Dr. Elisha Smith Arrillaga (she/her/hers) joined the Dana Center as its new managing director on May 4. She previously served as the 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.
As a lifelong math lover, Elisha is fiercely committed to increasing opportunities in STEM for students of color. A researcher by training and advocate by blood, she has taught subjects ranging from statistics to writing and research methods at the K–12 and postsecondary levels. Elisha inherits her commitment to racial justice from her family. Her father was among the first classes to integrate the University of Mississippi Law School, and her mother fought for antidiscrimination laws across north Mississippi.
Throughout her more than 20 years of research and advocacy, Elisha has worked for and partnered with many organizations, including the Careers Ladder Project, the Hewlett Foundation, First 5 Los Angeles, Mathematica Policy Research, and College Bound. She serves on numerous committees, boards, and taskforces—among them Google’s Equitable Artificial Intelligence Research Roundtable, University of California’s Provost Advisory Council on Educational Equity, California State University’s Steering Committee on Academic Preparation and Quantitative Reasoning, University of California’s Test Feasibility Steering Committee, and the Dana Center’s Launch Years Consensus Panel. Elisha was also appointed as cochair of the California Department of Education’s Closing the Achievement Gap Taskforce. She has authored dozens of publications and is frequently interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Ed Source, and Los Angeles Times.
Elisha holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Smith College and an M.S. in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland at College Park. She was the third Black person to graduate with a Ph.D. from the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.