Our Education, Research & Impact Team, led by Dr. Tia Kim, consists of a team of research scientists, research assistants, and product engagement specialists who build on Committee for Children’s extensive experience in the field of social-emotional learning to develop and continuously improve our programs and products. Our researchers translate recent research from the field and the current challenges and needs of classrooms into practical application to ensure every program and product we create promotes the social-emotional development, safety, and well-being of children. The team is deeply invested in the continuous improvement of our programs and uses research as an aid to these efforts. The Committee for Children research advisory group also provides consultation and guidance to our staff. Join our growing team! Visit our Careers page to learn about our current openings. Tia Kim, PhD Vice President of Education, Research & Impact Read Bio × Tia Kim, PhD Vice President of Education, Research & Impact Tia Kim leads the development and evaluation of Committee for Children’s programs. She’s committed to enhancing their quality, effectiveness, and reach through innovation, partnerships, and rigorous, continuous improvement processes. Tia received her doctorate in developmental psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and completed three years of post-doctoral training at the Academic Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention, where her research focused on the etiology and prevention of youth violence and aggression. She served for three years as an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State, Brandywine, before taking her current position at Committee for Children. Erin Raab, PhD Research Manager Read Bio × Erin Raab, PhD Research Manager As a researcher and leader in education for over two decades, Erin focuses on the kinds of experiences, environments, and relationships young people need to thrive. As a research manager at Committee for Children, she works with a team of research assistants to integrate developmental science and educational research into the design of our Second Step® family of programs, and to plan, design, and implement scientific research and evaluation studies of our programs’ impact on students’ social-emotional learning (SEL). Erin believes her SEL superpower is building positive relationships, which helps create a positive team culture. “I’m a servant-leader and two of my core values are service and growth,” she says. “I want to work toward a more just, equitable, loving world in which everyone can develop to their full potential and contribute to their community.” Prior to joining Committee for Children, Erin held a variety of leadership and researcher roles with organizations such as The Future Project, Choice-Filled Lives Network, REENVISIONED, the KwaNdengezi Library and Education Centre, and MIET AFRICA. She earned her PhD at Stanford Graduate School of Education. She also holds a master’s degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a bachelor of science in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis. Karen Thierry, PhD Research Manager Read Bio × Karen Thierry, PhD Research Manager Karen has more than 20 years of experience researching programs designed to improve children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. In her role as a research manager, Karen studies how educators are using Second Step® social-emotional learning (SEL) programs so she can help identify and eliminate barriers to effective implementation. Karen joined Committee for Children in November 2021 after working as a data strategist for Atlanta Public Schools. Her research has been supported by federal agencies and private foundations, including the National Institute of Health, the Spencer Foundation, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Texas. Karen currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and daughter. She believes analyzing situations is her SEL superpower. “Growing up, I could see firsthand the disparities in access to a quality education,” she says. “That’s why I wanted to join Committee for Children. Systemic, research-based SEL is a primary lever for improving the educational experience of all children.” Sherri Widen, PhD Research Manager Read Bio × Sherri Widen, PhD Research Manager For a long time, Sherri Widen was quite satisfied doing basic psychology research, especially with a focus on looking at how children’s understanding of emotion develops and changes with age. She received a BA in psychology and an MA in developmental psychology from the University of British Columbia, and went on to earn her doctorate in developmental psychology from Boston College. Then she moved into the more applied field of educational psychology, working on a social-emotional learning (SEL) program. “It helped open my eyes to all the possibilities there are to supporting children to develop and flourish,” she says. With that combined background in research and intervention, Sherri joined Committee for Children in 2018. As the research manager, she oversees research assistants as they help develop SEL products that are both research informed and evidence based. “We want to make sure any claims we’re making, or particular things we’re trying to teach kids, are supported by the research out there,” she says. “We also collect our own data so we can inform people about changes in our curricula.” As for her own SEL superpower, she believes it’s perspective-taking, which she employs in all her interpersonal interactions. “I use it when things aren’t going the way I expect,” Sherri says. “I think about the other person’s perspective so I’m not just focusing on what’s happening to me.” Sherri is grateful she has the opportunity to contribute to our mission of helping children thrive in a peaceful world. She says, “Committee for Children has enormous reach and this is an exciting time to work toward the goal of reaching 100 million children per year by 2030.” Jane Choi, PhD Senior Research Scientist Read Bio × Jane Choi, PhD Senior Research Scientist Jane Choi, PhD, is a senior research scientist on the Education, Research, and Impact Team. Before joining Committee for Children, she was a researcher at Mathematica for seven years and conducted rigorous impact and implementation evaluations of educator professional development programs and student programs in thousands of classrooms across the nation. At Committee for Children, Jane uses intersectional approaches to racial equity to lead research to inform Second Step® SEL for Adults, a professional development program for educators that’s rooted in social-emotional learning. In this work, Jane bridges her research expertise with her practical experience conducting professional development programs and working as a teacher’s aide in elementary classrooms and as an advisor to pre-service teachers. Jane has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s and doctorate in education from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught undergraduate students education and Asian American studies courses. She says her SEL superpower is appreciating diversity, and she is committed to working to improve education for historically marginalized students and the educators who support them. “It’s very fulfilling to know the research I do is used to develop and improve a program that supports educators’ day-to-day practices,” Jane says. Cailin Currie, PhD Senior Research Scientist Read Bio × Cailin Currie, PhD Senior Research Scientist As a researcher, Cailin Currie has looked at everything from preschoolers’ school readiness and elementary students’ mindfulness to middle schoolers’ academic motivation and traditionally underrepresented undergraduate students’ sense of belonging in STEM majors. In April 2018, she brought her experience in investigating the best, evidence-based strategies for supporting students’ success inside and outside the classroom to Committee for Children, where she works as a senior research scientist conducting assessments and collecting feedback on our products at multiple stages. She’s also supporting one of the company’s product development teams as their researcher. Cailin has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a master’s and PhD in applied developmental psychology from Portland State University. Her SEL superpower is accurate self-perception. “Being aware of what’s going on internally and externally has been a big priority for me in the last 10 years,” she says. “It’s helped me interact with others and better understand my needs and what strategies work best for me.” Yangyang Liu, PhD Senior Research Scientist Read Bio × Yangyang Liu, PhD Senior Research Scientist Yangyang joined Committee for Children in January 2022 as part of the team that develops our social-emotional learning (SEL) program for middle school students. After spending much of her career researching what young people need to grow and thrive, Yangyang knows that adolescence provides a great opportunity to promote positive development. “There are a lot of changes during puberty, and I believe every individual can reach their full potential in a supportive, nurturing environment,” she says. Now she applies her research expertise to products that help educators support children during this critical stage. Before joining Committee for Children, Yangyang earned a PhD in education with a focus in human development from the University of California, Irvine. She says her passion for developmental psychology was cultivated within an ecosystem of support from family, friends, and educators. Yangyang believes her SEL superpower is perspective-taking, something she feels everyone can improve on. “Good research and product development should reflect multiple perspectives,” she says. “The collaborative environment at Committee for Children allows me to apply and grow this strength.” Pooja Rajanbabu Research Associate Read Bio × Pooja Rajanbabu Research Associate After graduating from the University of Washington (UW) with a bachelor’s degree in public health-global health, Poojashree “Pooja” Rajanbabu says she knew she wanted to work for an organization driving meaningful change in the world. “I joined Committee for Children because of the innovative research it’s doing to support and improve the social-emotional development and well-being of children across the nation and around the world,” says Pooja. “I am passionate about improving the overall health and well-being of children and am excited about future possibilities.” In her previous positions interning at the UW Timothy A. DeRouen Center for Global Oral Health and the UW Global Center for Integrated Health of Women, Adolescents, and Children, she gained significant experience working with qualitative and quantitative data, conducting literature reviews, and collaborating with key stakeholders. She also contributed as a scientific writer and became highly skilled at developing procedures and improving processes. In her current role as research associate for Committee for Children’s Education, Research & Impact team, she collects, analyzes, and reports data from her team’s research activities to inform the development of research-based solutions that improve outcomes for students and staff. Pooja says her SEL superpower is empathy. “I believe it’s critical to understand multiple people’s perspectives and thoughts, especially when working to create products for a diverse global population,” she says. “Empathy is essential for building trust and respect.” Naomi Delger Research Assistant Read Bio × Naomi Delger Research Assistant In her role at Committee for Children, Naomi assists in designing research surveys, gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, and performing other research tasks to help develop and improve Second Step® SEL for Adults, our professional development program for educators that’s rooted in social-emotional learning (SEL). Naomi holds a BS in psychology from the University of Washington, where she gained experience conducting research activities at the university’s Research in Early Autism Detection and Intervention (READi) Lab. After graduating, Naomi wanted to contribute her skills at an organization that prioritizes children’s well-being. She joined Committee for Children in January 2022 and says she was drawn to the organization’s commitment to leveraging innovative research to develop high-quality SEL programs. Naomi believes her SEL superpower is equity. She tries to be fair to others and considerate to differences in people’s backgrounds and needs. Sonny Lim Research Assistant Read Bio × Sonny Lim Research Assistant Sonny Lim is a research assistant for the Education, Research & Impact department. Before joining Committee for Children, Sonny earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington. He spent two years during his program as a research assistant exploring topics related to social psychology, such as identity, intersectionality, and discrimination, which he notes are especially relevant to social-emotional learning (SEL). Sonny believes his greatest strength lies in his passion for research. “I genuinely enjoy every step of the process,” he says. Since joining Committee for Children in November 2021, Sonny has contributed to the development of our Second Step® Middle School program. He assists with data collection and analysis, and conducts literature reviews. Sonny’s dedication to his work goes beyond day-to-day tasks: “Once I learned about the organization, I realized that contributing to the ongoing research at Committee for Children would give me the opportunity to make a true impact on people’s lives. Having the ability to make a positive change through research is something that I have always aimed to achieve in my career, so this role is very meaningful to me,” he says. Sonny’s SEL superpower is appreciating diversity, which he credits to his Chinese and Cambodian heritage and to his experiences with different cultures while growing up in rural Georgia and living in Washington State. Haleigh Maughan Research Assistant Read Bio × Haleigh Maughan Research Assistant Haleigh has the crucial role of analyzing complex data to assess and improve the implementation of Committee for Children’s social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. “We’re focused on interpreting the fidelity of classroom SEL so we can make it more successful for educators,” she says. Haleigh earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Washington, where she was awarded a Population Health Recognition Award for her research on the links between substance abuse and mental health symptoms in college students. She also worked as a summer camp teacher at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, where she helped children in preschool through first grade develop social-emotional skills they hadn’t had the opportunity to practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Haleigh believes her SEL superpowers are problem-solving and decision-making. “I’m always one to offer advice you wouldn’t normally think of. Sometimes a small solution can make a life-changing impact,” she says. In her spare time, Haleigh loves painting, collecting global currency, and crocheting. Allison Tanaka Research Assistant Read Bio × Allison Tanaka Research Assistant Allison has always been passionate about doing what she can to help build an inclusive and equitable world that supports society’s most marginalized individuals. As research assistant, she assists in designing research studies, gathering and analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, and performing other research tasks to help develop and improve Second Step® programs. As an undergraduate student she played a key role in the research study Project Better, which focused on the link between mental health and addiction. The study designed ways to support individuals facing post-traumatic stress disorder and suffering from substance abuse issues. Allison joined Committee for Children in July 2022. She was inspired by the mission, which she feels aligns with her own values and explains, “I love that SEL not only helps students learn to build resilience, but it teaches them to be better people and community members. We’re helping people build kindness and strength within and also inspiring them to strengthen relationships with each other and contribute to a kinder community.” Allison believes her SEL superpower is perspective-taking, a strength she draws on in her personal and professional life. She says, “Being a good person and community member means holding yourself accountable. Being aware of internal biases and honoring diversity and each person’s unique background and identity. Equitability is built on inclusivity.” Carrie Thomas, MBA Senior Product Engagement Manager Read Bio × Carrie Thomas, MBA Senior Product Engagement Manager Carrie Thomas finds her motivation in getting to come to work every day and do something meaningful. As senior product engagement manager at Committee for Children, she makes sure that client feedback and perspectives are reflected in our products serving them, and she collaborates with multiple CFC teams to make this happen. In her previous role assessing community needs for state government, Carrie analyzed data to help schools and community organizations identify services needed to address youth violence and substance abuse prevention. She repeatedly saw the use of Second Step, CFC’s social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum, included in the methods. “When the position at CFC became available, I knew it was something I believed in because I saw the direct impact it could make firsthand,” she says. Carrie has a dual bachelor’s degree in mass communications and public relations from Seattle University and an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Having worked on a variety of teams at CFC since 2007, she has found relationship-building to be her SEL superpower—and a huge part of this collaborative role. Ailsa Kiemle Product Engagement Supervisor Read Bio × Ailsa Kiemle Product Engagement Supervisor A bachelor’s degree in parks, tourism, and recreation management from the University of Montana may not seem like a natural educational fit for a product engagement supervisor at Committee for Children, but Ailsa Kiemle’s background gives her a unique perspective on the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). Ailsa’s SEL superpower is compassion, and before coming to CFC in April 2019, she worked in therapeutic recreation, interacting with youth in out-of-school time organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA. In her current role, she helps coordinate research studies and spends much of her time communicating with teachers, principals, counselors, and district professionals to get their feedback on how we can improve our products. “I have seen, from working in addiction and therapeutic settings, the harm that can be done by not being taught how to control and identify emotions,” she says. “I believe SEL is a powerful tool.” Cassie Hudson-Heck Product Engagement Specialist Read Bio × Cassie Hudson-Heck Product Engagement Specialist Cassie joined Committee for Children in 2021 after earning a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Kenyon College and working in Seattle Public Schools. Cassie’s experience in education, first as a City Year AmeriCorps volunteer and then as a special education instructional assistant, taught her the impact and importance of social-emotional learning (SEL). It was also her first opportunity to benefit students by teaching social-emotional skills and incorporating them into daily interactions. Cassie was motivated to join Committee for Children because she “wanted to work for an organization that not only promoted SEL, but also aligned with my values of positive impact and equity,” she says. Cassie feels her greatest SEL power is empathy. “You never know the reasons behind someone’s actions, so rather than rush to judgment, I try to lean into empathy,” she says. Her deep compassion and strong multi-tasking and organizational skills are essential in her work as a liaison between Committee for Children’s internal teams and external partners. Cassie acts as an advocate for our partner schools, communicating each school’s needs to our organization. Her role also coordinates and streamlines the operations of our research teams to ensure that our Second Step® SEL programs continue to benefit children everywhere. Michelle Romero Product Engagement Specialist Read Bio × Michelle Romero Product Engagement Specialist Michelle Romero is a product engagement specialist with the Product Engagement Team. In her role, she works with educators to refine and improve Second Step® social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. Prior to joining Committee for Children in 2022, Michelle worked as an in-home care provider for neurodivergent students and their families. “As an in-home care provider, I had the life-changing opportunity of supporting students with their academic and personal growth,” Michelle says. Michelle was drawn to Committee for Children by the organization’s mission to create a just, peaceful, and kinder world for future generations. She says her SEL superpower is appreciating diversity, which in turn helps create cultural competency and nurtures community-building. “I have a passion for community-building because communities provide strength,” Michelle says. Outside of her work at Committee for Children, Michelle enjoys finding hidden restaurants, playing Super Mario Brothers, finding movie gems on Netflix, and reading books about intersectional feminism. Maria Slade Product Engagement Coordinator Read Bio × Maria Slade Product Engagement Coordinator Before Maria joined Committee for Children in April 2022, she was an early childhood educator who saw firsthand the COVID-19 pandemic’s detrimental effect on students’ social-emotional development. Though saddened by the setbacks her young students faced, she was also inspired by their resilience. Now, Maria helps other educators prioritize the well-being of children through her work as a product engagement coordinator. She provides administrative support for the teams who develop our Second Step® family of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs. Maria says her SEL superpower is communication, which she uses to let others know that she is there for them. “I put extreme value on ensuring that I make myself accessible, and that those in my life—whether personally or professionally—always feel empowered and supported to reach out,” she says. Outside of work, Maria likes to stay active by snowboarding, hiking, dancing, and playing soccer. She also enjoys trivia and karaoke. Research Advisory Group Dorothy Espelage, PhD × Dorothy Espelage, PhD University of Florida Dr. Dorothy Espelage is a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. She is the recipient of the APA Lifetime Achievement Award in Prevention Science and the 2016 APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Research in Public Policy, and is a fellow of APS, APA, and AERA. Over the last 20 years, she has written over 140 peer-reviewed articles, five edited books, and 30 chapters on bullying, homophobic teasing, sexual harassment, dating violence, and gang violence. Her research focuses on translating empirical findings into prevention and intervention programming, and she has secured six and one-half million dollars of external funding. She advises members of Congress and the Senate on bully prevention legislation. She wrote a 2011 White House Brief on bullying among LGBTQ youth and attended the White House Conference in 2011, and has been a consultant on the stopbullying.gov website and consultant to the National Anti-bullying Campaign, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Dr. Espelage has appeared on many television news and talk shows, including The Today Show; CNN; CBS Evening News; The Oprah Winfrey Show; Anderson 360, and has been quoted in the national print press, including Time Magazine, USA Today, People, Boston Globe, and the Wall Street Journal. Sandra Graham, PhD × Sandra Graham, PhD University of California, Los Angeles Dr. Sandra Graham is a distinguished professor in the Human Development and Psychology Division in the Department of Education at UCLA and the University of California presidential chair in education and diversity. Her major research interests include the study of academic motivation and social development in children of color, particularly in school contexts that vary in racial/ethnic diversity. She is principal investigator on grants from the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). Dr. Graham has published widely in developmental, social, and educational psychology journals and received many awards. Among her awards, she is a 2011 recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Child Development Award from the Society for Research on Child Development and the 2014 E. L. Thorndike Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Educational Psychology, Division 15 of the American Psychological Association. Most recently, in 2015 she was elected to the National Academy of Education. Nancy Guerra, EdD × Nancy Guerra, EdD University of California, Irvine Dr. Nancy Guerra is the dean of the School of Social Ecology and professor of psychology and social behavior at UCI. Her research focuses on preventing youth violence and promoting healthy youth development. She has been the lead investigator for a number of large-scale projects, including the Southern California Academic Center for Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention (2000–2011) funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before that she was the principal investigator on an eight-year development and prevention study in the Chicago Public Schools, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. More recently she has been involved in international programs, as associate provost and senior international officer at the University of Delaware (2011–2015), and as a consultant for international agencies, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and USAID. She currently serves as co-chair for kNOw Violence, a global initiative to prevent violence in childhood sponsored by the Public Health Foundation of India. Kevin Haggerty, PhD × Kevin Haggerty, PhD Social Development Research Group, University of Washington Dr. Kevin Haggerty is the director of the Social Development Research Group, University of Washington School of Social Work. He has specialized in the development and implementation of prevention programs at the community, school, and family levels. Since 1993, he has been the project director for the Raising Healthy Children study, a school-based approach to social development. He is an early implementer and trainer of the Guiding Good Choices parenting program. He is principal investigator of the NIDA-funded Family Connections study, testing the Parents Who Care program, and the Focus on Families study. He is an investigator of the Community Youth Development Study, testing the effectiveness of Communities that Care. Shelley Hymel, PhD × Shelley Hymel, PhD University of British Columbia Dr. Shelley Hymel’s research addresses the interface of social and academic functioning, with the goal of understanding social developmental processes in order to support children and youth in school settings. Of primary interest is research to promote social-emotional learning (SEL) in children and youth. Her research is conducted through ongoing school-university partnerships and in collaboration with graduate students in the Social and Early Emotional Development (SEED) research laboratory. John Love, PhD × John Love, PhD Retired Dr. John Love began retirement after 18 years with Mathematica Policy Research, where he was senior fellow and area leader for early-childhood policy and research. He now provides independent consulting in early care and education research, program evaluation, and policy. He has been involved for more than 40 years in teaching, research, and evaluation studies of programs for children birth to age five and their families. Dr. Love is an authority on early-childhood program evaluation and assessment. He has directed numerous program evaluations that have included randomized control studies, implementation/process studies, and qualitative research. He was a key player in Early Head Start research and evaluation studies from the infant-toddler phase through its prekindergarten follow-up study. He directed a multisite study of preschool curricula for the US Department of Education (the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research or PCER project) and a single-county study of universal preschool for First 5 LA.