Michael Collins is Vice President of the Center for Racial Economic Equity at JFF. He oversees solutions to disrupt occupational segregation, eradicate the Black-white wealth gap, and create Black economic advancement.
The Center for Racial Economic Equity directly addresses the ways in which postsecondary education and training systems can expand pathways to career opportunities for members of populations that have historically faced systemic barriers to economic advancement—with a special focus on Black learners and workers.
Michael leads the development and implementation of a strategy that will serve as the foundation of a JFF effort to influence the practices of educational institutions, workforce organizations, intermediaries, associations, states, systems, and philanthropy.
Before joining JFF, Michael served as assistant commissioner for participation and success at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, where he collaborated with state and federal officials, educators, and other stakeholders to develop pre-K to postsecondary education policy. Earlier in his career, he taught English in San Antonio, Texas.
Michael is chair of the board of the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and is a member of the boards of the National Student Clearinghouse and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. He also serves on
the Guttman Community College advisory council and on the steering committee for the Scaling Partner Network convened by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Christy Ponce, Ph.D.
Dr. Christy Ponce has been President of Temple College since January 2019. Prior to that, she served as Executive Vice President at Lee College in Baytown, Texas. She also has held teaching and administrative positions at El Paso Community College and Austin Community College.
In 2016, Dr. Ponce was selected as a part of the inaugural Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence among the top 40 up and coming college presidents. This enabled her to participate in a year-long executive leadership program designed by The Aspen Institute and Stanford University to develop leaders who can help community colleges achieve higher levels of student success while maintaining broad access. In 2021, she was one of 25 community college leaders selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship.
Dr. Ponce serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s 1,200 community colleges.
Dr. Ponce earned a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in education from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in political science from Texas State University.
Elizabeth M. Puthoff, M.Ed., M.P.Aff., is President of Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT), an association of 40 independent, nonprofit colleges and universities across the state. She became ICUT’s fourth fulltime president in January of 2023. As President, Elizabeth is ICUT’s chief advocate, representing the association and its members at the state and federal levels. She also manages the day-to-day operations of the association and its staff, headquartered steps from the Capitol Complex. Elizabeth has served ICUT and its members in a variety of roles since 2005, most recently as Vice President for Research and Policy Analysis.
As Vice President she spearheaded ICUT’s legislative and research agendas, coordinating data collection and analysis to highlight the myriad impacts ICUT’s members schools have on the students and communities they serve. A three-time graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, Elizabeth holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a Master of Education, and a Master of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Her thesis work focused on teacher preparation and induction programs, as well as the contributions of public and private institutions of higher education to meeting statewide educational attainment and success goals. Prior to joining ICUT, Elizabeth taught high school chemistry in the Austin area. A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, she lives in Austin with her family.
William Serrata, Ph.D.
William Serrata, Ph.D. is President of El Paso Community College. Dr. William Serrata has been the President of the El Paso County Community College District since August 2012. Dr. Serrata holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas A&M University – College Station, a Master’s Degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University – College Station.
During his career, Dr. Serrata has provided enrollment management leadership in fostering enrollment growth as well as increases in student retention, dual credit enrollment, and graduation rates with an emphasis on first-generation and Hispanic populations and establishing a college-going culture. As President of EPCC, he has become recognized for his leadership in higher education at the local, regional, and national levels.
Dr. Serrata is an active member of the El Paso community and currently serves as a Board Member for Workforce Solutions Borderplex, Board of Directors for the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors for the El Paso Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and Chair of the Board for the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence. At the state level Dr. Serrata serves as the Chair for the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC), Co-Chair of the TACC Business Advisory Council, Chair of the TACC Texas Success Center Advisory Committee, Past Chair of the Texas Student Success Council convened by Educate Texas, and on the Board of Directors for Humanities Texas.
On the national level, Dr. Serrata serves on the Board of Directors for the Lumina Foundation, has previously served as Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Immediate Past-Chair of the Board of Directors of Excelencia in Education and serves as an Advisory Board Member of the Higher Education Research and Development Institute (HERDI). Dr. Serrata previously served on the National Student Clearing House Advisory Council and was a member of the 2015 class of the Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows. In 2019, Dr. Serrata was selected as the Western Region Chief Executive of the Year by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) and subsequently received the Marie Y. Martin Chief Executive Officer Award during the national conference.
Under Dr. Serrata’s leadership, the Aspen Institute announced that El Paso Community College (EPCC) was named one of 10 nation-wide finalists for the 2015 Aspen Prize for community college excellence which recognizes a college’s impact on student success. EPCC was selected from a pool of nearly 1,200 community colleges. Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education and Community College Week magazines continue to recognize EPCC as a national leader in awarding associate degrees to Hispanic students. The College earned the Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education for EPCC’s outcomes in accelerating Latino student success. EPCC received the 2016 AACC’s Student Success Award and is the recipient of the ACCT Western Regional Equity Award in 2016 and 2022.
Dr. Serrata and his wife Jessica have been married for over 20 years and are blessed with two wonderful sons, Nathan, and Joshua. Dr. Serrata enjoys fishing, reading, and spending time with his family.
Renzo Soto is a Policy Advisor with Texas 2036. He manages the work of Texas 2036 in higher education and workforce issues. He joined Texas 2036 in August 2021. He has since provided guidance on the implementation of higher education
and workforce legislation passed in the 2021 Legislative Session, including community college finance reform and the establishment of the state’s first-ever workforce development strategic plan by the Tri-Agency Workforce Initiative. He is also involved in improving state data infrastructures to ensure that Texas and its education and workforce institutions are ready for the rapidly-evolving, modern economy.
Prior to joining Texas 2036, Renzo was a staff member in the Texas House of Representatives. He began as a Legislative Aide for Representative Armando Walle in 2017, and after a brief stint in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., he returned to the Texas House to serve as Legislative Director for Representative Donna Howard. Renzo covered a variety of issues with a focus on the state budget, education, and healthcare.
Justin Yancy is President of the Texas Business Leadership Council. Justin Yancy joined the Texas Business Leadership Council (TBLC) as its President in July 2001. Established in 1994, the TBLC is a statewide network of CEOs and senior business executives who advance a long-term vision of a prosperous Texas in a globally competitive business environment. Justin is responsible for all aspects of the TBLC’s mission and organization including advocating for its legislative agenda, coordinating public policy research, managing membership involvement, and overseeing general operations.
Justin also serves as Executive Director of the Foundation for a Globally Competitive Texas, a nonprofit organization created by Texas business leaders to facilitate the growth of a prosperous Texas in a globally competitive business environment.
Before joining the TBLC, Justin served in the administrations of Governors’ George W. Bush and Rick Perry. From February 1995 to February 2001, he served as Director of International Protocol to the Governor and Secretary of State. During the 77th Legislative Session, Justin worked as a Policy Analyst in Governor Perry’s Policy Office.
Justin is as a member of several boards and organizations including State Business Executives, where he serves as Chairman, the Commissioner of Higher Education’s Economic and Workforce Council, the Texas Student Success Council, the Texas Association of Community Colleges’ Business Advisory Council, and the national State Business Roundtable Executives. Justin previously served on the boards of the Texas Education Reform Caucus, the H2O4TEXAS Advisory Board, Austin Sister Cities International, Texas Counts Campaign (US Census) Steering Committee, and was a member of the Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Financial Literacy Advisory Committee and the Austin Children’s Shelter Guild. From 2004-09, Justin was a Director of the Texas Lyceum and continues to stay active as an alumnus.
Justin holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Texas State University. A fifth-generation Texan, Justin is a native of Mission, Texas. Justin and his wife Christa are the proud parents of three wonderful children.