Dr. Stephanie Baird Wilkerson founded Magnolia Consulting in 2002 because of her drive to cultivate learning and positive change through education (the heart of Magnolia’s mission). Starting as a preschool teacher, her love of learning and helping students led her to pursue a career in research and program 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. Working in collaboration with clients, classroom teachers, school and district administrators, state education leaders, and students, she has studied implementation and outcomes associated with math, science, English language, and literacy programs. As part of the Regional Educational Laboratory program, since 1998 Stephanie has led collaborative research-practitioner partnerships with school districts and state departments of education, developed comprehensive measurement tools, provided research-based technical assistance and coaching, and served as the principal investigator for large-scale research and evaluation studies.
As President of Magnolia Consulting, Stephanie manages a large portfolio of work, oversees a highly skilled team of employees, and communicates with a wide range of clients who represent state departments of education, federal education agencies, non-profit organizations, the private sector, and the education community. She has expertise in qualitative and quantitative methodologies and research methods, program evaluation, meta-analyses, program planning and development, multilevel modeling, qualitative data analysis, logic model development, instrument construction, and infographics. She earned a Ph.D. in Research, Evaluation & Statistics at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, where she has taught introductory and advanced program evaluation courses for graduate students.
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.
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.
As Magnolia’s Director of Research and Evaluation, Lisa 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 a certified What Works Clearinghouse reviewer. In addition, she is skilled in designing rigorous studies and 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
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.
Lisa Shannon, Ph.D. Vice President of Research and Evaluation
Holland Banse, Ph.D., Senior Researcher and Evaluator
Dr. Holland Banse began her career in education as a preschool and prekindergarten teacher. Prior to joining Magnolia Consulting as a Senior Researcher and Evaluator, she was an IES Pre-Doctoral Fellow in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Sciences at the Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia, a 2016-2017 AERA Measures of Effective Teaching fellow, and a recipient of the 2016 SRCD-Student and Early Career Council dissertation award. She next completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Marsico Institute of Early Learning and Literacy, University of Denver, where she provided professional development on early STEM learning and curricula, supported the development of a computer-adaptive early mathematics assessment, and led evaluations of early numeracy, geometry, and executive function activities. Following her postdoc, she joined the University of Alabama as a tenure-track assistant professor of Early Childhood Education, where she taught undergraduate courses in program evaluation, the assessment of young children, and child development. She has conducted studies of dual language learners, math instruction and assessment, and early childhood education which have been published in scholarly and practitioner journals, including Teachers College Record, Early Child Development and Care, Journal of Educational Research, Young Children, and Teaching Children Mathematics.
At Magnolia Consulting, Dr. Banse leads a portfolio of studies in STEM, early childhood, and prek-20 education products and tools. She is a methodological expert in multiple regression, logistic regression, multilevel modeling, and structural equation modeling, as well as in mixed-method study designs. Dr. Banse is also a Certified What Works Clearinghouse Reviewer and oversees Magnolia’s internship program for BIPOC researchers and evaluators.
She loves to read and run, actively monitors and manages her black lab’s emotional well-being, and is very determined to help save the pollinators.
Holland Banse, Ph.D. Senior Researcher and Evaluator
Ms. Beverly (Bev) 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.
Emily Evans, Ph.D., joined Magnolia in 2023 as a Researcher and Evaluator, specializing in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Dr. Evans has experience as both a program provider and researcher of formal and informal STEM education in a variety of settings and contexts. She has served as PI, Co-PI, and project manager for federally and state funded projects, including National Science Foundation, United States Department of Agriculture, and Arizona Department of Education. Through this work, she gained an appreciation for the role of independent evaluation in providing timely and useful feedback to support project growth and guidance towards meaningful outcomes. She has developed, implemented, and researched STEM projects ranging in focus from garden-based education, early-childhood STEM, project-based learning in STEM, and integration of computing and coding in core curricular content. Dr. Evans’ areas of expertise include proposal development, qualitative research design, report writing, and presentation of findings at professional and academic conferences.
In her free time, Emily enjoys trail running and swimming in lakes, rivers, and the ocean.
Jennifer Gruber (Jen) joined Magnolia as a Researcher and Evaluator in 2022. She received her B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in Spanish from Western Washington University and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Michigan State University. She completed her doctoral studies in the Ecological/Community Psychology Graduate Area with a concentration in Quantitative Methodology and Evaluation Science and a cognate in Quantitative Approaches to Public Health Research and Evaluation. Jen was a University Enrichment fellow at Michigan State and received the Hiram E. Fitzgerald Engaged Scholar Fellowship for her efforts to promote positive youth outcomes through community-engaged research and evaluation.
Jen has been deeply invested in education since her time as an Americorps member in an elementary school. Her research and evaluation experiences span a variety of educational contexts, such as early childhood and K-12 school-based comprehensive mental health programs, full-service community school initiatives, and university programs to support migrant farmworking high school equivalency and college attainment. Her research portfolio also includes studying the implementation and effectiveness of school-based health centers and the impact of contextual factors on academic outcomes for schools and districts.
Jen enjoys running, hiking, and reading. She is happiest spending time outside with her spouse, dog, and cat (who thrives in his backpack).
Catherine Pearson, B.S., Budget and Contracts Manager
Ms. Catherine (Cathy) 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.
Catherine Pearson, B.S. Budget and Contracts Manager
Ms. Holly Matruski joined Magnolia Consulting in 2022. In her role as Research Assistant at Magnolia, she supports evaluation studies across a wide range of areas. Her work involves assisting with online survey administration, data collection and analysis, and report writing. Holly was first drawn to survey administration and database management during her graduate studies, where she gathered stakeholder feedback to establish an evidence-based foundation for policy and regulatory decision making. She received her B.S. in Recreation at West Virginia University and her M.S. at the University of New Hampshire. Holly is continuing to explore her interest in assisting research and evaluation efforts for STEM programs.
In her free time, Holly enjoys hiking and backpacking with her Boston Terrier.
Casey is a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology program at Virginia Commonwealth University. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia in 2019. She went on to obtain an M.Ed. in Applied Developmental Psychology from the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education in the spring of 2020. Later that year she joined Virginia Commonwealth University’s doctoral program in Developmental Psychology, and in 2022 earned her M.S. Her research focuses on parent-child interactions, intergenerational patterns, and social-emotional development in the context of child maltreatment. Broadly, she hopes to bolster positive development following traumatic experiences and inform best-practices in preventing maltreatment from a multigenerational lens. Through her internship at Magnolia Consulting, LLC she is acquiring skills in industry research and hopes to gain experience in evaluation and data visualization. In her free time, she enjoys baking bread, doing embroidery and cross-stitch, and playing with her dog.
Kelvin T. Afolabi, a doctoral student in his third year of research, statistics, and evaluation at the University of Virginia’s Department of Education Leadership, Foundations and Policy, has a research interest in advancing the methodology and application of structural equation modelling, item response theory, and Bayesian Statistics. His work addresses substantive research questions such as cross-cultural validity issues, school climate, and school threat assessment. Through his internship at Magnolia Consulting, LLC, Afolabi is applying his skills in research, program evaluation, and data management while gaining real-world experience in client relations and developing robust reports based on client needs. In his leisure time, Afolabi enjoys working out at the gym, running, and reading self-help books.
Lily has more than two decades of experience leading technology, education, media, and professional services organizations through transformative change while preserving a strong culture and a sense of mission. Lily is licensed to practice law in Colorado, DC, and Virginia, and she is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources. She is a resident of Nelson County, Virginia, where she shares a cottage in the woods with her husband, two boys, three rescue cats, and a Morkie-Poo. Lily consults with Magnolia as a human resource advisor.
Valerie Haff is an editor and project manager with two decades of editorial experience in educational content development and research. She specializes in educational publishing—curriculum, assessment, research, academic journals, and educational technology. She has extensive experience in content development management and editorial project management. In addition to serving as an editor and proof handler for various academic journals, she currently serves as managing editor for The American Biology Teacher. She supports a broad range of clients, including independent authors, educational publishers, and nonprofit organizations and has provided editing services to Magnolia on a wide variety of studies.
Ms. Josette Haddad is a freelance copyeditor who has collaborated with Magnolia Consulting since 2017. Her editorial services help ensure that reports are clear, consistent, and error-free. She holds a B.A. in English literature from Cornell University and has 30 years of experience as a copyeditor for businesses, nonprofit organizations, publishers, and independent authors. When not editing, Josette enjoys taking walks with her family and tending the plants inside and outside her home in New Mexico. Josette serves as an editor for Magnolia Consulting products and deliverables.