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2020 Annual Poverty Research and Policy Forum: Speaker Bios

One Destination, Many Roads: Envisioning Universal Measures of Economic Mobility

Speaker Bios

Welcome and Overview

Katherine Magnuson, Director, Institute for Research on Poverty; Professor, School of Social Work, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Katherine Magnuson is a Vilas Achievement Professor of Social Work and the Director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She was elected into the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare in 2018. Her research focuses on the well-being and development of economically disadvantaged children and their families. She examines how disparities in socioeconomic status affect children’s development and how these effects may be altered by policies and programs, especially early childhood education programs.

Brenda Destro, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Brenda Destro is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation and is currently fulfilling the responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. With decades of experience in the delivery and study of social service programs, Destro began her career as a medical social worker eventually using those skills in various settings including hospitals, courts, labor unions, corporations, and the federal government. At the federal level, she served as a policy advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS. Later, she was a public health advisor in both the U.S. House and Senate. She received an MSW from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Ph.D. in Social Work from the Catholic University of America.

Session One – September 9, 2020


Robert M. Goerge, Senior Research Fellow, Chapin Hall, University of Chicago
Dr. Robert Goerge is a Chapin Hall Senior Research Fellow with more than 35 years’ experience in research and evaluation focused on improving the available evidence, data and information on children and families. Goerge leads Chapin Hall’s Integrated Database on Child and Family Programs in Illinois, which includes administrative data on social service receipt, education, criminal and juvenile justice, employment, healthcare, and early childhood programs to provide a comprehensive picture of child and family use of publicly provided or publicly financed service programs. At Chapin Hall, he is currently PI of the OPRE- funded Child Care Policy Research Partnership project and Child Care Development Block Grant evaluation award. He was recently Principal Investigator (PI) for the Family Self-Sufficiency Data Center, funded by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and PI of the Linking Federal Data to Local Data project, which was a collaboration with the U.S. Census Bureau. He is currently a member of the Committee on National Statistics at the National Academy of Sciences and co-chair and co-founder of the International Society for Child Indicators. He is a co-founder of the master’s degree on Computational Analysis and Public Policy at the University of Chicago. Goerge received his MA and PhD in Social Policy from the University of Chicago.

Presentations and Panel Discussion: State Lessons for Federal Efforts


Kosar Jahani, Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Kosar Johani serves as Program Officer for U.S. Economic Mobility & Opportunity at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Previously she served as Director of Impact for Samasource, a leading social enterprise that conducts digital skills training and employs low-income individuals in computer-based work. Jahani earned an MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University.


Christina Church, Two-Generation Program Officer, Maryland Department of Human Service
Christina Church serves as the Two-Generation Program Officer and Acting Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Services. In her role, she guides and coordinates agency policies and activities with an intentional focus on their impact on the whole family. Christina previously served as Senior Policy Analyst supporting the Maryland Children's Cabinet, has a law degree from the University of Baltimore, and proudly resides in Baltimore, Maryland.

Tracy Gruber, Senior Advisor for the Utah Intergenerational Poverty Initiative
Tracy is the current Director of the Office of Child Care and Senior Advisor for the Intergenerational Poverty Initiative. Her work focuses on the use of data and continuous improvement to ensure there are intergenerational pathways to opportunity for Utah children. Prior to joining the Department of Workforce Services, Tracy worked at Voices for Utah Children, as a Senior Policy Analyst and Director of State Fiscal Policy. She has a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

David Mancuso, Director of the Research and Data Analysis Division, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
David Mancuso serves as the Director of the Research and Data Analysis Division at the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, where he led the development of Integrated Client Databases, a data repository that links Medicaid medical, behavioral health, and long-term care data with Medicare, social service, criminal justice, housing, child welfare, employment, and vital statistics data. He holds a PhD in Economics from Stanford University.

Ki’i Powell, Director of the Office of Economic Security, Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS)
Ki’I Powell serves as the Director of the Office of Economic Security at the Colorado Department of Human Services. In this role, she oversees the Divisions of Child Support, Food Assistance, and Employment and Benefits, and she is a member of the CHS executive team. Powell has worked for CDHS for over ten years and was previously Director of Performance Management. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Session Two – September 16, 2020


Ted McCann, Vice President, American Idea Foundation
Ted McCann is Vice President at the American Idea Foundation. He was previously Assistant to the Speaker for Policy, managing welfare, education, workforce, pension, telecom, and Social Security issues for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. During his tenure he shepherded numerous pieces of legislation through the Congress, including the passage of the First Step Act, the Foundations for Evidence Based Policy Act, Family First Prevention Services Act, and the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act. Additionally, he was the lead staffer in developing Speaker Ryan’s Better Way agenda on Poverty, Opportunity and Upward Mobility.


Nick Hart, President of the Data Foundation and CEO of the Data Coalition
Nick Hart is the Chief Executive Officer of the Data Coalition. He helped to craft the milestone Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, including the OPEN Government Data Act, and has worked with numerous federal agencies and congressional committees to design effective data, evaluation, and privacy policies over the past decade.

Prior to joining the Data Coalition, Hart was Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Evidence Project. He also served at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as a senior analyst and special assistant, writing executive branch budget proposals and encouraging increased capacity for evidence-based practices across government. Hart is an adjunct professor of program evaluation at George Washington University. He earned a doctorate from George Washington University’s Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, specializing in program evaluation.


Julia Lane, Provostial Fellow for Innovation Analytics; Professor, NYU Wagner School or Public Policy and Co-founder of the Coleridge Initiative
Julia Lane is a Professor at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, at the NYU Center for Urban Science and Progress, and a NYU Provostial Fellow for Innovation Analytics. She cofounded the Coleridge Initiative, whose goal is to use data to transform the way governments access and use data for the social good through training programs, research projects and a secure data facility. Previous to this, Julia was a Senior Managing Economist and Institute Fellow at American Institutes for Research. Julia received her PhD in Economics and Master's in Statistics from the University of Missouri.

Sara Dube, Project Director, Results First Initiative, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Sara Dube directs The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Results First Initiative where she oversees the project’s work to advance evidence-based decision-making by states and counties, including the use of an innovative cost-benefit tool that helps government leaders direct investments to programs that generate the best outcomes while making the most of limited resources. Before joining Pew, Sara managed evaluation and planning projects for nonprofit and philanthropic clients, including the Advancement Project, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. She began her career coordinating a hospital-based volunteer program and serving as an AmeriCorps member with Jumpstart, an early education nonprofit organization in Boston. Sara holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Tufts University and a master’s in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

David Williams, Director of Policy Outreach, Opportunity Insights
David Williams serves as the Director of Policy Outreach at Opportunity Insights, a research and public policy lab based at Harvard University dedicated to using big data to improve upward mobility in America. He is tasked with supporting research and evidence-based policy change by creating and leading partnerships with communities across the country.

Before joining Opportunity Insights, David served as a senior advisor to the Mayor of Detroit. David received a JD from Harvard Law School where he served as President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

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