Kate Shirley Akers, Ph.D.

Senior Advisor, Policy Implementation and Best Practices

Kate Shirley Akers, Ph.D.

I deeply believe in the transformative power of education to change the trajectory of someone’s life.

Kate is the Senior Advisor, Policy Implementation and Best Practices for the Data Quality Campaign. She leads the development and execution of DQC’s policy implementation activities and provides thought leadership and support on DQC activities that support state and local efforts to adopt policy and practices that make data work for communities.

Before joining DQC in 2024, Kate was the Associate Vice Chancellor and Chief Data Officer for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). In this role, she served as an advisor to the Chancellor, oversaw the Advanced Data Analytics shared service team, and worked closely with university staff and faculty to collect accurate, timely data and created actionable research and reports for the System. Prior to PASSHE, Kate was the Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for Statistics, (KYStats), Kentucky’s comprehensive, centralized, longitudinal data system. KYStats is responsible for producing meaningful, actionable statistics on Kentucky’s education and workforce system. She received national recognition as an education data strategist and thought leader in the areas of longitudinal data and data governance.

Based outside of Louisville Kentucky, Kate has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Transylvania University. After discovering her passion for education research and longitudinal data, she then pursued an MSEd in Higher Education and a graduate certificate in college teaching and learning from the University of Kentucky. She received her Ph.D. in educational policy studies and evaluation with an emphasis on quantitative research methods, measurement, and evaluation from the University of Kentucky. She is also a Strategic Data Project fellow alum.

Who are your education heroes? My mother. I come from a long line of public K–12 educators, including my mother. “Mrs. Shirley” touched the lives of every student in our county as the elementary music teacher, instilling immense joy in each of them. Her innovative approach included seamlessly integrating history and science into her lessons, earning her the status of a local celebrity, even after her retirement.

Tell us a data-use story that you love. I was once asked, “With all the data and information at our fingertips, can we solve the supply and demand problem for a state?” This is a perfect example of how connecting data isn’t enough. To effectively tackle a complex matter like supply and demand, it’s imperative to ensure that the information is not only connected, but also made accessible, digestible, and actionable for end-users—particularly local education and workforce providers.

What’s your superpower? Can I say talking to a wall? I’m also an amateur large animal vet tech, and love caring for all the animals on my family farm.