Meet the Board

Emerson Montessori Foundation is advised by a board of 10 people, including educators, parents, and other community members. 

Nathan & Kristin Pickard

Data analyst, PA

Nathan and Kristin Pickard are Tulsa natives who moved to the neighborhood nearly 15 years ago. Their son and daughter are Emerson Montessori students.


The Pickards have served as community organizers for more than a decade, working to address food insecurity and other issues in the Emerson area. They helped start a community garden in their neighborhood 10 years ago and in 2016, established Restoration Collective, a nonprofit  dedicated to improving how the community interacts with its natural, social and built environment.


Nathan and Kristin are passionate about ensuring that Emerson continues to serve a socioeconomically diverse student community and want to see positive outcomes for all the children in the area.


Nathan is a data analyst and founder of 9b. Kristin is a physician’s assistant at Warren Clinic Medical Oncology. Both are members of the Emerson Elementary PTA. Nathan is also an Up With Trees board member.

Christy Dancer Busch

Retired teacher

Christy Dancer Busch brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in science education to the Emerson Montessori Foundation Board.


A retired science teacher, Christy is a STEM educator with sensational science as well as a trained volunteer for Linnaeus Teaching Garden. She is also involved in Oklahoma Council for Community & Justice, Tulsa Permaculture, and Sustainable Tulsa.


Born in Greensburg, Kansas, Christy has lived throughout the Midwest and overseas. She has been in Tulsa since 2011 and helped launch the permaculture program at Emerson Elementary.

Molly Pickard 

Professional writer

Molly Pickard is an experienced communicator currently employed by 9b, a data analytics company passionate about the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of Tulsa.

Molly returned home for this job opportunity after four years in Dallas, Texas, where she worked for KERA—the local NPR and PBS member station.

As a board member, Molly manages Emerson Montessori Foundation's website and Facebook and searches for funding opportunities to support the foundation's endeavors. 

She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism.

Phillip D. Lewis

Professor, Counselor

Dr. Phillip D. Lewis is a certified rehabilitation counselor and a candidate for licensure as an alcohol and drug counselor. He currently serves as an associate professor/graduate coordinator in the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling and Disabilities Studies at Langston University. He also works as a licensed mental health professional counselor for the State of Oklahoma Healthcare Authority. 


Phillip earned his PhD in rehabilitation counseling education/law health policy and disability from the University of Iowa. He earned a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling/administration from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois. He earned a bachelor's degree in social work/political science from Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.


His research includes rehabilitation services for persons with mental and physical disabilities, school-to-work transition for adolescents with disabilities, correctional rehabilitation counseling, suicide prevention, substance abuse counseling, bullying, triple negative breast cancer awareness/prevention, and AgrAbility.


Phillip is the president of the Rhonda K. Hutson Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. He is a native of Memphis.

Raynece Million


Raynece Million is what she likes to call a “product of north Tulsa.”


Raised in Brady Heights, Raynece attended Emerson Elementary School, graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and then from Oklahoma State University, taking quite a few classes at the OSU-Tulsa campus. She is currently a realtor with an emphasis on north Tulsa.


Raynece will send her daughter to Emerson Elementary School once she reaches school age, but her desire to help enhance the school is driven by more than wanting the best for her own child; she wants to ensure that all families in her neighborhood have access to excellent education and enrichment opportunities.


It means the world to Raynece to give back to a community that gave her so much.

Ashley Philippsen

Community development

Ashley Philippsen is the deputy chief of Community Development & Policy at the City of Tulsa. In her role she works to create opportunities for Black Tulsans in north Tulsa, and she ensures that development is guided by meaningful community engagement.


She previously served as executive director of Met Cares, a nonprofit working to transform north Tulsa student academic and social outcomes through cultivating excellent schools, launching initiatives to increase civic engagement and build socio-political power, and leading community-designed economic development efforts.


Ashley started her career as a 2007 Teach For America corps member in Houston at YES Prep Public Schools. She was a founding administrator at YES Prep Brays Oaks Campus in 2009. Ashley relocated to Tulsa in 2012 to serve as managing director of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America - Oklahoma. In 2015, Ashley joined Leadership Tulsa to design and launch social innovation and adaptive leadership programs.  


Ashley has a bachelor's degree in letters from the University of Oklahoma, and a master's in human relations with an emphasis on organizational dynamics and social justice.

Kelsey Southerland

Stay-at-home parent

Kelsey Southerland is passionate about learning and teaching others about organic farming and believes in the power of uniting a community around its youngest members.


A stay-at-home mother of three children who will attend Emerson Elementary School when they reach school age, Kelsey has worked in political consulting and legislative affairs in Washington, D.C., as well as in government relations for a clean energy company in Houston, Texas. She grew up in Dallas-Fort Worth and was working for an organic farm in College Station, Texas, before moving to Tulsa in May 2017.


Through her work and volunteer efforts, Kelsey has developed a skill set that includes stakeholder engagement, coalition building and grassroots organizing. She looks forward to drawing on these skill sets, coupled with her passion for seeing a resurgence in families growing their own food, to create a sustainable and healthy community surrounding Emerson Elementary School.

Erin Rusling

Sales professional

Erin Rusling is a medical sales professional and a parent to an Emerson Pre-K student. 


Erin believes the Montessori method of education could be a conduit to transform Tulsa schools by instilling self motivation and a love of learning in all students, no matter their background. She wants to help Emerson become a model to be replicated throughout Tulsa.


Erin moved to Tulsa from California in 2011 and loves the sense of community and Tulsa’s rich history and spirit. She has a background in non profit work and fundraising that she hopes will benefit the Emerson Montessori Foundation and school community. 

Kandy Whitley-White

Health department facilitator

Kandy Whitley-White is devoted to increasing civic engagement, economic development and self-sustainability in underserved communities and working with people to make an impact on their lives and break the cycle and mindset of intergenerational poverty.


Kandy has worked as a property manager for the Tulsa Housing Authority, planned neighborhood revitalization efforts in the Eugene Field community as the manager of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods grant for CAP Tulsa, and served as manager of community mobilization in the Kendall-Whittier and Eugene Field communities for Growing Together.


Kandy grew up in north Tulsa and spent more than 14 years in Portland, Oregon, where she helped start a thriving nonprofit high school mentoring program, called REAP, which focused on reducing the achievement gaps among students of color. She returned to Tulsa in 2010 and served as president of the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association that year.


Kandy is now the Cross-Sector Facilitator for the TSET Healthy Living Program at the Tulsa Health Department. She is also a Global Gardens board member and a Greenwood Chamber of Commerce committee member. Kandy and her husband founded the Greenwood Experience, which developed and coordinated efforts to display the Black Wall Street exhibit at the Tulsa International Airport in August 2016.

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