News & Media

APLU Staff Spotlight: Denise Nadasen

Name: Denise Nadasen
Department: Data and Policy Analysis
Title: Director of Research and Data Policy
Date you joined APLU: November 11, 2017

Headshot of Denise NadasenWhat education or work experience had the greatest impact on you? I worked for the University System of Maryland Board of Regents for eight years. During that time, I learned how to interact with the Board members, how to present, how to do research and write for executives, and how to connect data to policy.

What’s most rewarding about working with public research universities? When I meet people from other universities, they really seem to care about students, higher education, and the people they work with. There is an underlying desire to do something good for society.

What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve found about APLU? Millennials are going to lead us to a new and hopeful future. I was pleasantly surprised to find that APLU had a lot of young people working here who are incredibly smart, unafraid to speak their mind, willing to make change, and confident in our future.

What’s the biggest change public university leaders can expect in 5-10 years? There has been lots of talk about disruptive innovation and the downfall of higher education. While I believe that higher education will change, I think the changes will be incremental. For example, the culture will change to embrace students of different backgrounds and varying life circumstances. There will be more data used to help institutions become more efficient in how they operate. However, I don’t believe there will be great changes in the success metrics that we use to evaluate higher education institutions.

Where was your first real job? McDonald’s. I was a cashier and made $3.05 per hour. When a colleague was fired because she didn’t ask a customer if they wanted an apple pie, I got the other cashiers together to protest until they hired her back. They did.

What is your favorite thing to do on your day off? I like to swim or workout.

What is your favorite thing about living in DC? When we get visitors from out of the country, I tell them that we have the beaches about two hours away, the mountains about two hours away, farmland about two hours away, and the city/urban life right here. We have it all.

Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why does it stand out? Nice, France. We are a soccer family and traveled there during the 2014 world cup. It was great fun to sit in a large outdoor space with crazy French soccer fans, watching the games on the large TVs.

What was your dream job as a child? I wanted to be a math teacher. I loved math until I took Calculus III. But I ended up doing statistics in grad school, which was fun.

What was the last TV show you couldn’t get enough of? Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and Shameless are my three favorites.

What is the best movie you’ve seen recently? Wild Rose with Jessie Buckley. It was about a Scottish woman who is a single mother and wants to be a country singer in Nashville. I am not a country music fan, but I really enjoyed this movie.

What’s the last book you read? Cane River by Lalita Tademy, which looks at four generations of women whose lineage goes back to slavery in Louisiana. The reader really gets to know the complexity of their lives.

What was the last concert you attended? Vijay Iyer at the Kennedy Center.

If you could have dinner with three famous people who would they be? Michelle Obama, George Clooney, and Angelina Jolie

What’s your secret talent? No talent. I like to cook. It’s no secret.

What’s one thing people would never guess about you? I was born in Durban, South Africa and was a South African citizen for the first 18 years of my life. As a result, I voted in the first South African election in 1994.

  • Commission on Information, Measurement, & Analysis

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