Board of Directors

Carol E. Gassen  |  President
Merchants Bank of Indiana

Carol Gassen joined the board in the fall of 2010 and accepted the role of president in November 2012. She is VP, Chief Compliance Officer for Merchants Bank of Indiana and has a degree in finance from Iowa State University. Carol’s career in banking has spanned over 20 years, working in small community banks to large regional banks in Iowa and Indiana. Carol lives in Fishers and is actively balancing family, career and volunteerism. She has two children, a son and daughter. Her  daughter is on the spectrum, and after graduating from the University of Iowa REACH program is actively employed and transitioning to full independence.


Patrick Jamison
Noble of Indiana + Martin University

A licensed behavioral mental clinician (LMHC), Patrick Jamison received a master's in community psychology. He also serves as an advocate for adults with disabilities within the criminal court system, specializing in transitional services, as well as with the State Workforce Initiative Committee. Additionally, Patrick is employed as a general contractor with Noble of Indiana, and is an adjunct professor with the psychology department at Martin University.


Kari Sheward
APplied behavior center for autism

As Clinical Director, Kari oversees programming and clinical staff at the Carmel clinic for the Applied Behavior Center as well as community outreach and education. Kari is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Kari has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Ball State University and a Masters of Science degree in Psychology with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis from Kaplan University. She has achieved her Board Certification and has worked as a BCBA serving children of all ages. Kari is also a Behavior Consultant for a waiver company providing in home behavior management training. "I worked many years in the field of mental health as a crisis therapist until my then 3 year old was diagnosed with autism. That was a defining moment in my life. I decided that I needed to be properly educated in order to help my son live up to his full potential. I completed graduate school and fell in love with the world of ABA. The impact it can make in the lives of children and their families is monumental. I cannot imagine working in another field and I have a definite appreciation as a parent for those individuals working with our kids each day."

JANICE HICKS-SLAUGHTER                                                                                                               MARIAN UNIVERSITY

Janice Hicks Slaughter is Director of Partnerships and Outreach at Klipsch Educators College at Marian University. She has extensive experience in education, youth development, community involvement, strategic alliances and organizational leadership. Janice has an autistic sibling and is committed to being an advocate for providing experiences and services that increase their opportunity to reach their fullest potential.                                      



Barb has her undergraduate degree from Purdue University and her master’s in elementary education from Ball State University.  She has over 20 years of experience in education in both the private and public sectors.  Aside from teaching and volunteering, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, gardening, and cooking.    

Lee Vriesman

Lee Vriesman has raised more than $ 24 million in her development career. She has worked for higher education and social service organizations around Indianapolis including The Damien Center, Children’s Bureau and Indiana University School of Medicine, where she was the Senior Associate Director of Major Gifts for Neuroscience. She is a member of class 15 of the Stanley K. Lacy Leadership Series and served on the Washington Township Foundation Board. She served as Grand Masquerade chair for The Damien Center and is a member of St. Luke’s Methodist Church. Lee is a graduate of Ball State University, where she participated in student admissions and orientation programs, Panhellenic council and Alpha Chi Omega sorority. She is the mother of two daughters. Emily and Zoe.                                                                                                                       

Simone Ragaud

Simone Rigaud is the Executive Director, Digital Health and Medical Informatics at PRA Health Sciences. She has enjoyed a career in the healthcare informatics space for over 25 years. She has a deep respect for and desire to support young people and adults who may need a helping hand or additional resources to pursue a path towards happiness and independence. Simone is an avid lover of the arts and sports. Her family was instrumental in the founding and opening of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati and minority owners of the major league baseball team, The Cincinnati Reds.

Ruth Padgett
Emeritus Board Member

Ruth Padgett, co-founder of The Independence Academy, served as IA's administrator and board treasurer when the school opened in 2008. Ruth had a career as a clinical research associate with Abbott Laboratories, Boehringer Mannheim Diagnostics, and with her own business, before deciding to be at home full-time. Ruth and her husband Greg have three children. Their son graduated from The Independence Academy in 2014.

Susan LeVay
Emeritus Board Member

Susan LeVay, co-founder of The Independence Academy, served as IA's director and lead teacher from 2008 to 2012. She earned her bachelor’s and teaching license in English education from Michigan State University and her master’s in rhetoric and composition from Colorado State University. Susan held teaching positions at the high school and college levels for 15 years before she began working in special education in 2003. She developed a passion for teaching students with autism and is certified in TEACCH and PEERS. Susan and her husband have two adult sons with autism.

Advisory Board

Jane A. Constantine
JAC Insurance and Financial Services

Gregory L. Padgett
Padgett Law

Jill Phillip
Former Board Treasurer