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.

Kristin earned her Ph.D. in economics at the University of Colorado and promptly joined the faculty at Texas Christian University. Her research home became the Texas Schools Project at The University of Texas at Dallas where she became a national expert on the Advanced Placement Program. Among the most valuable lessons she learned at TSP were 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 to Colorado.

Determined to understand the needs of state and local education agencies and generate responsive research, Kristin gave up tenure at Texas Christian University to establish 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

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

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.
John Hokkanen

Senior Data Management and Integration 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 launch the Colorado Lab’s Linked Information Network of Colorado. John is embedded at the Governor’s Office of Information Technology.

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.

Areas of Interest

  • Data science and analytics
  • Linked data systems
Sarah Moses

Senior Researcher/Project Manager

Sarah is a seasoned project manager with a background in research and policy. She joined the Colorado Lab to support its innovative work to connect research with tangible policy improvements. In her role, Sarah develops and implements project management processes, engages with research partners, and performs analytic tasks to draw insights from the research.

Sarah served as an engagement manager at consulting firm Safal Partners, where she led key projects for federal and state clients and developed high-quality content to help clients achieve greater impact in the education field. She provided rigorous qualitative research and writing support with a focus on the charter school and adult education sectors.

Prior to joining Safal, Sarah was a project manager for a major research study at Rice University. There, she led a team of sociology researchers in collecting both quantitative and qualitative data across eight regions of the world. She holds a Master of Global Policy Studies degree from the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, and a Bachelor of Arts in economics and government from Cornell University.

Areas of Interest

  • Policy-research linkages
  • Services and supports for youth who have faced cross-system barriers
  • Education programs and practices that improve student outcomes
Dr. Alison Sheesley

Staff Researcher

Alison has first-hand experience with the frequent disconnect between the world of academia and practice, which happens in many fields, and especially in the field of mental health. At the Colorado Lab, she is inspired to apply her research, writing, and communication skills towards making research more accessible and easily understandable.

Alison’s experience as a licensed professional counselor working with diverse clients gives her insight into the challenges targeted by the Colorado Lab’s systems-level work. Alison earned her doctorate in  counselor education and supervision from the University of Northern Colorado. Her undergraduate degree is in political science from Tulane University, and she has also previously worked in government and nonprofit sectors.

Areas of Interest

  • Two-generation approach
  • Students who have experienced foster care
  • Mental health and substance abuse treatment
Shannon Willis

Office Manager

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 is pursuing an advanced degree in geographic information systems at the University of Denver.