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.


Linda Mcleaish
Washington Township Schools

Linda has a master’s in elementary education from Indiana State University and a bachelor’s in elementary education from Saint Mary of the Woods College. She has years of experience in education from creating community programs for parents and children to classroom teaching. Linda also has ten years of experience operating a gift and garden shop. She’s currently working in special education and tutoring for Washington Township Schools.


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

Kari is a board-certified behavior analyst and is the Clinical Director for Applied Behavior Center for Autism. Her career in the human service field began in community mental health as a crisis therapist. Kari has four children, one diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. His diagnosis motivated her to change career paths and return to graduate school to obtain a master’s degree in psychology with a specialty in applied behavior analysis. She has worked in ABA clinics as well as in community/home-based programs. Kari volunteers once a week as a behaviorist at The Independence Academy. In her free time, she enjoys running and spending time with her children.


JANICE HICKS-SLAUGHTER                                                                                                               MARIAN UNIVERSITY

As Director of Partnerships and Outreach for the School of Education and Exercise Science, Janice Hicks Slaughter combines her broad leadership, education, youth development, not-for-profit and community involvement skills to increase awareness of and participation in Marian University’s education and outreach initiatives and enhancement of educational opportunities for young students. In this role, she oversees the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center at Marian University and other outreach initiatives such as K-12th grade programming of Marian’s Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab. 

 Janice brings extensive leadership, management, and public education experience to the Marian University EcoLab.  She has distinguished herself as a visionary and strategic leader in the not-for-profit sector.  She has held leadership positions in organizations that have made a difference in the lives of youth and families.  As Chief Operating Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Inc., she managed internal operations of the newly merged organization.  The organization served over 2,000 children and youth annually through mentoring relationships.  Prior to being COO of the merged organization, Janice was Executive Director of Big Sisters of Central Indiana, Inc.  She led that organization through the strategic alliance process and subsequent merger with Big Brothers of Greater Indianapolis while strengthening staff relationships, maintaining focus on strategic objectives, and achieving revenue and service goals.  She was an active member of the Strategic Alliance Committee and subsequent Merger Management Committee.  The 18-month process resulted in the successful merger of the two organizations. 

 Janice has a depth of knowledge and experience in the area of youth development.  As Director of Programs at the Indiana Youth Institute (IYI), she directed staff to meet the challenge of developing strategies that shaped the thinking and practices of adults who worked with or on behalf of youth.  IYI is a statewide intermediary agency committed to resource development and training youth-serving practitioners.  She also spearheaded efforts to expand services to youth-serving organizations and encouraged collaboration with other organizations and constituents.  Janice also served as Deputy Director at the Indiana Youth Institute.

 Establishing creative work environments and interactive experiences are additional talents Janice possesses.  As Director of The Eli Lilly Center for Exploration at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, she developed and directed a highly innovative 10,000 square foot adolescent-focused interactive and theme-based gallery.  The gallery attracted thousands of visitors annually and engaged approximately 200 youth volunteers.  The volunteers had an active voice in the operation of the gallery, assisted with the visitor experience, and participated in on-going areas of interest within gallery studios, such as photography, woodworking, video production, music production, and computer technology. 

 Janice has been actively involved in the community through a variety of major sporting and cultural events.  One such event was the Pan American Games for which she developed and managed youth programming.  As a result of her ability to establish collaborative partnerships, engage communities – large and small, and develop age-appropriate experiences for young people, over 6,000 Indiana youth had a Pan American Games experience.  The scope of the experiences ranged from cultural experiences to learning the fundamentals of over 20 competitive sports.  The community response to the youth programs was so positive that they continued after the Pan American Games ended through an organization that Janice established, Youth Development Initiatives. 

 Janice was recognized for her outstanding work as a youth development professional and agency leader by receiving a Sagamore of the Wabash from Governor Evan Bayh.  She was also selected as a Fellow for the Lilly Endowment Leadership Education Program.  She has served on a number of community boards and has been recognized for her commitment to the city and its citizens. She has extensive experience in organizational development, and as a trainer, group facilitator and strategic planner.  Janice has provided such services as a consultant and volunteer throughout the community.  These skills prove to be beneficial in her organizational leadership and management roles also.  Janice has an MPA from Indiana University and a BA from Tennessee State University as well as many related professional development experiences.                                                                                                                                 


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.                                                                                                                                      

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