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Our Team

Laura and John Arnold

Laura & John Arnold

Co-chairs

Laura and John established the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2008. They believe philanthropy should be transformational and should seek through innovation to solve persistent problems in society. As co-founders, Laura and John actively engage in the organization’s overall direction and daily execution. Laura is an attorney and a former oil company executive. John is an investor. They have three children and reside in Houston, Texas.

Michael Akinyele

Michael Akinyele

Director of Venture Development – Health Care

Michael is responsible for supporting the development of the Foundation’s health care strategy and identifying, analyzing, and managing new philanthropic investments/initiatives related to health care.

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Matt Alsdorf - Staff Photo

Matt Alsdorf, J.D.

Vice President of Criminal Justice

Matt is an experienced attorney who joined the Laura and John Arnold Foundation in 2011.  Since then, Matt has worked extensively on pretrial projects and has led many of the Foundation’s efforts around pretrial risk assessment and related reforms.  He has spoken widely across the country on the use of data and analytics to ensure the justice system protects the public, operates as fairly as possible, and makes effective use of limited public resources.

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LJAF Photo- Dave Anderson

David Anderson

Director of Evidence-based Policy

David joined the Foundation after a decade with the nonprofit, nonpartisan Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, where he served as vice president from 2009 to 2015. In this role, he oversaw staff-level evidence reviews conducted for the Coalition’s Top Tier Evidence initiative—a widely cited resource used by policymakers, philanthropic officials, and practitioners to identify social programs shown in rigorous evaluations to produce sizable, sustained benefits to participants.

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LJAF Photo_Renice Armelin

Renice Armelin

Houston Office Manager

Renice helps manage the day-to-day operations of the Foundation’s Houston office. She previously worked for an international corporate law firm, where she assisted with attorney recruitment and helped to coordinate events for new and prospective employees.

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Christina Azene

Christina Azene

Public Accountability Manager

Christina has extensive experience managing multi-disciplinary teams and launching stakeholder engagement efforts for organizations in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.  Before joining the Foundation, Christina worked at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C., where she led security analytics teams and mapped supply chain networks to design critical asset protection plans for Fortune 500 clients.  She also worked at The New Teacher Project, developing strategies to create compensation and career pathway models for one of the largest school districts in the nation.

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Elizabeth Banks

Controller & Director of Grants Management

Beth is a certified public accountant with experience in budgeting, general accounting, and internal auditing in the private sector. Prior to joining the Foundation, Beth worked as a financial analyst at an energy company, where she was responsible for a wide range of financial management matters with a national organizational scope.

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LJAF Photo- Jon Baron

Jon Baron, J.D.

VICE PRESIDENT OF EVIDENCE-BASED POLICY

Jon leads the Foundation’s strategic investments in rigorous research aimed at growing the body of evidence-based social programs and scaling those shown to produce meaningful improvements in people’s lives. He is the founder and former president of the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that worked with federal policy officials from 2001 to 2015 to advance important evidence-based reforms, many of which were enacted into law and policy.

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Marissa Bazan

Marissa Bazan

Receptionist and Administrative Assistant

Marissa provides administrative support and assistance to team members in the Foundation’s Houston office. Before joining the Foundation, she worked for a city government in the Houston area. During her time with the city, Marissa served in key positions at both the regional airport and in the assistant city manager’s office. She oversaw advertising and customer service initiatives, coordinated a public service program for youth, conducted research for the public safety department, and helped prepare reports about the city’s response to critical issues and events.

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LJAF Photo- Virginia Bersch

Virginia Bersch

Deputy Director of National Implementation, Criminal Justice

Virginia helps manage the nationwide rollout of the Foundation’s pretrial risk assessment, the PSA, as well as other tools and reforms developed by the Criminal Justice team. Prior to joining the Foundation, she spent nine years developing innovative, data-driven approaches to improving government systems.

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Lesley Briones - Staff Photo

Lesley Briones, J.D.

Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel

Lesley is responsible for overseeing the Foundation’s legal matters and assisting the President to manage the Foundation’s staff and day-to-day operations. Before joining the Foundation, Lesley was an attorney at Vinson & Elkins, LLP, where her practice primarily focused on tax-exempt organizations. She assisted both public charities and private foundations with formation and compliance matters. Lesley holds degrees from Yale Law School and Harvard University.

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Erica Brown

Public Accountability Manager

Erica has extensive experience working with governments and nonprofit organizations to improve the efficacy of social programs by focusing on evidence, outcomes, and rigorous evaluation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a Government Innovation Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Social Impact Bond Technical Assistance Lab, where she led the development of the first project in South Carolina to use Pay for Success financing. In addition, Erica conducted a feasibility study on Pay for Success in Rhode Island, and served as a program coordinator for Rhode Islanders Sponsoring Education (RISE), where she tracked long-term educational attainment among program recipients. She has delivered presentations to policymakers on various topics related to Pay for Success, including the project development process for state and local governments and innovative strategies for funding specific programs.

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Ken Bubp

Director of Education

Ken helps manage the Foundation’s portfolio of strategic investments in K-12 education. Throughout his career, he has served in a variety of leadership roles at organizations committed to making a meaningful impact on children and families. Prior to joining the Foundation, Ken worked as the executive vice president of The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit working to expand the number of excellent public schools so that every child has access to a high-quality education. Before that, he served as the chief operating officer at Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, a nationally recognized outdoor history and science museum, where he helped lead an organizational transformation that resulted in significant gains in both learning outcomes and guest satisfaction. Ken holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Taylor University and an MBA from Indiana University.

Stuart Buck - Staff Photo

Stuart Buck, J.D., Ph.D.

Vice President of Research Integrity

Stuart leads the Foundation’s Research Integrity initiative, which seeks to improve the quality and reliability of scientific research in fields ranging from economics to cancer cell biology. In addition, he helps ensure that research supported by LJAF is as rigorous as possible, and that the Foundation’s major investments are themselves evaluated by independent experts.

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LJAF Photo_Denis Calabrese

Denis Calabrese

President

Denis leads the Foundation by employing strategic entrepreneurial philanthropy to address some of society’s most complex and urgent challenges. In his career as a public policy expert and strategic communications advisor, Denis founded and led a national consulting firm, advising clients ranging from Fortune 500 businesses and international law firms to professional associations and prominent individuals including federal elected officials and CEOs.

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LJAF Photo_Kim Cassel

Kim Cassel

Evidence-Based Policy Manager

Kim has extensive experience conducting rigorous research and applying its findings to improve the effectiveness of social policy. Before joining the Foundation, she worked for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nonpartisan Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy. While at the Coalition, Kim helped to develop policy proposals aimed at increasing the effectiveness of social spending and performed evidence reviews for a wide range of audiences, including federal officials, foundation leaders, and social service providers.

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Paulina Diaz

Paulina Diaz

Public Accountability Sustainable Public Finance Analyst

Paulina performs policy research and data analysis for the Foundation’s sustainable public finance initiatives. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked for a government organization in Mexico, where she helped to oversee the use of data in tax collection and administration. She also previously served as the director of fiscal policy in Mexico City, where she designed new policies and implemented corrective actions to encourage local revenue growth.

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Danielle Durbin

Communications Associate

Danielle is an award-winning writer and an experienced project manager. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as a city public information officer in central Texas, where she acted as a liaison to the media and developed and managed internal and external communications campaigns for a variety of platforms, including print, the Web, television, and social media.

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Thomas Flack

Thomas Flack

Evidence-Based Policy Analyst

Thomas provides analytical and operational support for the Foundation’s Evidence-Based Policy team. He conducts research on potential funding opportunities and helps to review social programs and policies as part of the team’s effort to identify highly promising interventions that produce sizable, sustained benefits to participants and society as a whole.

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Rachele

Rachele Grieco

New York Office Manager

Rachele manages the day-to-day operations of the Foundation’s New York office. She previously worked as an office manager and an executive assistant at an investment bank that specializes in technology mergers and acquisitions. Rachele holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Georgian Court College and a master’s degree from The General Theological Seminary. She actively volunteers with several nonprofit organizations in New York City.

Danielle Hale

Danielle Hale

Executive Assistant

Danielle provides administrative support and assistance with special projects. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as an executive assistant at one of the top public affairs firms in Washington, D.C. While serving in that role, she managed day-to-day operations, coordinated events, and filed reports for the firm’s 120 clients. Danielle graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in history.

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Noor Iqbal

Education Manager

Noor helps manage the Foundation’s Education portfolio. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked as a senior policy associate at MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), where she analyzed results from impact evaluations of international poverty alleviation programs and managed J-PAL’s multi-million dollar investments in efforts to expand the evidence base around post-primary education.

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Peter Katz

Peter Katz

Director of Criminal Justice

Prior to joining the Foundation, Peter spent 17  years working as a federal and state prosecutor in four of the nation’s most respected prosecutorial offices.  He has prosecuted thousands of cases over the course of his career, many involving intricate data analysis and expert testimony.  During his tenure in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, Peter served as an assistant district attorney (ADA) assigned to the Homicide Investigation Unit.  He specialized in criminal investigations, negotiation, and trial advocacy while supervising and training dozens of junior ADAs.

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Neerav Kingsland

Neerav Kingsland

Senior Education Fellow

Neerav leads the Foundation’s efforts to improve K-12 education. He is the former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans (NSNO), an organization that is working to ensure every child in New Orleans, Louisiana, is able to attend a high-quality public school. NSNO is playing a critical role in the remarkable school turnaround effort in that city. As CEO of the organization, Neerav helped develop the strategy and lead the transformation of New Orleans’ schools. Students have made dramatic gains under the new system and are now achieving at the highest levels in decades. Neerav has appeared throughout the country to detail the impact of New Orleans’ reforms and frequently writes on education policy for multiple national blogs. He is a graduate of Tulane University and Yale Law School.

Robin Lipp

Robin Lipp, J.D.

Evidence-Based Innovation Manager

Robin helps manage the Foundation’s Evidence-Based Innovation portfolio. Before joining the Foundation, he served as a Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellow in Nonprofit Law at the Vera Institute of Justice, where he worked on a number of initiatives to support Vera’s legal department, demonstration projects, and centers, including its Center on Sentencing and Corrections. Robin holds a law degree from Harvard Law School, a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Swarthmore College.

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LJAF Photo_Emily Magid

Emily Magid

Manager of Criminal Justice Communications and Special Projects

Emily helps manage communications and special projects for the Foundation’s Criminal Justice initiative. She joined the Foundation after working in the financial services industry, where she designed and managed leadership development programs at Morgan Stanley.

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LJAF Photo_Carissa Malone

Carissa Malone

Accounting and Grants Management Associate

Carissa assists with the Foundation’s accounting and grant management. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked in the oil and gas industry, where she served as an accountant for an energy company and as an associate for a business solutions consulting firm.

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SMar

Sam Mar

Venture Development Manager

Sam helps manage the Foundation’s Venture Development portfolio and works to analyze high-leverage philanthropic opportunities in emerging areas of strategic interest. Prior to joining the Foundation, he held various positions globally in technology consulting, banking, private equity, and product innovation.

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LJAF Photo_Josh McGee

Josh B. McGee, Ph.D.

Vice President of Public Accountability

Josh is an economist and public policy expert. Prior to joining the Foundation, he was a doctoral fellow and research associate in the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas. He currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Rice University, where he teaches in the Summer Institute for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program at the Jones Graduate School of Business.

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Pamm McNeil

Washington, D.C. Office Manager

Pamm manages the day-to-day operations of the Foundation’s Washington, D.C. office. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served as the director of operations for a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit which provides emergency shelter, transitional housing, counseling, case management, and legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. Pamm has more than 25 years of experience in operations, administration, and office management. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wellesley College.

Meredith McPhail

Meredith McPhail

Research Integrity Manager

Meredith helps manage the Foundation’s Research Integrity portfolio. Before joining the Foundation, she served as a decision science analyst at a major financial service provider. In that role, she helped departments use analytical methods to solve internal problems, mitigate risks, and achieve their objectives. She also previously worked as an analyst for a global economic consulting firm in Washington, D.C., where she researched the potential impacts of proposed energy and environmental regulations for clients.

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Jennifer Nelsen

Assistant General Counsel

Jennifer is responsible for assisting the general counsel with overseeing the Foundation’s legal matters. Before joining the Foundation, she was an attorney with Winston & Strawn LLP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, where her practice focused primarily on complex commercial litigation. Jennifer assisted clients in a variety of industries with state and federal lawsuits, alternative dispute resolution proceedings, and counseling on internal and investigative issues. In addition, she provided pro bono legal services to those in need, working with organizations such as the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, Human Rights First, Tahirih Justice Center, and Disability Rights Texas. Prior to her time in private practice, she was a judicial law clerk for The Honorable Melinda Harmon, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas.

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Rosemary Nidiry

Rosemary Nidiry, J.D.

Director of Criminal Justice

Rosemary joined the Foundation after a distinguished career as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. As a federal prosecutor, she investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of domestic and international crimes, including cases involving cybercrime, financial fraud, consumer fraud, money laundering, violent crime, human trafficking, and narcotics.  Between 2009 and 2011, Rosemary served as a staff member of the President’s Special Task Force on Detainee Disposition and later as counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the U.S. Department of Justice. In those roles, she worked on a number of national security and counter-terrorism policy initiatives.  Rosemary also served as a senior investigator for an international commission established by the United Nations Security Council, where she helped conduct the initial phases of an inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others killed in a 2005 explosion in Beirut.

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LJAF Photo_Megan OFlaherty

Megan O’Flaherty

Executive Assistant

Megan provides administrative support for the Foundation’s co-chairs. She previously worked as a business development coordinator at an international corporate law firm, where she prepared proposals, coordinated events, and helped manage marketing initiatives. She has held a variety of positions in the legal field over the past five years and has served as the project manager for a number of high-profile conferences.

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Jennifer Olmos

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT

Jennifer provides administrative support and assistance with special projects to the senior management of the Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked as a community outreach coordinator and development project specialist in the nonprofit sector. Jennifer has 25 years of administrative experience, primarily as a legal secretary and paralegal. She attended Ashford University and studied public administration.

Justine Palacios

Justine Palacios, J.D.

Grants Manager & Contracts Specialist

Justine serves as the team lead for the Foundation’s grants management department and works directly with the Foundation’s Sustainable Public Finance and Venture Development initiatives to manage the grants and other contracts for those growing portfolios. She received her J.D. from Tulane University Law School, where she specialized in international and comparative law.

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LJAF Photo-Kelli Rhee

Kelli Rhee

Vice President of Venture Development

Kelli is responsible for identifying and pursuing new, high-leverage philanthropic opportunities for the Foundation. In addition, Kelli manages certain current charitable investments and prospective projects for the Foundation’s board of directors. Prior to joining the Foundation, she served in numerous strategic and entrepreneurial roles in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.  Kelli began her career as a management consultant with Bain & Company and The Bridgespan Group.

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Karla Sainz - Staff Photo

Karla Sainz

Board Liaison and Manager

Karla serves as a liaison between the board of directors and the staff. She provides project management and strategic support to the board and leadership team. Karla also manages the Foundation’s Innovation Labs program, an initiative that is focused on engaging leading academics and practitioners to brainstorm how to solve some of society’s most pressing issues. In addition, she helps to identify and manage philanthropic opportunities for the Foundation’s Pay for Success portfolio.

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LJAF Photo_Hannah Sawyer

Hannah Sawyer

Writer

Hannah works with the Foundation’s communications team to prepare solution papers, policy briefs, and other materials. Previously, she worked as a journalist in Pennsylvania, where she covered complex municipal issues, including local government budgeting and urban redevelopment planning.

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Raquel Segundo

Raquel Segundo

Grants Management Associate

Raquel provides grant development and management support for the Foundation’s Criminal Justice initiative. Prior to joining the Foundation, Raquel worked at the New York County District Attorney’s Office, where she managed the Immigrant Affairs Program. In that role, Raquel organized public outreach initiatives, conducted crime screening and victim interviews, and worked to build anti-crime coalitions in underserved immigrant communities.

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LJAF Photo- Kathy Stack

Kathy Stack

VICE PRESIDENT OF EVIDENCE-BASED INNOVATION

Kathy joined the Laura and John Arnold Foundation after a distinguished career in the federal government, including 27 years at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where she served under five Presidents. Under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, Kathy helped federal agencies design innovative grant-making models that allocate funding based on evidence and evaluation.

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MStebbins

Michael Stebbins, Ph.D.

VICE PRESIDENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Michael is responsible for identifying and pursuing opportunities for philanthropic investment in science and technology. He joined the foundation after serving as the assistant director for biotechnology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for six years. At the White House, Michael was responsible for developing and driving initiatives in life sciences research, including the Administration’s efforts focused on improving veterans’ mental health, combating antibiotic resistance, increasing access to federally funded scientific research results, restoring pollinator health, and reforming the regulatory system for biotechnology products.

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Adaeze Ugwu

Adaeze Ugwu, J.D.

Grants Manager and Contracts Specialist

Adaeze helps manage grants and other contracts for the Foundation’s Education, Research Integrity, Evidence-Based Policy and Innovation, and Science and Technology portfolios.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Adaeze worked for a boutique law firm. In that role, she represented accounting firms during litigation, advised clients on federal and state compliance matters, and drafted professional engagement, nondisclosure, consulting, and settlement agreements.  She also has experience in the health care industry, where she worked as an analyst for multiple Fortune 25 corporations, conducting financial modeling and due diligence for acquisitions and joint ventures, preparing financial reports, and managing international payment processes for pharmaceutical products.

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LeilaWalsh

Leila Walsh

Director of Communications

Leila is a former journalist with experience producing award-winning television reports, leading complex multimedia campaigns, and developing internal and external communications strategies. Prior to joining the Foundation, she was a senior manager in the Office of Communications at one of the largest school districts in the country.

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Joanna

Joanna Weiss, J.D.

Director of Criminal Justice

Joanna is an experienced attorney and project manager who joined the Foundation after a varied career in New York City government, where she held legal, operational, and policy positions. Joanna worked in the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator improving efficiency, transparency, and fairness in administrative courts.

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Michelle Welch

Research and Policy Manager

Michelle is a research and public policy expert who specializes in topics related to financial stability. She joins the Foundation after serving as a senior research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, D.C., where she conducted rigorous research and policy analysis on the Great Recession and the subsequent recovery.

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Mimi Xi

Mimi Xi

Public Accountability Manager

Mimi helps to identify and manage philanthropic opportunities for the Foundation’s Public Accountability portfolio. Prior to joining the Foundation, she worked in the Civic Innovation office of a major city, where she led cost savings initiatives, managed operational efficiency projects, and assisted with strategic planning. She also previously served as a consultant in Washington, D.C., advising representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, and the General Services Administration in operations and strategy.

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