Every human deserves a professional opportunity that provides purpose and fulfillment.
Skills Fund was born from two seasoned academics (Rick & Joseph), entrenched in traditional higher ed, who realized the system was broken. They witnessed students making a tremendous personal and financial investment in their education, and upon graduation, their university patted them on the back and placed no mind to what happened next.
Then came along non-traditional accelerated learning programs (i.e. bootcamps) and the mold changed. For the first time in higher ed, a school formed its curriculum to match labor demands and gauged its success on real student outcomes (i.e. those short- and long-term milestones after graduation).
And a lightbulb went off:
And voilà - Skills Fund was born. We are a team of mission-driven patriots, who work tirelessly to ensure schools, quality assurance entities, and lenders all have skin in the game when it comes to a student's success.
We don't finance students to attend crappy programs
Founder & CEO
With more scars than he cares to count from fighting the good higher ed reform fight, Rick O’Donnell is a tireless entrepreneur and civil servant who has founded multiple social and for-profit ventures rooted in making American lives better. His most recent start-up, College Portfolio, was acquired by...a bootcamp.
Prior to founding Skills Fund, O’Donnell was Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, where he served as the state’s chief consumer protection official with direct oversight of the Financial Services, Securities, Banking, Insurance, and Public Utilities Commissioners. Rick also led the Colorado Department of Higher Education, overseeing all 29 public colleges and universities, the regulation of private and occupational schools, the state’s student loan servicing agency, and the state’s college savings plan administrator. He currently serves on the U.S. Department of Education’s advisory counsel (NACIQI) that oversees all college accrediting agencies.
Co-Founder & Vice President of Business Development
As Skills Fund’s co-founder and VP of Business Development, Joseph Kozusko is a reformed biochemistry professor who walked away from the tenure-track when he realized there is a better way to drive lifelong learning and equip students for the workplace.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Joseph received his Ph.D. in Physiology and Biochemistry from the University of Alabama. Post-academia, he added an MBA from the innovative Acton School of Business, which served as the catalyst into his entrepreneurial endeavors. Most recently, Joseph was a founding member of a successful K-12 startup, and led the sales and business development efforts at a higher-ed startup, which was acquired in 2013. Joseph has also successfully built and launched multiple Austin-based businesses.
Vice President of Operations
Erin Schanning joined Skills Fund as VP of Operations to empower students to be their strongest, most capable selves. Having worked with the senior executive team at Google on mission-critical strategy and operations, she knows first-hand the power of technology and data-driven outcomes in building long-term success. Prior to Google, Erin practiced law at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. Erin holds a JD with Distinction from Stanford University and a BA with Special Honors from George Washington University.
Vice President of Marketing
As VP of Marketing, Lauren Bauml is a former defense acquisition policy manager and international strategic marketing executive. In her tenure with Airbus, a leading global defense and aerospace organization, Lauren has worked from Washington, D.C., to Munich, Paris, London, and Ottawa, identifying the mission critical and security needs of national first responders and military interests. Currently, she leads Skills Fund's marketing and public relations initiatives and is driven to make transformative models of higher education accessible to all. Lauren holds a BA from Texas A&M University.
Vice President of Partnerships and Growth
As VP of Partnerships & Growth, Sean Clifford supports the success of high-quality bootcamps. He joined Skills Fund to promote the transformational potential of skills-oriented programs. Sean firmly believes that this innovative approach to education can meaningfully expand access to economic opportunity. He likes working on the action side of big ideas and loves hearing from graduates who have found their calling.
Prior to joining Skills Fund, Sean spent nearly eight years crafting public affairs strategy with Baron Public Affairs in Washington, D.C. He holds a BA from Williams College, a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College, and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School.
Director of Credit & Risk Portfolio
Suman Mallick brings to Skills Fund a deep drive to revolutionize higher education and the student financing model. As Vice President of Private Equity at Lone Star Funds, following his time with Fortress Investment Group, Suman was involved in all aspects of asset-backed structured finance transactions. While at Fortress, he rebuilt an asset management platform for consumer finance products.
Prior to joining Skills Fund, he also advised mortgage banking clients, such as Fannie Mae, as a Senior Consultant with Newbold Advisors; advised Kingdom Investment Company with the first ever asset-backed securitization in the Middle East; and was instrumental in the strategic planning and founding of Saudi Home Loans, a leading mortgage loan company in Saudi Arabia. He started his financial career as an analyst at Citibank, and holds an MBA in Finance from Edinburgh Business School and a BS in Math & Physics from Angelo State University.
Our strategic partner, Iowa Student Loan, is a non-profit with a mission to help students and families obtain the resources necessary to succeed in postsecondary education. It is fully self-funded and self-capitalized. Together with its subsidiary, Aspire Resources, Iowa Student Loan has more than 200 employees and over $2.6 billion in active loans.
In addition to just being plain old “Iowa Nice,” they bring capital, technology, and expertise for Skills Fund to scale a world-class financing platform that provides bootcamps with innovative solutions and students with ideal loan terms – all in a way that is high-quality, regulatory compliant, and can grow rapidly with the accelerated learning program revolution in higher education.
You spend a big chunk of your life at work, and frankly, life’s too short to waste it working without a clearly defined mission and purpose. Even on the hardest of days – and in a start-up virtually every day brings its challenges – each member of the Skills Fund team is galvanized by the fact that there is no other place that we’d rather be.