Eighteen years ago, I was attending an Austin Area Research Organization (AARO) meeting with top business leaders studying student education outcomes in our region. Following much in-depth discussion, we concluded that even though nearly every measure of education outcomes showed incremental improvement, our companies and workforce desperately needed better results to compete in the global economy of the 21st Century.  

Being good businesspeople, we looked around the country for the best systems change model we could steal. Unfortunately, we didn’t find that such a model existed. We found pieces of success and many failures but no perfect model.  

Why did we think we could do it on our own? Strategically, our community was in a prime position to succeed: we had a strong entrepreneurship and risk-taking culture. We were used to working regionally in public-private partnerships. We had a well-respected community college and the state’s flagship university in our backyard. Unlike Dallas, Houston, or Nashville, we had a public school system that the middle class had not abandoned (yet). We couldn’t wait for the state to find a solution, but could we really undertake education systems change at scale here in our region? 

So, literally on a paper napkin, we sketched a design that would become our Theory of Change. With AARO, Austin Community College, and The University of Texas at Austin as its founding partners, E3 Alliance launched with a solid foundation in 2006 with a short but compelling mission: to transform education systems through data and collaboration so all students succeed.   

These 18 years have been interesting. I often tell people that I’m on the most exhilarating and fulfilling ride of my life two-thirds of the time, and one-third of the time, my head is flatter than the wall I’m banging against.  

Leading this nonprofit with our devoted team and passionate partners, I’ve had the honor of seeing many initiatives bring remarkable results, like closing the gap between high-performing Black and White students accessing advanced math to prepare for college by 91%. Or moving our region from 9% of students in low teacher-student ratio classrooms and full-day pre-K to 100%, increasing the odds of students entering Kindergarten ready to succeed in school by three to four times. Or adopting state policy to help more students demonstrate postsecondary success while still in high school.   

In the months ahead, I will transition from leading E3 Alliance to president emeritus. A search for a new president/executive director is underway. 

While I look forward to assisting with the transition process, I am also anxious to continue concentrating on building a formidable and sustainable platform for education-workforce integration. I will continue for the next year as part of a “Tiger Team” focused on building the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce, the least aligned and least understood sector of our economy. We must continue to drive a foundation of economic mobility for all students in our region and state. 

I hope to announce our new leader before the new year. Please stay tuned and know that E3 Alliance will remain in a strong position for decades to come.  

Best regards, 

Susan Dawson 

President & Executive Director