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Kristin D. Conklin

Kristin D. Conklin, PARTNER

Kristin Conklin is a nationally renowned expert in higher education policy and strategy development at the state and federal levels. In 2008, Kristin joined Terrell Halaska and Michael Manganiello as a founding partner of HCM Strategists, a public policy and advocacy consulting firm committed to taking innovative health & education solutions farther, faster.

Kristin has testified to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on federal financial aid reforms recommended by two initiatives she directed—the American Dream 2.0 coalition and the Doing Better for More Students technical report. Kristin also conceptualized, developed and implemented Lumina Foundation’s Strategy Labs, which has been supporting state leaders with nonpartisan advice to increase higher education attainment since 2010. Kristin is routinely sought out by states, systems, colleges and non-profit organizations when they want to examine and refine leadership and policies that will improve student outcomes.

Kristin’s belief in the transformative power of higher education opportunity is a direct result of her own educational experience. A Pell Grant recipient and the first college graduate in her family, Kristin earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and a master’s degree in public policy from Georgetown University.

Ever conscious of the doors that good public policy opened for her, she served at the U.S. Department of Education as senior advisor to the Under Secretary of Education. In that role, Kristin helped develop the Secretary’s action plan in response to the Spellings Commission report. This work led to changes in the high school graduation rate regulation and the largest single-year increase in Pell Grants in more than thirty years.

Kristin brought to her federal service a belief that innovative federal solutions come from state records of success – a perspective she gained while serving as the program director in the education division of the National Governors Association. She also directed the Washington, D.C. office of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, where she helped develop the first comparative 50-state report card on higher education performance.
Kristin and her two daughters reside in McLean, VA, where she is active in a homeless ministry and mentors youth preparing for college. Kristin finds joy in running to clear her head.


I do this work because I was first. I was first in my family to complete college, earn a graduate degree and start a business. Sure I am resilient and have a strong work ethic, but public policy and mentors and well-targeted public subsidies all played a significant role in helping me achieve the American Dream.  “When you get to where you are goin’, don’t forget to turn back around, help the next one in line, always stay humble and kind.” – Tim McGraw