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Avar Consulting, Inc. has a team of highly qualified staff and consultants to deliver the core services described above. All of our key staff and consultants hold a graduate degree and have many years of experience in social science research and/or information technology. 

Z. Joan Wang, Ph.D.

Founder & President

Dr. Wang has 27 years of experience in the areas of survey methodology, attitude-behavior research, and program evaluation in education, public health, and social services. She has special expertise in evaluation design and implementation, survey design and implementation, sampling design, statistical modeling, data analysis, psychometric testing, report writing, and management of large databases. She is currently serving as Corporate Monitor and Senior Survey Methodologist for the Assessment of States’ Use of Computer Matching Protocols in Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP) for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Oversight and Review Center (BFCC ORC) for
the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. She is also currently Corporate Monitor and Senior Statistician for the Evaluation of the TOGETHER Health Marriage Relationship Program for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF)  She recently served as Project Director on the 2011–15 Annual Survey of Refugees for the ACF, three national surveys of youth soccer athletes and their coaches and parents respectively for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a methodological assessment project for CDC to improve operational efficiency and effectiveness of public health emergency preparedness and response systems. She has also directed the National Survey of DWI Courts for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Children’s Study Questionnaire Development Support project for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the Evaluation of Veterans Transition Assistance Program Training Workshops for the U.S. Department of Labor, the Survey of 2010 Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program participants for the U.S. Bureau of Census, a technical assistance project for the evaluation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Young Parents Demonstration (YPD) Program, and a two-phase study to examine the U.S. Department of State’s global exchange alumni coordination effort. Dr. Wang has served as Project Director and/or Senior Statistician on over 40 additional survey research and data analysis projects. These include, but are not limited to, the Consumer Expenditure Records Study; the 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS);  two global online surveys of U.S. exchange alumni coordinators and alumni association leaders; the 2002, 2004, and 2006 Maryland Cancer Screening (MCS) surveys; the 2006–12 Annual Survey of Refugees; the National Follow-up Survey of Veterans’ Health Care Services, the National Surveys of Veteran Entrepreneurs and Service-Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurs, the National Survey of Medicare Beneficiaries, the National Survey of Opioid Treatment Program Participants, the National Survey of National Science Foundation (NSF) Principal Investigators, the National Customer Satisfaction Survey for the National Endowment for Humanities, the Customer Satisfaction Survey of Maryland Mental Health Care Services Recipients, the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Survey (MHICS), the National Survey of Women’s Sexual Health, the Maryland Survey of Small Businesses, the Maryland Lottery Tracking Survey, the North Carolina Workforce Investment Act Customer Service Satisfaction Survey, the Housing Survey of Montgomery County Residents, the FEMA Customer Service Survey, the Youth Risk Behavior Survey of the Montgomery County Public Schools, the Survey of Maryland Public School Principals, the Survey of Parents of Students in Baltimore City Public Schools, and the National Survey of School Library Media Centers. She has also served as an expert survey methodologist/statistician on class action lawsuits and other litigation cases.  

Dr. Wang has served as Project Director and/or Senior Analyst on over a dozen other program evaluation projects including the Evaluation of the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, the Evaluation of Residential Resources in Maryland for Children with Special Needs, the Evaluation of the Maryland Substance Abuse Services Demonstration Project (Title IV Waiver), the Evaluation of the Maryland Child Support Enforcement Privatization and Demonstration Pilot Programs, the Evaluation of the Impact of Teachers’ Professional Development, the Evaluation of the Maryland Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), the Evaluation of the “Communities Choosing” Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program in San Francisco, the Evaluation of the Effect of Increased State Aid to Maryland Local School Systems through the Bridge To Excellence Act, the 2001 Evaluation of the Baltimore City Public Schools, the Evaluation of the impact of Opioid Treatment Program Accreditation, and the Evaluation of the Education and Training for Employment in Morocco. She also served as Senior Analyst on a multi-year project to establish the National Evaluation Data and Technical Assistance Center (NEDTAC) for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). She developed the initial design of the CSAT Client-Level Minimum Evaluation Data Set (MEDS) to guide CSAT grantees in their program evaluation effort. She managed the Multi-Project Analysis (MPA) projects for several CSAT programs and participated in designing the Cross-Site Evaluation for CSAT programs. Dr. Wang was invited as an expert consultant by the Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of State to review the research methodology of a media impact project, assess the validity of the study results, and provide technical advice on the research design and analytical approach. Dr. Wang holds a Master’s degree in journalism studies from the University of Wales at Cardiff, U.K., and a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Maryland at College Park.

Rachel G. Hunt, M.A.​

Director of Client Relations

Rachel G. Hunt, M.A., Director of Client Relations

A senior level federal contracting executive, Ms. Hunt has over 25 years of experience in directing, managing, and working on communications and multi-service federal contracts as well as managing all aspects of the organization. As a seasoned project director, she understands the vital importance of careful planning, scheduling, and implementation of project activities, from start-up or transition to close out activities to ensure smooth operation with minimal disruption to ongoing government services. Ms. Hunt has developed quality assurance-based systems and procedures for transitioning, starting up, and managing  complex multi-task contracts such as clearinghouses and other communications programs that require the transfer or development of multiple management systems; recruitment, hiring, and training of staff and incumbent staff capture; transfer of electronic and hardcopy reference collections and warehouse inventories; and transfer of all in-process activities including inquiries, publication order, and communication products  and outreach activities, all with no disruption of service to the end users. Ms. Hunt’s management expertise is supported by her technical skills in research, analysis, writing, outreach and marketing, and partnership development, particularly in the health arena. Ms. Hunt holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo. 

James Lett, M.D., C.M.D.​

Medical Director

James Lett, M.D., C.M.D., Medical Director

Dr. Lett, Medical Director of the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Oversight and Review Center, is board-certified in Family Practice and an expert in primary care and Geriatrics, Dr. Lett has a proven track record of clinical management and most recently served as the Medical Director/Vice President of Medical Affairs for the Charles E. Smith Life Communities, an extensive senior citizen complex that included an assisted living center and a long-term rehabilitation and nursing center. In this capacity, he managed a large physician and healthcare staff that cared for hundreds of patients, most of whom were Medicare beneficiaries. As a former Senior Medical Director for Quality at a California Quality Improvement Organization (QIO), Dr. Lett interfaced with multiple sectors of the healthcare community including local, state, and federal organizations. Additionally, he provided oversight that enabled the QIO to improve the quality of care for millions of Medicare beneficiaries. Dr. Lett is a long-standing member of the American Academy of Family Physicians and is a past president of the American Medical Directors Association. With this type of national presence, Dr. Lett has extensive experience regarding emerging healthcare trends and is familiar with the most current standards of quality medicine. Dr. Lett has managed and led several medical centers and is uniquely qualified to educate and improve care for the elderly and those patients in long-term care facilities. He has worked on numerous U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Inspector General projects to identify adverse events in skilled nursing facilities and in hospitals as well as efforts to improve patient safety in a variety of settings. He has published numerous articles on the appropriateness of medical care and interfacing with providers and has received several awards for his past distinguished service. An excellent communicator, Dr. Lett has spoken before many audiences including the U. S. Congress where he testified in regard to medical liability in long-term care. 

Wendy Gary, MHA, CSA, CQ/QE​

Project Director/Senior Analyst

Wendy Gary, MHA, CSA, CMQOE, Director of Healthcare Practice, Executive Director BFCC-QIO

An experienced healthcare professional, Ms. Gary has worked at the state and national level in healthcare quality improvement and patient safety for over 27 years including serving for 10 years as Vice President of the Maryland and District of Columbia Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) under the CMS QIO program. Recognized as an expert in quality and performance improvement and an advocate for quality care, she possesses special subject matter expertise in care transitions, community care coordination, and patient safety with a passion for patient-centered care. Ms. Gary specializes in uncovering and developing organizational opportunities for improvement, improving outcomes, streamlining operations, reducing costs, building partnerships, and collaborating with diverse stakeholders. She is a highly skilled communicator and a proven mentor who teaches and leads teams that achieve continued success.  Currently, she is serving as the Executive Director, BFCC-QIO and Director, BFCC National Coordinating & Oversight Review Center (NCORC). Ms. Gary holds a Master of Health Services Administration (MHA) from Pfeiffer University in Charlotte, NC.

Cynthia Prince, Ph.D.

Project Director

Senior Analyst

Cynthia Prince, Ph.D. Project Director/Senior Analyst

Dr. Cynthia Prince has 30 years of experience performing social science research and conducting evaluation studies. She has served as Coordinator of Program Evaluation for the Connecticut State Department of Education, Chief of Research, Evaluation, and Statistical Services for the Maryland State Department of Education, Senior Research Associate for Vanderbilt University, and Associate Director of Research for the National Education Association. She has more than 20 years of experience providing technical assistance to education leaders and policymakers and directing projects (e.g., leading a 37-member State Teacher Quality Network for the Council of Chief State School Officers, designing and producing annual education indicators reports for the National Education Goals Panel, designing and directing surveys of local superintendents for the American Association of School Administrators). During her tenure with the National Education Goals Panel, she staffed the Goal 5 Technical Planning Subgroup on International Workforce Skills, co-chaired by Dr. Marc Tucker (National Center on Education and the Economy) and Dr. John Bishop (School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University). Dr. Prince’s areas of expertise include career pathways for teachers and school leaders, education systems change, and policy strategies to improve educational programs and outcomes for disadvantaged youth. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from Stanford University and is completing an MBA at Johns Hopkins University.

Mark Low, Ph.D.

Project Director

Senior Analyst

Mark Low, Ph.D., Project Director, Senior Analyst

Dr. Low has experience as a university researcher, as an evaluator of local and national policies and programs, and as Project Director managing two multi-year contracts with the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Evaluation Office. As a doctoral student at Michigan State University, Dr. Low assisted on two research projects over five years in which he managed participant response databases, administered surveys, and interpreted findings. As a research associate with a small evaluation firm, he assisted on multiple local and national evaluation studies; he designed the sampling strategy for a pair of nationally representative surveys of school districts, led the administration of those surveys, analyzed the information collected in those surveys using the complex samples module in SPSS, and assisted the client in accurately communicating the findings to policy audiences. The NCES team consists of ten individuals; activities include conducting initial technical reviews of draft NCES publications for accuracy and compliance with NCES standards and publications format; contributing new materials and updates to the NCES Handbook of Statistical Methods; monitoring the use of NCES data in education association websites; supporting IES data confidentiality and disclosure policies; developing the ED Data Inventory, which is a publicly searchable database of the data assets collected or created by the Department; and managing the updating of for the Department per the government-wide Project Open Data initiative. The DOL team consists of eight individuals; activities include reviewing and editing evaluation deliverables such as draft Paperwork Reduction Act packages, design reports, work plans, final reports, white papers, and journal articles; developing evaluation tools to help Department of Labor agencies design, conduct, and analyze evaluation products and deliverables; establishing, maintaining, and analyzing various databases including but not limited to public use data files, agency administrative data, longitudinal survey files, and other microdata files that may be transferred from other DOL agencies or federal departments; managing and administering the DOL Scholars program; updating and maintaining the CEO website; and providing in-house support to the Office of Workers Compensation for statistical and modeling assignments. Dr. Low holds a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. in Curriculum, Teaching, and Education Policy from Michigan State University.

Pavan Dhanireddy MS, Ph.D., Senior Analyst

Pavan Dhanireddy Ph. D., M.S., Senior Analyst

Dr. Dhanireddy is a Senior Analyst at Avar with 14 of experience in statistics, econometrics, international trade and development, and agricultural economics. His expertise encompasses statistical and data analysis, handling large data sets, model selection, estimation, and validation techniques. On behalf of the U.S. Department Labor (DOL), he assesses the appropriateness of research contractors’ statistical and methodological approaches to include sampling designs, sampling methods, calibration weighting, data imputation, and survey data analytical plans. Dr. Dhanireddy’s work for DOL and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) projects include collecting data sets, creating algorithms for data manipulation and cleaning procedures, writing scripts in STATA and SAS, performing regression analysis, and writing and analyzing statistical results. In addition to his doctorate in economics, he holds a master’s degree in statistics. He is proficient in multiple software, including SAS (Certified Base Programmer for SAS 9), STATA, SPSS, and GAUSS. He also has extensive experience in handling large data sets, model selection, estimation, and validation techniques. He co-authored two publications, one on the free trade agreements and Washington state exporters, and the other on exchange rates. His dissertation work examines the impact of the South Asian free trade agreement on exports among seven member countries, factors influencing the settlement of illegal immigrants within the United States, and estimating the effect of microfinance on children’s education in India. His research work in statistics includes predicting the apple bloom stages for Washington State using continuous and discrete models. He presented his research at various prestigious economic conferences such as the American Agricultural Economic Association, Western Economic Association International, and Midwest Economics Association. Dr. Dhanireddy worked in a public sector bank in India for over three years as Assistant Manager looking after loans and advances to agricultural operations, retail trade, and handling personal and housing loans. He received his M.S. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Arizona, Tucson. Dr. Dhanireddy received his Ph.D. in Economics from Washington State University, Pullman in May 2015. He also holds a Master’s degree in Statistics from Washington State University, Pullman.

Anthony (AJ) Ernst, Ph.D., Project Director/Senior Analyst

Anthony (AJ) Ernst, Ph.D., Project Director/Senior Analyst 
Dr. Ernst brings more than 25 years of experience in the field of substance abuse and mental health prevention and treatment as a clinician, academician, and project director. Throughout his career, he has led strategic planning, product development, policy development, training initiatives, and overall systems change strategies across mental health and substance abuse service delivery systems to promote collaboration and build service capacities in the delivery of services to diverse populations. Dr. Ernst most recently served as the Project Director for SAMHSA’s Native American Center for Excellence, leading knowledge dissemination on community needs assessments, program evaluation and monitoring, practice- and evidence-based interventions, services integration, and revenue development to Native American programs throughout the U.S. As past Director of technology transfer at CDM Group for SAMHSA’s Co-occurring Center for Excellence, Dr. Ernst led teams including state and community based organizations, national advisory council members, and diverse stakeholder groups to address issues related to co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. While State Manager at state mental health and substance abuse agencies, Dr. Ernst served as the liaison for cross-sector collaboration between department stakeholders, local providers, advocacy groups, and local initiatives to standardize workforce competencies and performance measures. Dr. Ernst is also the primary author of state administrative codes that ensure uniformity of clinical standards across state mental health and substance abuse service delivery systems. Dr. Ernst earned a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Texas. 

Albert C.E. Parker, Ph.D.

Senior Survey Methodologist / Analyst

Albert C. E. Parker, Ph.D., Senior Survey Methodologist/Analyst

Dr. Parker has over 25 years of experience as a survey research designer, manager, and analyst. He has directed sample survey data collection in all major modes, including personal interviews, mail, telephone, the Internet, and records abstraction. He recently served as a Senior Analyst on the National Children’s Study (NCS) questionnaire development project and a project to support the National Center for Education Statistics’ national longitudinal studies. He also served as a Senior Analyst on the Survey of Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) Program Participants for the U.S. Census Bureau, taking a lead in its questionnaire design, data analysis plan, and development of the final study report. He managed two iterations of a customer satisfaction survey for the National Center for Education Statistics that included drawing samples from multiple frames, telephone screening of sample segments to establish eligibility and identify respondents, multiple modes for recruitment (e-mail and postal mail) and data collection modes (paper with key entry, Web, and telephone follow-up), unduplication and weighting, and reports that included longitudinal comparison of key indicators and comparison of satisfaction ratings across subpopulations. He has conducted research on threats to individual confidentiality in individual data files and on preserving confidentiality while making data available to researchers. He analyzed the cost effects of alternative formats and follow-up methodologies for the 2000 Decennial Census household long and short forms and evaluated the early implications of emerging technologies for the 2010 Decennial Census. He provided technical direction for research on imputation of missing and erroneous data in a large institutional census (public schools and school districts). Dr. Parker received his M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Washington University at St. Louis.


Melissa Mowrey, M.Ed.

Senior Analyst

Melissa Mowrey, M.Ed., Senior Analyst

Mrs. Mowrey has over 40 years of experience as an educational practitioner including 34 years spent as a program director, administrator, program supervisor, and teacher (teacher specialist and classroom teacher). Mrs. Mowrey has ten years of program director experience involving program review, analysis, program reform, and school “turn-around.” Most recently she has served as Project Director on a Department of Education project to evaluate the “Promoting Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs of Study through Statewide and Multi-state Articulation Agreements” Grant Program. She has also worked as a senior project director and facilitator in assessment and education projects for the American Institutes for Research. Mrs. Mowrey is an expert in Career and Technical Education and has created articulation agreements for ten Business and Cooperative Education Dual-Completer Program Clusters approved in the District of Columbia as well as with the Maryland State Department of Education. She is experienced in facilitating stakeholder groups and conducting focus groups and cognitive labs. Mrs. Mowrey holds a B.S. in Career and Technical Education/Secondary Education and a M.Ed. in Administration/Supervision, both from the University of Maryland.

David Bercham, MSW

Research Analyst

David Bercham, MSW, Senior Research Analyst

David Bercham holds a Master of Social Work degree and has over 18 years of experience in managing and conducting program assessment and technical assistance projects on the local, state, and national levels for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of Michigan Department of Human Services (MI DHS). He has evaluated child and family mental health programs, juvenile delinquency prevention programs, juvenile court systems, and delinquency prevention practices in American Indian communities. Mr. Bercham has extensive experience conducting qualitative and quantitative data collection with children, youth, adults, and families across a variety of urban and rural settings. Mr. Bercham has managed technical assistance projects on community risk factor assessment, the evaluation of juvenile justice programs, and the implementation of innovative approaches in family, youth, and adult mental health services, juvenile justice, and criminal justice. Mr. Bercham has provided technical assistance on all phases of program assessment, including evaluation design, survey design and implementation, data management and analysis, and technical report writing. At Avar Consulting, Mr. Bercham serves as the Deputy Director and survey manager of the Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Oversight and Review Center (BFCC ORC) for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in HHS. In this role, he provides managerial support to the Project Director and oversees survey data collection efforts, the development of data collection protocols, and the development and submission of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) justification packages.

Gabriel E. Rodriguez, MA

Research Associate

Gabriel E. Rodriguez M.A., Research Associate

An economist, Mr. Rodriguez offers experience in statistical analysis, programming evaluation, and data analytics. He has conducted cross-section, time series, and panel level econometric analysis on subjects ranging from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), the United States’ cigarette industry, and the overall construction employment market of the United States. He has experience conducting statistical analysis in his previous work in the healthcare sector, analyzing various hospital performance metrics in order to assist with future corporate planning. Mr. Rodriquez also was involved in conducting data analytics of various reimbursement programs during this time. His economic research has included the quantitative effects of subjects as far ranging as policy initiatives such as vice taxes to the overall statistical behavior over time of entire sectors of the economy within the United States. He also has journalistic experience communicating technical issues to a general audience. He also has extensive experience doing statistical analysis in a variety of statistical programming languages such as SAS, STATA, and R. Mr. Rodriguez received his Bachelor’s degree in Economics from New College of Florida and has received his Master’s degree in Applied Economics from Georgetown University.

Kevin Ji, B.S., M.S.

Senior IT Specialist

Kevin Ji, B.S., M.S., Senior IT Specialist
Mr. Ji has over eight years of experience in computer sciences and IT technology. Mr. Ji has fulfilled various positions including mobile programmer for Department of Education, multimedia technician for LeBow Tech, and Performance analyst for Siemens Medical Solutions around the enterprise solution Soarian. From troubleshooting hardware to securing corporate networks, from programming web application to implementing enterprise solutions, Mr. Ji has a wide spectrum of experiences working with government agencies and business clients. Soon after joining the Avar team, Mr. Ji became involved with the development of a national online inventory of healthcare services datasets/databases for the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality (AHRQ), two web-based global surveys for the U.S. Department of State, a web-based random assignment and monitoring system for the evaluation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Young Parents Demonstration Program, and programmed the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) annual survey. Mr. Ji also has experience in designing the logo and graphical materials for the Circle of Care grant program funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Agency (SAMHSA) and data release publication for TIMSS and PIRLS of 2012. Mr. Ji is currently involved with optimizing database, building front end interactive web portal, designing and developing web survey questionnaires, managing the day-to-day IT operations, and the processing of survey data. Mr. Ji holds a B.S. in Information Systems from Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA, and a Master of Cybersecurity degree from University of Maryland, University College.

Steven Gou, M.S.

Operations research analyst

Steven Gou, M.S., Operations Research Analyst

As an Operations Research Analyst Mr. Gou is experience in both web application development and native software application development across multiple operating systems such as Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux Ubuntu. He also has experience in database management and data lifecycle. He is currently involved in website development and database management for multiple projects such as the National Children’s Study, the Annual Survey of Refugees (ASR), and a web-based assessment and training tool for substance abuse counselors. He has delivered multiple upgrades of the National Children’s Study Survey Item Bank in terms of user experience with the web interface, database redesign, and complex search functions and performed regular data updates. For the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor Knowledge Assessment (ADCKA) Tool, he has developed major survey functions, designed both back end data structure and interactive front end web interface. He also managed the ASR database and developed various new functions for its web application such as security enhancement, user experience enforcement, and website performance upgrade. Mr. Gou is highly proficient in programming languages such as C, Objective-C, HTML5, JAVA, JavaScript, ASP.NET, PHP, SQL, C++, and VB, and he is familiar with multiple IT development methodologies. Mr. Gou received his Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University specializing in Communication and Networks.

Brad Hannon, M.P.P.

Research Associate

Brad Hannon, M.P.P., Research Associate

As a research associate with Avar Consulting, Mr. Hannon brings experience in policy research, content analysis, data coding and management, and technical review of government contract deliverables. He currently serves as a Research Associate on a multi-year contract with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education (ED), for which he reviews ED’s OMB clearance packages, extracts metadata, and codes the data for posting to ED’s OMB data management system. He also conducts technical reviews of NCES publications and deliverables from research contracts in accordance with NCES statistical standards and technical guidelines. Mr. Hannon participated in the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) Training Workshops Evaluation for the Department of Labor, analyzing open-ended survey responses and coding them into analytic categories. As a Research Analyst, he was heavily involved in questionnaire development support for the National Children’s Study (NCS) funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). His responsibilities included reviewing, coding, and summarizing open-ended responses to NCS pilot surveys. He conducted literature reviews; performed cross-study comparisons; reviewed questionnaire content and coded questions/question modules for entry into the Survey Item Bank, a database of survey items. He also prepared new questionnaires and associated metadata using the Survey Item Bank for OMB clearance. He reviewed and coded documentation from ED’s grant program “Promoting Rigorous Career and Technical Education Programs of Study Through Statewide or Multi-state Articulation Agreements” to be used in an evaluation of the program and contributed to the final draft report by reviewing various materials on states’ participation. He has also organized focus group discussions and contributed to reports for NCES publications. Mr. Hannon has excellent communication skills and has had articles published both electronically and in print. Mr. Hannon received his B.S. in economics and his Master of Public Policy degree from George Mason University, with a focus in regional economic development.

James Dotson, Ph.D.

Senior Public Health Analyst

James Dotson, Ph.D., Senior Public Health Analyst
Dr. Dotson has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and disease/injury prevention. As a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES), he has extensive experience working with organizations to plan, implement and evaluate public health activities. He has been involved with a diverse range of health topics, among them substance use and abuse, obesity, physical activity and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and other health areas. He has collaborated with clients to assess health issues and problems, and identify or develop effective strategies (programs, policies, and/or practices) to address those health concerns. He has supported initiatives and activities for a wide range of federal government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has presented on behalf of these agencies at professional meetings. Dr. Dotson has more than 20 years of experience in federal government contracting, serving as a Corporate Monitor, Project Direction/Principal Investigator, and/or Team/Task Leader on numerous projects, including multiyear/multimillion dollar contracts and task orders. He holds a B.A. degree in Biology from Washington Adventist University, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Health Education from the University of Maryland at College Park. His doctoral dissertation was titled: “Physician-Delivered Smoking Cessation Interventions: An Information Synthesis of the Literature.”


Michael Larsen, Ph.D.

Senior Mathematical Statistician (Consultant)

Michael Larsen, Ph.D., Senior Mathematical Statistician (Consultant) 
Dr. Michael D. Larsen is a full professor and statistics coordinator in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.  His research interests include survey sampling theory and methods, statistical methods for missing data, record linkage and use of administrative data sources, and modeling complex data.  He has been involved in large-scale surveys, clinical trials, and national academy of science panels to review the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2009 to 2017 Dr. Larsen was a tenured professor in the Department of Statistics at George Washington University and director of GW’s Graduate Certificate Program in Survey Design & Data Analysis. From 2003 to 2009 he was an assistant and then associate professor in Iowa State University's Department of Statistics and its Center for Survey Statistics and Methodology. At GW and ISU he taught graduate level survey sampling theory and methods, as well as other topics, and mentored master’s and Ph.D. students in this and related areas. From 1999 to 2003 he was a senior lecturer at The University of Chicago and research associate at NORC. He is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, a Fellow of the American Statistical Society, past president of the Washington Statistical Society, and past chair of the ASA’s Survey Research Section. Dr. Larsen received his Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Statistics and Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

James A. Swartz, Ph.D.

Public Health Specialist (Consultant)

James A. Swartz, Ph.D., Public Health Specialist (Consultant, Substance Abuse Treatment & Prevention)

Dr. Swartz has 20 years of experience in mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention research, which has resulted in over 30 peer-reviewed publications, eight books and book chapters, over 20 study reports, and numerous presentations. His research topics include screening for serious mental illness in populations with co-occurring substance use disorders; the mediating effects of substance use between serious mental illness and arrest; substance abuse treatment and prevention for women; substance abuse treatment in the criminal justice system; and the impact of welfare policy on substance abuse. Dr. Swartz has served as a reviewer for a number of professional journals such as International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, Contemporary Drug Problems, Substance Use and Misuse, American Journal of Public Health, Women & Criminal Justice, Crime and Delinquency, Criminal Justice and Behavior, and Journal of Offender Rehabilitation. He also served as a grant reviewer for the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. Dr. Swartz holds a Master’s degree in behavioral research from Loyola University at Chicago, Illinois, and a Ph.D. degree in clinical psychology from Northwestern University Medical School. He is currently an Associate Professor at Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Suzanne Bowler, Ph.D.

Health Policy Analyst


Suzanne Bowler, Ph.D., Health Policy Analyst (Consultant)
Dr. Bowler has 20 years of experience in designing, conducting, and managing single- and multi-site public health research and evaluation projects for Federal and State Government clients including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Centers for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) and Treatment (CSAT), SAMHSA, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Institute on Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Specific skills include process and outcome evaluation design, evaluation training, survey research, qualitative and quantitative data collection including site visits and in-person interviewing, focus group facilitation, case study research and analysis, content analysis of primary and secondary data, cross-site data analysis, and data management.  She has also written technical reports and publications including Federal monographs and peer-reviewed journal articles, and technical and grant proposals for a variety of Federal initiatives. Dr. Bowler holds an M.A. and Ph.D. both in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley.

Sukari Ivester, Ph.D.

Social Epidemiologist (Consultant)

Sukari Ivester, Ph.D., Social Epidemiologist (Consultant)
Trained as a social epidemiologist, Dr. Ivester’s general research interests are in the social and structural determinants of health outcomes, particularly among vulnerable populations. Her research experience includes several evaluations in the areas of Maternal/Child Health and Substance Abuse Prevention funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services since 1997.  Dr. Ivester is a Research Fellow at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley as well as an Adjunct Professor of Medical Sociology at the California State University, East Bay.  She is currently leading an evaluation for the State of California of the Mental Health Service Act (MHSA), a $350 Million effort to transform Mental Health Services in the state.  In addition to a qualitative analysis of the Proposition 63/Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Evaluation.  she is investigating urban health vulnerabilities from a spatial perspective as related to food access and the built environment.   She has also been funded by the National Institutes of Health for both pre-doctoral and post-doctoral research. Dr. Sukari Ivester received her BA. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago.

L. Dee Torre, Ph.D.

​Early Childhood & Special Education Specialist (Consultant)

L. Dee Torre, Ph.D., Early Childhood & Special Education Specialist (Consultant)
Dr. L. Dee Torre has more than 30 years of experience in education evaluation and policy analysis, especially in early childhood mental health and behavioral issues, special education, parental involvement and education administration.  For eight years, she was a master teacher and administrator for students with disabilities ages 1-7 years.  She has also worked extensively as an advocate for interagency collaboration regarding students with intense individual needs.  Dr. Torre has served as Project Director and/or Principal Investigator on numerous evaluation or research studies including: a three-year project to evaluate the Judith P. Hoyer Early Care and Education Enhancement program for the Maryland Department of Education; a seven-year longitudinal study that assisted the New York State Education Department in determining the long-term effect of preschool special education programs and services;  the evaluation of California’s Child Care Development Block Grants; a comprehensive study for the Florida Commission on Children with Developmental Delays; the Maryland, Arkansas, Georgia, Nevada and South Carolina Reading Excellence Act Program Evaluations; the evaluations of Reading First funding outcomes for K-3 students in New Jersey, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kentucky.  Dr. Torre holds a doctoral degree in Educational Administration and Policy Studies (with a minor in Educational Psychology, Testing, and Measurement) from the State University of New York at Albany. Additionally, she has an M.S. degree in Special Education, with a minor in reading, and is a certified teacher and superintendent. She has recently retired as a senior evaluator and partner in a national firm where conducted statewide and local agency evaluation and planning projects in 12 states and is now pursuing projects of high interest as an independent consultant.

Nancy S. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Education Specialist (Consultant, Early Learning)

Nancy S. Fontaine, Ph.D., Education Specialist (Consultant, Early Learning)

Dr. Fontaine has over 30 years of experience in the field of education. Dr. Fontaine’s background encompasses the full landscape of educational experience, from direct delivery of research-based best practices in early learning environments to guiding pre-service teaching candidates at the university level. She has extensive experience in designing, implementing, and evaluating professional development training, covering topics such as: early learning best practices; after school programs; school readiness; child development and developmental assessments; safe learning; family involvement; and diversity.  Through her involvement with numerous federally and state funded grants and contracts, Dr. Fontaine has also provided technical assistance to school and program sites, school districts, agencies and organizations in the areas of: high quality educational programming; teaching through authentic and appropriate assessment; differentiated instruction; wrap around early intervention services; emergent literacy; extended day programs for children ages four through grade 8; and programs such as Reading First.  Recently, she designed a comprehensive training that is utilized with 21st Century program providers throughout Florida.  As a senior level professional, Dr. Fontaine has not only provided direct service, she has worked with public and private entities in conducting field research to further the development of appropriate and effective practices in early childhood education, and has managed and directed numerous early childhood learning-related programs. In these leadership roles Dr. Fontaine was responsible for all aspects of program management from planning, implementation, quality assurance and monitoring, reporting on project activities, and financial management. Dr. Fontaine received her Master's degree in Human/Child Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and her Ph.D. in Early Childhood Education from Florida State University.

Alberto F. Cabrera, Ph.D.

Education Specialist (Consultant)

Alberto F. Cabrera, Ph.D., Education Specialist (Consultant, Higher Education)
Dr. Alberto F. Cabrera is a full professor at the College of Education, the University of Maryland.  He has conducted over 20 years of research in college choice, college students, classroom experiences, minorities in Higher Education, and economics of education. He was also a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Penn State University, SUNY-Albany, and Arizona State University-West campus.  Dr. Cabrera has served on the National College Access Network’s board of directors as well as in the editorial boards of the top journals in higher education in the USA and Spain (e.g., Journal of Higher Education, Review of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education and Revista Complutense de Educación).  He was a member of the advisory board for Pathways to College Network and currently serves on the GEAR UP Evaluation Council of the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP), a 14-member group charged with a mandate to develop a conceptual research framework and data collection design that will be implemented in GEAR UP programs nationally. His work on classroom practices, the role of finances on college persistence and on determinants of default behavior has received several awards.  He was the co-leader of the Diversity Institute, a project funded by NSF seeking to create inclusive teaching practices in STEM fields ( He was co-principal investigator for the IES grant titled Dream Deferred which provided a most comprehensive review of the impact of GEAR UP on awareness and readiness for college among low-income middle school students. Dr. Cabrera holds a Ph. D. in Educational Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison.

George Ji, MBA

Sr. Internet Service Specialist (Consultant)

George Ji, M.B.A., Senior Internet Service Specialist (Consultant)
Mr. Ji has over 10 years of experience in program management and Internet-based development and services, including web-based survey design, programming and hosting, website planning, design, development, hosting and maintenance, web-based database development and data management, as well as online business transactions.  He has led/worked on more than 20 internet service projects.  Leading a team of IT specialists, Mr. Ji has successfully transferred a large, on-going web survey, including its software applications, survey databases, records, and other associated materials from a Citrix server to Avar’s multi-platform server without interrupting the survey operation.  He is currently leading a number of Avar’s web-based projects as follows: 1) hosting and management of the Transforming Church Index survey and producing customized on-line reports; 2) hosting and management of the Performula Assessment, a 360 degree performance review tool for corporate clients; 3) hosting and management of the Healthy Business Index, an on-line organizational assessment tool; 4) design and development of an on-line inventory of healthcare services databases for AHRQ; and 5) providing website, e-mail, and intranet hosting and data archiving services for a number of companies and organizations.  Mr. Ji holds a Master's degree in American Studies from Shanghai International Studies University and an M.B.A. from Webster University at St.Louis with an emphasis on technology management.

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