VASS Names New President & CEO

The board of directors of Virginia Advanced Study Strategies, Inc. (VASS) today announced that they have selected the organization’s next President and Chief Executive Officer.


“As chairperson of the search committee, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Stevens as the President and CEO of VASS,” said Dr. Dorothea Shannon, retired public school superintendent and founding board member of the organization. “Mrs. Stevens brings continuity and renewed excitement to our organization. The board looks forward to working with her to continue the important work of serving the schools and students of the Commonwealth.”


Stevens takes over leadership of VASS after holding the positions of Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer; she was also an integral member of the team who won the $13.2 million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to establish the nonprofit in 2007.


“I am honored to know that the board and staff have confidence in my ability to lead us forward,” Stevens said, “and it is truly a privilege to be a part of an organization with such a critical mission. Perhaps more than any time in our state’s history, schools need business and community support to adequately prepare students for the workforce of tomorrow. In its eleven-year history, VASS has provided valuable training and resources to well over half of the school divisions in Virginia, and hundreds of thousands of students have had better opportunities as a result. With the tremendous team we have in place, and the great partners who make this work possible, we will accomplish even more in the years to come.”

Jennifer Stevens began her career in education in 1995, teaching in Halifax County for 8 years and then leaving the classroom to manage grant-funded projects for Longwood University, Virginia Tech in partnership with NASA Langley Research Center, and the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center. Stevens and a team of educators and community leaders led by Halifax County native and former Virginia Delegate, W.W. “Ted” Bennett, secured the NMSI grant on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia to form VASS

and administer the statewide Advanced Placement initiative. In 2007, she became one of the two original staff members of the nonprofit and has provided oversight of the company’s finances and operations since that time.


From its inception, VASS has garnered over $33 million in public and private funding to increase student access and achievement in advanced courses, to provide quality professional development to teachers and administrators, and to conduct educational research for the purpose of improving education in our rural communities. Since 2012, the VASS team has been awarded two United States Department of Education (USED) Investing in Innovation (i3) grants to create new, innovative education models that seek to better prepare students for the workforce of a STEM skills-driven economy.

As President and CEO of VASS, Stevens also becomes the Project Director for the Rural Math Innovation Network (RMIN), a research and development initiative funded by a USED i3 grant in 2017. RMIN is a virtual networked improvement community of middle and high school teachers from 17 rural school divisions collaborating to integrate strategies into classroom instruction that increase students’ growth mindset and self-efficacy in mathematics.

One of Stevens’ first priorities will be ensuring schools and businesses across Virginia are aware and have access to the various services VASS provides. VASS offers professional development, resources for work-based learning and civic engagement, and assistance with utilizing labor-market data for strategic planning and program development. Stevens encourages business, school, and community leaders to contact VASS directly for more information.

his July, Stevens and her team will oversee The Strategies Xchange: Where Education and Business Align, a two-day conference planned by VASS with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Department of Education as participating hosts.  This year’s theme is “Strengthening Virginia's Talent Pipeline with Education-Business Partnerships,” and the event will highlight how strong partnerships across the

Commonwealth are creating innovative solutions to support student career exploration and workplace readiness.  The Strategies Xchange will take place at the Hilton Hotel in Norfolk.

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