Kalena E. Cortes

Kalena E. Cortes holds the Verlin and Howard Kruse '52 Founders Professorship at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and Public Service. Kalena is the inaugural Director of the Bush School's Program in Education Policy (PEP). She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), and a Mindset Scholar at the Student Experience Research Network (SERN). Most recently, she was named Texas A&M's 2020 Presidential Impact Fellow (PIF) and 2021 Chancellor Enhancing Development and Generating Excellence in Scholarship (EDGES) Fellow. She is currently serving on the editorial board of the Economics of Education Review. 

Kalena completed her Ph.D. in Economics at the University of California at Berkeley and has also been a visiting scholar at both Stanford and Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Princeton University. She served a three-year term (2014-17) on the Board of Directors of the Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP), was a Faculty Fellow (2013-16) at the Greater Texas Foundation, served six years (2017-23) on the American Economic Association's Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession (CSMGEP), and served five years (2016-21) as Associate Editor at AERA Open.

Most recently, Kalena has been working on innovative parenting programs delivered by text messages to guide parents toward more purposeful parenting (NBER WP #24827, NBER WP #25964). She has also developed new texting curriculums for parents of elementary and middle school children.  Her elementary program, Math FUNdations (J-PAL funded study), is both a text- and app-based program that aims to inform parents, using simplified language, of the learning standards their children need to meet by the end of fourth grade and also suggests to them how to convey positive emotions while interacting with their children about math. Her middle school texting curriculum, Texts4Teens (NSF funded study, SES-1918016), is a parent engagement program that focuses on the social-emotional skill development of children, child progression through school, and close parent-child relationships. 

Kalena's research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the American Educational Research Association, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education - Institute of Education Sciences, the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, the Greater Texas Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) of North America.