Dr. Kristin Klopfenstein 


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 Clemens

Deputy 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

Director of Data Integration & Analytics / 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

Senior Researcher / 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 Researcher and 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. Lauren Gase

Senior Researcher / Project Director

Lauren is passionate about using data to learn and improve. With over a decade of experience leading practice-grounded research and evaluation projects, she joins the Colorado Lab with a desire to support partners in using data to influence program and policy development.

Lauren has a deep grounding in practice, having led research and evaluation studies within
nonprofit, consulting, and governmental settings. Most recently she led the Research and
Evaluation team at VentureWell, a nonprofit organization working to support social

Lauren believes in the value of government in fostering healthy communities. While at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, she worked with health, education, and justice systems partners to support the passage of juvenile justice reform. While at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention she supported development of the National Prevention Strategy (Section 4001 of the Affordable Care Act), which elevated the role of “non-health” agencies, such as transportation and housing, in supporting community wellbeing.

Lauren holds a PhD in Health Policy from the University of California, Los Angeles and a Masters in Public Health from Emory University.

Areas of Interest

  • Using Emergent Learning and Equitable Evaluation principles
  • Improving the holistic health and wellbeing of young people by addressing the root causes of inequity
  • Fostering partnerships between community, government, and academic partners
John Hokkanen

Senior Data Scientist

John is motivated by his desire to work with data that can improve people’s lives. He is a data scientist with many years of experience in merging datasets, analytics, and statistical modeling. This gives him the expertise needed to be a primary player in the Linked Information Network of Colorado.

John has also worked in both the private sector, in banking and as an entrepreneur, and in the public sector, as an attorney for the Department of Health and Human Services. His understanding of the legal and practical challenges faced by government agencies in linking data is critical to the success of the Colorado Lab’s data initiatives.

Jing Liu

Senior Researcher

Jing joined the Colorado Lab because she believes in the power of data to present evidence to inform policies, programs, and investments. She has a wide array of experience conducting applied research and evaluation studies with a focus on education and worked in close partnership with education partners to provide technical support and disseminate work to broad audiences. Jing applies both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to answer questions and she is a What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) certified reviewer for group design standards (version 4.1).

Prior to joining the Lab, Jing worked closely with state agencies, educators, and policymakers through the Institute of Education Science—Regional Educational Lab (REL) Central including Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming to develop evidence that can inform consequential decisions about policy, programs, and practice. She helped Colorado Department of Education partners understand the variance in teachers’ ratings of an authentic pre-K assessment at preschools. More recently, she led a 5-year grant to help the Wyoming Department of Education to evaluate and improve their state literacy development program by monitoring its implementation, effectiveness, and impact. 

Jing holds a PhD in Educational Policy Studies from the Pennsylvania State University with a focus on teacher attrition.

Areas of Interest:

  • Advancing the use of data to inform policymaking
  • Applying research and evaluation to serve a broader audience in Colorado
  • Fostering a sustaining change for partners
Trent “Tate” Steidley

Senior Researcher

A sociologist by training, Tate uses quantitative social science methods to find actionable insights to improve social outcomes. Tate was drawn to the Lab because of its emphasis on rigorous empirical research and analysis to improve governmental processes and services for Coloradans. He has previously worked both in academic research settings as well as in Colorado state government and utilizes these experiences to support state partners across all stages of the research and evaluation process.

Prior to joining the Lab, Tate was a faculty member at the University of Denver where he published over 15 peer-reviewed articles on firearm policy and related criminal justice issues while also teaching research methods and criminology. Later, Tate joined the Colorado Department of Human Services as a performance analyst for the former Office of Behavioral Health where he supported strategic planning and data analyses for both the Office and Departmental leadership. Tate then joined the Colorado Behavioral Health Administration support the launch of the 988 Lifeline as well as data analysis for statewide crisis programs. Tate is a firm believer that research and evaluation is most effective when it is informed not only by experts but also stakeholders and practitioners. He values creating research and evaluations designs that are replicable and sustainable for all parties and can create actionable plans for state agencies to improve outcomes for all Coloradans. He also believes that research which listens to and amplifies the voices of underrepresented groups informs more just and equitable outcomes than approaches which presume to speak on behalf of those groups.

Tate holds a PhD in sociology from The Ohio State University where he established a research agenda on firearm policy in the United States.

Areas of Interest:

  • Criminal justice reform and policy analysis
  • Sharing rigorous and replicable research methodologies with government partners to support existing workflows while also improving future outcomes.
  • Improving governmental services and outcomes to be both more cost effective and racially, socially, and economically equitable.
Ellen Witt

Senior 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
Jordan, Sarah

Sarah Jordan

Staff Researcher / Project Coordinator

SJ is passionate about leveraging data to support sustainable solutions in systems across Colorado. With experience working in research and program evaluation in Colorado’s schools, health systems, and community-based organizations, SJ joined the Lab to support connections between state and local government and responsive research. As Staff Researcher and Project Coordinator with the Lab, SJ supports evidence-building and innovation in school districts, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education.

SJ maintains a strong commitment to identifying equitable considerations in social policy and believes in amplifying community voices to drive change. She spent several years conducting rigorous research in Denver Public Schools on the important topic of school accountability and its implications for educators and families. Prior to joining the Lab, she worked as a researcher at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, where she coordinated several multi-year federal grants and managed implementation and evaluation of programs that combat health disparities in diverse groups across Colorado. Most recently, she was the lead investigator on a study that researched the impact of COVID-19 on hospital housekeepers. SJ has also worked with local nonprofits to help build capacity in data and evaluation, including El Centro Humanitario, where she supported strategies to provide educational opportunities and ensure safe working conditions for day laborers in Denver.

SJ holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from the University of Colorado Denver and a Bachelor of Science in Education & Public Policy from Pennsylvania State University.

Areas of Interest

  • Intersections of education policy, social movements, and community-based participatory research
  • Cross-system strategies to improve outcomes and whole-person health for students, families, and educators
  • Social learning theories and collaborative learning approaches
Christian Belcher

Staff Researcher

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

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

Joanna (Jo) Beletic

Staff Researcher

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 Wu

Staff Researcher

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

Project Specialist

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.

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