AAAL Announces 2024 Distinguished Public Service Award Winner


AAAL Announces 2024 Distinguished Public Service Award Winner: Leslie Villegas

The AAAL Distinguished Public Service Award (DPSA) recognizes individuals outside of the field of applied linguistics -- writers, journalists, politicians, lawyers, etc. -- whose work (1) raises public awareness of important social issues connected to language and (2) makes exceptional contributions to promotion of multilingualism, linguistic social and justice, and language-related human rights.

Leslie Villegas is a senior policy analyst with the Education Policy program at New America, where she focuses on the PreK–12 policy landscape for English learners. Her work focuses on incorporating an equity-and asset-based approach into federal and state education policy through accountability, assessment, funding, and other key policy areas. Inspired by her own experiences as a first-generation Mexican immigrant raised in California, Villegas believes equitable access to quality education is the key to creating a more fair, inclusive, and representative society.

Villegas started her career in public policy working in the California legislature advising various elected officials. She has dedicated the last decade to advancing progressive policies that support marginalized communities through a variety of roles in government, academia, and think tanks.

Prior to joining New America, Villegas worked at the Migration Policy Institute, where she conducted research on the impact of federal education policy on state level accountability for English learner public education services, and consulted on projects focused on integration policy for refugees and asylum seekers for the GLIMER Consortium at the University of Edinburgh.

She holds a master’s degree in international development from the University of Edinburgh and a bachelor’s degree in political science from California State University, Sacramento.

Congratulations, Leslie!