American Institutes for Research Announces Leadership Changes to Enhance People, Culture Strategy

Arlington, Va. – For the past decade, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) has made a strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and cultural and linguistic competence (CLC), recognizing their importance in achieving AIR’s mission to generate and use rigorous evidence that contributes to a better, more equitable world. Staff at every level are engaged in intentional and comprehensive efforts to integrate DEI and CLC into every facet of AIR’s work and leadership has set specific goals and benchmarks to assess AIR’s progress on this journey.

As AIR continues to integrate new affiliates and expand its global presence, the company is announcing changes to its leadership structure to elevate and expand its DEI efforts and ensure its staff have the training and capabilities to meet needs of its clients, communities and the marketplace.

The acquisition of IMPAQ and Kimetrica in 2020 have made AIR a larger, more global organization, with deeper expertise and broader capabilities in education, health, workforce development and international development. Meanwhile, the global pandemic has led to permanent changes in how and where people work, collaborate and connect. These phenomena, along with recent social unrest, have elevated the need to ensure that AIR is elevating diversity, equity and inclusiveness from within and demonstrating greater cultural competency in their research, evaluation and technical assistance work for clients.

“The past year has been transformative for AIR and we are focused on further strengthening our mission-focused organization to meet the challenges of today and remain poised for future success,” said David Myers, AIR President and CEO. “Key to this is building a more nimble, diverse, equitable, and inclusive organization and workforce. While AIR has made progress in these areas, we are elevating this work to ensure our staff and our organization are best prepared to serve and succeed in a global marketplace.”

To facilitate the continued evolution of AIR, the following leadership changes are effective on June 15:

Image of Dwayne NorrisDwayne Norris, currently Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer, will take on the new role of Chief People Officer (CPO), reporting to the CEO and continuing as part of the Executive Leadership Team. As CPO, Norris will take the lead and work in partnership with other organizational leaders to design strategies and approaches to enhance AIR’s greatest asset—its people and their experience at work and in the field. Some of the initiatives that will be undertaken will focus on performance management, leadership development and succession planning; and designing the workplace and workforce of the future. An industrial and organizational psychologist and researcher, Norris has been with AIR for more than 25 years and has worked with a wide range of government and commercial clients on their people strategy, organizational designs, and human resources practices. He’s been serving as Chief Human Resource Officer at AIR since 2018.

Image of Karen FrancisKaren Francis is being promoted to Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Officer. She will continue to lead AIR’s overall DEI efforts through the implementation of a framework and strategic pillars focused on workforce and work environment; cultural and linguistic competence; identity, brand and thematic research; and, growth and sustainability. AIR has made significant progress in its DEI efforts over the past several years, with intentional strategies to create a culture of inclusiveness and respect, and ensure cultural competence in how staff conduct research, provide technical assistance, and serve clients and the community. In her new role, Francis, who will report to the CEO, will become a member of the Executive Leadership Team and will focus on internal and external partnerships to drive AIR’s global DEI presence. A medical sociologist by training, Francis has conducted research and provided technical assistance to address disparities across social, health, juvenile justice and educational service systems. She has been serving as AIR’s director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion since 2018.

Image of Lesley SepanlooLesley Sepanloo is being promoted to Vice President for Human Capital and Human Resources Operations. She will lead AIR’s human resources organization, including the teams that handle recruitment; human capital partners; human resources information systems; compensation and benefits; learning and development; and human resources policies and compliance. In addition, she will be responsible for AIR’s facilities management team, as well as global security and risk management, will be a member of the Executive Leadership Team, and will report to the CEO. Sepanloo has been with AIR for more than 16 years in human resources roles of increasing responsibility. For the past three years, she has served as Senior Director for Human Capital Partners and Recruitment. She is a seasoned human capital executive with certifications including Maximizing Leadership Potential from the Center for Creative Leadership and Strategic Workforce Planning from the Human Capital Institute.

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, the American Institutes for Research® (AIR®) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance to solve some of the most urgent challenges in the U.S. and around the world. We advance evidence in the areas of education, health, the workforce, human services, and international development to create a better, more equitable world. The AIR family of organizations now includes IMPAQ, Maher & Maher, and Kimetrica. For more information, visit

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