Dr. Christopher Nellum
Dr. Christopher Nellum (he/him/his) is the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a nonprofit education equity organization focused on educational justice and closing achievement and opportunity gaps for students of color and students from lower-income communities from preschool through college. Nellum joined The Education Trust–West in October of 2017 and most recently served as the organization’s Deputy Director.
As the Deputy Director of Research and Policy, Nellum co-led the creation of a three-year strategic plan and deepened the organization’s expertise in early childhood education, K-12, and higher education. He has led successful advocacy efforts to ensure equity in the K-12 accountability system, create a statewide cradle-to-career data system, address food insecurity for college students, and ensure that every high school senior completes a financial aid application before they graduate. In addition, Nellum was the founding co-chair of the California Higher Education Equity Coalition. He has also pushed for local and statewide solutions in response to COVID-19 and the shift to distance learning, expanded the organization’s early childhood education profile, and spearheaded educator listening sessions and K-12 parent polls. Nellum regularly provides commentary for media outlets, including PBS NewsHour, EdSource, The Wall Street Journal, and NBC News.
The mission of The Education Trust–West is personal to Nellum. He describes his family as impressing upon him the need to question “commonly-held” truths about Black communities and people and to always push for racial justice and equity. His mother and grandparents grew up in the South and engaged in efforts to desegregate Louisiana State University in New Orleans.
Nellum’s path from Head Start through K-12 education and college was not a straight line and mirrors many of the challenges students of color and students from lower-income communities face today. His home, California’s Imperial Valley, is rich with familial and cultural traditions, but for Nellum, it was also the site of extreme rural poverty. He credits a counselor at Brawley Union High School with helping him open the door to college as a first-generation student and Pell and Cal Grant recipient.
Before joining The Education Trust–West, Nellum was at the National Center for Institutional Diversity, Young Invincibles, and the American Council on Education. He cut his teeth in education equity on college campuses working directly with students. Nellum completed his undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, master’s degree at CSU Long Beach, and Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. He mentors young Black and Latinx students through his volunteer work with college access programs like Berkeley Community Scholars. Nellum serves on the Student Centered Funding Formula Oversight Committee as a gubernatorial appointee and the Cradle-to-Career Data System Policy and Analytics Advisory Group. He is also an adjunct professor of education and recently taught at the University of San Francisco, UC Davis, and the University of San Diego.
Nellum is serving in the biggest role of his lifetime as a father of a baby girl. He is married to Dr. Alexis Jackson, an Oakland native and marine conservation scientist and ocean policy advocate. You can follow Nellum on Twitter at @chrisnellum.