Meet our Team


Sandy Marshall, Founder/CEO

Sandy Marshall is the founder, CEO, and visionary of Project Scientist, a national nonprofit that turns girls ages 4 to 12 onto science, technology, engineering and math. She’s passionate about igniting girls’ confidence that a STEM career is obtainable for any girl.

Project Scientist offers virtual summer STEM camps nationwide – which Marshall developed in a matter of weeks once COVID-19 hit – along with year-round expeditions to STEM companies in select cities. The organization’s in-person summer STEM academies on college campuses will resume in multiple states in 2022.

Sandy Marshall began Project Scientist in 2011 with six girls in her backyard, including her then 4-year-old daughter, Ellie.  Marshall was founder and executive director of The NASCAR Foundation and not looking to launch a new non-profit. She simply couldn’t find a program like it for Ellie and decided to start her own.

Nine years later, Project Scientist has served more than 10,000 girls. More than half have attended on scholarship, representing low-income households near college campuses. Studies from Harvard Medical School, UNC Charlotte, and SheLeads have all praised Project Scientist's impact.  Project Scientist has been featured in news stories from California to North Carolina.

Sandy Marshall has developed partnerships with leading universities and strong relationships with top STEM companies, from Trane Technologies to Google Fiber, who believe in Project Scientist’s mission. They participate as expedition sites and donors, with their female STEM leaders serving as role models to inspire the next generation of female scientists, engineers, and tech innovators.

Marshall and Project Scientist were also honored to receive an Acumen Civic Accelerator grant. The Accelerator invests in and supports social ventures that solve pressing social and environmental issues by engaging people.

A national speaker and advocate for diversity in STEM, Sandy Marshall is a trusted advisor for companies, universities, foundations, and parents on how these groups can support diversity in STEM for everyone's benefit.

During COVID-19, Marshall’s interests include keeping the dog off work Zoom calls, competing with her husband, Kinnon, and daughters Ellie and Ivy in the Marshall Olympics (complete with water balloons and Nerf guns), and playing family games of Corona Uno, a variation of the card game Uno with added cards and ever-changing rules.

Brenda Vass, Chief Development Officer

Brenda Vass brings almost 20 years of experience in the development profession and still finds it incredibly rewarding! After graduating from Francis Marion University with a Mass Communications degree, Brenda’s plans to be the next “Dan Rather” were abruptly changed after managing her first fundraiser as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society just one month before graduating! She knew that her passion was connecting people with purpose and pursued every opportunity to support her vision for becoming a development professional. 

Over the next twenty years, Brenda worked for organizations like Special Olympics, National MS Society, American Heart Association, Arts Camp; Science Council and more recently held the chief development officer position for NC MedAssist. Her passion for customer service excellence, storytelling, and a knack for seeing potential in everyone have helped her find success with generating interest, awareness and income for the mission of the organizations she has been fortunate to serve. 

Brenda has an excitement for developing strategic approaches to funding challenges and is genuinely curious of people and their motivations—interests that she feels helps her to boldly reject status quo in the pursuit of launching successful initiatives to support the organization’s mission. With two daughters, she feels proud to serve in a role that will help so many young girls find their voice echoing in rooms that they otherwise never thought they could speak.

Alicia Thunell, Chief Operations Specialist

Alicia Thunell joined Project Scientist in 2020 as the St. Paul Market Lead. She believes the value and importance of the mission and vision Project Scientist has set out to achieve. She has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Business Administration with Technology Management. She understands the challenges girls face in STEM and believes Project Scientist is an amazing opportunity to inspire girls to succeed.  As a mother to two girls, she has actively participated and lead programs for youth academics and wellness programs to ensure all girls have the confidence to transform their goals into realities. Before coming to Project Scientist, Alicia worked in Healthcare Operations and Information Technology. She brings over 20 years of program leadership that will contribute to the development of the St. Paul market and ultimately great success for girls in STEM.

Rebecca Sims, National Program Director

As a Kentucky native, Rebecca attended the University of Kentucky, where she received degrees in Natural Resource Conservation and Soil Science, and the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, where she completed graduate work in Plant Biology. Throughout college and graduate school, Rebecca coupled her coursework with outreach opportunities. Through these opportunities, she gained an expanded understanding on the issues that prevail in STEM education across all self-identifiers, particularly those related to gender. She became more aware that issues of gender and equity can affect students despite their aptitudes and interests in STEM fields. Rebecca is passionate about fixing these leaking pipelines early, and giving a young and diverse community an opportunity to explore their STEM curiosities and view a different future for themselves as she once had the opportunity to do. Rebecca is delighted at the opportunity to be a part of the amazing Project Scientist team where through advocacy, mentorship and education we can create a community where all children thrive!

Kelly O'Brien, Business Office Specialist

Kelly O'Brien has served on the Project Scientist team as our Office Coordinator, since 2016. Over her entire adult life, Kelly has lived her passion for education and for children. Working in education for more than 10 years, Kelly has taught Kindergarten, 4th grade, 6th grade and 8th grade. More recently, Kelly has managed administration and logistics for a property investment start-up. A Northern California native, Kelly moved to Southern California more than 15 years ago to pursue tertiary education. Kelly holds a single subject and multiple subject teaching credential; an MA in Education involving post graduate work at Chapman University and the National University; and a BA in English Literature with a minor in Deaf Education from California State University, Fullerton. A passionate athlete, Kelly believes deeply in fostering an active lifestyle from childhood. Kelly has coached children's soccer and softball and currently, leads a running group for children. Kelly and her husband have distinguished themselves as advocates for children and have elected to invest in an arts and healing program for children of incarcerated parents, founded in their belief that children of all socioeconomic backgrounds and life circumstances deserve equal opportunities to education and educational support programs. Kelly is a married, mother of two and lives in Laguna Beach, California.

Candy Alvarado, Administrative Associate & West Coast Site Director

Candy joined the Project Scientist team in 2016 where she began teaching the preK-Kinder class. Driven by the mission of Project Scientist to deliver a diverse and high quality STEM academy she returned the following summer as a site director at Caltech. Her passion for teaching and delivering high quality instruction began early on as she received a degree in Liberal Studies and a Multiple Subject Credential from Cal State Long Beach. She worked as a teacher for 12 years in Los Angeles taking on leadership roles. While mentoring student teachers from both CSDH and CSLB Candy completed a certification program from the University of Irvine in Math and Science. Through this program Candy discovered a new interest in STEM. Today Candy is a mother of two: a nine-year-old daughter who wants to be a neuroscientist thanks to Project Scientist and a six-year-old son that also partakes in STEM activities. Candy is an active member in her community and a leader to her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. Committed to closing the gender gap she seizes any opportunity to drive and spark interest in STEM!

Kierstin Barry, Education and Administrative Coordinator

Kierstin holds a B.S. in Physiology and Neuroscience with a minor in Education Studies from the University of California, San Diego. For the past several summers, Barry has assisted Project Scientist camp directors, teachers, and other summer fellows in creating an enriching and exciting STEM environment by supervising classrooms, leading experiments, and coordinating with local STEM leaders to get involved. She has taught science and math curriculums to girls in several age groups, and is a teacher for Project Scientist's STEM Club.

Kierstin joined the staff of Project Scientist because she’s seen firsthand how life-changing STEM role models can be to young women. “Women have great potential not only to thrive in STEM but to revolutionize these fields,” she says. “Far too few young women are able to see their potential for STEM careers. I’m excited to be a part of an organization that’s changing that dynamic, and propelling intelligent and creative young women into fields that really need them.”

Board Members

Jennie Ibrahim, Chair

Jennie has been a software engineer at Google since 2010. Prior to joining Google, she worked for Department of Defense contractors including General Dynamics Information Technology and BAE Systems. She holds a master’s degree in computer science from Northeastern University, Boston. Jennie frequently lectures on topics ranging from Java and Angular Dart to team dynamics and building professional networks. 

Jennie has always been passionate about education and particularly about encouraging girls to enjoy STEM. Born and raised in Sudan, Jennie experienced poverty and saw firsthand how nonprofit organizations improved the standard of living of whole communities because of their investments in education and building schools. 

Through her experiences as an immigrant in the U.S., where resources are comparatively abundant, it became clear that a more holistic approach incorporating education with the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of students is key in equipping them to achieve their dreams.

Stephen Hagood, Vice-Chair

Steve Hagood is senior vice president and chief information officer at Ingersoll Rand and a member of the company’s Enterprise Leadership Team.

Steve leads the company’s global information technology (IT) organization and is responsible for the development and execution of Ingersoll Rand’s information technology strategies, including enterprise technology infrastructure, information security, and business IT solutions.

Prior to joining Ingersoll Rand, Steve spent 19 years with the Goodrich Corporation, most recently as the company’s vice president and chief information officer. With more than 30 years of experience, he has held multiple executive and financial leadership roles in the aerospace and defense, manufacturing and service industries.

Steve’s leadership extends beyond his role at Ingersoll Rand. He serves as executive sponsor of the Ingersoll Rand Asian Employee Network, and he regularly lends his leadership to industry and community organizations, including the Charlotte CIO Executive Summit. He serves on the Boards of Apparo, Project Scientist, and NIBCO Inc. He is also a prior director for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Technology Advisory Board, among other service roles.

Steve holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He was recognized by the Charlotte Business Journal as ‘CIO of the Year’ in 2014.

Stephen Jenvey, Treasurer

Stephen is director/vice president of architecture and strategy for the Capital Group Companies, based in Irvine, California.  He and his team are responsible for defining technology strategy and architecture for the company’s sales, marketing, and service divisions. 

Stephen’s career of more than 25 years in financial services has covered both technical and business functions with prior roles at Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments and Lehman Brothers. Stephen has a passion for emerging technology and innovation and the positive impact they have on businesses and individuals. He is a frequent public speaker on topics such as innovation in the enterprise, digital and fintech fields.

A longtime advocate for educational opportunities, Stephen has served on the board of directors for his children’s private schools and serves as a peer mentor at Capital Group for women in STEM. He currently resides in Orange County, California with his wife Tracy and their two boys, two dogs, a cat, and five chickens.

Stephanie Head, Secretary

Stephanie has over fifteen years of experience in data analytics and reporting in a variety of industries across the country and has always been passionate about STEM subjects. Stephanie currently leads the data management and reporting functions for PwC's Corporate Responsibility team. She leverages her data analytics background to help the team quantify, monitor, and analyze various data metrics in support of all PwC’s Corporate Responsibility programs including social and environmental initiatives. Prior to joining the Corporate Responsibility team, Stephanie was a Manager in the Advisory Forensic Technology Solutions practice of PwC for 8 years. Here, Stephanie worked with a variety of clients where she specialized in leading teams in the analysis of large, complex data sets, particularly in the context of litigation support and investigations. Stephanie holds a bachelor’s degree in Decision Sciences from Miami University in Ohio and is looking forward to sending her daughter to Project Scientist in 2019!

Ashley Aagard, Member

Ashley Aagard is founder and managing director of Talent Design Co., a new Minneapolis-based Talent development company. Created to help companies optimize teams and empower women in hte workplace. For more than 10 years, Aagard has specialized in developing, partnering and creating world class talent acquisition and development for both loarge corporation and integrated agency settings. She has a passion for leading organizations in areas of inclusion, diversity, and gender equality and works close with her teams to bring talent that embodies all.

Prior to founding Talent Design Co., Aagard supported, recruited, and built an internal agency for Best Buy's creative, marketing and interactive team. She also lead talent acquisition teams and inclusion initiatives for advertising agencies Barkley and Colle McVoy.

When not nurturing great talent, Aagard loves exploring new places with her husband and three kiddos.

Lori Friedman, Member

Since 2004 Lori has served as senior director of translational oncology at Genentech. After earning a Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Lori completed postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge, U.K. Lori was a scientist at Exelixis for six years prior to joining Genentech.

A strong supporter of opportunities for women in STEM fields, Lori serves on the Women in Cancer Research (WICR) Council for the American Association of Cancer Research and chaired Genentech's Women in Science and Engineering (gWISE) group. She also received the Rising Star Award from the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at her Iowa high school.  She has published 86 scientific papers and has 24 issued patents.

Lori is married with two daughters and lives in San Francisco. 

Betsy Grider, Member

As chief strategy officer at Patron Technology Betsy thrives at the intersection of strategy and technology in the sports and entertainment industry. At Patron Technology Betsy focuses on strategic planning, corporate development and opportunities to grow a premiere live event enterprise technology platform. Prior to joining Patron Technology, Betsy built, launched, and led NASCAR’s Technology Development and Integration division.  

Betsy is a frequent keynote speaker on sports innovation, virtual and augmented reality, strategic alliances, and women in sports and technology.  She most recently served on the boards of directors for the Humane Society of Charlotte and the Charlotte Smart Cities Council.

Betsy lives in Charlotte with her husband, son, and daughter, where she actively participates in public education advocacy. 

Stephanie Hewlett, Member

Stephanie Hewlett is an assurance partner with the professional services firm PwC, LLP.  She has 20 years of experience providing accounting and auditing services to public and private companies in the technology and media industries.  Stephanie specializes in financial statement audits, mergers and acquisitions, internal control assessments, Sarbanes-Oxley 404 implementation, adoption of new accounting standards, carve-out audits, initial public offerings, debt offerings, and SEC reporting.  During her career she has spent time in PwC's New York, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City offices. Stephanie serves as Diversity Leader in her PwC office.

Stephanie graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelors in Science.  She is a Certified Public Accountant and is a member of American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Stephanie was recognized by Utah Business Magazine as Forty under 40 in 2017 for her contributions in transforming the business world as we know it. Stephanie is the diversity leader in her PwC office and is passionate about mentoring women professionals and helping them embrace their strengths.  

Mary Izadi, Member

Mary Izadi is the Constitutional Policing Advisor for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. As a member of the Executive Command, she makes recommendations and advises on issues related to accountability, adherence to best practices, and policies and procedures. 

After graduating from UC Hastings College of Law, Mary spent over 11 years as a prosecutor with the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.  She brings her extensive legal experience and leadership skills with her to the Project Scientist Board.

After Mary’s daughter participated in the Summer STEM Academy, it was clear that Project Scientist was going to be a staple in her daughter’s summer programs. She watched her daughter's natural interest in science and engineering ignite while exploring exciting STEM careers. Mary hopes to provide other young girls the same opportunity to find their inner scientist.

Mary enjoys mentoring other professional women and volunteers for multiple organizations focused on the needs of women and children in the community. Mary lives in Orange County, California, with her husband, daughter, and son.

Chad Stephens, Member

Chad Stephens is vice president of innovation and development at Sealed Air Corporation.  He and his group of engineers, scientists, and technologists lead the development and support of packaging solutions. This multidisciplinary team has responsibilities for equipment and material development focused across retail foods, food service, industrial goods, and ecommerce fulfillment.  

Chad’s career at Sealed Air Corporation spans 24 years progressing through many contributor and managerial roles during that time.  Each of those positions created opportunities in people development, leadership, and continuous learning in the fields of science and engineering.  The most recent assignments dating back to 2012 had additional responsibilities of strategy development and business partnership for multiple divisions to lead growth through innovation. 

Chad has a passion for emerging technology, innovation, and problem solving, and he is an engaged leader with experience managing multiple technical disciplines, culture transformation, and performance improvement. Chad is a graduate of Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in packaging science.

Julie St. John, Member

Julie St. John is President of Investment Operations and Information Technology Group and is also the Chief Information Officer for The Capital Group Companies.  She joined the management team of Capital in 2007.

Julie has held senior operations, consulting and technology positions in financial services for over 20 years.  She has broad experience in strategy and planning, transformational program management, strategic sourcing, and all aspects of global technology and operations management. She values the role that agile operations and technology infrastructure can play in enabling the business. She served on the Capital Group Companies Board of Directors for the past six years and recently joined the CRMC Board of Directors. Her recent Transformation Program of the Information Technology Group at Capital resulted in over $150 million save to the company that was used to enable new business channels and services.

Julie served on the Board of Directors at 3COM and was involved in their initial joint venture of Huawei Technologies Co. Huawei continues to be one of the leading telecommunications businesses in China. She served on the Executive Board of Directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of greater Washington, and drove the creation of computer clubhouses for inner city youth to learn web technologies. She received the inaugural Heroines in Technology Award presented by the March of Dimes.  

Ms. St. John holds an MBA in Finance from Florida State University and a B.A. in English and Political Science from the University of Michigan. She is a CPA, licensed in Florida, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Ms. St. John was recognized as one of InfoWorld’s Most Influential CTOs and has received the Gartner CIO Choice Award and the Computerworld Premier 100 CIO Award. She was included in the Wall Street Journal & Technology's Gold Book. Julie was recently inducted into the 2020 IDG CIO Hall of Fame.