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Elisha Smith Arrillaga Named Dana Center Managing Director

March 16, 2021|By Dana Center Communications

After a highly competitive process, Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga has been selected as the Charles A. Dana Center’s new managing director. She will officially join the Dana Center on May 4.

Elisha Smith Arrillaga headshot
Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga will join the Center on May 4.

In her new role, Smith Arrillaga will partner with Center founder and executive director Dr. Uri Treisman to enact the Center’s mission of ensuring that all students—particularly those who have traditionally been underserved—have equitable access to an excellent math and science education. 

“Advancing mathematics education and a more just and equitable education system requires more than book learning. More than listening to experts. More than just a passion for change. It requires immersion in the work itself. What Dr. Smith Arrillaga can bring to the Dana Center transcends my highest hopes for a new partner in leading the Center,” said Treisman. “Elisha is brilliant, strong, and, yes, funny. I am thrilled that she is joining our leadership team, and I know that I and my Dana Center colleagues will learn from her in this role.”

Smith Arrillaga currently serves as executive director of The Education Trust–West, the California branch of a national research and advocacy nonprofit organization committed to educational justice for students of color, students from low-income communities, and English learners. 

“Math is at the center of our educational challenges and the opportunity chasm that divides our students. From advanced coursework to cutting-edge technology, we give students of color and students from low-income communities the least access to critical resources,” said Smith Arrillaga. “Our education system is in need of innovation so students not only meet math standards, but can also see the exciting role math plays all around us each day. I am thrilled to be joining the Dana Center to continue my life’s work about equity in mathematics.”

Elisha Smith Arrillaga talking to someone

Since she joined Ed Trust West in 2017, Smith Arrillaga has held increasingly complex leadership roles. Prior to that, she worked in leadership positions with the Career Ladders Project from the Foundation for California Community Colleges and with Mathematica Policy Research. She was also selected as the first-ever program fellow for the Effective Philanthropy Group of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Smith Arrillaga holds a Ph.D. in public affairs and urban policy from Princeton University, an MS in survey methodology from the University of Maryland, and a BA in mathematics from Smith College. Smith Arrillaga currently serves on many councils and advisory committees, including the Launch Years Consensus Panel.

Smith Arrillaga is stepping into the managing director role previously held by Dr. Martha Ellis, who had served as interim managing director since December 2019 and is now retiring from the University. 

Ellis helped expand the Center’s service to educators and students despite the unique challenges of 2020. “I am deeply indebted to Martha for her partnership in leading the Dana Center and for her outstanding contributions to equity-minded STEM education,” said Treisman. “Her political skills, her leadership skills, and her ever-present humanity and grace enabled the Center to take on work at a scale that would have been unimaginable without her. Her work will continue to be an inspiration, and we wish her well in the next phase of her extraordinary life.”

Also transitioning out of a senior leadership role is Dr. William Crowe, who had been serving as the interim director of higher education strategy, policy, and services for the past year. 

“Bill’s work with the Dana Center’s higher education initiatives shaped and expanded the influence of the Center and our work on transfer policy and student success,” said Treisman. “Under his leadership, the Center has been able to dramatically reduce the long-standing barriers to college completion for students seeking better lives through higher education.” Crowe will continue working with the Dana Center on specific projects in the higher education space.

The Dana Center thanks Martha Ellis and Bill Crowe for their service to the Center and welcomes Elisha Smith Arrillaga to her new role at the Center. 

“It’s thanks to the leadership and hard work of Martha, Bill, our managers, and our staff that the Dana Center is now positioned to be a shaping force for the equity-minded improvement of American STEM education,” said Treisman. “With Elisha’s leadership, we will be able to work with and through an expanding network of civil rights and science and mathematics professional organizations to achieve our mission of ensuring all students can learn and succeed in mathematics and science.”


About the Dana Center 

At the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, we are passionate about ensuring all students—including those who are Black, Latinx, Native American, or who come from low-income backgrounds—have access to excellent math and science education. We believe every student, from kindergarten through postsecondary education, deserves the same opportunity to experience the joy of learning mathematics and science that is relevant to their futures and that sets them on a path toward upward social and economic mobility. That’s why we work at every level of the educational system—from local K–12 districts and two- and four-year institutions, all the way through statewide education systems and policy. Every day our staff bring this passion to life, with innovative ideas and research-based best practices in pedagogy, curriculum, instruction, and professional learning. We do so in a spirit of collaboration, partnership, and innovation, knowing that together, we can make a difference.  

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