Institute on Assets and Social Policy

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Graduate Research Assistants

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Misti Jeffers

Misti Jeffers is a PhD student in the Assets and Inequalities concentration. She received a M.A. in Child Study and Human Development from Tufts University and a B.S. in Child Psychology and Human Services from East Tennessee State University, where she was a McNair Scholar. She previously worked in program evaluation at Jumpstart for Young Children, conducted research on juvenile justice and child welfare issues as an intern at the Department of Research and Planning in the Massachusetts Executive Office of the Trial Court, and provided direct care at a trauma-based youth behavioral health setting in Tennessee. Her current research interests include exploring youths' perceptions of opportunity and evaluating policies that increase access to human, social, and financial capital as a means to interrupt intergenerational transmission of poverty, particularly in rural Appalachia.  At IASP, Misti is part of a team researching healthcare career pathways. In her free time, Misti pretends to train for half-marathons and consistently strives to find the best biscuits and gravy in Boston. 

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Teresa Kroeger

Teresa Kroeger is a doctoral student in the Assets and Inequalities concentration at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. She researches policies that affect the lives of socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals and families and those who are subject to gender and racial discrimination. At IASP, Teresa's work focuses on occupational segregation and racial wealth gaps. Prior to joining the Heller School, Teresa conducted research at the Economic Policy Institute, the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and the American Institutes for Research. Her recent research and publications focused on minimum wage violations, paid sick leave, collective bargaining, and the labor market for young graduates. Teresa holds a BA in Economics and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Anna Mahathey

Anna Mahathey is a candidate in the dual Masters in Public Policy and Masters in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. She concentrates in poverty alleviation and is particularly interested in studying the ways that welfare policies and other policies targeted toward low-income people affect the various identities women hold, such as workers, mothers, and caregivers. Previously, Anna interned with the Government Affairs team at CFED, where she delved into policy issues around retirement, asset limits, affordable homeownership, and financial security at work. She also specialized in researching and writing about the women’s wealth gap. At IASP, Anna is part of a team researching healthcare career pathways. Prior to attending the Heller School, Anna attended High Point University, where she earned degrees in Religion and Sociology. When she’s not researching or doing school work, Anna can be found outside exploring and soaking up nature’s beauty.

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Liz Olson

Liz Olson is a dual degree candidate in the Masters in Public Policy and Masters in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. She comes to Heller with a background in direct service provision and advocacy work, having spent several years working alongside survivors of intimate partner violence in an emergency shelter. Most recently, Liz worked at an affordable housing agency focused on mitigating displacement of communities of color and low-income people in Portland, OR. There, she coordinated an asset building program for individuals affected by economic exclusion and financial insecurity. At IASP, Liz contributes to an evaluation of the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act in the state of New Hampshire. When she's not studying or working, Liz likes to eat pizza (who doesn't?!) and spend time with her sweet niece and nephew. 

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Mitali Pinto

Mitali Pinto is a Masters candidate in Sustainable International Development at the Heller School. Her past work experience has been in the realm of development, working with corporations and non-profits in India, with a focus in areas of education, healthcare, livelihood creation, and child development. Mitali holds a BA in Economics and Commerce from St. Xaviers College in Mumbai, India. Outside of school and work, Mitali is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys running, traveling and cooking. With a firm belief that empowerment through education and financial inclusion is key to moving out of cycles of poverty, she is excited to work with the IASP team and contribute to the study on Children's Savings Accounts in the US. 

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Leila Quinn

Leila Quinn is a dual Master's degree candidate in Public Policy and Business Administration at Brandeis University's Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Her concentration is poverty alleviation and she is passionate about housing policy and economic empowerment. Before coming to Heller, she worked as Policy Director for Boston City Councilor Andrea J. Campbell where she focused on public safety and criminal justice policy. Leila previously served as Advocacy Manager for Generation Citizen, a national action-civics education non-profit, which inspired her to jump into the field of public policy. Leila has significant political campaign experience and is passionate about getting good women into office. Leila graduated cum laude from Mount Holyoke College with a Bachelor's degree in environmental studies. While not at work, she can be found bicycling the streets of metro Boston.

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Madeline Smith-Gibbs

Madeline Smith-Gibbs is a Master of Public Policy candidate with a concentration in poverty alleviation. Prior to Heller, she coordinated the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council, connecting Philadelphians with their local government to create a more just food system. Madeline also has experience working in incarceration and reentry advocacy and volunteering at a nonprofit that sends free reading material to people in prison. Recognizing the transformative role assets can play in the lives of low-income families, Madeline is excited to join the Children's Savings Accounts research team at IASP. 

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Lindsey T. Stranc

Lindsey T. Stranc is a Master in Public Policy student concentrating in Poverty Alleviation Policy. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Albion College. Prior to Heller, Lindsey was a housing counselor in Chicago, working with clientele on asset maintenance and mediation for delinquency and foreclosure toward sustainable resolutions. Lindsey is a lifelong advocate for housing equality and access, empowerment economics, for the capacity and dignity of the homeless, and in advancing social justice. She is excited to contribute to the IASP research team focusing on asset-building through Children’s Savings Accounts. 

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Caroline Swaller

Caroline Swaller is a dual Master's in Public Policy and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies candidate. She concentrates on the intersection of federal policy and gendered violence specifically the growing role of Title IX in fighting against sexual assault on college campuses. Previously, Caroline worked as a workplace policy and research intern at the National Partnership for Women & Families in Washington D.C.. At IASP, Caroline is part of a research team working with the Family, Friends, and Neighbors Network in Bangor, Maine focusing on the caregiving and educational needs of informal care networks. Caroline graduated from Denison University in 2013 with a dual Bachelor's in Women's Studies and Theatre with a specific interest in the ways political theatre can transform oppressive legal structures in the United States. She has worked abroad in London, UK and has traveled the country from coast to coast as a volunteer with Americorps NCCC FEMA Corps. In her spare time she thinks of ways she can be more like Leslie Knope. 

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Alexandra Turner

Alexandra Turner is a Masters in Public Policy candidate crafting an interdisciplinary concentration in Immigration Studies. Her research interests include analyzing how case law and policy can strengthen one another to facilitate sociopolitical inclusion of immigrants. At IASP, Alexandra is a part of the team focusing on career mobility for low-income individuals working in the health care sector. As an AmeriCorps alumna, she has had experience working with local government and non-profits to improve the quality of life of day-laborers and their families. In 2015, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science. When not contemplating law school or requesting all the interlibrary loans she possibly can, Alexandra enjoys drinking masala chai while she watches productions from the BBC.

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John Valinch

John is a dedicated and passionate activist and former youth leader. As a lifelong resident of Chelsea, Massachusetts, he is guided by a principled commitment to justice, equity, and building community power and voice through intersectional community organizing and public policy.

John currently serves as a Private Equity Research Analyst for UNITE HERE, an International Union representing over 270,000 hotel, gaming, and food service employees. In addition, John has played a pivotal role in the creation of Hospitality Employees Advancement and Training, (HEAT) Inc., a new workforce development organization in Miami, FL designed to provide hospitality workers with the training and skills needed to earn sustainable living wages, benefits, and jobs with dignity in South Florida.

John graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2014 with a B.A. in Political Science and Public Policy, receiving the Roger Feinstein Award in Public Policy. He is a currently pursuing a dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis, where he is the Co-President of the Master of Public Policy Student Association.

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