Afi Y. Wiggins, Ph.D.
Dana Center Role
As the Dana Center managing director, Afi oversees the Center’s work, ensuring that our vision and mission continue to be the central catalyst for the change we advance across the nation. The Center works to ensure that every student, regardless of their background or zip code, experiences the power and joy of mathematics, science, and literacy in ways that are meaningful and relevant to their futures.
Afi leads the development and implementation of comprehensive, coherent, and evidence-based strategies for systemic and structural reforms that positively and equitably impact students throughout their K–16 educational journeys.
Afi establishes and operationalizes long-term strategic goals and priorities in programmatic, partnership, and philanthropic development. She directs the day-to-day mobilization of the Center’s personnel and large-scale state and national initiatives to achieve the Center’s strategic goals.
In addition, Afi leads the Center’s resource development efforts, including overseeing proposal preparation and serving as the primary contact to funders to sustain the Center’s annual operating budget. She supervises and supports directors who lead teams enacting the portfolio of initiatives that advance the Center’s mission.
Prior to serving as the managing director, Afi was the Center’s director of evaluation and research and, most recently, the director of strategy and impact. In her role as the director of strategy and impact, Afi managed the Center’s evaluation and impact initiatives, oversaw resource development, and supported the project management team. As the director of evaluation and research, she led the development of comprehensive and coherent strategies for research and evaluation initiatives. Assessing the quality, efficacy, and impact of the Center’s work, Afi implemented evaluation and research designs that promoted equity.
Before Joining the Dana Center
As senior research analyst at Texas State University, Afi created and maintained longitudinally linked data sets for use in statistical analyses and developed procedures to validate data integrity. She also collaborated with faculty to develop quantitative research and evaluation design and methodology.
Previously, Afi worked for Austin Independent School District, leading research, evaluation, and statistical analyses projects in the areas of college readiness, postsecondary enrollment and persistence, and career and technical education. While at University of Virginia Curry School of Education and University of Virginia Women’s Center, she conducted evaluations of various aspects of a mentoring program pairing college women with middle school girls. Before that, Afi was a research analyst at Piedmont Virginia Community College, developing surveys and performing data analyses to assess the effectiveness of educational and administrative programs.
In addition, Afi taught first and third grades, served as an assistant principal, and taught research, evaluation, and statistics at the undergraduate and graduate school levels. She worked in national education policy, serving as a writing group member on the 2011 Council of Chief State School Officers’ Interstate Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Model Core Teaching Standards revision committee. She is an alumna of the Strategic Data Project Institute for Leadership in Analytics (SDP Institute) at Harvard University Center for Education Policy Research. She serves on the Higher Education Equity Network (HEEN) Governing Board and on the national advisory board for the Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE).
Ph.D., Research Statistics and Evaluation, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
Ed.S., Educational Leadership & Research and Evaluation Methodology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
M.Ed., Educational Administration, University of Montevallo, Alabama
B.S., Early Childhood and Elementary Education, University of Montevallo, Alabama
Selected Board Positions and Committee Membership
- Catalyst:Ed Higher Education Equity Network (HEEN) Policy Coalition Chair and Governing Board Member
- Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) National Advisory Board
- Advancing Culturally-responsive and Equitable (ACE) Evaluation Network member
- Data Collective Advisory Committee for Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) with Student Success Initiatives, National Student Clearinghouse
- Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) Data Advisory Committee and Knowledge Development Committee
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Catalyst:Ed Equitable Research and Evaluation Expert
- Greater Texas Foundation (GTF) Research and Learning Agenda Development Committee
Van Overschelde, J. P., & Wiggins, A. Y. (2019, September). Teacher preparation pathways: Differences in program selection and teacher retention. Action in Teacher Education.
Paulson, E. J., Van Overschelde, J. P., & Wiggins, A. Y. (2018). Policy brief: Accelerated developmental reading and writing coursework and student preparedness for college-level reading-intensive and writing-intensive courses in Texas community colleges. Austin, TX: The University of Texas at Austin Education Research Center.
Deringer, S. A., & Wiggins, A. Y. (2018). Lasting impacts of outdoor orientation programming: A preliminary study using longitudinal data. Journal of Outdoor Recreation, Education, and Leadership, 10(2), 139–152.
Van Overschelde, J. P., & Wiggins, A. Y. (2017, June). Planting seeds in fertile soil: Assessing teacher employment environments in Texas. The Journal of the Consortium of State Organizations for Texas Teacher Education: Texas Educator Preparation, 1, 7–20.
Deutsch, N. L., Wiggins, A. Y., Henneberger, A., Lawrence, E. (2012, September). Combining Mentoring with Structured Group Activities: A Potential After-School Context for Fostering Relationships between Girls and Mentors. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 33, 44-
Council of Chief State School Officers. (2011, May). Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Model Core Teaching Standards: A Resource for State Dialogue. Washington, DC: Author.
Current National and State Initiatives
Launch Years Initiative
Legitimizing Modernized Math Pathways
Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Evaluation of Modern Algebra II
New Mexico Early Numeracy
New Mexico Algebra
Invited Speaking Engagements
IES Math Summit (2023, September). Cultivating Asset-based Learning Environments Through Instructional Intensification.
Strong Start to Finish Learning Network Convening (2023, July). Using Improvement Science to Advance Equity Priorities.
American Educational Research Association
American Evaluation Association
Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness