Board of Directors
Russell “Wicker” Freeman
Russell has been actively involved in postsecondary education for 23 years. Prior to joining the Imagine America Foundation (IAF) board, Russell served on the Career College Association (CCA) board of directors from 1995 to 2001 where he served as a member or Chairman of many committees including Litigation, Membership, Awards, Skills 200 (grassroots lobbying efforts). Currently, he still serves on the Awards and Federal Advisory committees.
Russell also is a member of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois’ board of directors. He has served on this board since 2003. He is a second generation owner of Coyne College which his father, John, purchased in 1974.
Duluth Business University
Jim’s involvement in the postsecondary education spans over 40 years. He has been on the Imagine America Foundation (IAF) board since 2005. Gessner has served as Treasurer, Vice-Chairman, and most recently he was elected as Chairman. He has also served on the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) board of directors.
Previously, Gessner served as a member or chairman of several other APSCU committees including the audit committee, convention, state affairs, leadership committees and was a member of the litigation committee. Gessner has also served the Minnesota Career College Association (MCCA) in different capacities.
Gessner received his B.A. in Business at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Additionally, Gessner was honorably discharged from the United States Army, where he served as an Infantry Officer. Currently, Gessner is the President and COO of Duluth Business University.
St. Louis, MO
Dennis Spisak has over 30 years of management experience within publishing, culminating with his position as Vice-President of Sales for the Career Education Division of McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
He has spoken at numerous national and state meetings in such areas as teaching methodology, transitioning to the digital age in education, faculty development, retention, and student self-image.
Dennis was named one of the 25 Most Influential People in the Career College Sector by Career College Central magazine in 2008 and one of eighteen individuals cited as Making an Impact in the Career College Sector by Career College Central magazine in 2012.
Dennis graduated from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and holds a B.S. degree and Master's degree in Business Education. He taught business and office education at the secondary and postsecondary levels in Pennsylvania for ten years before joining the Gregg Division of The McGraw-Hill Companies as a sales representative in 1981.
Dennis is currently president of djSpisak Consulting, a company devoted to the success of career colleges and the career college sector of postsecondary education.
Christopher M. Cimino
C.M. Cimino Holdings LLC
Chris Cimino has over 20 years of management experience within higher education in the areas of publishing, online learning, technology, software, educational finance and interactive marketing. Currently, Cimino serves as President for C.M. Cimino Holdings LLC.
He previously served as Senior Vice President for Nelnet, Inc., National Sales Director for Tuition Management Systems, Senior Business Development Director at Pearson Education, Vice President of Sales at Mascot Network and National Sales Director at Forbes Inc.
Cimino received his B.S. in economics from Bentley University, a Master's in Public Administration from Suffolk University Sawyer School of Management and his MBA from Bentley University McCallum Graduate School.
Cimino resides in Falmouth, Maine, with his wife and three children.
Lincoln Educational Services
West Orange, NJ
Piper Jameson serves as the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Lincoln Educational Services with online education and 42 schools nationwide. She has over 16 years’ experience in the Internet lead generation field. Jameson’s responsibilities include strategic branding, Internet marketing, direct-response lead generation and commercial production. Her marketing experience is balanced with a strong financial background, as she previously served in Phoenix, AZ, on the Ritz-Carlton Hotels’ executive team as financial controller and as a financial analyst for American Express early in her career. She has numerous direct-marketing awards, including two Emmys for direct-response commercials. She holds a B.S. in Business Management and a B.S. in Marketing and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Strategic Communications and Leadership from Seton Hall University.
Robert L. Martin
Imagine America Foundation
Robert L. Martin was appointed President of the Imagine America Foundation in March 2006. The Foundation, which is the preeminent scholarship provider and research-funding organization for the career education sector, came under his direction in 1999 when it was then known as the Career Training Foundation. As the Foundation began to increase its operations and responsibilities, Mr. Martin earned eventual appointment to President and CEO.
Through Mr. Martin's leadership, the non-profit organization has become its own influential organization in the career college realm. Once the in-house research body under the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), the Foundation has considerably expanded its member schools and charitable donors and has established its own identity as an independent organization.
Today, the Foundation supports more than 800 career college members across the United States and Puerto Rico. The Foundation, through financial support from the 21st Century Workforce Fund, has initiated research studies focused on the impact of career colleges, their role in meeting the nation’s current skilled-worker shortage and other broad public policy issues facing the higher education sector. The Foundation has also provided more than $75 million in scholarship and award support to 75,000 graduating high school seniors, adult learners and U.S. military veterans attending career colleges nationwide. In 2011 the Foundation launched its financial literacy tool, Financial Planning Made Simple (FPMS), and has had more than 20,000 applicants complete the program.
Before joining the Foundation, Mr. Martin was an independent consultant serving both public- and private-sector clients. He assisted with government relations, marketing and business development service initiatives for national trade associations, major textbook publishers, educational software developers, computer hardware manufacturers and Internet service providers.
Prior to his consulting work, Mr. Martin attained senior positions at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and as the Vice President/Executive Director of the Center for Workforce Preparation. His involvement led the Chamber to create the Center and develop a national outreach program that now serves the more than 3,000 state and local chambers of commerce nationwide. Mr. Martin also worked extensively with senior-level officials at the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services, as well as the White House and other leading business/trade associations. He directed all research and public policy activities in these areas.
In addition, Mr. Martin was selected to serve on the personal staff of Congressman Robert W. Daniel of Virginia. He also spent five years in state government: three working for the governor's office in the State of Indiana directing state manpower programs and two as a senior staff associate at the National Governors Association in Washington.
Mr. Martin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science and Business Administration from Central Michigan University and a Master's of Public Administration from Indiana University.
Brown Mackie Colleges (EDMC)
Danny Finuf serves as President of Brown Mackie Colleges (EDMC) which currently consists of 20 campus locations in 10 states. Prior to his appointment as President of Brown Mackie College, Finuf served as Group Vice President, Regional Vice President and Regional Campus President. Prior to joining Brown Mackie College (EDMC), Finuf served as Vice President of Administrative Services for Spartan College of Aeronautics in Tulsa, OK. Finuf sits on the Management Committee for EDMC, serves as a board of trustee member for the Brown Mackie College Kansas locations and has previously served on the board of trustees for American Education Centers.
Tracy Kreikemeier works with the Client Services, PR & Marketing departments of PlattForm to develop and implement highly successful, cost-effective advertising plans for a client base of nearly 4,000 campus locations across the United States and Canada. She also leads new product development and speaks as an industry expert at both investor conferences and state and national education conferences. Kreikemeier has been with PlattForm for almost 10 years and was formerly the Vice President of Client Services. Tracy holds a degree in Communication Studies with an Emphasis in Public Relations from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She has been a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) since 1998. She was recently included on Kansas City Business Magazine's fourth annual list of the 33 Most Influential Women in Kansas City.
Specs Howard School of Media Arts
Jon Liebman has worked in higher education for 20 years and currently serves as the Chairman/CEO of the Specs Howard School of Media Arts in Southfield, Mich. He was recently the vice chairman of the Career College Association in Washington. He is also past president of the Michigan Association of Career Colleges & Schools and former chairman of the Southfield Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2005, Liebman was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to the Michigan Higher Education Authority. Liebman has a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies & Contemporary Media from Wayne State University in Detroit and a Master of Music degree in Studio Music & Jazz from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
Daniel A. Levinson
Ex’pression College for Digital Arts
Dan Levinson has been a leader in the educational sector for over 20 years and has been responsible for improving the quality of academic programs, while also implementing strategies for growth and new business development both locally and regionally.
Before joining Ex’pression College for Digital Arts, Levinson held a number of executive management positions in both administration and education with The Art Institutes, providing strategic direction and leadership to students and faculty, white maintaining campus growth. Previous positions with The Art Institutes include Group Vice President, where he oversaw twelve campuses and played a key strategic role in both expansion and additions of new campus locations, as well as President at both The Art Institute of California – Orange County and The Art Institute of California – San Diego. Additionally, Levinson spent five years as the Dean of Education at The Art Institute of Phoenix.
Levinson has also served on the Board of Directors of the EDMC Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for scholarships. He is also a former Commissioner for the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) where he was actively involved in initiatives including human resources and distance education.
Levinson began his career as an audio instructor in the Audio and Video Department at The Art Institute of Philadelphia. He enjoyed a diverse professional music career including owning and operating a New Jersey-based recording studio and as a staff keyboardist and pianist in the main showrooms at the Tropicana and Atlantis casinos in Atlantic City. Levinson holds a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University and a Bachelor of Music in Music Composition from Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts.
Duane Morris, LLP
San Diego, CA
Keith Zakarin is a lawyer and partner at Duane Morris, LLP. He is the Chair of Duane Morris' Education Practice Group. For the last 18 years, Keith's entire practice has been dedicated to the representation of private postsecondary schools and colleges. His representation of our sector coast-to-coast includes every aspect of law that touches our businesses, including student and employee litigation, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory and administrative counseling and litigation, political advocacy, accreditation matters, unfair competition, taxation and corporate law, insurance, employment counseling, and risk management. He is also General Counsel of the California Association of Private Postsecondary Schools and the American Association of Cosmetology Schools.
Keith's understanding of our sector goes well beyond purely legal concerns. He assists clients in all aspects of school operations, including admissions, accreditation, retention, financial aid and auditing, and accounting matters. A school operator himself, Keith and his wife Jo own a nationally accredited career college in San Diego, California.
Keith is a 1986 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law and a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California at San Diego.