skyline of Washington, DC

Change Can't Wait Washington, DC

Thank You, Washington, DC

On April 7, 2022, American University hosted an evening of connection and conversation with President Sylvia M. Burwell for our community of changemakers in Washington, DC to experience Change Can't Wait: The Campaign for American University.

Note: This event was held in accordance with AU COVID-related protocols for university gatherings. Visit our Event Protocols page for more information.

About the Speakers

Learn more about our distinguished guests below.

Ivy Bales, CAS/BS ’24
Taylor Brown, SOC/BA ’24 
Riley DeRubbo, CAS/BS ’24 
Maddie Doring, SIS/BA ’22 
Jade Edwards, SOC/BA ’22 
Emily Fisher, SPA/BA ’22 
Bailey Garbee, CAS/BA ’25 
Laura Graytok, SOC/BA ’22 
Kayla Henning, SOC/BA ’24 
Emily Johns, CAS/BA ’24  
Jordyn Meunier, Kogod/BS ’25 
Lauren Stack, SOC/BA ’23 
Sadie Stetson, CAS/BS ’23 
Karla Vres, CAS/BA ’22 

Megan Gebbia, Head Coach 
Tiffany Coll, Associate Head Coach 
Nikki Flores, Assistant Coach, Recruiting Coordinator 
Emily Stallings, Assistant Coach 
Nicole Krusen, Director of Operations 
David Bierwirth, Team Administrator 
Rebecca Cover, Team Athletic Trainer 
Sam Rinkus, Team Communications Director 

President, American University 

Sylvia M. Burwell is American University’s 15th president and the first woman to serve as president. A visionary leader with experience in the public and private sectors, President Burwell brings to American University a commitment to education and research, the ability to manage large and complex organizations, and experience helping to advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. 

Burwell has held two cabinet positions in the United States government—serving as the 22nd secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and as the director of the Office of Management and Budget. Her additional government experience is extensive and includes roles at the Treasury and the National Economic Council. Burwell has also held leadership positions at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walmart Foundation. Her private sector experience includes service on the Board of Directors of MetLife. 

She earned a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard University and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. 

Read her full biography here.  

As CEO and founder of Adeft Capital, Carol Melton advises and invests in a range of innovative businesses at various stages. Melton established Adeft following many years in senior management at two global media and entertainment companies. Melton was a top five senior executive officer at Time Warner when AT&T acquired the company in 2018. As executive vice president of global public policy, she managed a worldwide portfolio for the company's HBO, Warner Bros., and Turner divisions (and earlier in her tenure Time Warner Cable, Time Inc., and AOL), with offices in Washington, DC, New York, London, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Buenos Aires. Before joining Time Warner, Melton served in a similar capacity for the earlier-combined Viacom and CBS and its multiple business interests, including Paramount, MTV Networks, Showtime, and all CBS entertainment, television, and news divisions. Earlier in her career, she was a legal advisor to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.  

Melton serves as a board member of The RealReal (NASDAQ: REAL) and real estate company JBG Smith (NYSE: JBGS) and is vice chair and a director of the Economic Club of Washington, DC. She also is part of the investor group that owns the Washington Spirit women’s soccer team. In addition, she is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as a partner in Geneva-based Monthly Barometer, which holds a Summit of Minds conference each fall in Chamonix, France, among other events. Melton is a co-founder of WE Capital, a consortium of women engaged in social impact investing, and was a founding board member of startup incubator Halcyon.  

She holds a JD from American University’s Washington College of Law, an MA in communications from the University of Florida, and a BA from Wake Forest University. 

Member, University Campaign Committee

Patty Stonesifer retired in 2019 as CEO of Martha’s Table, a frontline nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, supporting strong children, strong families, and strong communities by increasing access to quality education, health, and family supports.  

In 1997, she joined Bill and Melinda Gates to launch the Gates Library Foundation. In 2000, the foundation merged with the William H. Gates Foundation to create the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where Stonesifer worked alongside of Bill Gates, Sr. and served as volunteer CEO for 10 years working to fund and support organizations and efforts working to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations around the world. Prior to leading the Gates Foundation, Stonesifer spent two decades working in technology, with her final role as senior vice president at Microsoft Corporation leading the consumer and interactive products division. 

Stonesifer was a founding board member of the National Museum of African American History and Culture and was chair of the Smithsonian Board of Regents. She serves as a director on the board of, is on the Board of Trustees and Executive Committee for the Rockefeller Foundation, is a member of the Board of Advisors for The Dream.US, and is a Board Member for the Co-Impact Board. Stonesifer continues to serve as a pro bono advisor to philanthropists and nonprofit leaders working to advance social justice. 

She is a graduate of Indiana University, and has received honorary doctorate degrees from Indiana University, Tufts University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Trinity Washington University, and American University. 

Dean and Professor, School of Education

Dr. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy believes in the revolutionary power of school counseling. An American Counseling Association (ACA) Fellow with 30 years of experience as a former kindergarten teacher, elementary school counselor, family therapist, and most recently university professor and administrator, she has a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and wisdom. 

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy is currently the Dean of the School of Education and a professor at American University (AU). She is also the author of the best-selling book School Counseling to Close the Achievement Gap: A Social Justice Framework for Success and her upcoming book, Antiracist Counseling in Schools and Communities.  

In her five years as Dean, Dr. Holcomb-McCoy founded AU’s Summer Institute on Education, Equity and Justice, and the AU Teacher Pipeline Project, a partnership with the DC Public Schools and Friendship Charter Schools. She is also actively working to develop an antiracist curriculum for teachers-in-training.  

Prior to leading the School of Education at AU, she served as vice provost for faculty affairs campus-wide and vice dean of academic affairs in the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, where she launched the Johns Hopkins School Counseling Fellows Program and The Faculty Diversity Initiative. Dr. Holcomb-McCoy has also been an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and Personnel Services at the University of Maryland College Park and director of the School Counseling Program at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York.  

Dr. Holcomb-McCoy’s passion for school counseling, mental health, and wellness starts at home. As a proud mother of two, she knows firsthand the importance of systemic change to help students reach their full potential. 

A proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Dr. Holcomb-McCoy holds her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Virginia. She earned a doctorate in counseling and counselor education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. 

General Manager, WAMU 88.5 

Erika Pulley-Hayes has been working in public media since 2005. She came to WAMU from Community Communications, Inc. in Orlando, Florida. As president and CEO, she managed two NPR member stations, WMFE in Orlando and WMFV in The Villages, and was responsible for all operations that support their local news and information service. 

She previously served as radio vice president at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) where she provided strategic leadership to the public radio system by developing initiatives designed to drive innovation and enhance service. She has developed programs that have enabled dozens of stations to deliver fresh and relevant content across media platforms to local communities and national audiences. She was instrumental in CPB’s early journalism investments made in response to the demise of local newspapers and support of a more informed society.  She was also responsible for developing the policies that govern CPB’s Community Service Grant program which, as public media’s largest funding source, supports over 400 organizations operating public radio stations nationwide. 

Pulley-Hayes began her career at a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company where she negotiated corporate agreements for commercial transactions, administered governance matters with the board of directors, and ensured political and regulatory compliance. Pulley-Hayes later managed legal operations of a small clinical research organization in Northern Virginia, overseeing risk management, corporate housekeeping, and commercial contracts generating approximately $40 million annually. 

Pulley-Hayes serves on the board of directors of NPR, Eastern Region Public Media, and Florida Public Media. She is also a director of 826 National, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students improve their expository and creative writing skills in nine cities across the United States. Pulley-Hayes holds an MBA and an MS in nonprofit management from the University of Maryland University College. She also holds a BA from William Paterson University in her home state of New Jersey. 

President, American University Alumni Board 

The pursuit of excellence—in academia, within the community, through organizational leadership, and otherwise—is core to the professional identity of Dr. Jonathan Mathis. His work spans both secondary and postsecondary educational institutions, with a focus on college access and success. He currently serves senior vice president of education policy and systems change at City Year. Previously, he served as executive director of the Next Step Public Charter School and as the director of the National Honor Societies at the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). There, he provided vision, leadership, and evaluation for efforts reaching nearly 2 million students, advisers, and leaders annually. Prior to joining NASSP, Dr. Mathis was the director of education and training at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, where he was responsible for the professional learning and leadership preparation for more than 14,000 college admission professionals. 

Dr. Mathis has contributed to college access efforts nationally. He completed his PhD in urban education policy at the University of Southern California. While in Los Angeles, he served as the regional director for the Collegiate Identity and Participation Model with Partnerships to Uplift Communities Schools in Los Angeles. He also served as an adjunct assistant professor in USC’s Rossier School of Education. Dr. Mathis has also earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from American University, and a Master of Science in administration for educational administration (K-12) from Trinity Washington University.  

On behalf of the American University Alumni Association and its recognized affiliated regional chapters, alliances, and networks, Dr. Mathis was selected as a 2016 Congressional Black Caucus Week Honoree as recognized by the American University Black Alumni Alliance. This special recognition is awarded to a select group of AU alumni who demonstrate a high commitment to advancing the global black community in one of four ways: assuring quality healthcare, advancing through education, increasing equity in foreign policy, and ensuring justice for all. 

Daniel Abraham, Director, Choral Activities & Conductor
Sylstea Sledge, Director, Gospel Choir

AU Chamber Singers

Matt Brandenburger, SIS/BA ’24
Hannah Briceño, CAS/BA ’25
Benjamin Card, SIS/BA ’24
Bridget Conway, Kogod/BS ’22
Julia Dobbins, CAS/BA ’25  
Jasmin Edrington, SIS/BA ’24
Kasey Gray, SIS/BA ’25
Dalia Habiby, SPA/BA ’22, SPA-CAS/MS ’23 
Rachel Lacoretz, SPA/BA ’25
Pierre Maman, CAS ’25
Matthew Markay, CAS/BA ’23
Ava Markhovsky, CAS-SPA/BA ’25
Mira Morris, CAS-SOC/BA ’25
Nathan Payson, CAS/BS ’24 
Nolan Hunter Spaulding, CAS/BA ’23
Luke Stowell, CAS-SIS/BA ’24
Isabel Thompson, SIS/BA ’23
Kaela Thurber, CAS/BA ’22
Emma Walker, CAS/BA ’22 
Austin Zielenbach, SPA/BA ’25

Gospel Choir

Faith Anderson, SOC/BA ’23
Ruby Chan-Frey, CAS-SPA/BA ’25
Zherah Collier, SIS-CAS/BA ’22
Alexandria Dunkley, CAS/BA ’25
Jordan Gunter, SIS/BA ’25
Louri-Ann Foster, SOC/BA ’24
Thao Nguyen, Kogod/BS ’25 and CAS/BA ’25 
Brandon Smith, SOC/BA ’25