Valerie Alexander

Valerie Vasquez-Alexander is the Office Manager. Valerie oversees LMWE office and support services (she is our go-to person).  In addition, Valerie has also co-taught sessions for our on-campus classes and our projects.

Roxanne Barrett

Computer Instructor

Roxanne Barrett is a computer skills instructor with a background in technology, including instructional design, 3D printing, and animation. She has a passion for learner-focused education that is fun, practical, and easy to retain. Before joining UMass, Roxanne taught English in South Korea, designed employee training for tech companies, and led customer support teams. She received her BS in Computer Graphics from CSU Chico in 2011 and is currently pursuing a Sustainable MBA at Unity College.

Amy Brodigan

Amy Brodigan
Assistant Program Director/Workplace English Instructor

Amy Brodigan has worked at UMass Amherst since 2002 as a teacher and in the last few years, as the assistant director of The Partnership for Worker Education.   She has 25 years of experience in the classroom, including teaching middle school, high school, community college, and adult learners.   She has a B.A. from Amherst College and a M.A. from the University of Chicago.

Jacob Carter

Projects Director

Jacob Carter is the project director for Building Bridges, a UMass Public Art and Engagement Initiative that draws on the power of solidarity and creative expression to bring people together and create a bridge across difference. He also provides leadership on The Partnership for Worker Education career ladder programing at the Physical Plant. Prior to his work at The Partnership for Worker Education, Jacob has over 15 years of working with various educational nonprofits in Central America and the U.S. including locally as a board member for the Massachusetts Fair Housing Center in Holyoke, MA. Jacob is completing a doctoral program at the Center for International Education with a focus on international nongovernmental organizations working in the education sector in Guatemala. Outside of work, he enjoys playing the guitar, being outdoors and spending time with his family.

Larissa Chekmareva

Career Ladders Instructor/Researcher

Larissa Chekmareva is a trainer/researcher in our Auxiliary Enterprises Career Ladder Program. She is a doctoral student in International education, focusing on equitable access to higher education in Kazakhstan and beyond. Her career path started with teaching mathematics in local public school and gradually moved to management positions in leading higher education institutions in Kazakhstan. For many years, she has also been an education consultant for international organizations (UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank). She has degrees in Physics (1992), Public Administration (1996) and International Education (2005). 

Joseph Connolly

Joseph Connolly co-founded the program in 1987 and has served as its director since that time.  He has a doctorate in worker education and comparative teaching methods, a Masters in labor studies, and a Masters in educational counseling.  He has a strong interest in participatory teaching, and issues of voice, visibility, and social justice.  He also worked for AFSCME 1776 from 1981 until retiring in 2016.

Francis Fortino

Computer Instructor/ IT

Francis Fortino is IT instructional coordinator, webmaster and volunteer coordinator for The Partnership for Worker Education, where he has taught for the past 20 years.  Fran is currently teaching a number of The Partnership for Worker Education computer courses including:  Intro to Computers, UMass Cloud Computing, MS Office 365, EXCEL (beginner and Intermediate), and other selected apps classes.  Before joining The Partnership for Worker Education, Fran used his foreign language skills as the assistant director of the Translation Center at UMass, which he helped found.  He earned a M.A.T. from UMass Amherst and has taught high school, college, and continuing education classes.

Leslie Fraser

Coordinator of Communications/ Instructor

Leslie Fraser is Coordinator of Communications and Campus Career Initiatives for The Partnership for Worker Education. She teaches writing, communications, leadership, workplace wellness, and career growth classes, offers career and education advising to UMass staff members in the AFSCME, USA/MTA, and PSU labor unions, and coordinates publicity for The Partnership for Worker Education programs. Leslie also teaches job skills, communications, leadership, and teamwork classes for Community Works. She worked as a writer, editor, nonprofit manager, and educator for more than 20 years before joining The Partnership for Worker Education in 1997. Her undergraduate degree is in women’s studies and human services education, and her graduate studies and degrees included labor education, counseling, and chaplaincy.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert
Senior Early Childhood Education Specialist

Elizabeth Gilbert is a strategic leader, researcher/evaluator and policy analyst with 20 years of professional experience in early education and care. Elizabeth is an expert in the theory and practice of meeting the higher education, career readiness, and professional development needs of under-educated pre-college state and national early childhood educators.

Melissa Kane

Workplace English Instructor

Melissa Kane is an avid lover of travel and communicating with people from around the world. Melissa thrives in bringing people of various cultures together to learn and share their commonalities and individuality. After years of  running a manufacturing business while also teaching group and individual fitness classes on the side, she finally completed the SIT Graduate Institute Intensive TESOL Certification program. Now Melissa is realizing her dream as she teaches workplace English in the classroom and tutors students from various countries on an individual basis. With years of studying French language, music, and culture, she lived in Paris for a semester abroad, and now travels regularly to Senegal, West Africa, to be with her family and friends and to study African dance and the native Wolof language. She discovers through her experiences that the beauty of our human connection is deeply rooted in the power of communication.

Michele Kenney

Michele Kenney is a project director, has a BFA from SUNY Purchase, and a M.Ed. in Secondary Special Education, from Westfield State University, with teaching certifications in 5-12 Special Needs, Art, and Mathematics, specializing in remediation and teaching of students with language based learning disabilities. Michele first began as a teacher for SHAEC in 2010, teaching GED classes and sustainability classes. In February of 2019 Michele became the project director, expanding the focus of the program to include classes to support small business owners and economic development. In addition to her 20 years of teaching experience, Ms. Kenney is the owner of a small business: Functional Art Thermal Insulated Window Treatments.

Sonia Lindop

Project Manager & Next Steps Instructor

Sonia Lindop is a doctoral candidate (Ph.D.) at the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts. She received a Bachelors degree in Social Communications at the University of Lima, Peru, and a Master in Social Anthropology from the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology in Mexico. Her research interest focuses on cultural and qualitative analysis in the field of adult education. Recently she directed SIT’s Indigenous Peoples and Globalization Program in Peru.

Christopher Moes

Workplace English Instructor

Christopher Moes is a workplace English teacher with a BFA in English from Emerson College and an M.Ed. in English curriculum and instruction from the University of Vermont. He has been teaching English for almost 20 years, mostly in Germany and Saudi Arabia in a wide variety of settings, including high school, university, technical college and in business.


Heather Morgan

SHAEC Computer Instructor

Heather Morgan is a computer teacher and technology manager, holds a BA in Business and Equine Facilitated Therapy from UMass, an AS from Holyoke Community College in Business Administration, and a diploma from the Computer Processing Institute in East Hartford, Ct.

Heather has been teaching computer classes for the Southern Hilltowns Adult Education Center (SHAEC) for the past six years. She has taught in the towns of Russell, Huntington, Chester, Chesterfield, and Middlefield. Her classes range from Etsy and eBay to Microsoft Office and Google Chrome. Besides teaching for SHAEC, Heather owns her own business, Seriously Vintage, and keeps active in the Hilltown communities.

Jeffrey Napolitano

Community Works Project Director

Jeff Napolitano is the director of Community Works, a pre-apprenticeship program that recruits, trains, and helps place residents of the Greater Springfield area into the construction/transportation industry and building trades. Jeff has been a member of the Hampden County Central Labor Council, the UAW, UNITE HERE, and has long organized for worker rights. He is a graduate of UMass Amherst and studied at the UMass Labor Center. In his spare time, he conducts nonviolent direct action trainings for activists and helps run the Resistance Center for Peace and Justice.

Brian Nguyen

Work Study

Brian Nguyen was born in Lowell, Massachusetts to Vietnamese immigrants. Being a first-generation student, he is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in economics (concentration in financial economics) with a minor in information technology. He hopes to pursue a graduate degree and then obtain a job as a financial analyst. He started working at The Partnership for Worker Education in the fall of 2018 as a work-study student, transcribing for the Career Ladders project and helping others around the office as well.

Margaret Olin

Workplace English Instructor

Margaret Olin joined The Partnership for Worker Education staff in 2017 to design and teach a workplace English curriculum in the new program for graduate employees. Over the past 30 years, she has taught ESOL and intercultural awareness classes locally in a variety of settings, including at the School for International Training, Greenfield Community College, and Holyoke Community College. She has a BA in biology from Middlebury College, and a M.A.T. in ESOL from the School for International Training.

Rees Shad

Aux. Career Ladders Designer/Researcher

Rees Shad is the Information Designer/ Researcher for the Auxiliary Enterprises Career Ladder Project. Rees attended college in the southern Adirondacks of New York State and while still a student launched a recording company. Over the next 15 years he worked on hundreds of music projects, several of which involved his own composition or performance. To date he has released thirteen solo and fourteen collaborative albums. Rees eventually left the music business, went back to school for an MFA, and became a college professor teaching communication history, game design, graphic design, music production, and usability studies. Eventually, he earned tenure as an associate professor at CUNY’s Hostos Community College in the Bronx. For a decade he served there as a media professor, curriculum developer, program coordinator, and department chair before coming to UMass for a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy at UMass Amherst. His past research focused on collaboration, kinesthetic learning, and play as a pedagogy. He is currently focusing on the role of futurist thinking in policy development.

Laura Skinner

Work Study

Laura Skinner has been an intern for the Community Works program since September of 2018. She is studying communication and political science at UMass Amherst. She also works as a resident assistant in Van Meter Hall.

Yi Sun

Workplace English Instructor/ Building Bridges

Yi Sun is an instructor working in the Labor/Management Workplace Education Program. She teaches beginning-level English class for dining commons employees on campus. Her class is developed based on work and home needs, and aims at improving learners’ communication skills and enhancing cultural competence in organizations. Yi holds a Masters in applied linguistics and is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was awarded the 2017-2018 Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry Scholarship for her doctoral studies in comparative education and international development. Yi had over six years of experience working with people from different cultural, linguistic, and educational backgrounds in university and NGOs. She enjoys providing training for adult learners to build up confidence and better adapt to the new work environment.

Kiara Young

Kiara Young started working at The Partnership for Worker Education in 2019 as a work study student. She is double majoring in psychology and sociology, and plans to get a certificate in criminal justice and social work. She aspires to be a criminal psychologist, specifically working with children who have entered into the juvenile system.