Tiffany Jones, a 2007 graduate of Central Michigan University, is a leader in creating positive change in higher education.
Since graduating from CMU with a degree in
family studies, she's been an advocate for college affordability and providing more support for Black, Latinx, Indigenous and first-generation students. Now, as the deputy director of data, measurement, learning and evaluation at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she is leading a team responsible for researching and evaluating the foundation's investments in postsecondary education in the U.S.
Similar to CMU, the foundation's goal is to "ensure that all students who seek the opportunity are able to complete a high-quality, affordable postsecondary education that leads to a sustaining career." In line with that goal, Jones believes students deserve the opportunity to focus on their studies while in college instead of having to worry about how they will pay for it, afford their next meal or purchase books for classes.
"It's important that when students show up to campuses that colleges and universities are ready to serve them
with high-quality experiences," Jones said. "I want to make sure my work contributes to campuses being better prepared to provide healthier environments for diverse groups, such as first-generation, low-income and students of color to truly thrive."
When she was in high school, Jones recognized the inequities between affluent and majority white schools versus schools in lower income areas that are majority students of color. It was during her time at CMU that she began her efforts to lift others up, and as a member of the Non-Violence Coalition was an advocate for the campaign to protect affirmative action in 2006.
"I hope to make decisions that result in campuses being able to do more for Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and students from low-income families," she said.
Despite having an
op-ed published in The New York Times and working on legislation to remove the Pell Grant ban for students who are incarcerated, Jones said she is most proud of her work to improve the pathways for those who come after her.
"I've had a chance to mentor, hire and support opportunities for a lot of other diverse individuals and see them go on to do change work at organizations," Jones said. "Now when I listen in on expert panels in Washington D.C., it's a much more diverse group of voices."
Jones credits those who had a commitment to help her, such as her research mentor from the
McNair Scholars Program at CMU, for where she is today.
"Other people were committed to my success and it made all the difference in the world," she said. "In the not-too-distant future, I hope someone can say that about me and my work."
This story was written by University Communications intern, Eva Steepe.