Ellen T. Heffernan
Ellen Heffernan is president of Spelman Johnson, a premier 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.
Mark A. Hall
Vice President and Senior Consultant
Mark Hall is a vice president and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson. 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.
Valerie B. Szymkowicz
Vice President and Senior Consultant
Valerie Szymkowicz is a vice president and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson, a premier 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.
Kendra E. Dane
Practice Leader and Senior Consultant
Kendra Dane is a practice leader and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson. Based in Naperville, Illinois, Kendra has utilized her in-depth knowledge and understanding of emerging trends in enrollment management to spearhead the firm’s enrollment management practice over the past seven years. She conducts searches for executives and senior leaders across a broad range of institutional types and functional areas.
With a strong commitment to excellence in all phases of executive search, Kendra partners with her clients to gain an in-depth understanding of their needs and provide them with best-in-class talent. She has managed nearly 100 searches, two-thirds of which have been in the areas of admissions, financial aid, registrar, and enrollment management. Her counsel regarding organizational staffing, position analysis and development, and compensation in higher education is sought by leaders at private and public colleges and universities, art schools, and graduate and professional schools. She has cultivated long-term relationships with her institutional clients, placements, and candidates, and maintains an extensive network of contacts in enrollment management, student affairs, and other professional areas.
Kendra joined Spelman Johnson following a highly successful career in higher education that spanned over 35 years. She most recently served as assistant dean and director of admissions at William Mitchell College of Law (now Mitchell Hamline School of Law) in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her previous roles included executive director of admissions and marketing and executive director of enrollment services at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and associate vice president of financial aid at National Louis University.
Kendra has held leadership positions in the Midwest Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (MASFAA) and was a volunteer financial aid trainer with the US Department of Education. Actively engaged in numerous professional associations, including NASFAA, NAGAP, NACAC, and AACRAO, she has served as a presenter at the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) and National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals (NALSAP) annual meetings. She earned her BA in liberal arts and sciences from Mundelein College (now part of Loyola University) and her MS in management from National Louis University.
Heather J. Larabee
Practice Leader and Senior Consultant
Heather J. Larabee is a practice leader and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson, a premiere executive search firm exclusively committed to serving higher education. Working out of a satellite office in Northwest Florida, Heather partners with colleges, universities, and associations to conduct searches for executive officers and senior leaders across a broad range of functional areas, including student affairs, enrollment management, public safety, and auxiliary services.
Heather has significant experience in every facet of the executive search process and has conducted more than 100 searches in her tenure. She is passionate about collaborating with public and private colleges and universities to recruit talented leaders who can help shape the institution’s future and improve the student experience. Her goal is to provide each client with a slate of candidates so highly qualified that search committees and hiring officers are hard-pressed to make a top pick. Her drive for excellence in executive search infuses every aspect of her practice and leads to exceptional service, successful placements, and long-term relationships with clients, prospects, and candidates. Clients especially appreciate her energy, optimism, integrity, responsiveness, and good humor.
Before joining Spelman Johnson, Heather most recently served as assistant dean of students and director of campus activities at the University of Southern California, where she previously served as assistant director for cultural arts and activities. Before that, Heather was director of student life at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina, and a program coordinator in the division of student affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Heather has published several articles and has been a presenter at conferences sponsored by the National Association for Campus Activities, the Association of College Unions International, and NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. She earned a BS in marketing from the University of West Florida, a MEd from the University of Florida, and an EdD in educational leadership from the University of Southern California.
James M. Norfleet
Practice Leader and Senior Consultant
Jim Norfleet is a practice leader and senior consultant with Spelman Johnson. 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.
Athletics Practice Leader and Senior Consultant
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.
J. Scott Derrick
Scott Derrick is a senior consultant with Spelman Johnson. Working out of a satellite office near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, J. Scott leads searches across a range of institutional types and administrative functions, with particular depth of practice in student affairs, auxiliary services, enrollment management, and campus public safety.
Shaped by his many years of managing student unions and building community on university campuses, J. Scott’s ethos of servant leadership undergirds his executive search practice. He is passionate about working closely with clients to gain a keen understanding of their needs and to craft rigorous searches that produce deep, broad, and diverse candidate pools. He excels in identifying, assessing, and matching talent to the right roles, creating enduring value for the institutions he serves and helping talented professionals reach new career heights. Attentive, quick-witted, and laser-focused without taking himself too seriously, J. Scott consistently delivers high-quality service and exceptional results.
Scott joined Spelman Johnson in June 2017 after a 30-year career in higher education. He has worked at public and private institutions, most recently as executive director of the Popp Martin Student Union and 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 in Greenville, South Carolina, as director of student life at the College of Charleston, and as assistant director of student activities at the University of Richmond.
Scott was an active member of the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) and the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) for three decades, serving in a number of leadership roles, presenting educational programs, and facilitating interactive workshops. He recently served as president of ACUI, following a two-year term on the Board of Trustees, and led several consulting engagements for the association. J. Scott is a professional auctioneer and master of ceremonies, as well as a dynamic public and motivational speaker. He earned his BA in mathematics from Furman University and his MEd in student personnel services from the University of South Carolina.
Quincy Martin III
Quincy Martin III is a senior consultant with Spelman Johnson. Based in Chicago, Quincy leads searches across a range of institutional types and administrative functions, with particular depth of practice in academic affairs, student affairs, and community college leadership.
Quincy is assistant professor and coordinator of the higher education administration doctoral program at Governors State University, and previously served as associate vice president for student affairs at Triton College, a two-year public institution in River Grove, Illinois. During a career spanning nearly 20 years, Quincy held various positions at both the community college and university levels, and was responsible for managing multiple units, programs, and functions in student affairs. His research interests include higher education and the student experience, with special emphasis on retention of male students of color, student affairs administration, and leadership in higher education.
Since joining Spelman Johnson, Quincy has successfully combined his experience in both executive search and higher education, drawing on a unique blend of education and research acumen developed over his years as a scholar-practitioner. He believes in the vital importance of effective leadership and has a keen appreciation for the role that senior administrators play in transforming and shaping institutional culture and campus communities. Quincy takes a relationship-driven and results-oriented approach to his executive search practice, proactively building strong, trusting relationships and exceptional client and candidate experiences. He is well known for listening intently to clients before crafting and managing rigorous and efficient searches that produce talented and diverse candidate pools. Clients value his knowledge, personable style, and candid, thoughtful counsel throughout the search process.
Quincy has been an active contributor, national award winner, presenter, and leader with NASPA—Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, as a member of the Board of Directors, as a reviewer for the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, as a faculty member and chair of the Mid-Level Administrators Conference, and as a recipient of the Outstanding Community College Professional Award. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music and MEd in counseling and development from Lamar University, and his EdD in adult and higher education from Northern Illinois University.
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.
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).
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).