Denice Warren Ross, Senior Fellow at the National Conference on Citizenship and a Fellow at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, will give the keynote talk at the 32nd Annual UBRP Virtual Conference on Saturday, January 23, 2021.
Denice Warren Ross’ work at the intersection of science and public policy has brought her from the storm-ravaged City of New Orleans after Katrina to the West Wing of the Obama White House after the police killing of unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson. She attributes her agility to navigate such wicked problems to the four years she spent in UBRP at the University of Arizona. Denice was in URBP’s second cohort, starting in 1990, where she studied both human and animal communication. On the human side, Denice worked under Dr. Kathryn Bayles studying the relationship between alzheimers and communication. In her next rotation, she worked with Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her world-famous parrot named Alex. Alex had a vocabulary of more than 100 words, and could identify shapes, colors, and objects. As journalists and documentary film crews cycled through Dr. Pepperberg’s lab, Denice found her professional destiny at the junction of science and the public interest.
Denice and then-graduate student Dianne Patterson (UArizona Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences) wanted to learn more about how the parrot produced the sounds of human speech, so they embarked on an interdisciplinary research project where they tested out infrared imaging in the Optical Sciences department and x-ray imaging at the University Medical Center’s cardiac catheterization lab. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Prof. Art Winfree introduced Denice to the idea of digitizing the resulting video, and Electrical Engineering Prof. Yingyong Qi mentored Denice on digital signal processing so they could analyze the resulting data.
She credits the mentorship of these interdisciplinary researchers with preparing her to take on a wide range of complex challenges, including New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina, the Flint water crisis, structural biases in policing, the intersection of climate and national security, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the de-sciencing of the federal government.
Denice Ross is currently a Senior Fellow at the National Conference on Citizenship, and a Fellow at Georgetown University’s Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. Her main focus is on data quality of the 2020 Census and how to re-invigorate the federal commitment to using data to inform policy, especially with regard to the three most pressing existential threats facing this nation: climate change, structural racism, and pandemics.
As a Presidential Innovation Fellow in the Obama administration, she co-founded the White House Police Data Initiative to increase transparency and accountability. She also worked with the Department of Energy on crowdsourcing private-sector data to improve community resilience in disaster-impacted areas. Earlier, she served as Director of Enterprise Information for the City of New Orleans, where she established their open data initiative, now recognized as one of the most successful in the country. Prior to government, Denice co-directed the Data Center, a non-profit intermediary democratizing data for the New Orleans area. She brought an evidence-based approach to numerous post-Katrina community planning initiatives after the failure of the federal levee system flooded 80% of the city. Out of necessity, she also co-founded the first new childcare center after the storm.
Denice holds a Bachelor of Science in General Biology from the University of Arizona, where she was a Goldwater Scholar, and is currently a Masters student in Energy Policy & Climate program at Johns Hopkins University. She lives in the DC area with her spouse and four children.