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Faces of DePauw

Elisa Villanueva Beard ’98 Alumni

DePauw has been the single most transformative experience of my life.

Business Executive

Elisa has been an integral part of Teach for America for 25 years. It all started in 1998 as a TFA Phoenix corps member who embraced 36 first graders with an open heart and an open mind. In her subsequent roles as executive director of the TFA Rio Grande Valley site (starting 2001) and then TFA's chief operating officer (starting 2005), she helped increase the scale of the organization's impact in monumental ways. This success led to her eventual appointment as CEO in 2015.

Under her leadership, Teach For America corps members have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of students each year in nearly 2,000 schools across the country. The Teach For America network of 70,000 leaders is working inside and outside the education field to ensure that all children have the access and opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve their dreams.

The work has been difficult at times, but Elisa is not one to back down. “The power of the systemic challenges facing our kids ran me over like a train pretty early on in my teaching,” she said. Did she ever feel like quitting? “For better or worse, it never entered my mind.”

In her commencement address to the DePauw class of 2013, she acknowledged the influence of her alma mater in cultivating this mindset. "DePauw has been the single most transformative experience of my life. It is where I discovered my passion for social justice and education that’s become my life’s work. More importantly, it’s where I first discovered who I was and what I was about."

Elisa has announced that she will step down from her CEO role with Teach for America in 2025, however her legacy will linger for years to come.

Position: CEO at Teach For America
Major: Sociology