About Us

Magnolia Consulting is a woman-owned, small business with headquarters in central Virginia and a network of consultants throughout the country. We offer comprehensive, customized evaluation and research services. We cultivate learning and positive change by meeting clients’ specific needs with timely, relevant, and useful information.

With our expertise, we help clients achieve their goals in PK-20 education, adult education, organizational change and development, community and school-based programs, and informal education and public outreach.

Together, our team offers more than a century of evaluation experience and represents a broad range of fields including education, human services, and social science.

Meet Stephanie Baird Wilkerson, Ph.D., President. In this short 2 minute video, learn about the evaluation process and why it works so well.

Our Executive Team

Stephanie Baird Wilkerson, Ph.D., President

Stephanie Wilkerson

Dr. Stephanie Baird Wilkerson founded Magnolia Consulting in 2002, following a wide-ranging career in education that started over 20 years ago. Her drive to cultivate learning and positive change through education (the heart of Magnolia’s mission) began when she was a preschool teacher in a private school in Texas during the early 1990s. She experienced firsthand the critical dynamic between teacher, curriculum, and student that can create or impede learning from moment to moment. From there, she stepped outside the classroom to dedicate her career to helping students through research and program evaluation. That drive led her to the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, where she earned a Ph.D. in educational evaluation.

Since 1991, Stephanie has worked on national, state, and local evaluation and research studies involving schools at every level, from preschool to higher education. She has constructed quantitative and qualitative research instruments, developed logic models, and designed and managed multi-state randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and case studies across multiple sites. Working in collaboration with clients, classroom teachers, administrators, and students, she has investigated math, science, English language, and reading programs, as well as broader systemic reforms. She has particular interest in studies of organizational change, systemic reform, curriculum efficacy, and STEM programs. While serving as a principal evaluator for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in Colorado, Stephanie began to conduct evaluations of NASA’s mission outreach programs—work she continues to enjoy. At Magnolia Consulting, Stephanie assembled a team that shares her respect for educators and her determination to provide clients with the tools and knowledge necessary to implement and sustain educational improvements.

As part of her dedication to creating a balanced, high-quality life, Stephanie enjoys international travel, yoga, meditation, cross-country skiing, kayaking, and horseback riding. But she revels most in the simple, precious moments with her husband and two sons.

Carol Haden, Ed.D., Vice President of Operations

Dr. Carol Haden began her education career as a high school biology teacher on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She went on to earn a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northern Arizona University, where she also began her career in evaluation at the Center for Science Teaching and Learning. She has a special interest in supporting exemplary and equitable science education for traditionally underserved populations.

As an educational evaluator, Carol specializes in standards-based best practices in STEM. She has served as evaluator for STEM education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation, NASA, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Arizona Board of Regents, and the Arizona Department of Education, among others. Her evaluations have included studies of:

  • NASA education and public outreach programs
  • Curriculum materials and support programs for undergraduate engineering students
  • Pre-service teacher development programs
  • Science professional development for elementary and middle school teachers
  • Recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in the sciences
  • Global climate change education programs
  • Summer research experiences for undergraduates

She also specializes in evaluation capacity building. Through this work, she helps program planners and staff to develop the skills to clearly articulate program outcomes and internally evaluate their effectiveness.

Carol has been with Magnolia Consulting since 2007. Her areas of expertise include proposal development, evaluation design and implementation, logic modeling, qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, report writing, and the presentation of findings. In her role as vice president, she supports Magnolia’s exemplary team through strategic planning and visioning, and support of employee development.

In her free time, Carol enjoys yoga and spending time with her family while rafting, climbing, and camping. 

Lisa Shannon, Ph.D., Director of Research and Evaluation

Dr. Lisa Shannon’s professional interest in education stems in part from her experience teaching an after-school creative writing program for a public school system in North Carolina. While earning her Ph.D. in psychology and program design, administration, and evaluation from North Carolina State University (NCSU), she interned with the local public school system and taught undergraduate courses at NCSU. From 2000 to 2006, Lisa was on the faculty of NCSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, where she studied programs serving youth and families and evaluated the North Carolina Cooperative Extension System’s efforts around systemic improvement.

In 2006, Lisa joined Magnolia Consulting, where she currently serves as director of research and evaluation. In this role, she manages and guides a large portfolio of Magnolia’s research and evaluation work, with responsibilities including strategic and fiscal planning, business development, organizational capacity building and leadership, client and customer relations, and project oversight. Lisa is skilled in conducting complex statistical analyses, including multilevel modeling, modeling for cross-classified random effects, multiple regression, and logistic regression. Her work includes regional, state, and national research and evaluation studies in the following content areas, among others:   

  • Reading, math, science, and preschool curricula
  • Nonprofit programs serving at-risk youth, families, and communities
  • Parent education and child abuse prevention programs
  • College readiness and success
  • Community college programs
  • Informal learning
  • School improvement and systemic reform interventions
  • State and district education policy

In her free time, Lisa enjoys reading, taking long walks with her dog, going to the beach, and spending time with her husband and their four children.

Our researchers and Evaluators

Mary Styers, Ph.D., Senior Researcher and Evaluator

Mary Styers

Dr. Mary Styers’s passion for research was ignited as a summer intern in 2001, when she helped scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke map mechanisms of cognitive processing in adults with and without brain injury. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in lifespan development psychology from North Carolina State University in 2009, with work that centered on how children, adolescents, and adults interpret everyday negative experiences. She has a special interest in research and evaluations examining resiliency, self-efficacy, empowerment, and positive coping strategies across all age groups.

Using various research designs and methodologies, Mary has served as an evaluator on studies sponsored by Pearson, Inc.; National Geographic School Publishing; Study Island; Learning for Life; NASA, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor, among others. Her evaluations have included studies of:

  • Math, science, and reading curricula for pre-K through grade 12
  • Community college programs
  • Social and emotional learning programs
  • Online learning platforms
  • School improvement and systemic reform interventions
  • NASA education and outreach programs, activities, and websites

Mary joined Magnolia in 2007. Her areas of expertise include designing, leading, and conducting studies; aggregating and analyzing large qualitative and quantitative datasets; conducting site observations, interviews, and focus groups; running qualitative and quantitative analyses; compiling literature reviews; writing reports; and presenting findings.

In her free time, Mary enjoys exercising; painting; and spending time with her husband, their two boys, and their three dogs.

Molly Henschel, Ph.D., Researcher and Evaluator

Dr. Molly Henschel’s path to educational research and evaluation began in 2011, when she started work as a research assistant in the Office of Assessment and Evaluation Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center. She assisted with various evaluations of the medical curriculum and STEM programs for underserved populations. Molly continued working as an evaluation specialist for VCU Medical Center while she obtained her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the College of William and Mary. She decided to focus her evaluation expertise towards K–12 education as a result of her personal experience in the classroom. In 2016, she completed her Ph.D. in research and evaluation studies at VCU, where her work targeted beginning STEM teachers’ experiences with professional development and varying methods of program delivery. Her research and evaluation interests span a wide range of areas and include educational inequity, professional development, professional learning communities, and STEM education. 

Molly came to Magnolia Consulting in 2015 as an extern. Upon completion of her externship, she continued working with Magnolia on projects as an independent consultant. She officially joined the team as a researcher and evaluator in 2016. Her roles include supporting quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies in proposal planning and design, instrument development, recruitment, implementation, data collection and management, analysis, report writing, and communicating findings using data visualizations.

Molly has a passion for baking, exercising (to counterbalance the baking), and traveling with her husband and daughter. She also enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her dogs.

Elizabeth Peery, M.A., Researcher and Evaluator

Ms. Elizabeth Peery was first drawn to evaluation studies during her graduate program at the School for International Training, where she designed a monitoring and evaluation plan for ChildVoice International in Uganda. Beth continued to explore her interest in research and evaluation through an internship with World Vision, a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to community development and poverty alleviation worldwide, where she helped conduct a unique meta-evaluation that assessed the quality and impact of nearly 100 World Vision programs.

Beth joined Magnolia Consulting in 2012. Her work with Magnolia involves database development and management, survey management, data collection and analysis, report writing, and data visualization. She supports evaluations across a wide range of areas and has a special interest in community college programs.

In her free time, Beth enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.

Anne Cosby, M.S.W., Research and Evaluation Associate

Ms. Anne (A.C.) Cosby joined Magnolia Consulting in 2014. At Magnolia, her duties include database development and management, survey management and data collection, qualitative and quantitative data analysis, and data visualization development. She has a passion for conducting meaningful research and evaluation studies across a wide range of social impact areas.

Previously, AC worked in various capacities in the behavioral health field. Her interest in research and evaluation began while conducting a needs assessment of refugee mental health services in Virginia. She has also worked on program evaluations of various jail diversion initiatives in Virginia. She received her B.S. in psychology at the University of Mary Washington and her M.S.W. at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In her spare time, AC enjoys reading, keeping up with current events, attending ballet performances, and spending time with her family.

deKoven Pelton, Ph.D., Research and Evaluation Associate, Qualitative

Dr. deKoven Pelton has broad experience with qualitative data collection and analysis and is especially interested in the education of girls and women. She began her educational career as coordinator of 14 after-school media literacy programs for seventh-grade girls in six Charlottesville-area middle schools. In 1995, she earned a Ph.D. in educational policy and research from the University of Virginia, with a dissertation on seventh-grade girls’ experiences in school.

In 2010, deKoven joined Magnolia Consulting, where she focuses on qualitative analysis and data collection activities, including conducting interviews and focus groups. She maintains comprehensive databases on ATLAS.ti and assists with setting up coding and theme development for qualitative data across studies. In addition, she works closely with sites on day-to-day operations, assists with surveys, and collaborates on research across many projects. deKoven also provides support with literature reviews, writing, and presenting study findings.

deKoven loves to travel and appreciates being part of various educational and cultural events with family and good friends. She especially enjoys time with her three adult children and being part of their adventures.

Our Support Team

Beverly Bunch, Executive Assistant

Ms. Beverly Bunch has over three decades of experience in administration and fiscal management. She has worked for the federal government on the Welfare to Work grant, for the Charlottesville Social Services Department, and for a Virginia government agency. Bev joined Magnolia Consulting in 2010. As executive assistant at Magnolia, she prepares study evaluation and orientation materials, coordinates travel for the organization, and maintains vital employee and company records.

Bev enjoys dancing, reading, volunteering at a local veterans’ organization, and sharing fun with family and friends.

Catherine Pearson, B.S., Budgets and Contracts Manager

Ms. Catherine Pearson has over 25 years of experience in administration, banking, and workflow management. In 2017, she joined Magnolia Consulting, where she oversees the performance of all project budgets and contracts and ensures compliance with state and federal regulations. She also manages the budget preparation process and tracks budget performance for multiple federally and privately funded projects.

Before joining Magnolia, Cathy spent 20 years with the University of Virginia Health System as an outpatient clinic coordinator managing the clinical and fiscal operations of an outpatient department. She has expertise in implementing new product and service delivery systems, supervising staff, and restructuring workflow and productivity.Cathy holds a B.S. in finance and business administration from California State University.

Cathy enjoys spending time with her family, birding, reading, and hiking.

“We were very fortunate to work with Magnolia Consulting. We found their expertise and professionalism to be first-rate. They provided a highly collaborative working relationship and their reports were thorough and of the highest quality. The NCEA staff would not hesitate to hire Magnolia Consulting again for evaluation services.”
Lynn Mellor, Ph.D.
Former Principal Research Manager

National Center for Educational Achievement

© Magnolia Consulting LLC 2017. All Rights Reserved.