American Institutes for Research Announces Leadership Changes

Jessica Heppen to lead research and evaluation; Jessica Johnson leads technical assistance work

Washington, D.C. - The American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s leading behavioral and social science organizations, is announcing changes to its senior leadership team that elevates two nationally recognized experts in their fields.

Jessica Heppen, a highly regarded expert in education research, has been named Senior Vice President for Research and Evaluation, effective January 1, 2020. She will work closely with Jessica Johnson, Senior Vice President for Policy, Practice and Systems Change, AIR’s technical assistance arm, to jointly lead AIR’s client-facing work. The senior vice presidents will report directly to AIR President and CEO, David Myers.

“The demands of the marketplace and the needs of our clients require AIR to be an organization that is nimble, diverse, and has deep expertise—and our leadership team must reflect those traits,” Myers said. “Jessica Heppen and Jessica Johnson represent the very best in their fields and position AIR well to continue its growth and impact.”

The changes come as AIR is preparing to sell its assessment division. In August, AIR announced it intended to sell AIR Assessment to Cambium Learning Group, Inc., a leading provider of education software and a portfolio company of Veritas Capital. The sale is expected to close in the coming weeks.

“With the sale of our assessment division, we will focus even more deeply on our strengths of research, evaluation, and technical assistance along the research-to-practice continuum,” Myers said. “We will also explore new areas and topics where our experience and expertise can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Image of Jessica HeppenJessica Heppen will oversee AIR’s research and evaluation portfolio across all topics, including education, health, and workforce development, both nationally and internationally. Since joining AIR in 2004, she has served in a variety of roles, overseeing and leading rigorous research projects and program evaluations in areas such as education technology and data use in schools, dropout prevention, professional development and other areas. Her research has a consistent emphasis on studying and improving approaches for supporting at-risk and highly vulnerable populations. Since 2016, she has served as a vice president for education research and evaluation. Heppen replaces Sean P. “Jack” Buckley, who left the Senior Vice President position in January 2019, but remains an AIR Institute Fellow.

Image of Jessica JohnsonJessica Johnson oversees AIR’s technical assistance work in the U.S. and abroad and has spent more than 20 years helping organizations and institutions make changes to improve outcomes and services. She joined AIR in 2011 and currently oversees work in education, health, and workforce. Prior to becoming a senior vice president in May 2018, Johnson served as a vice president and oversaw district and school improvement services, including several statewide projects such as the Illinois Center for School Improvement. She has guided school turnaround efforts across the country in urban, suburban and rural settings and helped clients implement evidence-based strategies to improve outcomes. Before joining AIR, Johnson worked at Learning Point Associates and Deloitte.

Heppen and Johnson will be a part of AIR’s new Executive Leadership Team, which also includes Myers and

  • Marijo Ahlgrimm, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer;
  • Dwayne Norris, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Capital Officer; and
  • Makini Nyanteh, Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., 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 health, education and workforce productivity. For more information, visit

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