Our Team

BRENDA BERG

President and CEO

Brenda is the President & CEO of BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation in North Carolina), a nonpartisan organization of over 125 business leaders with a focus on making education in North Carolina the best in the nation. She has over twenty years of experience as a business owner, public policy professional and education advocate. She founded Scandinavian Child in 2002, a baby products manufacturing and importing business. Prior to founding her business, she had almost ten years of public policy experience in both education and transportation policy and programs. Brenda’s passion for education stems from her own experience as a first-generation college graduate. With two children in North Carolina public schools, she is driven by the belief that every child should have access to a great education. She serves on various boards and education organizations, including Habitat for Humanity of Wake County. Brenda has a B.A. in Economics and a Master’s degree in Public Policy, both from Georgetown University.

JULIE KOWAL

Vice President of Policy and Research

Julie joined BEST NC as Vice President of Policy and Research in July of 2014. Julie is a nationally-recognized education policy expert on a wide range of public education issues, including teacher and leader effectiveness, school innovations and dramatic school improvement. She comes to BEST NC from the North Carolina Campaign for Achievement Now (CarolinaCAN), an education policy and advocacy nonprofit, where she served as Executive Director. Prior to founding CarolinaCAN, Julie was a member of the leadership team at education policy and management consulting firm Public Impact, where she led project teams on many of the most promising education transformation efforts in the nation. An alumna of AmeriCorps NCCC and Public Allies DC, Julie earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her law degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

ASHLEIGH WILDER

Executive Assistant

Ashleigh joined the BEST NC team as the Administrative Assistant in February 2016. Prior to that, she graduated from Wake Technical Community College where she earned her Associate in Arts degree. After working various jobs to support herself through college, she is thrilled to be pursuing her professional goals at BEST NC. Ashleigh is enthusiastic and proud to be a part of an organization where she can contribute to improving education for all of North Carolina’s students.

Zachary Hodges

Communications Specialist

Zachary Hodges first joined the BEST NC team as an animations contractor in January 2016 and was officially welcomed as a full team member in April 2017. An alum of Appalachian State University, Zachary graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies and moved to Raleigh, where he began a career in communications with another education non-profit. His commitment to improving educational outcomes in North Carolina stems from his experience as a public school student, and his mother’s nearly two decades of work as a teacher.