The AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships have named Rashada Alexander the new program director. Alexander – a nonprofit leader with extensive science policy experience – joins AAAS from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research, where she is operations and impact director. She will begin her new role July 26.
“Dr. Alexander is a thoughtful, creative and articulate leader with the ability to pair strategic thinking with practical implementation. I am excited that she will be at the helm of such a complex and beloved program,” said Julia MacKenzie, chief program officer at AAAS.
As an alumna of the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowships herself, Alexander’s new role represents a return to the program, which place scientists in one- to two-year assignments in offices across all three branches in government. After earning a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Kentucky and completing postdoctoral work at the University of Kentucky and at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, she joined the National Institutes of Health as a Science & Technology Policy Fellow. Between 2009 and 2011, Alexander served as a health science policy Analyst in the NIH’s Office of Extramural Research, an experience that set her on a new career path and taught her valuable lessons.
“I think that it catalyzed my personal and professional goals, and it helped me understand the realities of how you get things done in big, complex organizations and systems,” said Alexander.
“The fellowship gives you an opportunity to figure out how to make substantive change, how to do real work in spaces that aren't always that easy to do it and how to ensure that the training you have informs that work,” Alexander added.
The fellowship propelled her into further science policy work at NIH, where she subsequently served as special assistant to the principal deputy director and, later, as program director of the Division of Research Capacity Building at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
“The AAAS Fellowships program is critically important and agencies across the government (and ultimately the public) benefit enormously from the work the Fellows perform,” said Lawrence Tabak, NIH principal deputy director. “It is heartening to know that the program will be led by Dr. Alexander who is an enormously talented and dedicated thought leader in science policy. She will bring unparalleled energy and creativity to this role and will catalyze even greater accomplishments by the Fellows.”
Alexander joins STPF on the eve of its 50th anniversary – a time when its mission of connecting science with policy and building a network of leaders prepared to solve societal challenges is more relevant than ever.
“Right now, I think people are open to and I think hungry for science and scientists in a different way,” said Alexander, noting that, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and rollout of vaccines, people saw the impacts of science in real time.
Alexander said, “For a fellowship that looks to put scientists in places where that scientific training can be put to use and where we can get things done in public spaces, it’s just a really opportune moment to be a part of AAAS.”