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Melissa Bender

Melissa Bender is an analyst at Ithaka S+R, where she researches innovations and trends in the higher education space as part of the Educational Transformation program team. Her projects focus on increasing college access and improving student outcomes, particularly for low-income students.

Prior to Ithaka S+R, Melissa managed a curriculum-based literacy tutoring program for Reading Partners. During her graduate studies she also worked at the Research, Assessment and Data team at Oakland Unified School District, helping district leaders understand the effectiveness of both district- and community partner-led literacy interventions. Melissa began her career in international development, where she contributed to program evaluations for USAID and other federal agencies.

Melissa has a master’s in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a bachelor’s in political science and Russian studies from the University of Virginia. Her masters’ thesis, written for StriveTogether, focused on the role of community voice in education-oriented collective impact initiatives.