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Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Our Team

Nancy Thomas

Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
Phone 617.627.4802

Nancy Thomas directs research on higher education’s role in American democracy, including the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). Prior to joining Tisch College in 2012, Nancy directed the Democracy Imperative, a national network of academics and practitioners working to advance deliberative democracy in higher education. Earlier in her career, she practiced university law. She currently serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Public Deliberation and senior associate with Everyday Democracy. Her professional interests connect political learning and democratic engagement; equity, diversity, and inclusion; academic freedom and free speech, and; legal issues in higher education. She holds a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a JD from Case Western Reserve University.

Ishara Casellas Connors

Associate Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
Phone 617.627.3804

Ishara manages the National Study for Learning Voting and Engagement.  She works to create resources for campuses interested in learning about their students’ voting and political learning. Previously, Ishara worked as the Director of Future Ready, building a public campaign that engaged K-12, higher education, and community stakeholders to support college and career readiness across Massachusetts.  Prior to that position, Ishara worked in policy and development roles with community colleges and universities in New Jersey, New York, California, and Massachusetts. She holds a MA in Higher & Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Inger Bergom

Senior Researcher, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Inger serves as a researcher at IDHE examining predictors and outcomes of college student civic and political engagement, particularly among groups traditionally underrepresented in politics. Her interests include college student learning and development, teaching in higher education, faculty work, and institutional research. She earned a Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education and a B.A. from Grinnell College.

Prabhat Gautam

Data Analyst, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Prabhat is a data analyst with IDHE and works to maintain the NSLVE database. Prabhat supports the systematic processes of data management and analysis, as well as generation and dissemination of data in the service to colleges and universities interested in learning about their students’ voting habits. In addition to other analytical outputs, he creates interactive data visualization products for campuses and the general public. Prabhat’s interests include design and development of new research that seeks to explore questions of equity, diversity, and inclusion in political learning. He is also interested in understanding pathways of non-traditional leadership that help improve college student political engagement. Prior to this, Prabhat has worked within varied contexts of policy advocacy, higher education, and international development. He has an M.P.A from Cornell University and a B.A. from Kenyon College.

Adam Gismondi

Program Administrator, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Adam serves in a variety of capacities at IDHE, working with qualitative research, resource production and dissemination, and social media outreach. His research is largely centered in the civic media space, and his doctoral dissertation focused on how college student social media use impacts student civic learning and engagement. Adam also currently serves as a part–time faculty member at the Boston University School of Education, as an advisory board member for SXSWedu, and as president of the William & Mary Alumni Boston Chapter. Prior to working in a research capacity, Adam spent six years working as a student affairs administrator. He holds a BA from William & Mary, an MEd from the University of Florida, and a PhD from Boston College.

Alena Roshko

Program Administrator, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education
Phone 617.627.0602

Alena coordinates day-to-day operations for the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). She works to recruit campuses in the study, manages the database of participating campuses, responds to their inquiries about voting data, produces customized data analysis for groups of campuses, and coordinates campus data distribution. Prior to this position, Alena was engaged in human rights advocacy (as a project/fundraising manager) and election campaigns (as a field campaign manager with a national opposition party) in Russia. Alena came to Harvard University as a visiting human rights scholar in 2008 and later remained in North America. She holds a MA in Political Science from the University of Toronto.