Megan Bang studies the dynamics of culture, learning, and development with a focus on the complexities of navigating multiple meaning systems in an effort to create more effective and just learning environments, with a specific focus on STEM education. Bang has examined educator learning across career stages and the transformative forms of pedagogical practice. She is currently designing and studying teaching and learning about complex socio-ecological systems and their intersections with power and historicity. Bang often utilizes participatory methods to design and study both formal and informal learning environments. She has decades of experience designing learning with Indigenous communities that aim to transform the historical legacies and colonial conditions of education. This has meant her work has aimed to cultivate new models and possibilities for education. Dr. Bang serves on the Board of Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Science Foundation’s Education and Human Resources Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education. She is also a professor in the Learning Sciences and Human Development in the School of Education and Social Policy and Psychology at Northwestern University.
Leah Bricker provides mentorship and oversees all of the foundation’s grant programs. She currently serves as the program lead for the Research-Practice Partnership Grants, Racial Equity Special Research Grants, and Spencer Mentor Award programs.
Leah Bricker started her career as a middle school science teacher before serving as the State Science Coordinator at the Indiana Department of Education, where she was involved in all aspects of K-12 science education (e.g., standards, assessments, professional development, partnerships among science education stakeholders in the state). Leah then served as a Senior Program Associate at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061, where she helped design and facilitate professional development programs for K-12 science teachers across the country. She also worked on a project focused on STEM assessments and their alignment to learning goals. Leah earned her PhD in the Learning Sciences at the University of Washington in 2008. She was involved in science teacher education at both Loyola University Chicago and The University of Michigan as an Assistant Professor. Leah is currently also a Research Associate Professor at Northwestern University in the School of Education and Social Policy. She studies youths’ STEM-related learning pathways over time and across contexts (e.g., home, school, afterschool, neighborhoods, museums) using qualitative methods and design-based research.
Annie Brinkman manages the foundation’s online portal for applicants, reviewers, and grantees. She is a long-standing member of PEAK Grantmaking and served as Co-chair for the SmartSimple Chicago Users Group. Annie previously worked at Northwestern University as a program administrator before joining Spencer in 2000. She holds a BFA in Photography from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and occasionally serves as the foundation's photographer.
Andreason Brown most recently served as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer at Forefront (formerly Donors Forum), the Illinois membership association for grant makers and nonprofits.
Andreason is dedicated to public service and is deeply committed to improving lives through his professional work and volunteer activities. He serves on several local and national boards in support of the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He is Board Chair of the African American Legacy Fund at the Chicago Community Trust and is an appointed Board Member of the Illinois State Treasurer's Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund. Andreason frequently speaks and advises on organizational sustainability, finance, budgeting, and strategic development.
Born and raised in West Michigan and a Chicago resident since 1995, Andreason holds a B.S. in Economics from Central Michigan University and M.S. in Nonprofit Management from DePaul University.
As Chief of Staff, Liz Carrick works closely with the President to implement her vision for the work of the Foundation and with the leadership team to develop and implement foundation policies. In addition, Liz often works on issues of program development, particularly with regard to the Foundation’s communications strategy. She received her undergraduate degree in philosophy from the State University of New York at Purchase and her master’s degree in anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Pat Cecil spent time in banking, real estate management, and property development. Pat works closely with the CFO and Treasurer to ensure accurate and timely financial reporting. Her responsibilities at the Foundation include reviewing grant financial reports, processing grant payments, accounts payables and receivables, performing bank reconciliations, preparing 1099s and financial records management. She received an Associate Degree in Business Administration and a Certificate of Accounting from Harold Washington College.
With more than 20 years of experience at Spencer, Josephine Craven sets IT direction, keeps the systems running, coordinates system upgrades and provides support and maintenance of all hardware and software systems used by the foundation.
Doris Fischer began her career in the finance and investment banking fields, but she soon discovered an interest in the non-profit sector, specifically in the field of education, which led her to Spencer. Although initially taking on an administrative role, she was soon able to bring into play her personal passion for organization and planning. For the past 22 years she has been creating events that bring scholars together to collaborate on important issues of education research, policy, and practice.
She earned a BA in International Business from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.
Before joining the foundation in 2015, Laura Glick held senior level positions in the Goldman Sachs Investment Management Division, JP Morgan Chase Private Bank and the Wells Fargo Private Bank.
Laura serves on the Women’s Board of the Adler Planetarium, the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Auxiliary Board, the Winnetka Community House Woman’s Board and the Winnetka Public Schools Foundation.
She earned her MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a M.S.E. and B.S.E. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Michigan College of Engineering.
Kathryn Gray manages office operations within the foundation to ensure organizational effectiveness and efficiency. Prior to joining the Spencer Foundation, she worked in the Chicago Public Schools for many years providing speech therapy services for students. She received her B.S. in Speech Pathology from Illinois State University, and an MBA from DeVry University with a concentration in human resources.
Centered at the nexus of critical theory and quantitative methods, Derek Houston engages with policy questions relative to resource inequality across the P-20 educational pipeline, advocating for a socially-just future. His most recent scholarship focuses on critically engaging the tools and processes of quantitative research. Dr. Houston earned his Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the Department of Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership. At the end of his term at Spencer, Dr. Houston will begin an appointment as Associate Professor of Educational Leadership in the School of Education, Health, and Human Behavior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Jasmine Janicki's background is in youth recreation programming, nonprofit administration, and large-scale event planning.She received her degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she studied Sports Management and Community Recreation, and also skated for the Illini Synchronized Figure Skating Team.
Working in tandem with the Director of IT, Brendan Jimenez also assists with implementing and troubleshooting our systems and policies. A part-time support member with more than five years of experience in the IT industry, he attends DePaul University as a graduate student studying Cybersecurity and Systems Management.
Judy Klippenstein recently assumed the newly created role of Records Manager and is using her institutional knowledge to build and manage a records management system. She continues to serve as Secretary of the Board where she coordinates board and committee meeting logistics, prepares materials and minutes, and maintains appropriate records and historical documents. Judy is a member of ARMA International (Association of Records Managers and Administrators) as well as the Chicago ARMA Chapter. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign.
Emily Krone Phillips is an author and communications professional focused on the intersection between education policy, research, and practice.She previously worked as an education reporter for the Daily Herald newspaper and as the Communications Director for the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Her recent book, The Make-Or-Break Year, weaves together stories about Chicago students and educators with groundbreaking research on the critical importance of ninth grade academic performance for future academic success.
She holds a BA in History from Princeton University and an MS in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
Preeya Pandya Mbekeani studies educational inequality, with a focus on postsecondary access and completion for low-income and minoritized students. In her recent work, she has examined socioeconomic disparities in college enrollment and completion and in parental behaviors thought to be associated with educational attainment. Her work also evaluates programs and policies aimed at reducing income- and race-based inequality in higher education access and completion. Preeya earned her doctorate in Quantitative Policy Analysis in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she was a doctoral fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. She holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Preeya worked at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She began her career as a high school teacher, and she spent several years as a counselor in a college access program.
As a former Program Director and Counseling Coordinator for Upward Bound, Jeana Morrison has always let her passion for working with youth of color ground and direct her work. To that end, her research examines the ways in which higher education, policy, and race collide to create particular experiences for Black students across the African diaspora. She is interested in understanding how access and equity policies are implemented transnationally, paying particular attention to how post-secondary student understandings and critiques can contribute to policy making processes. Prior to joining Spencer, Jeana was an inaugural AACTE/Holmes Postdoctoral Associate at the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. She loves music, international travel, and her hometown of Philadelphia. Jeana received her Ph.D. from the Drexel University School of Education.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir is the sixth President of the Spencer Foundation.
Prior to her appointment at Spencer, Nasir held a faculty appointment at the University of California, Berkeley, where she also served as Vice-Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion. Nasir earned her PhD in Education Psychology at UCLA and was a member of the faculty in the School of Education at Stanford University. Her scholarly work focuses on issues of race, culture, learning, and identity. She has authored several books, including recently co-editing the Handbook of the Cultural Foundations of Learning, and has published numerous scholarly articles about the interaction of learning and identity. Nasir is a member of the National Academy of Education and the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) for 2021-2022.
OiYan Poon’s research agenda brings together organizational theories and race and ethnic studies to study selective admissions processes, affirmative action policies, and the racial politics of Asian Americans and education. In her research, she has utilized a range of methods and approaches including critical discourse analysis, narrative inquiry, constructivist grounded theory, community-based participatory research methods, and GIS spatial analysis. As a public scholar, she is a lead co-author of amicus briefs submitted on behalf of social scientists supporting race-conscious admissions in SFFA v. Harvard. Prior to joining Spencer, Dr. Poon was an Associate Professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor Affiliate in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned a Ph.D. in Education with a certificate in Asian American Studies from UCLA and an M.Ed. in College Student Affairs Administration from the University of Georgia.
Jennifer Seelig's research is situated at the intersection of educational equity and socio-spatial identities. She applies critical theory and qualitative methods to study the political economy of rural America, including the rural teacher pipeline, the role of schools in community development, and the civic capacity of rural communities. She received the American Educational Research Association (AERA) Dissertation of the Year Award (2017) from Division L: Policy & Politics and from the Rural Education Special Interest Group for her ethnographic study of a rural school-community relationship in Wisconsin. Prior to joining Spencer, Jennifer was the Assistant Director of the Rural Education Research & Implementation Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and held a postdoctoral research position at Northwestern University. Jennifer was a high school Spanish teacher for six years prior to entering the PhD program.She holds a PhD in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She received her masters and undergraduate degrees from Ohio University.
Kayla Smith joins Spencer with over 6 years experience as an Executive Assistant. Previously working in the legal and accounting industries, Kayla brings her skills in project management to support the President and Senior Vice President.
Cynthia Soto is a two-time graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Instructional Leadership. Cynthia has over 25 years of experience working in elementary and higher education and community-based programs. Her knowledge of community-engagement and community-centered practice stems from years of working to advance Indigenous educational initiatives in and out of school with students, families, and communities. She is passionate about building and creating opportunities to elevate access and healthy partnerships for underrepresented communities.
Krystal Villanosa studies educational practitioners' conceptions of equity, with a focus on informal learning environments and organizational settings. In her recent work, she has examined how museum practitioners discursively position the minoritized communities they seek to engage. Her research also examines the consequences of practitioners' beliefs and attitudes about equity on designing for educational equality (or remediating educational inequality). Prior to pursuing her doctoral studies at Northwestern University in the Learning Sciences, she worked in the Field Museum's education department, overseeing the development and implementation of STEM-focused digital learning programs for youth. Across her career, Krystal has heavily engaged in research design, program design and evaluation, grant writing and reviewing, strategic planning, and budget management.