Piper Fellows 2021

Sam Alpert

Sam Alpert

Chief Development Officer
Junior Achievement of Arizona


“It is a true privilege to be a Piper Fellow. After spending the last two years fighting our way through the pandemic, the Piper Fellowship will allow me to lift up, think differently, and take a refreshed view of our organization. It will give us new, innovative ideas about how we can make even more of an impact, particularly for the most vulnerable youth in our community.”

A third-generation Arizonan, Sam Alpert was the Chief Development Officer for Junior Achievement of Arizona (JA), which provides career and financial literacy education to 85,000 K-12 students annually, helping them build the foundation for future success.

A third-generation Arizonan, Sam Alpert was the Chief Development Officer for Junior Achievement of Arizona (JA) when awarded his Piper Fellowship, which provides career and financial literacy education to 85,000 K-12 students annually, helping them build the foundation for future success. Since he joined the organization in 2013, he has led JA to some of its best fundraising years in its 65-year history. Previously, he spent 11 years in the marketing field including owning an advertising and PR agency where he represented Dunkin’ Donuts, Cox Communications, and KJZZ-NPR, among other brands. He was honored as one of the Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 in 2016. His advertising agency won the Phoenix Chamber’s IMPACT Award for Best Company Culture and was also a finalist for ASU’s Spirit of Enterprise Awards. A proud father of two daughters, Alpert received an MBA and a BA in journalism from Arizona State University.

Alpert’s Fellowship plans focused on helping Junior Achievement continue to be innovative in all aspects—program delivery, community engagement, company culture, and branding—to help position the organization as the leader in educating young people on what it takes to become successful in work and life. He plans to attend the TED Summit, IBM Think Conference, and the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival, as well as the Berkley Executive Education “Innovation Organization” program.

Debbie DiCarlo

Cancer Support Community Arizona

Executive Director Office of Mission Advancement
Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix

“Systemic, integrated change is difficult. Yet, as the last two years have proven, the time is opportune to address complex, volatile topics like racism, poverty, and inherent bias. The Piper Fellowship is an investment in my leadership and in Cancer Support Community Arizona to lay a solid foundation from which to evaluate and reform current ideation and practice.”

Debbie DiCarlo is the adopted daughter of a first-generation Mexican father. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, DiCarlo feels that her Mexican and German heritages nurtured her deep appreciation of familial roots and ties. As CEO of Cancer Support Community Arizona (CSCAZ), DiCarlo works to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action, and sustained by community. DiCarlo realized later in life the privilege that her light skin, blue eyes, and blond hair provided and has struggled to articulate and lead in a way that both acknowledges privilege and celebrates ethnicity.

DiCarlo’s Fellowship plans include a combination of academic study at Northwestern Kellogg Nonprofit; intensive personal, staff, and board training by the National Training Institute on Race and Equity; and, experiential, in-place learning and networking focusing on urban and rural American Indian relationships. Through her Fellowship, she will strive to develop into a more mature leader to help drive the culture and strategy of CSCAZ more authentically and effectively, and will work to gain clarity concerning bias, privilege, and the unique lens her experiences create. She intends to build upon her leadership skills, and in collaboration with CSCAZ Board of Directors and staff, address the health inequities that disproportionately impact families of color impacted by cancer.

The CSCAZ informal mission is serving all families in Arizona who are impacted by cancer. However, this omits a critical aspect of the mission—community. The Piper Fellowship will provide the tools to help identify those who are missing from the CSCAZ community due to their feeling a lack of belonging and trust that deter engagement. CSCAZ desires to go beyond “serving” to walking alongside its clients. This is a nuanced but important difference. It changes everything and demands sensitive, informed, and bold leadership.

Emily Early

Curator of Anthropology
Arizona Museum of Natural History

“I am passionate about presenting Indigenous collections in a way that is meaningful for Indigenous Peoples who have felt especially marginalized and otherized in museum spaces. When the only people depicted in a museum dedicated to the natural world are brown or black, and visitors move from displays of extinct nonhuman animals to those of civilizations largely comprised of people of color, what message is that sending about the museum’s view of humans in the natural world? The Piper Fellowship allows me to explore how museums and colleagues are handling decolonization and visually presenting anthropology in a natural history setting to make museums more comfortable for Indigenous Peoples, foster collaboration, and spark community conversation.”

Dr. Emily Goble Early was Curator of Anthropology at the Arizona Museum of Natural History when awarded the Piper Fellowship. She interned there as an undergraduate and earned her bachelor’s degrees in history and anthropology at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University, and her doctorate at Yale University.

Early held a two-year postdoctoral position at National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian before returning to Arizona and the museum that sparked her career. She began as associate curator, running educational programming at Mesa Grande Cultural Park. As curator, she manages anthropology exhibits, oversees collections, develops programs, and engages in community outreach. Her latest exhibit “Ologies: The Science of Anthropology and Paleontology” highlights the importance of museum collections. An avid supporter of formal and informal education, Early frequently serves as a judge in science fairs and competitions and serves on the Friends of Pueblo Grande Museum board. The Piper Fellowship will afford Early the opportunity to gather knowledge of twenty regional museums’ practices in the areas of anthropology and natural history, their efforts to decolonize, and how anthropology is visually presented in natural history spaces. As she learns and reflects on how to make these institutional changes, she will pursue training and development in marketing, fundraising, and how to initiate change. A large part of this process will be building effective communication between stakeholders to effectively guide conversations about changing vision in these vital areas. Her goals are to enhance her nonprofit and managerial toolkits while undertaking experiences and building relationships that will stimulate new ideas for the future of her organization.

Carmen Heredia

Valle del Sol

Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System

“The Piper Fellowship is truly a generous and unique investment in leaders who dedicate their work to others. As a nonprofit careerist, I know that I will always work at a nonprofit or in public service. I am dedicated to helping uplift people through times of need and look forward to learning more and sharpening my skills to have the greatest impact.”

Carmen Heredia was the CEO of Valle del Sol, a nonprofit organization founded in 1970 to provide advocacy, mental health, and leadership training to Latino communities in Phoenix when awarded her Piper Fellowship. Today, Valle del Sol provides integrated behavioral health and primary care health to underserved populations through eight locations in Maricopa County. Valle del Sol is a system of comprehensive Federally Qualified Health Centers and dually Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers.

Heredia currently serves as the Chairwoman of the Community Board of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and Westgate hospitals. She also serves on the boards of the Center for the Future of Arizona, the Arizona Council of Human Service Providers, the Arizona Alliance of Community Health Centers, the National Council of Behavioral Health, and the advisory council of the Phoenix Community Development and Investment Corporation. She is a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership.

A leader in her community and organization, Heredia strives for equality and inclusion of underserved populations, especially regarding access to quality healthcare and education. As a Mexican immigrant, she passionately volunteers in Latino civic engagement, various political campaigns, and voting efforts with her family. She lives in Mesa, Arizona, with her husband and three children.

Heredia’s Fellowship plans will focus on honing her technical business skills. She will participate in Stanford Graduate School of Business training courses on strategic investments. Through her Fellowship activities, she will strive to augment her organization’s business portfolio and better layer and leverage opportunities for Valle del Sol with the aim of improving its reach and impact to underserved communities.

Karen Jayne


“The Piper Fellowship will allow me to enhance my leadership in the sustainability arena. It will provide me with new learning and development that helps clarify organizational vision and improve my ability to influence and engage stakeholders and partners. By maximizing my personal leadership power, Stardust will be able to enhance services, improve effectiveness, and ultimately become a leader in the reuse community.”

Karen Jayne has over 30 years of experience in nonprofit and forprofit leadership, management, program design, and fund development.

Karen was appointed CEO of Stardust in 2011 and during her tenure to date, she has increased diversion rates of usable building materials and launched the Gifts In Kind program that has distributed more than $72 million worth of reusable household items to Maricopa County nonprofits.  She serves as a Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Arizona Recycling Coalition. She is also a member of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Arizona Market Leadership Advisory Board and a member of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits Policy Council.

Jayne has previously served in leadership capacities on the boards of the Organization of Nonprofit Executives as well as the national Building Materials Reuse Association, and the Social Enterprise Alliance Arizona Chapter.

Karen holds an MBA from Regis University in Denver, Colorado.  Fellowship will allow her to spend focused time developing business opportunities that will prepare Stardust for its next 25 years. Her plans include attending Arizona State University’s Sustainability Opportunity, a professional certificate program where she will learn about sustainability practices and strategy; meeting with other professionals in the reuse sector; and participating in Leadership at the Peak at the Center for Creative Leadership, which will strengthen Jayne as a leader and Stardust as an organization. In addition, the Piper Fellowship will provide access to resources that will allow her to consider opportunities through a more strategic lens.

Nate Lowrie

Valleywise Health Foundation

Vice President Commercial Services

“Over the past 18 months, the world saw a new view of the critical role community health plays in every aspect of society. Sick children can’t learn, hungry bellies can’t work, brain health and physical health are one, compassion heals, and sometimes— we just need to stop and breathe. The Valley, state, country, and world have watched the normally quiet heroism of our brave healthcare professionals projected to the world stage. I believe expanding my leadership skills at this pivotal time for Valleywise Health Foundation will provide great value—not just for myself and our team, but for the volunteer cabinet and board I lead as CEO, and as a result—for the families and patients served by Valleywise Health. My main hope is to inspire change through philanthropy and a combination of public and private partnerships. Businesses and cities benefit, both economically and culturally, when their employees and people are thriving and resilient. I’m thrilled for this opportunity!”

A native Phoenician and fourth-generation Arizonan, Nate Lowrie is an entrepreneur with 20 years of experience starting and leading businesses in the Valley.

When awarded the Piper Fellowship, he served as CEO of Valleywise Health Foundation, the nonprofit partner to Valleywise Health, Arizona’s public teaching hospital and healthcare system serving Maricopa County’s most vulnerable families. Lowrie’s personal experience as a patient of the safety-net health system during college gives him a deeper perspective and passion for the Valleywise Health mission which is to provide exceptional care, without exception, to every patient, every time.

For six years with Lowrie at the helm, Valleywise Health Foundation has provided record philanthropic support to the health system through major gifts, grants, and individual giving toward critical patient and program needs. Before joining Valleywise Health Foundation as CEO, Lowrie served as Chairman of the Valleywise Health Foundation Board of Directors. Lowrie previously served as president of L&N Investment Company, was owner and co-founder of local small business Bicycle Haus, and led regional teams as President of Zoe’s Kitchen Southwest. Lowrie graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business and entrepreneurship from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. He lives in Phoenix with his daughter Dillan, son Austin, and longtime partner Harmony Fulton.

Part of Lowrie’s Fellowship will focus on two leadership growth areas: industry knowledge and organizational culture. Plans include participating in Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management program—this coincides with a summit at Mt. Kilimanjaro with Team Courage Rising (comprised of inspiring burn survivors, medical professionals, and supporters of the Arizona Burn Center at Valleywise). Lowrie believes the timing is ideal to grow his skills and apply the lessons learned from what will be a life-changing journey.

Recognizing approximately 60 percent of Valleywise Health’s patients are either Spanish only or first-language Spanish speakers, Lowrie will focus on expanding and improving his Spanish language skills through an intense Spanish-immersion program as he desires to improve communications throughout the Valleywise community of patients, providers, and prospective supporters.

Laura Magruder

Maggie’s Place Inc.

“The Piper Fellowship permits me to focus on a journey of self-discovery and build upon my leadership style. I am eager to start the journey and look forward to having time in the end to reflect on the experience.”

Laura Magruder joined Maggie’s Place as the CEO in September 2013. She holds a Master of Education in Counseling and has over 30 years of experience in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors. Her primary focus has always involved issues concerning children, youth and families, education, and advocacy.

She believes deeply in breaking the cycle of abuse, poverty, violence, and trauma to free women and children to live their best lives. She has lobbied for health and education legislation, advocated for youth, volunteered for the Foster Care Review Board at the state and county levels, and served on the Arizona Life Coalition. She serves on the Maricopa Regional Continuum of Care Committee, the Arizona Adverse Childhood Experiences Consortium Board, and was recently appointed to the Adoption Promotion Task Force.

Magruder plans to use her the Fellowship in a way that builds upon the momentum established during her experience as a Piper Trust ATLAS participant. As CEO, Magruder leverages resources every day for the families Maggie’s Place serves. She sees the Fellowship as an opportunity to leverage resources for personal growth and enhanced organizational health. Magruder will focus on executive coaching, a mix of processing and integrating new skills, and specifically developing the skills to advocate for systemic reforms in child-welfare policy and family well-being. She will attend the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Executive Leadership Conference and the Prevent Child Abuse Conference—both with themes of systems level change focused on building resilient families. Maggie’s Place is embarking on two major organizational projects—one being longitudinal and in partnership with Notre Dame that will analyze the impact of maternity homes; the other, in partnership with the Health & Human Services Department’s Administration for Children and Families, will evaluate the impact of the aftercare model at Maggie’s Place and its impact on family self-sufficiency. Magruder believes her Fellowship will greatly complement and benefit this significant organizational work underway.

Regina Nixon

Executive Director
Phoenix Conservatory of Music

“The Piper Fellowship will allow me the amazing resources of time, professional development, and learning about best practices that I can then apply to my leadership as I transition from being a hands-on leader to one who empowers the Conservatory’s growing staff to take the reins and lead program implementation and assessment. The Fellowship will enable me to focus on larger questions about expanding the continuum of youth development through music, scaling that expansion within our organization, and identifying how to better impact music education across the field.”

Regina Nixon joined Phoenix Conservatory of Music (PCM) in January of 1999 as an intern with a huge passion and commitment to the mission of creating quality music education experiences that are affordable and accessible for the community.

With a wealth of administrative and musical skills to draw from, Nixon is involved in every aspect of PCM’s business and has been instrumental in continued program growth and curriculum development. Under her leadership, the organization has grown, developed significant community partnerships, and has been honored with numerous awards including the 2015 Arizona Governor’s Arts Organization Award, the 2017 Mayor’s Arts Award, and the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities through the National Endowment of the Arts.

Nixon attended Arizona State University’s School of Music, Honors Program; the Music Theatre Program as a recipient of The Barbara Long Opera Award; and Glendale Community College’s Music Studies Program. Nationally, she completed training from the Center for Music and Young Children in Princeton, NJ; she also holds several professional certifications from the Berklee College of Music’s Berklee City Music Network (BCMN) where she is also part of an elite group of PULSE instructors chosen for regional and national training presentations. In 2016, Nixon received BCMN’s Distinguished Service Award for Sustained Leadership.

Nixon served as an Arts and Culture Commissioner for the City of Phoenix, Arts Learning and Advocacy Committees (2013-2018); she was Vice Chair for the Phoenix Arts Commission in 2018 and then chaired the Commission from 2019-2020.

Nixon’s Fellowship will include leadership training specific to leading for organizational impact, innovation, scalability, and motivating teams. She will work with an executive coach as well as participate in best practices via site visits at the Music Settlement and the Lincoln Center among other groups that are centered on expanding the continuum of youth development programs through deep early childhood learning. Nixon will also explore workforce development specific to music and music education with a focus on effective and efficient scalability.

Jeri Royce

President & CEO
Advance Community (Formerly Esperança)

“The Piper Fellowship affords me the gift of time and resources to expand my knowledge, explore new opportunities, and create action plans to integrate all of my experience into the future of the organization, which has an aggressive five-year strategic plan and is experiencing tremendous growth. I am honored to be a part of the program and excited for the journey ahead.”

Jeri Royce is an accomplished, dynamic leader with over 30 years of experience in local and national nonprofits and a successful track record of building and leading strong partnerships and highly successful teams.

Royce spent 17 years in Washington, D.C., where she served at the American Symphony Orchestra League and Points of Light Foundation. After relocating to Phoenix, she continued her work in the nonprofit sector as a capacitybuilding consultant for the ATLAS program, was an instructor for Arizona State University’s Lodestar Nonprofit Management Institute, and served as a provider delivering a variety of services for large and small nonprofits in the Phoenix area.

As President & CEO of Esperanҫa since 2017, she is fulfilling her passion to serve under-resourced communities and advocate for health equity. As a breast-cancer survivor, she has a unique perspective on the importance of health education, access to healthcare, and the role the social determinants of health play in diverse communities. Royce is committed to purposefully leading Esperanҫa to make an even greater impact through its work in health education, community development, and medical intervention for high-risk populations in Arizona and abroad. She was recognized as the 2021 AZ Business Angels Nonprofit Executive of the Year by AZ Big Media and received the 2021 Most Admired Leaders Award by Phoenix Business Journal.

Through the Piper Fellowship, Royce will advance her knowledge and skills in leadership through completion of the final capstone course to receive an Executive Scholar Certificate through Northwestern Kellogg Center for Nonprofit Management, and in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by completing the Cornell Certificate Program in Diversity & Inclusion. Additionally, Royce will be visiting multiple sites of a national nonprofit operating with a similar model to Esperanҫa to explore the opportunities and implications of expanding into direct healthcare services and growing a base of generated revenue. She will also study Spanish for the entire year with Arizona Language Center to increase communication with program staff, participants, and community-based partners.