DES Planning Team Biographies

Zainab Alkebsi

Headshot of Zainab AlkebsiZainab Alkebsi is Policy Counsel at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the largest and most influential membership organization of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons in the United States. As Policy Counsel, Ms. Alkebsi is responsible for providing analysis, recommendations, and advice to the NAD on policy issues affecting people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Ms. Alkebsi regularly interfaces with government agencies, Congress, coalitions, media, and businesses on all issues affecting deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Ms. Alkebsi also represents the NAD at conferences, on advisory committees and panels, and through presentations. Ms. Alkebsi also serves as the President of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association and Chair of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network. Before joining the NAD, Ms. Alkebsi served as Deputy Director at the Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing coordinating the office’s legislative and policy efforts. Ms. Alkebsi has a BA in political science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Taja Brown

Headshot of Taja BrownTaja Brown has a rich background in human resources and talent acquisition. She spent the first five years of her professional career working in the human resources department of Northrop Grumman, a global aerospace, defense, and security company and then stepped into her role as HR Manager at Gallaudet University before joining CSD as the Director of Human Resources and Employment Services. As a leader, Taja is committed to fostering a positive and inclusive work environment that values diversity and promotes equal opportunity for all employees. She has experience in designing and delivering training programs to support employee development and build a culture of continuous learning. Taja holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Management and another in Psychology. She is also a member of the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). In her downtime, Taja is a self-proclaimed taco connoisseur who enjoys painting, writing, and spending time with her family, friends, and dogs.

Dr. Denise Kavin

Headshot of Denise KavinDenise Kavin serves as Assistant Dean for Admissions and STEM Outreach at RIT/NTID which includes oversight for Admissions, Pre-College Outreach, Project Fast Forward, and the NTID Regional STEM Center (NRSC).

Denise is also an instructional faculty member with NTID’s Department of Liberal Studies, teaching in their new LEAD (Inclusive Leadership and Community Development) program. During her twenty years at NTID, previous positions that Denise has held include Special Assistant to the NTID President for Strategic Decisions 2020 and Study Abroad Programming; Associate Director, Postsecondary Education Programs Network- Northeast; Senior Project Associate, Postsecondary Education Network-International; and Employment Advisor, Center on Employment. She also served for nearly ten years as Coordinator of Deaf/hard of hearing services at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois.

Denise Kavin holds an Ed.D. in Leadership and Educational Policy Studies from Northern Illinois University, a M.S. in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern University, a M.S. in Secondary education of the Deaf, from NTID/RIT, and a B.A. in Communication Arts and Psychology from Gallaudet University. She also holds certification from the Training Program on Administration of Programs serving Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened Adults at San Diego State University.

John Macko

Headshot of John MackoJohn R. Macko is director of the Co-op and Career Center at Rochester Institute of Technology’s (RIT) National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID).

In this capacity, he is responsible for developing and enhancing employment opportunities for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and graduates of RIT. Mr. Macko is responsible for a staff of nine employees and with that team works with students and employers to prepare students to find co-ops and full-time jobs and to assist employers in feeling comfortable working with deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.

As part of this effort, Mr. Macko has presented hundreds of workshops to federal agencies, large and small companies, and non-profit organizations. The workshop entitled “Working Together: Deaf and Hearing People” gives employers the experience of being deaf and hard-of-hearing and the opportunity to learn various communication strategies they can apply in the workplace.

During his 29-year career at RIT, he has taught job search classes, been an employment advisor for students seeking co-ops and permanent jobs, and appeared as an expert guest on radio, TV, and Webinar programs.

Mr. Macko, who is a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, holds a bachelor’s degree in Finance and a master’s degree in Human Resources, both from Rochester Institute of Technology. After working in finance at The Prudential Financial Asset Management Company, Mr. Macko returned to RIT for a graduate degree in human resources which fulfilled his desire to contribute to the career and life success of young deaf and hard-of-hearing people.

Charles McFadden

Headshot of Charles McFaddenCharles McFadden is the Outreach Consortium Senior Director at RIT/NTID. In this capacity, Mr. McFadden is responsible for the establishment and operation of the educational activities designed to build up NTID’s pipeline of prospective deaf and hard-of-hearing students through training and educational programs, workshops, and technical assistance to address the educational, transitional and professional development needs of secondary deaf and hard-of-hearing students and their families, educators, and other professionals working with these students.

Mr. McFadden’s three-decade software engineering career was predominately in the aerospace industry most recently with Lockheed Martin where he was engaged in the development, maintenance, and management of high value classified national systems and with Leidos where he led the operations and maintenance of enterprise IT service management systems. Mr. McFadden served on three deaf services oriented non-profit organization Boards including Board Chair for six years at DHCC and as an executive leader of CSD for five.

Mr. McFadden holds an MBA from Villanova University and a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from RIT. He is also a Certified Information Privacy Technologist from the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

Howard Rosenblum

Headshot of Howard RosenblumHoward A. Rosenblum is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). He also serves as the Legal Director, and works closely with the NAD lawyers on policy advocacy and litigation work. Mr. Rosenblum has been a lawyer for over thirty years, including: twelve years at the NAD; nine years as a Senior Attorney at Equip for Equality, a nonprofit organization in Illinois; and ten years with a private law firm. He currently serves as the legal advisor to the World Federation of the Deaf. In 2010 and again in 2014, he was appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. Access Board. Mr. Rosenblum received his law degree from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law (1992), and his Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Arizona (1988).

Dr. Julie Tibbitt

Headshot of Julie TibbittDr. Julie Tibbitt is currently the inaugural Director of Gallaudet University's Office for Career Success. She has worked in a variety of teaching and administrative positions across the K-12 and higher education fields. She holds a special interest in empowering lifelong learners through accessibility, administration, agency and assessment.