Current Students


MPES COHORT 1

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   elizabeth debraggio-horz      Elizabeth Debraggio

Human Development and Social Policy

BA, Economics, Hamilton College, 2007
MPA, Graduate School of Public Service, New York University, 2013

Research Interests:

I am interested in how factors outside of the classroom – including education and policy interventions, as well as the roles of health, housing, and neighborhoods – shape student development, learning, achievement, and well-being. Further, I am interested in how differences in resources (broadly defined) inside and outside of schools may ameliorate or exacerbate disparities in outcomes across students, and ways in which policy can be structured to effectively address these differences.

Fun Facts:

In my spare time, I enjoy running, reading fiction, spending time outdoors, exploring Chicago, and trying to get plants to grow in my apartment.


richard morel-horz      Richard Paquin Morel

Human Development and Social Policy

BA, Philosophy, Webster University, 2004
MA, Philosophy, New School for Social Research, 2007
MS, Childhood Education, Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Research Interests:

I am interested in school-level processes of policy implementation and linkages between macro structures and micro processes. I put a particular emphasis on the role of teachers and how teachers work collectively to engender change. Exploring this topic, I plan to look at teacher agency, the relationship between agency and institutional/organizational conditions, how collective identity supports collective action among teachers, and the development and spread of teacher practices.

Fun Facts:

Before coming to Northwestern, I taught elementary school in Brooklyn, New York for six years as a New York City Teaching Fellow. When I am not reading, studying, or analyzing data for grad school, I spend my time reading novels, listening to music and non-fiction audiobooks, and running. My favorite novels of all time are probably Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and Distant Star by Roberto Bolaño. My favorite album is The Velvet Underground and Nico.


carolyn pichert swen-horz      Carolyn Pichert Swen

Human Development and Social Policy

AB, Politics, Princeton University, 2005
MA, International Relations, University of Chicago, 2009
MA, Public Policy, University of Chicago, 2009

Research Interests:

I am interested in how culture and context influence peoples’ narrative identity. I am also interested in how certain constructs present in narrative identities may predict other aspects of peoples’ lives. I am currently researching principals’ professional identity and how it changes during their first years as new principals.

Fun Facts:

I have completed the improv training program at the iO theater and used to perform improv there– I still enjoy going to see a lot of improv. My creative outlet these days often takes shape in my attempts to recreate fancy restaurant meals for less in my home kitchen.


meghan saloman-horz       Meghan Saloman

Cognitive Psychology

BA, English, University of Notre Dame, 2013
BA, Psychology, University of Notre Dame. 2013

Research Interests:

Meghan’s research at Northwestern focuses on how people use language as a tool to learn from and understand their world. She is currently examining the population’s general and detrimental susceptibility to misinformation. Her research examines effective preventions and interventions that decrease misinformation use. She hopes to be able to bring these solutions to the classroom setting.

Her other interests lie within psycholinguistics and reading comprehension and include topics such as verb aspect, definite and indefinite article use, effects of interruptions in conversation, and how the intricacies of language can aid problem solving.

Fun Facts:

Meghan is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.


jake schauer-horz       Jacob Schauer

Statistics

BS, Mathematics, Western Michigan University, 2007                                  BA, English, Western Michigan University, 2007

Research Interests:

Quantitative methods and experimental design for the social sciences, random graphs and inference for network data, and spatial and temporal models.

Fun Facts:

After working as a teacher, I spent four years as an analyst at a government contractor. I enjoy reading fiction, writing short stories, playing music, and hiking.


ryan svoboda-horz       Ryan Svoboda

Human Development and Social Policy

BS, Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2013

Research Interests:

I am interested in studying how academic motivation affects students’ educational outcomes through school interventions. In addition, I am interested in understanding the physiological processes associated with emotion and motivation through lab-based studies.

Fun Facts:

I enjoy playing water polo, listening to music, and cheering on the Packers and Badgers.


MPES COHORT 2

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Anderson_Erin_2      Erin Anderson

Psychology

B.A. Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 2011
B.A. English, University of Texas at Austin, 2011

Research Interests:

I research what elements help provide analogical support for learning, and am particularly interested in how analogy can assist in children’s development of core physical and biological concepts. I want to study how school learning gardens might offer structural alignment for more abstract math and science lessons via concrete exemplars.

Fun Facts:

I enjoy getting to explore beautiful Chicago, playing the fiddle with friends, battling it out on half-price Monday at the thrift store, and talking to my cat like he is a person.


Kessler_Courtenay_2      Courtenay Kessler

Human Development and Social Policy

AB, Women’s Studies, Harvard College, 2003
SM, Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2008

Research Interests:

Courtenay’s research interests focus on multi-generational interventions to improve health and educational outcomes, with a specific focus on interventions in early childhood. Additionally, she is interested in how to best support early childhood educators and other providers. Courtenay is particularly interested in working on these issues using mixed methods and through community-academic partnerships.

Fun Facts:

Courtenay grew up on Long Island, NY. After finishing her SM, she moved to Milwaukee, WI, where she completed the Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship, working with the City of Milwaukee Health Department and Sojourner Family Peace Center (a domestic violence non-profit agency). She then worked as a program evaluator, partnering with many community agencies to evaluate public health programs, including a number of projects focused on early childhood, infant mortality, and maternal and child health. Courtenay loves music, Zumba, fun runs, and reading (fiction, short stories, and letters).


Busby_Andrea_2 Andrea Kinghorn Busby

Human Development and Social Policy

B.S., Family Life, Brigham Young University, 2012

Research Interests:

I am interested in the intersection of home and school environments and its impact on children’s development, especially among families from low-income, immigrant, or ethnic-minority backgrounds.

Fun Facts:

I worked for two years as a middle school math teacher and for two years as a Spanish-speaking representative with immigrant families prior to returning to graduate school. I enjoy traveling, going to live performances by my brother who is a jazz and soul musician, and trying new taquerias with my husband.


Stein_Abby_1      Abigail Stein

Learning Sciences

BA, Economics and Political Science, University of Rochester, 2010

Research Interests:

My research interests sit at the intersection of learning and social policy. I am particularly interested in STEM education and the policies that aim to change and improve it. I put a particular emphasis on the role of teachers in the implementation process, studying how teachers develop, spread, and sustain new practices. Exploring this topic, I plan to look at the effects of internally versus externally developed reforms, organizational capacities and conditions, teachers’ social networks and capital, and teachers’ personal sense of ownership over new practices.

Fun Facts:

In my spare time, I love to play soccer, ski, and play the piano (I’ve been playing since I was 5 years old). Originally from Pittsburgh, I also spend a lot of time rooting for my beloved Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins and I like to go to live games whenever I get the chance.


Stein_Aliza3      Aliza Stein

Learning Sciences

BA, Chemistry, Barnard College, 2012

Research Interests:

I am interested in how students develop identities in the science classroom and how students learn to see science as a knowledge-building activity that they play an active part in. As such, I am interested in building science curricula and working with teachers to create classroom environments that not only more effectively teach complex concepts, such as chemical bonding, but also facilitate students’ development of epistemic agency.

Fun Facts:

After graduating from Barnard, I spent two years in Washington, D.C. working for an organization that supported the White House and other federal agencies on science policy. In my spare time I love hosting dinner parties, going to the theater, and singing along with the radio.


Xiong_Heyu_2      Heyu Xiong

Economics

B.A., Economics and Mathematics, Cornell University, 2012

Research Interests:

Economic history, economics of education, and labor economics

Fun Facts:

My first exposure to the American public education system was at PS72, an elementary school in Spanish Harlem where my parents and I had settled after immigrating to United States. PS72 was a poorly funded and underperforming school that wealthy parents avoided. It would later strike me as vaguely ironic that I learned what it meant to be an American from very groups marginalized and underrepresented in American society. Yet I was one of the lucky ones. In 2004 I gained admission to Stuyvesant High School downtown and embarked on a journey that took me from Harlem to Tribeca and eventually here to economics program at Northwestern. My own modest success and experience endowed me both an appreciation for the possibilities of American education and at the same time a healthy dose of skepticism for its promises. This enduring tension drives me to engage critically with questions of inequality and education and I hope to continue doing so with the support of the MPES fellowship.


MPES COHORT 3

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dsc_3743 Claudia Castillo 

Human Development and Social Policy

EMPA, International Economic Policy and Management, Columbia University, 2011
BA, Journalism and Spanish Literature, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, 2006

Research Interests: 

I am a first generation high school and college graduate and I want to research the transition from high school to college among Latino and other underrepresented student of color groups. In particular, how experiences in community programs and/or summer bridge programs transmit social capital and expand perceptions of self and belonging within institutional settings.

Fun Facts: 

I am a child of the diaspora. I was born and raised in Colombia and came to the United States at age 11. I’m Colombiana and a Jersey girl. I hail from West New York, NJ, a densely populated immigrant enclave where Latin American cuisine is bountiful.


 dsc_3652 Emily Handsman 

Sociology

BA, English and Creative Writing, Barnard College, 2012

Research Interests:

My research interests lie at the intersection of education and culture: I hope to pursue projects that explore how different elements of culture affect the kind of education students receive. Right now, I am specifically interested in the ways in which character education initiatives have changed over time. I’m also interested in how different organizations that provide support to schools and educators build culture and how this culture affects the populations the organizations attempt to serve.

Fun Facts:

Before starting graduate school I taught elementary school in Detroit and then worked on developing curriculum for an educational computer program. In my spare time I enjoy reading fiction and poetry, tutoring, exploring new neighborhoods in Chicago, and cooking and eating new foods.


dsc_3707 Olivia Healy 

Human Development and Social Policy

BS, Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University, 2012

Research Interests: 

I am interested in the effects of policies supports for low-income parents with young children, those under age five and not yet in formal school, on parent and child outcomes. Through my research, I hope to explore how policies that target parental work might be designed to also facilitate young children’s development. Similarly, I am interested in the extent to which early childhood education programs affect parents’ mental health and economic stability.

Fun Facts: 

After living for three years in Washington D.C., I now enjoy adventuring in and around Chicago. When not doing research, you can find me reading Yelp reviews on the best coffee shops and restaurants in Chicago to plan my next visits. I also enjoy cooking and baking at home, as well as learning to make hand-thrown pottery at Northwestern’s art studio.


dsc_3674 Emily Hittner

Human Development and Social Policy

BA, Biochemistry, Northwestern University, 2013

Research Interests: 

I am broadly interested in the impact that prolonged exposure to stress has on human development. I explore questions of how parent emotion regulation, coping, and parenting impact adolescent biological stress regulation, with implications for academic attainment. My research aims to understand how social experience influences human physiology and how identifying key physiological mechanisms can be used for targeted and dynamic interventions that facilitate coping strategies for stressors in schools.

Fun Facts:

I love cycling and volunteer on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Bike & Bike. With this organization, I have biked across the country twice. Looking forward to biking in my 50th state—Alaska.


dsc_3678 Kit Martin

Learning Sciences

BA, History with Concentrations in Middle Eastern and Africana Studies, Bard College, 2008
MA, Development Practice, University of Minnesota, 2012

Research Interests: 

I grew up in Sudan, a country in a civil war. From there I moved around a lot. These travels motivated me to notice the gross disparities. This motivation got me started working with disadvantage youth in Nashville back in the ‘90s and running a mentoring program in Upstate New York in the 2000s. But this motivation has also taken me into simulation through agent based models, especially models dealing social systems that demonstrate the intersubjective development of inequality. As my lens is often times structural, that is people’s rules aggregate into systems, I have at times tried to effect structural change. This led me to get a M.A. in international development and work overseas implementing field projects in loan provision, agricultural systems transformation and recycling efforts. To know if these projects were having an effect, I got into monitoring and evaluation of my projects and eventually, analysis of projects others had implemented. I then moved into teaching science through ant based models in Schools in Nashville Tennessee with Vanderbilt: teaching biology, population dynamics and computer programming. One missing component between these two interests—evaluation and agent based modeling—was what the real world agents were doing. As such, I’ve become interested in multi-modal sensors. I see them as a bridge between agent based methods and my other evaluations frameworks.

Fun Facts: 

I am a carpenter and maker. I make video games, and furniture. Also I like photography, mostly of insects. Come autumn, I’d love if you could stop by my house. It’s a gallery full of the things I’ve made. I also speak Arabic, and love History.


dsc_3724 Sarah Peko-Spicer

Statistics

BS, Economics and Statistics, Carnegie Mellon University, 2013
Additional major in French and Francophone Studies

Research Interests: 

Casual inference in observational studies; missing data problems; program evaluation; funding mechanisms and resource allocation.

Fun Facts:

After graduating from CMU, I spent two years working in teacher evaluation for Pittsburgh Public Schools. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, hiking, swimming and indulging my unabashed love for reality television.

 


MPES COHORT 4


  Allena Berry

Learning Sciences

MA, Teaching of History and the Social Sciences, Stanford University, 2013
BS, History & Human and Organizational Development , Vanderbilt University , 2012

Research Interests: Historical Thinking about Race and Power Dynamics

Fun Facts: I have played the violin and viola since I was 5 and toured (with my orchestra) in China when I was in high school.


 Naomi Blaushild

Human Development and Social Policy

MS, Education, Johns Hopkins University, 2012
BA, Political Science, Kenyon College, 2010

Research Interests: 

I am interested in using mixed methods to study teacher recruitment, development, and retention, particularly in schools and districts that face chronic teacher turnover. I am currently studying how different school systems recruit and develop teachers and principals. I am also interested in using social network analysis to understand the relationship between teachers’ social networks, job satisfaction, and retention.

Fun Facts: 

Before coming to Northwestern, I taught 4-6th grade English Language Arts in Baltimore City Public Schools for six years, where I earned the nickname “DJ Blaushild” for some song-infused lessons and directions. In my spare time, I enjoy running on the Lakefront trail and volunteering at Family Matters in Rogers Park.


  Katie Fitzgerald

Statistics

BS, Mathematics, Olivet Nazarene University, 2015

 

Research Interests: 

Meta-analysis, causal inference, missing data, and complex sampling design. After college, I worked in Washington D.C. in the humanitarian relief and global development sector, where I observed how one of the world’s largest NGOs currently employs data-driven decision-making and what areas are ripe for further research. I was exposed to the analytical challenges in observational studies, missing data, and in measuring the impact of interventions or non-interventions in the context of poverty alleviation efforts. I discovered the potential for statistical methodologies to remediate some of these obstacles, and the research possibilities encountered in this context are what motivated me to pursue a PhD in Statistics.

Fun Facts: 

I grew up in Dallas, TX and like any good southerner, I have a deep love of food- especially Mexican food. I love being outdoors (Chicago winters are my nemesis), playing violin, reading, and getting too emotionally invested in my favorite sports teams.

  Ayah Kamel

Human Development and Social Policy

MS, Adolescent Special Education, Hunter College, 2014
BA, Political Science and Global Studies, Concordia College-Moorhead, 2011

 

Research Interests: 

My research interests lie at the intersection of adolescent development and education policy. I am interested in how national, district and school-level policies change the experience of school for students and how this change impacts students’ development on academic and non-academic measures.

Fun Facts: 

I share a love for racket sports with many members of my family. I play in several Chicago-area tennis and pickleball leagues and am engaged in a never-ending ping pong battle with my brothers Ashraf and Kareem.

 Trey Smith

Learning Sciences

MSEd, Secondary Science Education, University of Pennsylvania, 2009
BA, Communication Studies, Louisiana State University, 2006
​BA, Political Science, ​Louisiana State University, 2006

 

Research Interests: 

I am interested in K-12 science learning​ that includes social, cultural, historical, political, and community contexts and questions. Part of my work involves supporting and learning with teachers as they design learning experiences for their students.​ Another strand of my work involves looking at the learning that takes place in makerspaces.

Fun Facts: 

​Throughout my time as an undergraduate, I played mellophone as a member of The Golden Band from Tigerland. Before moving to Evanston, I taught middle and high school science in Philadelphia public schools for 7 years and later served as the first and only science teacher in residence at the Library of Congress.​

 


 Cora Wigger

Human Development and Social Policy

MPP, Quantitative Methods in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University, 2016
BA, International Relations/Economics from the College of Wooster, 2011

 

Research Interests: 

My research interests revolve around Education and housing policy. A lot of my work focuses on the downstream impacts of systemic disruptions, such as how changes to school district policies affect neighborhood development, or how housing market shocks filter down through schools to affect students. I’m also interested in how research relevant to public policy gets filtered and disseminated to different audiences and how people understand statistics and research when consuming news and media.

Fun Facts: 

I spend a lot of my spare time playing ultimate frisbee, doing and teaching yoga, and baking.