About Us

Our story, purpose, mission, and history are important parts of what make us, well, us! Read on and if you like what you see, check out our careers section at the bottom of the page.

Our Story

Encoura’s mission is to empower students and institutions to create meaningful connections so everyone can make the most informed decisions to achieve their goals. Since 1972, the company has evolved its products and services to better represent the link between students and higher education institutions and to create the highest probability of student success.

As part of that evolution, the company acquired Eduventures®—the leading research and advisory firm focused exclusively on higher education—to provide forward-looking and actionable research and insights. With the launch of the Encoura platform in 2017, the company provides custom technology solutions that combine Eduventures research, data science, strategic enrollment services, and multichannel marketing to serve over 2,000 higher ed institutions. The company also offers myOptions® Encourage™—a free planning program that offers college and career planning assistance to high school students, parents, and educators nationwide so they can explore a wide range of post-secondary opportunities.

myOptions®

At the heart of the Encoura family is myOptions—a free planning service that offers college and career planning assistance to students, parents, and educators nationwide so they can explore a wide range of post-secondary opportunities. myOptions now includes more mobile-friendly services and features, including a free app that can be found in the Apple iTunes store.

Our Why (or Purpose)

We believe that education is the catalyst for individual success and community transformation.

Our Mission

We empower students and institutions to create meaningful connections so everyone can make the most informed decisions to achieve their goals.

Interested in joining us? Jump to our Careers section.

Our Leadership

Doug Hughes

Chief Executive Officer

About Doug

After driving tanks in the US Army for 3 years, Doug Hughes became a first-generation college student at the University of West Georgia, where he received a BBA in business information systems. The mission has always been his guiding principle, whether it’s in the Army, at the University of West Georgia, or in his career. Given the profound impact that education had on his life, Doug dedicated his career to providing equity and access to all students as they work towards college and career success. After two decades of building innovative technologies for education, he became the CEO of Encoura in 2020.

Previously, Doug served as CEO of Surgarai, Inc., a medical technology startup, and as chief product officer at Knewton, an adaptive learning company recently acquired by Wiley. Prior to that, Doug spent 17 years at McGraw-Hill Education, where he served in various senior leadership roles including chief sales officer, director of digital partnerships, and executive brand manager.

Sam Marshall

Chief Financial Officer
About Sam

Sam is an experienced executive with a demonstrated history of building strong teams and leading them through rapid growth cycles. Skilled in leadership, budgeting, negotiation, business planning, and operations management, Sam has built and grew finance departments for some of Austin’s most exciting early-stage companies for the 16 years prior to joining Encoura. His experience in both SaaS and eCommerce-focused companies is comprised of building systems that automate much of the invoicing, payment, and accounting work, while developing high-performing teams focused around financial and accounting rigor.

Sam holds an MBA in Finance and a BA in Economics, both from the University of Texas at Austin. His past experience includes investment banking, private equity, and film finance in Houston, New York and Los Angeles.

Debora Thompson-Widmer

Chief Growth Officer
About Debbie

As Chief Growth Officer for Encoura, Debbie brings over 25 years of sales and leadership experience to the organization. Debbie joined Encoura in 2015 as Vice President of Sales and during her tenure, has led the consultant team to triple the business and increase the number of member institutions to well over 2,000 colleges and universities.

She previously served as Associate Director of Admissions at Ripon College and brings a wealth of knowledge from her time in the higher education industry, as well as from other positions in marketing, research, and project management. Prior to joining the organization, Debbie was a Principal of an engineering company where she led sales, marketing, research and project management.

Debbie has maintained her passion for education and has served as a part-time substitute teacher for the Bartlett Schools for over five years. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics with a minor in Psychology from Ripon College.

Todd Boullion

Chief Marketing Officer
About Todd

Todd Boullion is a well-rounded leader and innovator with proven performance in many distinct business disciplines: marketing, operations, sales, communications, finance, technology, and analytics. He has more than 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry and in the education arena at companies such as Dell, PulsePoint, and PostUp. Todd has created and executed extensive B2B business and marketing plans to launch products, expand market share, enter new regions, and deliver record financial performance. Prior to joining Encoura, he managed the multimillion-dollar P&L for SaaS company UnsubCentral. At Encoura, Todd is responsible for branding, product marketing, research, PR, and marketing communications.

Todd graduated magna cum laude from Texas Christian University and currently sits on the TCU Neeley School of Business Alumni Executive Board. Outside of work, Todd serves as a board member and treasurer for Hand to Hold nonprofit.

Dennis Syracuse

Chief Operating Officer/Chief Client Officer
About Dennis

Dennis Syracuse joined the Encoura team in 2016. He is a results-oriented senior-level executive with a multichannel background, including B2C, B2B digital marketing, global retail, and e-commerce and marketing technology solutions. His passionate leadership, coupled with his experience in developing customer service programs through team building and talent development, steers an organization to develop effective service, operations, and P&L management. He has a history of developing results-driven, proven high-performing cultures especially in new concept and scaling businesses. He brings a broad marketing experience in strategy development and senior-level decision-making. Dennis is a vital component to the success of Encoura and the Encoura® platform.

Dennis came to us from Madison Logic, the global leader in account-based marketing, where he was the chief marketing officer. Prior to Madison Logic, Dennis was at Datran Media as the chief marketing officer and president, media services and Sony before that as the senior vice president/GM direct retail including online and physical operations.

Mary Loeffler

Chief People Officer
About Mary

Mary joined Encoura in 2019 and as Chief People Officer, she is responsible for building and scaling a healthy and sustainable organization where people thrive. She is responsible for the company-wide strategy, development, and execution of all areas of human capital management.

Mary brings over 20 years of experience in People and Talent Operations in technology organizations for both high-growth small start-ups and large, global corporations and her areas of expertise includes talent acquisition, talent management and development, culture/engagement, diversity and total rewards.

Mary received her Masters of Science from Mercy College.

Matt Ellis

Chief Product Officer
About Matt

After 15 years of serving in admissions and enrollment management leadership roles at large public and small private universities, Matthew Ellis joined the Encoura leadership team in 2020 as the Chief Product Officer. Ellis leads Encoura’s product innovation, design, and activation endeavors and brings his wealth of experience utilizing technology, data science, and personalized engagement to serve students and achieve enrollment growth.

Matt began his career in higher education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as an assistant director of admissions, followed by serving as assistant dean of admissions for William Jewell College, the executive director of admission services for Arizona State University, associate provost for enrollment management at Rockhurst University, and executive director of enrollment services for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Matt holds an MBA from Rockhurst University and a BA in Political Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

John-Greene

John Greene

Chief Technology Officer
About John

Recently joining Encoura as Chief Technology Officer, John is an innovative technical executive with hands-on experience in data, analytics, product development, and has a passion for improving educational opportunities for children. John has built and sold companies from the ground up such as Tetradata and driven growth and innovation in larger concerns such as Blackbaud and ACT. His success is derived from a roll-up-your-sleeves approach to technical leadership, people, teams, and process.

John holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from Babson College. He joined Encoura in 2021.

Shobhan Thakkar

General Counsel
About Shobhan

Shobhan joined Encoura in July 2017 as General Counsel, where he also works on corporate development matters. With a broad background that includes working at a big 4 accounting firm, in the New York City office of a global law firm and as an attorney at Epic, Shobhan is able to advise on business, legal and accounting issues. He also has extensive startup and working with high growth companies, including, leading a Madison tech company to a successful exit as general counsel, and being on the founding teams of several high-growth tech companies, the most recent just having completed a $45MM Series C round.

Shobhan has a law degree and a masters of accounting from The Ohio State University, and a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from the University of Illinois.

Cara Quackenbush

Eduventures Senior Vice President of Research
About Cara

As Senior Vice President of Research, Cara is responsible for guiding the depth and breadth of the company’s research coverage and rigorous research methodologies and standards. Prior to joining the Eduventures Research team, Cara was an advancement professional with more than a decade of fundraising, management, marketing, and accounting experience at institutions of higher education.

Cara’s experience spans annual giving, major giving, volunteer management, alumni engagement, parent fundraising, and planned giving. She has also conducted research on management practices and strategies in higher education, including higher education accounting practices, presidential leadership techniques, and legal policies affecting planned giving.

Cara is a frequent presenter at industry conferences and events, including CASE, and her work has been published in CASE Currents. Cara was the Associate Director of Gift Planning at Boston College, where she helped launch the university’s $1.5 billion capital campaign as well as its first-ever legacy gift campaign. Cara also worked in both the annual fund and the office of planned giving at her alma mater, Santa Clara University, where she earned her B.A. in journalism. Cara holds an MBA and an MS in accounting from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College.

Clint Chapman

Senior Vice President of Encoura Enrollment Services
About Clint

Clint Chapman joined Encoura in 2014 and brought with him more than 14 years of higher education enrollment management experience. Clint served at William Jewell College as Dean of Admission before joining Encoura. Prior to that, he held multiple positions in the University of Missouri’s Division of Enrollment Management, ranging from Admission Representative to Associate Director. Additionally, he has worked with many campuses in the United States and Canada as an enrollment management technology consultant specializing in communication management.

Clint has spent his career helping students connect with their best fit colleges by integrating proven enrollment strategies with new technologies and communication channels. He earned his BA in Psychology and his MA in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis in Higher Education from the University of Missouri.

Eduventures Analysts

Our team of research analysts represents some of the brightest and most experienced research analysts in the industry. As foremost experts in domains specific to higher education, their goal is to create competitive advantage for the institutions we serve.

 

Our Board of Advisors

Arlene Cash

Vice President for Enrollment Management, Frostburg State
About Arlene

Chair for the Board of Advisors at Encoura, Arlene Cash is the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Frostburg State University. She was previously the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Guilford College in North Carolina.

Bringing together Admissions, Financial Aid, the Office of the Registrar, Programs Advancing Student Success, the Center for Academic Advising and Retention and TRIO programs, Cash brings a student success focus to Frostburg’s enrollment initiatives with a strong record of student engagement.

Besides her work at Guilford College, Cash has been the chief enrollment management officer at Spelman College (Atlanta, Ga.), the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Ark.) and the University of the Pacific (Stockton, Calif.). She holds a bachelor’s degree from Keuka College, a master’s from Kent State University, and she is pursuing a doctorate in higher education management through the University of Georgia. She is the first in her family to graduate from college, but her parents followed in her footsteps, both earning bachelor’s degrees after she did; her mother proceeded to earn a master’s from Harvard as well.

Dr. Chris Domes

President, Neumann University
About Dr. Domes

Dr. Chris Everett Domes became the sixth president of Neumann University on July 17, 2017.

Dr. Domes believes that presidential leadership “requires reflective and thoughtful communication, followed by mission-centered decision-making and coupled with a high level of transparency.”

Dr. Domes comes to Neumann University from Silver Lake College, a Catholic Franciscan institution that offers undergraduate programs in a School of Liberal Arts, School of Professional Studies, and School of Education. The curriculum also includes programs for working professionals and students pursuing graduate studies in Business and Education. The student body is among the most diverse in Wisconsin.

Before serving as president of Silver Lake College, Dr. Domes held leadership positions in various enrollment management and student development capacities for 17 years at Marymount University in Virginia and for a decade at St. Bonaventure University in New York.

Dr. Domes holds an EdD in Higher Education Administration from The George Washington University, and two degrees from St. Bonaventure University: an MSEd in Counseling Psychology and a BA in History and Secondary Education.

Stan Elliott

Director, Missouri Innovation Campus
About Stan

Stan Elliott is the Director of the Missouri Innovation Campus for the University of Central Missouri. He received his BS, BSE and MA degrees from Truman State University and his Educational Specialist degree from University of Missouri – Kansas City. Previously he worked for the Lee’s Summit School District for 33 years as a high school teacher, assistant principal, principal, and spent the last 7 years as assistant superintendent for secondary instruction. Stan has consulted and presented nationally on school improvement initiatives and on the International Baccalaureate program.

Dr. Joy Gates Black

President, Delaware County Community College
About Dr. Black

Dr. L. Joy Gates Black was selected unanimously by Delaware County Community College’s Board of Trustees in 2017 to be the fourth president of the College since its founding. She is the first woman and the first African American to head the College.

A well-respected higher education administrator with decades of experience at both community colleges and four-year institutions, Dr. Gates Black was chosen after an extensive national search to lead the College, which serves 23,000 credit and non-credit students annually, online and at its eight campuses in Delaware and Chester Counties.

Prior to becoming president of Delaware County Community College, Dr. Gates Black served as vice chancellor at Tarrant County College District (TCC), a comprehensive, community college in Fort Worth, Texas that serves more than 100,000 credit and non-credit students at multiple campuses. She joined TCC in 2010 as vice chancellor for Student Success, during which time she also served as interim president of Tarrant’s South Campus.

Dr. Gates Black holds a graduate studies certificate and a Master’s Degree in Education from Cambridge College, a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University. She also has pursued doctoral studies in Human and Organizational Development from Fielding University in Santa Barbara, California.

A U.S. Air Force veteran and a native of Dayton, Texas, Dr. Gates Black is married to Dillet Black. They have four adult children and five grandchildren.

Sean Kaylor

Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Communication, Marist College
About Sean

Following his graduation from Marist College in 1990, Sean began his career in The Office of Admission as an Assistant Director and worked his way up to Vice President for Admissions and Enrollment Planning by 1998. He now serves as Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing and Communications. In this role he oversees Undergraduate and Graduate Admission, Enrollment Services, Student Financial Services and College Marketing and Communications for both the main campus in Poughkeepsie, New York and the Marist campus in Florence, Italy.

Sean has presented and moderated at regional and national conferences on all topics related to enrollment management. He is a past president of the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling (NYSACAC) and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Encoura, Sprout Creek Farm in Dutchess County, New York and Saint Bernard School in Southeastern Connecticut. Sean lives in Poughkeepsie, New York with his wife Paula and two daughters, Katie and Samantha.

Suzanne Petrusch

Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing, Presbyterian College
About Suzanne

Suzanne Petrusch is the Vice President of Enrollment and Marketing at Presbyterian College, a position she has held since 2016. Previously, she served as the Vice President for Enrollment Management at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, where she oversaw the Offices of Admission, including Graduate & Adult Enrollment Services; Financial Assistance; Enrollment Marketing; and Student Retention. She focused on organizational change, professional development, data-driven enrollment strategies, marketing and communication, and the strategic use of financial aid in order to achieve transformation. Among markers of the division’s success, Suzanne notes the 28 percent increase in the size of the first-year class, the first enactment of a deposit wait list, and improvements in the persistence of first-generation students. Further, the University realized a gain of 18.2% in the four-year graduation rate within 10 years.

Suzanne’s move to San Antonio followed 15 years of progressive responsibility at the University of Dayton where she served as the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management. Among her favorite responsibilities at UD, she counts successfully coordinating and implementing the marketing and communications plans for the enrollment management division, integrating media and new technologies, and being charged with re-engineering the University’s graduate student marketing and admission operations.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Trinity University and a Master of Science in education from the University of Dayton and currently is a doctoral student in educational leadership at The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Amy Takayama-Perez

Vice President of University Marketing and Enrollment Planning, College of Charleston
About Amy

As the Vice President of University Marketing & Enrollment Planning, Amy Takayama-Perez is responsible for the overall management and execution of the College of Charleston’s recruitment strategy.

Amy also serves as the Executive Director of the Washington Scholars Program, home to the Washington Youth Summit on the Environment and the Washington Journalism and Media Conference. She has an affinity for working with students and families in higher education. Before her involvement in the Washington Scholars Program, she was the Guidance Specialist for Loudoun County Public Schools and served as the Director for a county wide college access program.

Previously, she has worked in the Office of Admissions as the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment. She has worked with countless students and families on the application and college search process and is very active in regional and national college counseling associations.

A native New Englander, Ms. Takayama-Perez holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Masters of Education from George Mason University, and serves on the GMU Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Careers

Why we start with why …

We believe that no student should miss a higher education or career opportunity because they lacked the resources or proper guidance to identify and achieve it. But without help, this situation happens every day. At Encoura, our mission is to empower students and institutions to create meaningful connections so every student and college can achieve their goals. With the right knowledge and information, every student can find the right school, right major, and/or right career to achieve success.

Additional benefits and perks

  • Paid holidays
  • Generous PTO policy
  • Generous benefits: medical, dental, vision, life and disability insurance, HSA, FSA, tuition reimbursement, and 401(k)
  • Casual dress
  • Collaborative and energetic work environment with other motivated, career-driven professionals in Austin, Texas; Lee’s Summit, Missouri; and Boston, Massachusetts

If our mission is one you can get behind, we’d like to talk to you!