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McKnight hires Erin Gavin to lead education and learning policy effort

​March 13, 2013 - McKnight has hired Erin Gavin to lead development and implementation of strategies to advance education and literacy policy.

The McKnight Foundation has hired Erin Gavin as program and policy officer for education and learning. Gavin will lead McKnight’s development and implementation of strategies to advance education and literacy policy, and she will vet and manage select grants directly related to policy and field-building. The policy framework will support and advance McKnight’s efforts to increase the percentage of students reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Gavin will begin work at the Foundation on June 3.

“In a national search, Erin emerged as the ideal candidate to lead McKnight’s grantmaking and policy work to improve literacy,” said Kate Wolford, president of the Foundation. “She comes to us with personal experience as a Twin Cities teacher, researcher, and leader, and brings a deep understanding of our region’s education dynamics. Erin’s policy work in the Twin Cities and Boston will be invaluable to our field-building and advocacy in support of young learners.”

Born and raised in Minnesota, Gavin received her BA in English from Carleton College, Northfield, and received teaching and literacy licensure from St. Paul’s Hamline University. This May, Gavin will complete her Master's of Education in Education Policy and Management at Harvard University.

Between Carleton and Harvard, Gavin participated in Teach for America, joining the organization in 2009 during its first year of expansion to Minnesota. She was hired as a language arts teacher at Brooklyn Center Secondary School. (Brooklyn Center School District is among the partners in McKnight’s current literacy program cohort.) After two years in the classroom at Brooklyn Center, Erin was named literacy resource teacher. Her responsibilities in that role included research-based curriculum development that emphasized a stronger focus on literacy and providing targeted support for striving readers.

During the summer of 2012, Erin was named policy and advocacy leadership initiative fellow with the Minneapolis Foundation, where she conducted policy analysis in support of the Minneapolis Compact Project. While both teaching and working with the foundation, Erin co-founded Empowering Educators for Equity, the Minnesota chapter of Educators 4 Excellence, an organization dedicated to fostering teacher advocacy in education policy discussions. Her engagement with the group involved successful partnerships with policy leaders like MinnCan and the League of Women Voters.

While at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Gavin’s studies have focused on strategic and financial management within the context of urban school district reform. She has also volunteered with two members of the Boston School Committee, the governing body of Boston Public Schools.

McKnight’s Education and Learning program is focused on increasing the percentage of students reading at grade level by the end of third grade, and increasing access to high-quality learning beyond the classroom through support for Youthprise. To improve literacy, the program’s implementation cohort includes select school sites within the St. Paul Public Schools, Minneapolis Public Schools, and Brooklyn Center Community Schools; and two charter schools, Academia Cesar Chavez and Community of Peace Academy. To help guide and manage the grants to Twin Cities’ schools, McKnight also partners with national education leader Urban Education Institute, University of Chicago.

The McKnight Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life for present and future generations through grantmaking, collaboration, and encouragement of strategic policy reform. Founded in 1953 and independently endowed by William and Maude McKnight, the Minnesota-based family foundation had assets of approximately $2 billion and granted about $85 million in 2012. Learn more at, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Tim Hanrahan, McKnight Communications Director, (612) 333-4220