Our Staff

Raymond C. Pierce

President and CEO

Raymond C. Pierce serves as the President and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, where he leads the organization’s historic mission of advancing educational opportunities for African American and low-income students in the southern states. Since joining SEF in January 2018, Pierce has focused the organization on policy research, education legislation and leadership development. SEF has also launched a workforce development initiative and is expanding its efforts for strengthening parental engagement in support of improving student learning.

Prior to joining SEF, Mr. Pierce was Dean of the School of Law at North Carolina Central University. Pierce earlier served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights as a political appointee in the administration of President Bill Clinton. During that time, Pierce also served on the White House Domestic Policy Council working group in the development of the Empowerment Zone and related economic and workforce development policies. Mr. Pierce has also been a partner in the business practices at the law firms of Baker Hostetler and Nelson Mullins, where he represented clients in the steel, energy, transportation, and financial services industries. He also represented clients in higher education matters. Earlier in his career, Pierce was employed in Cleveland, Ohio, as an attorney in the law department of the LTV Corporation, a Fortune 50 Energy, Steel, and Aerospace Defense company, where he focused on commercial transactions. Pierce began his career as a civil rights attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas, with the John W. Walker Law Firm.

Pierce has served on the Council of Legal Education of the American Bar Association and is a past Vice President of the North Carolina Bar Association. Mr. Pierce has served as an appointed member of the North Carolina State Banking Commission and the board of directors of M&F Bank and M&F Bancorp, where he served on the audit and corporate governance committees. He is a Permanent Member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference.

Mr. Pierce earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Syracuse University, a Juris Doctor degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and a Masters of Arts from the Divinity School at Duke University.

Kenita T. Williams

Director, Leadership Development

Kenita Williams joined the Southern Education Foundation in 2017 and serves as the Director of Leadership Development. In her role, Kenita oversees SEF’s leadership development portfolio, creating and managing a cadre of fellowship programs and resources designed to cultivate a constellation of change agents to enact policies and practices that lead to a more equitable education system throughout the South. Kenita brings a wide range of knowledge and critical experience to SEF, having held positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Over the course of her career, Kenita served as the Partnerships Manager for Atlanta Public Schools, Senior Program Manager for Public Policy at the Southeastern Council of Foundations (SECF), spent several years as a consultant for JFM Consulting Group, and worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative correspondent for then-Senator Barack Obama. Kenita is also a Teach for America (TFA) alumna and spent three years teaching third-grade in Atlanta.

Kenita earned her B.A. in Political Science and History from Yale University, her Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a teaching certificate from Georgia State University. She is currently enrolled at Johns Hopkins University working on her doctoral degree in education.

Fred Jones

Director of Government Affairs

Fred Jones is the Director of Government Affairs for the Southern Education Foundation. His core responsibilities include advocating for the advancement of SEF’s public policy priorities at the local, state, and federal levels. Fred has led the creation of SEF’s policy positions statement and is focused on extending SEF’s legislative footprint throughout the South. In the fall of 2017, he completed the Riley Institute Diversity Leaders Initiative at Furman University named in honor of the former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley.

Fred received his B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University and his M.B.A. from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Titilayo Tinubu Ali

Director of Research and Policy

As Director of Research and Policy for the Southern Education Foundation, Titilayo manages the development of SEF’s research-informed policy positions and advocacy initiatives that strengthen educational opportunities for African American and low-income students in the southern states.

Titilayo previously served as Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst and as a consultant at the Learning Policy Institute where she was one of the co-authors of the book On the Road to High-Quality Early Learning: Changing Children’s Lives. Titilayo’s prior research has included studies of local school governance, assessment of early care and education programs in New York City, and analysis of professional development interventions in Head Start classrooms. Titilayo has served in a variety of roles in the nonprofit, for-profit, philanthropic and policy sectors. She began her career in communications and later practiced law at two global law firms, counseling clients on labor, employment and corporate matters.

Titilayo earned her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law, her M.A. in Sociology of Education and Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her B.A. in English, with honors, from Spelman College. She is a member of the State Bar of California and a court-appointed citizen advocate for children in foster care.

Autumn Blanchard

Director of Marketing and Communications

Autumn Blanchard, Director of Marketing & Communications, serves as the architect of SEF’s marketing strategy and takes the lead on sharing their story, which spans over 150 years. The heart of her work centers on strategic communications, campaign development, media relations, and disseminating original content ideas.

Autumn most recently comes from the marketing industry, where she was responsible for brand development and campaign execution supporting Fortune 500 clients. Her political acumen was sharpened during her work in the Detroit Headquarters of the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama, and while managing a city council campaign in 2009 in which the newcomer candidate she supported was victorious. Additionally, she has experience teaching at the university level and taking a lead role in support services focused on student development, retention, and college advisement of first-generation students, low-income students, and students of color.

Autumn earned her B.A.A. from Central Michigan University, an M.A. from Wayne State University, and is a doctoral candidate in communication studies with a concentration in education policy. Her research focuses on the media’s role in shaping the public’s perception of education policy and its implications on equity.

Please contact Autumn Blanchard with any media inquiries that you may have.

Lisa Chester

Director of Strategic Partnerships & Development

Lisa Chester, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development, establishes and executes partnership activities and fundraising opportunities to increase the reach and impact of the organization’s ongoing research, advocacy and programming efforts within the South.

Her career has spanned the media industry for 15 years with Fortune 500 corporations in areas of strategic planning, integrated media and business development. In addition, she has previously served as executive leadership for Warrick Dunn Charities, Inc., a nonprofit founded by former National Football League running back and Atlanta Falcons minority owner, Warrick Dunn. As the Executive Director, she oversaw fundraising and national programming efforts to improve the lives of low-income families.

Lisa attended the Atlanta University Center and graduated from Morris Brown College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Media Arts. She later received her Masters of Business Administration.  Lisa also completed a fellowship of the New Leaders Council Institute-the premier national leadership and political advancement program and was named by The Atlanta Tribune as “The Ones to Watch” in 2014. She was recognized as a 2016 Atlanta Business Chronicle 40 Under 40.

Lisa currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Education Advancement Foundation for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and serves as a Board of Director for Ferst Readers, which advances early childhood literacy across the nation.

Troy Johnson

Chief Financial Officer and COO

Troy Johnson is the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Southern Education Foundation, joining the staff in 2008. His work primarily focuses on managing the accounting and financial operations of the organization as well as overseeing management of SEF’s endowment with the Board of Trustees. In 2017, Troy led the organization’s sale of its office building at 135 Auburn Ave and the design of its new office space, which won a 2018 Atlanta Urban Design Commission Design Award. In 2019, Troy was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle CFO of the Year Awards. He partners with the President & CEO to manage the general operations of the organization. He is a 21 year veteran of the nonprofit industry. He received his undergraduate degree from Hampton University and his master’s degree from Mercer University. Many of the organizations that Troy has served prior to SEF addressed youth, health services, and community development efforts. He currently serves on the boards of the Roswell Arts Fund and East Lake YMCA.

Angela Anderson


Angela Anderson joined the Southern Education Foundation as Controller in September 2018. Her focus is managing accounting functions as well as human resource operations in support of the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer. She brings over 10 years of nonprofit experience to the foundation and currently serves as Finance Chair on the board of National Alliance on Mental Illness Dekalb. She received her bachelor’s degree from Troy University and her MBA from Kennesaw State University. Angela is originally from Manning, SC, and now resides in Decatur, GA, with her husband Daylon and their four children.

Raegan Johnson

Leadership Development Program Associate

Raegan Johnson serves as the Leadership Development Program Associate at the Southern Education Foundation, where she supports the Director of Leadership Development in program design and implementation. Before joining SEF, Raegan served as a Graduate Assistant for the Office of Equity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. There she assisted in the processing of discrimination complaints and the delivery of trainings and events to enhance campus diversity. Previous internships include the Department of Educational Leadership and the Office of Diversity and International Affairs at Tennessee State University, where she received her B.B.A. in Management. She recently completed her M.P.A. in Nonprofit Management in December 2018 at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Stephanie Flowers

Advocacy and Community Organizing Manager

Stephanie Flowers joined the Southern Education Foundation as the Advocacy and Community Organizing Manager. Her work focuses on advancing education equity for Black and Brown students in the South by increasing the advocacy capacity of grassroots organizations. Stephanie has 15 years of experience in building the capacity of grassroots organizers and assisting neighborhood organizations and residents through community change efforts, capacity building, and peer networking programs. She attended Atlanta Area Technical School and received her J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership certification from the University of Georgia, Troy State – Family Development Credential.

Micah Evans

Marketing & Communications Associate

Micah Evans is a Marketing & Communications Associate at the Southern Education Foundation, where he specializes in providing communications and technology support under the Director of Marketing & Communications. His responsibilities center on developing SEF’s online presence through its website, social media platforms, and other digital tools. Prior to joining SEF, Micah served for seven years as a legal researcher and analyst with the information and intellectual property firm, Thomson Reuters. Based in their D.C. office, Micah acted as an information liaison between the firm and the Information and Records Division Chief at the Copyright Office of the Library of Congress. Concurrently, Micah co-founded and led an independent graphic design company.

While attending the University of Maryland as a political science major, Micah pursued education and community reform through social media outlets, faith-based organizations, and community outreach groups. Micah served as a mentor at the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, Grant Assistant at the Metropolitan Community Development Corporation, and group organizer for the Men’s Ministry at Bethel World Outreach Ministries.

Danielle Harris

Executive Assistant

Danielle Harris is the Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Programs at the Southern Education Foundation, where she supports the strategic and operational efforts for all associated programs. Danielle has 10 years of education experience through her work with Atlanta Public Schools. While there, she served as a Site Director where she revamped an out-of-school enrichment curriculum that aligned with the development needs of the students enrolled in the program. Additionally, her work led to three out-of-school time programs becoming nationally accredited through the Council on Accreditation. Outside of her professional work experience, Danielle volunteers with the United Way of Greater Atlanta as a member of their Youth Advisory Council with the Opportunity Youth initiative. Danielle has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Georgia Southern University.

Chandra Halstead

Office Manager

Chandra Halstead is an Office Manager for the Southern Education Foundation. Ms. Halstead currently provides executive & logistical support for the Office of the President & Corporate Development. Prior to joining SEF, Chandra was the Overseas Grants Assistant for the Ford Foundation’s Office of Management Services, providing administrative, logistical, and consultant support for overseas offices located in Hanoi, Johannesburg, and New Delhi. Chandra received an Associate’s Degree in Executive Secretarial Science from the New York City College of Technology, CUNY.