STEM Action Center Board
Val Hale is the executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), which promotes state growth in business, tourism and film. Hale was appointed to the position in 2014 by Gov. Gary R. Herbert.
Before accepting the position as executive director, Hale served for two years as president and CEO of the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce, leading efforts in business community issues— including regional economic development and branding initiatives.
Prior to serving in the chamber, Hale was vice president (2010-2012) for university relations at Utah Valley University (UVU), overseeing legislative affairs, marketing and public, media and community relations. From 2006-2010, Hale worked as advancement vice president at the university, responsible for fund raising and all university external activities. During this time, Hale played a key role in transitioning Utah Valley State College into Utah Valley University. Hale started at UVU as the assistant vice president for external affairs (2005-2006), where he served as legislative liaison and oversaw community relations and economic development activities.
Before his career at UVU, Hale began working for the Brigham Young University (BYU) Athletic Department in 1982 and continued with the department for 22 years. He started as promotions and publications coordinator, working his way up in the department until his promotion to athletic director in 1999. Hale left a cherished legacy of athletic department improvements. His success in fundraising resulted in the construction of Miller Park, the Student Athlete Building, the Indoor Practice Facility and the Legacy Seats in the LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Dr. Blair K. Carruth – Assistant Commissioner for Academic Affairs at the Utah System of Higher Education – Board member
Blair has devoted most of his career to higher education performing a variety of professional assignments in administrative and teaching capacities. In conjunction with his work in education, he has performed a number of consulting and training assignments for private industry and has served on several local and national boards. Part of his current assignment is working with Utah’s higher education institutions in supporting workforce development and career and technical education throughout the state.
Sydnee Dickson has been serving as a proud Utah educator for the past 35 years. Her experience includes teaching, counseling, and school and district administration. She earned master’s degrees in School Counseling and Education Administration and a doctorate in Education Leadership and Policy. She joined the Utah State Office of Education eight years ago to expand Educator Licensing Services and develop a Teaching and Learning section. Sydnee was asked to serve as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction in June, 2014 and is currently serving as Interim State Superintendent.
Dr. Dickson has represented Utah on national committees, task forces, and Boards through the years, including serving on the Board of Trustees for Learning Forward. Most recently Sydnee served on the national CCSSO writing committees for the InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards and the refresh of the ISLLC standards for preparing school leaders. Her professional expertise centers on results-based professional learning and her passion is focused on ensuring that all students have access to high quality instruction every day in order to prepare them for their future.
Reza Jalili – Adobe – Board Member
Reza Jalili is an immigrant who is passionate about education opportunities for all children. He is a graduate of MIT and an alumnus of IBM Research, Merrill Lynch, Deutsch Bank, and Goldman Sachs. A serial entrepreneur, inventor, and investor, Reza moved to Utah from New York in 2009 to work on solar energy ventures, and in 2012 was recruited to Adobe as Head of Architecture Strategy for the Digital Marketing Business Unit based in Lehi. He is married to a gifted singer, Monika Jalili, and is the father of two boys.
Richard R. Nelson is President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council, the premier trade association for helping grow and protect Utah’s 4,700 high-tech and clean-tech companies. Under his leadership since 1999, the Council’s industry-driven priorities have significantly enhanced the capital structure of the state (by passing the $300M Utah Fund of Funds), helped pass and fund USTAR and the Engineering Initiatives, raised Rigor in high school graduation requirements, created new STEM Action Center for educators, launched and helped fund the new BioUtah life science association, and helped establish a new 2013 top board priority of Valuable Connections.
Honors include “Governor’s Medal of Science and Technology,” “CEO of the Year” from Utah’s technology industry and the “Distinguished Service Award” from the UofU College of Engineering. Named one of the “100 Most Influential People” in Utah (Utah Business), Mr. Nelson served as the first chairman and CEO of the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA, 2007-2009) representing 20,000 technology-related companies. He currently serves on two national innovation boards along with the Utah Fund of Funds board, Governor’s Commission on Education Excellence and others. He has an MBA from Northwestern University, BS degree from BYU, and served on the Reagan for President national staff.
Jon Pierpont – Executive Director, Utah’s Department of Workforce Services – Board Member
Jon Pierpont is the executive director of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services and serves in the cabinet of Governor Gary R. Herbert. Appointed in December 2012, Jon oversees a $1.5 billion budget and a department tasked with administering federal and state programs, including workforce development, eligibility services, public assistance programs and unemployment insurance.
Jon has over 20 years experience with Workforce Services. Prior to serving as the executive director, he was the deputy director, eligibility services division director and led the department’s largest service area. In these roles, he has helped Workforce Services lead the state in cost savings and efficiencies through the creation of an agency-wide throughput operating strategy. Under Jon’s direction, the department has saved over $33 million because of a commitment to efficiency and effectiveness in state government.
Workforce Services is the state agency responsible for assisting some of the most vulnerable citizens in Utah. Currently, Jon is leading the department in several statewide initiatives to end homelessness, break the cycle of intergenerational poverty and serve Utah’s refugee community. These initiatives not only impact the quality of life for these citizens, but also affect the state’s economy. Because of this, Jon works closely with other civic leaders and state department directors to ensure these initiatives are moving forward in a direction that best serve the people of Utah.
Jon is a graduate of the University of Utah and is respected for his focus and strategic approach to public service. He has received accolades for implementing change, leading key initiatives, establishing creative strategies for optimizing internal operations and creating positive employee morale.
A lifelong resident of Utah, Jon is the son of former Provo Captain of Police, George Pierpont. He is an avid participant in many sporting activities and can often be found running with his dog, Brutus. Jon lives in Sandy, Utah, with his wife and son.
Tami Pyfer – Governor’s Education Advisor – Board Member
Tami Pyfer is a resident of Logan, where she has lived and raised her family for 34 years. In January of 2014, she was appointed by Governor Gary Herbert to be his Education Advisor. Upon joining the Governor’s office, she left her elected position as Chair of the State Board of Education, where she served for 4 years, and also her work as Research Coordinator and Clinical Instructor in the College of Education at Utah State University. She maintains the status of adjunct faculty in the Department of Special Education and Rehabilitation.
Prior to her service on the State Board of Education, Tami served eight years on the Logan City Council and seven years on the Logan Schools Foundation board of directors. She previously had spent seven years as the Foundation’s Executive Director. She also enjoyed her recent work as a Program Specialist for the Utah Commission on Civic and Character Education.
For 22 years, Tami was active in her children’s education serving as a PTA volunteer, PTA president, school Site-Based Committee member, school Community Council member, and classroom volunteer. She also served on numerous community boards including Bear River Mental Health, Logan Regional Hospital Ethics Board, Cache County Emergency Medical Services, and the Cache Community Health Care Foundation. She and her husband, Aaron, are the parents of five children and two grandchildren. They enjoy singing and performing with their family throughout Cache Valley.
Dr. Bert VanderHeiden – VP of Military Segment, Aerospace Structures, ATK – Board member
Bert is based in Clearfield, UT within ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division. Teh division pioneered the use of advanced graphite composite for aerospace and matured advanced manufacturing methods for aerospace products like the F35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Prior to his work with the Aerospace Division, he was the Director of Technology at ATK’s Independence, Missouri Defense Ammunition operations, the primary manufacturing of small caliber munitions for the US Army. He also managed Engineering and Technologies organizations for ATK’s Rocket Motor plants in Magna and Promontory, Utah.
Bert received his PhD in Physics from the University of Utah in 1988, researching solid state physics of advanced semi-conductor materials.
Kathleen Riebe- Granite School District Teacher- Board Member
Kathleen Riebe is a Granite School District teacher. She graduated from Hofstra University with a double major in Elementary Education and Sociology. She received her Master’s and Administrative Certificate from Utah State University and an Educational Technology Endorsement from Southern State University. She has worked with various schools and understands the importance of integrating STEM in the classroom to enhance all learning.
Kathleen and her husband reside in Cottonwood Heights with their two children. They enjoy skiing, river rafting, hiking, biking and going on road trips.
Gene Levinzon – Industry Consultant – Ex-Officio Board member
Gene joined Goldman Sachs in New York in 1991 as an associate in Technology and over the years supported a number of trading desks in the Securities Division. In 2005, he moved to London to join the cross-functional strategy team, focusing on the build-out of the Moscow office. In 2006, Gene moved to Moscow, where he managed the Operations, Technology, Finance and Services teams. He returned to New York in 2009 to become the global head of Client Services Technology, as well as to provide oversight for Sao Paulo Technology, and moved to Salt Lake City in 2011.
Gene earned an undergraduate degree and an MBA from Columbia University and a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.