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CPRS Staff Biographies

December 30, 1899


Louis Soares, MPA

Vice President, Strategy, Research, and Advancement

Specialization: Career and education counseling; community college reform; student consumer information; post-traditional learners; technology and higher education innovation; workforce training


Louis Soares leads ACE’s efforts in Strategy, Research and Advancement.
Soares joined ACE in June 2013 as vice president for policy research and strategy and head of the Council’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy.  With more than 20 years of experience in postsecondary education policy and practice, Soares is responsible for further positioning ACE as a thought leader on emerging trends in higher education.  While at ACE he published two landmark papers, Post-Traditional Learners and the Transformation of Higher Education and Evolving Higher Education Business Models

In 2016, The Council expanded Soares’ responsibilities to include organizational strategy with a focus on advancement.  In this role, Soares leverages decades of experience in campus-based and non-profit organization fundraising to enhance the Council’s relationships with corporate and philanthropic partners.  Soares has developed and successfully implemented projects with support from:  Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, TIAA Institute, ACT, Verizon Foundation, Fleet Bank, CVS, Bank of America, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Labor.

Prior to coming to ACE, Soares served as the director of the postsecondary education program and fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP), a premier Washington, DC based think tank. Prior to CAP, he served as director of business/workforce development under Rhode Island Governor Donald L. Carcieri and as director of education partnerships for the Rhode Island Technology Council. Additionally, he was a small business consultant with the U.S. Peace Corps in Romania.

Soares was appointed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to serve on the National Board of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education in 2011- 2014.

He holds a master’s in public administration from Harvard University (MA) and a bachelor’s in business economics from Brown University (RI).


Lorelle Espinosa, PhD

Assistant Vice President, Policy Research and Strategy​​

Specialization: Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; diverse students and institutions; nontraditional students


Lorelle L. Espinosa serves as assistant vice president for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy. She is responsible for the development and management of the center’s research agenda, which focuses on issues of diversity and equity in 21st century higher education, dynamic and resilient institutions, and transformational leadership. Her personal area of scholarship focuses on issues of diversity and inclusion and STEM education, and she is co-chair of the National Academies study committee, “Closing the Equity Gap: Revitalizing STEM Education and Workforce Readiness Programs in the Nation’s Minority-Serving Institutions.”​

Espinosa has served the higher education profession for 20 years, beginning in student affairs and undergraduate admissions at the University of California, Davis; Stanford University; and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has contributed opinion and scholarly works to peer-reviewed journals, academic volumes and industry magazines on a variety of topics. Prior to ACE, she served as a senior analyst at Abt Associates, Inc. and as director of policy and strategic initiatives for the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Espinosa currently serves on the boards of College Possible and the American Youth Policy Forum.

​Espinosa holds an MA and PhD in higher education and organizational change from the University of California, Los Angeles; a BA from the University of California, Davis; and an AA from Santa Barbara City College. ​​​


Jonathan M. Turk, PhD

Associate Director, Policy Research and Strategy​

Specialization: Student outcomes; data policy; advanced quantitative methods; state and federal policy

Jonathan M. Turk is an Associate Director for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy.  In this role, Turk is responsible for managing research projects, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, authoring research papers and briefs, participating on technical review panels, and providing research support for ACE’s Division of Government and Public Affairs.

Turk’s own research investigates issues within higher education from sociological, political, and economic perspectives. Specifically, his research examines college student outcomes, the intersections of public policy and student success and completion, and institutional behavior.  Turk is an active member of many professional associations and regularly presents research and scholarly papers at the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the American Educational Research Association, and the Association for Institutional Research annual meetings.

Turk holds a PhD in higher education from the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia.  He also holds an MS in educational research and a BA in political science and sociology from Iowa State University.


Jennifer Crandall, PhD

Senior Policy Research Analyst, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Access and equity for marginalized students; inclusive policy and practice for culturally and linguistically diverse populations; qualitative research


Jennifer Crandall is a senior policy research analyst for ACE's Center for Policy Research and Strategy, where she manages research projects and conducts qualitative and mixed methods research and analysis on issues such as diversity and equity, transformational leadership in higher education, and innovation in education delivery.


With over 15 years in P-20 education, Crandall more recently served as project director for a Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) grant at The George Washington University and as a U.S. Department of State grantee working with higher education institutions and teacher associations in Russia and India. In addition to consulting on domestic and international projects around pedagogy and diversity in education, she has reviewed submissions for international journals in educational policy and higher education. She has taught in the United States, South Korea, Nepal, and the Slovak Republic and is the recipient of two Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships, U.S. Department of Education.


Crandall holds a PhD in social and comparative analysis in education from the University of Pittsburgh (PA) and an MA in education and a BS in business administration from the University of Colorado.

Morgan Taylor, MPP

Policy Research Analyst, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Latino and post-traditional student success; Hispanic-Serving Institutions; diversity and data and policy analysis; higher education policy; institutional leadership

Morgan Taylor joined ACE in October 2016 as a policy research analyst for the Center for Policy Research and Strategy, where she conducts research and analyzes quantitative and qualitative data relating to issues of diversity and equity in twenty-first-century higher education. She also lends her expertise to matters related to higher education policy, institutional leadership, and governance.

Prior to joining ACE, Taylor served as a research analyst at Excelencia in Education, where she used higher education policy, data analysis, and evidence-based institutional practices to develop reports and infographics on issues affecting Latinos in higher education. Through this work, Taylor interpreted quantitative research and data into policy, with the intention of adding a human connection to data.

Taylor holds an MPP in public policy from The George Washington University and a BA from Grand Valley State University.

Hollie Chessman, PhD

Research Fellow, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: College student mental health and well-being; student affairs staff well-being; graduate student choice; organizational change and leadership; race and ethnicity in higher education

Hollie M. Chessman serves as a research fellow for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy, where she supports special projects, including the Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education report and initiatives related to student mental health and well-being.

Chessman has served the higher education profession for nearly 20 years, beginning in student affairs and undergraduate education at Tulane University, Lake Erie College, Loyola University New Orleans, and George Mason University. She completed her post-doc at ACE in 2016, where she did an analysis of demands from student protests and assisted with the creation of the Pulse Point survey. After her post-doc, she served as director of research projects at the Council of Independent Colleges, publishing a report on the financial resilience of small and mid-sized private colleges and universities. 

Chessman holds a PhD in education with an emphasis on higher education from George Mason University, and a MEd and BS from Kent State University.


Elizabeth Howard, MA

Assistant Analyst, Policy Research and Strategy

Elizabeth Howard joined ACE in May 2016 as an assistant analyst for the Center for Policy Research and Strategy. In this role, Howard provides research and program support for the Center. Prior to joining ACE, Howard worked as a graduate teaching assistant at the College of William and Mary. She has also worked as an editorial and research assistant, as well as providing administrative support for education programs. She is interested in issues of diversity and equity in higher education. Howard holds an MA in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, and a BA in American Studies from Yale University.


Zainab Okolo, MA

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Higher education access and equity, completion, campus climate, social capital, governance structure and organizational change.​

​Zainab Okolo joined ACE in the Fall of 2017 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

Okolo is a doctoral candidate in Higher Education Administration at The George Washington University. Her research quantitatively examines the unique impacts of social capital on college graduation outcomes for first-generation college student populations. Okolo’s broader research interest include college access and inclusion, the implications of campus climate on student outcomes and the role of campus leadership in advocating for marginalized student populations.

Prior to joining ACE, Okolo serviced as an Undergraduate Director at the University of Maryland. There, she was involved in the President’s commission for minority issues, along with student advocacy, helping student resources become more visible and accessible for at-risk student populations. Following her 7 year tenure with UMD, she worked with the Lumina Foundation and the Institute of Higher Education Policy (IHEP). 

Zainab holds a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Syracuse University and a BS in Family Science from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Philip Wilkinson, MSEd

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Data and analytics; student outcomes; transfer students; advanced quantitative methods

Philip J. Wilkinson joined ACE in the fall of 2017 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy. 

Wilkinson is currently a PhD candidate at the Institute of Higher Education at the University of Georgia. His dissertation research examines the impact of divergent pathways to the baccalaureate degree on student outcomes. 

Prior to pursuing his doctoral degree, he taught English as a foreign language at Mahidol University and Assumption University (Thailand). 

Wilkinson holds a MS in education from Northern Illinois University and a BBA from Loyola University Maryland. 

Yingjia Zhang

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Language policy planning, ethnicity and equality in education, international comparative education, higher education reform

Yingjia Zhang joined ACE in the fall of 2017 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

Zhang is a recent graduate from Teachers College, Columbia University with a major in International Educational Development. Her academic concentration is language, literacy and culture in international education and her recent academic research covers the topics on education for minorities, equality in education, comparative education policy studies and international higher education. 

Prior to joining ACE, Zhang served as a Study Abroad Research Intern and Public Affairs Intern at the Institute of International Education (IIE). During her internships at IIE, she was involved in multiple IIE projects and program such as the Open Doors Report 2016, Generation Study Abroad Scholarships, and the Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program. Zhang also worked for the Confucius Institute for Business at State University of New York (SUNY) as a graduate assistant. 

Zhang holds a BA in Russian language and literature from Sun Yat-sen University in China and studied abroad as an exchange student at Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russian Federation. 

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