Press Release

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Names Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel as President and CEO

December 9, 2021

CHICAGO – Today, leading education nonprofit the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced that it has appointed Dr. Aaliyah A. Samuel as its next president and CEO, effective January 1, 2022.

Dr. Samuel takes the helm at CASEL during a time of unprecedented growth for the field of social emotional learning (SEL). The ongoing pandemic, which upended the lives and routines of many schoolchildren, has spurred tremendous demand and funding for SEL. As the leader of the global movement to make SEL a pillar of K-12 education, CASEL has seen a surge in inquiries, partnerships, and programs over the past two years. Dr. Samuel will guide the organization as the field expands; spearhead new initiatives alongside other educators, researchers, and policy leaders to expand SEL implementation nationwide; and serve as a leading voice for children’s education.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Dr. Samuel join our organization,” said Timothy Shriver, CASEL co-founder and board chair, Unite founder, and Special Olympics chairman. “She is a dynamic leader who understands the importance of making sure all of our children have high-quality educational opportunities to develop the social, emotional, and academic skills they need to succeed both in school and in life.”

With her decades of experience as a teacher, principal, and national education policy leader, Dr. Samuel brings unparalleled expertise in the field of education to CASEL. During her tenure at the Department of Education, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Local, State, and National Engagement, coordinating with stakeholders in urban, rural, suburban, and Tribal communities to build effective education programming. Prior to her federal appointment, Dr. Samuel developed, analyzed, and implemented education policy as the Executive Vice President of Government Affairs & Partnerships at NWEA and as the Director of Education at the National Governors Association. In these roles, she worked with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to build evidence-based education systems that served children’s needs. Dr. Samuel will continue to serve as a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

U.S. Education Secretary Migual Cardona said: “I am grateful for Dr. Samuel’s work at the Department, leading the critical work of engaging families, students, educators, and national and state leaders to help schools open for in-person learning safely and address the impacts of the pandemic on students and communities. Under Dr. Samuel’s leadership, the Department’s outreach and engagement team was able to engage countless communities across the country. I look forward to working with Dr. Samuel and the team at CASEL to ensure all students have the supports and resources they need to succeed in school and achieve their dreams.”

“As a first generation American, I am living proof of the power of education and live by that every day,” said Dr. Samuel. “We’re going to be dealing with many educational challenges over the next few years, and my firm belief is that an education that includes social and emotional learning is the great equalizer. As we move to a post-pandemic world, I am honored to lead an organization built on collaboration and dedicated to an agenda that ensures all students will thrive.”

Dr. Samuel succeeds Karen Niemi, who led CASEL through significant transformation. Niemi spearheaded partnerships with school districts, state leaders, and researchers to grow the field of SEL, and guided CASEL as it evaluated programming, curated research, informed legislation, and partnered on implementation. Over the past seven years, the team at CASEL has benefited from Niemi’s expert guidance and leadership. After an extensive national search, Niemi hands over the reins to Dr. Samuel as CASEL embarks on its newest phase of growth and development.

A bilingual leader adept at family and community engagement strategies, Dr. Samuel holds an undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University, a masters degree from the University of South Florida, and a specialist and doctorate degree from NOVA Southeastern.


Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Local, State and National Engagement at the U.S. Department of Education, a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and former Executive Vice President of Government Affairs & Partnerships at NWEA. Aaliyah is a bilingual executive leader with expertise from early childhood through higher education. Her experience includes program evaluation and evidence-based programs; data collection and disaggregation; family and community engagement support strategies; and policy development and implementation at the local, state, and national level. Aaliyah has informed state policy agendas, assisted with developing cross systems approaches to develop policy solutions to support children and families and leading systems-level change. In her role at NWEA, she led a team working on driving a state and federal education agenda. Prior to NWEA, Dr. Samuel was the Director of Education at the National Governors Association (NGA). While at NGA, Aaliyah’s work included business development, strategic planning, and supporting high-ranking state officials on the development of policies that impacted health, education, and workforce. Aaliyah has worked with diverse constituents, philanthropies, and national partners. Aaliyah holds an undergraduate degree from Tuskegee University, a Masters from University of South Florida, and a Specialist and Doctorate Degree from NOVA Southeastern.

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