Nominations for 2024 | Panel of Judges

We are excited to share the news that the EDmarket NexGen Rising Star Awards have been awarded to an exceptional group of young professionals under the age of 40. These individuals were nominated by EDmarket members and were selected for their remarkable passion, creativity, and commitment to student success. Congratulations to all the recipients of the NexGen Rising Star Awards — we look forward to seeing the incredible impact they will continue to make in the future!

2023 NexGen Rising Stars

CHELSEA ADICKS
CHELSEA ADICKS

Meteor Education
Marketing Director

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

Our team (Meteor Education) really has a unique approach to how we design educational spaces. We combine the educator's voice (with our team of seasoned educators) along with the vision of the school or district, then pair it with a research-based design for any learning space in the school. I find that a holistic approach is critical to make sure the educational spaces and services we provide really work for the teachers and students! I have the fun job of working with the rest of our marketing team to help tell those stories - sharing the districts' experiences of how working with Meteor is different. We are also working to make a difference in education with our equity programs that help districts plan for modernization and bring excellent learning experiences to every student in their district.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • I am proud of being the first in my family to graduate college. That university experience was a foundation for what my career has grown from. I am passionate about education, and working to help students have a more Pro-social and engaging educational experience, because I know how critical education is as a launchpad for one's future.

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BRANDI BROWN
ESGI Software / Riverside Insights
Director of Marketing

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I believe teachers are critical to our industry's success, and I'm happy to have worked at companies that empower educators and provide resources that not only make them more effective, but more efficient so they can maximize the time they have with children and provide a fun & engaging learning experience that produces positive gains!

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • Partnering with teacher creators/authors at hand2mind and ESGI
  • Spreading the word about the importance of the Science of Reading while I was at Square Panda (and honestly, I continue to!)
  • Being at the forefront of the social media revolution in this industry - first with librarians on listservs and Twitter at Follett, but ultimately continually learning new programs as they emerge, and tackling the challenges as algorithms change and popularity wains!

What problem are you solving in the field of education?

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KATIE CLARK
KI
Higher Education Market Manager

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I have spent the last 10+ years working directly with college students in admissions and enrollment, student leadership development, experiential education, women in engineering, innovation and entrepreneurship, career services and much more. I've had the privilege of being part of the development of so many students in these student-facing roles and was able to mentor, coach, and educate them in a variety of academic and personal areas. This year I made a huge transition by taking on a new role in the contract furniture industry at KI. I see my role as serving as a translator between the student and staff experience on a college campus and the KI community. Now, instead of working directly with students one-on-one my reach has expanded to college students across the country. I am able to help our KI reps facilitate innovative classroom design and impactful third spaces where students find respite and advocate for universal design. I believe having the user experience, from an empathy-based perspective, inside the KI organization helps our company enhance the lives of all the students and educators who engage with our furniture and design process.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

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SARAH COONEY
Educational Environments
(Frank Cooney Co.)

Director, Marketing & Communications

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

Before I officially entered the education industry, I spent 5 years at a Fortune 500 technology company on a global marketing and communications team. During those 5 years, I learned how to effectively engage employees around the business’ vision, develop a company culture, build & nourish relationships with executives, employees & consumers around the world, communicate the benefits of products & services and communicate big picture concepts and futuristic ideas. As I moved into my new role at Educational Environments, one might think about how I could apply knowledge from the tech industry to the educational furniture & design industry, and at the dealer level. My unique experience, modern communication & marketing knowledge, and outside viewpoint are the foundation of how I can make a difference in the education industry. I am helping build a strong dealer team through excellent internal organizational communication and by building our team's knowledge of research, design, and product trends so they can better serve the schools in our communities, hosting experts like Jill Ackers and Dr. Dieter Breithecker at our showrooms to connect with local A&D and even our school clients! I am sustaining our industry organization relationships through sponsorships, like local A4LE & IIDA chapters, and ensuring we have high team participation at local and national tradeshows. I am finding ways to easily communicate to school leaders the benefits of complex product solutions or how to apply design research ideas. Through all of the above, I hope my experience and efforts are modernizing the dealer role, preparing our dealership to stay relevant and competitive, and attracting my generation and generations to come to support the education industry.

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AARON EVANS
Kay-Twelve
President

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

By raising awareness of our country's outdated factory model of the education system, I am trying to make a difference in several ways: Challenging the status quo: By highlighting the fact that our education system has been largely unchanged since the 1800s, I am challenging the prevailing mindset and encouraging people to critically examine the flaws and limitations of the current model.

  • Recognizing individuality: By emphasizing that there is no such thing as an average student, I am promoting the idea that each student has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. This recognition is crucial in developing teaching methods that cater to individual needs and enable EVERY student to thrive.
  • Advocating collaboration: By advocating for a shift towards fostering collaboration in educational communities, I am striving to promote a more inclusive and empowering learning environment. Collaboration encourages students to work together, share ideas, and learn from one another, fostering important skills such as communication, teamwork, and empathy. And possibly most importantly teaches student’s common sense.

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KATELYN FORCUCCI
EduKater’s Corner
Consultant

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I bring my education and teaching background to the table. I understand what the expectations of the classroom are, but I also know why the space needs to change. I've created CEUs around the topic, too, to help the A&D community understand what is needed for future-ready classrooms and spaces, but also what is needed to ensure success for the learners and educators.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • The relationships I have made.
  • The spaces that I have helped to create have made an impactful difference for learners and educators
  • Starting my own blog and writing many case studies

What problem are you solving in the field of education?

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CHLOE HOSID
Corgan
Education Design Researcher, Associate

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

My work is focused on integrating research-based insight from a variety of disciplines into the design of learning environments with the goal of supporting learning, growth, and overall wellness for students and teachers. By sharing knowledge and design strategies rooted in empirical research, my contributions have positively influenced my teams’ design work and enhanced our ability to understand and respond to the needs and perspectives of the education communities we work with. I also share knowledge externally through written and presentation content, positioning myself as a thought leader in the education industry.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • As difficult as it is for me to access my own praises, I am very proud of myself for the authentic growth (both personally and professionally) I've experienced over the last few years. I am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive team that has embraced my interests and pushed me to grow. The first thing I would like to highlight as a point of pride is creating my own position. Soon after starting my career, I realized I wasn’t interested in pursuing the traditional path in architectural design. Channeling a growing existential crisis, I decided to pursue a second master's degree in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience to nurture my deep interest in the science of the human experience. I started connecting what I learned to my work designing learning environments, gradually building knowledge, and applying it in real-time. After graduating, I approached our leadership team and proposed establishing my unofficial research role as a formal position and became our firm's first market sector-based design researcher.

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KELSEY JORDAN
Legat Architects
Project Architect, Educational Designer

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

As a designer, activist, and leader, I utilize my passion daily to design stimulating future-focused learning environments. I do this by pushing boundaries about how we embrace empathy, wellness, and diverse lens in the built environment. Throughout the design process, I conduct community engagement and outreach to understand the best form of intervention so that stakeholders and end-users will see architects as their ally and not as a disruptor. I lead educational adequacy, equity, and equality studies for school districts so they can better understand what they can do to address possible systemic issues in their district and how to better center their school as a neighborhood school. At the end of a project, I direct pre- and post-occupancy evaluations so that they can become supplemental information for future projects, but also for teachers as the information is disseminated as part of teacher outreach. The teacher outreach includes teaching informational classes to teachers on how they could view their newly built environment as part of their pedagogy and curriculum. The root of my visions for the future of architecture involves strongly embedded ideologies on designing for equity, wellness, and agency in the built environment. Through research, I have been able to understand how health and wellness can be implemented to cause positive change within communities that face multifaceted issues like obesity, food deserts, poverty, educational obtainment, and systemic racism. This led me to embrace a career in educational design where I have had the honor of spreading the word about school architecture through speaking engagements, publications, teaching, and mentoring, and seeking out volunteer opportunities to strengthen communities and the next generation of leaders.

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IAN KILPATRICK
DLR Group
K-12 Design Leader | Principal

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

My job is ultimately to make school the ultimate tool. Our educational facilities can be one of the greatest assets, and often one of the biggest hindrances to engagement for learners and educators. I've been fortunate enough to work with clients across the country to not only shift teaching and learning to that of an inquiry-based, real-world model but also align the environment to support it. From early education, all the way up to high school and CTE facilities, affording every human using facilities we design the spaces, tools, technology, furniture, and safety to do so as successfully as possible, regardless of background.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • Converting not one, but two derelict big box stores in the hearts of our communities in the Kansas City metro into early education facilities has been some of the most gratifying work I’ve ever done. In Kearney, MO we took a vacant old grocery store and designed an inclusive and welcoming environment for learners to begin their educational journey. Then subsequently in North Kansas City, MO we took a vacant Hobby Lobby and grocery store and transformed it into one of the state’s largest early education facilities for (1000) 3 to 5-year-olds. Not only did this project build upon the successes (and lessons learned) of Kearney in order to create even more supportive early-ed learning environments but has been the catalyst for much advocacy (by Senator Lauren Arthur) to increase funding in the state of Missouri for early education.

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RACHEL MOYA
The Amos Group
Chief Revenue Officer

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

There is an existing need for physically and environmentally safe as well as technologically updated educational facilities across the country. The process to obtain funding and build those facilities is both expensive and at times cumbersome. I strive to assist both solution providers and Districts to navigate that process more seamlessly so that students can enjoy the benefits of those facilities for decades to come.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • Mentoring others
  • Continuing my education and completing additional certifications to deepen my understanding of important areas of my career
  • Anytime I am asked to speak or write on my field

What problem are you solving in the field of education?

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MATTHEW ROGERS
Kay-Twelve
Communications Manager

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I am actively contributing to the advancement of the education industry in multiple ways, primarily focusing on the improvement of physical learning environments and fostering effective leadership within schools. Within my capacity as a communications manager at Kay-Twelve, a prominent organization dedicated to enhancing learning spaces, I am spearheading efforts to revolutionize education through physical space transformation. Through our mission, we have positively influenced the educational experiences of more than 600,000 students thus far. At Kay-Twelve, I play a pivotal role in educating school leaders, educators, parents, community members, and even students on the crucial importance of 21st-century innovative spaces for ensuring student success. Through my position, I engage with prominent media outlets nationwide, showcasing the positive impact of our designed spaces and emphasizing their significance. Furthermore, I am actively involved in elevating education leadership through my role within the Education Leaders' Organization. In this capacity, I am committed to fostering effective leadership development at the personal and professional levels that drive positive change within educational institutions. By collaborating with esteemed professionals, I contribute to the development and implementation of innovative strategies that empower leaders and improve the overall educational landscape. Additionally, I take pride in serving as the lead Producer for the Better Learning Podcast. This platform enables us to synthesize the interplay between physical space and leadership, facilitating in-depth discussions on societal advancements in these areas. Through engaging interviews with change-makers, school leaders, designers, and industry experts, we explore a wide range of topics that highlight the profound impact of space, leadership, and culture on educational outcomes.

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BRETT SCHWARTZ
Geyer Instructional Products
General Manager / CAO

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I am actively contributing to the education industry by making a positive impact through two key initiatives:

  • Pioneering Innovative Classroom Products: I am dedicated to developing and introducing innovative products to enhance the teaching and learning experience. By staying at the forefront of educational trends I strive to offer, curate, and create tools and resources that inspire engagement, foster critical thinking, and enhance student outcomes. These products aim to empower educators with effective teaching aids and provide students with enhanced learning opportunities.
  • Curating a Trusted E-commerce Store: Recognizing the importance of access to reliable and affordable resources, I have established an e-commerce store specifically curated for teachers. This platform offers a wide selection of vetted products that have been carefully evaluated for their quality and relevance to the classroom. By providing a trusted marketplace, I enable educators to easily discover and acquire the best resources, ensuring they have the necessary tools to deliver exceptional education to their students without financial burden.

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NIKKI SNELLINGER
JCJ Architecture
Interior Designer II

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

A project that has been my pride and joy is the Boys and Girls Club, we are now on our second location in the City of Hartford. It has been an incredible experience getting to design and create this space that makes the students feel happy, creative, and safe. Being able to achieve such an incredible space on a SUPER tight budget feels so rewarding, and we know it brings a huge value to the community.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • Managing any FF&E installation no matter the size has its challenges. But I was able to successfully manage a 5-phase, 3-year-long, 9-vendor delivery and install with middle school students still occupying the building. Having achieved this has made me a strong designer in a way of organizing and setting up logistics for future FF&E installations.
  • Being able to help design the EDspaces classroom for the 2022 EDmarket Conference in Portland, Oregon, as well as work with the vendors for the FF&E portion of it. My experience with the middle school installation really came in handy in this particular instance. I sat in a few EDSessions in that classroom and was able to look around and be really proud of what the team I worked with, created.

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TRAVIS TAYLOR
Lone Star Furnishings
Educational Furniture Consultant

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

I tackle every project using an approach rooted in integrity, responsiveness, and trust to build long-lasting relationships with educators. Those relationships have fostered opportunities for increased innovation and creativity in learning environments throughout North Texas.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

  • I am proud that I am building relationships with customers and coworkers that go beyond transactions, based on a customer-centric mentality. I listen to their needs and am constantly aware of the importance of interpreting their vision for their spaces in a responsible way.
  • I am so proud of my project team! We’ve worked together to develop what I’m going to call, team efficiencies that allow us to assist customers faster and with greater accuracy.
  • I would be lying if I did not admit to enjoying bragging rights these last 3 years for the highest volume sales attainment! (And I am on track to repeat in 2023!)

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FRANK VIELE
WB Mason Company
Director - Education FF&E

Describe how you are making a difference in the education industry.

My position at the WB Mason Company has given me the opportunity to create an all boats rise scenario where I can help growing manufacturers get their innovative products in front of a large grouping of customers across a substantial geographic area and simultaneously help both schools get their ideal learning environments and manufacturers get true "voice of the customer" reactions on their innovations. This creates a unique dynamic where WB Mason's end-user relationships within school districts become a catalyst for industry innovation. I also participate in pedagogy-focused product design with multiple manufacturers. But overall, what has been most important is that within my job of training the WB Mason sales force on the education furniture industry, I work closely with all sales professionals to educate them on the future of the classroom and what they should be showing to their customers. In turn, I believe that the WB Mason Company on the whole has become a change agent in the industry helping to push modern education environments to the forefront in our geographic region.

List three things you are most proud of so far in your professional career.

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