Jenna works on a variety of MDC initiatives that encourage communities and regions to develop and implement innovative workforce and economic development strategies that support low- and moderate-income families.
As program director, Jenna provides extensive analytical support work on MDC’s workforce development projects, including helping communities in Arkansas and Mississippi to develop strategies that align educational programs to meet employer needs in a way that enhances the economic outcomes for job seekers.
She also provides technical assistance to community colleges on the implementation of strategies and support services to help lower-income people get work and improve their financial security as part of the Integrated Services Delivery Collaboration initiative, the Financial Empowerment for Student Success program, and MDC’s affiliation with the Working Families Success Network—including co-authoring a guidebook on how colleges can effectively implement and scale these strategies.
Jenna worked on the "Pathways Out of Poverty" grant, a national workforce development program that targets individuals living below or near the poverty level to provide them with skills needed to enter the green job market, focusing on the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries.
Prior to joining MDC, Jenna worked for Regional Technology Strategies (RTS) as a senior research analyst focused on cluster-based occupational analysis, the development of regional economic development profiles, and measurement and assessment of local regional economies. Before that, she worked at the N.C. Department of Commerce as an economist focused on analyzing North Carolina's economy, and at the Labor Market Information Division of the Employment Security Commission of North Carolina in the Policy and Program Evaluation department, where was responsible for the communication and statistical analysis of the North Carolina State Training Accountability and Reporting System.
Educational background: International business, economics (Howard University, N.C. State University)
Kierra works with the Economic Security team, providing planning and implementation support for initiatives, community-based partnerships, and learning networks. Her primary focus is MDC’s initiative in Guilford County, N.C., to build a network of for service providers connecting low-and moderate-income families with available resources using integrated services delivery. Kierra also manages aspects of The Benefit Bank of North Carolin, providing technical assistance and training for affiliate organizations.
Prior to joining MDC, Kierra worked for NeighborWorks America in the Field Division, where she provided technical, operational, and event planning assistance to regional staff and a network of housing and community development nonprofits. Kierra also provided program management assistance and coordinated with service providers for a program focused on intergenerational connections to childhood literacy. She has been a community organizer in a neighborhood experiencing the effects of disinvestment, and an AmeriCorps VISTA, where she worked to build the capacity of a nonprofit that was focused on volunteer engagement and nonprofit staff development.
Kierra comes to MDC and the Triangle most recently from the Washington, D.C., area. Her work and volunteer history are reflective of the values of truly helping people and bringing efficiencies to programs. Kierra's line of thinking usually begins with the question: "How can I make this happen?"
Educational Background: Coursework in Management Studies; Sociology and Family Studies (University of Maryland University College; Bowling Green State University)
John focuses on community development, environmental justice, dispute resolution, public policy research, emergency management, and land use planning. He is an associate professor of practice in the Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning at Texas A&M University and serves a dual appointment as the associate director of Outreach and Community Partnerships for Housing and Urban Development and the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center.
In his previous position as MDC program director, John managed the FEMA Emergency Preparedness Demonstration Program, a $2.5 million effort to understand barriers to increased disaster awareness and preparedness in marginalized communities, and managed MDC's role in the Rural People, Rural Policy initiative.
Since joining MDC in 1987, David has directed major projects to increase student success in public schools and community colleges, address regional economic decline, strengthen community philanthropy, and build multiracial leadership across the South and the nation.
As president of MDC since 1999, he frequently speaks around the country on the imperative of advancing equity and opportunity for low-wealth and marginalized communities and has advised major philanthropic foundations on strategies to address poverty and reduce social disparities, based on the premise that “society benefits when everyone succeeds.”
He is coauthor of numerous MDC publications on issues of regional economic competitiveness, educational attainment, youth and young adult employment, and strategic philanthropy. He is a member of the boards of the Public Welfare Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and Durham Technical Community College.
Prior to joining MDC, he served as executive director of the Cummins Foundation and director of corporate responsibility for Cummins, a Fortune 500 manufacturer of diesel power systems based in Columbus, Ind., that is widely recognized for its ethical performance.
David received his bachelor’s degree in architecture and urban policy from Yale University, a master’s degree in ethics and theology from Yale Divinity School, and a master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale School of Organization and Management.
Scott primarily supports MDC’s employment security portfolio by providing project management, policy research, data analysis, and program design expertise for projects that seek to eliminate the underlying barriers to an individual or family’s success in securing postsecondary education and employment. He brings experience working with community-based nonprofits and community colleges to identify policy and programmatic obstacles preventing success and then shaping effective solutions.
Scott also serves as MDC’s GIS analyst, examining business opportunities for MDC’s place-based services across the South and informing community-based interventions that address poverty.
He joined MDC in the summer of 2009 as a student intern while in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Scott holds a bachelor’s degree in political science (cum laude) from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Marni Eisner is a program director at MDC and director of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust’s Great Expectations early-childhood initiative to build a strong foundation in Forsyth County, N.C., so all children, regardless of their family's income, will be ready to succeed in school by the time they complete kindergarten.
Marni brings wide-ranging experience in advancing educational and health outcomes for children, and in her capacity as MDC’s Great Expectations director, she guides day-to-day work in Forsyth County, working in concert with other MDC Durham-based staff and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.
Previously, Marni led communications and development for Charlotte’s Freedom School Partners, a local version of the pioneering Children’s Defense Fund, focused on improving the reading ability of economically disadvantaged children. Prior to that, she directed the policy efforts of the Charlotte Council for Children’s Rights (CFCR), where she worked with a broad coalition of community partners to advance system-level and policy change to benefit the community’s children, birth to 18. In that capacity, Marni directed CFCR's advocacy for services for children from birth to five-years-old, including Universal PreK, Nurse Family Partnership, and expanded child care subsidies. She also chaired the Mecklenburg County Child Fatality Prevention and Protection Team, work that yielded important system-level changes in services for children and families. Her previous work, in Richmond, Va., concentrated on prevention of family violence and efforts to support that state’s medical community.
Throughout her career, Marni has had a clear focus on equity and authentic engagement with communities of color. She has served as a committed volunteer on issues affecting children of all ages, including teaching young children to read, leading a public school PTA, supporting the needs of homeless children, and working to promote teen health.
Marni received her B.A. from Brown University and a law degree from Vanderbilt University.
In addition to serving as a senior fellow at MDC, Ferrel founded and directs the Program on Public Life at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a professor of the practice at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is a co-author of the State of the South series, as well as the book, The Carolinas: Yesterday - Today - Tomorrow.
Ferrel serves on the board of trustees of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. He was formerly southern correspondent, Washington correspondent, editorial page editor, and columnist at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. He also has written for The Economist, The New York Times, Governing, The Washington Post, America, The New Republic, and a variety of Southern magazines, journals, and newspapers. He is a contributor to books on public policy, tobacco in transition, and the politics of race.
Ferrel received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University and his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Gerry supports the MDC senior management team in the areas of budgets, board presentations and the development of business models which complement as well as enhance the overall company mission. In addition, Gerry serves as project controller for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Post-Secondary Education business model as well as the Work Supports Initiative being developed throughout the U.S.
Richard works with all of MDC's projects to connect their insights and solutions with the media, policymakers, and the community at large. He oversees MDC's websites, helps prepare presentation materials, and assists with general outreach and the writing and editing of research papers, grant proposals, lectures, and speeches for all of MDC's programs. He oversaw production of The State of the South reports in 2011, 2014, and 2017 and is helping coordinate, research, and write The State of the South 2018.
Brittany works across a number of projects, providing research, team management, and logistical support.
While in college, Brittany founded and coordinated a women’s empowerment program, called Just Girls, in Cape Town, South Africa. She has served as a volunteer, mentor, and tutor to high school students at Durham’s Emily Krzyzewski Center, an organization that also supported her as a first-generation college student.
A major focus of her undergraduate studies included research on intercultural discrimination in higher education with a focus on retention.
Brittany received a B.A. in Psychology from Elon University, where she was a recipient of the Elon Commitment Scholarship.
As an Autry Fellow, Rishi is excited to further his understanding of the social determinants of health. He hopes to dedicate his professional career to serving as a physician for his community and believes his time at MDC will be critical for his growth into a compassionate and holistic healthcare provider.
Originally from Cary, North Carolina, Rishi graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May of 2017 with a degree in biology and a minor in education studies. His independent research project investigated changing school demographics and student performance outcomes following federal desegregation policies.
Throughout college, Rishi partnered with the Clinton Peabody housing development of downtown St. Louis through the youth-engagement program, City Faces. Beyond his continued commitment as a volunteer, Rishi served as the financial manager for two years. In this role, he worked closely with the fundraising team to raise over $25,000 a year and with the executive board to design programs and budgets for its youth engagement activities.
In his final year with the program, Rishi transitioned City Faces from a student group into a nonprofit entity under the St. Louis Housing Authority. Throughout his undergraduate studies, Rishi also sought out opportunities to combine his passions for medicine and education. During his internship at Children’s National Medical Center, Rishi collaborated with the Medical Education Department on projects designed to improve patient-provider relationships through the implementation of family-centered care practices.
Joan focuses on philanthropy and education and is an advisor to foundations and nonprofits on school improvement and youth development. Formerly, she served as program director for elementary and secondary education at Lilly Endowment from 1986 to 1995, where she specialized in youth development, research, and middle-school reform initiatives. Prior to that, she established and directed the Center for Early Adolescence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was a faculty member of the Bush Institute for Child and Family Policy, and was a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Maternal and Child Health.
Joshua first joined MDC as the 2014-15 Autry Fellow and is now a program associate, primarily supporting MDC’s Passing Gear Philanthropy team, while managing the youth engagement strategy for one of MDC’s former projects, Made in Durham, a city-wide education-to-career partnership.
As a senior at Cornell University, Joshua developed and launched a campus-wide, one-to-one mentoring program to combat persistently low graduation rates among African-American males at his university. As the program’s architect, manager, and fundraiser, Joshua managed its expansion; organized bi-weekly workshops and professional development events; and raised more than $17,500 in his first year, in part from a $5,000 grant from PepsiCo.
Upon graduating, Joshua taught a social justice course to ninth graders at KIPP: Gaston College Preparatory as a 2012 Teach for America corps member. In his previous work, Joshua has interned at the U.S. Department of Education, New York State Senate, and the Center for Community Self-Help.
Educational background: Policy Analysis and Management (Cornell University)
Julie Mooney serves as a senior program director at MDC since rejoining the staff in 2015. She leads significant place-based initiatives focused on building the systems and structures that link young people to educational and economic opportunity. She currently oversees MDC’s support of Great Expectations, a 10+ year initiative of the Kate B. Charitable Trust that aims to ensure that low-income young children in Forsyth County, N.C., are ready to succeed in school. Most recently, she led the development and incubation of Made in Durham, a community partnership building an education-to-career system for youth in Durham, N.C., MDC’s hometown.
In her previous work at MDC, Julie directed local, regional and national projects designed to advance strong education, workforce, and economic development initiatives in economically distressed communities throughout the South. She is coauthor of several MDC publications, including Building Communities By Design: A Guidebook for Community Change and Walking the Talk: Increasing Educational Options for Southern Youth.
Prior to returning to MDC, Julie was the founding director of Blueprint NC, a partnership of state policy advocacy nonprofits focused on building the civic engagement and communications capacity of nonprofits and building their collective impact on state policy. She also served as the initial coordinator for Grantmakers for Southern Progress, a network of funders with the goal of increasing funding for social change in the South. She served for many years as a visiting lecturer in the Hart Leadership Program at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, and she worked previously as a community development planner and a community organizer.
She holds a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters in City and Regional Planning (with a Community and Economic Development concentration) from the University of California at Berkeley.
Abby Parcell is MDC’s program director for research and policy, managing internal and external learning. She has directed numerous projects and contributes research and writing across MDC’s projects, including MDC’s 2014 State of the South report on youth mobility.
Abby plays a lead role in advancing MDC’s agenda for advancing equitable access to educational and economic opportunity in the South via social media platforms, including the State of the South blog, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
In her time at MDC, Abby has been an Achieving the Dream team member and led the Developmental Education Initiative, both efforts focused on improving outcomes for community college students. She developed More to Most, a guidebook and accompanying workshop to help community colleges and community partnerships scale effective practices, and has led workshops on how to use the guidebook with multiple audiences. She also authored a practitioner brief in the Right from the Start series to spotlight successful reform efforts in developmental education, with a particular focus on the modularized math courses at El Paso Community College.
In other work at MDC, Abby has played a central role fostering peer learning on numerous MDC projects (Career Pathways for a Green South, NC VetsCorps, and the Virginia Financial Success Network) as well as those led by external partners, like Achieving the Dream’s Working Students Success Network.
Before joining MDC in 2008, she worked as a program evaluator and research analyst within local and state government and in the nonprofit sector, including the North Carolina General Assembly’s Program Evaluation Division; the N.C. Department of State Treasurer; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government.
Abby received a bachelor’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Terri directs the overall financial function of the organization, establishing and implementing effective controls, practices and standards in finance and human resources. She is a key member of senior management working to ensure the financial integrity of the organization across all grants, projects, and activities. She provides strategic counsel on matters of fiscal agency and responsibility, and on operational feasibility of new work and mission related opportunities.
Mala B. Thakur joined MDC in December 2017 as a senior program director. She oversees MDC’s talent development portfolio, which includes workforce development, education attainment, state policy and economic mobility initiatives.
Mala has spent her career working on the alignment and implementation of education and workforce policy, systems, and practice. She specializes in comprehensive multi-sector approaches to helping youth and adults prepare for careers at a family sustaining wage.
Most recently, she served as executive director of the Children’s Opportunity Fund at the Greater Washington Community Foundation in Montgomery County, Md. The fund is a public/private partnership designed to support innovation and investment in the well‐being of children, youth and families. She has served in a number of leadership roles, including executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition and director of Workforce Development at the New York Citywide School to Work Alliance. She served as a senior fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, conducted research for the New York University Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, worked in dropout prevention programs in the New York City public school system, and taught English as a Second Language to immigrant populations.
Mala has testified and conducted briefings on workforce development and education issues before members of Congress, as well as state, and local elected officials. In 2013, she was a keynote speaker at Secretary of State John Kerry’s Forum on Youth Employment, a seminar for representatives of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. She has also served in a number of advisory roles, including the National Assessment of Career and Technical Education Independent Advisory Panel to Congress (2007- 2012) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forward Promise Initiative Advisory Board (2012-2014). Mala currently serves on the board of directors of the National Human Services Assembly.
She holds an M.A. in education from New York University and a B.A. in political science and a minor in French from the University of California, Berkeley.
Amber oversees management and promotion of MDC’s headquarters building in downtown Durham, overseeing leased office space and event space rental. She is also responsible for general administrative support, event planning, information technology, and providing new-hire orientations and staff training.
Amber most recently managed a children’s savings program and led human resources, program operations, and bookkeeping at the East Durham Children’s Initiative. She brings more than five years of experience in grant management and administration; bookkeeping and accounts payable; vendor management; donor and volunteer management; program design and implementation; event planning; partner and multi-level stakeholder engagement; employee recruitment; and benefits administration.
Amber began her career as an elementary classroom teacher in Chapel Hill, N.C.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in African-American Studies from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Virginia.
Patryce serves as MDC’s accounting manager, where her leadership skills and expertise in accounting, payroll, contract management, and record-keeping are put to use.
Prior to joining MDC, Patryce consulted for Raytheon as a senior accountant and financial systems analyst, and also worked as an accounting adjunct at Wake Technical Community College. Before that she worked at a nonprofit, first as an accountant and later as director of finance and treasurer of the board.
In previous corporate positions, Patryce has designed financial programs and implemented procedures that have reduced costs, streamlined processes, improved productivity, and maximized profits.
Patryce holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in accounting, with a minor in information systems from Strayer University and an associate degree in business administration from Pitt Community College. She is also a certified management accounting candidate.
Stephanie is a program manager with MDC’s economic security team, where she works to help build community partnerships. She joined the staff of MDC after many years as a principal consultant with Walker & Associates Consulting Inc. and has a deep background in nonprofit work with experience and expertise working in community engagement, strategic planning, organizational development, capacity building, training, and coaching.
Stephanie directed IMPACT Greensboro, a joint program between the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to help develop emerging leaders in the community. She also served as adjunct faculty for the CCL Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-sponsored Community Coalitions Leadership Program; as deputy director of the Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships with the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and as executive director of the Mental Health Association of Greensboro.
She served on the Chancellors Advisory Committee for Diversity and Inclusion at UNC Greensboro, on the Diversity Committee of the National Mental Health Association, and as chair of the board of directors for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits and board member for six years. She completed board terms for the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research and the Changemakers Foundation in San Francisco, Calif. She received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from Governor James Hunt for her service to the state of North Carolina.
Stephanie received her B.A. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed coach training with the Institute for Life Coach Training in Fort Collins, Colo.
Amber joined MDC as a Program Manager in 2016 to provide research and analysis for MDC’s education, workforce, and economic security programming. Her work is focused on issues related to economic mobility, education-to-career pathways, and systems change at the community level and implementing strategies to build community partnerships that address barriers to opportunity.
Before joining MDC, Amber provided research, analysis, and project management in both academic and government settings. She also taught several undergraduate courses on gender, race, economic sociology, work, and social stratification.
Amber earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology and Spanish from the University of Rhode Island, and both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Antoinette (Toni) Womack serves as executive assistant to MDC's president, responsible for management of schedules, travel, working relationships with board of directors, staff and public officials, and other aspects of executive management support.
Before joining MDC, Toni served as the executive assistant to the president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, an independent, national nonprofit organization that was incubated at MDC and created through the management support of MDC and its other founding organizations.
Bonnie brings 30 years of success as a leadership coach, organizational consultant, and innovative social entrepreneur to her work as an MDC senior fellow. Bonnie leads the Passing Gear Philanthropy work at MDC, working to expand social venture capital and accelerate change through strategic work with foundations. She also worked as a coach in Memphis and Kentucky with MDC’s Latino Student Success initiative.
As a leadership coach and consultant beyond MDC, Bonnie works with leaders primarily in the nonprofit and government sectors, in organizations ranging from the KIPP Foundation to the University of North Carolina to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 1996, Bonnie was founder of the Maureen Joy Charter School, one of the first charter schools in North Carolina. Joy Charter successfully educates more than 300 K-8 underserved students annually. Prior to that, Bonnie co-founded the Center for Community Self-Help and Self-Help Credit Union, nationally recognized nonprofit organizations that promote economic development for low-wealth communities. Self-Help provides deserving families with homeownership and small business loans that enables them to build family wealth. Self-Help also advocates for fair banking practices that ensure family security and community vitality.
Bonnie received her bachelor’s degree in economics and urban studies from Davidson College and her master’s degree in public and private management from the Yale School of Organization and Management.