Joshua Cowen is an associate professor of education policy and the founder and co-director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC), a new research lab dedicated to providing research with consequence to inform education policy in Michigan and beyond. His current research focuses on teacher quality, student and teacher mobility, program evaluation and education policy. His work has been published in multiple scholarly journals and funded by a diverse array of philanthropies. He is currently co-editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and a member of the Editorial Board at Education Finance and Policy. Follow him @joshcowenMSU.
Dr. Katharine O. Strunk - Faculty Co-director
Katharine O. Strunk is a professor of education policy and the Clifford E. Erickson Distinguished Chair in Education. She is also co-director of the Michigan State University Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) and an associate editor of the journal Education Finance and Policy. Strunk’s research is focused on three areas under the broad umbrella of K-12 education governance: teachers’ unions and the collective bargaining agreements they negotiate with school districts, teacher evaluation and compensation, and accountability policies. Rooted in the fields of economics and public policy, Strunk’s work centers on structures that are central to district operations and policy and the ways these structures affect policymakers’ decisions and outcomes. Her recent work includes studying teacher labor market responses to policy reforms in Michigan, teacher and school accountability and support policies in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and portfolio management reforms in LA, Denver and New Orleans. Follow her @KatharineStrunk.
Dr. Chris Torres
Chris Torres is an assistant professor of K-12 educational administration in the College of Education at Michigan State University. His scholarship focuses on how school choice reforms, particularly charter schools, affect practitioners and educational practice. Currently, his work includes studies on charter school teacher and leader turnover and mobility, sources of learning and support for charter leaders, hiring processes in charter management organizations (CMOs), disciplinary methods in “no- excuses” schools, and portfolio management model (PMM) governance reforms in New Orleans, Denver and Los Angeles.
Emily Mohr, MPP, is managing director of EPIC. Emily has spent her entire career working in the education sector. Most recently, Emily served eight years at the Los Angeles Unified School District, working on strategic initiatives focused on human capital and district research partnerships. In the former role, Emily played a key part in the fundraising for, development and implementation of the district’s new multi-measure teacher and school leader evaluation systems and school performance improvement systems. Emily also led a successful effort to create a human capital data warehouse and launch online reports for school and district leadership to better inform their decision making. She also managed the district’s employee learning management system, which she scaled district-wide. In her role managing district research partnerships, Emily worked extensively to build external relationships that added research and analytic capacity to the district, and helped create systems aimed at using results to better inform policy and practice. Her appreciation for the importance of research to inform district and state policy and practice stems from her participation in the Harvard Strategic Data Project fellowship, housed at the Center for Education Policy Research. Before her time in LAUSD, Emily worked in district strategy at Teach for America and served as a program assistant at the California Endowment. Emily received her MPP from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies and her BA in Public Policy Studies from Vanderbilt University. She is an Ohio native.
Dr. Kaitlin Anderson
Dr. Kaitlin Anderson is a post-doctoral research associate whose research interests include school choice, teacher labor markets, and student discipline, all with a focus on improving access to high quality educational opportunities for all students regardless of socioeconomic background. Dr. Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, and economics from the University of Virginia. She then worked as a senior financial analyst at Bank of America before joining Teach for America to teach high school mathematics in rural Arkansas. She earned her PhD in education policy from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, where her research focused on student discipline in the state. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals, and she has contributed to policy briefs and reports providing timely, relevant research to Arkansas policymakers. Dr. Anderson has presented her findings to the Arkansas State Board of Education and other state educational organizations, making an impact on education policy in Arkansas.
Dr. Ijun Lai
Dr. Ijun Lai is a post-doctoral research associate whose research interests include student discipline, race and inequality, urban education, and urban youth development. She has a PhD in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University, where she worked on evaluating programs and policies with Chicago Public Schools. Dr. Lai earned her bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She taught middle school social studies in the Bronx and worked as a research analyst on the Moving-to-Opportunity final evaluation.
Dr. Jared Robinson
Jared Robinson is the assistant director of research and data analytics. Before joining EPIC, he served as an assistant director in the Office of Educator Talent at the Michigan Department of Education. In that role, he worked on policy connected to educator evaluations and systemic inequity in the educator workforce. In addition, he actively worked to increase the use of state administrative data to inform policy advocacy and decision-making. Jared has a PhD in Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation from Brigham Young University, where he researched the adoption of open educational resources. He also has a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado, Denver. He worked for six years in Centennial, Colo., teaching high school English.
Michelle McLain joined EPIC in June 2018 and serves as the Fiscal Officer. She previously worked in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources as a financial administrator of international grants. Michelle graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and earned her master’s degree from Ellis University in Business Administration with an accounting specialization.
Amy Auletto is a doctoral student studying Education Policy. She is interested in teacher labor markets and the role that teacher preparation and induction play in supporting and retaining beginning teachers. Her work at EPIC focuses on approaches for encouraging candidates to enter the teaching profession. Prior to beginning her studies at Michigan State University, she taught middle school math in a Detroit charter school. Amy earned her bachelor's degree in psychology, master’s of social work, and her master’s in educational studies from the University of Michigan.
Steve Drake is a student in the Education Policy doctoral program. His research has focused on questions around teacher evaluation, labor response to policy reforms, and the teacher pipeline. Steve is interested in determining what experiences cause high school students to consider or reject teaching careers, and conditions that attract new teachers into the profession. Steve has a bachelor’s degree in public policy, a master of business administration from the University of Chicago, and master’s degrees from Iowa State University in architecture and education. He has worked as a management consultant in analytical marketing strategy and co-founded two start-up enterprise software companies. Steve has taught middle and high school math in Des Moines, Iowa, and Lansing, Michigan.
Alex Johann is a doctoral student in Economics. He is interested in equity in K-12 education, both through education reform evaluation and school finance policy. Alex earned a bachelor’s degree with a major in mathematical economics and a minor in mathematics from Pomona College in his home state of California. Before coming to MSU, he served as a research assistant at Mathematica Policy Research for three years, focusing on work in education and development. Alex’s work at EPIC focuses on school closure policies and the effects of regulation on school choice markets and student outcomes.
Tara Kilbride is a doctoral student in Measurement and Quantitative Methods. Tara earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in psychology and mathematical sciences from Binghamton University in her home state of New York. Since beginning her graduate studies, she has served as a teaching assistant for doctoral-level courses in quantitative methods in education research and hierarchical models and has worked as the director of a math learning center. Her current research focuses on applications of item-response theory to areas outside of student testing. Her work with EPIC is focused on the impact of reform legislation on teachers’ collective bargaining agreements.
Jesse Nagel entered the Education Policy doctoral program in fall 2016 after earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Michigan State University. Building on his economics background, his research interests center on teacher labor markets and how incentives influence teacher supply and teacher quality. Other areas of interest include educational equity, postsecondary aid, and the role of information in schooling decisions. Jesse’s work with EPIC involves investigating how the teacher labor market is responding to recent policy reforms in Michigan.
Danielle Sanderson is a doctoral student in the Education Policy program. Her research interests focus on the areas of student and teacher mobility. She currently works as a quantitative analyst on a transportation project at EPIC to answer questions concerning the distance that students travel to school in Detroit. Before entering the Ph.D. program at MSU, she was a high school mathematics teacher in a charter school in New Orleans. Danielle graduated from Stetson University in DeLand, Florida, with a bachelor of science degree in economics and a bachelor of arts degree in history.
Jesse Wood is a doctoral student in the Economics department. His research interests include teacher quality assessment, accountability policies, and equity within education. His current research with EPIC involves identifying school quality and measuring aspects that impact school choice. He received his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University in mathematics and his master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in economics.
Sandy Frost Waldron
Sandy Frost Waldron is a doctoral student in the Education Policy program. Her research interests are in governance and federalism. Her work with EPIC focuses on qualitative analysis to understand how the partnership agreements in Michigan have been implemented as a turnaround effort. Previously, Sandy has worked as a teacher and a school admissions professional. She earned her bachelor’s of science in education in elementary education and psychology from the University of Miami, FL and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Florida.