Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein 

Executive Director

Kristin is passionate about working at the Colorado Lab because it provides so many opportunities to learn new things and support government partners in creatively addressing pressing public policy challenges. Surrounded daily by smart and interesting people with diverse areas of expertise, Kristin tries to enter every conversation with enthusiasm, humility, and openness.

Trained as an economist, Dr. Klopfenstein launched the Colorado Lab at the University of Denver in 2017. Dr. Klopfenstein started her career as faculty at Texas Christian University but found a research home at the Texas Schools Project at The University of Texas at Dallas. There she learned about the power of integrated administrative data and the importance of building relationships of trust with state agencies. She assumed an Interim Director role at TSP in 2010 before moving back home to Colorado. Determined to understand the needs of state and local education agencies and generate responsive research, she established the Education Innovation Institute at the University of Northern Colorado in 2011. There she focused on creating mutualistic rather than transactional relationships between researchers and government partners which prepared her well for launching the Colorado Lab in 2017.

Areas of Interest

  • Increasing the return on investment of social programs
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Improving opportunities for disadvantaged youth to thrive through access to high quality academic, behavioral, and health services

Dr. Elysia Versen

Deputy Executive Director / Chief Operating Officer

Elysia joined the Lab after a career as a tenured professor because the Lab is uniquely positioned in Colorado to partner with state government and serve as a bridge to the research community. As Deputy Director of the Colorado Lab, she develops and implements strategies to activate the research community to support the priorities of state government. 

Elysia believes that research is valuable when it is rigorous, timely, and conducted in partnership with the leaders and practitioners who are positioned to apply it to action. She has a successful track record serving as a principal investigator on federal, state, and philanthropically-funded research grants. Her applied research experience spans from developing interventions and assessment tools to multi-site randomized controlled trials.

While serving as a faculty member at the University of Northern Colorado, she partnered with Colorado agencies to link child welfare and education administrative data to inform educational stability policy for youth in foster care and launch a Pay for Success financed intervention aimed at improving outcomes. She also developed innovative technology to improve monitoring implementation fidelity for clinical interventions. She holds a doctorate in counseling with a cognate in statistics from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a master’s degree in school counseling from Western Carolina University. She has worked in emergency rooms, outpatient mental health clinics, psychiatric inpatient units, and K-12 schools.

Areas of Interest

  • Removing cross-system barriers for children and youth so they can be more successful in school and life
  • Improving continuity of services for individuals whose eligibility, mobility, geographic location, or unique life experiences tend to lead to gaps
  • Generating new insights by connecting information and expertise across social and health systems

Dr. Whitney LeBoeuf

Deputy Executive Director of Data Strategy & Early Childhood Policy / Director, Linked Information Network of Colorado

Whitney has an established body of work focused on social policy research and data sharing, having worked with the well-known national group Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP) at the University of Pennsylvania. As Director of Data Integration and Analytics for the Colorado Lab, she works closely with partners at all levels of state government to foster interagency data sharing for research to inform program and policy improvement.

Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Whitney worked with the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education as a senior research associate. She earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in education policy and has a master’s degree in quantitative research methods from the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.

Areas of Interest

  • Understanding the needs of Colorado’s youngest children and supporting the multiple systems that serve them
  • Identifying promising solutions for cross-system collaboration in support of children and families
  • Creating opportunities for government partners to leverage data as an asset for smarter decision making on behalf of Colorado residents

Shannon Willis

Manager, Business and Operations

Shannon was drawn to the thriving and enriching environment of the University of Denver’s campus and the Colorado Lab’s results-driven focus on translating research findings into public practice. Her past experience with differing socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds along with her technical aptitude are invaluable to the Colorado Lab’s work in coordinating efforts across internal and external projects.

Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Shannon worked as a software administrator at an international airport and managed a publications and production department in the environmental engineering industry. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a Geographic Information Systems certificate from the University of Denver.

Dr. Courtney Everson

Sr. Project Director

Courtney is an applied medical anthropologist working at the intersection of public health, prevention sciences, and social policy. She firmly believes that applied research and evaluation can catalyze systems change, community thriving, and family well-being. As a Senior Project Director with the Colorado Lab, Courtney fosters partnerships at all levels of government, in concert with community stakeholders and family leadership, to advance equity-oriented transformations in policy and practice.

With over twelve years of experience in research, community engagement, and leadership in health and human services, Courtney leverages the principles of collaboration, social justice, and interdisciplinary science to advance data-driven decision-making and strategic learning that is responsive, timely, and meaningful. Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Courtney enjoyed a rich career as a faculty member and applied researcher with Oregon State University, Midwives College of Utah, and Colorado State University, where she successfully led and supported dozens of foundation, state, and federally funded studies and initiatives focused on improving maternal health and positive child/youth development. She is an experienced mixed methodologist and project manager adept at enacting complex, multi-layered research studies for policy and practice impact. Courtney is known for her fierce commitment to family voice, community-led efforts, responsive policy and practice partnerships, and creative strategies that mobilize research findings into action.

Courtney holds a PhD in applied medical anthropology from Oregon State University with graduate-level concentrations in public health and women, gender, and sexuality studies. She has also worked as a strategic facilitator with multi-stakeholder groups; trainer and coach in diversity, equity, and inclusivity initiatives; perinatal health educator; and in non-profit management.

Areas of Interest

  • Cross-system coordinated care models for improving perinatal health and holistic well-being
  • Prevention practices and policies for reducing child maltreatment and strengthening families
  • Advancing racial, social, and economic justice through a tri-fold approach of strategic governmental partnerships, community advocacy, and family leadership

Dr. Ernest Boffy-Ramirez

Sr. Researcher/Project Director

Ernest is a labor economist with a strong focus on understanding labor market dynamics and competition. As a Sr. Researcher/ Project Director, he applies his expertise in quantitative analysis and knowledge of applied econometrics to advance the Lab’s policy mission. Ernest is enthusiastic about the Lab’s interdisciplinary approach and focus on rigorous research design as a way to broaden support for data-driven policy.

Before joining the Lab, Ernest spent over a decade as a professor of economics at the University of Colorado Denver. During this time, he honed his skills in working with extensive datasets to uncover insights on a wide range of topics, including labor force participation, unemployment, labor mobility and migration, workforce development, job quality and turnover, job-lock, human capital accumulation, and compensation. This experience also afforded him opportunities to collaborate with various community partners and engage in consulting for non-profit organizations.

Ernest holds a PhD in Economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he established a strong foundation in causal inference and specialized in research related to low-wage workers. Additionally, he is a Research Fellow at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics, contributing his expertise to a global community of policy-focused labor economists. Ernest is driven by a commitment to constant improvement and experimentation in service of addressing societal challenges.

Areas of Interest:

  • Workforce development and labor market dynamics
  • Economic mobility and inequality
  • Conditional and unconditional cash assistance
Dr. Chelsie Hess

Sr. Researcher/Project Director

Chelsie enjoys a balance of teaching, research, and partnerships with local schools and community agencies to better bridge the gap between practice and research. She has a commitment to data integrity, multidisciplinary and applied research, in order to produce meaningful and actionable change for the community. As a Senior Researcher/Project Director for the Lab, she applies her knowledge of child development, expertise in community partnerships, and training in higher education and community evaluation to advance policy.

Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Chelsie served as a tenured faculty and Associate Professor of Psychology at Colorado Mesa University, where she taught Research Methods and Child Development courses and served as Chair of the Institutional Review Board. Her program evaluation work has focused on teacher program effectiveness and community programs serving children and families. Outside of her professional role, she has continued to serve on multiple boards and committees and co-operates a Montessori Preschool.

Chelsie earned her doctorate from the University of Northern Colorado in educational psychology with a doctoral minor in applied statistics and research methods and has a master’s degree in school counseling.

Areas of Interest:

  • Understanding the evolving needs of children and families of today.
  • Identifying community assets to act as protective factors for children and families.
  • Creating opportunities for policy change through system-level research.

Ellen Witt

Sr. Policy and Program Manager

Ellen was drawn to the Lab’s strong partnerships with policymakers, social program administrators and providers, and communities across Colorado. With a background in project management, learning, and evaluation within the health systems transformation and international development sectors, Ellen is passionate about systems-level analysis and applying this lens to early childhood programs in Colorado.

Ellen joined the Lab as a Senior Policy & Program Manager to support the Early Childhood Evaluation Hub and coordinate evaluation needs for the Colorado Department of Early Childhood’s federal stimulus-funded activities. Prior to joining the Lab, Ellen worked with Water For People as a Senior Evaluation and Learning Manager to create a new culture of learning and evidence building among teams in over 10 countries. She previously served as the sole evaluation expert within the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing, managing the evaluation of Colorado’s Medicaid program and a $65 million federal grant to integrate primary care and behavioral health across the state. Ellen has led data and evaluation, stakeholder engagement, communication, and project management efforts for international, state, and community level development initiatives, including at an HIV program in the Denver area, a WASH project in an informal settlement in Nairobi, a microenterprise development non-profit in Oregon, and small business development Peace Corps service in Nicaragua.

Ellen received her master’s in International and Intercultural Communications with a concentration in global health from the University of Denver.

Areas of Interest:

  • Translating complex data and evaluation findings into actionable insights for various stakeholder audiences
  • Participatory evaluation and amplifying voices of vulnerable and excluded populations
  • Breaking down silos across data systems and programming to solve complex problems

Christian Belcher

Staff Researcher I

Christian is committed to enhancing state and local government programs through the application of sound research and data science techniques. He has a background in analysis and advocacy in the municipal government and housing policy spaces in Washington State. Christian joined the Lab to assist partners in taking a data-driven approach to program design and policy development. As a Staff Researcher, Christian provides partners with research, analysis, and data visualization to better understand and interpret program impact.

Through his experiences, Christian has come to appreciate the central role that state and local governments play in creating a more equitable, prosperous, and healthy society. As a research associate at the Association of Washington Cities, he worked with municipal employees to gather, analyze, and visualize data around a host of issue areas, including housing, utilities, taxes, and resiliency in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the Association of Washington Housing Authorities, Christian engaged in research and analysis to further the advocacy efforts of the state’s public housing authorities. As part of a team of graduate consultants, he conducted an equity analysis of development policies and displacement in the wake of transit-oriented development in King County, Washington.

Christian received a Master of Public Administration from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Economy from Georgetown University.

Areas of Interest

  • The intersection housing, public health, and economic development
  • Using data science techniques to improve the ability of government to predict and respond to issues
  • Taking strategies derived from behavioral economics to come up with innovative and cost-effective policy interventions

Allie Kallmann Wegner

Staff Researcher II

Allie is a former early childhood educator who is passionate about making systems work, particularly for communities placed at risk. Allie joined the Lab because she believes that smart policy and compassionate people can make daily life better for Coloradans.

Allie’s career began with her role as a Head Start educator as a Teach For America – Kansas City Corps Member. Her experiences in the classroom showed her the incredible opportunities that whole-child and whole-family systems have to transform lives, but they also highlighted the deep inequities and persistent challenges in these intersecting systems. After leaving the classroom, she worked in education policy, research, professional development, and program implementation in Wisconsin, New York, and Virginia. Most recently, Allie supported the early childhood workforce as a Training Advisor / Research Associate for the University of Arkansas Early Care and Education Projects.

Allie holds a BA in Mathematics and Letters from the University of Oklahoma; an M.Ed. in Elementary Education, with an emphasis in early childhood, from the University of Missouri – St. Louis; and an MA in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Areas of Interest

  • Education, social-emotional learning, and family supports, particularly in the first 5 years of life
  • Teacher wellbeing, retention, and workforce development
  • The intersection of research, policy, and practice to create user-informed, equitable, and evidence-based systems that really work

Jo Beletic

Staff Researcher II

Jo is committed to working alongside the people of Colorado to use research in advancing equity and social change. She is passionate about practice-grounded and community-based research to elevate the voices of those most affected, advance communal knowledge, and think critically about innovative solutions.

Jo joined the Lab to collaborate with project partners on implementing data-informed prosecutorial practices to advance efficiency and fairness in Colorado. Prior to joining the Lab, Jo developed and oversaw the Compliance Department for The Center for Court Innovation’s Brooklyn-based criminal courts programming in New York. Through cross-departmental collaboration and administrative data analysis, she pushed operational efficiency, program sustainability, and internal evaluation to advance the alternatives to detention/incarceration programming. Outside of the criminal justice sphere, she has an array of research experience largely focused on international human rights and humanitarian interventions. Each of her prior experiences have grounded her current approach to each challenge in curiosity, creativity, and kindness.

Jo holds a Master of Arts in International Studies (Human Rights) from The University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from The College of William and Mary.

Areas of Interest

  • Identifying cross-system solutions to address the root-causes of racial, social, and economic inequities
  • Criminal justice reform
  • Fusing research and practice to advance communal knowledge and leverage data for results-driven work

Erin Wickerham

Staff Researcher II / LINC Data Analyst

Erin is passionate about and dedicated to using data to improve programs and systems that support the health and well-being of children and families at increased risk for poor outcomes, and particularly to achieving socioeconomic and racial equity. She has a background in evaluation, research, and public health with state and community-based organizations in Texas.

Erin joined the Lab to support the data management and analysis needs of the Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC) and the research and evaluation needs of Lab projects in the health and child welfare spaces. Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Erin worked with the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin as a research associate and at the Texas Department of State Health Services in the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section as an epidemiologist.

Erin holds a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Depauw University.

Areas of Interest

  • Using data to address complex public health and policy challenges
  • Understanding how to support children and families who interact with multiple systems
  • Improving data collection and reporting to recognize inequities and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion

Val Henderson

LINC Research Project Manager

Val is a project manager who thrives at the intersection of people and technology. She was drawn to the Lab because of its focus on relationship-building and the use of data to address social issues in Colorado. She employs her organizational and people skills to ensure the success of Linked Information Network of Colorado projects.

Val began development of her project management skills at a tech startup in Chicago. During her time there she learned the ropes of agile software development and also built and managed a client success program. Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Val worked as a project manager for the Colorado Department of Human Services where she provided COVID support to the State’s 24/7 facilities. In that role, she honed her skills in meeting facilitation, process implementation and improvement, and project planning and execution in a fast-paced and rapidly changing environment. Val earned her bachelor’s degree at the Loyola University of Chicago and is a Certified ScrumMaster.

Shane McIntyre

Data Analyst

Shane is passionate about working with data to help improve people’s lives and decision-making. He was drawn to the Colorado Lab by the important and impactful work they do. He contains a strong background in data wrangling, data analytics and statistical analysis. This combination of skills allows him to effectively aid in the Lab’s work.

Shane has worked in analytical roles focused on data wrangling and cleaning. He studied Statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently working towards his master’s degree in data science at the University of Denver.

Areas of Interest

  • Data wrangling
  • Statistical analysis
  • Applying machine learning algorithms to better understand and investigate data

Email: Shane@ColoradoLab.org

Erik Holmberg

Sr. Data Analyst

Erik is motivated to provide objective information in a world where disinformation and misinformation are more prevalent than ever before, and he joined the Colorado Lab to further that goal by working on projects across many different subjects. He has a background in quantitative and qualitative analysis, as well as data analysis which all combine to be able to find data-driven solutions for complex problems.

Erik started his career with the Minnesota Department of Human Services as a Data Analyst. After one year there, he moved to the Minnesota Department of Health as a Data Analyst. In both of those roles, he learned how to translate his academic and research experience into realized change. He is motivated to continue working with collaborators to develop data-driven solutions so that as few decisions as possible are made devoid of valuable insight information. Erik has also previously worked in other legislative and executive bodies of state government, as well as in campaign organization. 

Erik holds a BA in History focusing on 20th Century History from the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, a BA in Political Science focusing on U.S. Government & Politics from the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities, and a Master’s in Public Policy concentrating in Advanced Policy Analysis from the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities’ Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Areas of Interest

  • Providing objective information to decision-makers and researchers
  • Increasing public transparency in governmental & non-governmental organizations
  • Researching and furthering policy goals aimed at tackling the toughest problems of our modern world
  • Utilizing history to contextualize current moments and understand how we can learn from the past to positively change the future

Email: Erik@ColoradoLab.org

Gionna Pembroke

Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator

Gionna is committed to streamlining administrative procedures to eliminate distractions to experts as they focus on data-driven work for the public good. Her experience working for the State of Colorado and a refugee and immigrant services organization enables her to effectively coordinate with persons from a variety of backgrounds. As Executive Assistant and Project Coordinator, she supports the Early Childhood Evaluation Hub and the Lab as a whole.

Prior to joining the Colorado Lab, Gionna worked as the READ Act Program Assistant for the Colorado Department of Education. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Email: Gionna@ColoradoLab.org

Courtney Thornton

Research and Evaluation Coordinator

Courtney joined the Colorado Lab because of its strong partnership with state policymakers and community-based organizations. Courtney is passionate about elevating the voices of those directly impacted by policy decisions with the goal of increasing equity in Colorado.

Before joining the Colorado Lab, Courtney worked on behalf of Colorado’s children and families at Early Milestones Colorado where she served a dual role as a mixed-methods researcher and project manager. In this role Courtney worked on practice and research projects to support the early childhood workforce, understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the early care and learning sector of Colorado, and illuminate the needs of marginalized families in preparation for the rollout of Colorado’s expanded preschool program.

Courtney holds a BA and MA in Sociology as well as a certificate in Family Policy and Social Welfare from the University of Colorado Denver.

Areas of Interest

  • Addressing racial, social, and economic inequities through evidence-based policymaking
  • Community-based participatory research methods
  • Translating research for policy change

Email: CThornton@ColoradoLab.org

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