Public Allies New CEO

Introducing Adren O. Wilson, Ph.D.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 4, 2014 – Public Allies is pleased to announce and welcome its new CEO, Adren O. Wilson, Ph.D.

Wilson, a native of rural Louisiana who grew up in extreme poverty, earned graduate degrees from Harvard University and Southern University, and has held an escalating series of leadership positions as an organizer, advocate, administrator, and reformer working to lift individuals, families, and communities out of poverty.

He began as Public Allies’ fourth national CEO on Sept. 8, 2014.

Wilson most recently led workforce development and community college retention efforts as Gulf Coast Regional Director for Single Stop USA. Previously, he developed transformational leaders for public schools as Executive Director of New Leaders Greater New Orleans, worked to end persistent poverty in the South by leading the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, and trained thousands of young leaders to advocate for and serve the needs of vulnerable youth as National Director of Youth and Student Leadership at The Children’s Defense Fund.

From 2004-2008, Wilson served both Democratic and Republican Governors as Assistant Secretary with the Louisiana Department of Social Services, where he led the Office of Family Support, which employed 3,000 people in providing services to families in need, including in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Children’s Cabinet, and initiated policy reforms such as the passage of the first state-level Earned Income Tax Credit in the South.

Wilson grew up the oldest of five children to a single mother in rural Louisiana, and recalls not having running water until his teen years. “I understand the importance of the American dream, the hope it affords every citizen, and the critical need for leadership and advocacy to make its promise a reality for all,” he says. “I am honored and excited to lead Public Allies in its mission of preparing a new generation of leaders for social change.”

Wilson earned a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a doctorate in Public Policy from the Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Southern University. Wilson received his Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Political Science from Louisiana State University.

“Adren brings a unique combination of life experience and leadership experience that will be an inspiration to our Allies and will position him to lead Public Allies to greater growth and impact,” says Public Allies National Board Chair Kanwar Singh.

Departing CEO Paul Schmitz announced his intention to leave Public Allies in November, 2013. Paul founded Public Allies Milwaukee in 1993, served as national CEO since 1999, and will remain at Public Allies through December as an advisor to the new CEO. “Adren’s story is emblematic of our belief that everyone leads, and he will be a powerful leader and advocate for Public Allies’ mission and values.”

The CEO search was led by On-Ramps, a national executive search firm that serves the social sector.

Public Allies’ mission is to advance new leaders to strengthen communities, nonprofits, and civic participation. Its signature AmeriCorps program recruits diverse young adults with a passion to make a difference and provides them paid, full-time, nonprofit apprenticeships and rigorous leadership development to turn that passion into a career working for community and social change. Since 1992, over 5,600 Allies – more than two-thirds people of color – have completed the program, and more than 85% have continued careers in the nonprofit and public sectors. Public Allies is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and operates in 23 communities across the country. Wilson will be based in Public Allies’ Washington, D.C. office.

Welcome Adren and demonstrate your support for his leadership and Public Allies' future by making a donation today. Your support is critical to our future.