As Executive Director of California Competes, Lande Ajose spearheads the organization’s work calling for a Higher Education Investment Board to provide innovative solutions for coordinating the state’s education and workforce challenges. An expert in education and job training of low-income adults, Lande has extensive experience in developing effective change strategies through her work at Informing Change where she directed complex client projects related to education, poverty alleviation, workforce development and issues of inequity. Community college success was a major focus of Lande’s previous work both at MDRC, where she managed a comprehensive evaluation of the Achieving the Dream initiative, and during her tenure at the James Irvine Foundation. Named to the California Student Aid Commission by Governor Jerry Brown, she currently serves as interim Chair. Lande holds a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Studies from MIT and an M.A. in Urban Planning from the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Occidental College.
Ria Sengupta Bhatt
Ria Sengupta Bhatt joined California Competes as Deputy Director in 2017. In this role, she develops and directs the organization’s research agenda, manages the internal team, and works closely with the Executive Director to set the strategic direction of the organization. Ria brings more than a decade of experience in education—engaging in policy research, providing strategic consulting, and conducting program evaluation. Prior to California Competes, Ria directed consulting projects for nonprofit and philanthropic clients at Informing Change in the areas of education, workforce development and youth engagement. She managed a project on the college application process for low-income students at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. She also researched and wrote publications on public higher education systems and K-12 school finance as a researcher at the Public Policy Institute of California. Ria holds a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in Domestic and International Education Policy from Georgetown University, and a BA in Economics from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Senior Research Analyst
Before joining The Opportunity Institute, David served for over 20 years in K-12 education in public, charter, and private schools, in urban and rural settings. He entered the field of education as a mathematics teacher before transitioning into administration. Most recently, he was the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for a rural school district in Vermont. As a school leader, David applied his mathematics training to developing and implementing innovative approaches to school improvement. While serving as the principal of a chronically under-performing charter school in Massachusetts, David used data-informed research to execute the largest single-year test score improvement in state history.
David holds a BS from Carnegie Mellon (1995) in advanced theoretical mathematics with project work in operations research and abstract algebraic systems. He also holds an MS in mathematics and secondary education from Long Island University – CW Post (1997), with foci on cryptography as a teaching tool and gender equity in mathematics. His doctoral work at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the Mathematics, Science and Learning Technologies Department of the School of Education focuses on developing alternative metrics of institutional success that adjust results for demographic impact.
Policy and Research Analyst
Taylor Myers serves as Policy and Research Analyst for California Competes, supporting the project’s legislative agenda as well as policy analysis for key higher education issues across the state. She joined California Competes in 2017 after graduating with her MPP from the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. While studying, she held internships with the Learning Policy Institute, the UC Office of the President, and the U.S. Department of Education, in the Office of Postsecondary Education. Prior to graduate study, Taylor spent four years working as a data and research manager at Spark, a national middle school mentoring organization. She is proud to be a product of public education and a recipient of federal and state financial aid. As a first generation college graduate, Taylor is deeply committed to improving equity and access in higher education. Taylor earned her B.S. from the University of Florida.