HELP Team Profiles


Dr. Edward L. Tarlton (Ph.D.), President & CEO

Dr. Tarlton is a highly motivated scholar and entrepreneur with over 27 years of business development, management and secondary through higher education consulting experience. Born in Hampton and raised in Highland Springs, VA, Dr. Tarlton attended undergrad at the University of Georgia. While there he played football, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, Fraternity, Inc. and graduated, in 1991, with a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture. Dr. Tarlton helped start Snead Associates, LLC, the first African-American owned Landscape Architecture firm in the state of Georgia in 1994, before leaving to open his own firm, E.L. Tarlton & Associates, in 1996.

In 2008, Dr. Tarlton earned a master’s in Land Development from Texas A&M University, and in 2018 his Ph.D. in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications from Texas A&M University, in College Station, TX. His research focuses on college and career pathway readiness, from middle school through the doctorate, across all populations: rural – urban, low – high income, non-athlete – athlete, and advantaged – disadvantaged populations. His range of academic, athletic and professional experiences allow him to bridge the gap between the academic, professional practice, and real-world arenas, maximizing his ability to inspire students, inform scholars, work with professionals and significantly impact the communities he serves.

In 2011, Dr. Tarlton started Higher Education & Learning Professional Consulting, Inc. (HELP), a non-profit whose mission is to assist students get “to and through high school and college and on to careers!” His motto is, “You can either get HELP or compete against students who do!” Prior to HELP, Dr. Tarlton held the following relevant academic-related positions:

  • Texas A&M Office of Graduate and Professional Studies, Recruiter, 2010-2016
  • Texas A&M Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning, Teacher of Record, 2011-2015
  • Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence, Teaching Assistant Training Specialist, 2011
  • Texas A&M Athletics, Learning Specialist & Tutoring Program Director, 2008-2009


Dr. Robert C.K. Harper (Ed.D.), Vice President

Dr. Robert Harper is the Vice President of HELP Consulting Inc., a full service college and career readiness consulting firm. With over fifteen years of experience as a higher education administrator, he has a successful track record of assisting students to transition from high school to college and from college to careers. In his capacity at HELP, Dr. Harper provides leadership and oversight to strategic planning, training and resource materials, and administrative and programmatic functions of student access and success. Furthermore, his duties include implementing long-range plans and goals, fostering and maintaining effective working relationships with clients, and ongoing evaluation and research of students’ experiences.

Prior to joining HELP, Dr. Harper served as Executive Dean of Student Engagement and Retention at Eastfield College. He was described as an innovative educator with sound strategic planning skills to solve complex problems. He has been the Assistant to the Vice President for Academic Affairs at Texas College. He was the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and the Director of Enrollment Management at Jarvis Christian College. And, at Northeast Texas Community College, he served as the Director of Student Development and Diversity, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Coordinator of Instructional Technology. Dr. Harper has a reputation for being a dynamic visionary and a strong academic thinker. He is well positioned throughout the academy and in the community and his work is recognized on the regional and national levels. A native of East Texas, Dr. Harper, earned the B.S. degree in Business Administration from Louisiana State University-Shreveport, an M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees from Northwestern State University of Louisiana and the Ed.D. degree from Grambling State University.

Board Members


Nicole Cole, Board Chair & President

Nicole Cole’s professional career began as a pharmaceutical representative for Eli Lilly and Company and she later worked as a strategic planning associate for Genentech, Inc. After business school, she started a consulting career with Arthur D. Little specializing in health care strategy and subsequently launched her own consulting business, Phase V Consulting, LLC, focused on strategic and general business planning working with Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies to develop strategic plans.

As the Board President & Chair, Mrs. Cole is responsible for the development of a financial and operational strategy, metrics tied to that strategy and the ongoing development and monitoring of control systems designed to preserve HELPs assets and report accurate financial results. Her principal accountabilities are to:

  • Assist in formulating the company’s present and future direction and supporting tactical initiatives
  • Monitor and direct the implementation of strategic business plans
  • Develop financial and tax strategies
  • Manage the capital request and budgeting processes
  • Develop performance measures that support the company’s strategic direction

Nicole received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Spanish from the University of Maryland at College Park. She holds a Masters in Business Administration in Finance and Health Services Management from the J. L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University. Additionally, she holds Series 6, 63, and 65 Securities licenses as well as a Life, Health, Variable Life and Annuity and Property and Casualty insurance licenses in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Washington, DC, Florida and Georgia. She is an Investment Advisor Representative with broker/dealer NEXT Financial Group, Inc, member FINRA and SIPC.


Joseph B. Alexander, Jr.

Joe Alexander is a widely respected private equity and corporate M&A lawyer who focuses his international practice on representing private equity and corporate buyers and sellers in connection with M&A and general corporate matters.

Joe regularly represents nationally known private equity firms and sellers selling to such firms in corporate matters, including in connection with over 100 M&A transactions for aggregate consideration exceeding US$18.0 billion in the last five years. He also serves as outside general counsel to various public and private companies, including in connection with over 30 M&A transactions for aggregate consideration exceeding US$9.0 billion in the last five years. Although Joe is a generalist, having closed multiple transactions in many sectors, he has particular expertise in the TMT, healthcare, food and beverage, franchising and manufacturing sectors.

Joe is the Global Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s Private Equity practice, US Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s Corporate practice, Southeast US Managing Partner and a member of the firm’s Global Board and its US Executive and Management Committees.


Dr. Fred Bonner

Dr. Fred A. Bonner II is an endowed chair at Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View, TX, in the College of Education and has his own center that will focus on helping to advance the status of minority populations across P-20 education and workplace contexts. Prior to his new appointment, he was the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education–Rutgers University, Professor of Higher Education Administration in the Educational Administration and Human Resource Development Department at Texas A&M University—College Station. He earned a BA Degree in Chemistry from the University of North Texas, an M.S.Ed.. in Curriculum & Instruction from Baylor University and an Ed.D. in Higher Education Administration & College Teaching from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville.

Bonner’s work has been featured both nationally and internationally; he has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Educational Leadership, Counseling and Foundation’s Dissertation of the Year Award from the University Of Arkansas College Of Education. In 2010, Dr. Bonner was awarded the 2010 Extraordinary Service Award from the Texas A&M University College of Education and Human Development, College Station, Texas and the 2010 Faculty Member of the Year, Texas A&M University Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) Cohort, College Station, Texas. He has been elected to membership of several National Honor Societies.