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CPRS Staff Biographies

December 30, 1899


Louis Soares, MPA

Chief Learning and Innovation Officer 

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

Louis Soares serves as ACE Chief Learning and Innovation Officer.

In this role, Soares incubates and scales ACE’s executive leadership networks, as well as catalyzes compelling research and innovation initiatives across the Council. Working with colleagues, Soares integrates the work of ACE’s Leadership, Research and Innovation Teams to optimize membership value for colleges and universities by developing programs and services to advance the success of senior leaders, diversify the executive talent pipeline and facilitate partnerships to enhance institutional performance.

Soares’ prior roles at ACE include vice president for policy research and strategy (2013–2016) and vice president for strategy, research and advancement (2016–2018).

With more than 20 years of experience in postsecondary education policy and practice, Soares is an accomplished policy analyst and 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," that advanced the public dialogue on adult student needs and the acceptance of innovative education delivery models. 

Soares has developed and successfully implemented innovative education/training programs for and, in collaboration with, college, university and employer partners for frontline workers, business executives and higher education administrators.  These innovative projects garnered 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.

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

Vice President for Research

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

Dr. Lorelle L. Espinosa is the vice president for research at the American Council on Education. In this role, she is responsible for developing the organization’s thought leadership and research agenda and for ensuring a consistent evidence base across ACE’s array of programs and services. With more than 20 years of experience in higher education practice, policy, and research, Espinosa is a national voice on issues pertaining to college access and success for diverse populations and on the role of equity-minded leadership in postsecondary settings.  

Her current research includes a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to examine race and ethnicity in higher education, and multiple collaborations with scholars from around the country to translate important academic research for policy and practitioner audiences. The latter includes a groundbreaking 2018 report on lessons learned from the University of Missouri’s 2015-16 racial crisis and the campus’s road to recovery.

During her time at ACE, Espinosa’s work also includes leading and publishing a seminal study examining how legal challenges to race-conscious policies influence contemporary admissions practices at selective colleges around the country, which was cited in several amicus briefs to the United States Supreme Court and advanced understanding of diversity-focused policy and law. Subsequent work examined the role of leadership in campus racial climate and on the tension between campus inclusion and freedom of expression, leading to national dialogue on the role of presidential and cabinet-level leadership in these critical areas. 

Espinosa has contributed opinion and scholarly works to peer-reviewed journals, academic volumes, and industry magazines, including the Harvard Educational Review, Research in Higher Education, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, Diverse Issues in Higher Education,, and ACE’s Her work has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, TIAA Institute, National Institutes of Health, and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others. 

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," and serves on the national boards of College Possible and the American Youth Policy Forum. Espinosa has held leadership roles in the Association for the Study of Higher Education and the American Educational Research Association, and she is a research affiliate of the University of Southern California’s Pullias Center for Higher Education. 

A Pell Grant recipient and first-generation college graduate, Espinosa earned her Ph.D. in higher education and organizational change from the University of California, Los Angeles; her bachelor of arts from the University of California, Davis; and her associate of arts 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

Senior 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 is a senior policy research analyst for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy, where she manages research projects and analyzes quantitative and qualitative data on issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion; minority serving institutions; and institutional leadership. She also lends her expertise to matters related to higher education policy 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.

Jinann Bitar, MPA

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Student outcomes; equity and inclusion for marginalized students; data policy; quantitative methods; campus climate

Jinann Bitar joined ACE in the Fall of 2018 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

With over 10 years in higher education and student affairs, Bitar more recently served as a Research Analyst for the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) as well as an academic mentor and advisor for underrepresented and underserved students at multiple college campuses, including the University of Montana, UC Davis and UCLA. Bitar’s own research investigates the academic and occupational trajectories for financially poor college students. 

Bitar holds a BA in Communication Studies and a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Montana. Bitar has completed an MA in Education and is currently a PhD candidate in Higher Education and Organizational Change at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Sam Imlay, PhD

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: federal student aid; accreditation and accountability policies; state appropriations; public opinion.

Sam Imlay joined ACE in the fall of 2018 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

Imlay recently completed his PhD in Government at Harvard University. His dissertation considers how unequal college access informs voters’ and parties’ preferences over the level- and design of public higher-education subsidies in the United States.

Prior to graduate school, he earned his BA in history and political science at Grinnell College.

Georgiana Mihut, MA 

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: international and comparative higher education, employability, stratification, equity and quality

Georgiana Mihut joined ACE in the fall of 2018 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy and the Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement.

Mihut is a doctoral candidate in Higher Education at Boston College. Her work experience includes appointments with the Boston College Center for Internal Higher Education, the World Bank, and Harvard University. 

She holds an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s degree in Research and Innovation in Higher Education, a Master of Arts degree in Education and Globalization from University of Oulu, Finland, and a Bachelor of Political Science degree from Babes-Bolyai University, Romania.

Ben Schaap, EdD

Graduate Research Associate, Policy Research and Strategy

Specialization: Academic policy focused on student success, data visualization, post-traditional learners, and pedagogy/ andragogy in the classroom

Ben Schaap joined ACE in the summer of 2018 as a graduate research associate in the Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

Schaap holds an EdD in Adult and Higher Education from the University of South Dakota. His dissertation focused on assessing the creativity of learners in the higher education environment.

Prior to joining ACE, Schaap completed a post-doc at the University of South Dakota which focused on K-20 education research. In addition to his work with the university, he served as a Regent Fellow with the South Dakota Board of Regents.

Schaap holds an MS in Communications Studies and Journalism from South Dakota State University and a BS in Computer Graphic Design from Dakota State University.

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