Natacha Blain, JD, PhD, serves as the Director of the Board on Children, Youth and Families (BCYF) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Dr. Blain has over 15 years of experience working with policymakers and senior legislative officials on a variety of social justice issues and campaigns including serving as a Supreme Court Fellow, Chief Counsel to Senator Dick Durbin on the Senate Judiciary Committee and Lead Strategic Advisor for the Children’s Defense Fund’s Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign. Prior to joining the National Academies, Dr. Blain served as Associate Director/Acting Executive Director of Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families (GCYF). There she played a critical role in helping convene and engage diverse constituencies, fostering leadership, collaboration and innovation-sharing through a network of funders committed to the enduring well-being of children, youth and families. Dr. Blain earned her Master of Science and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Allegheny University of Health Sciences and MCP – Hahnemann University (now Drexel University) respectively, and her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Villanova School of Law.
Pamella Atayi serves as the Program Coordinator for the Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She has been serving on BCYF since 2009. She currently coordinates and oversees the work of support staff handling clerical, administrative, and logistical aspects of meetings. Ms. Atayi provides work direction and assists with the daily supervision of support staff. She also compiles and summarizes information for the development and revision of a variety of documents and participates in research efforts. She serves as liaison between programs and boards of the Academies, and related external customers, members, and sponsors on clerical and administrative matters. Ms. Atayi was awarded the Sandra H. Matthews Cecil Award by the Institute of Medicine (now HMD) in 2013, and the DBASSE Espirit de Corps Award in 2017. She earned her B.A. in English from the University of Maryland University College, and holds a diploma in Computer Information Systems from Strayer University.
Emily Backes, M.A, serves as a Program Officer on BCYF. She is currently the study director for the Committee on the Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Science of Adolescent Development and Its Applications. Previously, she served as co-study director for the report Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education. In her time at the Academies, she has provided analytical and editorial support to projects covering a range of topics, including law and justice; children, youth, and families; education and literacy; science communication; and science and human rights issues. She received an M.A. and B.A. in history from the University of Missouri, and she is currently pursuing a J.D. at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law.
Mary Ghitelman serves as a Senior Program Assistant on BCYF, and on the Committee on Population in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. She has been with the Academies since April of 2015, working on reports such as The Integration of Immigrants into American Society, Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide, and Transforming the Financing of Early Care and Education. She received her B.A. in psychology from Beloit College and studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark with a focus in cross-cultural psychology.
Elizabeth S. Howe-Huist, MA, serves as an Associate Program Officer on BCYF, supporting the Committee on Research Issues in the Assessment of Birth Settings. She is currently finishing her PhD in sociology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, where she has engaged in demographic research on family processes and how these family relationships affect youth and young adults. Before beginning her PhD, Elizabeth received her MA in sociology from the University of Mississippi and her BA in psychology from Wright State University, with additional training in marriage and family counseling.
Rebekah Hutton, M.Ed., serves as a Program Officer on BCYF. She is currently the study director of the Committee on Summertime Experiences and Child and Adolescent Education, Health, and Safety. Previously, she was an education management and information technology consultant working on projects in the United States as well as Haiti, Equatorial Guinea, and Djibouti. She has also worked as a program manager and researcher at the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt University, studying whether teacher pay for performance has measurable impact on student outcomes, and as an English language lecturer in Tourcoing, France. During her time with the Board on Children, Youth, and Families, she has worked on projects focused on fostering the educational success of children and youth learning English, reducing child poverty, and promoting the mental, emotional and behavioral health of children and youths. She received her M.Ed. degree from Vanderbilt University in international education policy and management and a B.A. degree from the University of Tennessee in French language and literature.
Nicole Kahn, PhD, MEd serves as a Program Officer on BCYF. She is currently the study director for the Committee on Applying Lessons of Optimal Adolescent Health to Improve Behavioral Outcomes for Youth. Before joining the National Academies, Dr. Kahn worked as a social research specialist with the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she collaborated on research projects focused on postsecondary educational attainment and on childhood and adolescent precursors of adult chronic disease. She has also worked as a project researcher at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, and as a Head Start teacher with Teach for America in Phoenix, AZ. She earned her PhD in maternal and child health from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her MEd in early childhood education from Arizona State University, and her BA in psychology from Bates College.
Erin Kellogg, MPA, MPH, serves as a Research Associate on BCYF, supporting the Forum on Promoting Children’s Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Health and the Consensus Study on Fostering Healthy Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Development among Children and Youth. Before joining the National Academies, she worked as a consultant for the Ohio Department of Medicaid on projects related to the state’s Medicaid waiver programs. She has also spent time as a policy analyst for both the Children’s Defense Fund and Connecticut Voices for Children. Erin received her MPA from The Ohio State University and her MPH from the Yale School of Public Health.
Suzanne Le Menestrel, PhD, is a Senior Program Officer with the Board on Children, Youth, and Families at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and a developmental psychologist with expertise in child and youth development, senior-level leadership, research and program evaluation, partnership building, and developing and leading collaborative initiatives. At the National Academies, Suzanne’s responsibilities have included directing four consensus studies focused on children and adolescents birth to age 21. Reports from these studies include: Preventing Bullying Through Science, Policy, and Practice and Promoting the Educational Success of Children and Youth Learning English: Promising Futures. Prior to her tenure with the National Academies, she was founding national program leader for youth development research at 4-H National Headquarters. Before that, she served as research director in the Academy for Educational Development’s Center for Youth Development and Policy Research and was a research associate at Child Trends. She was a founder of the Journal of Youth Development: Bridging Research and Practice and chaired its Publications Committee. Dr. Le Menestrel has published in numerous refereed journals, and is an invited member of several advisory groups including a research advisory group for the American Camp Association, a Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital STEM Strategy advisory group, and the Cooperative Extension System-Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Initiative National Leadership Steering committee. She received the 2012 Outstanding Leadership and Service to the Extension Evaluation Profession award from the American Evaluation Association. She holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in human development and family studies from the Pennsylvania State University, a B.S. in psychology from St. Lawrence University, and a nonprofit management executive certificate from Georgetown University.
Priyanka Nalamada is an Associate Program Officer on BCYF. She joined the National Academies in 2014 after a short term congressional internship. She has worked over the past few years with the Health and Medicine Division’s Board on Global Health. Her work included research and project management around the topic of public-private partnerships for health in low- and middle-income countries, looking at the issues around the formation, engagement, operations, and management of PPPs for global health and the role of industry as a key partner. While at the Academies she has also worked on other issues from a global health perspective such as the threat of antimicrobial resistance, the sustainability of medical device donations in low resource settings, and the role of multinational companies in health literacy. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College with a degree in Political Science.
Dara Shefska serves as a Research Associate on BCYF, supporting the Committee on the Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Science of Adolescent Development and its Applications and the Committee on Building an Agenda to Reduce the Number of Children in Poverty by Half in 10 Years. Dara joined the National Academies in 2015 as a research assistant on the Food and Nutrition Board, staffing the Roundtable on Obesity Solutions. In this role, she focused on publications, communications, and coordinating the Early Care and Education Innovation Collaborative. She was awarded the Health and Medicine Division’s Fineberg Impact Award in 2016 for her efforts to increase the visibility of Roundtable workshops and publications. Prior to the Academies, Dara studied urban geography at McGill University in Montreal, QC, where she conducted research on the neighborhood influences on gestational diabetes and practiced her French. Outside of work, she enjoys running and spending time with her dog.
Stacey Smit serves as a Senior Program Assistant on BCYF, supporting consensus studies and forums on the board. She has more than 15 years of experience providing project management, administrative, and event planning support and has worked at various organizations in the area. In the past, she has supported the DBASSE Executive Office, the Decadal Survey of Social and Behavioral Sciences for Applications to National Security, the Committee on the Use of Economic Evidence to Inform Investments in Children, Youth, and Families, the Committee on Supporting the Parents of Young Children, the Forum on Children’s Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Health, and the Committee on Increasing Capacity for Reducing Bullying and Its Impact on the Lifecourse of Youth Involved. She received her B.A. in Sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Lesley Webb serves as a Senior Program Assistant on BCYF. Previously, she worked on the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive and Sensory Sciences supporting the Analytic Frameworks project funded by ODNI. She also supported BCYF with the Early Childhood Education Financing committee. Lesley graduated from Lynchburg College (LC) in Lynchburg, Virginia where she earned her B.A. in Environmental Studies. While in college, Lesley assisted with creating and maintaining the Lynchburg College Community Garden. Lesley was also active as the LC Vice President of the Environmental Sustainability Society. In 2016, Lesley worked as an intern with the Chesapeake Conservancy. She assisted the Project Manager with the letters of support for the FY 2018 Land and Water Conservation Collaborative Funding Proposal, to protect significant habitat and historical sites in Virginia and Maryland.