Announcing 2024 Mentorship Program Cohort

by Milena Deleva

We are pleased to announce the 2024 cohort of AAAE’s Mentorship Program. Ten mentees were selected after a rigorous evaluation process and have been paired with established arts administration educators and practitioners.


Adia Edmondson (she/her) is a dancer, arts administrator, and community leader with diverse experiences in the arts and community service leadership. Originally from New York and Connecticut, Adia currently lives in Philadelphia, PA where she is attending Drexel University and pursuing a Master’s degree in Arts Administration and Museum Leadership and a minor in Arts in Public Health, as well as a College Teaching non-credit certificate program. Prior to pursuing this degree, Adia received her BA in Dance and Theater with a concentration in Dance Therapy and a minor in Studio Art and Psychology from Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. Currently, outside of the classroom Adia is a Mentor Coordinator with The DREAM Program, Pilates Teacher in training at Drexel’s Pilates studio, and an intern in Pentacle’s Arts Administration internship program. Adia has engaged in a variety of experiences in community service, education, and the arts, working with other organizations such as JUNTOS Collective, PennLiveArts, Dancing Classrooms, Groove With Me, City Year, Tessitura, Tom O’Conner Consulting Group, and others. Adia’s long term goal is to teach in higher education within a performing arts and/or arts administration department, as well as teach diverse movement/fitness styles in a variety of community settings.

Christina Lynch is an emerging arts administrator with experience in marketing, live event coordination, and educational public programs. In recent roles, Christina have amplified reach through social media channels and organized events and festivals of all sizes. Christina is grateful to have worked within both cultural and educational spaces and am deeply interested in audience development. Christina is currently completing my final semester of the MA Arts Administration program at Baruch College in May 2024. Christina also hold a BA in Sociology from New York University. Christina’s long-term objective is to contribute to institutions that value community care. A native New Yorker, Christina enjoys reading and exploring the many parks in the city in spare time.

Emily Mack (she/her): As an advocate and lover of the arts, Emily has spent her life working with a vast range of communities in the art world. Growing up outside Washington D.C. and formally studying the arts in San Francisco and Florence, Italy, Emily made a geographical pivot to Bozeman, Montana where she went on to manage an art gallery. After working within the arts in both rural and urban settings, Emily decided to pursue her Master’s in Administration of the Arts at Baruch College in New York City.  As Emily is currently finishing master’s, she is focusing on building the skills to become someone who bridges communities together through the arts and empowers them to thrive.

Jovan Osborne is a creative arts administrator and educator who is passionate about serving diverse communities through the arts. Jovan has a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a minor in Education and Psychology from Florida State University and is currently completing his Masters in Arts Administration also at FSU. Jovan is currently the Education Manager and Interim Director of The Grove Museum in Tallahassee, Florida. Since being in this role, he has developed strategic partnerships, and initiatives to attract a diverse audience. Jovan also works with the Florida Music Educators Association for their Collegiate Advocacy Day held at the Capitol. Under his leadership, he helped organized legislative meetings for over 50 collegiate music education students from across the state to meet with their legislators to advocate for music education. He also serves on the FSU College of Fine Arts Leadership Council to help develop initiatives that will empower students’ creativity and professional development. He has also served as the faculty liaison on the behalf of his arts administration peers at FSU. In the summer of 2023, Jovan was invited to be apart of the second cohort of summer interns with the Metropolitan Opera where he worked in the DEI Department. He had the opportunity to create trainings that covered the topics of Building a More Inclusive Work Environment, and Cultural Competency. These trainings have been greatly utilized by The Met Opera to educate over 1,500 performing artists, administrators, and staff. Jovan is also a peer reviewer for the Journal of Museum Education. He has most recently been invited to present his scholarship at the Southeastern Arts Leadership Educators Conference and the National Guild for Community Arts Educators.

Paula Wilson is a strategic arts leader with a breadth of experience in arts administration and a passion to equip the next generation of arts leaders for sustainable careers. Her administrative career began in operations at the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio. She then held roles at a variety of institutions within Indiana University Bloomington, including the African American Arts Institute, Indiana University Foundation, and Jacobs School of Music Office of Admissions. After receiving a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance and a minor in Arts Management from Indiana University, she gained community engagement and digital marketing experience at Nashville Symphony and the New Canon Chamber Collective, a nonprofit in South Florida dedicated to amplifying the voices of Black and Brown musicians. Paula then pursued a Master of Arts in Arts Leadership at the University of Houston and a full-time position as Houston Symphony’s Digital Marketing Coordinator. Following her time at Houston Symphony, Paula accepted a membership and marketing role at Equity Arc, a national service organization dedicated to advancing equity in classical music. After 9 months, she was promoted to her current position as Member Services and Communications Manager. In the spring of 2024, Paula returned to the University of Houston as adjunct instructor of the undergraduate arts administration course. Paula has been invited to speak at national conferences including Artists’ Thrive, Association for Arts Administration Educators, Women in Classical Music Symposium, and SphinxConnect.

Dr. Rachel Skaggs is a sociologist who conducts research about artistic careers and arts ecosystems. Rachel holds the Lawrence and Isabel Barnett Professorship in Arts Management at The Ohio State University, where she teaches classes about arts entrepreneurship, the social world of the arts, and empirical research methods. Currently, Rachel is conducting two primary lines of research. One follows a broad array of artists and creative workers, with attention given to precariously situated artists, tracking the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives and livelihoods via qualitative interviews. In her second line of research, Rachel is writing a book about the careers of Nashville songwriters in the 21st century, a period when collaboration increased between songwriters in response to significant changes and precarity across the music industry. Rachel cares deeply about research mentorship for the next generation of scholars and practitioners within our field and is hopeful for a future in which opportunities to pursue an artistic career in the United States are plentiful, sustainable, and good for artists and their communities.

Sofia Akhmanaeva is a MA Arts Management student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Sofia has been involved in creating professional networking opportunities since her bachelor’s studies when she organized seminars and round tables on the topics of international studies and public policy. For the last 2 years, she has been producing public talks with artists and music industry professionals within the international youth jazz festival “Jazzed in Siberia” as the Communications Manager. She is excited to join AAAE’s Mentorship Program.

Spring Healy (she/her) is an arts administrator based in Cleveland, Ohio with a background in dance and an interest in the various ways the arts–especially dance–can engage with communities and activate public spaces. She holds a B.A. in English with a minor in Arts Management from Bowling Green State University and is completing an M.A. in Arts Administration from The University of Akron where she was a Graduate Assistant with the School of Dance, Theatre, and Arts Administration. Her interest in arts administration was sparked when she interned at the Toledo Arts Commission and was able to see firsthand the behind-the-scenes of an arts organization. Spring’s professional experience includes work with the American Dance Festival, National Center for Choreography in Akron (NCCAkron), Heinz Poll Summer Dance Festival, Ohio Contemporary Ballet (formerly Verb Ballets), and most recently as the Company Management Fellow at Jacob’s Pillow. She has also spent over 10 years working as a barista at local coffee shops when she can fit it into her schedule. In her free time she enjoys reading, hiking, knitting, and spending time with her cat, Ezra.

Tamae Vassell, born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is an emerging Arts Manager and multi-disciplinary artist. She received a B.A. with high distinction in Arts Management from the University of Toronto. She is happy to be in New York pursuing an M.A. in Arts Administration at Baruch College. Her experience as a performing artist piqued her curiosity to obtain a rounded view of the arts on and off the stage. Previously, Tamae worked as an Exhibition Assistant at Tangled Art and Disability, followed by being a Professional Development Assistant at the Ontario Museum Association, and is currently a 2023-24 Nagelberg Fellow at the Mishkin Gallery. She is driven to be a positive force changemaker in the arts. Ultimately Tamae aims to be an educator in the field. Thus, she looks forward to the professional development and networking opportunity that being an AAAE mentee will provide.

Yuning Gao is a creative and enthusiastic grad student passionate about education, technology, and digital design. Eager to use communication and leadership skills to improve the promotion and engagement of organizations.  Currently developing a virtual reality museum to tell the hidden story of banjo and slavery history. Also passionate about research in educational technology and museum education.


The 2024 mentees will receive individual guidance by the following mentors:

Albert Martínez-Fernández is an arts and entertainment business strategist, currently serving as the Budget Manager for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In this capacity, he plans and executes global financial planning processes and conducts data-intensive analyses for business optimization. Albert is also an Expert-in-Residence in Design Thinking Innovation for the MPA program at NYU. Previously, he launched a new strategic partnership program with Fortune 500 companies for The Metropolitan Opera and held various business and marketing roles across Europe in high-growth startups and multinational corporations within the travel, financial, and technology sectors. Albert has offered guest lectures at NYU, Pace University, and CUNY, and his contributions have received recognition from the Association of Arts Administration Educators and the “La Caixa” Foundation. Native to Spain, he is fluent in five languages and graduated in arts administration, business, and marketing from New York University, Aarhus University Business School, and Pompeu Fabra University.

Angela Meleca stands at the forefront of arts advocacy, seamlessly blending her strategic prowess in policy development with her passion for the creative community. Her dynamic career, marked by significant contributions to arts institutions, policy advocacy, and academia, has positioned her as a revered figure in the arts sector. With a comprehensive background in journalism and politics, Angela excels in bridging connections between artists and critical stakeholders, catalyzing progress and visibility for creative talents across the board. At the heart of Angela’s advocacy is a deep-seated commitment to amplifying the role of creatives in society. As the visionary behind Meleca Creative Advisors, she empowers CEOs and entrepreneurs in the arts to bolster their influence and drive economic growth. Her innovative strategies have not only enhanced her clients' relevance but also translated into significant increases in resources and revenue, ushering in a new era of prosperity in the arts sector. Angela’s impact is most palpable in her triumphs from 2020 to 2023, when she spearheaded a coalition that secured a groundbreaking $160.7 million in public funding for Ohio’s non-profitarts organizations. This monumental achievement not only preserved thousands of jobs but also fortified mission-driven entities, reshaping the landscape of advocacy in the creative economy. The magnitude of this success underscores Angela’sunparalleled commitment and effectiveness in the arts sector. Beyond her advisory role, Angela’s influence permeates government relations and communications, with her storied career spanning two decades of robust support for the arts. Her professional journey includes pivotal roles such as press secretary and communications director for the Ohio Senate President and her expertise as a public relations specialist for major corporations. This vast experience underpins her client;s successes as she navigates them through the complex interplay of public and private sectors. Angela’s dedication to knowledge-sharing shines through her engagements as adjunct faculty at prestigious institutions like Miami University, Ohio State University, and the Columbus College of Art & Design. In these roles, she imparts insights on new arts advocacy and entrepreneurship. Her ability to articulate and disseminate her vision for a thriving creative economy continues to inspire and educate the next generation of artistic leaders.

Dr. Ayden Adler :With degrees from Princeton University (A.B.), the Juilliard School (M.M.), and the Eastman School of Music (M.A., D.M.A., Ph.D.), Dr. Ayden Adler currently serves as Assistant Professor of Arts Administration at the University of Houston-Downtown where she also teaches in the graduate Nonprofit Management program. Dr. Adler’s vision is to sustain the arts through robust inclusivity and diversity, superlative artistry, and innovative approaches to audience engagement and retention. Previously, she served as Dean of the Conservatory at Michael Tilson Thomas’ New World Symphony, as Dean of the School of Music at DePauw University, and as Executive Director of the world- renowned Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. As a nonprofit consultant and executive coach, her clients include small and large nonprofit cultural organizations as well as individual administrators, board members, artists, academics, and entrepreneurs. Dr. Adler regularly gives presentations at national and international arts and culture forums that address issues of civic and economic relevance, power and privilege, entrepreneurship, leadership, and new technologies. Her current book project, Orchestrating Whiteness:Serge Koussevitzky, Arthur Fiedler, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, undercontract with the University of Illinois Press, addresses the historical roots of systemicracism in classical music in the United States.

Eh-den Perlove (she, her) is a Ph.D. candidate in Arts and Cultural Management at the University of Manchester. Her research examines theater’s role in generating sociopolitical change in the contemporary United States, particularly exploring how to restructure the infrastructure of the theater industry, from rehearsal room to boardroom, to support the work of marginalized theater-makers. She is currently the director of development of SheNYC Arts, a national nonprofit that supports the work of marginalized gender theater-makers. As part of the Executive team, she works to fulfill SheNYC’s mission of supporting gender equity in the larger theater industry by eliminating structural barriers to entry, particularly for early-career artists. She has served as a panelist and advisor for a variety of granting organizations, including New York State Council on the Arts, A.R.T./NY, Association of Theater in Higher Education, and more. Additionally, she serves as an inaugural member of the Cultural Development Fund Panel Advisory Committee for the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, a group convened to support its efforts to make NYC’s cultural funding process more equitable. She has an M.A. in Business Design and Arts Leadership from Savannah College of Art and Design and a B.A. in Drama from Pace University. 

Erica Bondarev Rapach [she/hers] is an aesthetically driven, socially conscious cultural communicator and change-maker. Career successes have come from her innovative spirit, innate curiosity, personal branding leadership, and human-centric approach to the workplace. Professional experiences for Erica include marketing and executive management positions at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at the University of Maryland, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, American University, and .ART domain registry. She serves on the Advisory Board for UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business and is a volunteer editor for the American Journal of Arts Management. Erica is past board chair for Dance Exchange and a former Leadership Fellow with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Erica is driven by social change and business for good. She has also moonlighted as a personal stylist and coaches on personal branding as self-care. Erica is working to help fast fashion stop harming our environment and the global garment workers it relies on. Arts management found Erica in Russia, where she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer and played violin with the Volgograd Symphony Orchestra. She successfully funded, planned, and executed all aspects of the ensemble’s first-ever U.S. tour, leading her to AU’s graduate program. Erica is the mother of two bicultural, teenage daughters who are artistic and non-conforming and is married to a creative builder and fixer

Jeff M. Poulin is an American educationalist, cultural administrator, and social entrepreneur whose work is grounded in social justice and seeks transformative local solutions to complex global challenges. In 2019, he founded Creative Generation, a values-forward global collective that collaborates with young creatives and those who cultivate their creativity to take local actions towards global changes in pursuit of a more just world.  With over a decade of experience as a performer, teaching artist, education researcher, policy wonk, and arts administrator, Jeff has led cultural policy and education initiatives in the U.S. and abroad, with organizations like the World Alliance for Arts Education/UNESCO, LiveNation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, ArtPlace America, Americans for the Arts, the Irish Ministries of Arts and Education, political campaigns, foundations, and local nonprofits. A recognized leader, Jeff is widely published and serves as a reviewer for grant and research panels. He is on the faculties of arts management at American University and Carnegie Mellon University and  frequently speaks to diverse audiences at global and regional conferences like the World Youth Forum, the World Summit on Arts & Culture, U.S. Department of Education, American Educational Research Association, and 300+ national arts and education convenings in 25+ countries.  Jeff hails from Portland, Maine and has earned degrees in arts management, cultural policy, and education at Oklahoma City University, University College Dublin, and the University of Glasgow.  

Robert Wildman has been a full-time arts management educator since 2003: At Winthrop University since 2018; at LIU Post (Long Island University/C.W. Post) 2011-17; and at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, 2003-11. As an adjunct, he also taught for the Goucher College, 1999-2018, and at the Yale School of Drama, 1986-92. Robert was Managing Director of Connecticut Repertory Theatre at the University of Connecticut for seven years, following nine years in New Haven as Press and Marketing Director at Yale Repertory Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre. Robert has also worked at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and Dorset Theatre Festival, and at the Mark Taper Forum and American Conservatory Theatre in his native California. Robert has served on the boards of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, the North Carolina Theatre Conference, the Arts Councils of Greater New Haven (Connecticut) and York County (South Carolina), and the Adam Foundation. He has been a panelist for NYSCA, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Theatre Communications Group, Arts/Greensboro, the Huntington Arts Council and the United Way of York County. A graduate of Stanford University, Robert has an MFA in Theatre Administration from the Yale School of Drama. 

Roland J. Kushner is an educator, researcher, volunteer, advisor and musician who joined Muhlenberg College in 2006. He is Professor of Business, and Program Coordinator in the Master’s in Organizational Leadership program.  Earlier, he was the founding Managing Director of Bethlehem Musikfest, Development Director for Bach Choir of Bethlehem; founding President of Rose Garden Children’s Festival; and Interim Executive Director of NPR affiliate WDIY-FM.  Roland earned a B.A. from Carleton University (Canada), and M.B.A. and Ph.D. from Lehigh University (Bethlehem, PA). His research addresses strategic management and organizational performance in nonprofit organizations in Journal of Cultural Economics, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, International Journal of Arts Management, Journal of Arts Management, Law & Society, Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, Nonprofit Policy Forum, Stanford Social Innovation Review, The CASE Journal, American Journal of Arts Management and Brookings Institution Press. From 2005 to 2016, he was co-author of Americans for the Arts’ National Arts Index reports and from 2006-2016, author of Chorus America’s Choral Operations Survey Report.  He has advised American Red Cross International Services, RAND, Urban Institute, and C.F. Martin & Co.  In 2024, he serves on the Board of Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation. 

Dr. Ursula M. Kuhar joined the faculty of the O’Neill School of Public and Environment Affairs at Indiana University in August 2016. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in performing arts organizations, leadership and organizational behavior, community engagement, and arts education, and is the founding director of the O’Neill in Scotland study abroad program. She has been the recipient of several teaching awards, including the IU Trustees Teaching Award, the O’Neill Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award, and grants from the IU Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Prior to her appointment at O’Neill, Kuhar was executive director of Washington Concert Opera and director and assistant professor of Arts Management at Sweet Briar College. An active music educator and mezzo-soprano, she has worked in the classroom as teaching artist with students of all ages, gives regular master classes and workshops at colleges and young artist programs across the country, and has performed professionally throughout the U.S., South America, and Europe. Kuhar holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in Arts Administration and a Master’s in Music Education from Butler University and a Doctor of Music inVoice from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.

Ximena Varela is a researcher, educator, and consultant with more than 25 years of experience in arts management curricular design (both on campus and online), museum management, international cultural policy, management practice, marketing strategy, arts management research, and culturally sustainable development. A skilled negotiator and facilitator, she has worked with and advised international organizations, national and regional governments, city agencies, as well as private and nonprofit organizations in arts funding and arts policy. She has published, lectured and taught extensively in the United States, Latin America, Europe and China. She has served as President of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) and is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Sociomuseology. She was a board member of the Latin American Institute of Museums from 2000 to 2021. Formerly, Prof. Varela served on the boards of the Bach Sinfonia, Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and the Editorial Board of the American Journal of Arts Management. A champion of inclusive practice and diverse leadership in arts organizations, Prof. Varela has served as the Faculty Chair for the President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion, and the 2018 winner of the College of Arts and Science’s Dean’s Award for “Outstanding Contributions to an Inclusive Community.” Prof. Varela is a former Fulbright and Organization of American States (OAS) fellowship recipient, and was honored with a Doctor Honoris Causa degree in 2021 by the Moore College of Arts and Design, the oldest women’s art and design college in the United States, for her contributions to the field of arts management. She holds an MA in Arts Management for Drexel University, has course PhD studies in Comparative Politics from Temple University, two undergraduate degrees in Business and Finance from the Catholic University of Uruguay, and is a certified Teacher of English to Students of Other Languages. Ximena teaches courses in Museum Management, Marketing the Arts, International Cultural Management, Art and the City, Research Methods, and is Chair for the Arts Management theses.



This program is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts.

View the 2023 inaugural mentorship co-hort here.