Staff volunteer day at One City Cafe



Tracy Hull

Scholarship Programs Director

BA, University of Missouri-Kansas City
Tracy has worked and volunteered in the nonprofit sector in Kansas City for over 20 years. She is a community cultivator and connector. She has served youth in a variety of ways and settings including education, transitional living, and emergency shelters; she even lived outside for a year working at a camp for teens. Tracy enjoys sharing and collecting student stories – especially about travel, camp, and all the impactful moments along the way. Outside of UAF, her favorite things are hiking, reading, volunteering, and traveling. 

Linda Sander


BA, Washington University in St. Louis

Born and raised in Kansas City, Linda attended Washington University in St. Louis earning a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration.  Linda has worked in many different industries through her career, including as a project manager with a restaurant equipment and supply company, in credit services as well as in non-profit event planning and programming.  She has been with University Academy Foundation for 11 years serving as the Controller as well as helping with other projects.  Linda currently volunteers with the Jewish Community Center serving on the steering committee for Kansas City’s Jewish Culture Fest.

Sonja Shaffer

Executive Director

MPA, Bloch School of Business, University of Missouri Kansas City
BA, Kansas State University

Sonja is an arts-minded, community engagement professional with program management experience in nonprofit, education, and art arenas. Her experience includes membership recruitment, program development and facilitation, event management and leading teams of volunteers and professionals. She has a background in communications, relationship-building and creative problem solving.

Sonja first joined UAF in 2018 where she was charged with expanding the organization’s career programs which included the development of UAF’s Summer Internship Program for UA alumni in college. In 2019, Shaffer was promoted to Director of Programs and Operations. Sonja earned an MPA, with a focus on Nonprofit Management from UMKC, and a BA in humanities from KSU. She has over 20 years of experience working and volunteering with nonprofit organizations. In addition to her role at UAF, Sonja volunteers with the Missouri Career Development Association (board member and treasurer,) The Rabbit Hole (board member and secretary) and Condia+Ornalis Traveling Fellowship (board member.) 

Natalie Spar

Development and Community Engagement Director

MA, PhD, Washington University in St. Louis

Natalie has worked in non-profit development for the last several years, following a stint in higher education for the first part of her career. After earning her Ph.D in English at Wash U, she taught at a small university in rural Tennessee for several years, where she saw first-hand the many barriers students face in earning a college degree. She is thrilled to be merging her education background and development skills at an organization committed to supporting students as they navigate the challenges of education and career beyond high school. Natalie has only lived in Kansas City for a few years, but she is happy to call this wonderful city home and enjoys staying connected to KC by serving on the board of directors at the Northeast Community Center, hiking the local trails, and wandering the galleries at the Nelson.


Maya Tilmon

Alumni Success Program Director


B.S. Journalism and Mass Communications                                                                                                                           

M.S. Counseling and Student Development

Born and raised in Kansas City. Maya attended Kansas State University where she received both her bachelor's and master's degree. Her bachelor's is in Journalism and Mass Communications with an emphasis in public relations. Her master's is in Counseling and Student Development with an emphasis in administration and a graduate certificate in Academic Advising. Maya has been passionate about supporting students on their educational journeys ever since her junior year of college. Maya started her career working as an admissions representative for K-State, recruiting high school students to the university. She then went on to work as a college adviser for the K-State College Advising Corps, guiding KC Scholars through the college application process. Most recently, she worked at Avila University as a persistence specialist, helping connect students to resources on campus and acting as a resource herself for students that were struggling academically. Maya is excited to bring her talents to the UAF team and guide UA alum from college to career!

Board of Directors

Sonya Nutter
Sonya Nutter is a long-time advocate of a better Kansas City. After graduating from University of Kansas she has been engaged in the community in a variety of capacities, including volunteering and raising a family. Her dedication to University Academy Students and Alumni stems from a belief that all children should have the opportunity to achieve their dreams – an opportunity that she had to fight for herself. Sonya contributes her passion by sharing the vision of Friends of UA with community members to open academic and career opportunities for students and graduates of UA.
Dwight Tiller

Dwight Tiller is a UA grad ('11), a chef and local business owner, and is committed to the success and well-being of his community and his fellow UA alumni. Dwight graduated with an Associate of Arts and Sciences from Johnson County Community College in 2018, and he has been making a name for himself in the KC food scene ever since.

As the co-owner of the delicious KC Mac N' Co, the chef at One City Cafe, and a private chef, Dwight's days are full. But he believes in giving back to the community and, specifically, to the community that helped shape him. 


Byron White

Byron White works on Strategic Partnerships at Google, and is based in the Bay Area of California. He has previously held Sales and Marketing positions at Google.

Byron is a graduate of UA’s 2004 founding class. While at UA, he participated in both NOLS and The Experiment in International Living. He is also a proud graduate of Ailey Camp and supporter of Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey.

Byron attended Carleton College, where he studied abroad in both London and Madrid. He holds an MBA from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

Byron also serves on the Board of Trustees at Carleton College, on committees for Enrollment and Admissions, as well as External Relations and Development.


Bill Reisler

Bill Reisler is a retired venture capital executive who has served as a Principal in more than 50 companies across diverse industries during a career spanning more than 30 years. Bill was Managing Partner of Kansas City Equity Partners, a founding Partner of Tortoise Capital Advisors and Managing Partner of Consumer Growth Partners. He continues to serve on the Board of Managers for B Cellars, a Napa Valley winery.

In addition to his business activities, Bill has had a number of civic roles including service as the founding Chairman of The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey and as founding Chairman of the Kansas City Jazz Festival Committee. Bill has also served as President and Mentor for the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program and as a Director of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. In his past and ongoing endeavors, Bill continues to pursue his lifetime focus of helping others to achieve their dreams. 

Donald Hawkins

With a career covering media and technology, Donald Hawkins applies a diverse mix of skills as the President and CEO of Kinly, a financial services company unapologetically helping Black America build generational wealth by reclaiming its $1.6 trillion in annual economic impact and developing positive financial behaviors. 

A serial entrepreneur, Hawkins has held several leadership roles in AdTech, healthtech, and non-profits. Before leading Kinly, Hawkins founded Griffin Technologies. In that role, he empowered small-to-medium sized community banks, credit unions, and fintechs with contextual intelligence to enhance the service of existing and prospective customers.

Hawkins is an inspirational thought leader on representation and the changing face of entrepreneurship. He has dedicated his work to empowering underserved communities to act and proactively be the change they want to see.

Mariah Jordan
Mariah grew up in Iowa City, IA and attended the University of Iowa, where she ran track and field and graduated with her degree in Mass Communication Studies & Business. Since graduating with her undergraduate degree, Mariah has worked in Human Resources and Sales. In 2020, Mariah finished her Masters Degree in Business Administration and Human Resource Management. Currently, Mariah works for Thermo Fisher Scientific, a Medical Device Company, as their Senior Human Resources Manager for their site in Lenexa, KS. She also Serves on the Board of Directors for Happy Bottoms, a nonprofit organization.