Every person deserves a pathway to prosperity.
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 innovative skills training programs 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: How were students to decipher a high-quality school from the bootcamp pack? How could we connect as many students as possible with an outcomes-based skills training?
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 & Senior VP of Business Development
As Skills Fund’s co-founder and Senior 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.
Chief Impact Officer
As Chief Impact Officer, Yuanxia Ding leads quality assurance efforts for Skills Fund, living out her mission to provide students with access to high-quality learning programs and ensure students get their money's worth out of their educational experiences.
Yuanxia’s passion for quality assurance emerged as a result of threading the needle between consumer protection and innovation at the U.S. Department of Education (ED). In her time with ED, Yuanxia served as both a Senior Policy Advisor and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary of Education. Yuanxia has also served in leadership positions at Opportunity@Work and Teach For America, and previously led engagements for McKinsey & Company’s Education and Economic Development practices. Yuanxia holds an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA from Northwestern University.
Chief Financial Officer
Brandon McBride has dedicated much of his career to the long-term success of post-secondary students. From identifying how best to crack the nutshell of student lending, to creating pathways of access, retention, and completion for students, Brandon has always had a strong interest in matching the right students with the right schools (and vice versa).
As Skills Fund’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Brandon leads all aspects of Skills Fund’s credit and underwriting, capital markets, and financial management strategies. Prior to joining Skills Fund, McBride started his career with Sallie Mae and most recently ran a management consultancy that provided CFO, mergers and acquisitions (M&A), and product development counsel to clients. An Austin native and CFA charterholder, Brandon holds a bachelors in business and Spanish from Pepperdine University and a MBA from the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business.
Vice President of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs
As VP of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs, 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 strategic communications and public affairs initiatives and is driven to make transformative models of higher education accessible to all. Lauren holds a bachelors in political science from Texas A&M University.
As Skills Fund’s General Counsel, Mike Murphy leads the company's many strategic and tactical legal initiatives to best serve the company’s mission, educational partners, and borrowers.
Prior to joining Skills Fund, Mike spent over a decade in the Texas Attorney General’s Office of the Solicitor General handling a wide variety of high-profile cases involving consumer protection and regulatory enforcement. Always the entrepreneur, he has also helped launch a number of Texas-based startups. Mike holds a bachelors in political economy from Hillsdale College and a JD from William & Mary.
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.