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In Filling Staff Leadership Positions, AAAS Draws on Internal Talent

Julia MacKenzie, left, Marietta Damond, and Tanisha Lewis have been named to leadership positions within AAAS. | Courtesy of pictured

Extensive searches to fill three leadership positions within the American Association for the Advancement of Science have been resolved by the promotion of three existing staff members.

Julia MacKenzie, an expert in science policy and global health diplomacy, began her role as chief program officer of AAAS on Nov. 1. On the same day, Marietta Damond, a social psychologist with three decades of experience in behavioral research, program evaluation and consulting, was named deputy chief program officer. Tanisha Lewis, an accounting professional with a background in managing grants and contacts, became the organization’s chief financial officer on Sept. 1.

“We really want to emphasize drawing on internal talent, especially for leadership positions, and particularly right now,” said Sudip Parikh, chief executive officer of AAAS. “We’re working virtually. It’s not impossible to get to know people in this way, but it’s harder, and we have wonderful talent within the organization. I’d love to see it grow and develop here.”

The appointments are part of a broader set of organizational changes that Parikh has worked to formulate during his first nine months as CEO. In addition to being members of the staff leadership team, MacKenzie and Lewis serve on the leadership advisory council, which Parikh instituted in April to assist him in comprehensive strategy and planning.

Parikh also tweaked AAAS organizational structure by moving a number of programs, including the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, SciLine and the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues. Previously housed in other offices, they now fall under the Office of Science, Policy and Society Programs, led by MacKenzie and Damond.

After earning a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology and master’s in public health from Northwestern University in 2010, MacKenzie spent five years as a science advisor in the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy at the State Department, the first two years of which she served as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow. She joined AAAS in 2016.

Since 2018, MacKenzie has served as the organization’s senior director of international affairs, managing AAAS’s international relationships and policy discussions, and director of the AAAS Center for Science Diplomacy, working to train future science diplomats and facilitate scientific exchanges between the U.S. and nations with which diplomatic ties are strained or severed. Her appointment to the position of chief program officer comes in recognition of the global nature of science and the increasing importance of international collaboration in all AAAS activities. A search to fill MacKenzie’s former role is underway.

Damond earned a Ph.D. in applied social psychology from George Washington University in 1992. In 2016, she joined AAAS as director of research in the membership office, leading initiatives to gauge members’ interests, track their renewal behavior and understand their engagement with the organization’s programs and journals.

She also led the production of a new report that compiles demographic data on the association’s leadership and functions, including honorary Fellows, Science and Technology Policy Fellows, award winners, governing bodies and Science family of journals’ authors and reviewers. Published on the AAAS website on Oct. 30, the report provides a baseline accounting of demographic data at the organization that AAAS will release on an annual basis to inform its programs and initiatives in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Lewis holds a master’s degree in accounting and finance from George Washington University. She joined AAAS as a senior accountant in 2004 following a career in public accounting. After a series of promotions, she became director of grant and contract management in 2018, taking on oversight of 30% of AAAS’s annual revenue.

Lewis received the organization’s Outstanding Team Player Award in 2005, and her grants team earned the Outstanding Department/Team Award in 2013. In 2015, she was part of a team that quickly created a new subsidiary to manage the employment of the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows, which she continues to manage with support from STPF staff.

As CFO, Lewis oversees an annual budget of more than $100 million and helps formulate and execute the organization’s overarching financial strategy.

“I’m really excited about these organizational changes,” Parikh said in announcing the promotions and structural changes to AAAS staff. “I think that they’re going to lead to a strong alignment of our leadership, governance and execution. This will allow us to do that work that we all came here to do, to advance science and serve society.”