Joshua Levy, Founder and Executive Director
Growing up Joshua wrote stories, designed puppet shows and composed rap songs with his sister, directed plays, sang in musicals, worked on set design, and performed in plays. He started working with special needs children while in middle school and high school. Joshua has lived in Austin, Texas since 1998, and for eight years he taught special needs children at the elementary and high school levels, and he served as an assistant principal at an elementary school and at a high school. Following his career in public education Joshua was with Pearson in State Assessments for nine years including positions as a project manager, a test development manager, and a program manager. Joshua teaches informal classes for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs) at the University of Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education from the University of Nebraska, a Masters of Educational Administration from Texas State University, and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas. Joshua is married to his wife Lori, and they have two beautiful children and two dogs.
John W. Traphagan, President
John Traphagan, PhD is Associate Chair and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor in the Human Dimensions of Organizations program. A cultural anthropologist by training, John has spent several years pursuing research in Japan and is currently engaged in a study of entrepreneurs building businesses in depopulated rural parts of the country. John is the author of numerous scientific articles and five books, including Rethinking Autonomy: A Critique of Principlism in Biomedical Ethics. He also writes a regular blog for the Huffington Post.
Pat Otto, Secretary
Pat has 30 years of experience as a former special education teacher and administrator. She has worked with students of all ages and disabilities in Texas and in other states. Prior to retirement, Pat worked at the Texas Education Agency working on assessments for students with disabilities. Since retirement, Pat has been a volunteer for CASA, Special Olympics, and Mike’s Place. She also enjoys seeing films, experiencing art exhibits, reading, and attending live theater around Austin. Pat has an undergraduate degree in English and political science with a secondary education endorsement from the University of Texas at Arlington. She also has a master’s degree in Special Education from Central Connecticut State University. Pat lives in Austin with her husband Bob.
Alicia Garnes, Treasurer
Alicia Kaminsky Garnes is a native Texan who has lived in Austin since 2010. Alicia attended Tufts University where she graduated Cum Laude with a BA in History. After receiving her MBA with a concentration in Marketing from American University, she worked in Marketing Communications for several publishers in Washington, DC. In 2004, Alicia moved to Denver, CO and worked in Marketing Communications for Great-West Healthcare. Since Alicia moved to Austin, she’s worked for Carol Dochen, Realtors as the Director of Marketing and consulted on various marketing projects for local, small businesses. Alicia is married with two children and actively volunteers her time at her children’s schools and in the community.
Shelley Friend, Board Member
Shelley Anne Friend holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and a Master of Science degree in Communication from The University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has taught in Louisiana, at Texas Christian University, at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio and now, at Austin Community College.
She was also faculty for the Student Leadership Institute of the Alamo Colleges, where she facilitated a leadership program for eight years. She served as discipline coordinator and served on, and chaired, many college and district committees.
As a Communication Consultant for REALTORS®, physicians, administrators, sales representatives, community leaders and educators, she has focused on leadership, intercultural, interpersonal, organizational and business communication. Besides communication and leadership, her areas of experience include multicultural awareness and intercultural sensitivity, problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution.
Shelley was a Fulbright Scholar, where she studied culture, language, government, education, social structures and leadership in Bulgaria. The following year she was chosen as faculty for the Fulbright International Summer Institute where she taught Cooperative Learning and Intercultural Sensitivity.
Shelley enjoys community service and civic activities. She recently co-created Iron Butterflies Project, which is a multi-faceted, non-commercial writing project, designed to share stories of hope, encouragement and resilience.
William Greer, Board Member
Angela M. Nonaka, Board Member
Angela is a faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, where she utilizes her training as a linguistic anthropologist to research and teach about issues of (dis)ability vis-à-vis linguistic and cultural diversity in social work education and practice. Her research focuses on the study of different signed languages, Deaf communities, and Deaf cultures in Asia. She has conducted extensive anthropological fieldwork in the region, including at Ratchasuda College (Thailand) and Tsukuba College of Technology (Japan), two institutions dedicated to providing tertiary education for Deaf people. At UT Angela is the recipient of a Dad’s Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship.
Melissa Rachal, Board Member
Melissa’s first experience with Joshua’s Stage was when her two sons participated in the inaugural camp offered the summer of 2016. They felt a great sense of pride and confidence performing in the play their group wrote and designed. Melissa’s background is in education. Her Masters is in Curriculum and Instruction, and she has taught elementary and middle school.
Matt Wester, Board Member
Todd Wilson, Board Member
Todd graduated from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in Washington, DC, in 2007. Upon graduation, he became an associate at a small firm in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of the nation’s capital, focusing on toxic tort litigation, medical malpractice, lead paint poisoning, and other civil torts. Todd eventually joined the complex commercial litigation department of a large firm in downtown DC just a few blocks from the White House. He assisted on cases ranging from investigations into alleged trade embargo violations overseas and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, disability abuses at one of the world’s largest theme parks, airport ownership, military patent infringement, and food safety and import issues for a large food distributor. He also has experience with the Department of Justice’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office and public criminal defense. He is barred in Texas, DC, and Maryland. Todd opened his own estate planning and probate administration firm to dedicate himself to providing the highest quality services for individuals, couples, and families of all walks and financial means of life who may not realize the benefits of such services or believe quality estate planning and probate services are only for the richest among us. He has a particular passion for helping individuals, especially children, with disability concerns through comprehensive special needs planning.