Partnership Staff

A small team tackling Georgia's biggest education challenges

Our Staff


Dana Rickman, Ph.D.


Dana is the fourth president of the Georgia Partnership, having previously served in positions of vice president and research and policy director. She joined the organization 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 for over ten years served as the primary author of the Georgia Partnership’s annual Top Ten Issues to Watch report.


Kiley Lucier

Operations & Finance Coordinator

Kiley joined the Partnership in 2022.  Her previous professional background is in education administration, having worked with graduate-level as well as undergraduate students.  She also spends time at her middle school alma mater, volunteering with students in her favorite teacher’s entrepreneurship class.  Kiley holds a B.S. in Educational Psychology from Georgia Gwinnett College.  


Robert W. Gaines, II, Ph.D.

Director of External Affairs

Robert joined the Partnership staff in 2018 as the director of communications and assumed the role of director of external affairs in 2021. He previously served as the communications manager at the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement (GLISI). With a background in graduate teaching and research, Robert’s areas of interest include college readiness, education history, and the intersection of religion and education. 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. He proudly serves on multiple nonprofit boards and is a 2015 alumnus of the Georgia Partnership’s Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP).


Matt Smith

Director of Policy & Research

Matthew joined the Partnership in 2021 and has worked with a diverse group of education stakeholders — state legislators, state agency staff, district leaders, and philanthropies — to develop strategies that transform student outcomes. After graduating from Peabody College, Vanderbilt University with a Master in Public Policy, Matthew moved to Colorado, where he managed the policy output for two grants – one on remedial and developmental education, the other on college and career readiness – for the Education Commission of the States. After three years in Denver, Matthew returned to his hometown of Atlanta to manage a five-year, $13 million regional educator quality grant for the Southern Regional Education Board.

More recently, he has supported school districts in Middle and South Georgia that receive Title IV, Part A federal funds through his work at the Georgia Department of Education. With experience working at the local, state, and national levels, Matt is excited to assist Georgia’s education leaders to reinforce linkages between best practices and supportive, sustainable education policy.


Merrill Kemp-Wilcox

Director of Outreach & Engagement

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.


Breanne West

Director of Operations & Finance

Breanne joined the Partnership in 2022. Her previous professional background is in healthcare financial services having worked in both the for profit and nonprofit sector utilizing her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Auburn University. She has also been actively involved in the Atlanta nonprofit community for much of her career serving on boards with multiple nonprofit agencies including service as the President of the Junior League of Atlanta. She is also a proud member of the Leadership Buckhead class of 2020.