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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Biographical Sketches

Executive Office Staff

Mary Ellen O’Connell became the executive director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, or DBASSE, in November, 2016.  She brings 15 years of experience at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to the position, including serving as DBASSE’s deputy executive director since 2012.  O’Connell has also served as the acting director of the DBASSE Board on Environmental Change and Society, as deputy director of its Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and Board on Human-Systems Integration, and as a senior program officer with the Board on Children, Youth and Families. She has led studies on a wide range of topics including an evaluation of disability and rehabilitation program outcomes; home healthcare; prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; ethical considerations for research; strategies for reducing underage drinking, and an evaluation of international education programs.  Before joining the National Academies, O’Connell developed and led a variety of policy and program initiatives for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, oversaw homelessness programs for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and provided strategic direction for statewide homeless policies for the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare.  O’Connell received a B.A. with distinction from Cornell University and a MS in human services management from the Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

Monica Feit joined DBASSE as the Deputy Executive Director in 2017. Previously, Monica was at the Department of Health and Human Services where she worked for over four years. Most recently, she served as the policy director at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration where she was responsible for providing leadership on cross-cutting policy issues. She also planned and oversaw policy research in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Prior to joining HHS, Monica served as a senior program officer at the National Academies where she directed studies on topics including the integration of primary care and public health, the health of LGBT populations, and the science of child abuse and neglect. In 2009, she was named an American Public Health Association Government Fellow and worked as a staffer on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee in the office of Senator Dodd during the development of the Affordable Care Act. In addition to her domestic health policy experience, Monica has a wealth of experience working on public health issues in Europe and Africa. She received a B.A. in government from Smith College, a Master's in Public Health from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from London South Bank University.

Melissa Welch-Ross is Director of Special Initiatives at the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education within the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. She has directed activities for the National Academies on a variety of topics that include literacy education, language development, child abuse and neglect, transportation systems, and science communication. Prior to joining the National Academies she served as special expert at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Division of Children and Youth Policy. She earlier launched and directed the Early Learning and School Readiness Research Program at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In 2000, she was Executive Branch Science Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Education sponsored by the Society for Research in Child Development and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She previously served on the faculty of Georgia State University in Atlanta where she conducted research on memory development in early childhood. She also co-edited the Handbook on Communicating and Disseminating Behavioral Science published by SAGE Publications. She received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Florida.

Program Unit Staff

Natacha Blain is the Director of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families. She served as the Associate Director/Acting Executive Director of Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families (GCYF). Natacha joined GCYF in January 2010 after a ten year career of working with policymakers and senior legislative officials on a variety of social justice issues and campaigns. She was GCYF's first Director of Public Policy and launched GCYF's Policy Spotlight newsletter, a weekly publication that is read by 4,000 grantmakers and child advocates. Natacha's talents were quickly recognized and a year later, she was elevated to Associate Director. For the past year, Natacha has served as GCYF's Acting Executive Director. In her various capacities, Natacha has 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. GCYF members probably know her best for overseeing the success of various GCYF publications and programs, such as the Annual Convening, GCYF’s signature Annual Tax and Budget Briefing and the Parent Organizing/Family and Community Engagement Institute. Natacha earned her Master of Science and Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Allegheny University of Health Sciences and MCP – Hahnemann University respectively, and her Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Villanova School of Law.

Kathi L. Grasso is the Director of the Committee on Law and Justice of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Before assuming this role in July 2015, she was a senior leader in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Kathi joined DOJ in 2001 as Director of OJJDP’s Research and Program Development Division, and served in several other positions from 2003 to 2015, including as OJJDP’s senior juvenile justice policy and legal advisor, the designated federal official for the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and attorney-advisor in DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women. She is a graduate of the intensive DOJ Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program that led to her SES certification by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Prior to her employment at DOJ, she worked at the American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law where she directed research and other projects that had national and international impact in the areas of child and adolescent health, juvenile and family court improvement, legal representation of children, independent living services for transitioning youth, child abduction, and child sexual abuse and exploitation. Kathi also served as the Chief and Managing Attorney of the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s Child Advocacy Unit in Baltimore City and as an attorney with the Maryland Disability Law Center. Kathi has extensive litigation experience, has published in the child welfare field, and has contributed to numerous national interagency and professional workgroups, including the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. Kathi was awarded her Bachelor of Arts Degree in American Studies with High Distinction from Douglass College of Rutgers University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She also has a Juris Doctorate from Catholic University School of Law and is a member of the District of Columbia and Maryland Bars.

Brian Harris-Kojetin is the CNSTAT director and study director for the Panel on Improving Federal Statistics for Policy and Social Science Research Using Multiple Data Sources and State-Of-The-Art Estimation Methods. He comes from OMB where he served as senior statistician in the Statistical and Science Policy Office. He chaired the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology and was the lead at OMB on issues related to standards for statistical surveys, survey nonresponse, survey respondent incentives, and the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act of 2002 (CIPSEA). He also served as the desk officer for the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the demographic programs of the U.S. Census Bureau. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and an adjunct faculty member at the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland. Prior to joining OMB in 2001, he was the senior project leader of Research Standards and Practices at the Arbitron Company. He also previously served as a research psychologist in the Office of Survey Methods Research in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He has a B.A. in psychology and religious studies from the University of Denver and a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Minnesota.

Malay K. Majmundar is a senior program officer who directs the Committee on Population. He is currently leading projects on the demography of aging, women's mental health across the life course, longitudinal studies for aging research, and the demography of sexual and gender minorities. While at the National Academies, he has worked on studies on demography, criminal justice, immigration enforcement and statistics, and the federal budget. He has a B.A. in political science from Duke University, a J.D. from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in public policy from the University of Chicago.

Heidi Schweingruber is the Director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council (NRC). In this role she oversees many of the projects in the BOSE portfolio. She also collaborates with the director and board to develop new projects. She co-directed the study that resulted in the report A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) which is the first step in revising national standards for K-12 science education. She served as study director for a review of NASA’s pre-college education programs completed in 2008 and co-directed the study that produced the 2007 report Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. She served as an editor on the NRC report Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths to Excellence and Equity (2009). She co- authored two award-winning books for practitioners that translate findings of NRC reports for a broader audience: Ready, Set, Science! Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms (2008) and Surrounded by Science (2010). Prior to joining the NRC, Heidi worked as a senior research associate at the Institute of Education Sciences in the U.S. Department of Education where she administered the preschool curriculum evaluation program and a grant program in mathematics education. Previously, she was the director of research for the Rice University School Mathematics Project an outreach program in K-12 mathematics education, and taught in the psychology and education departments at Rice University. Heidi holds a Ph.D. in psychology (developmental) and anthropology, and a certificate in culture and cognition from the University of Michigan.

Barbara A. Wanchisen is the Director of the Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences (BBCSS). She is a long-standing member of the Psychonomic Society, the Association for Behavior Analysis, and the American Psychological Association. In January 2004, she became a Fellow of Division 25 (Behavior Analysis) of the American Psychological Association. She has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and The Behavior Analyst while also serving as a guest reviewer of a number of other journals. From November 2001 until April 2008, Wanchisen was the executive director of the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, & Cognitive Sciences in Washington, DC. In 2004, she was instrumental in the founding of the Federation's Foundation for the Advancement of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a non-profit organization that assumed the educational mission of the Federation. Previously, Wanchisen was Professor in the Department of Psychology and Director of the college-wide Honors Program at Baldwin-Wallace University, near Cleveland, Ohio. Barbara Wanchisen received a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, an M.A. in English from Villanova University, and her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Temple University.

Toby Warden is the director for the Board on Environmental Change and Society (BECS) and the Board on Human-Systems Integration (BOHSI). Dr. Warden is returning to the Academies after a 2-year period as Director of Scientific Administration for the Department of Neurological Sciences and Assistant Professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, spearheading strategic planning efforts to foster research collaboration. At the Academies previously, she began in 2009 as a study director on climate change and weather related activities with the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate. She joined BOHSI in 2011 as a study director, and later associate board director, working on a number of activities related to worker safety, safety culture, systems design and organizational performance. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Ecology with an emphasis on Environmental Analysis and Design from the University of California, Irvine. A member of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society she also holds a certificate in Business Fundamentals from HBX/Harvard Business School.

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