Nisha Patel

Nisha Patel

Deputy Director

Contact Information


Nisha Patel is deputy director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute. The Aspen Institute's mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. Ascend is a policy program of the Institute and a hub for breakthrough ideas and proven strategies that move parents, especially women, and their children beyond poverty toward educational success and economic security. Nisha contributes to Ascend's strategy development and directs programmatic work and operations. She is responsible for the implementation of Ascend's core strategies centered on education, economic supports, and social capital, as well as development of external partnerships.

Nisha has more than 15 years of experience developing, managing, and implementing philanthropic and policy initiatives to expand economic opportunities for low-income families in the U.S. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute in January 2011, Nisha was a program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a $40 million portfolio focused on reducing inequity and increasing postsecondary success through community partnerships and policy development. In 2010, she received the Gates Foundation's U.S. Program Colleague Recognition Award for Outstanding Portfolio Management.

Nisha previously was director of programs at the Washington Area Women's Foundation, where she helped launch the Early Care and Education Funders Collaborative and staffed the inaugural African American Women's Giving Circle. She was also a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, where she authored numerous reports and policy briefs focused on welfare reform, workforce development, and work supports for low-income families. Earlier, Nisha worked at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and was an adjunct professor at the George Washington University.

Nisha received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University and holds an M.S.W. with a concentration in Social and Economic Development from Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a Bettie Schroth Johnson Scholar in Management. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the MASALA Giving Circle, a community-based philanthropic initiative in Washington, DC.