Institute on Assets and Social Policy

The Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementReturn to this website's homepageBrandeis University


Our staff, senior advisory board, Heller School faculty affiliates, and graduate student research assistants bring to the Institute's work diverse experience and expertise from the academic, public, nonprofit, and private sectors. For a listing of team members click on the links below or search by name from the Search box above:


Dr. Thomas Shapiro, IASP Director


Professor Thomas Shapiro directs the Institute on Assets and Social Policy and is the Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.

Professor Shapiro's primary interest is in racial inequality and public policy. He is a leader in the asset development field with a particular focus on closing the racial wealth gap. The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality, published by Oxford University Press, 2004 (soft cover, 2005) was widely reviewed, including by the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and others. The book was named one of the Notable Books of 2004 by The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With Dr. Melvin Oliver, he wrote the award-winning Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality, which received the 1997 Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award from the American Sociological Association. This book also won the 1995 C. Wright Mills Award from the Society for the Study of Social Problems, and the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America named it an Outstanding Book of 1996.

Cover of Black Wealth / White WealthA Tenth Anniversary Edition of Black Wealth/White Wealth, with two new chapters that examine the most important changes in racial inequality and developments in asset policy in the past decade, was published in 2006.

Great Divides: Readings in Social Inequality in the United States, 3rd edition, was published in the summer of 2004.

His media appearances include Tony Brown's Journal, The Tavis Smiley Show, Talk of the Nation, CNN, and On Point. His work has been reviewed or discussed in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The American Prospect, The Chicago Sun-Times, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, CommonWealth Magazine, Newsweek, The Village Voice, and others.

 Dr. Shapiro presents lectures and seminars throughout the United States to general, professional, policy, community, foundation, and university audiences. He teaches seminars in Assets and Social Policy; The Sociological Inquiry of Inequality; and Qualitative Research Methods.

Dr. Janet Boguslaw, IASP Associate Director

Associate Director and Lecturer

Dr. Janet Boguslaw is Associate Director and Research Scientist at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. She is a Lecturer and Associate Director of the Masters Degree Program in Public Policy (MPP) at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Through direct practice, evaluation, and research her work focuses on creating multi-sector innovations and partnerships to advance economic opportunity and stability through both voluntary and policy-driven initiatives. Dr. Boguslaw has worked with corporate managers to research, direct and advance their community development initiatives, with state agencies in the areas of workforce training and employment stabilization, and on funded research exploring policy strategies for regional development and stabilization. She teaches the graduate seminar in Assets and Social Policy, co-leads the dissertation seminar for the Concentration in Assets and Inequality, and directs the MPP Poverty Alleviation Concentration.

She is the author of Social Partnerships and Social Relations: New Strategies in Workforce and Economic Development, and has co-authored numerous articles and book chapters. She received her M.Ed. from Washington University in St. Louis and her Ph.D. from Boston College.

Tatjana Meschede, Research Director

Research Director

Dr. Tatjana Meschede, Research Director and Lecturer, manages the IASP project on indicators of financial well-being and risk, including creating data tools documenting economic security and risk for the US middle class and seniors, and racial wealth gap analyses. She is the lead author on many IASP publications, such as reports in the "Living Longer on Less" and "By a Thread" series, published in collaboration with Dēmos, and has presented on senior economic well-being with a specific focus on racial/ethnic disparities at many conferences and events.

In addition, Dr. Meschede leads research and evaluation projects on homelessness, most recently an evaluation of the Housing First for Homeless Families Program in Massachusetts' South Shore region. She has extensive experience in research on homelessness collaborating with Massachusetts' state departments (DTA, DPH, DHCD) and local communities, and is the author of numerous reports and publications, including Bridges and Barriers to Housing for Chronically Homeless Street Dwellers; Accessing Housing: Exploring the Impact of Medical and Substance Abuse Services; The First Two Years of Housing First in Quincy, Massachusetts; and From Street Life to Housing: Consumer and Provider Perspectives on Service Delivery and Access to Housing.

Dr. Meschede has worked in Israel and Europe, and is on the faculty at the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Department at Tufts University, where she teaches introductory statistics. She received her Ph.D. in Public Policy from the McCormack Graduate School in Policy Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Sandra Venner, Policy Director

Policy Director

Ms. Sandra Venner, IASP's Policy Director and Fellow, has extensive program development and policy advocacy experience in the areas of family and child welfare, youth development and financial assistance for low-income households. Her work with the Institute primarily includes policy research analysis and consultation with state and local advocacy and community organizing groups. Ms. Venner's research focuses on identifying and advancing asset building strategies for those typically left out of the opportunity structure. She has written numerous policy analysis reports and co-authored a chapter in the book, Welfare Reform, 1996-2000: Is There a Safety Net?

Charity Adams, Department Coordinator

Department Coordinator

Charity Adams provides operation, communications, and project support for the Institute. A graduate of Goshen College, Charity received a BA in Organizational Management. Prior to coming to Brandeis University, Charity worked with companies developing and implementing social media and corporate marketing strategies, managed the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit health plan, and created a statewide outreach services guide to assist impoverished Massachusetts commercial fishermen and their families. Previous to that, Charity directed a nonprofit food bank and served on the South Florida Hunger Coalition's Million Meals Committee.

Martha Cronin, Research Associate

Research Associate

Martha Cronin works primarily on issues impacting the economic security of seniors. Prior to joining IASP, she served as assistant director of Tempe Community Council, a nonprofit human services planning agency in Tempe, Arizona. In this capacity, she provided administrative oversight for Shared Living Village, a congregate housing program for low-income seniors and advocated for quality of life and access enhancements for people with disabilities. She also worked for many years as a research analyst for the Arizona Legislative Council, the research and bill drafting agency of the State Legislature.  Ms. Cronin holds an MPP degree from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University, and a BA in English from Oberlin College.

Research Associate

Before coming to Heller, Ms. Kimbrel worked in the nonprofit field as an advocate for families in crisis and escaping domestic abuse.  While at Heller, she has worked for IASP on several projects researching and evaluating asset attainment by low-income families in Massachusetts.  In 2009, she was named a Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government Rappaport Public Policy Fellow and conducted research on the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program at the MA Department of Housing and Community Development. She is currently working with IASP and Compass Working Capital to continue research on the FSS program. Ms. Kimbrel holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Kansas and an MA in Social Policy from the Heller School.

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Senior Scientist

Senior Scientist

Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.A., is a Senior Scientist and Senior Lecturer at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and a Visiting Scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center, Brandeis University. She is also a Lecturer in Women's and Gender Studies at Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She teaches courses on the intersection of race, gender and other identities, and its impact on public and institutional policy. She currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Health Behavioral Change, Urban Medical Institute, Morgan State University, collaborating to develop, evaluate, and study innovative interventions and policy initiatives to support community and evidenced based methods to improve the health status of minorities in disenfranchised communities. Dr. Nsiah-Jefferson's research interests include racial/ethnic and gender inequities; intersectionality theory and research methods, and the impacts of stress and racism on health and social outcomes for women, mothers and children.

Laura Sullivan, Research Associate

Research Associate

Laura Sullivan, Research Associate, works on a number of projects at the Institute investigating financial security among the middle class, seniors, and households of color. As a data analyst, Ms. Sullivan utilizes national survey data to explore factors influencing the economic security and vulnerability of families. Before coming to Heller, she worked in policy advocacy for low-income communities, interned in the Texas State Senate, and worked on a cost-benefit analysis of referral networks for social services. Ms. Sullivan, a PhD candidate at the Heller School, holds a Master's of Public Affairs and an MA in Latin American Studies and has studied abroad in Spain and Mexico.

Hannah Thomas, Research Associate

Senior Research Associate

Hannah Thomas is a senior a research associate at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy. Dr. Thomas' research focuses on the intersections of wealth, family and community. She explores individual and family relationships to wealth - its accumulation, depletion, and uses. She is particularly interested in the ways that access to wealth - community or individual - impacts social mobility and opportunity. To date her work has focused on how families and communities accumulate or lose wealth through housing and work. Recent publications have examined how work provides access to accumulation or depletion of wealth.  Her dissertation examined the structure of global mortgage finance system and the ways it alters neighborhoods through foreclosure sales. Earlier research on families' experiences of foreclosure with the City of Boston between 2007 and 2008 revealed how homeownership can drain family wealth and leave families vulnerable to subsequent income disruptions. Dr. Thomas manages the project "Leveraging Mobility," a multi-site interview study examining the interaction of race, assets and social mobility. Prior to working at Brandeis University, she worked as a research associate for a community development organization in Maine, researching and evaluating the impacts of asset-related policies and programs. Hannah has written and published work on depletion of wealth through foreclosures, the role of quality work in building wealth, community development finance and foreclosures. She regularly presents at national meetings of asset practitioners and researchers.  She is experienced in conducting qualitative research including ethnography, institutional ethnography, and in-depth interviews. She also works with quantitative data and GIS. Currently she is also a research fellow with the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds a MA Cantab in Geography and an MA in Social Policy and Sociology.

Senior Advisory Board


Mr. Herbert is an award-winning journalist with a long and distinguished career including an Op-Ed column on politics and social trends in The New York Times. He has been a regular correspondent for The Today Show and NBC Nightly News and has been honored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors for distinguished newspaper writing and by the Meyer Badge Award for coverage of New York City.


Dr. Oliver is an expert on racial and urban inequality and poverty as well as the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He co-authored Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality (2006) with IASP Director Dr. Thomas Shapiro. In addition, Dr. Oliver has vast experience in philanthropy from his time as Vice President of the Asset Building and Community Development (Assets) Program at the Ford Foundation and serves on numerous nonprofit boards.


Ms. Paris is Deputy Director at JFYNetWorks and has broad experience in commercial banking, fundraising in education and the arts, and public policy research, specifically workforce development. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University’s School of Community Economic Development since 1999, Ms. Paris is a member of Heller’s Board of Overseers and a Heller alumna.

Faculty Affiliates

Andrew Hahn, Senior Advisor

Senior Advisor

Professor Andrew Hahn is Senior Advisor to the Institute. He conducts policy analysis, evaluation, and demonstration projects for government agencies and major foundations focusing on employment, education, youth, and community development both here in the United States and in development settings.

Dr. Hahn's books, notably, What Works in Youth Employment and Dropouts in America: Enough Is Known for Action, numerous published articles, and reports are syntheses of practical lessons for donors, policy makers and program managers about effective strategies for assisting society's most vulnerable youth. His work is aimed at identifying opportunities to strengthen youth policies and assisting local leaders to contribute to policy development and change. An emerging interest is focused on how institutions of higher education contribute to progressive social change.

Dr. Hahn is a Professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and teaches courses on program evaluation, youth policies and programs, and community building. He also serves as Director of the Sillerman Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy.

Anita Hill, Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies

Senior Advisor to the Provost and Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies

Professor Anita Hill began her law career as an Associate with the Washington, D.C., firm of Wald, Harkrader & Ross. She has worked as special counsel to the assistant secretary of the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and served as advisor to the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Professor Hill is the author of numerous articles on international commercial law, bankruptcy, and civil rights, all areas in which she has taught. She presents on commercial law as well as race and gender equality, and her commentary is regularly published in Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Boston Globe. She has served on numerous boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and is the author of Speaking Truth to Power, which chronicles her experience as a witness in the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Dr. Hill is Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and also serves as Senior Advisor to the Provost of Brandeis University.

Jeffrey Prottas, Professor


Professor Jeffrey Prottas is a member of the senior staff of the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy. He has specialized in research on organizational behavior and change, especially service delivery programs. His work has often focused on how organizations adapt to changes in their political and technical environments. This research has been concentrated in the health care field and has been concerned with program and policy evaluation and the impact of organizational factors in the implementation of public policy.

Professor Prottas is the Director of Evaluations for the Robert Wood Johnson ACCESS Project. This project works with, and learns from, community organizations attempting to develop broad-based coalitions to improve the accessibility of health care. His role involves both evaluating the project's activities in communities and drawing lessons about community mobilization and empowerment from the experience of community leaders.

Professor Prottas received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Graduate Research Assistants

Meredith Bergey
Pennsylvania, USA

Meredith Bergey is a joint PhD student in Sociology and Social Policy, with particular interests in the sociology of health and illness, mental health, and health policy. Her ongoing research projects focus upon psychosocial stress, ADHD, patient centered care, and the use of new technologies in health care systems. At IASP, Meredith is part of a team evaluating the interaction of race, assets, and social mobility. Before attending the Heller School, Meredith spent several field seasons in the Samoan Islands assisting in research related to cardiovascular disease risk. She also worked as an epidemiologist at the Rhode Island Department of Health; as a research specialist in health outcomes at the University of Pennsylvania; and as a C. Everett Koop Health Policy Fellow at Brown University, where she explored smoking-cessation related health policy. Meredith earned a BA in community health with a focus in international health (Brown University), an MSc in medical anthropology (Oxford University), an MPH (Brown University), and an MA in social policy (Heller School, Brandeis University).

Sara Chaganti

Sara Chaganti
Massachusetts, USA

Sara Chaganti has experience in grassroots organizing in several areas, including homeless populations and public housing residents in New Haven, CT, and transgender people in rural Western Massachusetts.  She has also worked on climate change and environmental justice in Western Massachusetts.  At IASP, Sara has worked on several projects. Currently Sara is part of a team conducting an evaluation of short-term rental vouchers for homeless families in the South Shore area.  Sara holds an MA in Anthropology and an MS in Law, Policy and Society, and is pursuing a joint doctorate in Social Policy and Sociology at the Heller School.  

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Lars Dietrich

Lars Dietrich is a political scientist and Fulbright Ph.D. student from Austria who has many years of work experience with asylum seekers. His research interest lies in the development of policy strategies that equalize opportunities for minority and low-SES populations to accumulate human capital. He also works at the Institute on Assets and Social Policy as research assistant.

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Melanie Doupé Gaiser
New Hampshire, USA

Melanie Doupé Gaiser is a sixth-year doctoral student studying Health Policy. Her dissertation research involves the study of shared decision-making and interpersonal trust in medical settings and a psychiatric setting. Ms. Gaiser spent more than a decade working as a broadcast journalist before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. She has an MPH from Tufts University School of Medicine and an M.A. in Health Policy from Brandeis University. 

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Caroline Koch

Massachusetts, USA

Caroline Koch is a dual Master's in Public Policy and Master's in Business Administration student, with a particular focus on economic and community development. At IASP, Caroline is part of a team examining how to best maximize asset development infrastructure in cities. Prior to attending the Heller School, Caroline worked with MassINC, a non-profit think tank that supports the growth of Massachusetts' midsized post-industrial cities. Caroline earned her BA in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and currently resides in Somerville, MA. 

Alexis Mann

Alexis Mann
Maine, USA

Alexis Mann has a background in economic and community development with a focus on how local, state and federal policies interact with grassroots community action to influence neighborhood and individual outcomes. At IASP, Alexis is part of a team evaluating short-term rental vouchers for homeless families in the South Shore area. Prior to attending the Heller School, Ms. Mann worked with the Maine Center for Economic Policy, for Senator Susan Collins' office and for the Department of Economic Development in Brunswick, Maine. Ms. Mann earned her BA in Public Policy and Photography from Hamilton College and is pursuing a joint doctorate in Social Policy and Sociology from the Heller School.

Alexis Mann

Consuelo Alexandra Revis
North Carolina, USA

Alex Revis is a Master's student in Sustainable International Development at the Heller School, with a particular interest in gender and human rights. Originally from North Carolina, she has spent most of the last 10 years abroad, primarily in Turkey and Spain. While these three world culture are vastly different, Alex has seen the shared suffering of too many who lack adequate healthcare, education and economic opportunity and the fierce courage needed of young women demanding equality in all arenas of society. Working as a teacher in Ethiopia and Spain, she discovered a love for teaching and developed a first-hand understanding of the importance of equal access to quality education for social and economic mobility. She has also worked as an intern at the US Embassy in Madrid, Spain.  Alex's academic background is in Political Science, with a concentration in International Relations (BA Saint Louis University, Madrid Campus). In addition, she will soon complete an MA in Sociology from Brandeis. Her previous academic work has focused on the way that contemporary dynamics between politics and religion have defined the rights of women in Spain and on the situation of migrant workers and their rights in Thailand.  Currently, Alex is part of a team conducting an evaluation of workforce development programs for homeless parents in Massachusetts. 

Nicole Rodriguez

Nicole Rodriguez
Massachusetts, USA

Nicole Rodriguez is a 2014 Master of Public Policy candidate concentrating in poverty alleviation and with a particular interest in work-family integration policies within assets-based and intersectional frameworks.  After the Heller School, she plans to expose barriers and limitations at the policy level, reveal cumulative differential impact on underserved families, and identity alternative methods to create sustainable change in communities without disproportionately affecting vulnerable people.  Prior to joining IASP, Nicole worked for foundations, non-profits, and state and local governments in Massachusetts. In 2005, she graduated from Villanova University with a B.A. in Political Science.

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Jessica Santos
New Hampshire, USA

Jessica Santos has 10 years of experience working in social service programs where she developed expertise in workforce development, with a particular focus on refugee and immigrant integration.  She works at the New Hampshire Office of Minority Health and Refugee Affairs where she designed a federally funded demonstration project to increase opportunities for low-income individuals to enter health professions, awarded to NH in 2010.  At IASP, she works as a Graduate Research Assistant on a University Partnership Grant focused on workforce diversity in the health sector.  Jessica has an MA in Sustainable Development and is pursuing a PhD in Social Policy.

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