Grants Manager and Program Administrator
Jessica Anzaldúa is Grants Manager and Program Administrator at Spencer Foundation.
Prior to joining Spencer, Jessica Anzaldúa worked in various grantmaking roles with nonprofit organizations including the national hunger relief organization Feeding America and United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. In addition to her grantmaking expertise, Jessica has over a decade of experience in many aspects of nonprofit management, including fundraising, community engagement and stewardship. Jessica holds a Master of Nonprofit Administration and a Master of Organizational Leadership from North Park University.
Director of Programs
Leah Bricker provides mentorship and oversees all of the foundation’s grant programs as the Director of 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.
Chief Financial Officer & Treasurer
Andreason Brown leads Spencer’s accounting, tax, audit, and information technology functions.
Prior to joining the foundation in 2018, Andreason Brown worked over two decades in the nonprofit sector. He most recently served as Chief Operating Officer at Forefront, the Illinois statewide association for grantmakers, nonprofits, and advisors.
Andreason is a board member of the Chicago Architecture Center, Bright Promises Foundation, Illinois State Treasurer's Charitable Trust Stabilization Fund, and United Philanthropy Forum. He is past Chair of African American Legacy Fund where he is now a Life Director, and an Economic Club of Chicago member.
He earned a Bachelor of Economics degree at Central Michigan University, a Master of Nonprofit Management degree, and a Master of Accounting degree both at DePaul University.
Associate Program Officer and Project Manager
Kenly Brown serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs and as a Project Manager for Spencer's strategic work and events.
Kenly Brown’s research draws on her interdisciplinary training in Black intellectual thought and humanist social science situated at the nexus of race, gender, and education. Kenly is completing her book manuscript Subversive Dreaming: The Affective Lives of Black Girls in Alternative Schooling where she employs creative ethnography to capture how Black girls experience and share what it feels like to survive interpersonal and institutional violence as students enrolled in a California continuation school. Prior to joining Spencer, Kenly was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Washington University in St Louis in the Department of African and African American Studies. During her time there, she founded and led the Black Girlhood Studies Lab housed in the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Equity where students and collaborators explored, centered, and supported Black girl life through research, community engagement, and mentorship. Kenly earned a Ph.D. in African American and African Diaspora Studies with a designated emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from UC Berkeley. Kenly’s research has been supported by the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship and AERA Minority Writing Fellowship.
Vice President for Administration and Chief of Staff
As an administrative leader, Liz Carrick works with the administrative team to carry out all administrative functions at the foundation.
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.
Pat Cecil has worked for the Spencer Foundation since 2002 as the Associate Accountant.
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.
Associate Program Officer
Kevin Close serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs.
Kevin Close is an interdisciplinary scholar who seeks to improve and rethink large-scale standardized testing systems. His research spans three major strands of educational research: measurement, educational technology, and educational policy to examine wider validity issues in education whether at the macro scale, with teacher evaluation systems, or the micro scale, with the language of particular test items.
As a scholar, Kevin emphasizes academic communication and knowledge mobilization. Not only does he seek to publish in peer-reviewed journals, he also publishes trade articles, policy reports, and blog posts. Prior to joining the Spencer Foundation, he shared his research with ACT inc. helping them analyze linguistic issues found in test items. He also cofounded and developed a website and webinar series, called talkingaboutdesign.com, to explore the nexus between education and design. Kevin completed his Ph.D. in Learning, Literacies, and Technologies at Arizona State University and his M.Ed. in Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences at Utah State University.
Anthony Devier's roles include account reconciliation, financial reporting, and general ledger maintenance.
Before coming to Spencer, Anthony Devier worked in the accounting department at a local law firm and quickly discovered a passion for Spencer’s mission before joining the team in 2022. He received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Loyola University Chicago.
Senior Vice President
Kara Finnigan oversees all of the foundation's grant programs and serves on Spencer's executive team.
Kara Finnigan has studied educational policies and programs at the local, state, and federal level for more than 30 years. She has written extensively about high-stakes accountability and school choice and focuses on issues of racial justice and equity in policy design, implementation, and outcomes. Finnigan's research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science and employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analysis and GIS mapping. She is currently studying connections between education and housing policies; social movements around integration in metropolitan areas; and the social networks of educational leaders around research evidence. She is also a professor in the Educational Studies program in the School of Education at the University of Michigan. Previously she was a professor at the University of Rochester where she served as a Distinguished Equity, Inclusion, and Social Transformation Fellow with the Office of Equity and Inclusion and an Inclusive Climate Leadership Fellow with the Provost’s Office. She began her work in K-12 education as a substitute teacher in Anchorage, Alaska.
Board Secretary and Communications Manager
Doris Fischer serves as Secretary of the Board and Communications Manager.
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.
Program and Post-Award Administrator
Maricelle Garcia administers the Research-Practice Partnership Program, Large Research Grants Program, and Racial Equity Grants Program from pre-application inquiries to selection panel meetings and selection of grantees.
Maricelle Garcia also manages post-award support for all grant programs. She received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from DePaul University.
Chief Investment Officer
Laura Glick oversees the investment program for the Spencer Foundation Endowment.
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.
Director of Personnel and Office Operations
Kathryn Gray advises on and implements all human resources policies, procedures, and benefits.
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.
Office and Events Manager
Jasmine Knetl is the Office Manager, and she also oversees the planning, execution, and logistics for Spencer meetings, conferences, and social events.
Jasmine Knetl'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.
Emily Krone Phillips
Emily Krone Phillips leads Spencer's internal and external outreach efforts, ensuring all communication supports the organization's goals and values .
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.
Naomi Mae W.
Associate Program Officer and Project Manager
Naomi Mae W. serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs and as a Project Manager for Spencer's strategic work and events.
Naomi Mae W. (Dr. Mae) has been an activist scholar and community organizer for over ten years with dedication to advancing educational equity and justice within urban school districts. Naomi is originally from Southeast San Diego, CA, and received her B.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Berkeley; a M.A. in Educational Politics, Leadership, and Advocacy from New York University; and a PhD in Educational Foundations and Policy from the University of Michigan. She is a community-based researcher and critical ethnographer whose current research centers youth organizers of color as they build multiracial-multiethnic coalitions to fight for greater educational justice. Naomi deeply believes in community and relationship building and enjoys collaborating with young people, program coordination, organizing, and all things music.
Na’ilah Suad Nasir
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 provides mentorship and oversees all of the foundation’s grant programs.
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. She is also an Associate Professor Affiliate in the School of Education at Colorado State University and a Faculty Affiliate in the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Initiatives Manager; Program Administrator for the Conference Grants Program
Cynthia Soto provides project management support for the Foundation’s Racial Equity Initiative including the Indigenous and Indigeneity Initiatives.
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.
Associate Program Officer
Tafadzwa Tivaringe serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs.
Tafadzwa Tivaringe is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work explores the link between education and development through the examination of the economic, political, and social outcomes of education policies. Beyond these substantive interests, Tafadzwa has methodological interests in econometrics and sociometrics. Prior to joining Spencer, Tafadzwa was a Faculty Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he also completed his PhD in Education with a minor in Quantitative Methods in the Social and Behavioral Studies. His forthcoming book project, Education Reform and the Ride of Graduate Unemployment in South Africa (under contract with Lexington Books), explores the possibilities and limits of using education policy as a lever for addressing structural inequality. Tafadzwa’s work has received numerous honors, among them, an Outstanding Dissertation Award and an AERA Outstanding Graduate Student Paper for the SLEE SIG, and an APPAM Equity and Inclusion Fellowship.
Associate Program Officer
Krystal Villanosa serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs.
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.
Executive Assistant to the President and Sr. Vice President
Ashley Wynn provides administrative and scheduling support to the President and Sr. Vice President and acts as liaison with the Spencer team.
Ashley Wynn is the Executive Assistant to the President and Senior Vice President at the Spencer Foundation. Prior to joining Spencer, she served in a variety of operations and administrative roles throughout the art industry, including MoMA PS1, The Museum of Contemporary Art, and Monique Meloche Gallery. She received her degree in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Associate Program Officer
Jenny Zhang serves as an internal grant reviewer across all of Spencer's major grant programs.
Jenny Zhang’s research agenda focuses on literacy and language learning. Drawing from literacy studies, linguistic anthropology, and development studies, Jenny uses ethnographic methods in her research to examine the ideologies, practices, and outcomes of an international development intervention focused on early-grades literacy in Indonesia. Jenny also researches how minority language rights are framed and contested within educational policy, curriculum, and the politics of everyday life in eastern Indonesia. In all her work, she strives to illuminate how interventions meant to support language and literacy learning can be scaled up without losing their value and essence, while also appropriately contextualized for diverse sets of learners. Jenny earned a Ph.D. in Education with a certificate in Global Metropolitan Studies from UC Berkeley.
Megan Bang serves as Senior Advisor to the Spencer Foundation.
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 Psychology in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.