Cynthia Liston


Cynthia began working with ESG in 2018 to lead the Talent Ready Initiative in the National Capital region. For more than 20 years Cynthia has steered policy and strategy development on issues related to student success, college and career readiness, career pathways and regional workforce needs, and systems thinking about economic mobility challenges.

Previously Cynthia was the sole Program Officer at the John M. Belk Endowment where she managed $30 million in grant partnerships designed to increase college success. Prior to that, she served as Associate Vice President for Policy Research & Special Projects at the North Carolina Community College System Office, leading comprehensive developmental education redesign across 58 community colleges and serving as a state policy lead for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-supported Completion by Design initiative. Cynthia has also been an independent consultant working for clients such as MDC, Inc., Jobs for the Future, and HCM Strategists.

Earlier in her career Cynthia worked for Regional Technology Strategies, an economic and workforce development policy nonprofit, where she helped states and regions create stronger alignment between postsecondary systems and regional industry clusters. She spent her first professional years as a legislative staffer on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Cynthia attended public schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district during the height of school busing and went on to graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BA in political science and French. She also holds a Masters of Public Policy from Georgetown University.

Why this work?

I am motivated to do this work because of the almost unique impact that meaningful credential and degree attainment can have in changing the trajectory of someone’s life. And, at a more macro level, I believe that talent is everywhere, and we are all better off when systems unlock the aspirations and success of everyone in our communities.

Why ESG?

ESG focuses on the ‘connective tissue’ between K12, postsecondary systems, and employers — which is where I think we have the potential to see real gains and payoffs for students and the economy. ESG allows me to use my skills and background to help create well-aligned and responsive educational systems that bring employers into the picture as valuable partners and contributors.

Connect with Cynthia

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