Press Release

Urban Institute’s WorkRise Welcomes Seven New Leadership Board Members


January 29, 2024—Washington, DC. WorkRise, a research-to-action network on jobs, workers, and mobility hosted by the Urban Institute, is honored to welcome seven distinguished new members to its Leadership Board. Each a nationally recognized thought leader in their own right, this diverse group will be instrumental in guiding WorkRise’s research agenda, expanding its network, and vetting and amplifying research findings.

WorkRise’s Leadership Board is comprised of prominent leaders spanning business, economic development, worker advocacy, workforce and training, policy, and academia. The board also reflects diversity across stakeholder type, geography, political orientation, and race and gender to provide the needed insight for directing a comprehensive research agenda.

“Our incoming board members bring outstanding credibility and recognition from the full range of sectors involved in improving work and workers’ lives,” said Todd Greene, Executive Director of WorkRise. “With their unique perspectives and networks, WorkRise will be optimally positioned to refine our research-to-action agenda and continue getting quality evidence into economic decisionmakers’ hands.”

The WorkRise board helps shape the effort’s knowledge agenda by surfacing the questions, challenges, and priorities facing their fields of practice. They also play instrumental roles as working group members, event speakers, and thought partners, and help activate WorkRise’s research findings by presenting evidence to policymakers, researchers, and practitioners.

New members include:

Casey Lozar

Casey Lozar is a vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and director of the Center for Indian Country Development (CICD), a research and policy institute that works to advance the economic self-determination and prosperity of Native nations and Indigenous communities. Casey brings unique lived-experience, deep knowledge, and strong national networks that will enable WorkRise to engage a population that has faced long-standing and structural barriers impeding economic mobility and security for workers. 

Donna Gambrell

As President and CEO of Appalachian Community Capital, Donna J. Gambrell is responsible for attracting and directing investments to Community Development Financial Institutions (or CDFIs) and other mission-driven lenders in Appalachia. Donna is a steadfast advocate for lifting up and revitalizing our most vulnerable, low-wealth communities. She is also the longest-serving and first African-American woman to be appointed director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). Donna is also the board chair for the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN)--a leading national network of more than 400 CDFIs. Donna’s expertise will be especially valued as WorkRise seeks to strengthen outcomes for the many lower-wage workers employed in small businesses and in rural communities.

Janelle Jones

Janelle Jones is the vice president of policy and advocacy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Previously, she was the chief economist and policy director at the Service Employees International Union and served as the chief economist at the U.S Department of Labor, the first Black woman to serve in that role. Before that, she was an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) working on a variety of labor market topics within EPI’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy, and the Economic Analysis and Research Network. Janelle’s leadership in national labor market policy development and in organized labor will provide WorkRise with important insights on a wide range of topics—especially how and where research can have the strongest impacts.

Michael Sorrell

Dr. Michael J. Sorrell is the longest-serving President in the 151-year history of Paul Quinn College. During his years of leadership, Paul Quinn has become nationally celebrated for its ability to reimagine higher education to better serve the needs of today’s students and their communities. Sorrell is a celebrated, innovative and well-respected leader across higher education and has successfully implemented models that drive strong employment outcomes. The Work Program strives to “poverty proof” the education experience by 1) providing students with meaningful work opportunities that allow them to better serve the Paul Quinn community; 2) developing the necessary skills, habits, and experiences needed to be competitive in the 21st-century job market; and 3) actively contributing towards the cost of their education. Sorrell’s networks across higher education and experience engaging employer communities will allow WorkRise to strengthen our pillars more effectively, especially those focused on skills and training.

Pete Stavros

Pete Stavros joined KKR in 2005 and is Co-Head of Global Private Equity. This includes oversight across Europe, Asia and the Americas and covers traditional large and mid-cap private equity, impact, core and growth equity. Pete is also the Founder and Chairman of Ownership Works- a nonprofit organization that partners with companies and investors to provide all employees with the opportunity to build wealth at work. Pete’s interest in employee ownership began with his father, who worked as an hourly construction worker in Chicago for 40 years and experienced what most Americans do — a lack of incentive alignment with his employer and no opportunity to create wealth. His interest in employee ownership deepened when he worked with an ESOP nearly 25 years ago, and later had an opportunity to study the topic in depth at business school. He has been experimenting with different models of employee ownership since that time. Pete’s experiences will enable WorkRise to refine and deepen our research and engagement strategies related to how employee ownership models can strengthen worker and employer outcomes.

Rodney Crim

Rodney Crim is the CEO and President of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, a regional economic development organization for St. Louis City and St. Louis County. The organization provides business attraction, retention and expansion services, facilitates innovation and entrepreneurship, and owns and manages four business incubators. In his role, Rodney oversees several initiatives including the Mosaic Project, an effort designed to make the region more welcoming to foreign born populations and the St. Louis Promise Zone, an initiative to address the most distressed areas of St. Louis City and St. Louis County. Rodney’s strong national networks across the economic development spectrum, coupled with his practical, on-the-ground experiences, will enable WorkRise to better inform and align economic development policies and practices to have a greater emphasis on worker outcomes.

Sameera Fazili

 Sameera is an economic policy expert with over 20 years of experience in policy development, program execution, and crisis management across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. She served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House’s National Economic Council from 2021-2022. In that role, she led the Biden-Harris administration’s work on industrial policy, supply chains, and regional economic development. Her expertise spans multiple industries including financial services, manufacturing, clean energy, housing, small business, transportation, and logistics. Sameera served in domestic and international economic policymaking roles in the Obama White House, the Treasury Department, and in the Federal Reserve System. Prior to working in government, she worked at Shorebank, the nation’s first community development bank, and taught development finance at Yale Law School. Sameera's experience developing national workforce development programs and policies, as well as her work advising local economic developers and researching best practices in inclusive economic development, will enable WorkRise to further its mission to develop research that can inform policymakers and bridge the worlds of policy and practice.

Continuing Leadership Board members:

David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics, MIT

Amanda Cage, CEO, National Fund for Workforce Solutions

Oren Cass, Founder and Executive Director, American Compass

Arin Dube, Professor of Economics, UMass-Amherst

Darrick Hamilton, Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy, New School for Social Research

Dane Linn, Senior Vice President, Business Roundtable

Blair Milo, Senior Fellow, Sagamore Institute

Eduardo Padron, President Emeritus, Miami-Dade College

David Rolf, President Emeritus, SEIU 775 

Palak Shah, Founding Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance Labs; Social Innovation Director, NDWA

Nicole Sherard-Freeman, COO, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan

Michael Strain, Director of Economic Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Tanya Wallace-Gobern, Executive Director, National Black Worker Center Project