Former Virginia Secretary of Education Joins McGuireWoods Consulting

RICHMOND, Va. — McGuireWoods Consulting announced today that Laura W. Fornash, former Virginia Secretary of Education, has joined the firm as a senior vice president and co-leader of its National Education Practice.

A former Virginia secretary of education, Fornash spent more than two decades in public service prior to joining McGuireWoods Consulting, including leadership roles at two of Virginia’s flagship universities—the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Fornash joins Scott J. Frein, also a senior vice president, in leading McGuireWoods Consulting’s National Education Practice, which serves a wide range of public and private entities across the educational continuum from early childhood to postsecondary education.  The National Education Practice has the capacity, expertise, and reach to serve clients in all 50 state capitals and at the federal level in Washington, DC.

“I am excited to be joining such a talented team to help advance the National Education Practice and serve clients in Virginia and around the country,” said Fornash.  “The strong partnerships between educational institutions, state and local governments, and the business sector that have served us so well here in Virginia are a model for the nation.  Education is crucial for personal opportunity as well as economic growth, and I look forward to helping our public and private clients promote those vital goals.”

As Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia from 2011-2013, Fornash helped shape and implement state education policy from pre-kindergarten through higher education, providing support and direction to the 16 public colleges and universities, the Virginia Community College System, and the Department of Education.  In 2010-2011, she served as executive director of the Governor’s Commission on Higher Education Reform, Innovation, and Investment, whose recommendations resulted in adoption of landmark higher education reinvestment and reform legislation in Virginia in 2011.  The legislation, known as the “Top Jobs” Act, committed the Commonwealth to conferring 100,000 additional degrees by 2025 with a long-term investment strategy that includes greater higher education involvement in economic development, increased degree and credential attainment in high-demand fields, affordable access, operational efficiency, enhanced planning, and institutional autonomy.

Most recently, Fornash served as the Executive Assistant to the President for State Governmental Relations at the University of Virginia, where she advised the President and was responsible for advancing the University’s priorities on state governmental matters.  Before her appointment as Virginia’s education secretary, she spent 20 years with Virginia Tech in varied roles, including serving as the Restructuring Project Director with responsibility for managing Virginia Tech’s implementation of the 2005 Virginia Higher Education Restructuring Act that created new levels of operational autonomy for public higher education institutions in exchange for meeting certain academic performance measures.

“Laura Fornash has built a career focused on innovation and reform in higher education policy, from Virginia’s groundbreaking 2005 Restructuring Act to its landmark ‘Top Jobs’ Act of 2011,” said Frank B. Atkinson, chairman of McGuireWoods Consulting.  “Virginia is widely recognized as a national leader in higher education policy, and having Laura co-leading our National Education Practice will help our firm better serve education clients across the country, including replicating successful PR and legislative initiatives such as the Grow By Degrees campaign and coalition in other states.”

Fornash will co-lead a National Education Practice that was launched last year after Scott Frein joined the firm from ACT, Inc.  Frein was executive director of ACT, Inc.’s Policy, Advocacy, and Government Relations team and head of its Washington, DC office.  Prior to joining ACT, Inc. in 2009, he was the chief lobbyist for the Council of Chief State School Officers.

“McGuireWoods Consulting has been an education policy leader at the state level for a number of years, especially in dynamic areas such as virtual and charter schools, higher education reform, educational technology, and knowledge-based economic development,” said Jim Hodges, a former South Carolina governor who becomes president and CEO of MWC in January. “The additions of Scott Frein last year and Laura Fornash this month provide our fast-growing National Education Practice with widely respected leaders experienced in both K-12 and higher education policy, enhancing our capabilities and reach in all 50 states and Washington, DC.”

Founded in 1998, McGuireWoods Consulting LLC is a full-service public affairs firm offering government relations, strategic communications & grassroots, and infrastructure and economic development services. McGuireWoods Consulting is a subsidiary of McGuireWoods LLP, a leading international law firm with more than 1,000 lawyers in 20 cities. The National Law Journal’s most recent ranking of more than 1,500 federal government relations firms placed McGuireWoods Consulting in the top 20 for the fifth year in a row.  MWC has offices in Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, McLean, Virginia, Atlanta, Chicago, Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Tallahassee, Florida, Springfield, Illinois, Austin, Texas, Brussels, Belgium and Bucharest, Romania.  For more information, visit McGuireWoods Consulting’s website at www.mcguirewoodsconsulting.com.

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