David Myers to Retire as President and CEO of the American Institutes for Research, Jessica Heppen Selected as Next Leader
Heppen will be first woman to lead the Institution in its 76-year history
Arlington, VA. – David Myers, who has guided the American Institutes for Research (AIR) through a period of tremendous growth and change as president and CEO since 2011, has announced that he will retire in February 2024. Jessica Heppen, currently senior vice president, has been selected by the Board of Directors as AIR’s seventh president and CEO. The transition in leadership will begin in January 2023.
“We are immeasurably proud and grateful for the transformation David Myers has led as president and CEO,” said Patricia Gurin, chair of the Board, and a Professor Emerita of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Michigan. “His vision and commitment have helped increase AIR’s profile and influence in the U.S. and around the world. He has also helped navigate AIR through some significant changes and challenges, making it a more nimble and resilient organization that is well-situated for the future.”
The Board worked closely with Myers on a succession plan and conducted a broad search for AIR’s next leader. Board Vice Chair Lawrence D. Bobo, who is Dean of Social Sciences at Harvard University and led the search committee, noted that strong internal and external candidates were considered but, in the end, Heppen was the clear and unanimous choice.
“Jessica Heppen is an outstanding researcher and leader, who has the experience, expertise and skills to guide AIR boldly into the future,” said Bobo. “She is a passionate believer in the power of scientific evidence to improve outcomes and is committed to AIR’s mission of using that evidence to help create a better, more equitable world.”
In January 2023, Heppen will become president of AIR and Myers will retain the title and duties of CEO. By February 2024, Heppen will become president and CEO, and Myers will retire after 13 years of leadership at AIR and more than 40 years working in the social and behavioral sciences.
“Leading AIR has been the highlight of my professional career. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with a team of committed people who believe that rigorous, scientific evidence is the key to addressing the biggest challenges we are facing in the U.S. and across the globe,” Myers said. “I am most proud of the work we are doing to diversify the behavioral sciences field and study the root causes of social inequities and explore viable solutions. I look forward to working with Jessica, the Board, leadership and staff at AIR to ensure a smooth transition and continue our exciting journey toward achieving mission.”
Heppen currently leads AIR’s Human Services Division, which represents more than half of AIR’s staff and includes some of the institution’s most high-profile work. She will be the first woman to lead AIR since it was founded in 1946.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead AIR and help build on the legacy of excellence, rigor, and innovation that has defined this institution for more than 75 years,” said Heppen. “As inequities persist and grow, the need for independent, high-quality evidence is becoming even more urgent. I look forward to working with the remarkable staff at AIR to meet the needs of our clients and communities and help make the world a more equitable place for all.”
David Myers joined AIR in 2006 as senior vice president and director of the Education, Human Development and Workforce division. He became AIR’s sixth president and CEO in January 2011. Under Myers’ leadership, AIR has grown its portfolio of research and technical assistance work; has strived to make evidence more accessible and usable by researchers, policymakers and practitioners; and has deepened its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) both internally and in the work it does for and with clients and communities.
In recent years, Myers has guided AIR through significant changes. This includes the rapid growth of AIR’s assessment division and, amid market shifts, its sale to Cambium Learning Group in 2019; the acquisition of two research and technical assistance companies in 2020 as part of a strategic effort to grow AIR’s work and influence in the health, workforce development and international development sectors; and the continuation of operations and mission-focused work during the pandemic, an ongoing racial reckoning, and political unrest in the U.S. and abroad. In 2021, as the institution celebrated its 75th anniversary, AIR committed to its mission by launching the AIR Equity Initiative, a $100+ million investment in research and technical assistance to address the underlying causes of systemic inequities and to increase opportunities for people and communities.
Jessica Heppen joined AIR in 2004 as a social scientist and program evaluator and is a nationally recognized expert in education policy and practice. She has designed and led research and evaluation studies and technical assistance centers focused on critical issues including online and blended/hybrid learning, technology and data use in schools, career and college readiness and high school improvement, teacher professional development, and more, all with an emphasis on reducing disparities and improving outcomes for vulnerable populations. She has led AIR’s efforts to infuse innovative methods to support robust research and development and has co-designed and rigorously tested two evidence-based program models: an early warning system to identify students in need of additional support, and an adaptive text messaging system to reduce chronic absence, both with demonstrated positive impacts on student outcomes.
In 2016, she was named AIR’s vice president of education research and evaluation and in 2019 was named senior vice president. In her current position, she oversees more than 500 active projects and guides AIR’s research and technical assistance in education, workforce development, youth, family, and community development, justice, and other key areas. Prior to joining AIR, Heppen conducted evaluation studies of educational technology programs in New York City secondary schools.
Heppen received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Miami (Ohio) University and her master’s and Ph.D. in social psychology from Rutgers University. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Educational Research Association, the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management, and the American Psychological Association, and has served as a moderator and reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and several prestigious academic journals.
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health and the workforce. AIR's work is driven by its mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. With headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, AIR has offices across the U.S. and abroad. For more information, visit www.air.org.