Murphy appoints Smith Ellis to chief policy adviser

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday announced the appointment of Zakiya Smith Ellis to chief policy adviser to the governor, effective July 6.

Smith Ellis is currently serving as the New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education. As secretary, she is responsible for the development and coordination of higher education policies for New Jersey. She also led efforts to help higher education institutions navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her new role, she will oversee a wide range of policies for the Governor’s Office and Executive Branch.

Murphy praised the job Smith Ellis has done over the past two and a half years as Secretary of Higher Education and said he was “thrilled” that she will soon join his team.

“In her time as secretary, Dr. Smith Ellis has spearheaded our administration’s efforts to make a college education more affordable and accessible, including our Community College Opportunity Grant (CCOG) program to provide tuition-free community college. She has been an invaluable member of our team and I know her wealth of policy experience will serve us well in this senior role.”

Before her role as secretary, Smith Ellis worked at the Lumina Foundation. Prior to that, she was a senior adviser for education on the White House Domestic Policy Council. She also served in the Obama Administration as a senior adviser at the U. S. Department of Education.

“For more than two years, it has been my honor to lead the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education and implement Gov. Murphy’s vision for expanded educational opportunity,” Smith Ellis said. “I am confident that the team at OSHE will continue to build on the work we have accomplished together, and I will continue to be a fierce advocate for our state’s students. My new position in the Governor’s Office will allow me to continue doing critical work to build a stronger and fairer New Jersey and I thank Governor Murphy for the vote of confidence and for the opportunity to fulfill such an important role during this time in our state’s history.”

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