Rick Staisloff is the founder and a principal of rpk GROUP, a leading national consulting firm supporting colleges, universities, and other non-profits with their growth and reallocation strategies. rpkGROUP is an outgrowth of Rick’s two decades of leadership positions in the higher education sector, where he developed his expertise in finance and higher education from the perspective of public and private, two- and four-year institutions, higher education commissions, and state legislatures.
Rick has worked with institutions nationwide, helping them to utilize his firm’s mission, market, and margin approach in strategic planning and business development. He has been a leading voice in the development of new business models for higher education, working closely with the Association of Governing Boards, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, NACUBO, and others to develop a new language and new metrics around cost, price, and finance issues for the higher education sector.
Rick joined College of Notre Dame of Maryland (now Notre Dame of Maryland University) in 1998 as Vice President for Finance and Administration. Prior to that, he served for four years at Carroll Community College, where he helped lead the creation of this college. From 1992 to 1994, Rick was a Finance Policy Analyst for the Maryland Higher Education Commission. He also served on the Maryland General Assembly House Committee on Ways and Means from 1989 to 1992, focusing on education and taxation issues.
Rick serves on the Plant Committee for St. Mary’s Seminary and University, and is a member of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Leadership Program. He has taught in the Executive Doctorate Program for Higher Education Management at the University of Pennsylvania, and with the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership (Arizona State University and Georgetown University).
Rick holds a B.A. from Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland), and an M.A. from The American University.
Lisa Clarke brings more than 20 years of experience developed from a range of leadership positions in the areas of business development/strategy, finance, and decision support for two Baltimore-area hospitals and subsidiaries. While serving as a key director for board committees, joint ventures, and the executive council, Lisa was instrumental in the development and ultimate board approval of a multi-year, master facilities plans, providing market analysis, financial modeling, and collaboration services between internal stakeholders and outside business partners.
Lisa’s current consulting experience with rpk GROUP includes implementation of strategic finance and cost accounting models for colleges and universities, and other area nonprofits. She has also served at client sites as the acting Operations Officer and Associate Vice President for Finance to assist with implementation of rpk GROUP recommendations.
Previously, she was with a Big Four international accounting firm, providing attestation and consulting services to a diverse group of non-profit organizations, including the State of Maryland, various charitable foundations, and health care institutions across Maryland.
Lisa’s professional career includes serving as guest instructor for strategy-related graduate classes at Loyola University Maryland and Towson University, and as a mentor for health care administration graduate student interns. She is also a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association, and has served on multiple committees, including a term as Membership Chairperson.
Lisa holds a dual B.B.A. in Accounting and Management Information Systems from Loyola College in Maryland (now Loyola University Maryland) and an M.S. in Health Science from The Johns Hopkins University.
Alisa Federico Cunningham
Alisa Federico Cunningham, independent education research consultant, has nearly 20 years of experience in managing and conducting research and evaluation projects on a broad array of topics, including higher education financing, financial aid, measures of college success, and risk factors for student access and attainment. She has extensive experience with large federal and other datasets, in addition to survey development, program evaluation, and qualitative analyses.
She has published articles in various journals and magazines, and is the author or co-author of many research reports and policy briefs, most recently, Educational Attainment: Understanding the Data, and an essay in The Rising Costs of Higher Education: A Reference Handbook. Alisa also co-authored several studies for the National Center for Education Statistics, including Study of College Costs and Prices, 1988-89 to 1997-98.
Previously, Alisa served the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, D.C. for 15 years as Vice President for Research where she oversaw all of the organization’s research and programmatic work and was responsible for the strategic direction of the department. She was appointed to the Department of Education’s Committee on Measures of Student Success for 2010-2011, and was a member of the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) for 2011-2013.
Alisa holds an M.A. in European studies from The George Washington University, and a B.A. in Political Science from Villanova University.
Donna Desrochers has analyzed contemporary issues in education and the economy for nearly 20 years, with a primary focus on higher education finance and the economic importance of postsecondary education. She is an authority on higher education finance data, and analyses and reports on changes in higher education spending, revenues, and outcomes.
She brings to rpk GROUP a wealth of experience translating complex financial patterns and trends to public audiences, and her work has been featured in major media outlets including the The New York Times, USA Today, and National Public Radio.
Before joining rpk GROUP, Donna was Director, Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research (AIR) and also a Principal Researcher at AIR; she was previously Deputy Director of the Delta Cost Project. Donna managed the production of the Delta Cost Project IPEDS Database, which contains more than 25 years of data from postsecondary institutions, as well as an interactive website that provides institution-level financial information. She is a coauthor of the Trends in College Spending report series and has also reported on college athletic spending, and staffing and compensation changes in higher education.
Previously, Donna served as Vice President and Director of Education Studies at the Committee for Economic Development, where she led work on the economic benefits of preschool. As a Senior Economist at Educational Testing Service, Donna authored numerous reports examining the impact of economic change on education, skill requirements, and education reform efforts. Early in her career, she served as an economist at the Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce, where she co-produced long-term regional employment and economic projections.
Donna holds a M.A. degree in Economics with a concentration in Labor Economics from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, and a B.A. degree in Economics from The University of Maine.
Dawn O’Brien has over 25 years of experience in building and maintaining communities for not-for-profit, business, and governmental organizations, and a background in advisory research, trade associations, and not-for-profit management.
Dawn’s career includes executive management and fundraising roles with National Voluntary Health Agencies, including the American Cancer Society and the Arthritis Foundation, where she managed boards of directors and planned and implemented year-round fund development programs. More recently, she has worked in the private sector as a research program manager, responsible for overall project management, project documentation, risk mitigation, and field execution of surveys. These activities were coordinated with global research, sales and marketing, and buyer teams in the manufacturing and retail fields. She has also coordinated conference education and training for C-suite executives at the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association. Dawn holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University.
Entrepreneur in Residence
Bryan Setser serves as the Entrepreneur in Residence at rpk GROUP. Bryan partners with the team to develop the overall firm strategy and lends his expertise to both higher education and emerging K-12 clients. Bryan’s work in higher education has included leading the higher education practice at 2Revolutions, a leading national design firm where his portfolio included the American Council on Education, EDUCAUSE, and multiple foundations, universities, HBCUs, and community colleges. In his K-12 work, Bryan has served as a Chief Quality Officer, a Chief Design Officer, and CEO of the nation’s 2nd largest virtual school.
Dr. Setser is a national Baldrige examiner for the United States Department of Commerce, and his award winning career has included being selected by three different Governors for e-learning and school technology commissions.
James Vigil has over 27 years of experience in higher education administration, and currently serves as Vice President for Administration and Interim Chief Financial Officer for Shepherd University. In this role, he provides direction, oversight, and operational management for Shepherd’s fiscal and procurement services; budget and resource planning; auxiliary enterprises; information technology; and facilities management, planning, and construction.
James’ recent projects include leading a public-private partnership initiative to modernize Shepherd’s housing inventory, an organizational restructuring of Facilities Management to maximize resources and leverage personnel talent, the development and implementation of a capital investment plan to stabilize and enhance Shepherd’s technology infrastructure, and the implementation of an IT governance structure to align university goals with IT resources.
Previously, as Associate Vice President for Business Decision Support at Shepherd University, James provided business decision support throughout the university for business-unit analysis, organizational structure and function, resource allocation, financial analysis for revenue enhancement opportunities, and business plan development/execution. In addition, he provided expertise in cost center/zero based budgeting and net revenue modeling.
James has parleyed his broad experience into supporting rpk GROUP’s higher education client’s goals for maximizing resources and improving operational efficiencies.
His professional activities include membership on Shepherd University’s Strategic and Master Planning Committees. James has served as a facilitator for the Financial Management Institute for the National Association of College Stores, and as a team member for their College Store Evaluation Service. He has participated in the National Association of College Auxiliary Services’ Institute for Managers and the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association’s Recreation Facilities Institute.
James received his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas and an M.A. in Corporate and Organizational Communications from West Virginia University.
Natalie M. “Nikki” Krawitz
Natalie M. “Nikki” Krawitz served as Vice President for Finance and Administration for the University of Missouri System. Under Nikki’s direction, the university achieved millions of dollars in cost savings through administrative streamlining, including implementation of system wide e-procurement, an online automated travel reimbursement system, and revenue generation through investment management. Her system of debt financing and securing an Aa1 credit rating enabled new construction and renovation of facilities on all four campuses and the health system.
Nikki presents workshops on higher education budgeting and finance for the American Council on Education, and has authored papers on higher education budgeting, business process redesign, and administrative streamlining. She has held leadership positions in the Association for Public and Land Grant Universities and the Council on Government Relations. In 2010, she received the National Association of College and University Business Officers Distinguished Business Officer Award. She serves on the Landmark Bank Board, Stephens College Board of Trustees, Ragtag Cinema Board, and the Columbia, Missouri, TIF Commission.
Nikki holds a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, an M.A. from the Columbia University Teachers College, and an M.A. in Accounting from the University of Missouri-Columbia.