Christine Baker-Smith

Christine Baker-Smith is the Managing Director and Director of Research of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Before joining the Hope Center, she was a lecturer in Research Methodology for the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences M.A. program at Columbia University and an Education Policy Analyst for the NYC Independent Budget Office. She also served as Project Manager for the “NYC High School Admissions Study” — a randomized controlled trial. A sociologist of education, Christine’s training is in mixed-methods research and causal inference with a focus on student social and academic engagement across schooling transitions. She holds a PhD from New York University in Sociology of Education, an EdM in Leadership, Policy and Politics from Teachers College, Columbia University, an MA in Social Sciences of Education from Stanford University, and a BA in Sociology from Whitman College. She has published on adolescence and school transitions in numerous peer-reviewed journals such as Sociology of Education, Peabody Journal of Education, and Education Finance and Policy.

Christine’s hope: We will identify practices for a national audience that improve student outcomes across the K-12 to post-secondary transition.

Vanessa Coca

Vanessa Coca is Senior Associate Director of Research for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. In her past work, Vanessa collaborated on a series of research reports as a consultant for the To&Through Project at the UChicago Consortium on School Research. She was previously an Institute of Education Sciences-funded Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training Fellow at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools where she helped develop and support the NYC Partnership for College Readiness and Success. Vanessa is a first-generation college student who holds a PhD in Sociology of Education from the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She also holds a BA and an MA in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. She brings more than a decade of experience conducting research in research-practitioner partnership settings.

Vanessa’s hope: We will produce research that will used by education stakeholders nationwide to develop the policies, programs, and strategies that will allow all students to meet their long-term aspirations.

Edward Conroy

Eddy Conroy is Associate Director of Research Communications for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. Originally from Scotland, Eddy moved to the United States in 2010. Before joining the Hope Center, Eddy was the Outreach and Communications Supervisor for University of California-Los Angeles Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, where he created and ran the offices first proactive communications plan, managed their outreach programs and worked with the University’s Economic Crisis Response Team, helping ensure that UCLA students in dire need were provided the resources they needed to succeed. Eddy was also a financial aid counselor at Vanguard University of Southern California and has provided training in financial aid issues and policies to hundreds of high school counselors and advisers. Eddy holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Glasgow and is currently working toward his Doctorate of Education, also at the University of Glasgow. Eddy’s work in his doctorate focuses on the barriers that financial aid policy creates for the students who need the most help paying for college.

Eddy’s hope: Our work will ignite change in higher education, allowing all students to achieve their dreams, regardless of wealth or privilege.

Sara Goldrick-Rab

Sara Goldrick-Rab is Founding Director of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice and Professor of Sociology and Medicine at Temple University. She is the recipient of the William T. Grant Foundation’s Faculty Scholars Award and the American Educational Research Association’s Early Career Award, and in 2016 POLITICO named her one of the top 50 people shaping American politics. Her latest book, “Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream” (University of Chicago, 2016), won the 2018 Grawemeyer Award, and was featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. The Chronicle of Higher Education calls her “a defender of impoverished students and a scholar of their struggles,” she is ranked seventh in the nation among education scholars according to Education Week, and in April 2018 the Carnegie Corporation awarded her the Carnegie Fellowship. Sara is married to a Philadelphia native who graduated from the Community College of Philadelphia, and is raising two children attending the city’s public schools.

Here is Sara’s latest CV

Sara’s hope:  We will fight for a financing system that recognizes the right of every American to a high-quality college education.

David Koppisch

photo of David Koppisch

David Koppisch is the Director of Strategy for the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice. David was a co-founder of POWER: An Interfaith Movement where, for eleven years, he helped the organization achieve significant policy wins including a fair formula for the equitable distribution of public school funding in Pennsylvania, fair wages and treatment for workers on city subcontracts, and criminal justice reforms to reduce Philadelphia’s jail population. David’s work with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project and a coalition of housing activists, practitioners and academics helped create the Philadelphia Housing Trust Fund which has generated more than $150M in new revenue to expand access to affording housing since 2005. David’s earlier career included work with several other grassroots and community development organizations in Philadelphia. David holds a Master of Social Work degree from Temple University and is a lecturer in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. David lives in Philadelphia with his wife and two children. 

David’s hope: We will reduce inequality and strengthen democracy by making quality higher education universally affordable and accessible.

Paula Umaña

headshot of Paula Umaña

Paula Umaña is the Director of Community Impact at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Previously she spent six years establishing and directing the Single Stop program at the Community College of Philadelphia. That national anti-poverty, multi-service model to increase college student retention was demonstrably successful at boosting students’ academic success, according to a rigorous external evaluation. Paula also launched the first Hispanic Capacity Building Institute in Philadelphia, led programming for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Center for Progressive Leadership, and provided leadership and managed day-to-day operations for the Transitional Work Corporation, promoting workforce development and self-sufficiency in urban communities of Philadelphia. Paula is a native of Bogotá, Colombia where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana and is currently finishing her Master of Education degree at Temple University.

Paula’s hope: Our efforts will bring education access and attainment to the forefront of the national agenda not only as a tactic for global competitiveness, but as a fundamental strategy for the well-being of our communities.   

Kevin Wesolowski

Kevin Wesolowski

Kevin Wesolowski is the Director of Operations at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. He is an experienced operations leader with over a decade of experience working in the non-profit sector. Throughout his career, Kevin has worked with teams to design and implement creative and cost-effective solutions to enhance organizational effectiveness and impact. Most recently, Kevin served as the Chief Operating Officer for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, a DC-based education advocacy non-profit. Additionally, he has worked for other education associations, including the Consortium for School Networking and the National School Boards Association. Kevin’s experience also includes time in the classroom as an early learning educator. Kevin holds a Master of Public Administration degree and Graduate Certificate in City Management from Villanova University and a Bachelor’s degree from the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

Kevin’s hope: Our Nation’s leaders will recognize a high-quality education – including a college education – as a fundamental human right and will fight to make that a reality.

Carrie Welton

Headshot of Carrie Welton, affiliate of the Hope Center

Carrie Welton is the Director of Policy at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Her career has focused on using evidence and research to improve federal and state policies that reduce the basic needs insecurity of people with low incomes, including students of color, parenting, first generation, and immigrant students. Her efforts and perspective have been greatly informed by her own experiences as a low-income first-generation college graduate. In her previous role at CLASP Carrie established herself as a trusted public benefits policy expert where she provided technical assistance to states to identify and implement policy changes that better support students and maximize federal and state funding streams. Her prior work experience includes four years at W.K. Kellogg Foundation on the national Education and Learning team as well as four years at the Kellogg Company on the organization’s government relations team. She also spent five years on the state board of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan furthering the civil liberties and civil rights of residents. Carrie has an undergraduate degree in Public Law from Western Michigan University and a Master of Public Administration degree from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.  

Carrie’s hope:  That one day our nation grounds all policy decisions based on what is good for the many, as opposed to the few. Until then, we have work to do.