Mission and Vision
- GET INTO COLLEGELearn More
Job #1 is helping the most vulnerable students access college. We show high school students what college is like and help them develop a plan to get there.
We start by offering high school juniors and seniors the chance to understand the college process, visit colleges, and talk with college students and officials. We help our students make smart choices, reach out for available support, and take the right steps at the right time to get into college.
- COMPLETE COLLEGELearn More
Getting students into college is only half the battle. We stick with our students all the way through earning a four-year degree.
We keep our commitment to students all the way through college completion. During college, we continue to coach and mentor students in ways that matter — in person, by text or phone, and on social media. We never give up, we help with the hard stuff, and we let students know they’re never alone.
Our Mission: College Forward coaches underserved, motivated students to achieve the benefits of higher education and a college degree.
Our Vision: We will lead by building and sharing the most effective, most efficient, and most exciting college access and completion programs in the country by 2018.
Founded in 2003 in Austin, Texas as a college access program, College Forward matured along with its first class of 30 students, adding college completion services in 2005 and bilingual parent programming in 2006. Our early adoption of human-centered design principles and our unique focus on the student and family experiences fueled the development of innovative and highly-successful program models.
In 2014 we launched two new initiatives in pursuit of an audacious goal: to solve the problem by 2040. Success Partnerships is redefining the way post-secondary institutions support student success. CoPilot, a student database that combines practitioner expertise with sophisticated design, is transforming and professionalizing the college completion industry.
In the 2017-2018 academic year, College Forward will serve more than 6,000 students directly while impacting another 250,000 indirectly through our student information system, CoPilot.
Each day, our proven program is shaped and improved by an intelligent, enthusiastic, and extraordinarily committed staff. The students are our inspiration.
At College Forward, our team spends boundless energy on finding more ways to help deserving students, inspire great Coaches, forge smart partnerships, and creatively connect resources. Why? Because of the students. Every ounce we give flows back to us in the form of increased student confidence, self-awareness, and accomplishment.
Dennis Cavner is a financial, estate, and business-planning expert. He served as Chief Financial Officer of a leading Texas publishing organization and is an attorney as well as a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Financial Planner, and a Registered Investment Advisor. As a member of the advisory board of the RGK Center for Philanthropy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, and a board member and past Chair of LIVESTRONG, he is a founding partner of Innovation+ and sits on the board of Social Venture Partners International. Dennis earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) from the University of Texas.
Doreen James Wise
Co-Founder & Board Member
Doreen James Wise, co-founder of College Forward, also founded Medical Research Consultants, a legal services firm in Houston that she owned until selling the company to her employees in 2011. She has since participated as investor and advisor for several start-up companies, including ChartSwap, Slow Dough Bread Co., and Mowdy Boats. In addition to College Forward, Doreen founded another successful nonprofit, the Texas Center for the Missing, in 2001. She holds a B.S.N. from Vanderbilt University, an M.S.N. from California State University, and an Ed.D. from the University of Houston.
Stephanie is currently the Vice President and Senior Commercial banker at Bank SNB, a financial institution focused on the growth, expansion and acquisitions of local businesses in and around Austin, Texas. She graduated from The University of Texas in San Antonio with an emphasis in Law and The Courts. For the last fifteen years she has structured and distributed capital to Healthcare and C&I industries within the Texas and California marketplace. Stephanie is a catalyst for her client’s successes, to date she has funded over one hundred million dollars to small and mid-size companies in the Central Texas marketplace. In addition to her work she is involved with several non-profit organizations that encourage advocacy, networking and work-force development.
Monte James is a Partner at Jackson Walker LLP in Austin. He represents several Fortune 500 companies in litigation matters throughout Texas and other states. Monte has been board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1998. He earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) and a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) from Baylor University.
Carol McDonald served as president and principal lobbyist for Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas, Inc. (ICUT) from the 68th through 83rd Texas Legislative Sessions. Prior to this she was a policy analyst and legislative aide for Texas Lieutenant Governor Bill Hobby, and also worked at the National Institute for Public Administration in Kuala Lumpur and the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. She received Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and American Studies from Austin College, a Master’s degrees in American Civilization from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master’s of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School at the University of Texas at Austin.
Todd Penner is Portfolio Director for the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation’s College Preparation & Completion portfolio, which empowers more high-need students to graduate from high school college-ready, enroll in college, and obtain a bachelor’s degree. Prior to joining the Foundation in May 2008, Todd spent 13 years at Dell Inc. in various marketing and support positions, his last being Director of Worldwide e-Support. Before Dell, he worked with Exxon Chemical Company and Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Todd has a B.B.A. in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Michigan.
Nirav Shah is a Director in the Social Investment team of Social Finance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing capital to drive social progress. Nirav develops collaborative partnerships with key, multi-sector stakeholders to deliver financial solutions that funnel investment capital into preventative programs that measurably improve lives of people in need by driving government resources toward better, more effective programs. Prior to joining Social Finance, Nirav worked in the Office of Management and Budget within the Executive Office of the President. Nirav holds a Masters of Public Affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from Boston University.
Richard Tagle is the Chief Executive Officer at the Andy Roddick Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation he served as Senior Program Officer for the United States Conference of Mayors, Chief of Staff at Public Education Network, Chief Executive Officer at Higher Achievement, and Founder and Managing Principal at High Think. Richard is eternally curious about how organizations behave, grow, and can change social structures and relationships, and has been at the forefront of health and education work that benefits children. He believes that, in the most powerful country in the world, the institutions that shape and hone the ideas and potential of the next generation of great Americans should be the best institutions we can build. He received his B.A. in Sociology and M.A. in Applied Sociology and Social Policy from American University in Washington, D.C.
Lisa Fielder (Ex-Officio) is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of College Forward. A lifelong Texan, Lisa is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Texans, as well as providing an efficient, highly effective, and replicable model for those outside Texas serving similar audiences. She was voted Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 by Ernst & Young, and was named a “Local Hero” by the Bank of America Foundation in 2006. Lisa earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from Trinity University and a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.) from Rice University.
With a shared belief that a college education changes lives allows people to join the workforce and make greater economic and intellectual contributions to their communities, College Forward’s board members apply a wide range of expertise to build support programs and break down systemic barriers.