Meet our Team

Staff

Sandy Marshall, Founder/CEO

Sandy Marshall has spent the past twenty years in nonprofit management, including work with the American Heart Association, Special Olympics and Easter Seals; she is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE). Three years after creating the national cause marketing campaign, NASCAR Day, Ms. Marshall founded The NASCAR Foundation, which is now a $5 million organization engaging millions of fans annually. In her nearly ten years at NASCAR, she believes her most important work was in the STEM area of NASCAR. Engaging the company and sport with non-profits and making STEM exciting and relevant through motorsports. Due to her passion for helping nonprofits that have the mission and infrastructure to make great social change, she started Sandra Marshall and Associates— a consulting group focused on fueling social impact, www.smaimpact.com.

While funding national STEM initiatives through The NASCAR Foundation, Sandy learned of the disadvantages that girls and women have in STEM majors and careers, and became committed to doing what she could to make a difference in her own community - Project Scientist had lift off! Personally Sandy had experienced gender stereotyping and a lack of role models as she pursued a STEM major in college and as a result changed majors. As a mother of two young girls with a passion for science, Sandy remains committed to changing the status quo for her girls as well as girls across the country. Project Scientist began summer 2011 out of Sandy’s guesthouse in Charlotte, NC. The organization is now on four University campuses serving over 800 girls annually. Ms. Marshall attended the University of Southern California, where she received a BS in Public Policy with an emphasis on Nonprofits. She has a certificate in nonprofit management from the University of California, Irvine. Sandy and her family currently split time between Laguna Beach, Pasadena and Charlotte.

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 & 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.

Pia Grace Torres, Communications Specialist

Pia serves as the communications specialist for Project Scientist, advocating for girls and women in STEM in the community. She is passionate about philanthropy, and has been volunteering for different organizations since she was 6 years old. Her love for philanthropy paired with her zeal for communication led her to being the marketing manager for Project Scientist.

She began her communications career interning for a multitude of organizations, including Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach, FOX Broadcasting and FX Networks. While interning and studying at Long Beach State, she also led as the Long Beach chapter president of PRSSA, a professional organization dedicated to providing resources and opportunities for public relations students. She has been recognized as a leader in communications, winning the “OCPRSA Shining Star Emerging Leader Award” and the Long Beach State “Professional Promise in Public Relations Award.”

Pia is thrilled to have the opportunity to pair her love for philanthropy with her passion for communication to serve as Project Scientist’s marketing manager, aiding in Project Scientist’s mission to empower girls to follow their dreams.

Kimberly Lewis, Community Outreach Coordinator

Kimberly Lewis joined Project Scientist as the Community Outreach Coordinator in 2019. With a background in Business Management from Hardin-Simmons University, Kimberly builds business and client relationships for Project Scientist, and assists in site location management at the national level. She is an integral part of furthering the development of the connections with the organization’s investors, participants, customers and volunteers. Kimberly embraces the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for giving girls the ability to learn and grow through STEM.

Before joining Project Scientist, Kimberly worked as a catering and event coordinator, a representative in service industry, a legal assistant, tutored children with disabilities and interpreted for the Deaf. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Kimberly and her husband have become Laguna Beach locals. For the past seven years, Kimberly has spent her time investing in her children as a stay at home mom, raising three girls who now actively participate and enjoy all things Project Scientist. Hopefully, a dog will become a part of the family picture soon. 

Ellen McCarty, Atlanta Site Coordinator

Ellen McCarty brings over twenty-five years of executive leadership experience in the nonprofit sector. She has been the recipient of local, state, and national recognition for her design, creation, and launch of services in, Georgia Title One elementary schools, the juvenile justice system, residential programs for children and youth in foster care and aging out of foster care, and permanent housing for homeless men, women, and children infected and/or affected with HIV/AIDS

Ellen served as a statewide trainer for the Governor’s Office for Children and Families while working in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. She has designed and taught workshops on the nonprofit sector, grant writing, board governance, and best practice boards, unlocking the fear of fundraising, and program sustainability, to name a few. She has served as a guest lecturer at colleges and universities including the Emory University Young Scholars Program. Ellen has also served as an instructor and consultant for Foundation Center - Atlanta; the Georgia Center for Nonprofits – Nonprofit University; United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta’s Volunteer in Training Program; Right Management; Atlanta Public Library System, and nonprofits of all sizes.  

Ellen graduated from Troy University with a B.S. in Social Rehabilitation and attended the University of Georgia Graduate School of Social Work. She additionally holds numerous certifications.

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.