Partnership Staff

A small team tackling Georgia's biggest education challenges

Staff Members

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Stephen D. Dolinger, Ed.D.


Steve joined the Partnership in 2002 as its third president.  He served as the Superintendent of Schools for Fulton County for seven years prior to joining the Partnership.  He served in the Fairfax County, VA school system for 26 years before accepting the Fulton position.  He has an Ed.D. from Vanderbilt University, an M.Ed. from George Mason University, and B.B.A. from Wake Forest University.  He has served on the Board of Directors for several organizations, currently including the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement. In addition, he has served on the Education and Health Advisory Council for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and has been recognized in Georgia Trend magazine’s “100 Most Influential Georgians” list and the Atlanta Business Chronicle‘s “Education Who’s Who: A Guide to the Top 100 Leaders Educating the Future of Metro Atlanta.”

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Alice Ford

Administrative Assistant

Alice joined the Partnership in 1998.  She has 15-years administrative experience and has particular expertise in scheduling and travel planning and conference, meetings and other large event coordination. She earned an Associates Degree in Business Management from Georgia State University.

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Merrill Wilcox

Strategic Partnership Coordinator

Merrill joined the team in June 2017.  She has worked domestically and abroad in youth, community, and economic development programs including Peace Corps service in Madagascar, a practicum in the Dominican Republic, and AmeriCorps service in rural North Carolina.  She came to the Partnership from Great Promise Partnership, an educational and workforce development program working across Georgia.  In her current position, she builds networks across rural Georgia, connecting grassroots with grasstops and building cross-sector partnerships to insulate and support the educational and workforce pipelines.  She holds a Master's in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.

Diane Hopkins

Diane Hopkins, CAE

Executive Vice President

Diane joined the Partnership in 1992.  She has 30-plus years experience in non-profit management. Prior to her Partnership service, she held positions with the Industrial Development Research Foundation and the Business Council of Georgia.  She became a Certified Association Executive (CAE) in 1999.  She has served as a board member of the Georgia Society of Association Executives; a member of the American Society of Association Executives; a member of the Education and Workforce Development Committee of the Georgia Economic Developers Association; and  a member of College Access Challenge Grant State Team.  She holds a B.S. degree from the University of North Alabama and a Masters degree from the University of Alabama.

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Elisa Adelman

Director of Operations & Finance

Elisa joined the Partnership as its Director of Operations and Finance in 2018. She previously served as the Program Manager for the Partnership’s REACHES initiative, which focused on improving the academic success of Latino students in select Georgia school districts.  She rejoins the organization after serving as the Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for Teach for America – Massachusetts. Elisa holds an M.P.A from the University of Georgia and a B.A. in Latin American Studies and Anthropology from the University of Texas (Austin).

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Dana Rickman, Ph.D.

Vice President

Dana joined the Partnership in July 2011 after serving as the Director of Research and Policy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation – Atlanta Civic Site. She has also worked for more than 10 years at Georgia State University conducting research on education programs within Georgia. She holds a PhD from Georgia State University in Political Science and a BA from Mary Washington College. She has authored multiple articles in peer reviewed journals and book chapters related to education policy and is the primary author of the Georgia Partnership’s annual Top Ten Issues to Watch report.

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Robert W. Gaines, II, Ph.D.

Director of Communications

Robert joined the Partnership staff in 2018. His background is in teaching and research. Rooted in his experiences as an English composition instructor, his research interests include college readiness, education history, and the intersection of religion and education policy. Robert holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and Policy from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in English from Penn State University, and a B.A. in English Literature from Morehouse College.