Skip Navigation

Home REL Midwest About REL Midwest Our Team

Our Team

Julie Kochanek

Julie Kochanek

Director
Julie Reed Kochanek, PhD, serves as director of REL Midwest and is vice president of education systems and policy at the American Institutes for Research. Dr. Kochanek has more than 20 years of experience in research and evaluation of school reform efforts. In her role at REL Midwest, Dr. Kochanek has designed and implemented structures and procedures that engage stakeholders in the research process, facilitate conversations between researchers and practitioners throughout a project life cycle, and support stakeholders’ use of findings. She leads a $12 million study of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Network for School Improvement initiative. In addition to multiple studies published by the Institute of Education Sciences, she is the author of Building Trust for Better Schools: Research-Based Practices and coauthor of several chapters in Trust in Schools: A Core Resource for Improvement. Dr. Kochanek received a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago.


Chad Duhon

Chad Duhon

Deputy Director
Chad Duhon, MA, is deputy director of REL Midwest and a principal researcher at AIR. Much of Duhon’s work focuses on research and technical assistance in college and career readiness and success and school improvement. In his role at REL Midwest, Duhon works with the director to provide guidance for projects that help Midwestern practitioners, schools, districts, and states use data to inform decisions to improve student learning. Duhon oversees project teams, manages budgets, coordinates quality assurance procedures, and communicates with clients. Previously, Duhon served as REL Midwest’s technical assistance lead and as project manager of the College and Career Readiness and Success Center and the National High School Center. At AIR, Duhon also has led projects that monitored low-performing schools in Massachusetts. Duhon is a certified Project Management Professional. Duhon earned his master’s degree in education policy from The George Washington University.


Katie Dahlke

Katie Dahlke

Applied Research Task Lead
Katie Dahlke, PhD, is the applied research task lead for REL Midwest and a principal researcher at AIR. She also is the research lead for a researcher–practitioner partnership in Oklahoma through REL Southwest, where she led a descriptive landscape study of preK participation and is leading an early learning inventory study in kindergarten classrooms. She has served as principal investigator for various early childhood studies, including a mixed-methods quasi-experimental design study of full-day kindergarten in Pennsylvania, validation studies of kindergarten entry assessments in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, and a descriptive study of early educator practices and supports in Massachusetts. Her work includes quasi-experimental and experimental research and evaluation design, examination of implementation fidelity, evaluations for continuous quality improvement, implementation and outcome measure development, and quantitative and qualitative analysis. Dr. Dahlke holds doctoral and master’s degrees from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina–Columbia.


Emily Loney

Emily Loney

Dissemination Task Lead
Emily Loney, MPP, is the dissemination task lead for REL Midwest and a senior researcher at AIR. As REL Midwest task lead, Loney leads the execution of a communication strategy to develop resources that connect evidence and research with stakeholders. Loney also serves as the project director of the Institute of Education Sciences–funded College Completion Network, managing the project plan and budget for a project focused on building collaboration among research teams focused on college completion. Prior to AIR, Loney worked as a policy analyst at the Hunt Institute, where she led efforts to share research and K–12 best practices with state legislators, governors, and business leaders. Loney earned a master’s of public policy from Duke University and is a certified Project Management Professional.


Orrin Murray

Orrin Murray

Partnership Task Lead
Orrin Murray, PhD, is the partnership lead for REL Midwest and a principal researcher at AIR. Dr. Murray supports partnership managers in the design and development of partnership strategy and previously developed a series to broaden REL Midwest capabilities to support districts and state agencies in adopting culturally responsive practices. He is the principal investigator and project director on a U.S. Department of Education–funded study of culturally responsive restorative practices in the Austin Independent School District. Prior to AIR, he managed technology infrastructure and led research and development efforts for the UChicago Impact unit of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago. He has overseen the design and development of curricula and tools used by educators nationwide. He worked closely with applied researchers and K–12 educators to design and develop the Cultivate framework and reporting site. Dr. Murray holds a doctorate in education from the University of Michigan.


Jaime Singer

Jaime Singer

Training, Coaching, and Technical Support Task Lead
Jaime Singer, MA, is the training, coaching, and technical support lead for REL Midwest and a principal technical assistance consultant at AIR. In her role at REL Midwest, she collaborates with REL Midwest partnership leads and leadership team members, project leads, and state education agency staff to design and implement responsive projects to build the capacity of REL Midwest stakeholders to engage in and use data and research for continuous improvement. Singer is project director for the C.S. Mott–funded Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative, where she supports the 50 State Afterschool Network through training and technical assistance. She is a skilled facilitator with 15 years of experience supporting the afterschool and expanded learning field at federal, state, and local levels. She is also a certified Project Management Professional. Singer earned a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology from the University of Tulsa.


Francie Streich

Francie Streich

Data-Informed Leadership for Equity (DILE), Iowa
Francie Streich, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and the partnership director for DILE. Streich was principal investigator for a REL Midwest applied research study examining how student learning changed in Illinois following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Streich is the quantitative lead on multiple projects, including an Institute of Education Sciences–funded study of policies that encourage students to take advanced classes and a project with NAF examining the long-term postsecondary and labor-market outcomes of their academy alumni. Previously, as a scientist at Wilder Research, she led the 2016 Minnesota Student Survey, which examined the behaviors and attitudes of Minnesota students in grades 5, 8, 9, and 11, and other population-based surveys. Streich has expertise in quantitative methods, including experimental and quasi-experimental designs. She holds a doctorate in economics and public policy and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan.


Laura Michaelson

Laura Michaelson

Data-Informed Leadership for Equity (DILE), Iowa
Laura Michaelson, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and the partnership manager for DILE. She uses quantitative modeling and evidence synthesis methods to improve the use and translation of evidence in youth development. Michaelson leads several tasks and provides technical assistance on the What Works Clearinghouse Statistics, Website, and Training contract for the Institute of Education Sciences. She also leads various evidence synthesis and meta-analysis projects and is a cofounder of the Methods of Synthesis and Integration Center at AIR. Previously, Dr. Michaelson held a postdoctoral position in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder and served as a senior reviewer with the Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development research registry. She holds a doctorate in cognitive science, a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, and a graduate certificate in quantitative methods in the behavioral sciences from the University of Colorado Boulder.


Carrie Scholz

Carrie Scholz

Engagement and Achievement Through Computational Thinking (ENACT), Wisconsin
Carrie Scholz, PhD, is a principal researcher at AIR and a partnership director for ENACT. Dr. Scholz also serves as coprincipal investigator for Preparing Urban Milwaukee for Pathways in Computer Science, a researcher–practitioner partnership funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Scholz has more than 12 years of experience supporting partners in implementing and measuring research-based strategies to address specific educational needs. During her career, Dr. Scholz has led national working groups for the Institute of Education Sciences on collaborative research partnerships, teacher effectiveness, and the REL program’s response to COVID-19. She recently completed her service as a steering committee member for the National Network of Education Research–Practice Partnerships and coauthored a Tool for Assessing the Health of Research-Practice Partnerships. Dr. Scholz completed her doctorate in educational policy studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


Dominique Bradley

Dominique Bradley

Engagement and Achievement Through Computational Thinking (ENACT), Wisconsin
Dominique Bradley, PhD, PMP, is a researcher at AIR and partnership manager for ENACT. Dr. Bradley has more than 11 years of experience in education research and project management. Her areas of expertise are in frameworks for implementation evaluation and program evaluation, research–practice partnerships, improvement science, preparation and support, teacher retention, and student achievement gaps. Her previous REL Midwest responsibilities included serving as coach and trainer to help stakeholders better use and understand research and how to conduct policy and practice scans. Dr. Bradley also is the qualitative lead on an evaluation of the Chicago Public Schools Community Schools Initiative as well as researcher and project director on several federally and privately funded grants. She holds a master’s degree in sociology and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Kelly Reese

Kelly Reese

Indiana Partnership
Kelly Reese, MPP, is a senior researcher at AIR and will lead REL Midwest’s work in Indiana. Reese has 12 years of experience conducting mixed-methods education research, leading teams of researchers, and providing analytic support to clients at the federal, state, and local levels as well as within national nonprofit and postsecondary institutions. She focuses on career and technical education systems and career pathways from K–12 to postsecondary with industry partnerships; college and career readiness initiatives, including programs to help persistence in higher education; early grade to postsecondary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics interventions; and teacher professional development systems and programs. Reese is a part of the Career and Technical Education Research Network at AIR. She earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies.


Natalya Gnedko-Berry

Natalya Gnedko-Berry

Supporting Inclusive and Diverse Educator Environments (SIDEE), Minnesota
Natalya Gnedko-Berry, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and partnership director for SEED. She brings 15 years designing and implementing research and evaluation studies coupled with a background in K–12 education. She leads several tasks under the What Works Clearinghouse Statistics, Website, and Training contract for the Institute of Education Sciences. Between 2017–22, she led the REL Midwest alliance to improve teacher preparation, producing four applied studies, six technical assistance projects, and 20 engagement products and resulting in policy changes in Michigan to address teacher shortages. Dr. Gnedko-Berry is skilled at developing researcher–practitioner partnerships and in disseminating research results through media for different audiences. Before AIR, Dr. Gnedko-Berry was a researcher at Chicago Public Schools and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. She holds a master’s degree in applied social psychology and a doctorate in research methodology from Loyola University, Chicago.


Jennie Jiang

Jennie Jiang

Supporting Inclusive and Diverse Educator Environments (SIDEE), Minnesota
Jennie Jiang, MPP, is a researcher at AIR and partnership manager for SEED. Her areas of expertise include teacher preparation, support, and development. She has led numerous studies on Chicago’s teacher evaluation system, new teacher induction, and teacher preparation. In addition, she has worked on data use, organizational practices, and neighborhood school initiatives. Jiang has worked closely with school districts, state-level agencies, and community organizations to translate research findings into actionable, understandable, and relevant practices that improve programs and policies. Her work on teacher evaluation was awarded the American Education Research Association 2017 Outstanding Publication Award and has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Educational Researcher. Before her career in education research, Jiang was a certified middle school teacher in Chicago Public Schools. She earned a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago and a Master of Science in elementary education from Northwestern University.


Jill Bowdon

Jill Bowdon

Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR), Michigan
Jill Bowdon, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and partnership director for STIR. She is a quantitative researcher, and her expertise lies in early literacy, particularly kindergarten readiness and transitions, state literacy policies and practices, the science of reading, multi-tiered system of supports, and data-driven decisionmaking. Dr. Bowdon previously led REL Midwest’s early childhood education alliance. She has served as the principal investigator, project director, and lead analyst on large-scale studies funded by the Institutes of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation. She is a certified reviewer for the What Works Clearinghouse. She is also a recipient of a Jack Kent Cooke dissertation fellowship and an Institute for Research on Poverty dissertation fellowship. Dr. Bowdon earned her doctorate in sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she was an IES predoctoral training fellow. She started her career as a grade 4 teacher.


Billie Jo Day

Billie Jo Day

Strategies to Improve Reading (STIR), Michigan
Billie Jo Day, PhD, is a researcher at AIR and partnership manager for STIR. She focuses on school transitions and the transition to kindergarten. She has worked with state and local education leaders to design and implement evidence-based practices that are responsive to local needs. Dr. Day served as the partnership lead for REL Midwest’s early childhood education alliance that supported early literacy efforts of districts in Illinois. Currently, she is the state implementation lead on an Institute of Education Sciences–funded project and is the relationship manager for intermediaries on an evaluation project funded by a large foundation. Prior to joining AIR, she was a research assistant with the Chicago Consortium on School Research at the University of Chicago. Dr. Day earned her Master of Education in higher education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her doctorate from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.


Alicia Garcia

Alicia Garcia

Making Equitable Schools Audit (MESA), Ohio
Alicia N. Garcia, JD, is a principal policy analyst at AIR and partnership director for MESA. She has more than 13 years of experience in education law and policy. Garcia led REL Midwest’s coaching and research projects on reducing disparities in student discipline in Minnesota. She also is the project director for a network for school improvement in the Long Beach Unified School District in California, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which uses continuous improvement cycles to alter literacy instructional practices and improve outcomes for students who are Black, Latino, and from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Prior to joining AIR, she was a practicing attorney in the field of education law. Garcia earned a master’s degree in cultural and educational policy studies from Loyola University Chicago and a JD from the University of Texas School of Law and is a certified Project Management Professional.


Jameela Conway-Turner

Jameela Conway-Turner

Making Equitable Schools Audit (MESA), Ohio
Jameela Conway-Turner, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and partnership manager for MESA. Dr. Conway-Turner provides research and evaluation support to programs with a focus on equity, youth development, social and emotional learning, and justice issues. This work includes K–12 education and community and youth programs. Dr. Conway-Turner works to bridge the research to policy and practice gap by conducting studies examining the use of research evidence, working with stakeholders to make evidence-based decisions and examining the impact of programs, policies, and practices. She also emphasizes the importance of data visualization and writes reports for various audiences to disseminate research findings. Prior to joining AIR, Dr. Conway-Turner was a policy fellow for the Society for Research in Child Development at the National Institute of Justice working on the Comprehensive School Safety Initiative. She holds a doctorate in applied developmental psychology from George Mason University.


Yinmei Wan

Yinmei Wan

Teaching Fractions Toolkit (TFT), Illinois
Yinmei Wan, PhD, is a senior researcher at AIR and partnership director for the TFT project with REL Midwest. Dr. Wan has played leading roles on three experimental and two quasi-experimental studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education related to teacher preparation and teacher professional learning She has led REL applied research projects and authored or coauthored 15 REL reports and products. She also has led REL technical assistance and coaching projects with state education agencies in Minnesota and Ohio to develop and test surveys and tools that districts and schools can use to improve their teacher evaluation, teacher retention, and teacher leadership development practices. Dr. Wan leads the help desk task on the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) Statistics, Website, and Training team and has been a WWC reviewer since 2012. She earned a doctorate in higher education from the University of Michigan.


Melinda Griffin

Melinda Griffin

Teaching Fractions Toolkit (TFT), Illinois
Melinda Griffin, PhD, is a researcher at AIR and partnership manager for the TFT project with REL Midwest, working on research, evaluation, and technical assistance projects, with a focus on K–16 mathematics instruction and teacher development. Her responsibilities include supporting projects to increase student engagement with high school mathematics through teacher use of improvement science; working with teachers to use video-based coaching to improve standards alignment in elementary mathematics classrooms; developing projects to improve middle school teachers’ questioning and discussion-leading skills using technology-based coaching; and working with a state department of education to improve mathematics instruction for learning disabled and struggling students. Dr. Griffin has also provided technical assistance to educators and administrators in struggling schools and districts. Previously, she was a mathematics specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She holds a doctorate in educational policy, planning, and leadership from The College of William and Mary.


Connect with REL Midwest