Smith Ellis to leave Murphy administration, head education consulting firm

Zakiya Smith Ellis, the highly respected chief policy adviser to Gov. Phil Murphy, is leaving the administration to become principal of a national education consulting firm.

Smith Ellis, who also served as the state’s secretary of higher education, will start her new role with EducationCounsel on July 1.

Politico first reported the news.

Smith Ellis has long been considered a rising star within the administration — and is widely recognized for her efforts around education. As secretary of higher education, she led two initiatives that helped make both community college and four-year college more affordable (if not free of cost) to residents.

Prior to joining the Murphy administration, she worked at the Lumina Foundation, the nation’s largest foundation focused solely on higher education — working to create more models focused on affordability.

She also served as a senior adviser for education on the White House Domestic Policy Council, where she was tasked with developing, informing and promoting President Baraka Obama’s higher education policy. She also served in the Obama administration as a senior adviser at the U. S. Department of Education, where she developed programmatic, policy and budgetary solutions to pressing challenges in college access, affordability and completion.

Smith Ellis holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and secondary education from Vanderbilt University, a master’s degree in education policy and management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.