wendy erisman Wendy Erisman, Ph.D., owner of Strix Research LLC, specializes in assessing the effectiveness of programs and policies designed to support underserved students in higher education. In 14 years of working in higher education, Dr. Erisman has held positions as both a university faculty member and as a policy researcher and program evaluator. She has training and experience in research and evaluation design, strong skills in qualitative research methods, and a solid grounding in the literature on college access and success for low-income, first-generation, and non- traditional students. Dr. Erisman’s current projects include evaluations of Lumina Foundation’s Adult College Completion Initiative and the federal Department of Education project Promoting Reentry Success through Continuity of Educational Opportunities. Dr. Erisman previously worked as senior research specialist with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and served as director of research and evaluation at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC. Dr. Erisman received her doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, her master’s degree in sociology from Yale University, and her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Rice University.

contardo head shot Jeanne Contardo, Ph.D., is a higher education expert specializing in strategic planning, cross-sector partnership development with a focus on the business sector, research and policy analysis, and workforce development. Before her recent return to consulting, she served as the Vice President of Regional Operations for Excelsior College, where she managed the current and emerging units and activities in the Washington, DC Region. Under her leadership, Excelsior grew its regional presence through innovative partnerships with both the Federal and local governments, the launch of a comprehensive branding initiative to serve working adults, and on-going collaboration with military and veteran offices and underserved adult students in the DC Region.

Prior to her work with Excelsior serving adult students, Dr. Contardo spent 15 years in a variety of higher education and non-profit settings. From 2008-2013, she was the Director of Programs and Policy Analysis at the Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF), overseeing the organization’s research agenda and its College Readiness, Access, and Success Initiative. In this capacity, she collaborated with university presidents and Fortune 500 CEOs to increase high-demand career pipelines and focused on building the research and policy materials needed to drive action around improving student interest and proficiency, especially in STEM fields.

Before BHEF, she was a research fellow at the National Defense University, focusing in part on the changing workforce needs in the United States. Dr. Contardo also worked at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, where she collaborated on studies targeting underserved populations in higher education, including prisoners and foster youth; the University of Maryland, where she worked with a group of women engineers to address issues around STEM undergraduate education; and the University of Washington Honors Program in Seattle, where she helped design and implement policy to increase access and success in higher education. Since 2011-2012, Dr. Contardo has also taught courses on higher education finance, cross sector partnerships, and research theory at The George Washington University.

Dr. Contardo earned her Ph.D. in higher education policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and her bachelor’s degree (cum laude) in English from the University of Washington.

AlisaAlisa Federico Cunningham, independent education research consultant, has more than a decade of experience managing and conducting research and evaluation projects on a broad array of topics, including higher education financing, financial aid, measures of community college success, and risk factors for student access and success. She has extensive experience with large federal and other datasets, in addition to survey development and qualitative analyses. She has published articles in various journals and magazines, and is the author or co-author of many reports and policy briefs, including: Making Sense of the System: Financial Aid for the 21st-Century Student, The Rising Costs of Higher Education: A Reference Handbook, and The Investment Payoff: A 50-State Analysis of the Public and Private Benefits of Higher Education. Previously, Ms. Cunningham worked at the Institute for Higher Education Policy in Washington, DC for 15 years, including as Vice President for Research. She was appointed to the Department of Education’s Committee on Measures of Student Success in 2010-2011, and is a current member of the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC). She holds a M.A. in European studies from George Washington University, and a B.A. in political science from Villanova University.