Meet our Team

ETH Photo - B&WlinkedinEllen T. Heffernan

Ellen Heffernan is president of Spelman Johnson, a premiere executive search firm exclusively committed to serving institutions of higher education.

Ellen provides strategic and operational leadership of the firm and oversees its presidential search practice. Under her direction, Spelman Johnson has emerged as one of the nation’s most respected executive search firms. Over the course of its 28-year history, Spelman Johnson has conducted more than 1,500 searches in partnership with colleges and universities across the country. All of the firm’s consultants have significant experience in higher education administration and executive search, which enables them to understand the strategic challenges and cultures of their client institutions, deliver robust and diverse candidate pools, and provide an unrivaled level of client engagement.

In addition to leading Spelman Johnson and working directly with clients on search assignments, Ellen serves on the faculty of several leadership development programs, including the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) Leadership and Mentoring Institute, and NASPA—Senior Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and College Board Middle State’s Mid-Level Institute professional development institutes. Ellen has published numerous articles and is valued for her thought leadership on talent acquisition, building organizational capacity, and issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She serves as an adviser to governing boards, presidents and chancellors, and other campus and system leaders and policymakers.

Ellen joined Spelman Johnson in 1996, after a 10-year career in higher education that included positions at Smith College and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A recipient of NASPA’s Pillar of the Profession Award, given for sustained professional distinction in higher education, Ellen has received many honors and awards, including the AABHE’s President’s Award and the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International’s Parthenon Award and S. Earl Thompson Award, to name a few. She currently serves on the board of the National Association of Executive Recruiters and is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE) Executive Search Roundtable.

MAH B&W 1linkedin Mark A. Hall
Vice President

Mark Hall is a vice president and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson, a premiere executive search firm exclusively committed to serving higher education. Based in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Mark partners with colleges, universities, and associations to conduct searches for chief executive officers and senior positions in key functional areas, including finance and administration, student affairs, and auxiliary services. He also develops and implements Spelman Johnson’s sales and relationship-management strategy and plays a lead role in expanding the firm’s intercollegiate athletics search and consulting practice.

Mark delivers exceptional results for his clients by leveraging his extensive professional network and a rich and varied higher education career that spanned 25 years in financial operations, student affairs, association management, and auxiliary services. He brings a disciplined approach to his practice and works collaboratively with board members, senior officers, and search committees to ensure that his searches are focused, efficient, and well executed. His clients value his knowledge and wise counsel, and he is inspired by making a positive difference in the lives of higher education leaders and the institutions they serve.

Prior to joining Spelman Johnson in January 2011, Mark served as president of Campus Entertainment, LLC, a marketing and consulting firm owned by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA). His previous experience includes roles as assistant executive director and chief financial officer of NACA, vice president for finance and administration at Columbia College, assistant vice president for campus life at University of Central Florida (UCF), and director of the student center at UCF and at Wake Forest University.

Mark was president of the Southern Region of the National Association of College Auxiliary Services and served two terms as vice chair of the NACA board of directors. His professional experience includes delivering conference presentations on leadership development, hiring best practices, career advancement, and negotiation. He has also served as a consultant to colleges and universities in the areas of facilities planning, operations management, and organizational development. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University, an MEd from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and an MBA from University of Central Florida.

VBS B&W 1linkedinValerie B. Szymkowicz
Vice President

Valerie Szymkowicz is a vice president and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson, a premiere executive search firm exclusively committed to serving higher education. Working out of a satellite office in Vermont, Valerie partners with colleges and universities nationwide to conduct searches for senior leaders across a broad range of functional areas, including academic affairs, student affairs, career services, enrollment management, and public safety. A skilled facilitator and talent development practitioner, she also leads the firm’s internal training and development efforts.

Valerie joined Spelman Johnson in November 2002 after providing contract research and consulting services for boutique executive search firms focused primarily on the higher education and consumer products markets. Before entering the search profession in 1999, she worked on campuses for more than 20 years in roles spanning academic advising, experiential education, and career planning. Her higher education experience includes positions at both public and private institutions, including New England College, University of Delaware, University of Vermont, and Middlebury College, where she served for eight years as director of career services.

Regarded by her colleagues as a consummate professional, Valerie has managed well over 200 searches for Spelman Johnson and attends carefully to the craft of each search. She invests considerable time and energy in developing a deep understanding of the client institution, writing compelling documents, sourcing and engaging talented leaders, and building robust candidate pools. As a trusted adviser, she works collaboratively with her clients to plan and execute successful searches, providing deft counsel and expertise throughout all phases of the search process.

Valerie is an active member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the American College Personnel Association, and the Eastern Association of Colleges and Employers. With a strong belief in cultivating leadership potential among talented rising stars, Valerie has been an invited presenter at NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education’s Region I Mid-Managers Institute, facilitating discussions on professional development priorities. She regularly addresses national and regional audiences on such topics as career preparation, search management, and onboarding. She earned a BA in natural science/environmental studies from New England College and an MEd in student personnel from the University of Vermont.

KED B&W 1linkedinKendra E. Dane
Search Associate

Kendra Dane earned her BA from Mundelein College (now part of Loyola University) and her MS from National Louis University. During a career in higher education that spans over 30 years, Kendra has most recently served as assistant dean and director of admissions at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. Prior to moving to St. Paul, she served as executive director of admissions and marketing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), as well as the executive director of enrollment services at SAIC. Kendra began her career in higher education at National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois, where she served as an associate vice president for financial aid for many years. Kendra has been active in the Illinois Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (ILASFAA), held leadership positions in Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA), and served in a volunteer capacity as a financial aid trainer with the U.S. Department of Education.

linkedin Heather J. Larabee
Search Associate

Heather Larabee earned her BS in marketing from the University of West Florida, her MEd from the University of Florida and her doctor of education in educational leadership from the University of Southern California. Heather has most recently served as assistant dean of students and director of campus activities in the division of student affairs at the University of Southern California. Prior to this, she served as the assistant director for cultural arts and activities. Heather came to the University of Southern California from Francis Marion University where she served as the director of student life in the division of student affairs. She also held the position of program coordinator in the division of student affairs at the University of Tennessee. Heather has published several articles and has been a presenter at the National Association for Campus Activities, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and the Association of College Unions International national conferences.

JMN Officie (black and white)linkedin James M. Norfleet
Practice Leader and Senior Consultant

Jim Norfleet is a practice leader and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson, a premiere executive search firm exclusively committed to serving higher education. Based in Philadelphia, Jim leads presidential searches and spearheads the firm’s diversity, equity, and inclusion search practice. He partners with public and private institutions of all types to recruit provosts, vice presidents, deans, directors, and other leaders across a range of functional areas.

A strong believer in the transformative power of education, Jim considers it a privilege to advance colleges and universities by helping them recruit exceptional leaders. His executive experience, deep understanding of the higher education landscape, and proven expertise in sourcing talent and delivering robust, diverse candidate pools provide tremendous value to his clients. His strategic approach and engaging, collaborative style define his practice and lead to successful searches and long-term relationships with clients and candidates.

Jim joined Spelman Johnson after three decades in higher education. He most recently served as vice president for student affairs at The College of New Jersey, where he managed a $60 million budget and a broad portfolio of programs, services, and campus facilities. At California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where he has been honored with emeritus status, Jim served as associate vice president for student services, executive director of educational equity services, and founding director of the Renaissance Scholars program for former foster youth. Earlier in his career, he worked in academic affairs at Nyack College, where he directed the Higher Education Opportunity Program, served as associate dean of the college, led diversity and inclusion initiatives, and established the Office of Academic Development, now known as the Division of Student Success.

Jim has served as an independent consultant to mission-driven organizations and leaders across the career spectrum. He earned his BBA in business and marketing from Pace University and has completed all coursework for an EdD in educational leadership at the University of California, Los Angeles. Jim currently serves as co-chair of the American Council on Education (ACE) Executive Search Roundtable and is active in an array of professional and civic organizations. He speaks on higher education and social justice issues and has received numerous awards for his leadership, advocacy, and community service.

linkedinDell Robinson
Search Associate – Athletic Practice

Dell Robinson earned his BS in Physical Education from Ohio University and his MS in Sports Administration from Iowa State University. Prior to joining Spelman Johnson, Dell most recently served as Commissioner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. During a span of 25 years Dell has served as the Associate Commissioner of Legislation and Governance at the Mid-American Conference, Assistant Commissioner for Compliance at the Western Athletic Conference, and Director of Compliance and Enforcement at the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Dell served as the Vice Chair of the Division II Collegiate Commissioner Association. Dell has also served as the Chair of the NCAA Division II Football Committee. Dell is a member of the Ohio University College of Business Executive Advisory Board, as well as a member of the John McLendon Minority Scholarship Foundation Board. He served two terms as Chair of the Ohio University National Alumni Association and was honored with the Ohio University Distinguished Service Award.

 linkedinJ. Scott Derrick
Search Associate

J. Scott Derrick earned his BA in Mathematics from Furman University (Greenville, SC) and his MEd in Student Personnel Services from the University of South Carolina. In a higher education career spanning 30 years, Mr. Derrick has worked at both public and private institutions, most recently as Executive Director of the Student Union & Cone University Center at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Previously, he served as the Director of the Trone Student Center at Furman University, the Director of Student Life at the College of Charleston, and Assistant Director of Student Activities at the University of Richmond. For many years, Mr. Derrick was an active member of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI), as well as the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), serving in a number of leadership roles, presenting educational content, and leading interactive workshops.  He recently served as President of ACUI, following a two-year term on the Board of Trustees, and conducted a number of Student Union consultations for the association.

linkedinQuincy Martin III
Search Associate

Quincy Martin earned his BM and his MEd in Counseling and Development from Lamar University, and his Doctor of Education in Adult and Higher Education from Northern Illinois University. Spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Martin has served in various capacities in higher education administration at both the community college and university levels leading multiple units, programs, and functions in student affairs. Prior to joining Spelman Johnson, he served as the Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at Triton College. Dr. Martin has been an active contributor, national award winner, presenter, and leader with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) serving on the Board of Directors, reviewer for the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, faculty member for the Mid-Level Administrators Conference, and recipient of the Outstanding Community College Professional Award. Dr. Martin is currently a faculty member at Governors State University.

Anne-Marie KenneylinkedinAnne-Marie Kenney
Senior Coordinator of Search Services

Ms. Kenney earned her BA in History and Politics from Assumption College and her MEd in Higher Education Administration from Suffolk University.  She most recently served as the Dean of Student Success at Newbury College in Brookline, MA. With a career in student affairs spanning 20 years, she has also served as the Assistant Dean of Students at Lesley University and the Director of Student Activities and Orientation at Lasell College. Ms. Kenney served as the Massachusetts NASPA senior student affairs liaison, member of the NASPA AVP steering committee, and completed leadership terms for NODA – the Association for Orientation, Transition, and Retention in Higher Education as Executive Secretary-Treasurer, member of the board of directors, and annual conference host.

Michel FrendianlinkedinMichel Frendian
Search Associate

Mr. Frendian received his BS from the University of South Carolina and his EdM from Oregon State University. He comes to Spelman Johnson after serving as dean of enrollment management at Erikson Institute in Chicago, preceded by two years in the director position. Michel has accumulated over 30 years of experience in higher education leadership, including roles as vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at San Francisco Art Institute, director of international affairs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and residential life positions at DePaul University, Elmhurst College, and Occidental College. Michel served on the National Deans and Directors of Social Work Admissions board of directors. He served as president of the Great Lakes Association of College and University Housing Officers (GLACUHO), vice president of the Western Association of College and University Housing Officers (WACUHO), and he held committee leadership roles with American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I). He has been an active member and presenter on graduate enrollment management and digital marketing trends at the annual meetings of the National Association of Graduate Admission Professionals (NAGAP).

linkedinLaura Puckett-Boler
Search Associate

Ms. Puckett-Boler earned her undergraduate degree at Berry College in Georgia, and completed her MEd and PhD coursework at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining Spelman Johnson, Laura most recently served as vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students at the University of South Carolina Upstate. She served in numerous roles over her 28 years with USC Upstate, including director of student activities, director of student life, dean of students and assistant vice chancellor for student affairs. Laura began her higher education career, spanning over 30 years, as student activities program coordinator at Texas Christian University, followed by an assignment as assistant director of university activities at Fairfield University in Connecticut. She is an active member of the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA), National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), ACPA, and the Association for Student Conduct Administration (ASCA).