Jessica Venable


Jess brings more than 25 years’ experience in higher education policy, science funding policy, grants and research enterprise planning, and research development expertise to Thorn Run Partners. Jessica is known for her work in higher education policy and reform, particularly as it pertains to how underserved and underrepresented individuals, institutions (HBCUs, TCUs, HSIs, and MSIs), and groups are represented in, and benefit from, the Federal funding landscape.

Bringing a long track record of experience as a grant strategist and writer, Jessica co-leads the Grant Enterprise Growth Strategy Practice. This team assists clients in increasing the extramural funding base needed to support research, scholarship, innovation, teaching, and community engagement. In this role, she delivers a unique combination of solutions-focused consulting services to help clients identify and pursue multiple pathways to sustained success in the Federal funding marketplace, including: strategic planning, government relations, public relations, faculty development, partner engagement, Team Science, program design, and grant proposal development. Her client portfolio includes colleges, universities, academic medical and other health systems, community groups and associations, and research-intensive for- and non-profit organizations.

Jessica also leads Thorn Run Partners’ Grantsmanship Initiative. Successful grantsmanship requires a skillset that is built, continually developed, and adapts to evolving contexts. During her career, she has worked closely with a range of grant writers – including researchers, educators, and non-profits – to gain the skills needed to be successful across the entire grants lifecycle. Using a “coaches” approach to learning, Jess helps grant writers self-discover solutions to proposal development, while challenging conventional thinking about research funding that create barriers across cultures and institutions. Since 2015, investigators participating in her training and coaching sessions have secured more than $50 million in sponsored awards related to the proposals they developed in her workshops.

Prior to joining TRP, Jessica served as Vice President for a DC-based government relations firm. She was also the coordinator for research development services at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she provided support for high-priority government affairs and research initiatives. She has also served in various science and science education units at NASA Langley Research Center and NASA Headquarters.

Her scholarship draws on concepts of social justice, research justice, educational justice, philosophy and history of science, decolonization, and critical race theory to advocate for legitimate “senses of places” in federally sponsored projects. Through these ideas, Jessica argues for congruence in thought, policy and practice: in making claims that diversity in habits of mind and action has been, and always will be, the sine qua non of human survival; our knowledge-building institutions must reflect such diversity as the sine qua non of intellectual survival. In recognition of this position, Jessica serves on the boards of the Drexel-Morrell Center and the Tapestry Institute.

Among her professional and community activities, Jessica has served as a grant reviewer for numerous federal agencies. She is also active in multiple professional organizations, including the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP), where she has served in various committee roles.

Jessica earned her PhD from VCU, an MA from George Washington University and her AB from Princeton University. She lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband and their very mean cat, Priscilla.