Meet Malachi Nichols, Director of Data and Strategy

While Malachi Nichols, director of data and strategy, comes from a long line of educators, he never intended to follow that career path.

“My family is full of teachers, counselors, educational leaders and advocates,” he says. “But I was interested in math and science and decided to pursue engineering.”

His plans changed when a friend asked him to teach students robotics at a local school.

“These were kindergarten through middle-schoolers, and they absorbed everything. I saw how the right teacher could build kids up and help them step into better lives. Education became my calling.”

Malachi taught robotics and math for three years, but eventually realized he could have a bigger impact on the education system from outside the classroom.

“Forward Arkansas intrigued me because we look at the big picture,” he says. “We ask, ‘How can we do things differently?’”

Malachi believes Forward can drive systemic change by better understanding where and how the state’s educational system can be improved.

“It’s critical to have a vision, but goals need to be tied to relevant quantitative and qualitative data from schools and communities. We want our recommendations to be made in collaboration with those experiencing the challenges we hope to solve.”

Take Malachi’s current research as an example. He’s evaluating where the state’s educational programs were pre-COVID, where they are now and where they are going.

“In the past, there has been a lack of complete data, that includes both quantitative data as well as stakeholder voice at all levels,” he says. “Our goal is to have a cohesive direction for the state’s education system for the next three to five years.”

Malachi is especially excited about EPP Design Collaborative, a program he oversees that helps transform K-12 teacher recruitment, training and retention in the state.

Malachi has lived in Arkansas since his undergraduate days. A proud resident, he vows to continue improving education for all students.

“A good education builds communities, a strong state and a more positive future for everyone.”