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.

Meet The Team

Beverly Bunch, Executive Assistant

Beverly Bunch had three decades of experience in administration and data entry when she joined Magnolia in 2010. As executive assistant, Beverly prepares study evaluation and orientation materials, and conducts data entry across studies. She also formats and proofreads documents, and helps to coordinate site visits. She brings a wealth of experience from her previous work in Virginia state government. Beverly enjoys dancing, reading, volunteering at a local organization, and sharing fun times with her grandsons.

Anne Cosby, M.S.W., Research Assistant

Anne (A.C.) Cosby joined Magnolia Consulting as a Research Assistant in April 2014. At Magnolia, her duties include database development and management, site recruitment, data collection, data analysis, and survey management. A.C. has a passion for conducting meaningful research and evaluation studies across a wide range of social impact areas. Previously, A.C. has worked in various capacities of the behavioral health field. Her interest in research and evaluation began while conducting a needs assessment of refugee mental health services in Virginia. Additionally, A.C. has worked on program evaluations of various Jail Diversion initiatives in Virginia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology at the University of Mary Washington and her Master of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University. In her spare time, A.C. enjoys reading, keeping up with current events, attending ballet performances, and spending time with her family.

Billie-Jo Grant, Ph.D., Senior Researcher and Evaluator

Billie-Jo Grant was a four-time All-American discus thrower at the University of Virginia when she felt drawn to the precision and discipline of a career in educational research. By the time she completed her Ph.D. in Educational Research, Statistics, and Evaluation from the University of Virginia in 2011, she had substantial experience in program and policy evaluation, instrument construction, and large dataset management; and she had taught classes on survey design and measurement theory.

Dr. Grant came to Magnolia in 2010 with expertise in the design, administration and analyses of randomized controlled trials and mixed-methods research. She has managed qualitative and quantitative studies of science, reading, and math curricula, and studied educators’ use of data in program implementation. She has served as an evaluator for multiple quasi-experimental and longitudinal efficacy studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Pearson, Inc., Renaissance Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Inc., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A native of Arroyo Grande, Calif., Dr. Grant currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she teaches graduate courses on quantitative methods. She has worked as a volunteer with legal aid groups, providing educational advocacy for low-income children. She continues to compete in amateur athletics, and she enjoys trail riding and gardening.

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

Carol Haden began her science education career in 1985 as a high school biology teacher on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northern Arizona University, and is the former evaluation coordinator for the Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University. She has a special interest in supporting exemplary and equitable science education for traditionally underserved populations. As an educational evaluator, Dr. Haden specializes in standards-based best practices in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). She has served as evaluator for STEM education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 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 for engineering undergraduate courses
  • Science professional development for elementary teachers
  • Recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in the sciences
  • Global climate change education programs
  • Summer research experiences for undergraduates

Dr. Haden 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 analyses, report writing and the presentation of findings. In her free time, Carol enjoys quilting, yoga and spending time with her family in the outdoors rafting and camping. 

Molly Henschel, Ph.D., Researcher and Evaluator

Molly Henschel’s interest in evaluation began in 2011 when she started working as a Research Assistant in the Office of Assessment and Evaluation Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. In 2016, she completed her Ph.D. in Research and Evaluation Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work focused on beginning STEM teachers’ experiences with professional development and varying methods of program delivery. Her research and evaluation interests span across a wide range of areas and include topics such as educational inequity, professional development, professional learning communities, and STEM education. 

Molly came to Magnolia in 2015 as an Extern. Upon completion of her externship, she continued working on projects as an Independent Consultant. She officially joined the team as a Researcher and Evaluator in 2016. Her duties include supporting quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods studies in proposal development, recruitment, administration, data collection, analysis, and report writing.

Molly has a passion for baking and traveling. She also enjoys spending time with family, friends, and her two dogs.

Elizabeth Peery, M.A., Lead Research Assistant

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. Ms. Peery continued to explore her interest in research and evaluation through her internship with World Vision (WV), a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to community development and poverty alleviation worldwide. There, she helped conduct a unique meta-evaluation that assessed the quality and impact of nearly 100 WV programs.

Ms. Peery joined Magnolia Consulting in 2012. Her work as a Research Assistant with Magnolia involves database development and management, as well as supporting site recruitment, data collection and analysis, report writing, and proposal development.

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

deKoven Pelton, Ph.D., Program Coordinator

deKoven Pelton brings to Magnolia broad experience with qualitative data collection and analysis, as well as a special interest in the education of girls and women. She began her career as coordinator of fourteen after-school media literacy programs for 7th 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.

As Magnolia’s program coordinator, Dr. Pelton conducts interviews and literature reviews on multiple projects and news base scans for the Appalachian region. In addition, she monitors educational policy and assists with research across many projects. Dr. Pelton also leads site recruitment for large-scale randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies, coordinates study orientations in schools across the country, and manages study participant contact databases. She coordinates assessment shipping and scoring and manages data entry across all Magnolia studies and assists with writing and editing reports.

deKoven enjoys spending special moments with her three children (a girl and twin boys) playing their string instruments and piano with them, taking them on adventures, and engaging in the everyday conversation and laughter.   She also loves to travel and appreciates theater and live music with good friends.

Dr. Pelton has been with Magnolia Consulting since 2010.

Ruth Radhuber, B.A., Finance, HR, and Contracts Manager

Ruth joined Magnolia Consulting in 2015 as the Finance, Human Resource and Contracts Manager. Ruth has over twenty years’ experience in the fields of education, human services, public accounting and manufacturing industries.

Since joining Magnolia Consulting Ruth held the positions of Grant Accountant, and Financial Officer for over fifteen years, working with medium to large Not for Profit industries, with the emphasis on family welfare and education. In addition, Ruth worked in the Public Accounting industry, and owned and operated an international recreation manufacturing company.  Ruth specializes in establishing increased workforce capacity, cost containment, regulatory compliance, instituting best practices and policies, and visualization of future revenue sources.

Ruth holds a Bachelors of Arts in Business Administration, Management, from Kennesaw State University, with graduate courses in Finance, Accounting, Human Resources, IT and Risk Management.

Ruth also has a background teaching Special Education in an Autism Spectrum Classroom for pre-K to Adult.  Ruth is the mother of two daughters, enjoys travel, music, art, history, science, and backpacking.

Lisa Shannon, Ph.D., Principal Researcher and Evaluator

Lisa Shannon’s longstanding interest in education evaluation began in 1998 when she interned for a North Carolina public school system’s study of programs for at-risk youth. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology and program design, administration, and evaluation from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2002, where her research focused on adolescent psychosocial and emotional development. From 2000-2006, Dr. Shannon served on the faculty of NCSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, where she led or studied a range of programs serving youth and families, and evaluated systemic improvement efforts within the North Carolina Cooperative Extension System. In 2006, Dr. Shannon joined Magnolia, where she specializes in mixed methods research, advanced data collection and analysis, and dissemination of findings. Her research and evaluation projects have included studies of:

  • Child abuse prevention programs
  • Print and digital curricula in reading, math, and science
  • NASA outreach and educational programs
  • School improvement and systemic reform interventions
  • Afterschool and community-based programs targeting at-risk youth
  • Parent education programs

In addition to leading several major studies, Dr. Shannon serves as a data analyst across Magnolia Consulting projects, employing specialized techniques such as multilevel modeling, multiple regression, meta-analysis, and effect size calculations. When she is not working, Dr. Shannon also enjoys running, reading, participating in activities at her church, and spending time with her husband and their four children.

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

Mary Styers

Mary Styers’ passion for research was ignited in 2001 when, as a summer intern, 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, Dr. Styers 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:

  • PreK-12 math, science and reading curriculums
  • Community college programs
  • Social and emotional support programs
  • Educational needs in KY, TN, VA, and WV
  • Online learning platforms
  • School improvement and systemic reform interventions
  • NASA education and outreach programs, activities and websites

Dr. Styers’ 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. She has been with Magnolia Consulting since 2007. In her free time, Mary enjoys exercising, painting, and spending time with her family.

Stephanie Baird Wilkerson, Ph.D., President

Dr. Wilkerson founded Magnolia Consulting, LLC in 2002 following a wide-ranging career in education, beginning over 20 years ago. Her drive to cultivate learning and positive change through education (the heart of Magnolia’s mission) first began as a preschool teacher in a private school in Texas during the early 1990s. She experienced first-hand the critical dynamic between teacher, curriculum and student that can create or impede learning from moment to moment. And from that point 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.

Stephanie WilkersonSince 1991, Dr. Wilkerson 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 proficiency 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, Dr. Wilkerson began her work conducting evaluations of NASA's mission outreach programs – work she continues to enjoy. At Magnolia Consulting, Dr. Wilkerson 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, Dr. Wilkerson enjoys international travel, yoga, triathlons, cooking, gardening, and horseback riding. But she revels most in the simple, precious moments with her two children.

“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

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