Kessler Scholars Collaborative Team

Gail Gibson

Gail Gibson, PhD

  • Executive Director
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Gail Gibson leads the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, working with campus colleagues to imagine and build better systems of support for first-generation college students. Previously, Gail served as Director of the Kessler Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, where she designed and led the early development of this cohort-based student support initiative.

Gail holds a PhD in English and Education from the University of Michigan, where she has taught undergraduate courses in college success, academic argumentation, professional writing, and English grammar as well as graduate coursework in educational assessment. Her academic interests focus on college access and success and how postsecondary students experience academic transitions. She received an MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Michigan State University.

A former journalist, Gail was a national legal correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, and she is a former recipient of the Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship in the Law at U-M.

Kristen Glasener

Kristen Glasener, PhD

  • National Director of Organizational Learning and Strategy
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As the National Director of Organizational Learning and Strategy, Kristen Glasener is responsible for managing and supporting the assessment of organizational learning across the national Collaborative network and overseeing the design, implementation, and assessment of campus-based Kessler Scholars Programs. 

Kristen holds a PhD in higher education from the University of Michigan. Her research focusing on selective colleges admissions and first-generation students has been published in Research in Higher Education, Journal of Higher Education, and Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, among others. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s School of Government, where she teaches research and evaluation courses.

Prior to joining the Kessler Scholars Collaborative, Kristen worked in selective college admissions and as a college advisor to support underserved students in navigating the college-going process. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the Ohio State University and an MSW from Boston University.

Campus-Based Program Leads

Shakima Clency

Cornell University

Shakima Clency, MS

  • Associate Dean of Students for Student Empowerment
  • Director of First-Generation and Low-Income Student Support
Stephon Hamell

Johns Hopkins University

Stephon Hamell, PhD

  • Director of Scholars and Fellows and the Kessler Scholars Program
Barbara Simerka

Queens College

Barbara Simerka, PhD

  • Director, Kessler Presidential Scholars Program
  • Coordinator, Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship
  • Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature
Anthony Desiderio

St. Francis College

Anthony Desiderio, MA

  • Director of Scholar Programs
Huey Headshot

Syracuse University

Huey Hsiao, MBA, MS

  • Associate Director, Multicultural Affairs & the Kessler Presidential Scholars Program
  • Interim Director, Disability Cultural Center
Anna Marie portrait

University of Michigan

Anna Maria Flores, PhD

  • Associate Director, Kessler Scholars Program
Judy Kessler Wilpon and Fred Wilpon

A Spirit of Generosity

The Kessler Scholars Collaborative and the network of campus-level Kessler Scholars Programs it supports exist due to the generosity of the Wilpon Family Foundation. Fred Wilpon is chairman emeritus of the New York Mets baseball team and a longtime real estate developer in New York City. Thanks to a scholarship, he was able to attend the University of Michigan — the first in his family to do so — where he met his wife, Judy Kessler Wilpon, a fellow student.

The Wilpons credit their professional success to their time at Michigan. To help future generations of students attend U-M, the Wilpon family established the Kessler Presidential Scholarship, named in honor of Judy Kessler Wilpon’s parents. The Wilpon family launched the Kessler Scholars Collaborative to expand upon this support to create more opportunities for first-generation college students across the country.