Micah Anderson

Micah Anderson

Program Manager


Micah support's MDC's Network for Southern Economic Mobility initiative by developing deeper partner relationships, providing support, and researching and writing about its learnings. He brings to MDC experience training advisors in rural high schools to help them direct more students to postsecondary education.

Micah worked more than two years as assistant program coordinator for N.C. State University's College Advising Corps, leading training programs for 21 college advisors working to increase college enrollment in rural N.C. high schools. In this role, he worked with administrators and staff at 11 partner high schools to improve key college enrollment indicators. His efforts yielded a 7 percent increase in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion and a 5 percent increase in college applications in one year.

Before his work at N.C. State, he served as program manager for College Bound St. Louis, leading a team of five AmeriCorps college coaches and managing programs serving more than 100 11th graders, helping them with college access, test preparation, and summer programming.

An Atlanta-area native, Micah attended Washington University in St. Louis, where he majored in Women and Gender Studies, and is an active volunteer. He has been a volunteer team member and trainer for the National Coalition Building Institute at N.C. State, where he led training programs for students, faculty, and staff to build skills in communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution. He has also volunteered with the Neighbor to Neighbor organization in Raleigh and with his church community in St. Louis and now in Durham.

Jenna Bryant

Program Director


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 Clark

Program Associate


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 Cooper, PhD

Research Fellow



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.

John has provided consultation to community development advocates on issues of planning and civic engagement, and been a visiting lecturer in the Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (UNC). He is a past member of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation's Advisory Panel and currently serves on a number of boards including The Community Home Trust (Chapel Hill, NC) Board of Directors, the Board of Visitors for the UNC Institute for the Environment, and the Advisory Board for the DHS Center of Excellence - Natural Disasters, Coastal Infrastructure, and Emergency Management (DIEM) at UNC.
John received his bachelor’s degree in economics and urban planning from Texas A & M University and a doctorate in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

David Dodson



Since joining MDC in 1987, David has directed major projects to increase postsecondary student attainment, address stalled economic mobility, sharpen philanthropy as a tool for addressing structural inequity, and build multiracial leadership across the South and the nation. He frequently speaks around the country on creating equity and opportunity for low-wealth communities and has advised major philanthropic foundations on strategies to address poverty and reduce disparities. His recent work includes: creating the Network for Southern Economic Mobility to create pathways to credentials and living wage employment for Southern youth and young adults; helping create and incubate "Made in Durham" a public-private partnership focused on creating education-to-career pathways for all Durham youth; and guiding MDC’s "Passing Gear Philanthropy" research and practice to focus philanthropic investments on the upstream causes of social disparities.

David is a graduate of Yale University, where he received a BA in Architecture and Urban Policy and Master’s degrees in Divinity and in Public-Private Management. He is co-author of numerous MDC publications, including "Philanthropy as the South's Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise" and the most recent State of the South report "Recovering Our Courage." He is on the boards of the Public Welfare Foundation, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and Dwight Hall, the student-led Center for Public Service and Social Justice at Yale.

Prior to joining MDC he served as executive director of the Cummins Engine Foundation and director of corporate responsibility for Cummins Engine Company in Columbus, Indiana.

Scott Edmonds

Program Manager


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.

Cate Elander

Program Manager


Cate joined MDC in the fall of 2015 to support the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust Great Expectations initiative. She is identifying best practice and emerging research in the early childhood field to inform the initiative’s strategy, and helping shape a family engagement strategy that brings family voices to the center of systems change work in Winston Salem and Forsyth County.
Cate most recently managed outreach and community-based programming at the East Durham Children’s Initiative, and has 10 years of experience supporting community engagement at place-based community development initiatives in Durham, Delaware, and New York City.
She is a founding member of the Durham Touchpoint’s Collaborative, where she trains early childhood providers in strength-based parent support strategies.  Cate is also a blogger for the UNC School of Government’s Community Engagement Learning Exchange, where she focuses on issues of community representation, race and gentrification. 
Cate received a bachelor’s degree in American Studies and master’s degree in Urban Affairs and Public Policy (specialization in Community Development), both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Ralph Gildehaus, JD

Senior Program Director


Ralph leads MDC’s economic security practice, which facilitates with communities the design, build, and operations of systems for connecting vulnerable populations with available resources and integrated services that reduce poverty; increase education, employment, and income levels; and improve social determinants of health and well-being.
Examples of projects undertaken by Ralph’s team include initiatives to connect low- and moderate-income households with free tax assistance, tax credits, and other work supports; enroll uninsured people into health insurance; and connect veterans and military families with resources and services through AmeriCorps members deployed with local organizations across North Carolina.
His team is beginning to work with communities to create and operate Integrated Services Delivery (ISD) Networks, envisioned as technology-enabled networks of human services providers working together to connect more low-income families with integrated services and available resources that are proven to reduce poverty and improve family economic success. MDC is already engaged with the United Way of Greater Greensboro in facilitating a community-based process to design the first ISD Network and prepare that Network for implementation.
Before joining MDC, Ralph co-founded and served as director of The Ohio Benefit Bank (OBB), in Ohio Governor Ted Strickland’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. According to an Ohio University report, the OBB in its first two years helped Ohioans apply for over $38 million in work supports. The OBB is now the largest effort of its kind in the United States, with more than 1,000 sites and 3,000 counselors, and has helped Ohioans apply for over $1.5 billion in work supports since 2006.
Prior to joining Governor Strickland’s staff, Ralph was a litigation law firm partner with Porter Wright Morris and Arthur. Ralph also served as a law clerk for Judge Lawrence S. Margolis of the U.S. Claims Court in Washington, D.C., on the legislative and political staffs of former Congressman Bob Edgar of Pennsylvania, and as issues director for Sam Beard for U.S. Senate in Delaware.
Ralph received his bachelor’s degree in political science and law from Amherst College and a juris doctor from George Washington University Law School.

Ferrel Guillory

Senior Fellow



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 EconomistThe New York TimesGoverningThe Washington PostAmericaThe 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.

Richard E. Hart

Communications Director


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 coordinated and helped research and write the most recent State of the South report, "Recovering Our Courage."

He's a native of New Orleans and has been a reporter, editor, and columnist for newspapers across the South for more than 25 years. Beginning at his hometown newspaper, The Times-Picayune, covering the city's historic preservation movement, he continued to focus on planning and environmental concerns in reporting, editing, and management positions at The Boston GlobeThe Capital Reporter in Jackson, Miss., The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., The Miami HeraldThe Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., and The Chapel Hill News. Most recently, he was editor of the Independent Weekly, which covers politics, social issues, and the arts in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region of North Carolina. His work has won prizes for investigative reporting, editorial writing, design, and coverage of urban growth issues.
Educational background: Urban studies; editor, The Columbia Daily Spectator (Columbia University).
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Brittany Jeatter

Program Associate


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.

Carol Lincoln

Senior Fellow


Carol has more than 45 years' experience at MDC working on issues of educational access, workforce development, and rural community development. In addition to being a senior program manager, she was national director of Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count while MDC was the initiative's managing partner and currently serves as the organization's senior vice president.
From 1994 through 2003, Carol directed the Rural Community College Initiative's (RCCI) national demonstration program to increase educational access and economic opportunity in distressed rural communities. From 1998-2004, she co-led MDC's international work in Namibia and South Africa, where lessons from RCCI were used to help four-year institutions become catalysts for development in impoverished rural regions.
Carol coauthored Let's Do It our Way: Working Together for Educational Excellence and America's Shame, America's Hope: Twelve Million Youth at Risk, which led to a national PBS television project to raise public awareness of the large numbers of youth leaving school unprepared for postsecondary education or careers. Previous experience includes the New York State Manpower Resources Commission and New York State Manpower Planning Council and later the National Commission for Employment Policy. 
Educational background: Mathematics and sociology (State University of New York at Albany).

Joan Lipsitz, PhD

Senior Fellow



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.

Previously, she was a program associate at the Learning Institute of North Carolina, a member of the College Board's Commission on Precollegiate Guidance and Counseling, a research associate at the National Institute of Education, a member of the governing board of the Annenberg Rural Challenge, a founding director of the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute (NCCAI), and a founding member of the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform. Joan served on the boards of the Hershey Trust Company, the Milton Hershey School, NCCAI, the Executive Service Corps of the Greater Triangle, and DonorsChoose NC. She is now on the boards of the Chatham County Literacy Council and Student U in Durham, NC. She began her career as a secondary school English teacher.
Educational background: English and education (Wellesley College, University of Connecticut, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).

Joshua Mbanusi

Program Manager


Joshua first joined MDC as the 2014-15 Autry Fellow and is now a program manager, primarily supporting MDC’s Passing Gear Philanthropy team. He also previously managed 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)

John Mitterling

Senior Director of Development


John Mitterling has 29 years of experience in development, having served organizations with missions that served those in need in the Triangle, the Southeast, and nationwide. He began his development career at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and then continued his work in educational development at Ruffalo CODY in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, serving colleges and universities across the Southeast, then expanded his work with national fraternities and joined the national staff of his own fraternity, Chi Psi, in Ann Arbor Michigan.
He then began an eight year focus in healthcare development, first at the North Carolina Affiliate of the American Heart Association and then the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, where his work was mainly focused on creating more opportunity for medical students to pursue family medicine as a specialty and to practice in underserved areas. After working in healthcare, he changed his focus back to North Carolina as the Vice President for Development for the North Carolina Symphony for five years, managing annual and capital development. He left the Symphony to begin an eight year focus on youth development, first at the YMCA of the Triangle (NC), then the John Avery Boys & Girls Club in Durham and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle (NC). He now brings this background in youth services, healthcare, and education to his role at MDC, focusing on developing corporate and individual support to supplement the strong support of local, national and international foundations.
He served in numerous roles in his professional association, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was recognized as Outstanding Fundraising Executive for the North Carolina Triangle Chapter in 2001. He has served in pastoral care in his church, including as a Deacon, Elder, and Stephen Minister in addition to leading stewardship and endowment efforts there. He continues to volunteer with organizations in the Triangle, focusing on annual and capital fundraising and community relations. He is a native North Carolinian, born in New Bern, NC and living in the Triangle since 1986.
John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication with an emphasis in public relations from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Certified Fund Raising Executive credential. 

Julie Mooney

Senior Program Director



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

Program Director



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. 

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Mia Peters

Executive Assistant to the President


Mia Peters provides administrative and organizational support to MDC’s president, senior staff, and Board of Directors. For the President she manages correspondence, maintains his calendar and travel schedule, and provides general support.

She serves on committees including the Executive Cabinet, External Advancement, Operations, and Development; supports the human relations manager; and maintains MDC’s Customer Relationship Management system, eTapestry.

Prior to coming to MDC, she was a campus administrator supporting the vice president of live online operations at MyComputerCareer; the Director of Youth Ministry at New Horizons Fellowship in Apex, N.C.; wrote standards of operating procedures and trained staff at N.C. State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital; and worked as a coordinator and writer in clinical trials.

Herareas of interest are children and families, public health, and the theatre. She is the president of the Board of Directors of Forest Moon Theatre Company, a founding member of Stageworks, and has been a director, costume designer, stage manager, and actor with a number of Triangle theater companies, including The Women’s Theatre Festival, Cary Players, Stars Theatre and Encore Youth Productions.

She holds an associates of applied science degree from Central Virginia Community College and a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies degreee in organizational management and labor relations from the New York Institute of Technology.

Terri Smith

Chief Financial Officer


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.

For nearly 22 years, Terri worked at Nortel Networks, starting as a senior financial analyst in the sales and customer service organizations and later becoming assistant to the controller and manager of general accounting Services. Before leaving Nortel in 2003 to work for a nonprofit, she became senior manager of finance for carrier networks manufacturing operations, responsible for financial management of a $206 million cost center, and later senior manager of vendor relations-North America training and documentation services, responsible for leading the consolidation of more than 60 training programs into a few, core organizations.
Educational background: Business administration, accounting (Elon University, Georgia State University)

Cay Stratton

Senior Fellow


Cay joined MDC as a senior fellow in 2010, following her return to the United States from London, where she held leadership positions in workforce development policy and delivery. While in the United Kingdom, Cay served as special advisor to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, as special advisor to three Secretaries of State for Employment, and as director of the National Employment Panel, and was awarded the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by the Queen in 2005. 
Before moving to the UK, Cay served as associate secretary for economic affairs under Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and as founding executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council. 
Educational background: Stanford University

Mala Thakur

Senior Program Director


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.

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Amber Wade

Operations Manager


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.

Stephanie Walker

Program Manager



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 Wells, PhD

Program Manager


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.


Bonnie Wright

Senior Fellow



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.