time with those closest to him. In his free time, he volunteers with various community organizations and emphasizes mentorship and service.

Jesus PeralesJesus Perales joined Trellis Foundation in 2024 with more than ten years of experience in policy and advocacy. Prior to his arrival at the Foundation, he served as the Immigration Policy and Programs Coordinator at the Texas AFL-CIO, the state federation of labor unions. Jesus’ previous experience in higher education includes research, advocacy, and policy work at United We Dream and Young Invincibles and as a legislative staff member at the Texas Senate. Jesus earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Lamar University and a master’s degree in government and public service from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, focusing on state and local government.

Sara Reeves joined the Trellis Foundation in 2023 after managing United Way for Greater Austin’s grantmaking processes through a period of unprecedented growth during the COVID crisis. Before joining the United Way Team, she was a program manager in higher education, focusing on leadership development, international business, and entrepreneurship. Sara serves as chair of the PEAK Grantmaking Southwest Chapter and chair of Central Texas Education Funders. Sara spent time in Western Samoa with the Peace Corps, where she served as a secondary school computer instructor. Before joining the Peace Corps, she worked as a journalist at newspapers in Indiana and Florida. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri with a minor in Women’s Studies and a master’s degree in public affairs from Indiana University with a concentration in nonprofit management.

Mia Ibarra joined the Trellis Foundation in 2023 with more than 14 years of experience in nonprofit, government, and philanthropic service. Before Trellis, she was an advocate and campaign manager at Every Texan (formerly the Center for Public Policy Priorities), a statewide public policy nonprofit. Her previous higher education background includes the Udall Foundation, where she managed the competitive undergraduate Udall Scholarship program. Mia holds a bachelor’s degree from The Evergreen State College and a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin.

Shamecca Perkins is a first-generation college graduate and a fifth-year doctoral student in Educational Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. She is a Graduate Fellow at the Trellis Foundation and a Graduate Research Assistant at the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk. Before moving to Texas, she served as a college adviser in rural Virginia with the Virginia College Advising Corps. Shamecca graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish. She also has an M.Ed. in Quantitative Methods from the University of Texas at Austin and is anticipating completing her dissertation and doctoral degree in May 2025.