We Care About the Future of Education

Our Team

Dr. Gary K. Michelson


Dr. Gary K. Michelson is one of the most prolific inventors in the history of medicine, and the sole named inventor of more than 950 issued patents throughout the world. He is one of very few people ever inducted into both the National Inventors Hall of Fame as well as the National Academy of Inventors. He is a distinguished board certified orthopedic and spinal surgeon turned inventor, investor, and philanthropist who has devoted his life to helping others. As a philanthropist he supports education, animal welfare, and medical research. At 17 years of age, he worked to put himself through college, and later, through medical school. Through his Michelson 20MM Foundation, he supports non-profits and startups that use technology to make education more affordable.

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Phil Kim


Phil comes from the entrepreneurial and venture capital worlds, and has led the development of the Michelson 20MM Foundation’s social impact investment platform to provide seed funding to mission aligned education technology startups. In addition to his work at 20MM, he helps oversee a number of early stage programs at Karlin Asset Management, a Los Angeles-based investment firm with over $1.4 billion in unleveraged capital under management. Phil also serves as a mentor for the Kaufman Venture Fellows Program and is actively engaged in a number of entrepreneurship programs across the country, including those at Wharton, MIT, and Stanford.

Mayra Lombera



Mayra leads strategic initiatives and operations for the Michelson 20MM Foundation. In her role she supports the development and implementation of new programs and projects, overseeing the deployment of $3.7M+ in philanthropic capital to help the foundation realize its vision of affording all learners the opportunity to pursue a postsecondary education that leads to a meaningful career. Before joining 20MM she was a middle school teacher, co-founder of a dual language immersion program in Sacramento County, and led local canvassing efforts for the DNC. Mayra received her BA in Education, African American Studies, and Political Science from UC Berkeley, and holds a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from CSU, Northridge. Despite leaving the classroom, she remains committed to supporting at-risk populations and serves as a youth mentor and Cal Latinx Adviser for UCB’s California Latinx Alumni Association (CLAA).


Joe Vasquez



Joe is a Co-Director at Runway Incubator and a Global Shaper for the World Economic Forum. Before joining Runway, Joe led data strategy at Enuma (formerly LocoMotive Labs), an education technology company that builds mobile math games for students with special needs serving over three million worldwide. Before joining the Enuma team, Joe worked in investment banking for Goldman Sachs and spent two years teaching bilingual mathematics with Teach For America. Joe was also an early co-founder of StartX, a startup accelerator based out of Stanford University that has supported over 300 companies. He is currently on the Board of 826 Valencia, a nationally recognized nonprofit supporting under-resourced students with their creative and expository writing skills and was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for his work in education. He was also named to the 40 Under 40: Tech Diversity – Silicon Valley list.

Advisory Board

Gary Brahm


Gary Brahm is Chancellor and CEO of Brandman University, a member of the Chapman University System. Brandman is a private, nonprofit institution serving more than 12,000 adult and military students across 26 locations throughout the states of California and Washington, and nationally through the university’s online campus. Over the past 56 years, Brandman has grown from a single-classroom Chapman program at the El Toro Marine base into a thriving university that is consistently recognized with prestigious industry awards and boasts some of the highest graduation rates in the country. Mr. Brahm was selected as the Founding Chancellor of Brandman, overseeing the transition from the Chapman program to a separate, accredited university with nearly 2,500 staff and faculty members, and an operating budget of $100 million.

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Prior to his present position, Chancellor Brahm served as the executive vice president for finance and administration and chief operating officer of Chapman University for over 13 years. Brahm was responsible for enrollment management, financial aid, registrar, student life, investments, budgeting, information systems, human resources, facilities management and campus planning, and business services. Chancellor Brahm has periodically served as chair or a member of numerous Western Association of Schools and Colleges *WASC) accreditation visiting teams. He also completed a 3-year term as a member of the WASC Interim Review Committee. He has presented on non-traditional education, online, and competency-based education at the American Council for Higher Education annual meeting, the Association of Governing Boards National Conference on Trusteeship, the Credit Suisse Global Conference, the WASC Academic Resource Conference and many others. He has served as director and officer at numerous nonprofit and public organizations.

Prior to joining Chapman University in 1994, Brahm was vice president of finance and CFO at National University. He has also served as vice president and CFO at Anadite, Inc. as well as vice president and CFO at LAM Industries. He started his career as a manager with Ernst & Whitney (now Ernst & Young). Brahm received a bachelor’s degree in biology from California State University, Northridge and a master’s in business administration from the University of Southern California. Expertise: higher education, graduation rates, student loans, non-profit schools, financing college and the value of a college degree.

Bridget Burns


Bridget Burns is the Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance , a national consortium of 11 large public research universities working as an innovation cluster, improving outcomes for students through innovation, scale, and diffusion of best practices.

Most recently she served as an 2013 -14 American Council on Education (ACE) Fellow at Arizona State University under the mentorship of President Michael Crow. Where she facilitated and supported the development of the University Innovation Alliance.

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As chief of staff and senior policy advisor for the Oregon University System since 2009, Bridget served as a key advisor to, and the official representative of the Chancellor to stakeholders of the seven-university system. She provided leadership for programs, policy initiatives, and mandates of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education while also leading federal and state government relations on behalf of the system. She facilitated the successful passage of many important legislative measures during her leadership of government relations, including the historic passage of SB 242 (granting Oregon universities freedom from state agency status and creating the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.) In 2012, she created and led the Oregon Social Business Challenge , a statewide student entrepreneurship competition featuring Nobel Peace Prize winner, Professor Muhammad Yunus.

Bridget is the recipient of the 2013-14 Edwin Crawford Award for Innovation in Government Relations, a national award for innovation in a field encompassing advocacy and outreach efforts on behalf of colleges and universities to governors, state legislators and other key policymakers. Peer recognition spanning the landscape of higher education, the Crawford Award is presented annually by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of Community Colleges.

Previously a national associate for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education , Burns was also an advisor to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS.) Bridget has served on several statewide public boards including the Oregon State Commission on Children and Families, Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature, and the State Board of Higher Education, and served as the chair of the Oregon Student Assistance Commission.

Karen Cator


Karen Cator is President and CEO of Digital Promise and a leading voice for transforming American education through technology, innovation and research. From 2009-2013, Karen was Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, where she led the development of the 2010 National Education Technology Plan and focused the Office’s efforts on teacher and leader support.

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Prior to joining the department, Cator directed Apple’s leadership and advocacy efforts in education. In this role, she focused on the intersection of education policy and research, emerging technologies, and the reality faced by teachers, students and administrators. She began her education career in Alaska as a teacher, ultimately leading technology planning and implementation. She also served as Special Assistant for Telecommunications for the Governor of Alaska. Cator holds a master;s in school administration from University of Oregon and recently received the 2014 College of Education Distinguished Alumni award. The American Association of Publishers has awarded Cator with the 2014 Visionary Award, She received her bachelor’s in early childhood education from Springfield College, and she is a member of the Aspen Pahara Fellows. She is a past chair for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills and has served on boards including the Software & Information Industry Association-Education.

Ryan Craig


Ryan Craig is a founding Managing Director of University Ventures. Prior to University Ventures, Ryan founded and built Wellspring, the largest and leading organization of treatment programs for overweight and obese children, adolescents and young adults, including boarding schools, summer camps and after-school programs. Ryan headed the Education & Training sector at Warburg Pincus from 2001-2004 where he was the founding Director of Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI), one of the largest online universities in the U.S. Ryan has advised the U.S. Department of Education and served as VP Strategic Development for Fathom, the Columbia University online education company, from 1999-2001.

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Ryan began his career as a consultant with McKinsey & Co. He received bachelor’s degrees in Literature and Economics summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University, and his law degree from the Yale Law School. Ryan is a member of the Board of Directors of Claremont Lincoln University and is on the Advisory Board of ICLA Extension. Ryan is the author of College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education, published by Palgrave Macmillan in March 2015. Ryan leads the firm’s investments in UniversityNow and its seed Portfolio.

Rahim Rajan


Rahim S. Rajan is a Senior Program Officer in the Postsecondary Success strategy at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this capacity, Rahim leads grant making and investments in the development and adoption of high quality personalized learning technologies such as adaptive learning, blended MOOCs, and high quality interactive courseware to advance and improve undergraduate education in the United States. Exemplar projects within Rahim’s portfolio include the recent Adaptive Learning Market Acceleration Program and the current research of blended MOOCs by University of Maryland System and ITHAKA.

Charles Thornburgh


Charles fell in love with education while attending Stanford University and considered becoming a teacher. However, he also truly enjoyed technology and business, so decided to explore new ways of affecting education in a more scalable way. Combining these passions, he bought an education business upon graduation and started three more education technology businesses, all with the expressed purpose of pursuing the use of data and technology to improve access and efficacy in education. His work caught the interest of Kaplan Education, who acquired one of his businesses and retained him as an in-house entrepreneur for nine years, during which time he launched many other successful start-ups and served on the executive team of Kaplan Higher Education.

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All of this experience led Charles to the conclusion that he could build something even bigger, a platform for innovation that would impact both access and efficacy on a dramatically larger scale. With this in mind, he launched Civitas Learning® in 2013. An outcomes-based company, Civitas Learning was designed to bring together the best of leading-edge technology, design thinking, and data science in its mission to help students successfully traverse the complex journey of higher education.

Charles started Civitas Learning with the idea that technology and data, used in the right way, can help address a growing problem in higher education, one that is costing the U.S. more than $4 Trillion. He recognized that the only way to address a need of that magnitude was to bring together a diverse, talented group of people from across industries (high-tech, healthcare, education, public safety, etc.), harnessing the transformative phenomena that is sweeping across industries in relation to data science combined with machine learning, and its use in improving outcomes.

By focusing on deep data science and creating a business model of partnering with higher education institutions to help create and test new ideas and build new solutions, Civitas Learning has become one of the fastest growing ed-tech startups of all time and is reaching over 2.5 million students. Based in Austin, TX, the company attracts talent from all over the world and is continuing to grow its partner base and product ecosystem.

After having two children of his own, Charles became even more convinced of the need to address educational issues in a data-driven practical manner, and not just in the U.S. Civitas Learning is now in the U.K., Ireland, and Mexico, helping even more students achieve success.

Charles is named one of the “16 People Changing the Landscape of Online Education Forever” by Find Education Online. He is a frequent speaker at education and business events around the country when he is not home in Austin, TX enjoying the outdoors with his wife and two young sons.