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Principal Associate, Social & Economic Policy

Julie Strawn has deep knowledge of, and extensive experience in, workforce development and postsecondary education for low-income people. Over the past 25 years, she has developed and analyzed policies and programs to help low-income adults gain the skills and credentials needed to advance to better jobs.

Prior to joining Abt, Strawn was a senior fellow at the Center for Law and Social Policy, where she worked extensively with community colleges, workforce programs and state agencies, especially in the design and leadership of the Shifting Gears initiative. The initiative provided technical assistance and peer learning opportunities to six Midwest states from 2007-2012 to scale up and sustain innovation in adult education, workforce development and postsecondary education.

Strawn has also worked for the National Governors’ Association, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and U.S. House of Representatives. She has testified before Congress and state legislatures.

At Abt, she focuses on the Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) Project, a rigorous evaluation considered to be the first large-scale assessment of career pathways nationwide. Abt is conducting the work for the HHS Administration for Children and Families.


  • Workforce development
  • Postsecondary education

Key Projects

  • Intermediate Outcomes of Career Pathway Programs
  • Innovative Strategies for Self-Sufficiency (ISIS)
  • Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials

Selected Publications/Presentations

  • Reforming Tax-Based Student Aid, a briefing for Members of Congress on the Ways and Means Committee’s Education and Family Benefits Tax Reform Working Group, April 2013.
  • Patrick Reimherr, Tim Harmon, Julie Strawn, and Vickie Choitz. Reforming Student Aid: How to Simplify Tax-Based Aid and Use Performance Metrics to Improve College Choices and Completion. February 2013. CLASP.
  • Barbara Baran and Julie Strawn. A Golden Opportunity: State Strategies to Focus Adult Education on College and Career. February 2013. Learning Works.
  • Funding Career Pathways and Career Pathway Bridges: A Federal Policy Toolkit for States. Updated March 2013. CLASP. (Co-author with other CLASP staff.)
  • Farther, Faster: Six Promising Programs Show How Career Pathway Bridges Help Basic Skills Students Earn Credentials that Matter. August 2011. CLASP.
  • Patrick Kelly and Julie Strawn. Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College. June 2011. CLASP and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.
  • Marcie Weadon-Foster, Julie Strawn, and Amy Ellen Duke Benfield. Beyond Basic Skills: State Strategies to Connect Low-Skilled Students to an Employer-Valued Postsecondary Education. March 2011. Washington, DC: CLASP.
  • Shifting Gears: State Innovation to Advance Workers and the Economy in the Midwest. July 2010. The Joyce Foundation.
  • Testimony for Hearing on the Role of Education and Training in the TANF Program. April 22, 2010. Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Higher Education Tax Reform: A Shared Agenda for Increasing College Affordability, Access, and Success. November 2013. The Consortium for Higher Education Tax Reform.
  • Ideas from the Other Washington in American Prospect. October 2009. Vol. 20, No. 9. Christopher Mazzeo, Brandon Roberts, and Julie Strawn. The Pathways to Advancement Project: How States Can Expand Postsecondary Educational Opportunities for Working Adults. January 2009. Washington, DC: National Governors’ Association.
  • Amy-Ellen Duke and Julie Strawn. Overcoming Obstacles, Optimizing Opportunities: State Policies to Increase Postsecondary Attainment for Low-Skilled Adults. March 2008. Boston: Jobs for the Future.
  • Policies to Promote Adult Education and Postsecondary Alignment. October 2007. Policy brief written for the National Commission on Adult Literacy. New York: Center for Advancement of Adult Literacy.
  • Christopher Mazzeo, Brandon Roberts, Christopher Spence, and Julie Strawn. Working Together: Aligning State Systems and Policies for Individual and Regional Prosperity. December 2006. New York, NY: Workforce Strategy Center.
  • Amy Ellen Duke, Karin Martinson, and Julie Strawn. Wising Up: How States and Localities Can Partner With Business to Increase Skills and Advance Low-Wage Workers. April 2006. Washington, DC: CLASP.
  • Anita Mathur, with Judy Reichle, Julie Strawn, and Chuck Wiseley. Jobs to Careers: How California Community College Credentials Pay Off for Welfare Participants. May 2004. Washington, DC: CLASP.
  • Nan Poppe, Julie Strawn, and Karin Martinson. Whose Job Is It? Creating Opportunities for Advancement in “Workforce Intermediaries for the Twenty-First Century.” September 2003. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Heide Spruck Wrigley, Elise Richer, Karin Martinson, Hitomi Kubo, and Julie Strawn. The Language of Opportunity: Expanding Employment Prospects for Adults with Limited English Skills. August 2003. Washington, DC: CLASP.
  • Karin Martinson and Julie Strawn. Built to Last: Why Skills Matter for Long-Run Success in Welfare Reform. April 2003. Washington, DC: CLASP.
  • Julie Strawn and Karin Martinson. Steady Work and Better Jobs: How to Help Low income Parents Sustain Employment and Advance in the Workforce. 2000. New York: MDRC.