Debbie Hughes is Business-Higher Education Forum’s (BHEF) vice president of higher education and workforce. She leads strategy and implementation of BHEF’s National Higher Education and Workforce Initiative (HEWI) to align business and higher education around workforce development and future talent. HEWI’s focus is on emerging fields: cybersecurity, data science and analytics, water science, media and broadcast engineering, and culture and behavioral ethics. Hughes’ work has resulted in the development of 20+ new programs across member and partner higher education institutions as well as national resources and playbooks. Since joining BHEF in 2011, Hughes has also led initiatives focused on 21st century workplace competencies and credentials, the T-shaped professional, experiential education, and scaling of best practices.
She has been awarded or served as a central part of the team for 15+ grants from national foundations. Hughes is the principal investigator for a five-year National Science Foundation project focused on building innovative business-engaged postsecondary programs and pathways in five regions in the country, as well as measuring the impact of business engagement in supporting students, particularly women and underrepresented minorities, transferring and persisting in STEM degree programs.
Prior to BHEF, Hughes was the director of public-private partnerships for Project Lead the Way, where she oversaw strategic relationships and a national STEM education agenda. Hughes also served as a program manager in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, where she created opportunities for students and educators to participate in America’s research enterprise as a means to improving U.S. competitiveness.