Board of Directors
Carl A. Cohn
Carl A. Cohn is professor emeritus at Claremont Graduate University.
For the past seven years, Carl Cohn has served the state of California as a state board member and executive director of the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence. Previously, he was superintendent of schools in both the Long Beach and San Diego school systems, as well as the Federal Court monitor for the Los Angeles school system. His tenure in Long Beach culminated with his winning the McGraw Prize in 2002, and the district winning the Broad Prize in 2003. Dr. Cohn currently serves on the following boards: CTA’s Institute for Teaching, the Center for Assessment, the Alder Graduate School of Education, Teaching Works at the University of Michigan, St. Mary’s Academy, the Education Standing Committee of the California Catholic Conference, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities. In addition to his work in K-12 education, he has prepared future educational leaders at Pittsburgh, USC, Harvard, GW and Claremont.
Kirabo Jackson, a labor economist who studies education and social policy issues, is professor of human development and social policy at Northwestern University.
Kirabo Jackson earned his bachelor’s degree in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale University in 1998 and his doctorate in economics from Harvard University in 2007. He was assistant professor in the department of labor economics at Cornell University between 2007 and 2010 and then moved to Northwestern where he subsequently earned tenure in 2012. He was promoted to full professor in 2017.
Jackson has analyzed several important aspects of education policy such as the importance of public school funding on student outcomes through adulthood, the effects of college-preparatory programs on students’ college and labor market outcomes, the effects of educational tracking on students’ academic achievement, and the effects of single-sex education on students’ academic performance. However, the bulk of Jackson’s work has focused on better understanding teacher labor markets. Jackson’s extensive work on teachers analyzes the role of peer learning in teacher effectiveness, how student demographics directly affect the distribution of teacher quality across schools, how a teacher’s effectiveness depends on the schooling context within which they operate, how best to measure teacher quality, and other related topics.
Jackson’s scholarly articles have appeared in leading economics journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Journal of Political Economy, the American Economic Journal, the Review of Economics and Statistics, the Journal of Labor Economics and the Journal of Human Resources. His research has been featured in a number of mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and others. In 2016 and 2017, Jackson was listed among the top university-based scholars who are doing the most to influence educational policy and practice by Education Week. Jackson’s work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Smith Richardson Foundation and other organizations. Currently, Jackson serves as an editor of the Journal of Human Resources, serves on the Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession at the American Economic Association, and he is a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Nonie K. Lesaux
Nonie K. Lesaux is the Larsen Professor of Education and Human Development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Nonie Lesaux leads a program of research focused on increasing opportunities to learn among children from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds. Her developmental and experimental studies—from preschool through adolescence—cluster in three areas: investigating language, reading, and social-emotional development; examining classroom quality and growth in key academic skills and competencies; and strategies for accelerating language and reading comprehension skills and competencies. At Harvard, Lesaux is co-founder and co-director of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative, an initiative that promotes the knowledge, professional learning, and collective action needed to cultivate optimal early learning environments and experiences. The Zaentz Initiative includes a groundbreaking, first-of-its-kind statewide study to generate actionable evidence for quality improvement and policymaking. Lesaux's work has earned her the William T. Grant Scholars Award and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor given by the United States government to young professionals beginning their independent research careers. She was elected to the National Academy of Education in 2019.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir
Na'ilah Suad Nasir is the sixth President of the Spencer Foundation.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir is the sixth President of the Spencer Foundation, which invests in education research that cultivates learning and transforms lives. From 2008-2019, she held a faculty appointment at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also served as Vice-Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion. Nasir earned her PhD in Education Psychology at UCLA and was a member of the faculty in the School of Education at Stanford University. Her work focuses on issues of race, culture, learning, and identity. She is the author of Racialized Identities: Race and Achievement for African-American Youth and has published numerous scholarly articles. Nasir is a member of the National Academy of Education and a fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).
Eduardo Padrón is the President of Miami Dade College, a national model of student achievement and the largest degree granting institution in America.
In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Eduardo Padrón the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., for being a prominent national voice for access and inclusion in higher education. In 2009, Time magazine included him among the “10 Best College Presidents” in the United States; in 2010, Florida Trend magazine named him “Floridian of the Year”; and in 2011, The Washington Post recognized him as one of the eight most influential college presidents nationwide.
Dr. Padrón is the recipient of the Carnegie Corporation’s Centennial Academic Leadership Award, the National Citizen Service Award from Voices for National Service, and the Hesburgh Award, the highest honor in U.S. higher education. He is also an Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Six American Presidents have selected Dr. Padrón to serve on posts of national prominence. He serves on the boards of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Urban Institute, the Spencer Foundation and the International Association of University Presidents. He is the past chairman of the Business-Higher Education Forum, the American Council on Education and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. He’s the recipient of over fifteen honorary doctorates.
Jane R. Patterson
Jane Patterson’s career in institutional investment management spans over 30 years. Most recently she was the Chief Investment Officer at the Joyce Foundation.
Before joining Joyce, Jane Patterson served as Executive Director of the Illinois State Board of Investment where she directed the investment portfolios for three Illinois public retirement systems. Her corporate experience includes managing pension plan investments at Sara Lee Corporation and CBS Inc. Jane also serves on the Board and chairs the Investment Committee for the Metro Chicago YMCA. Previously, she has served as a member of the Kenyon Fund Executive Committee for Kenyon College. Jane earned a B.A. summa cum laude in economics from Kenyon College and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Rob Reich is professor of political science and, by courtesy, professor of philosophy and at the Graduate School of Education, at Stanford University.
Rob Reich is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review), both at Stanford University. He is the author most recently of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (Princeton University Press, 2018) and Philanthropy in Democratic Societies: History, Institutions, Values (edited with Chiara Cordelli and Lucy Bernholz, University of Chicago Press, 2016). He is also the author of several books on education: Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Education, Justice, and Democracy (edited with Danielle Allen, University of Chicago Press, 2013). His current work focuses on ethics, public policy, and technology, and he serves as associate director of the Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence initiative at Stanford. Rob is the recipient of multiple teaching awards, including the Walter J. Gores award, Stanford’s highest honor for teaching. Reich was a sixth grade teacher at Rusk Elementary School in Houston, Texas before attending graduate school. He is a board member of the magazine Boston Review and at the Spencer Foundation.
Cecilia Rios-Aguilar is Professor of Education and Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies (Ed&IS).
Currently, Cecilia Rios-Aguilar also serves as a faculty Co-Director of Policy Analysis of California Education (PACE), as a Board Member of the Spencer Foundation, and as a research affiliate of Wheelhouse: The Center for the Community College Leadership and Research at UC Davis. She is past Director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Her research is multidisciplinary and uses a variety of asset-based conceptual frameworks—funds of knowledge, community cultural wealth and the forms of capital—and of statistical approaches—econometric models, multilevel models, spatial analyses and GIS, and social network analysis—to study the educational and occupational trajectories of marginalized students. Dr. Rios-Aguilar’s 2011-2014 research project, “Getting Connected: Harnessing the Power of Social Media to Enhance Community College Student Success,” was funded by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project explored the use of social media technology to connect and engage community college students in ways that improve success outcomes. Currently, Dr. Rios-Aguilar is examining how community college students make decisions about majors, jobs, and careers and the impact of strategic nudges to help community college students navigate the financial aid process. Her latest co-edited book, published by Routledge, Funds of Knowledge in Higher Education: Honoring Students’ Cultural Experiences and Resources as Strengths, refines and builds on the concept of funds of knowledge in a sophisticated and multidisciplinary way to examine issues related to access and transition to college, college persistence and success, and pedagogies in higher education. Dr. Rios-Aguilar obtained her Ph.D. in Education Theory and Policy from the University of Rochester, her M.S. in Educational Administration from the University of Rochester, and her B.A. in Economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México [ITAM].
Mike Williams is an accomplished executive leader in the both the global financial marketplace and intercollegiate athletics arenas. Most recently, Mike served as the University of California, Berkeley’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Mike Williams is an accomplished executive leader in the both the global financial marketplace and intercollegiate athletics arenas. Mike served from 2014-18 as the University of California, Berkeley’s Director of Intercollegiate Athletics , where he was responsible for overseeing 30 intercollegiate sports and 1,200 coaches, staff and student-athletes. He led Cal Athletics’ senior executive team as they established the two largest partnerships in school history, an $87 million/10 year apparel partnership with Under Armour and a multi-media rights deal with Learfield Sports that resulted in a more than $100 million over 10 years. He also served as the chair for the Pac-12 Conference’s Athletics Director’s Council in 2015-16. Mike began his career at Data Resources, Inc and worked at Bank of America after completing his MBA from UCLA Anderson. He joined Barclays Global Investors in 1993 and remained one of its most trusted leaders until he retired in 2009 as Vice Chair of Capital Markets. Mike served as a trustee for the UC Berkeley Foundation (UCBF) from 2007-18 and Vice Chair of the UCBF from 2013-15. He also serves on the University of California, Berkeley’s Executive Board of the College of Letters and Science. He is currently on the boards of the Health Career Connection and Berkeley’s Stiles Hall. He also serves on the advisory boards of Bronze Investments and the UCLA Anderson Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment and Sports (UCLA MEMES). Mike earned his Bachelor’s in Economics from UC Berkeley in 1982 and his MBA from UCLA Anderson. He lives in Lafayette, California with his wife Jeanne and their three children.