Our Staff

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  • Jacob Kirkham

    Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director of Development


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    Michigan State Athletics and University Advancement have announced on February 2, 2023, the appointment of Jacob Kirkham to the position of Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director of Development. In this role, Kirkham will lead fundraising efforts for MSU Athletics and Spartan Fund initiatives, while supervising Spartan Fund staff.

    Prior to MSU, Kirkham spent six years as Associate Athletic Director & Executive Director of Major Gifts / Sr. Director of Development at the Oregon State University Foundation, overseeing a team of professionals focused on major gifts, events, and donor relationships in support of Oregon State University Athletics.

    Kirkham has extensive athletics fundraising experience, and at OSU was part of the team that raised more than $92 million in support of ‘Completing Reser Stadium’ – the most transformational project in the history of OSU. The 365-day use facility included an addition to the football stadium, a student welcome center, and a student health clinic. During his tenure at OSU, Kirkham played a significant role in the OSU Athletics facilities Master Plan and the creation of several key initiatives including the Terry Baker Society, Forever Beavs, OSU Football Head Coach’s Circle, and FEARLESS – Women of Oregon State Athletics. Kirkham has a deep understanding of university advancement and all aspects of fundraising and has a personal commitment to intercollegiate athletics.

    Prior to Oregon State, Kirkham spent nearly three years as a Major Gift Officer for West Virginia University Athletics and the Mountaineer Athletic Club. Before WVU, Kirkham spent three years at the University of Utah working as a Regional Development Officer.

    Kirkham earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Utah and his master’s degree in sport administration from Ohio University.

    His family includes his spouse Whitney, and their four children (Cassity, twins Charlie and Walt, and Quinn).

  • Mike Walker

    Senior Director of Development, Associate Athletic Director


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    Mike joined Spartan Fund in October 2023 and will be leading the major gift development team in securing transformational financial gifts for MSU Athletics. Mike comes from The Ohio State University where he has worked within the Buckeye Club as Senior Director of Development since January 2023, and as the Director of Development since 2019. During his time at OSU, Michael successfully raised over $7.5 million in gifts for various athletic department priorities, led fundraising efforts for a $24 million lacrosse stadium, and was responsible for fundraising efforts in the East Coast region of the country. Before his time at Ohio State, Michael worked at Southern Methodist University in various roles including as a development officer, Director of their life skills department, and a member of the basketball staff.

    Mike is a graduate of SMU, where he received his Bachelor of Science, Applied Physiology and Sports Management and Masters in Liberal Studies, Emphasis on Organizational Dynamics and High Education. He was also a member and captain of the SMU men’s basketball team from 2007-2011.

  • Mat Kanan

    Director of Development Annual Giving & Strategy, Assistant Athletic Director


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    Mat will be joining the Spartan Fund team as Director of Development Annual Giving & Strategy, Assistant Athletic Director, effective January 17, 2024. He comes to us from Oregon State University where he has overseen all creative communications in support of annual giving and major gift initiatives. He has created and managed messaging and branding for Our Beaver Nation (OBN), including social media, annual giving, and major giving strategies. He successfully helped launch giving societies, fundraising initiatives, and annual giving benefits programs. Mat brings a unique skill set to Spartan Fund as he has experience leading communication efforts but also has experience raising funds at both the annual giving and major gifts levels. Mat is a graduate of Western Michigan University, where he received his Master’s in Sports Management, as well as a graduate of Ohio University with a BA in Journalism.



  • Sarah Skilling

    Senior Director of Special Events & Stewardship


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    Sarah Skilling has been with Michigan State University since July of 2007 and began working for the MSU Athletic Department in May of 2012.

    As the Sr. Director of Special Events & Stewardship, Sarah oversees the planning of special events and experiences for Spartan Fund donors as well as stewardship efforts. She also works with internal and external groups and organizations on collaborative events related to MSU Athletics.

    After graduating from MSU in 2000 with an Advertising degree, Sarah worked at the Lansing State Journal for five years doing marketing, promotions, special events and community relations. She was also a special events coordinator for the MSU Federal Credit Union from 2005-2007. Before MSU Athletics, Sarah worked for the MSU Alumni Association and University Advancement departments from 2007-2012.

    Sarah is a native of Rockford, MI. She played basketball and softball in high school and continues to enjoy playing organized sports.

    Sarah resides in Lansing, MI.

  • Jayme Bisard

    Executive Secretary II


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    Jayme joined Spartan Fund in June 2014. As the Executive Secretary II, she supports and reports directly to the Executive Director of Spartan Fund with a broad spectrum of responsibilities. Jayme also supports Spartan Fund Directors by coordinating travel arrangements, scheduling and confirming meetings and appointments between Executive Directors, University Advancement, Spartan Fund staff and Intercollegiate Athletics professionals. She prepares and distributes materials and productivity reports prior to meetings, oversees the production of briefing reports, tracks unit development officer memberships and travel schedules, and assists the Executive Director in establishing, monitoring and managing the annual budget.

    Jayme has worked at MSU since 2013 and prior to joining Spartan Fund she worked at the College of Engineering providing support to the department of Mechanical Engineering.

    Jayme and her husband reside in Williamston and enjoy spending their spare time running weekend races and enjoying the outdoors with their daughters, Evalyn and Hazel.

  • Mark Schoenl

    Leadership Gifts Officer & Development Strategist


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    Mark is the longest-serving member of the Spartan Fund team and continues his efforts to establish donor relationships and cultivate significant financial gifts in support of MSU Athletics. In his role as the Leadership Gifts Officer & Development Strategist for Spartan Fund, Mark carries a portfolio focused on major gifts of $100,000-$1M as well as leads and assists with key development strategies.

    During his tenure with Michigan State, Mark led the development team during the MSU Empower Extraordinary Campaign, which secured almost $300M in Athletics giving, including over $60 million in gifts towards endowments for scholarship and program support for Spartan student-athletes. Additionally, he has spear-headed fund-raising efforts for several facility projects including securing lead-gifts, and worked collaboratively on some of the largest gifts in MSU Athletics and University history. The Spartan Fund team works closely with individual sport programs and head coaches, and Mark personally works with donors throughout the Northeast and Southeast U.S., Florida, and Michigan.

    Mark joined MSU as the first Director of Sales for Premium Seating in 2006, in which he increased sales over 15% each year, and transitioned to his role with the Major Gifts team in 2009 as an Associate Director of Development. He was promoted to Assistant Athletics Director for Development in 2014, and in 2015 to Associate Director for Athletics, Director of Major Gifts, overseeing the Spartan Fund fund-raising team, professional development staff and campaign priorities.

    Mark’s background includes a variety of roles working for an NFL franchise, collegiate sports marketing firm (Learfield), minor league baseball team, and an independent business news organization.

    Mark is a Michigan State University alumnus, as well as the University of Richmond. He currently resides in Okemos with his wife, and two sons, both are also Spartans.

  • Ethan Hemer

    Associate Director of Development


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    Began at Michigan State: June 2022

    Education: Hemer graduated in 2013 with a B.S. in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin, receiving an MBA from Butler University in 2020.

    Job Responsibilities: Hemer is responsible for connecting members of the Spartan family with opportunities that will positively impact the student-athlete experience at MSU.

    Past Experience: Hemer came to MSU from Marian University in Indianapolis. He served as the Assistant Athletic Director for External Development, where he oversaw a team dedicated to ticket sales, sponsorships, marketing, and fundraising for the athletic department. Prior to that, he worked as the Athletic Development Officer at Marian University from 2016-20 and spent two seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2014-15. Hemer played defensive line at the University of Wisconsin from 2009-13 and was a member of three Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl teams.

  • Liz Rousseau

    Associate Director of Development


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    Liz joined the Spartan Fund team in March 2022 as the Assistant Director of Development and was promoted to Associate Director of Development in June 2023. Liz will continue to support the growth in building donor relationships and giving support to MSU and MSU Athletics throughout the southeast Michigan area.

    Prior to Michigan State, Liz served as an Assistant Director of Admissions with the University of Detroit Mercy from 2019-2022. She also served as the Marketing Event Coordinator and Event Marketing Manager for the Detroit Red Wings from 2015 to 2019.

    Liz graduated from Central Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in sport management, and a master’s degree in sport administration.


  • Jason Varlesi

    Associate Director of Development


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    Jason joined the Spartan Fund staff in November 2021 as an Associate Director of Development with a focus on establishing and developing relationships with Spartans in his home region of Southeastern Michigan.

    Prior to Michigan State, Jason served as Director of Development for Athletics at the University of Detroit Mercy. During his time there, Jason oversaw fundraising and donor engagement efforts across the United States for Detroit Mercy’s 17 Division 1 teams while leading several multi-million-dollar athletic capital campaigns. Additionally, he was a key contributor in Detroit Mercy’s successful $100 million dollar University campaign that was completed in 2020.

    Jason’s professional experience includes positions with the Detroit Tigers “AA” affiliate Erie Seawolves, the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters and Plymouth Whalers, along with leadership/coaching positions with the Detroit Compuware and Victory Honda AAA hockey programs.

    Originally from Dearborn Michigan, Jason is a graduate of Western Michigan University where he received a bachelor’s of business administration in marketing and holds a master’s of business administration from the University of Detroit Mercy.

  • Matt Read

    Director of Annual Giving


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    Matt Read joined the Michigan State Spartan Fund in July of 2021.

    In his role as the Director of Annual Giving, Matt is tasked with developing and implementing a comprehensive annual giving strategy, as well as supervising the day-to-day function of the Operations Team. Matt also leads all aspects of data management and business analytics.

    Prior to his time at Michigan State, Matt served as a Human Resources Associate with Stanford University Athletics from 2019 to 2021 and an Adjunct Professor of Sport Management at Menlo College for the 2020 academic year.

    Matt graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a bachelor of business administration and from Western Michigan University with a master’s in sport management.

  • Victoria Diaz

    Assistant Director, Annual Giving & Operations


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    Victoria Diaz joined Spartan Fund in February 2023 as the Data & Development Operations Assistant and became the Assistant Director of Annual Giving & Operations in May 2024. She is responsible for managing Spartan Fund’s CRM and gift operations, supporting initiatives such as donor ticket renewals, Give Green Day, mini-campaigns, and solicitations. Victoria also leads prospect generation to identify the next generation of Spartan Fund donors.

    She holds a master’s in sports management from the University of Florida and an undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida.

  • Sandra Debnar

    Graphics & Communications Manager


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    Sandra joined the Spartan Fund team in November 2019. As the Graphics & Communications Manager, she assists with communications strategy and serves as the content creator responsible for producing and maintaining communication materials for Spartan Fund and its staff. Sandra creates graphics, promotional materials, proposals, videos, and multimedia content used in outreach efforts to its donor base and to increase brand awareness. She also serves as the Spartan Fund photographer.

    Sandra came to MSU from the State of Michigan where she worked for the Legislative Service Bureau for 17 years providing design, proofreading and professional typesetting, as well as photography and videography services.


  • Kaitlyn Arseneault

    Office Coordinator II


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    Kaitlyn joined the Spartan Fund team in October 2023 as the Office Coordinator. Kaitlyn supports our donor base on the main phone line and email account, our staff with travel support, and overall office operations. Kaitlyn is a Michigan State alum and former MSU softball student-athlete.

  • Justin Fribbley

    Development Assistant


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    Justin joined the Spartan Fund team in March of 2023. He assists with donor engagement and cultivation as member of the external fundraising team. Other responsibilities include assisting with event hospitality, front-line phone coverage, facility tours and other general office duties.

  • Tyler Nelson

    Development Assistant


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    Tyler joined the Spartan Fund team as Development Assistant effective May 20, 2024. He recently earned his undergraduate degree in advertising management from MSU and has worked as a student attendant at 1855 Place and served with Marketing & Fan Engagement’s game day staff for multiple sports. Tyler assists in all areas of Spartan Fund including major and annual giving, premium seating, events and stewardship, and office management. He also hires, supervises, and assists student workers.