Our Staff

  • Maureen Hawes

    Executive Director

    Maureen is an associate researcher at the University of Minnesota. Before coming to SIG, she had worked in a management capacity as the Executive Director of a national technical assistance center for special education. Maureen's work has focused on the intersection of systems improvement and evaluation with a passion for improving results for children with disabilities. She has earned a PhD in program evaluation at the University of Minnesota. In another life, she would have been a sommelier.

  • David R. Johnson

    Institute on Community Integration Director

    David R. Johnson, Ph.D. is Senior Associate Dean for Research and Policy, an Emma Birkmaier Professor of Educational Leadership, and Director of the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) at the University of Minnesota. His research interests include investigations of postschool outcomes, school completion, state systems change, cost-benefit analysis, and other policy-related research. His research and evaluation results have been used by U.S. Congressional committees, state legislatures, state education agencies, and other organizations. When David has down town (which he rarely does!), he enjoys spending time with his new granddaughter and bass fishing in the Canadian waters.

  • Jean K Echternacht

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. Jean K. Echternacht is a Principal Investigator and Project Director at the Institute on Community Integration at the University of Minnesota. The focus of her work is in developing programs for and with American Indian high school and tribal college students to support the retention and completion of their goals. She also has extensive experience in dropout prevention strategy development. To that end Dr. Echternacht has directed several federally funded projects that address both the high school and college needs of American Indians.

  • Sheryl Lazarus

    Senior Research Associate

    Sheryl Lazarus, Ph.D. is a senior research associate at the National Center on Educational Outcomes (NCEO), and is the co-principal investigator for the National Assessment Center. In this position she addresses special education policy issues related to the inclusion of students with disabilities in assessments used for accountability purposes. Her research and technical assistance priorities include: student participation, accommodations, alternate assessments, technology enhanced assessments, and teacher effectiveness. She has expertise in large-scale assessments, school accountability, research design (including cost analyses), data-driven decision-making, rural education, and the economics of education. She has published extensively, including papers in peer-reviewed journals in both the fields of education and economics.

  • Kristi K. Liu

    Research Associate

    Kristi Kline Liu, Ph.D., is a Research Associate at the National Center on Educational Outcomes. Kristi has a variety of experiences working on state and federally funded projects relating to large scale assessment and standards-based instruction for English language learners (ELLs) and ELLs with disabilities. She has nearly twenty years of experience analyzing assessment policies and reported assessment data, as well as collecting and disseminating information on current state practices, to inform state technical assistance efforts. Kristi has taught English as a Second Language at the secondary, post-secondary and adult levels. She has also taught language instruction methodology courses at the university level.

  • Michael Sharpe

    Principal Investigator

    Dr. Michael Sharpe has a musician's ear and a researcher's keen sense of curiosity. He applies these skills to supporting high quality education for all children. Mike's experience leading national and state research and evaluation efforts on large scale assessment, positive post-secondary outcomes, effective general and special education collaboration and many other critical areas of education policy make him a valuable contributor and someone you'll enjoy having on your team.

  • Martha Thurlow

    Senior Research Associate

    Martha Thurlow is Director of the National Center on Educational Outcomes. She addresses the implications of contemporary U.S. policy and practice for students with disabilities and English Language Learners with disabilities. With a career that has spanned 40 years, Dr. Thurlow has a broad range of experience and expertise on policy and practice issues that affect students with disabilities and those who are English learners. During the past decade, Dr. Thurlow has been the principal investigator on more than 20 federal or state projects focused on students with special needs in state and national policies and in large-scale accountability assessments, including graduation exams.

  • Tri Tran

    Business/Systems Analyst

    Tri Tran is our data analyst professional extraordinaire with a futuristic vision! When he is not preparing a massive SQL file for data mining, generating random forests, or using R to run predictive analytics with millions of data points (really!), you can catch him climbing Mt Everest, trekking though the jungles of Myanmar (aka “Burma”), or running from an angry mob in the middle of the night on his way to Machu Picchu (again, really!), he’s thinking of cutting edge ways of how our clients can use their data to discover and gain new insights for improvement.