DI People: New Hires for Academic Partnerships, JLL, Caris Life Sciences, Axxess

In this roundup of DFW personnel activity highlights, you'll also find details about Rob Rouse taking over as interim director of SMU Maker Education.

vice president


The higher education online service provider Academic Partnerships announced Robert Hilliard as its new chief information officer and Karmela Gaffney as the new vice president, integrated marketing.

Rob Hilliard Joins Academic Partnerships as Chief Information Officer (PRNewsfoto/Academic Partnerships)

Based in Dallas, the firm assists public, not-for-profit universities in converting on-campus degrees into online programs.

Hilliard, who comes from Laureate Education Inc. where also was CIO, will lead AP’s information technology organization in service of its partner universities.

“Rob has a strong track record of success in technology management and depth of experience in higher education, and I am confident he will make an immediate contribution to the scaling of our business through greater utilization of technology and innovation,” Randy Best, chairman of Academic Partnerships, said in a release. 

Hilliard has 15 years of experience working for Reader’s Digest North America as its vice president and chief technology officer and a decade of experience with Accenture LLP as an associate partner.

Karmela Gaffney will inherit a team of digital, analytics, and marketing creatives to lead for AP.

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Karmela Gaffney joins Academic Partnerships as Vice President of Integrated Marketing (PRNewsfoto/Academic Partnerships)

Gaffney previously served as vice president of digital and ecommerce marketing of the University of Phoenix. Prior to getting into the education sector, she spent 20 years in the hospitality industry as vice president of digital commerce for Choice Hotels International as well as managing director of marketing and ecommerce for Best Western International.

“Her [Gaffney’s] depth of omni-channel experience, strategic thinking and strong performance orientation will bring immediate value to our efforts,” Best said in a release.


Industry veteran Mark Gordon will take charge of JLL’s project and development services’ restaurant, retail, and entertainment initiative for the south central region.

Mark Gordon

In this role, he will provide project management services including feasibility studies, rebranding and reinvestment strategies, planning, design, and construction for JLL clients in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas.

Gordon has opened over 1,940 corporate franchise and licensed locations across the U.S. and internationally in his over three-decade-long career growing and operating brands. Previously, he worked with Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, Italianni’s, Hollywood Video, and I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt!.

Most recently, he held the role of senior vice president and chief operating officer of CEC Entertainment Inc., where he started the international division of Chuck E. Cheese’s and opened 63 locations in 13 countries.

“There is great consumer demand for a more interactive entertainment and dining experience. It’s imperative to have someone who understands not only what is driving consumer demand, but how to best implement a company’s brand strategies to ensure their success,” Byron Edgmon, managing director of JLL’s south region project and development services, said in a release. “The scale of Mark’s work and his incredible insight and wealth of experience working with diverse companies will allow him to make an immediate impact on behalf of our clients.”


Molecular science innovator Caris Life Sciences of Irving announced three appointments: Brian Brille, vice chairman responsible for corporate and business development; Michael Sullivan, chief commercial officer; and Nicholas Nelson, chief business officer.

“We have witnessed strong demand for reliable and trusted molecular information to personalize therapy for cancer patients, and with this, Caris Molecular Intelligence continues to advance its position as the leading, unbiased tumor profiling specialist in this space. In addition, we intend to accelerate the development of new and transformative precision medicine products using our proprietary Adapt Biotargeting System,” Caris Chairman and CEO  David D. Halbert said in a release.

“We have witnessed strong demand for reliable and trusted molecular information to personalize therapy for cancer patients …”
David D. Halbert

Brille has over 25 years of experience in investment banking and was most recently based in Hong Kong, where he served as president of Asia Pacific for Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Sullivan comes to Caris from Roche Diagnostics. He held the position of senior vice president, general manager, and business unit lifecycle leader of the company’s core oncology franchise.

Nelson previously was vice president of commercial and corporate development at Trovagene, where he led business and market development for the company’s oncology-based noninvasive biopsy portfolio.


Home health-care technology company Axxess has chosen Carrie Jo Howard to lead its client experience initiatives as its vice president of client services.

Howard will oversee all aspects of client services including product implementation, client support, and account management, as well as its built-in software support ticketing center.

” … Carrie Jo’s expertise leading large teams and involvement with enterprise clients makes her the ideal choice to contribute to Axxess’ next stage of growth.”
John Olajide

“At Axxess, we are committed to providing the best possible client experience, and Carrie Jo’s expertise leading large teams and involvement with enterprise clients makes her the ideal choice to contribute to Axxess’ next stage of growth,” Axxess’ founder and CEO John Olajide said in a release.

Previously, Howard served as vice president of Hospice Cloud for National HME and worked in customer support for Homecare Homebase for seven years.

“Axxess sets itself apart in the way it strives to give clients an exceptional experience every time. We have the best, easiest-to-use products for managing care in the home, and my goal is to give our agencies the support they need to grow their business,” Howard said in a release.


Rob Rouse and Katie Krummeck started the SMU Maker Education project two years ago to help K-12 teachers to inspire and pursue professional development through innovation.

Rob Rouse

Now, Rouse, who is a clinical assistant professor in the department of teaching and learning at SMU’s Simmons School of Education, will step in as interim director when Krummeck departs for new adventures at the end of summer.

“While we will miss Katie’s creativity, insight, and enthusiasm at the SMU Maker Education Project, we intend to stay true to the mission she helped shape,” Rouse said in a newsletter. “Namely, we will continue to develop supports for educators who feel compelled to incorporate making into their classrooms to teach any and all subjects.”

Rouse also is the chair of the STEM education program committee and teaches graduate STEM education courses, as well as undergraduate and general graduate teacher education courses.

“Although my roots are in science and science education, I am captivated by how maker education offers inroads to so many topics and promotes students developing affective skills (e.g., collaboration, resilience, creative confidence),” he said in a newsletter.


DI People: New Hires in DFW Startup Scene, NTT Data Promotes Pryor to CEO & Texas A&M Names New Law Dean

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