The Wheelock Educational Policy Center Advisory Board is comprised of accomplished leaders who believe that rigorous research can play an important role in understanding and disrupting the patterns of inequities that exist within our nation’s schools. Collectively, WEPC advisors bring a diverse perspective and deep expertise in the areas of education policy, research and philanthropy and serve to guide the strategic growth and impact of our center.
Policy Managing Director, ExcelinEd
Cara Candal is the Policy Managing Director for ExcelinEd, an organization focused on education equity and quality—both inside and outside of the traditional public education system. Cara has 15 years of experience in education policy. Her background gives her a unique perspective on policy initiatives at the national level, which will help to inform WEPC’s contributions to policymakers’ pressing questions and priorities. She was formerly a research assistant professor at the Boston University School of Education, a founding team member of the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE), and a senior fellow at Pioneer Institute in Boston, MA. Cara has authored and/or edited more than 25 papers and four books on education policy. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Indiana University, a Master of Arts in Social Science from the University of Chicago, and a Doctorate of Education from Boston University.
Director of Education, Barr Foundation
Leah Hamilton is the Director of Education at the Barr Foundation. Her work focuses on increasing the number of youths who succeed in secondary and post-secondary education. With her unique vantage point looking across the educational landscape, she will provide critical insights to help WEPC live out our mission of research that helps disrupt historical inequities in our education system. Prior to work at Barr, Leah led the national New Designs for K-16 Pathways program at the Carnegie Corporation of New York and served as executive director of the Office of Multiple Pathways to Graduation at the New York City Department of Education. A graduate of Williams College, she earned joint advanced degrees (MBA and MSW) at Columbia University. She has also been a Fellow in Entrepreneurial Leadership in Public Education at the Aspen Institute.
Director of Analytics, City Fund
Noor Iqbal is the Director of Analytics at City Fund, which partners with local leaders to develop innovative public school systems and give all students access to quality education. Her experience in research, policy development, and education finance will help shape WEPC’s pursuit of policy-relevant research and potential partnerships nationally. Noor previously served as the Director of Education at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, where she developed and implemented a research strategy to measure the impact of citywide education reform efforts and managed a multimillion-dollar grant portfolio in K-12 public education, using empirical research to adjust strategy. Before joining the foundation, she worked as a senior policy associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). She is a graduate of Harvard University and the London School of Economics.
Director, Annenberg Institute at Brown University
Susanna Loeb is the Director of the Annenberg Institute at Brown University. She is also a professor of education and international and public affairs at Brown. Having led and launched other leading education policy centers nationally, Susanna’s experience and insight will be invaluable in shaping WEPC’s strategic growth and influence. Her own research focuses on educator career choices and professional development, school finance and governance, and early childhood systems. While at Stanford University, she was the Barnett Family Professor of Education, the founding director of the Center for Education Policy (CEPA), and co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE). She is a member of the National Academy of Education and an American Education Research Association Fellow. She was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2020. She holds a PhD in Economics and an MPP in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, and a BA in Political Science and a BS in Civil Engineering from Stanford University.
CEO & Co-Founder, Propel America
Paymon Rouhanifard is the co-founder and CEO of Propel America, a nonprofit organization that helps young adults move from high school into a career and higher education by connecting high schools, job-training organizations and higher institutions, employers, and experienced mentors to build a clear path forward for students. In addition to his entrepreneurial leadership starting Propel America, Paymon brings experience leading multiple public school systems that will help ensure WEPC’s research initiatives are relevant and useful to education decision-makers and leaders. He previously served as the superintendent of Camden, NJ, where he focused on improving student outcomes, reducing out-of-school suspensions, strengthening family engagement, and increasing critical capital investments in school facilities. Prior to that, he was chief strategy officer of Newark Public Schools and a sixth-grade teacher in New York City. He is currently a member of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. He holds a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Commissioner, MA Dept. of Higher Education
Carlos Santiago is the Commissioner of Higher Education at the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. With his background in economics, experience in executive leadership within higher education institutions, and policy perspective from the state level, Carlos will provide necessary perspective as WEPC pursues partnership-driven, impactful research from within academia. As Commissioner, he works with leaders at the Commonwealth’s community colleges, state universities, and University of Massachusetts campuses to maximize the benefits of higher education in Massachusetts. Prior to his work in Massachusetts, he was the first Puerto Rican president of a major U.S. research university serving as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has also served as chief executive officer of the Hispanic College Fund and as the provost, vice president for academic affairs, and chief operating officer at the State University of New York at Albany. He is the author or co-author of six books and has published multiple articles and book reviews, many of which focus on economic development. He serves on the Executive Committee of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and the Advisory Committee of the Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History. He holds a PhD in Economics from Cornell University.
CEO, Hunt Institute
Javaid Siddiqi is the President and CEO of the Hunt Institute where he leads strategic planning, fosters relationships with partners and funders nationwide, and advises senior-level elected officials to design strategy, shape policy, and drive educational improvements on the national and state levels. Given his leadership and engagement across various states and educational issues, he will provide valuable insight as WEPC seeks to connect research and policy for influence in the field. Previously, Javaid was Virginia Secretary of Education in Governor Bob McDonnell’s Cabinet, helping to develop and implement the Commonwealth’s education policy and guiding multiple universities, research centers, the Department of Education, and state-supported museums. Before his appointment, he was the Deputy Secretary of Education and formerly worked as a high school teacher, assistant principal, and principal in Chesterfield, Virginia. He is an Aspen Institute Fellow, a member of the Elevate Early Education Board and a member of the National Center for Teacher Residencies Board. Javaid is a graduate of Richard Bland College, Virginia State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received both his undergraduate degree and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership.
CEO, Education Pioneers
Melissa Wu is the Chief Executive Officer of Education Pioneers (EP) where she leads efforts to cultivate and support diverse leaders who will work to accelerate systems change across the education sector. Her background in business and organizational strategy, paired with insights into the needs and opportunities across the educator workforce, will contribute meaningfully to WEPC’s desire to grow strategically and influentially. Before becoming CEO of EP, Melissa served as EP’s Chief Program Officer and launched EP’s Impact Fellowship; was a Partner at TNTP, where she led the two-year research effort that resulted in “The Irreplaceables: The Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools;” and was a strategy consultant for The Boston Consulting Group. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Princeton University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
WEPC intends to hold seats on the advisory board for representatives from committed Research-Practice-Partnerships. These representatives will be from district or state agency leadership and will provide perspective on the board both specific to their context and more broadly about the role of data and evidence in local decision-making. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements about formal partnerships and new advisory board membership.