Andrea Whitsett has been named interim director of Morrison Institute for Public Policy, filling the top position vacated by Thom Reilly to become chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
“We were fortunate to have Andrea as the associate director and in place to assume the No. 1 leadership role at Morrison Institute,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Arizona State University College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “In her prior role, Andrea has proven to be a strong representative of ASU to the public and an innovative manager in daily operations.”
Whitsett, who joined Morrison Institute in 2007, also previously served as a management research analyst senior and a special projects manager. Her appointment as interim director is effective immediately until a permanent director is named following a national search, Koppell said.
“I am excited about the team we have built at Morrison Institute and I look forward to continuing the research advancements and community connections we’ve made over the years under previous directors Thom Reilly, Sue Clark-Johnson and Rob Melnick,” Whitsett said. “We’ve formed strong partnerships with community leaders to examine and address the myriad of dynamic issues facing Arizona — including education, the economy, water, changing demographics, criminal justice reform, social policies, and governance and elections.”
Morrison Institute is commemorating its 35th year as Arizona’s premier think tank for public policy. Its motto of “policy, not politics” is a mantra for nonpartisan research, analysis and public outreach. The Arizona Capitol Times named Morrison Institute as one of its 2016 Leaders of the Year in Public Policy, recognized for its contributions to education.
“Morrison Institute cuts through the noise by synthesizing data in a way that makes it more accessible and actionable,” Koppell said. “You can see that in the way this information is used by policy makers, community leaders and the public.”
In addition to its general policy operations, Morrison Institute features two centers — the Kyl Center for Water Policy and the Latino Public Policy Center. Morrison Institute also oversees the Arizona Legislative Academy, which was launched this year to provide new lawmakers with a stronger base of knowledge about Arizona governance and policy.
“We have a team of directors and analysts who are also communicators,” Whitsett said. “We are able to translate information to build bridges of shared knowledge. Morrison Institute also draws strength from its advisory board, which represents many dedicated individuals and organizations committed to improving the quality of life for all Arizonans.”
Whitsett’s passion for service traces back to her grandmother, Julieta Saucedo Bencomo, a community activist who in 1979 became the first Latina to serve on the Arizona State Board of Education.
Whitsett is a member of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s DATOS Research Committee and has co-edited multiple background reports for Arizona Town Hall. Whitsett previously served on the board of directors for the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence and as board secretary for Florence Crittenton.
During her tenure at Morrison Institute, Whitsett has guided the publication of numerous policy briefs, as well as the Arizona Directions statewide report card. She leads Morrison Institute’s annual signature event, State of Our State Conference, and helped launch the pilot Arizona Citizens’ Initiative Review.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies from Yale University, where she was awarded an Amy Rossborough Fellowship through the Yale Women’s Center. She graduated from Arizona State University with a master’s degree in nonprofit studies and has taught as a faculty associate in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development.
Reilly left ASU Morrison Institute this month to become chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, which oversees that state’s eight institutions: two universities, a state college, four community colleges and a research institute.
“There is a reason why Nevada leaders sought out Thom Reilly. He is a proven leader who helped elevate the important research of Morrison Institute and will bring energy and vision to Nevada, just as he did to ASU,” Koppell said.
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