As Veterans serving Veterans, we amplify the voices of all Servicemembers. We are committed to nonpartisan research, engagement, and policy implementation in our efforts to support all institutions that meet the needs of Student Veterans. Our mission is to highlight innovation across the spectrum of higher education. Learn how we do that!

Meet the Team

Stephen Patterson
Executive Director

As a former member of the United States Air Force, the mission of the Veterans Education Project is personal to him. Steve has been on The VEP team from the beginning, preciously, as the Director of Communications.

Donald Franklin

As Legislative Director, Donald leads the team on policy recommendations and gives Student Veterans a voice on the Hill. He and Sarah produce all of our white papers, written testimony, and research.

Ryan Deal

Communications & Digital Media

Ryan is our communications and online strategy expert. Working closely with Steve, Ryan takes care of everything you’ve seen online and works behind the scenes on various projects. Ryan also produces all of our video content and media.

Leah Kliegman
Social Media

Leah works closely with Ryan to build our network online and connect with users on social media, sharing the important work we do and the stories of those we do it for.

Deputy Secretary, James Byrne

Board of Advisors

Having previously served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and as Acting Deputy Secretary, James’ experience in the VA and working with Veterans is both impressive and extremely valuable.

Curtis Coy
Under Secretary, Curt Coy

Board of Advisors

As the first Deputy Under Secretary for Economic Opportunity in the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Curt brings his vast experience with Veteran issues to the VEP team.

Elle Ross, Esq.
Board of Advisors

A former Attorney for the Army Judge Advocate General, Legislative Counsel and manager for the National Guard Association, and a currently licensed Attorney and Judge Advocate in the Army Reserves.

Vincent B. Holman Sr.
Board of Advisors

Currently serving as the Ministry of Defense Advisor to the US Embassy Kyiv, the Director of Staff for US Army Medical Command and previously was the Director of Staff for the office of the Surgeon General.

Ashley Gorbulja-Maldonado 

Board of Advisors 

As a powerful voice for the military-connected community, Ashley has dedicated her career to expanding opportunities and improving outcomes for non-traditional students in higher education.

Ben Brink
Ben Brink

Board of Advisors 

As a retired U.S. Navy Captain with 36 years active and reserve service, Ben’s focus is now in higher education. He is currently Senior Director Military Campus Operations for thirty campuses at Webster University.


Garrett FitzGerald

Board of Advisors 

With over a decade of military-related higher education experience, Garrett has worked to create CollegeRecon, the premier non-predatory, secure resource for colleges to engage with military-connected men and women.

Paul Fain

Board of Advisors 

Paul spent the last decade as reporter and editor of Inside Higher Ed where he covered nontraditional students, policy, and all things education. He’s also a Senior Fellow with the Center for Education Consumer Insights, where he works on connections between postsecondary education and the workforce.

Sarah Doerrer
Dr. Sarah M. Doerrer, Ed.D. 


Sarah helps translate research and data into compelling, actionable recommendations. She and Donald work on all of our white papers, written testimony, and research.

Daniel Elkins

Chairman of the Board

As a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan, Daniel helps VEP ensure we’re always putting the needs of former and currently serving men and women (and their families!) of the military above all else.

Christopher Lay

Board of Advisors 

As Co-Founder and CEO of Endeavour, a leading financial services provider to US National Security, Defense, and Space entrepreneurs, Chris knows how a lack of resources can deny many people the chance to fully use their talents. Endeavour invests 50% of profits towards supporting Veterans and their Families.