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President: Dr. James Toscano


Dr. James Toscano is the president of Partners for Affordable Excellence @EDU and is a national leader in the fight to make college more affordable for American students and parents.

Toscano is a former senior higher education administrator and an open government advocate with fifteen years of experience in local, state and federal policy development.

During Toscano’s tenure as a vice president at Tidewater Community College (TCC), the college was the nation’s leader and model for lowering the cost of education for students through the innovative use of open educational resources.

A policy entrepreneur, Toscano spearheaded the development and adoption of an expanded public comment policy for governing boards, which gave greater access to citizens in public decision making. Toscano has held policy board appointments under two governors, was the legislative director to the assistant majority leader in the Virginia House of Delegates, and was a Governor’s Fellow under then-Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner.

Toscano’s experience in university governance dates back to the days when he was a student, as the first student in 18 years to be appointed to his university’s board of visitors under a new state law. Toscano holds a doctorate in law and policy from Northeastern University, a master’s in public policy and management from the University of London, and a bachelor’s in communications from Old Dominion University.

Toscano has worked as adjunct faculty in the Christopher Newport University Department of Political Science and as a consultant to K-12. Toscano’s work can be found in GOVERNING, Government Technology, Public Management magazine, and in a recent book, Citizen Engagement and Public Participation in an Era of New Media, published by IGI Global.


VP for Development & Projects: Kristen Beam Witt


Kristen Beam Witt serves as Partners 4 Affordable Excellence @EDU’s Vice President for Development and Projects. Kristen comes to Partners with 15 years of professional fundraising experience. Most recently Kristen served as the Director of Alumni & Parent Giving and the Office of Annual Giving for Christopher Newport University. Kristen led the University’s growth in alumni participation from 8% to 20% in seven years, a 255% increase in unique donors. Kristen oversaw a Faculty/Staff Campaign that reached 95% participation, one of the highest rates in the country. Kristen also established and led major gift efforts for alumni and parents during Christopher Newport’s first-ever comprehensive campaign.

Kristen served as the Director of Resource Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula (2007-2009) and began her career at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, managing their Gun Violence Reduction programs (2003-2007).

Kristen earned her B.S. in Psychology from The Florida State University and M.S. in Management of Non-Profits from the University of Maryland-University College.

Kristen is active in her hometown and serves on the board of her church, the Peninsula S.P.C.A., and the Peninsula School for Autism.

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