The Cornish Leadership Team

When The Cornish School opened its doors in 1914, it was the result of the tenacious and inspired efforts of a singular woman -- Nellie Centennial Cornish. Now, as it moves into its second century, Cornish College of the Arts requires an equally tenacious and inspired team of leaders to guide it. From the president and the provost to the chairs of the academic departments and the board of directors, these dedicated professionals shape Cornish College with their experience, expertise and passion for exceptional contemporary arts education.


Acting President and Interim Provost

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Star Hang Nga Rush

Acting President and Interim Provost, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Accreditation Liaison Officer.

Star joined the Provost Office in 2014, having served as faculty and administrator in post-secondary education for 20 years. She has been a core and adjunct faculty at Cornish in the Humanities & Sciences department, where she taught writing, research and literature. She was the founding director of the college’s Writing Center.

Previously, Star was a member of the instructional leadership team responsible for strategic planning, curriculum and faculty development, fiscal management, strategic enrollment management, community engagement, and student success initiatives in liberal arts learning, first as Executive Director of the Center for Liberal Arts, and then, Dean of Arts & Humanities at Bellevue College. Prior to that, Star served as the Assistant Director of Composition at Western Washington University where she was also faculty in the English Department, teaching first-year writing, basic writing, research writing, technical communications, and writing studies. She earned her B.A. in English and M.A. in Literary Studies from Western Washington University. Star, who is Vietnamese American, grew up in Federal Way, Wash., after emigrating from Saigon, Vietnam, in 1972. She was proud to earn her naturalized U.S. citizenship in 2013.

Star has presented at national conferences and to the Washington state legislature on the topics of faculty and student Learning Communities, Integrative Learning for Students in Basic Skills, and Global Education & Economic Development. Her programs have earned grants from the Fulbright Visiting Scholar Program, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program, and Humanities Washington, among others. Star’s research and practice interests include pedagogy, curriculum design, visual literacy & rhetoric, feminist rhetoric, race & social justice studies, photography, and emergent social technologies.

Star maintains a substantial online following of her mobile photography, which has been published and exhibited in Paris, London, Berlin, Barcelona, and the United States, and featured in Resource Magazine, Wired Italy. Volskrant (the Netherlands), Actual Colors May Vary (Berlin), Kwerfeldein (Germany) and others. She has also written cultural commentaries about the intersectionality of emergent social technologies with imaging making in the fostering of global interconnectivity. Star's photography is exclusively represented by Mobile Camera Club, La Galerie smArt in Paris.

Star's portfolio and writing is found at www.starrush.net

Executive Assistant to the President

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Joyce Palmer

Executive Assistant to the President

Joyce is a positive, enthusiastic and skilled connector of people and ideas, motivated by building relationships for a “reason, a season and lifetime.” She joined Cornish College of the Arts in Fall 2016 as Interim Grants Manager in the Office of Advancement. In summer 2017, she became Grants Manager & Project Manager to the Neddy Artist Awards, which is funded by the Behnke Foundation, stewarded by Cornish of the Arts as a tribute to Seattle painter and teacher Ned Behnke (1948 – 1989)

Prior to joining the Cornish community, Joyce served at the University of Washington from 2011 to 2016, including positions as Assistant Director of Admissions and Assistant Director of Regional Programs, Alumni Association. From 2001 to 2011, Joyce worked at Tully’s Coffee, ultimately serving as the Manager of Training & Development after managing a number of stores. Prior to arriving in Seattle, she was an Assistant Director of Admissions at her alma mater, Smith College, where she earned an A.B. in Government and History.

President's Cabinet

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Diane Hager

Chief Financial Officer

Diane was hired by the Board of Trustees in June 2016 to perform financial and forensic analysis of the operating results of the College and assess the performance of the financial team, including the CFO and Controller. Thereafter, she was hired by the newly appointed Interim President to serve as CFO.

Diane is a CPA with 25+ years experience in financial leadership roles as Controller, Director of Finance, VP Finance and CFO. Her industry experience is primarily in the technology sector with startup and early stage businesses funded by venture capital or private equity. Frequently she was sought out by investors to provide turnaround leadership for stressed finance, accounting and administrative teams, or for stabilizing operations as deemed necessary by lenders or investors. While at Cornish, Diane has focused on providing clear, concise and transparent financial information regarding the College’s current financial situation and the path forward

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Anne Derieux

Vice President of Advancement

Anne’s professional path spans from ballerina of international stature to fundraising for the arts and education expert. Born and raised in Versailles, France, she studied ballet at an early age at the prominent Conservatoire National Superieur de Paris. Shortly after graduating, she was selected to join the Ballets de Monte-Carlo in 1985, under the presidency of Caroline de Monaco, who revived the formerly known Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in memory of her mother Princess Grace. The Company, with the strong support of the Princess, became a hub for artistic excellence and creativity, and toured in all corners of the world.

After seven years performing on most prestigious stages and theaters on all continents, Anne decided she wanted to experience ballet in America. After a successful visit in Seattle, Francia Russell and Kent Stowell asked her to join Pacific Northwest Ballet in 1992. Described by the press as the French Ballerina with exquisite style and expression, she enjoyed experiencing the Balanchine style, and performed many lead roles in the classical repertoire.

Upon her retirement in 2000, Anne decided to study fundraising management for non-profit at the University of Washington, mentored and encouraged by PNB trustees. Her integrity, passion, and commitment to excellence helped her move forward fast and with many successes. She most recently led the Advancement office at the French American School of Puget Sound. Under her leadership, the institution launched its first endowment fund, and increased by 50% its contributed revenue.

In February 2017, Anne joined Cornish College of the Arts which combined her passion for the arts, and deep appreciation for arts education. Anne’s passion for the arts is contagious, and her utmost professionalism and drive to reach her goals, makes her an ideal partner in advancing the arts’ role and impact in our community.

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Ryan O’Mealey

Vice President of Enrollment

Ryan joined Cornish College of the Arts in 2017 as Vice President for Enrollment, overseeing the offices of Admission, Financial Aid, Registration & Records, Student Accounts, Student Life, Residential Life, Institutional Research and Marketing/Communications. Prior to his appointment, O’Mealey served as Assistant Dean for Admission, Financial Aid and Graduate Services for the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University. During his tenure, O’Mealey implemented a complete modernization of recruitment operations and data-driven marketing, guiding exponential growth in applications and retention. He is a passionate advocate for empowering artists through education, having presented on topics that enable young artists to take control of their own creative enterprise, including financial literacy, non-profit economic systems, creative management, college search strategies and career planning. O’Mealey has served on several non-profit boards in the arts, assisting with marketing, development and outreach initiatives, and was featured in Downbeat magazine.

He holds a Master of Music in Opera Performance from Northwestern University, and a Bachelor of Music Education from Oklahoma State University. As a performer of early music and oratorio, he has been a featured soloist with Chicago-based groups such as Music of the Baroque, the Callipygian Players, the North Shore Choral Society, and the Grant Park Music Festival.

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Joseph Canfield

Vice President of Human Resources

Joseph joined Cornish College of the Arts in August 2016 as Interim Director of Human Resources and was hired permanently in November 2016 as Vice President overseeing recruitment, employee/labor relations, benefits and payroll.

Joe has a wide-reaching Labor and Employee Relations background with over 15 years of senior level experience in roles such has Chief of Operations, Vice President of Human Resources, and Director of Human Resources as well as providing representation in over 3000 legal proceedings in healthcare, publishing, non-profit, technology, and higher education – including contracting with the offices of New York City Department of Education, New York University, and Columbia University.

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Photo by Winifred Westergard

Brandon Bird

Vice President of Operations

Brandon has over 20+ years in commercial, corporate, governmental, and Higher education security experience. He joined Cornish in May 2009 as Director of Campus Safety & Security. In September 2016 he accepted the position of Director of Operations & Security, adding management oversight of our Facilities and Custodial departments. In September 2017 Brandon was promoted to Vice President of Operations, providing overall leadership, direction, and management of Cornish facilities and master campus planning.