Educated at: Gettysburg Area High School; Bucknell University (BA); Penn State University (MA); Syracuse University (PhD)
Family: Derek (Husband); Masiel (Daughter); Nahlia (Daughter)
Job: Senior Principal Research Associate and Capacity Building Director, Westat. I direct studies focused on education and equity for non-profit organizations and foundations. Through federal grants and contracts, I also collaborate with state education agencies and school districts to provide capacity building on ways to develop, implement, and sustain evidence-based effective interventions that lead to high outcomes for all students.
Job’s reward: Collaborating with state education agencies, school districts, and community organizations to create systemic changes that lead to greater equitable outcomes for students, educators, and communities.
Job’s frustrations: Sustaining systems change is challenging. Often, we are only working with partners for a set amount of time. If the systems change does not become a part of the organization’s overarching strategic plan, it often does not sustain.
Very first job was: Granite Hill Campground Store
Favorite food: Seafood, especially crabs and tuna
Pets: Beijing, Xerxes, Oreo (all cats!)
Hero: I cannot answer this with one response. As a sociologist, I have always looked up to the ways in which Archbishop Desmond Tutu lives his life and works to make humanity stronger. More personally, I have always sought to live my life drawing on the strengths of my parents, as they were and continue to be the strongest influencers in my life. My father is the best listener that I know, and is the eternal optimist. My mother is the hardest worker that I know, and she strives to make our community more equitable.
Hobbies: Watching Penn State football (We are!); Going for long walks; Visiting the ocean often!; Dancing with family and friends
Pet peeves: Talking while chewing food (my parents were sticklers about this rule!)
Collects: I used to collect everything; but, now, I collect nothing except family pictures!
Best friend: Why? My husband (Derek) and Carrie Jones Mendelsohn. Derek: When they say “opposites attract,” I think that defines my husband and me. He’s tall; I’m short. He’s relaxed… definitely not me! He’s a great listener, but also offers great perspectives and challenges me often to think outside of the box. We have had and continue to have such fun times together, and we also support each other through our struggles. Carrie: She was my first friend at two years old. We did everything together as kids and teenagers. We went to the same college, and lived together in Washington, DC. She’s been a part of every phase of my life. We’ve celebrated many great times together, and she has helped me through some of my most difficult times. I look up to her in many ways, as she creates positive change through her amazing grace.
Would like to have witnessed what event in history? While I read about it as a college student, I wish that I had been able to attend in-person the hearings of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To me, the Commission really exemplifies how a nation or community needs to approach its future, and that is by authentically and truthfully facing its past in order to truly reconcile and then plan a path forward. Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s approach was instrumental in designing and implementing the Commission. He is a phenomenal human being.
Event that changed your life: As a senior in college, I studied for a semester in Namibia. The program emphasized how nations systemically create social change. I had not only fantastic professors and classmates, but I also had the opportunity to live with two amazing host families: one in the capital city of Windhoek and one in a rural village in Ovamboland. I also had the opportunity to student teach through an intern program in a secondary school. I fell in love with Namibia. Interestingly, in learning about the systems of social change in Namibia and South Africa, when I returned to the U.S., I knew that I wanted to study more about social change and movements in the U.S., particularly through the lens of our education system.
Your scariest moment: I was diagnosed in February with a later stage of Lyme disease. For several months prior to my diagnosis, I literally thought I was going insane. I am a pretty pragmatic person; but, I literally lost the ability to think rationally. Thankfully, through the help of three fantastic doctors, I was able to start a treatment plan that, for the most part, has my symptoms in remission.
First memory: I have several really early memories, but one of my favorites is of my paternal grandmother who passed away when I was young. I remember when I was 2 or 3 sitting in her kitchen and her allowing me to choose the candy that I wanted from her candy jar, and we then went for a wagon ride outside on their farm.
Trait inherited from parents: Empathy. Both of my parents have always served the community through service organizations and our church, St. James Lutheran. They instilled in my sister and me the importance of serving community to help make the community inclusive for all. In order to most effectively serve in a community, my parents always explained the importance of thinking about what it is like to “walk in another person’s shoes.”
Piece of advice that you live by: “We are each made for goodness, love, and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Who needs a hug and why? Everyone! We all need to give love and feel loved.
Favorite reading/author: I don’t have one. That said, one of my favorite books is “Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism” (edited by Paula Moya & Michael Hames-Garcia). I’m a nerd.
Favorite spot on earth? With family at the ocean, especially on Hatteras Island, NC. The ocean is good for the soul. And, family makes my heart full.
Website you visit most: During this time of the year, it’s ESPN. I am a huge college football fan. WE ARE!
Would like concert tickets to see: I love to dance… so Pitbull!
One bad habit: I worry too much.
3 items on your bucket list: I’m not sure. But, since I love to travel, I will name three places that I want to visit: Tanzania; Machu Picchu, Peru; Pink Beach, Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Five minutes with: My paternal grandmother
What skill or lesson would you like to learn? To speak another language
What would people find surprising about you? I’m pretty much an open book.
What would make this world a better place? Embracing empathy
What is the best piece of news you received lately that you would like to share? My mother-in-law recently relocated to Gettysburg. It’s great to have my parents and my mother-in-law so close to us.
How would you like to be remembered? As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, and cousin who was thankful for and loved her family. And, as a person who worked to make education more equitable.