IES Predoctoral Training Program Fellows: 2023-2024

Current Fellows

Anika Alam

Anika Alam, Cohort 3

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: A. Brooks Bowden
Area of Interest: PreK-12 policy evaluation, high school completion, safety net programs

Anika applies machine learning and causal inference to better understand policies and programs that improve education outcomes, especially for children from households struggling with poverty. Her projects include building early prediction models for high school dropout prevention; an economic evaluation of a father engagement program for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh; and an examination the role of social support programs in early childhood on later education outcomes. She has completed IES apprenticeships with the School District of Philadelphia and with the Urban Institute. Prior to joining Penn, Anika completed an M.A. in Education Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University. She previously taught at DC Public Schools as a secondary math teacher for 4 years. She holds a B.S. in Policy, Analysis, and Management from Cornell University.  

Johanna (Hanna) Bernard

Johanna (Hanna) Bernard, Cohort 2

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: A. Brooks Bowden
Area of Interest: Inequality, early childhood, and skill development

Hanna is a fourth-year Ph.D. Student in Education Policy. Her research interests involve the long-term causal effects of policy interventions in early childhood that aim to reduce inequality, build skills, and promote opportunity and self-determination later in life. Her current research includes a long-term evaluation of a literacy curriculum administered in Philadelphia, an economic evaluation of a parenting program for Syrian refugees in Jordan, and an evaluation of a Montessori Pre-K program for girls in Nigeria. During her time as an IES fellow, she completed apprenticeships at MDRC and with the North Carolina Office of Early Learning. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Bowdoin College, an M.Ed. in Child Studies from Vanderbilt, and an A.M. in Statistics from Wharton.

Autumn Brown

Autumn Brown, Cohort 3

Program: Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Sharon Wolf
Area of Interest: Collaborating with practitioners to support children and families by generating actionable evidence on not only what works, but how and for whom.

 Autumn's research interests are centered around leveraging her ten years of experience as a humanitarian aid and development practitioner to generate actionable evidence around how to promote children's positive development in understudied contexts. This involves evaluating program impacts, investigating environmental influences on children’s development, assessing measure appropriateness across diverse socio-cultural contexts, and enhancing program implementation quality. In Penn’s RIPPLE Lab, Autumn supports RCTs in Ghana and Nigeria. As an IES Fellow, Autumn worked with Mathematica during the design phase of a multi-site RCT integrating parenting support into TANF programs and with an improvement network supporting high school students’ math achievement in rural California. Autumn is passionate about working in close collaboration with practitioners and making research findings accessible to a wide range of stakeholders.

Caroline (Ellie) Dewitt

Caroline (Ellie) Dewitt, Cohort 2

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: John Fantuzzo
Area of Interest: Evidenced-based problem solving to improve the lives of vulnerable young children using secondary and administrative data sources.

Caroline "Ellie" DeWitt is a PhD Candidate in Education Policy. Ellie's research interests lie in evidenced-based problem solving to improve the lives of vulnerable young children and their families using secondary and administrative data sources. She is also interested in early childhood special education and for her dissertation, she is investigating how poverty and access to professionals (i.e., health care and early care and education) moderate the relationship between ethnoracial group and early childhood special education identification. At Penn, she works with the Penn Early Childhood and Family Research Center (PECF) on a variety of partnership-based projects with both the city of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia. She received a B.A. in Psychology and Public Policy (both with honors) with a minor in Educational Studies from Gettysburg College where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Lindsay Dusard

Lindsay Dusard, Cohort 4

Program: Quantitative Methods, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Wendy Chan
Area of Interest: Quantitative, mixed, and participatory research methods, statistics education, experiences of resettled refugee children in the U.S. education system 

Lindsay is a PhD Candidate in Quantitative Methods at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. She is concurrently pursuing a master's degree in Statistics at The Wharton School. Prior to starting graduate school, Lindsay supported the U.S. Department of Education and Administration for Children and Families’ response to the Foundation of Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, developing and managing their data inventories. Previously, she ran programs for resettled refugee children and youth at the International Rescue Committee. She currently serves as a subject matter expert on youth and adult education for SwitchboardTA, the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s technical assistance network.

Michael Lachanski

Michael Lachanski, Cohort 3

Program: Demography & Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences
Faculty Advisor: Xi Song
Area of Interest: Applying reproducible data science methods and modern econometrics to study long-term policy effects on education, immigration, and crime in the context of contemporary social issues.

Michael holds an MPA with a focus on economic policy and population and an AB in economics, both from Princeton University. He is interested in the study of long-run policy changes to education, immigration, and crime with an eye to contemporary social problems. His research interests are in organizational demography and historical stratification. Currently, he is studying the single and intergenerational effects of compulsory schooling and the effects of immigration restrictions on specific causes of death. Additionally, Michael is a contributor on a project that aims to understand how individuals in declining occupations navigate the U.S.'s changing occupational structure.

Patrick Lavallee Delgado

Patrick Lavallee Delgado, Cohort 4

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Sade Bonilla
Area of Interest: Workforce education, rural education, postsecondary transition

Patrick is a PhD student in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education, where he serves as an IES Predoctoral Fellow and as a Fontaine Fellow. His research interests include community college and career & technical education, how they prepare a local workforce for good jobs today and new jobs tomorrow, and disparities in their education and labor outcomes. Prior to doctoral study, Patrick worked as a data scientist with Mathematica, supporting impact evaluations and technical assistance for education and employment policy interventions. He has also worked in undergraduate career services, which sparked his interest in education policy. Patrick holds a BA in Government & Legal Studies from Bowdoin College and a MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

David Loeb

David Loeb, Cohort 4

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Ericka Weathers
Area of Interest: K-12 finance and policy, economic and racial inequality.

David studies inequality in the K-12 education system and its connection with broader socioeconomic inequalities. He uses quantitative methods to analyze policies that promote or hinder equity, both within and outside of the K-12 system. Before beginning his PhD, he worked as an education policy advocate in the Philadelphia region focused primarily on reforming Pennsylvania’s K-12 funding system. K-12 funding remains a passion and top research interest along with anti-poverty and family support policies.

Estefanie Aguilar Padilla

Estefanie Aguilar Padilla, Cohort 4

Program: Higher Education, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Rachel Baker
Area of Interest: Educational equity and access for incarcerated and system-impacted students. 

Estefanie is a Penn Presidential Ph.D. Fellow. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college graduate. Prior to coming to Penn GSE, she served on the University of Utah Prison Education Project's leadership team while being a graduate researcher with the Research Collaborative on Higher Education in Prison. Estefanie strongly believes in educational equity and access for all. Her research specifically focuses on barriers to post-secondary education for incarcerated and system-impacted students.

Pooja R. Patel

Pooja R. Patel, Cohort 2

Program: Higher Education, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Laura Perna
Area of Interest: postsecondary public policy and finance, philanthropy, educational equity.

Pooja is a Ph.D. candidate in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and previously worked as a researcher at the National Association for College Admission and Counseling (NACAC). Pooja studies postsecondary public policy and finance issues as they relate to college access and affordability for students who come from marginalized backgrounds. Specifically, her research focuses on topics such as college promise, issues related to student debt and dependency status, and college admission processes and their implications for equity in postsecondary education. Her dissertation explores the actions and influence of national philanthropic actors in the U.S. postsecondary landscape.

Pooja is a member of the William T. Fontaine Society at Penn and a Gates Millennium Scholar. She earned a B.A. in International Studies from the University of Richmond and an M.A. in Higher Education Administration from Boston College.

Katie Pullom

Katie Pullom, Cohort 4

Program: Education Policy, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor:  A. Brooks Bowden
Area of Interest: Equity in education, preK –12 policy evaluation, social policy, safety net programs. 

Katie is a PhD student in Education Policy. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry from MIT and an M.Ed. in Secondary Education and Teaching from Pace University. Previously, Katie was the policy director for the Alabama House Democratic Caucus. She is also a former public school educator who taught high school chemistry and physics. She is interested in the connections between poverty and education, especially in how to best provide comprehensive supports to students through school to support learning and engagement in the classroom. Her research interests include evaluating supplemental programs that support student success and emphasize the social and emotional well-being of K-12 students. She also studies ways to leverage community partnerships to mitigate the effects of poverty and provide supplemental resources to schools and ways to collaborate across agencies to strengthen the safety net for students to provide the support, resources, and school climate necessary for students to thrive throughout their educational trajectory.

Noelle Suntheimer

Noelle Suntheimer, Cohort 2

Program: Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Sharon Wolf
Area of Interest: Global child development, home and school-based protective factors, longitudinal studies, equity in educational outcomes.

Noelle is an Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development PhD Candidate at Penn GSE. Noelle is an interdisciplinary research professional, in which her work lies at the intersection of education, developmental psychology, and social policy. She applies a developmental-ecological framework along with quantitative methodologies to study the developmental and educational consequences of childhood adversity, modifiable factors in the home context to promote resilience, and protective factors in educational settings and school-based interventions. Outside of academic settings, Noelle held a year-long doctoral apprenticeship with the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services and worked for six years as a Research Associate at the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work serving as a program evaluator for the AdoptUSKids project.

Noelle holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MS.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Development from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently an IES Predoctoral Fellow and AERA-NSF dissertation scholar.

Chelsea Zhang

Chelsea Zhang, Cohort 4

Program: Higher Education, Graduate School of Education
Faculty Advisor: Manuel Gonzalez
Area of Interest: Quantitative higher education research, causal inference, mixed methods, economic aspects of college access.

Chelsea holds a BA in human development and family studies from Kent State University and an MS in higher education administration from the University of Michigan. Her primary research interests are centered on quantitative aspects of higher education research, including quasi-experimental and mixed methods research for estimating causal impacts and explaining underlying mechanisms through which causal impacts occur. Chelsea is particularly interested in the economic aspects of college access, such as analyzing the impact of college tuition on student enrollment and student loan amounts and in investigating the relationship between research funding and knowledge production, power dynamics, and equity in higher education institutions. 

Former Fellows Still in Doctoral Studies

Kristen Beamer Shure

Kristen Beamer Shure

Ph.D. Candidate in Economics, School of Arts and Sciences
IES Predoctoral Fellow: 2021 - 2023
Faculty Advisor: Petra Todd, Professor of Economics

Kristen’s research interests are at the intersection of labor economics, local public finance, and K-12 schools. During her IES Pre-doctoral fellowship, she had a research apprenticeship with AIR, working on an evaluation of the Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa, OK (BEST) and an apprenticeship with the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Research and Accountability. 

Elena van Stee

Elena van Stee

Ph.D. Candidate, Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences
IES Predoctoral Fellow: 2021 - 2023
Faculty Advisors: Professors Wendy Roth and Hyunjoon Park, Sociology 

Elena studies culture and inequality, focusing on social class, families, higher education, and the transition to adulthood. Her research examines how young adult college graduates (aged 27 – 33) and their parents understand and negotiate parental support at this life stage. Her prior research examined college students’ relationships with their parents after COVID-19 campus closures. Elena currently serves as the Blog Editor for Contexts Magazine, the public-facing magazine of the American Sociological Association.

Zach Weingarten

Zach Weingarten

Ph.D. Candidate, Economics, School of Arts and Sciences
IES Predoctoral Training Fellow: 2021 – 2023
Faculty Advisor: Professor Petra Todd

Zach’s research interests are broadly focused on issues at the intersection of education, labor and industrial organization. One specific area of interest has been the education market design and its impact on students and teachers. While a fellow, he had a year-long apprenticeship with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, where he was involved in research design, background research, and data analysis on priority issues for the State. He subsequently extended this work for a journal article on student responses to grading leniency. Zach then had a research apprenticeship with the U.S. Department of Education where he conducted econometric analysis in service of public policy needs of the department.

Former Fellows Who Have Earned Their Ph.D. and Certificate of Advanced Studies in Education Sciences

Alexander Adames

Alexander Adames

Ph.D, Sociology (2023) & M.S., Statistics and Data Science, Wharton (2023)
Current Position: Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Sociology

Alexander Adames is a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. He received his PhD in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Pre-doctoral fellow and received a master's in statistics from The Wharton School. He is a sociologist and social demographer who primarily examines the drivers and consequences of economic stratification within the United States. His work sits at the intersection of social stratification, the sociology of education, the sociology of race and ethnicity, and social psychology. Alexander examines disparities in wealth and income between and within racial and educational groups. For example, Alexander's research on racial disparities in wealth has examined variation in the Black-White wealth gap by skin tone, finding that the gap is much larger among darker-skin Black Americans. His current research on education considers how the wealth attainment of college-educated individuals is shaped by the types of colleges that they attend (i.e., horizontal stratification). 

Claire Allen-Platt

Claire Allen-Platt

Ph.D., Quantitative Methods, Graduate School of Education (2023) & M.S., Statistics and Data Science, the Wharton School (2023)
Current Position: Research Scientist, National Center for Education Evaluation, Institute of Education Sciences

Claire is a Research Scientist at the National Center for Education Evaluation. At NCEE she serves as the project officer on rigorous large-scale evaluations of federal programs, including studies of special education, school-based mental health services, violence reduction in schools, and education finance. During graduate school, she researched fairness in measurement as it relates to evaluating what works well for kids, as well as the intersection of advanced quantitative methods and practical problems of measurement. Her dissertation documented the psychometric properties of all state standardized tests in the United States and the implications of state test churn on longitudinal studies of learning. Prior to doctoral studies, Claire directed research projects in partnership with large school districts in the southern and eastern United States as a Project Director at the education nonprofit TNTP, where she led studies of programs to improve teaching quality, teacher retention, and instructional materials.

Stacey Bevan

Stacey Bevan

PhD in Nursing (2024), AM in Statistics and Data Science (2022), Bachelors of Science in Nursing (2019) University of Pennsylvania
Current position: Assistant Professor, University of Rhode Island College of Nursing (beginning fall 2024) 

Stacey is an Assistant Professor at the University of Rhode Island College of Nursing. Her research lies at the intersection of health equity, disability, and immigration, where she studies structural health disparities sensitive to policy improvements. Her dissertation, titled Equity in clinical pathways: Public health approaches to address mental health disparities in immigrant children, showed how adverse exposures related to immigration are associated with child health concerns and access to the clinical pathway for mental health services. Stacey is bilingual public health nurse and has research collaborations across Latin America and China. She holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations and Biology from Tufts University, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Penn, and an MA in Statistics and Data Science from Wharton Business School. Before earning graduate studies, she conducted research to improve pediatric mental health care access in Spanish-speaking communities in Boston. Her PhD was supported by the Hillman Scholars of Nursing Innovation, Institute of Education Sciences, and National Institutes of Mental Health.

Ellen Bryer

Ellen Bryer

Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences
IES Predoctoral Fellow:
2021 – 2023
Faculty Advisor: Professor Emily Hannum
Future position: Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Annenberg Institute at Brown 

Ellen’s research interests are in higher education with a special interest in graduate education and student borrowing, particularly in how they relate to stratification of occupational outcomes and wealth inequity. During her fellowship, she held a research apprenticeship with Research for Action, where she worked on an impact evaluation of the Tennessee College Promise Completion Coaching program. She also had a year-long practice-focused apprenticeship with SHEEO focusing on college closures—a project that entailed statistical analysis of large, longitudinal databases and synthesizing findings for several publications.

Meghan Comstock

Meghan Comstock

Ph.D., Education Policy, University of Pennsylvania (2023)
Current Position:  Assistant Professor, Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership, University of Maryland

Meghan is an Assistant Professor in Education Policy at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her scholarship is driven by a desire to understand how K-12 instructional policies and the institutional and organizational conditions in schools shape equitable educational opportunities for racially/ethnically minoritized students. Her work examines the political dimensions of equity-focused policy, implementation of initiatives in teaching and learning with emphasis on culturally responsive teaching, and the role of leadership in instructional improvement efforts. Her work has appeared in AERA Open, Journal of School Leadership, Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Leadership and Policy in Schools, and Teachers College Record. Meghan earned her Ph.D. in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2023. She also holds a B.S. in biology from the University of Virginia. Her scholarship and teaching are informed by her experience as an elementary mathematics and science teacher in Jonestown, Mississippi. 

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Ph.D., Education Policy, University of Pennsylvania (2023)
Current Position: Research Associate, Family Well-being and Children’s Development, MDRC

Rebecca conducts research on programs and policies that seek to foster positive child development, expand access to high-quality education, and mitigate the hardships of poverty for children and families. She specializes in cost methodology, program evaluation, and implementation research. Davis currently works on evaluations of the Get Ready Guilford Initiative and the Personalized Learning Initiative, which explore ways of offering affordable personalized learning to students via large-scale tutoring programs. In addition, she serves as a research associate at the Center for Benefit-Cost Studies in Education, an organization that drives innovation in cost methodology for education applications. A former preschool and K-12 teacher, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in studio art and a master’s degree in education from the University of New Hampshire. She completed her Ph.D. in education policy from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was an Institute for Education Sciences Predoctoral Fellow in Interdisciplinary Methods for Field-based Research in Education.

Maya Kaul

Maya Kaul

Ph.D., Education Policy, University of Pennsylvania (2024)
Current Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, Collaboratory for Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Pennsylvania

Maya is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Collaboratory for Teaching and Teacher Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Committed to making teacher education and K-12 teaching more racially equitable and socially just fields, her scholarship seeks to understand the potential mechanisms for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to uplift the status of the K-12 teaching profession. To that end, she conducts mixed-methods research examining the institutional and organizational contexts of K-12 teaching, with special attention to the role of reforms in shaping teachers’ socialization into their professional roles. Maya received her PhD in Education Policy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, where she was a National Academy of Education (NAEd)/Spencer Dissertation Fellow and an Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Predoctoral Fellow. Maya started her career as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Helsinki, studying Finnish teacher education and development. Prior to graduate school, Maya worked as a research and policy assistant at the Learning Policy Institute.

Monica Mielke

Monica Mielke

Ph.D., Criminology, School of Arts and Sciences (2023) Advisor: Professor John MacDonald
Current Position: Research Scientist, National Center for Education Evaluation Institute of Education Sciences 

Monica's research focuses on education and juvenile justice reforms, school discipline, and student behavioral supports. She has studied supports for juveniles re-entering the community after residential placement, and the effects of expanding free school meals on student behavior and discipline. Her dissertation is titled: Prevention, diversion, and reentry: Effects of school and juvenile justice policy reforms. Prior to graduate school, Monica conducted evaluations of education and juvenile justice-related programs at the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Education Lab, at Research for Action in Philadelphia, and at Policy Studies Associates in Washington, DC. She received her BA in Sociology and Germanic studies from the University of Chicago.

Taylor Odle

Taylor Odle

Ph.D., Higher Education, Graduate School of Education (2022) & A.M., Statistics, the Wharton School (2020), University of Pennsylvania
Current Position:  Assistant Professor, Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin- Madison 

Taylor is Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also a faculty affiliate in Data Science, the Institute for Research on Poverty, the Institute for Diversity Science, and the Interdisciplinary Training Program in Education Sciences. His work leverages quantitative methods and data science techniques to study issues concerning the economics of education and education policy with a specific focus on college access and success, including college admissions practices, financial aid, and college advising and coaching. Before earning his PhD, Taylor led fiscal policy and research activities for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and worked with MDRC, the National Student Clearinghouse, the College Board, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.