As Northwest Arkansas grows, so does its prosperity. But for many in our community that prosperity remains out of reach. More than 150,000 people in Benton, Madison, and Washington County face financial insecurity, housing instability, and a host of other challenges every single day. These people need tangible, lasting change in the systems that shape their lives, and they need someone to fight for that change right now.
Excellerate, a name combining ‘excellence’ and ‘accelerate’, knows that transforming our region requires strategy, diligence, and, most importantly, decisive action that keeps the process moving forward. It must also be a collaborative effort, one that allows each of us to bring our knowledge, our talents, and our resources to the table so that we can play to our collective strengths. Together, we can build a Northwest Arkansas where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
Excellerate Foundation was established through the sale of Springdale Memorial Hospital and Bates Memorial Hospital in Bentonville in 1998. As a result, Excellerate focuses its efforts on the service areas of the two hospitals: Benton, Madison, and Washington counties.
Excellerate has always leveraged its assets to impact the greatest needs of Northwest Arkansas, including primary and secondary education, health and well-being, and community building among our diverse residents. Since inception, Excellerate has invested more than $115 million to improve the lives of all those who call Northwest Arkansas home.
We are now Excellerate Foundation, which reflects our ongoing commitment to excellence and a new focus on accelerating decisive action. We will continue to invest in the forward-looking ideas and tangible solutions of our ever inventive and resourceful community. But we will also step forward to drive lasting change when we see untapped opportunities through our data-driven insights. We will operate at the systems level, standing side by side with the businesses, municipalities, and institutions that shape our region, developing a shared vision and a common will to ensure that all may fully benefit from the prosperity of Northwest Arkansas.
This more proactive approach towards the bigger picture and long-term impact defines Excellerate as we move into the next phase of our work.
As President/CEO of Excellerate Foundation, Jeff works closely with Excellerate’s Board of Directors and is responsible for the overall management, leadership, and strategic direction of the Foundation.
Of late, Jeff has played a pivotal role in addressing the housing crisis in Northwest Arkansas. Projects have included coordinating a $40MM community tax credit housing syndicate, chairing the Bentonville Affordable Housing workgroup, and bringing forward multiple affordable housing partnerships.
Jeff also brings decades of experience as a high-level executive at companies in Northwest Arkansas and across the country, including President/COO of Simmons Feed Ingredients, Group VP of Renewable Products and Senior VP of Strategy at Tyson Foods, Inc., VP of Global Strategy for Kellogg Company, and CEO/COO for multiple start-ups in technology and human performance sectors.
Originally from Kalamazoo Michigan, Jeff attended Michigan State University in their Geophysics program and attended Northwestern's Executive Development Program. Jeff is married to his wife Teena of 36 years and has two daughters and 4 granddaughters all residing in NWA.
Susan is the Chief Financial Officer responsible for all financial and administrative activities at Excellerate Foundation. She brings decades of experience across a wide set of financial disciplines.
Previously, Susan had a twenty-one-year career at Tyson Foods, Inc. where she held various Director and Senior Director roles in External Financial Reporting, Shared Services Accounting, Retail and Foodservice Sales Finance, and Foodservice Revenue Management.
Before Tyson Foods, she was an Auditor at Ernst & Young LLC in Little Rock, AR for five years.
Susan graduated from Hendrix College with a BA in Economics and Business with an Emphasis in Accounting. She is also a Certified Public Accountant.
She has lived in Northwest Arkansas for the last 21 years with her husband and three children.
Justin Fletcher leads and directs the implementation of the foundation's philanthropic investments, demonstrating forward-looking ideas and tangible solutions to the most urgent issues in Benton, Madison, and Washington counties.
Justin joined Excellerate in 2012, leveraging more than two decades of experience in arts and nonprofit management, fundraising, and program development. Much of his career was spent in Chicago, IL, where he served as artistic director for both City of Chicago and off-Loop theater companies, as well as in development roles for After School Matters, Chicago's premier organization for out-of-school time programming for high school teens in underserved communities.
Justin sits on the steering committees for Arkansas Impact Philanthropy—which supports the creation of more equitable systems across the state—and the Arkansas chapter of the Asset Funders Network—which engages philanthropy to advance economic opportunity and prosperity for low and moderate income people.
Justin graduated from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. He lives in his hometown of Fayetteville with his wife and children and is so grateful to be able to give back to the region that has given so much to him.
During his over ten year career in human services, Josh has gained extensive experience in a multitude of practice areas including clinical services, program development, and implementation, curriculum development, clinical supervision, poverty, multicultural issues, community development, organizational strategy and management, and social justice advocacy.
Josh received his Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Oklahoma and a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Arkansas.
Although not a native on NWA, Josh, his wife, and their two sons, Luke and Josiah, have put down significant roots. Having lived in Northwest Arkansas for twelve years, Josh and his family love the community and enjoy all it has to offer.
Ali is the Director of Marketing at Excellerate Foundation. Prior to Excellerate, Ali has overseen the build and launch of multiple technology platforms and applications including Hark at Excellerate Foundation.
After graduating from the University of Arkansas and the Razorback soccer team in 2008, Ali was armed with a Bachelor of Science and a specific concentration in Marketing. She gained extensive knowledge and experience at Fortune 500’s, J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., in operations, customer success, market research, and national account sales and was also was a part of the company’s first Women’s Executive Resource Group.
After JBHT, Ali joined the team at Field Agent where she helped build, launch, and run a location-specific smart device application that allowed users to “check-in” at designated venues called ClassCheck.
Ali has been in Northwest Arkansas since 1990 and is married (Justin) with three kids (Parker, Easton, & Palmer).
Sara is the Director of Programs at Excellerate Foundation. Prior to her time at Excellerate, Sara’s postgraduate professional focus was in mental health services with a special emphasis on trauma therapy practices as well as serving as a clinical supervisor for the NWA region. Sara has also worked as an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) contract manager, served as a lecturer for the University of Arkansas School of Social Work and provides supervision for social work licensure.
Sara received her Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Human Services from John Brown University and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Arkansas.
Sara and her husband, Tyler, have lived in NWA for over a decade and have a son, Will.
Lacey is the Director of Social Support at Excellerate Foundation. Prior to Excellerate, Lacey spent over a decade in the implementation and growth of Camp War Eagle, where her work focused on program development, strategic recruitment, and community partnerships. Lacey also worked as a Program Manager for Girls on the Run in Kansas City, Missouri, building corporate support and collaboration for under-resourced communities.
Lacey received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Ouachita Baptist University.
She and her husband, Josh, have called Northwest Arkansas home for a decade, where they are raising their three daughters (Annalee, Eleanor, and Brynn).
Christy is the Director of Technology for Excellerate Foundation and in addition serves as our Security & Privacy Officer. She has worked in Social Services in some capacity since 2004.
Previous to Excellerate Foundation, Christy worked at the Children's Advocacy Center of Benton County in various roles; Bilingual Advocate and Bilingual Advocacy Team Lead. Additionally, she has held two international posts in both El Salvador and Costa Rica. In both countries, she focused on initiatives to strengthen community members while addressing the needs for systemic change within the communities.
Christy got her BA of Science in Family and Human Services/Psychology from John Brown University.
She has lived in Northwest Arkansas for 20 years and loves spending time with her husband and son.
Regina is the Office Manager at Excellerate Foundation and has been with the Foundation for thirteen years. Previously, Regina worked at Helen Tyson Middle School in Springdale for eleven years in multiple roles that included Registrar/ Secretary to the Principal and Computer Lab Manager.
Regina studied at the University of Arkansas and hails from Hunstville, AR. She loves spending time with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter as well as extended family and friends.
Henry is the Chairman of Excellerate Foundation's board and serves on the Executive, Finance, and Education Committees.
Kelly Sikorski is the Treasurer of our board serves on the Education, Finance, and Housing committees. She has served in the retail world for over 17 years as the Vice President of Corporate Finance at Walmart and previous to that was the Vice President of Finance at Sam’s Club.
Kelly and her family live in Bentonville, AR where she enjoys things like running, knitting, and reading books.
A member of Excellerate's Executive committee, Celia Swanson, has served diligently on our board for many years and provides immeasurable value to our team and community. Additionally, she serves on our Education and Hark committees.
Celia is an accomplished senior executive who spent 25+ years at Walmart championing its culture and its people. She is notably recognized as the first female executive vice president at Walmart Stores, Inc. breaking the glass ceiling for women. Her deep expertise in commerce, large-scale transformation, company culture and multi-generational workforce engagement serves as the cornerstone of her career legacy.
Currently, Celia is a highly sought after speaker, author and consultant. You can read more about her current endeavors here.
Originally from Nebraska, Celia is based in Bentonville, AR. She enjoys traveling, the outdoors and spending time with close friends and family.
Curtiss Smith is a Board Member of Excellerate Foundation and serves on the Social Services and Hark committees. He is also the Senior Pastor of the 1100-member Historic St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas which has been a pillar of the Northwest Arkansas community since 1865. As the church's Senior Pastor, he leads the church in vision casting, spiritual development, and community engagement.
Curtiss spent 13 years at Walmart Stores, Inc. and held assignments in Real Estate, Store Operations, Labor Relations, Human Resources, and Diversity where he established and developed the company’s Associate Resource Groups that have become the emerging business areas of focus for the company’s growth in the diversity market sectors. He enthusiastically serves on the Board of The Joshua Center and Washington County Habitat for Humanity.
Curtiss’ passion is creating dignity in the lives of the underserved, disenfranchised, and poor communities and works to raise the standard of hope to transform their lives.
Curtiss has BS in Business and ThM (Theology). Curtiss and his wife Jacinda reside in Springdale and have four adult children and two grandchildren.
Julio was born in San Salvador, El Salvador, and currently resides in Fayetteville,
Arkansas, where he leads P&G’s Walmart Global Operations Team. Julio has
responsibility for one of P&G’s largest customers, Walmart International, as well
as Strategy across Walmart US Health, Beauty & Grooming, and Global
For the past 29 years, Julio has worked in Sales & Financial management at
P&G, in various geographies around the world, and for various product areas
and services. Julio’s expertise in Walmart expands 25 years, with multiple
assignments in the US and Latin America, across Sales, Category Management,
Finance, and Customer Team/Country Leadership.
Julio was awarded a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with
an emphasis in Economics, Accounting, and Computer Science, and a Masters of
Business Administration degree with emphasis in Leadership and Ethics,
from John Brown University, where he was a Walton International Scholar. He
and his wife of 28 years, enjoy spending time with family and teaching at their
local church. They are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters.
Julio is passionate about developing leaders and active in his church, the
community and several non-profit organizations in Northwest Arkansas.
Today, Julio serves as Chair of the Executive Advisory Committee of LatinXNA, a non-
profit organization focused on elevating, empowering, and engaging Latino Talent throughout every sector in Northwest Arkansas. Julio also serves on the
Excellerate Board, as well as Banco Si Advisory Board, a division of Signature
For the past 22 years, Robin Eason has served in both medical and education arenas. She now also serves on Excellerate Foundation’s Education and Social Support committees.
Robin is the Ambulatory Manager for Patient Experience at Washington Regional Medical Center. Her primary role is responsible for assisting in the development, leading, monitoring, and modifying of the overall organizational approach to the patient and family experience. In her role, she develops process improvement interventions that solve operational problems and improves quality, service, and productivity in the ambulatory setting and facilities within the system.
Robin served as Vice President of Instruction for Northwest Technical Institute for three years. Prior to that, she served as the chair of the Surgical Technology department, the Director of Allied Health, the Assistant Director of Allied Health, and the Chief Compassion Officer. Prior to those duties, she worked for North Hills Surgery Center in the operating room assisting surgeons in all fields of specialties.
A native Texan, Robin has a B.S. degree in Business and Technical Writing, and a minor in English from the University of Houston. She also holds a CST (Certified Surgical Technologist) from Northwest Technical Institute, which allows her to work in the operating room.
Robin and her husband Drew reside in Fayetteville and have one son, Charles who lives in Texas.
Ryan joined Excellerate Foundation's board in 2023 and sits on the housing and social support committees.
Ryan is a Founding Partner and the Managing Principal of BUF Studio. He is involved in overall company strategic growth initiatives ensuring the BUF Studio team delivers on the company vision. He focuses on team building, employee engagement, growth and leadership, and cross-office collaboration instilling the three core values of the company across the entire organization. He is also involved in critical project moments, ensuring that employees and clients are fully supported for the success of their projects.
In addition to his work with Excellerate Foundation, Ryan works with the Mercy Health Foundation and the Children’s Safety Center of Washington County. Working with non-profits to help them realize a vision is a rich and rewarding experience. He and his family are grateful for all Northwest Arkansas has offered them and work to give back to those that want to continue to grow the area to new levels.
Excellerate Foundation's newest board member, Thomas R. Harris, is the Co-Founder of Klearvision Group LLC/Director of Real Estate Development Cardinal Capital Management, inc. A development firm where he was responsible for generating interest in developments and initiating company growth by networking and partnering with officials on local and state levels, and developers. Harris also works closely with elected officials to create innovative solutions to redevelop difficult sites and to help address housing needs in urban areas throughout Northwest Arkansas, Wisconsin, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, S.Carolina, Arizona and Colorado.
Prior to Klearvision Group & Cardinal Capital, Thomas spent more than a decade working in local, county, state and federal government including serving as Chief of Staff in the Wisconsin State Senate, Director of Community Relations for the Milwaukee County Executive, and Special Assistant to Milwaukee’s Mayor. He also worked as an associate in Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Government Affairs Department, lobbying in Wisconsin, Chicago and Washington D.C. During his years in government service.
Harris proudly fought for and helped bring about significant change. From his instrumental role in helping reinstate the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission to his work on criminal justice reform. Harris holds his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice/Pre-Law and Masters in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His experience and thought leadership will be paramount to us as he serves on our Hark and Housing subcommittees.
Trey Carter brings an immense amount of knowledge and experience serving on our board. Specifically, he is on our Housing, Education, and Finance committees.
Trey works for Walmart Inc. as a Director of Design & Construction for the Industrial Development Team which handles real estate, design, and construction for partners in Supply Chain and eCommerce. His expertise is in design, construction, and development in the commercial/retail/industrial markets. He has seventeen years of experience working with government entities, commercial contractors and owners and is familiar with all sides of the industry including commercial design and construction.
An alumna of Louisiana Tech, Trey’s degree is in Civil Engineering and he also carries an MBA from Arkansas State.
Trey and his wife Hannah have two boys, Colin (eleven) and Mason (eight), and have lived in Northwest Arkansas for thirteen years. He is an active member at Central United Methodist Church of Rogers and enjoys participating in endurance sports like ultra-running and triathlons.