Wheelhouse Leadership

Susanna Cooper, Managing Director

 Before joining Wheelhouse, Ms. Cooper served as an independent consultant and as longtime advisor on pre-K-to-14 education issues for the leader of the California State Senate. In that role, she shaped and shepherded the Pro Tem’s education agenda, provided counsel on education budget matters, and led multi-year campaigns to increase quality pre-kindergarten opportunities for low-income children, reduce the number of high school dropouts, and strengthen high school-post-secondary pathways. She is a Senior Fellow at the Stuart Foundation, and brings deep experience in project management, policy advocacy, communications, government relations and print journalism.

Michal Kurlaender, Lead Researcher, Professor

Dr. Kurlaender is Chair of the Graduate Group and a Chancellor’s Fellow at the UC Davis School of Education. She investigates students’ educational pathways, in particular K-12 and postsecondary alignment, and access to and success in postsecondary schooling. She has expertise in 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 systems. Kurlaender also studies the impact of racial and ethnic diversity on student outcomes.

Deborah Travis, Executive Consultant, Wheelhouse Institutes

 ​Recently retired from her post as CEO/President of Cosumnes River College, Dr. Travis brings 30 years of postsecondary experience including senior leadership positions in California community colleges as chief academic officer, dean of instructional programs and director of economic development. Dr. Travis earned her doctorate from the UC Davis School of Education’s CANDEL cohort and attended the Institute for Management and Leadership in Education at Harvard University. She has designed and taught coursework in strategic planning, talent acquisition and human resource management, and organizational communication for the UC Davis and CSUS doctoral programs in educational leadership. Her long-standing research interests include adult learning theory, leadership development and community building with diverse groups.

Research Affiliates

Paco Martorell, Assistant Professor, UC Davis School of Education

Dr. Martorell has broad research interests in both higher education and K-12 policy. Current projects cover areas including developmental education in colleges, the effects of grade retention, the returns to for-profit colleges, the impacts of school facility investments, and community college tuition subsidies. He completed his PhD in economics at UC Berkeley. Prior to joining UC Davis, he was an Economist at the RAND Corporation and was a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.

Marcela Cuellar, Assistant Professor, UC Davis School of Education

Dr. Cuellar’s research focuses on Latino student access and success in higher education, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and the development of emerging HSIs. She received her doctorate in Higher Education and Organizational Change at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

Eric Bettinger, Associate Professor, Stanford University School of Education

Dr. Bettinger’s research interests include the economics of education; student success and completion in college; teacher characteristics and student success in college; and the effects of voucher programs on academic and non-academic outcomes. He a research associate in the program on education at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Co-Principal Investigator at the Lemann Center for Brazilian Education at Stanford. Eric’s research focuses on using rigorous statistical methods in identifying cause-and-effect relationships in higher education. His research on financial aid applications has influenced recent efforts by the White House to simplify financial aid processes. He holds a PhD in Economics from MIT.

Tatiana Melguizo, Associate Professor, USC Rossier School of Education

Dr. Melguizo works in the field of economics of higher education, using quantitative methods of analysis and large-scale longitudinal survey data to study the association of different factors such as student trajectories and specific institutional characteristics on the persistence and educational outcomes of minority and low-income students. She holds a PhD in Economics of Education from Stanford University and an MA in Social Policy from the London School of Economics.

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