CEL Team

Overview

California Education Lab Team

Michal Kurlaender, Faculty Director, Professor, School of Education
Michal Kurlaender investigates students’ educational pathways, in particular K-12 and postsecondary alignment, and access to and success in postsecondary schooling. She has expertise on alternative pathways to college and college readiness at both community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. In addition to working with national data, Kurlaender works closely with administrative data from all three of California’s public higher education sectors–the University of California, the California State University and the California Community College systems. Read more about Michal Kurlaender.

Scott Carrell, Faculty Co-Director, Professor, Department of Economics
Scott Carrell is a Professor of Economics and the Faculty Athletics Representative at the University of California, Davis. His primary area of research is in the economics of education. Professor Carrell is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Research Fellow at Institute for the Study of Labor, and a Co-Editor for the Journal of Human Resources. He spent 10 years as an active duty officer in the U.S. Air Force, retiring from the U.S. Air Force Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2015. Read more about Scott Carrell.

Paco Martorell, Faculty Co-Director, Associate Professor, School of Education
Francisco (Paco) Martorell joined the School of Education as an assistant professor in July 2014. He has broad research interests in both higher education and K-12 policy. Recent studies include analyses of developmental education in college, the returns to educational credentials, and the impacts of school facility investments. Current projects include an examination of parental preferences for schools, financial aid in community college, the impacts of college readiness signals, and the long-run effects of school quality. Read more about Paco Martorell.

Sherrie Reed, Executive Director
Sherrie Reed is Executive Director at the California Education Lab. In this role, she directs research and administrative activities of several federal and foundation grants aimed at improving the educational experiences and outcomes of California’s youth.  Prior to joining the California Education Lab, Sherrie served as the Director of Research for New Tech Network and worked in K-12 education as a special education teacher, school administrator and charter school developer for more than 20 years.  Sherrie has a Ph.D. in School Organization and Education Policy from University of California Davis. Drawing on her history as a school practitioner and charter school developer, Sherrie’s doctoral research focused on efforts in school reform. More recently, her research efforts have focused on school truancy, high school graduation requirements, and college outcomes. Read more about Sherrie Reed.

Elizabeth Zeiger Friedmann, Research Fellow 
Betsey Friedmann is a postdoctoral researcher at the California Education Lab and Wheelhouse Center. She received her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in School Organization and Educational Policy from the University of California, Davis. Her research focuses on issues related to college access and success, including financial aid and transfer pathways from community colleges. In addition to her work at University of California, Davis, Betsey also lectures at California State University, East Bay.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from University of California, Berkeley and a master’s degree in Education from California State University, East Bay.

Graduate Student Researchers

Sara Adan, PhD Student,  School of Education
Sara Adan is a second year Ph.D. student in Education with a concentration in School Organization and Educational Policy. Her research interests primarily focus on higher education and include issues on college affordability, access, student success, and equity. Prior to joining CEL, Sara was a researcher for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the Public Policy Institute of California, and the Education Insights Center. Sara holds a master’s in public policy and administration from Sacramento State University and a bachelor’s of science in applied psychology from New York University.

Minahil Asim, PhD Candidate,  School of Education
Minahil Asim is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the School Organization and Educational Policy (SOEP) program at University of California, Davis. Her research examines the role of parents and communities in improving the school and home-learning environment for school-aged children in developing countries. Minahil has worked with multilateral agencies, governments, and universities to collect, analyze, and use data to inform education policy and programs in Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. Minahil completed a master’s degree. in International Comparative Education (ICE) at Stanford University prior to joining the Ph.D. program at Davis. She was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan and has been living in the Bay Area for 4 years with her husband.

Briana Ballis, PhD Student, Department of Economics
Briana Ballis is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics at University of California, Davis and has a particular interest in the economics of education. Specifically she is studying the long-run impacts of special education placement and how peers influence educational investments. Prior to enrolling as a graduate student at Davis, she worked as a research analyst at Research Triangle Institute (RTI) working on projects related to Medicare and Medicaid. She holds a master’s degree in Economics and a bachelor’s degree in Economics and International Relations from Boston University.

Kramer Cohen, PhD Candidate, Department of Economics
Kramer Cohen is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include the economics of education and labor economics, with a particular interest in college readiness, educational effectiveness, and the effect of educational systems on historically underrepresented students. Prior to attending UC Davis, Kramer was a research associate at the Public Policy Institute of California and taught at San Francisco State University. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Economics from San Francisco State University.

Claudia Escobar, PhD Student, School of Education
Claudia Escobar is a doctoral student in the School Organization and Educational Policy (SOEP) program at University of California, Davis. Her research interests include the persistence, retention, and learning experiences of first generation (firstgen) college students at 2- and 4-year public universities in California.  Her work explores the relationship between the social and emotional learning processes of firstgen students and the culture of higher education vis-à-vis faculty and peers. In her spare time, she cycles, collects spices, cooking and cocktail recipes, and tests the recipes she has collected.  Claudia is a former policy analyst for the University of California’s Office of the President.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Claremont McKenna Collee and a Masters of Public Policy from University of Chicago.

Ambar Hernandez Negrete, PhD Student, School of Education
Ambar is a second-year Ph.D. student in the School of Education at University of California, Davis with an emphasis in School Organization and Educational Policy. Her research interests include examining the ways in which race-conscious and race-neutral policies hinder, or facilitate. the educational attainment of historically underrepresented students. Ambar was born in Oaxaca, Mexico and migrated to California with her family at the age of seven.  Ambar previously earned a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Development from University of California, Davis.

Alexandria Hurtt, PhD Student, School of Education
Alexandria Hurtt is a third year Ph.D. student in Education with a concentration in School Organization and Educational Policy. Her research interests include college access and readiness, particularly in terms of literacy, and her current work examines the effects of course-taking on postsecondary outcomes. Prior to enrolling at University of California, Davis she worked at a charter school in New Jersey developing English curriculum for middle school students. She holds a master’s degree in education from University of California, Davis and a bachelor’s degree in political science from The College of New Jersey.

Jill Huynh, PhD Student, School of Education
Jill Huynh is a Ph.D. student in School Organization & Educational Policy. Building on a decade of professional experience at colleges and universities, Jill’s research questions revolve around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education. Jill obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Washington and earned her EdM in Higher Education at Harvard University.

Alice Li, PhD Student, Department of Economics
Alice is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests include education topics generally. In particular, her current focus is on financial aid for students and how access, or lack thereof, affects educational outcomes. Previously, Alice worked at an economic consulting firm for two years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Mathematics from the University of Virginia.

Justin Luu, PhD Student, School of Education 
Justin is a first-year Ph.D. student studying Education with an emphasis in School Organization and Education Policy. Prior to joining the California Education Lab, he worked as a quantitative research analyst with the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) based at Stanford University. There, his research focused on urban education and school choice. He holds a bachelor’s in Economics with a minor in Education from the University of California, Davis. 

Joanna Mathias, PhD Student, School of Education
Joanna is a Ph.D. student in Education at the University of California, Davis with an emphasis in School Organization and Educational Policy. Joanna’s research focuses on the measurement of socioeconomic status and the income achievement gap in higher education, especially in STEM fields. Joanna received her bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs and her master’s degree in Economics from North Carolina State University while working professionally at a financial consulting firm.

Anna Marie Ramos, PhD Student, School of Education
Anna Marie is a doctoral student in the School Organization and Educational Policy program at the University of California, Davis. Her research spans a variety of policies that shape college transitions in California, inclusive of how basic needs insecurity and related institutional resources influence students’ educational trajectories. Anna Marie previously worked at MDRC, aiding in evaluations of postsecondary policies intended to support low-income students. She holds a master’s degree in Education from UC Davis and a bachelor’s degree from the University of San Francisco.

Derek Rury, PhD Student, Department of Economics 
Derek is a Ph.D. student in the in the Department of Economics. His research interests include higher education, technological change, and income inequality. His current projects focus on how students choose their field of study once in college and how those choices both influence and are influenced by broader economic trends. Derek’s research also touches on how the price of higher education influences income inequality, as well as how labor markets and educational decisions are influenced by public policy. Derek served as a fellow at the Center for Educational Effectiveness at University of California, Davis where he collaborated with university administrators in supporting graduate student instructors. Before coming to University of California, Davis, Derek worked for the New York City Department of Education and earned his Master of Public Administration at NYU.

Iwunze Ugo, PhD Student, Department of Economics 
Iwunze Ugo is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics. His research interests include educational funding and outcomes both at the K-12 level and in higher education as well as local government public finance. Previously, Iwunze was a research associate at the Public Policy Institute of California, where he worked on a variety of projects related to educational funding and academic achievement for high-need student groups. Iwunze holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Mathematics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Jackson Yan, PhD Student, School of Education 
Jackson is a Ph.D. student in the School Organization and Educational Policy at the University of California, Davis. His research interests are focused on community college students and their transfer pathways to a four-year college. Jackson has previously taught English composition as an adjunct faculty member at Foothill-De Anza and Skyline Community Colleges. He holds a master’s degree in English from San Francisco State University and a bachelor’s degree from UC Davis.

Alumni and Affiliated Researchers

Michel Grosz, PhD, Senior Analyst, Abt Associates
Michel Grosz is a Senior Analyst at Abt Associates in Rockville, Maryland. He received his Ph.D. in Economics in 2017 from the University of California, Davis. Michel is a labor economist whose research primarily focuses on community colleges and career-technical education. Previously, Michel worked as a research associate at the Urban Institute in Washington D.C. and earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Pomona College.

Jacob Jackson, PhD, Research Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California
Jacob Jackson is a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California in the Higher Education Center. His research work includes college access, college outcomes, and higher education finance. He earned a Ph.D. in Education from University of California, Davis. Before his career in research Jacob was a middle school and high school mathematics teacher. He earned a bachelor’s degrees in secondary education and mathematics, as well as his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, from the University of Missouri. 

Kelsey Krausen, PhD, Senior Research Associate, West Ed
Kelsey Krausen is a Senior Research Associate at WestEd. Kelsey is an education policy researcher with expertise in accountability systems, school finance, education leadership, continuous improvement and systems reform. She has worked on a range of research projects including statewide research for Senator Kamala D. Harris on truancy and chronic absence in California’s elementary schools, an evaluation of district systems transformation led by Dr. Michael Fullan, and research on the implementation of California’s new local accountability policy by county and district leaders. Previously, she worked as the Assistant Director of Policy at the National Writing Project and taught college writing at San Quentin Prison. Kelsey has a Ph.D. in School Organization and Educational Policy from the University of California, Davis, a master’s degree in Public Administration from San Francisco State University, and a bachelor’s degree in Literature from the University of California, San Diego.  

Lester Lusher, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Lester Lusher is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics and Public Policy School at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Lester’s research centers around a broad array of topics in education, including understanding the importance of monetary incentives, commitment devices, teaching assistants, and sleep cycles on student achievement. Lester’s studies leverage both natural and experimental variation. His work has received support from several external foundations, including the Russell Sage Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) North America. He earned his Ph.D. in Economics in June 2017 from the University of California, Davis. He also holds a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree in Economics, and a bachelor’s degree in Statistics, from University of California, Davis.

Matt Naven, PhD, Assistant Professor, Washington and Lee University 
Matt is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics at Washington and Lee University. His primary research interests are public economics, labor economics, and the economics of education. His research focuses on the effects of institutions, public policies, and external forces on student outcomes, with particular interest in increasing college access for low-income students. Prior to earning his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California, Davis, Matt grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and completed bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Spanish at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Carolina Ramirez, PhD, Qualitative Researcher, The Education Trust
Carolina is a Qualitative Researcher at The Education Trust. Her research interests are post-secondary persistence among underrepresented students, where she examines the experiences of undergraduates at broad-access four-year universities and is also interested in undergraduate mobility and how transfer pathways impact persistence. Carolina worked as a community organizer in New York City. Prior to earning her Ph.D. with a concentration in School Organization and Educational Policy at the University of California, Davis, Carolina earned a master’s degree in Education Leadership: Policy and Advocacy from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Economic Theory from University of California, Berkeley.

Juliet Wahleithner, PhD, Assistant Professor, Fresno State University
Juliet Michelsen Wahleithner is an Assistant Professor in the Literacy, Early, Bilingual, and Special Education Department at Fresno State University where she teaches courses focused on literacy and writing instruction. She also serves as the co-director of the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, the local site of the National Writing Project, and is an affiliate faculty member of the Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership at Fresno State. Juliet’s research focuses on the teaching and learning of literacy in secondary schools and teacher development for teaching English Language Arts at the secondary level. Prior to earning her Ph.D. in Education from University of California, Davis, Juliet taught high school English and journalism and served as a district level instructional coach in Lodi Unified.

Undergraduate Research Assistants

Aydin Schwartz, Economics, Class of 2020

David Correa, Class of 2019

Kristen Cui, Class of 2019

Joseph Melkonian, Class of 2019

Grace Beattie, Managerial Economics, Class of 2018

Madeline Garcia, Political Science, Class of 2017         

Victoria Gutierrez, Psychology, Class of 2017  

Sophie Mcguinness, Economics, Class of 2017           

Log in

Commands