TITLE: Managing Director, Education
FUNDING AREA: Education
IP TAKE: Ali has been a key figure in the growing ed philanthropy of Laurene Powell Jobs
PROFILE: Russlynn Ali leads education work at the Emerson Collective, LLC, an organization quietly established by Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, more than a decade ago that mixes traditional grantmaking with social investing.
Ali earned her Bachelor's from American University and a JD from Northwestern. She worked as an attorney at several California-based law firms and has also taught the subject at UC Davis and University of Southern California.
In the nonprofit sector, she's served on the review board for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, as well as several review boards of education programs such as College Track, Great Schools and Institute for College Access and Success. The Aspen Institute has awarded Ali their New Schools Entrepreneurial Leaders for Public Education Fellowship. She has also served as vice president of Washington, DC's Education Trust, and was the founding managing director of Education Trust West.
Working in the government sector, Ali first served on former California Governor Schwarzenegger's Advisory Committee on Education Excellence. Later, President Obama appointed her as US Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in May of 2009. There, Ali worked as "US Secretary of Education [Arne] Duncan's primary adviser on civil rights and [was] responsible for enforcing US civil rights laws as they pertain to education." She made sure the "nation's schools, colleges and universities [received] federal funding [that did] not engage in discriminatory conduct related to race, sex, disability or age," according to the Department of Ed's site. She also directed an army of around 600 attorneys to this end.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education says that during Ali's time at the Office for Civil Rights, she directed their focus more toward discrimination complaints, a topic that did not receive adequate attention under the aegis of former president George Bush. She also "issued new guidance for how colleges and universities should respond to incidents of sexual assault."
Laurene Powell Jobs hired Ali to oversee to play a key role at the Emerson Collective in 2012.