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Maria Echaveste Named President/CEO of the Opportunity Institute

Former senior White House official and community leader will take over executive and operational duties from civil rights icon and founding president Christopher Edley, Jr.

BERKELEY, CALIF. (March 26, 2019) — The Opportunity Institute today announced that Maria Echaveste succeeds Christopher Edley, Jr. as President/CEO.

Echaveste has had a long career as a senior White House official, community leader, public policy consultant, lecturer, and corporate attorney, focusing on immigration, civic engagement, food systems, labor rights, and education. She’s been a Senior Fellow at the Opportunity Institute since it was founded in 2015, most currently leading the P-12 education project.

“Maria’s experience speaks for itself,” said Opportunity Institute board chair Laura D’Andrea Tyson. “She’s been involved with the Opportunity Institute since day one. And her years of public service, and deep knowledge, experience, and focus on our nation’s most pressing social issues make Maria uniquely qualified to take the Opportunity Institute into the future.”

Echaveste will oversee executive and administrative duties, including day-to-day activities, development and budgets, and directing programmatic work. As Co-Founder and President Emeritus, Edley will continue to inform the organization’s policy and vision.

“I’m moving aside, not moving on,” Edley said. “Having been on sabbatical this last year has helped me realize that being a full-time law professor and running the Opportunity Institute was unsustainable. I have full faith that — under Maria’s leadership — we will be able to fulfill the vision we’ve always had for the Opportunity Institute.”

Edley will remain chair of the Whole Child Equity Project partnership, lead advisory partner for the organization’s P-12 programmatic work and Just Equations math equity pathways project, and a member of the Opportunity Institute’s board of directors.

“I am honored and excited to step into this new role,” Echaveste said. “I am driven to work on issues and policies that expand opportunity so that differences such as class, race, or gender are not barriers preventing individuals from realizing their potential. I believe strongly in the Opportunity Institute’s mission to increase social and economic mobility for all  . . . especially for underserved and historically excluded communities.”

Edley and Echaveste have worked on issues of racial, social and economic justice since they met in the White House when Edley was the chief advisor on President Clinton’s Initiative on Race and Echaveste was serving as a senior official, including serving as Deputy Chief of Staff to the President.

“When he and co-founder Ann O’Leary started the Opportunity Institute, it was to continue the work of trying to make our society more equitable and just for everyone,” Echaveste said. “Today, as we face increasing tensions and political polarization in our country, we must recommit ourselves to making opportunity and the American Dream a reality for all.”


The Opportunity Institute is a nonprofit organization that helps address poverty and racial inequality by building cradle-to-career opportunities that break down barriers and deliver excellence in education, health, and society. Our current projects focus on P-12 education equity, whole child equity, math equity pathways, and education access for people impacted by incarceration. For more information, please visit