Hironao Okahana

Hironao Okahana

Hironao Okahana

Adjunct Faculty

Assistant Vice President for Research & Insights, American Council on Education, Washington, DC

Hironao Okahana is a mission-driven professional thriving to help higher education meet its full potential as a public good and vehicle for social change and equity. He thinks deeply and innovatively, connects ideas and people, and offers insights and counsel. Through his work and also by bringing together other researchers and experts, he seeks to amplify underserved voices—informing and facilitating the evidence-based discourse that will serve as a catalyst for institutional changes and policy reforms in higher education.

Having joined American Council on Education (ACE) in 2021, Okahana currently serves as the assistant vice president for ACE Research, where he develops and manages its research agenda to help advance the Council’s thought leadership areas: equity-minded leadership, institutional transformation, and student success. Prior to joining ACE, he held progressively increasing responsibilities at the Council of Graduate Schools for over eight years, culminating his tour there as the vice president for research and knowledge development. As a researcher, his work focuses on enrollment trends, labor market outcomes, diversity and inclusiveness, and organizational analysis of U.S. postsecondary education, with particular emphasis on master’s and doctoral education. 

In addition to his role at ACE, Okahana is a higher education program affiliate and adjunct faculty at George Mason University and an adjunct assistant professor of education at the William & Mary School of Education. He is also a member of the editorial review board of Innovative Higher Education.

Originally from Tokyo, Japan, he resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, Saleha Bholat, who is associate dean of arts at the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College, and their kindergartener son.

Selected Publications

Okahana, H., Zhou, E., & Gao, J. (2020). Graduate enrollment and degrees: 2009 to 2019. Council of Graduate Schools. 

Okahana, H. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on graduate education. (CGS Research-in-Brief, June 2020). Council of Graduate Schools. 

Klein, C., & Okahana, H. (2020). STEM doctoral student degree attainment:  How demands, structures, and networks impact timely degree completion. In A. Tyler, S. Hancock, & C. Lewis (Eds.), Seeing The HiddEn Minority:  Increasing the Talent Pool through Identity, Socialization, and Mentoring Constructs, Contemporary Perspectives on Access, Equity and Information Age Publishing.

Zhou, E., Mitic, R.R., West, C.P.L., & Okahana, H. (2020). International graduate applications and enrollment: Fall 2019. Council of Graduate Schools. 

Zhou, E., & Okahana, H. (2019). The Role of department supports on doctoral completion and time-to-degree. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 20(4), 511–529. *First published online in December 2016.

Okahana, H. (2018). Suggestions for improving the IPEDS collection of graduate students data. (NPEC 2018). U.S. Department of Education. National Postsecondary Education Cooperative.

Okahana, H., & Hao, Y. (2019). Are they worth it?: Master’s degrees and labor market outcomes in the STEM workforce. Innovative Higher Education, 44(3), 165-185.

Okahana, H. (2018). Increasing number of graduate and professional students are former Pell recipients. (CGS Data Sources, July 2018). Council of Graduate Schools.

Okahana, H., Klein, C., Allum, J., & Sowell, R. (2018). STEM doctoral completion of underrepresented minority students: Challenges and opportunities for improving participation in the doctoral workforce. Innovative Higher Education, 43(4), 237-255.

Ortega, S.T., & Okahana, H. (2017). Expanding the pipeline: Beyond graduate admissions – Strategies for diversifying the computer science workforce. Computing Research News, 29(5).

Sowell, R., Allum, J., & Okahana, H. (2015). Doctoral initiative on minority attrition and completion. Council of Graduate Schools.

Okahana, H., & Allum, J. (2015). Graduate student debt data: What we can and cannot tell. (CGS Data Sources, October 2015). Council of Graduate Schools.

Courses Taught

HE722: Organization and Administration in Higher Education

  • Fall 2016, Fall 2017, & Fall 2020 (co-teaching)

HE792: Special Topics

  • Topical Issues in Higher Education Policy - Summer 2015
  • Funding Issues, Priorities, and Strategies - Summer 2018
  • Current Issues in Higher Education - Spring 2020
  • Higher Education in Challenging Times - Summer 2021

HE897: Independent Study


University of California, Los Angeles

  • Ph.D. in Education
  • M.A. in Education
  • M.P.P. in Public Policy

California State University, Long Beach

  • B.A. in Economics
  • B.S. in Environmental Science & Policy

Recent Presentations

Setting students up for fulfilling career pathways. An invited session at the 2021 Virtual Institute on Teaching and Mentoring hosted by the Southern Regional Education Board (Virtual, 2021/4).

How to capitalize on supporting graduate student mental health. Panel discussion with T. Marchell hosted by the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools (Virtual, 2021/4).

Diversity in graduate education. Inside Higher Ed Editorial Webcast hosted by D. Lederman (2021/3).

Equity in graduate education. Panel discussion with R. Cuttler, J. Posselt, D. Feldon, K. Griffin, and C. Tofel-Grehl at the Chaos Learning Lab in the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University (Virtual, 2021/3).

A case for more policy and practice relevant research of graduate education. Invited talk for the Education Research Institute Seminar Series at the University of California, Irvine (Virtual, 2021/3).

In the Media

Symposium Tackles Higher Education’s New, COVID-Era Realities, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education (2021/11/20).

College president turnover sees an uptick in 2021. What's driving the churn?, Business Journal (2021/9/23).

Meet the New International Student, Chronicle of Higher Education (2020/1/12).

Post-College Path No Longer So Clear, Voice of America (2019/9/21).

The Trump Administration Is Making Life Hell for International Students, teenVogue (2019/9/15).

A threat to the future of graduate education, Axios (2019/2/8).

Why are international students turning their back on American colleges?, MarketWatch (2019/2/7). 

Will U.S. Restrict Visas for Chinese Students?, Inside Higher Ed. (2018/3/16).