Dr. Zakiya Smith Ellis is a Principal at Education Counsel, where she helps clients navigate the current education policy climate to develop solutions that improve equity and outcomes for students. Before joining EducationCounsel, Zakiya held the role of chief policy advisor to Governor Phil Murphy (D-NJ) and previously served as New Jersey’s Secretary of Higher Education. Twice named one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 in education earlier in her career, Dr. Ellis is a respected public policy leader with deep expertise in federal and state higher education policy. Dr. Ellis has demonstrated success in leading diverse teams to achieve dynamic results leading to tangible improvements in college affordability, enhanced institutional capacity, and more equitable student outcomes. She has led policy development and program implementation at the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, the Lumina Foundation, in addition to her most recent work developing and implementing state policy.

Dr. Smith Ellis holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and secondary education from Vanderbilt University, a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned distinction for both the written dissertation and oral defense. She currently chairs the board of the Institute for College Access and Success and serves as a Senate-appointed member of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.