Hironao Okahana

Assistant Vice President and Executive Director, Education Futures Lab

​Hironao Okahana is a mission-driven professional thriving to help higher education meet its full potential as a public good and vehicle for social change and equity. He thinks deeply and innovatively, connects ideas and people, and offers insights and counsel. Through his work and also by bringing together other researchers and experts, he seeks to amplify underserved voices—informing and facilitating the evidence-based discourse that will serve as a catalyst for institutional changes and policy reforms in higher education.

Having joined ACE in 2021, Okahana currently serves as the assistant vice president for ACE Research, where he develops and manages its research agenda to help advance the Council’s thought leadership areas: equity-minded leadership, institutional transformation, and student success. Prior to joining ACE, he held progressively increasing responsibilities at the Council of Graduate Schools for over eight years, culminating his tour there as the vice president for research and knowledge development.

As a researcher, his work focuses on enrollment trends, labor market outcomes, diversity and inclusiveness, and organizational analysis of U.S. postsecondary education, with particular emphasis on master’s and doctoral education. Okahana has written a number of technical reports, research briefs, and peer-reviewed articles, as well as given academic conference presentations. As an expert, he has served on several technical review and advisory panels for various studies of graduate education, as well as having delivered invited talks on the state and implications of U.S. graduate education at national and regional convenings. Among other places, he was featured in a webcast hosted by Inside Higher Ed and also quoted in Teen Vogue and The Wall Street Journal.

In addition to his role at ACE, Okahana is a higher education program affiliate and adjunct faculty at George Mason University and an adjunct assistant professor of education at the William & Mary School of Education. He is also a member of the editorial review board of Innovative Higher Education.

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, he resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, Saleha Bholat, who is associate dean of arts at the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College, and their kindergartener son. Okahana earned his PhD in education and MPP in public policy from the University of California, Los Angeles, and his undergraduate degrees from California State University, Long Beach.