As Senior Associate for Policy & Advocacy at Democrats for Education Reform / Education Reform Now, Dana works with federal and state policymakers and elected officials to advance pre-K-12 education policies that maximize educational opportunities for all students, particularly those from historically disadvantaged groups. Dana began her professional career in education at DC Public Schools’ central office, and went on to teach in New Orleans as a founding staff member at KIPP’s first school in the 9th Ward. Most recently, Dana served as deputy director for StudentsFirst South Carolina, where she led all pre-K-12 legislative work and established herself as a go-to policy expert for legislators, parents, community members, and state-level non-profits and agencies. An immigrant from Trinidad & Tobago and first generation college graduate, Dana earned both her bachelor’s degree and Master of Public Policy from the University of Virginia.
Dr. Laura Perna
Laura W. Perna is James S. Riepe Professor and Executive Director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). She has served as President of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), Vice President of the Postsecondary Division of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and chair of Penn’s Faculty Senate. Her research uses a range of methodological approaches to identify how social structures, educational practices, and public policies can promote college access and success, particularly for groups that continue to be underrepresented in higher education. Recent books include The Attainment Agenda: State policy leadership for higher education (with Joni Finney, 2014, Johns Hopkins University Press). Her research has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, Lumina Foundation, and other sources, and has been featured by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and other outlets. She has provided invited testimony to the U.S. Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee and U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. She is a Fellow of AERA and Penn, and recipient of ASHE’s Early Career Achievement Award, Penn’s Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching, and National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ Robert P. Huff Golden Quill Award.
Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab
Dr. Goldrick-Rab is Professor of Higher Education Policy & Sociology at Temple University, and Founder of the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, the nation’s only translational research laboratory seeking ways to make college more affordable. She is best known for her innovative research on food and housing insecurity in higher education, having led the two largest national studies on the subject, and for her work on making public higher education free. She is the recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award, and in 2016 POLITICO magazine named her one of the top 50 people shaping American politics. Her latest book, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream(University of Chicago, 2016), is an Amazon best-seller and a 2018 winner of the Grawemeyer Award, and has been featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, the New York Review of Books, and CSPAN’s Book TV, among other venues. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls her “a defender of impoverished students and a scholar of their struggles,” and she is ranked 10th in the nation among education scholars according to Education Week.
Dr. Sean Vereen
Sean Vereen is the president of Steppingstone Scholars, a nonprofit dedicated to creating college and workforce pathways for systemically underserved students. Steppingstone serves over 2,000 students across the Philadelphia region. Dr. Vereen previously served as the associate dean of opportunity and access in the Office of Admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, during which time he managed external partnerships and campus initiatives to promote cultural and socioeconomic diversity in the student body. Prior to his role in admissions, Dr. Vereen was the Associate Director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Vereen serves on the Mayor Kenny's Education Nominations Panel focused on sending candidates for the Mayor to consider for the School Board of Philadelphia. He is also the Vice Chair of the Board of Limited Jurisdiction of Our Mother of Consolation Parish School.