Friday, 31 July 2015 05:32

Who -- Or What -- Is Trust Navigator?

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As the University of Akron eliminated more than 213 jobs this week including over 50 jobs in its Department of Student Success, board of trustees also approved a move to spend $843,000 on a company that would provide "success coaches" for students.

But details on the company delivering those "coaches" are limited with the exception of a single article on the website FreshWaterCleveland.com published last month or the company's own website. Trust Navigator searches respond with links directly to the company's website or background on some of the key staff listed by the company.

On Monday, board of trustees approved plans to enter an agreement with Trust Navigator, LLC, a not-for-profit organization based out of Mayfield Heights, to provide coaches to work "closely with this fall’s incoming freshman class." The package of layoffs approved by Trustees included deep cuts in the existing "student success" bureaucracy at the University.

According to Trust Navigator's website, the coaches are "assigned to a student until graduation" focusing on "academic success and retention." While those goals are in line with UA's mission to focus on student success, there is little known about Trust Navigator's prior clients or experience in the educational field. In examining the Trust Navigator website there are no references to existing clients or events. WAKR.net reached out to UA officials for comment, but our request was acknowledged by a University spokesperson who noted key individuals who could answer any inquiry were on vacation and would not be available until next week. WAKR has requested copies of documents presented to the University of Akron Board of Trustees outlining the student success agreement and the contact between the firm and University as well as other documents which may provide other information about Trust Navigator's experience.

TrustNavigatorPostcardTrust Navigator's website does include some information regarding the past experience of those directly involved in the organization, including Trust Navigator's Chief Ambassador, Tom Roulston. He's listed as the “ideas man” behind the company with "30 years of entrepreneurial experience." Roulston currently runs two companies, Roulston Buyside Research and Thomas Roulston Investment Partners.

Rob Reho, Chief Operations Ambassador, has more than 32 years of "experience in marketing and operations management." According to the company's website, Reho graduated from the University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Organizational Communications and completed his MBA at Kent State University. He serves as the interim General Manager for Flohr Machine and is the owner of Executive Marketing Plus.Reho returned our calls but was unable to provide additional information, explaining he was also on vacation this week but would be in a position to provide more background next week.

In the position of Communications and Curriculum Ambassador, the first staffer recognized on the website, Grace Roulston, is listed as a graduate from Ohio University with a Major in Communications and a Minor in Film Studies. According to the website, she worked in marketing for Save Local Now, a startup company where she gained "experience working with entrepreneurs and getting to learn about a variety of small businesses." The website was revised Thursday afternoon to list Anna Zeller instead of Roulston in the position of "Chief Envoy Ambassador" with a qualification listing her college career at Allegheny College and the University of Akron where she also played on the women's soccer team. A graduate Summa Cum Laude with a Major in History and a Minor in Art history, Zeller "...accepted the opportunity to work at Trust Navigator and help other college students maximize their educational experience' according to the website.

Details in regards to Trust Navigator's history is limited, but a quick search revealed that in a 2005 revised disclosure form, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) listed Trust Navigator, LLC as an investment adviser --- but is now listed as "NOT currently registered and is NOT filing reports with the SEC or any state." Kenneth A. Louard, former director of operations and chief counsel with the Cleveland Browns, and Tom Roulston were listed in the SEC filing as managing partners.

Louard is currently the director of business development at Grain Management, LLC in Sarasota, Florida.WAKR.net searched for more information on Louard; there were three LinkedIn profiles for a Ken or Kenneth Louard and all appear to be of the same person with business interests in northeast Ohio and affiliation with an investment and equity firm in Sarasota, Florida. In one, the Harvard Business School educated Louard is listed as the owner of Trust Navigator, LLC. A more comprehensive listing shows Louard as a Director of Grain Management LLC of Sarasota since August 2012. Grain Management is listed as a private equity firm specializing in media and communications sectors with two flagship funds managing "...a number of the country’s leading academic institutions, endowments, and public pension funds." Louard's LinkedIn resume also includes more than seven years with the Cleveland Browns serving as Director of Operations and Chief Counsel and as partner for more than three years with the Cleveland-based law firm of Gonzalez, Saggio and Harlan.

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