Headshot of Jennifer Novak Leonard

Jennifer Novak-Leonard, PhD, is Research Associate Professor and Research Director of the Arts Impact Initiative in the College of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her work focuses on the social roles of arts, artists, and creativity; how they impact people and communities; and implications for policy and practice. She specializes in the development and use of novel measurement systems and in examining racial, ethnic, and socio-economic inequities in outcomes and opportunities for arts, artists, and movements toward cultural democracy to inform public and social policy.

Novak-Leonard is often called upon by policymakers and cultural practitioners to guide their use of research and data for strategic decision-making. She has led numerous applied research efforts, including those funded by the National Endowment for the Arts; The James Irvine Foundation; the American Academy of Arts & Sciences; and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, among others. Her scholarly publications span research on the public perceptions of artists; public funding; arts as a means of immigrant integration; and measuring the intrinsic impacts of arts experiences. From 2016 – 2020, Novak-Leonard was the Principal Investigator of one of the four inaugural National Endowment for the Arts’ Research Labs and previously she led the redesign of the National Endowment for the Arts’ 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. She serves as the Board Vice President and Research Director for the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) and on the editorial advisory boards of Cultural Trends, Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, and The Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society.

Prior to joining the University of Illinois, Novak-Leonard served as a director of graduate study and on the faculty at Northwestern University. She has served as the Associate Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, and has held appointments at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) and the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago. Previously, Novak-Leonard was a Senior Consultant at WolfBrown. She holds degrees from the RAND Graduate School, the University of Chicago, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.