American Institutes for Research Announces New CEO and Board Chair

Jessica Heppen is AIR’s seventh president and CEO; Lawrence Bobo, Harvard University Dean of Social Science, assumes Board leadership

Arlington, Va. – The American Institutes for Research (AIR), one of the world’s oldest and largest behavioral and social science institutions, is announcing two significant changes to its leadership:

  • Jessica Heppen, a researcher and national expert on education policy and practice, is AIR’s new president and CEO.
  • Lawrence D. Bobo, the dean of social science at Harvard University, is the new chair of the AIR Board of Directors.

Heppen succeeds David Myers, who led AIR for the past 13 years and retired on February 1. As part of a planned leadership transition, Heppen served as AIR president in 2023 and Myers served as CEO. Heppen is the seventh president and CEO in AIR’s 77-year history, and the first woman to serve in the role.

“I truly believe in the power of evidence to confront some of the world’s biggest challenges in key areas, including education, workforce development, public health, climate change, and the lasting effects of the pandemic,” said Heppen, who has been with AIR for 20 years. “I am excited and honored to lead this institution and build on David’s legacy. I know AIR has the expertise and the capabilities to make a real difference in people’s lives and create a better, more equitable world.”

Myers worked in the behavioral and social sciences for more than 40 years and joined AIR in 2006 as a senior vice president. He was appointed president and CEO in 2011 and oversaw a period of substantial growth and change at AIR. This included the rapid development of AIR’s assessment division and, amid market shifts, its sale in 2019; several mergers and acquisitions; and the launch of the AIR Equity Initiative, a $100+ million investment in research and technical assistance to address the underlying causes of systemic inequities and increase opportunities for people and communities.

“I am proud of the work that has been accomplished over the past 13 years, thanks to the tireless efforts of AIR’s staff and the vision of our leaders and our Board,” said Myers, who remains a member of the AIR Board of Directors. “I know that Jess Heppen is the right person to lead AIR into the future and I am excited to see what this institution will accomplish in the years to come.”     

Board of Directors

As board chair, Bobo succeeds Patricia Gurin, the Nancy Cantor Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Psychology and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan. She stepped down from the AIR Board of Directors after serving as its chair for more than 25 years. Bobo has been a member of the AIR Board since 1997 and most recently served as vice chair. He is the first African American to chair the AIR Board.

“I look forward to working with my fellow Board members and AIR’s leadership to pursue our mission-focused work in collaboration with our clients and our communities,” Bobo said. “As board chair, I will seek to follow the example of vision, leadership, and collaboration that Pat Gurin demonstrated during her tenure.”

The AIR Board of Directors works with leadership to set a strategic focus for the institution and ensure its work is making a difference in people’s lives.

Gurin, a nationally recognized expert and leading researcher in student and faculty diversity in higher education, served as the AIR Board chair during the tenure of three CEOs—David Goslin, Sol Pelavin, and Myers.

“It has been a privilege to serve on the AIR Board and collaborate with so many thoughtful and dedicated leaders who are committed to the generation and use of evidence to make the world a better place,” said Gurin. “While the field of behavioral and social sciences has changed over the years, AIR’s commitment to equity and integrity has been unwavering. I am proud of the work that AIR has done and will do into the future.”    

Jessica Heppen

Heppen joined AIR in 2004 as a social scientist and program evaluator. 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.

Jessica Heppen headshot

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. In 2016, Heppen became AIR’s vice president of education research and evaluation and in 2019 was appointed as a senior vice president.

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.    

Lawrence D. Bobo

Bobo is the dean of social science at Harvard University and serves as the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Social Sciences. His research and expertise focus on the intersection of social inequality, politics, and race. He is the founding editor of the “Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race,” a journal published by the Cambridge University Press.

Board Chair Larry Bobo

He has co-authored and edited several books, including “Racial Attitudes in America: Trends and Interpretations” (Harvard University Press, 1997) and “Prejudice in Politics: Group Position, Public Opinion, and the Wisconsin Treaty Rights Dispute” (Harvard University Press, 2006).

Bobo is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences as well as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a Guggenheim Fellow, an Alphonse M. Fletcher, Sr. Fellow, a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, and a Russell Sage Foundation Visiting Scholar. He has held tenured appointments in the sociology departments at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, UCLA, and at Stanford University, where he was director of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.    

About AIR     
Established in 1946, the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit institution that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, 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

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