Karishma Merchant

Associate Vice President, Policy & Advocacy

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Karishma Merchant is associate vice president of Policy & Advocacy at JFF. She leads nonpartisan engagement with federal and state policymakers to craft education and workforce policies that drive equitable economic advancement for all.

Before joining JFF, Karishma spent nearly a decade on Capitol Hill, first as a legislative fellow for U.S. Senator Michael F. Bennet and then as senior education and workforce policy advisor for U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, for whom she oversaw education, child welfare, and labor policy issues.

Karishma has worked on the reauthorizations of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, the Child Care Development Block Grant, the Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act, and the Higher Education Act, as well as federal appropriations.

Before that, she was a researcher for the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation, and Development and earlier worked at the Tennessee Department of Education.

She began her career as a high school social studies teacher in Washington, DC.

Karishma serves as a member of the board of the Virginia Council of Women and on the city of Alexandria, Virginia’s Economic Opportunities Commission.

“I was drawn to JFF because my career has focused on expanding access and economic opportunities for all,” she says. “I am excited to be part of an organization that’s focused on driving equity and economic advancement and uses evidence-based practices to inform policymaking.”

Karishma holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University, a master’s in teaching from American University, and a master’s in public policy with a focus on education policy from Vanderbilt University. In 2019, she completed the University of Virginia Sorensen Institute’s Political Leaders Program.

Outside of work, Karishma enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, and traveling to National Parks.