Staff

Education Commission of the States’ team conducts research, delivers reports and provides expert counsel on the full spectrum of education policy issues – from early learning through postsecondary and workforce readiness.
Who We Are
Adams_Julie

Julie Adams

Site Strategist

Strong Start to Finish

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Adams_Julie

Julie Adams

Site Strategist
Strong Start to Finish
As the Site Strategist for Strong Start to Finish, Julie provides support to higher education systems and institutions implementing developmental education reforms, and identifies opportunities for shared learning across the network. Julie comes with experience in education policy and implementation science research, and has focused much of her work on equitable systems change at the intersection of K-12 and higher education. Julie is dedicated to improving educational opportunities and outcomes for students of color, students from lower-income communities and adults; and is passionate about working alongside educators and students to collaboratively develop solutions.
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Melissa Aguilar

Accountant

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Aguilar_Melissa

Melissa Aguilar

Accountant
In her role, Melissa focuses on day-to-day finances for the organization and supports the chief financial officer. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Melissa worked as an advisor for a local online high school and supported students with their education planning and academic progress. Outside of the office, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons.

Victoria Ballerini

Interim Director

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Victoria Ballerini

Interim Director
As interim director of Strong Start to Finish, Victoria works with team members, funders and postsecondary leaders to advance proven developmental education reforms. She has over 16 years of experience in higher education policy, practice and research through various roles in government, postsecondary institutions and policy research organizations. She earned her Ph.D. in Higher and Postsecondary Education from New York University. Victoria is dedicated to improving educational and economic opportunities for students who have been historically, and systematically, excluded from unjust systems.

Lauren Bloomquist

Policy Analyst

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Lauren Bloomquist

Policy Analyst
As a policy analyst, Lauren focuses on addressing State Information Requests and assisting the Policy Team with other policy projects. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Lauren spent eight years teaching political science courses at the University of Houston and over four years as a program examiner at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, D.C. Lauren believes that supporting state policy leaders improves educational opportunities for all students.

Maryana Boatenreiter

Communications Manager

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Maryana Boatenreiter

Communications Manager
As an Editorial Content Strategist, Maryana focuses on developing effective communication strategies to amplify Education Commission of the States’ mission. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Maryana completed her master’s in composition and rhetoric while instructing first-year writing courses at the college level; her experiences as a teacher and researcher inspired her passion for supporting equitable and accessible education opportunities for all students. When Maryana is not busy editing and writing, she loves to cook, watch food competition shows and check out local concerts.

Daizha Brown

Policy Analyst

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Daizha Brown

Policy Analyst
In her role as a policy researcher, Daizha provides relevant information on various education policy topics for state-level education leaders. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Daizha completed her bachelor’s degree in political science at Colorado State University where she gained experience in policy research and the nonprofit sector. In her own education journey, Daizha believes in creating equitable education policies to ensure all students in this country have a fair opportunity at pursuing a comprehensive education.

Caitlin Dennis

Senior Meeting and Events Specialist

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Caitlin Dennis

Senior Meeting and Events Specialist
As the senior meeting and events specialist, Caitlin supports the Convene Team in the planning and execution of all events. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, she worked at the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association for over five years supporting their events and grant work. When Caitlin is not working, she can be found reading, baking or rooting for her beloved Colorado Rockies.

Mitra Chamanbahar

Project Manager

Arts Education Partnership

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Mitra Chamanbahar

Project Manager
Arts Education Partnership
As project manager for the Arts Education Partnership, Mitra collaborates and communicates with the AEP Team and partners to promote high-quality arts education. Prior to joining AEP, Mitra worked as a Colorado licensed visual arts educator in elementary education settings. She is dedicated to critically developing students’ learning opportunities and equitable arts experiences.

Mary Dell'Erba

Assistant Director

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Mary Dell'Erba

Assistant Director
As assistant director for the Arts Education Partnership, Mary oversees the development of AEP research, reports and convenings. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, she worked in state arts education advocacy, leadership development and state government. Mary graduated from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with a Master’s in Public Policy and she participated in the 2021-2022 cohort of the D.C. Education Policy Fellowship Program. Her work at the intersection of the arts and education policy is grounded in her lifelong love of dance, music and theatre. Mary can be reached at mdellerba@ecs.org.

Alina DeLuna

Project Manager

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Alina DeLuna

Project Manager
As a project manager, Alina is responsible for daily operations and providing project support for the Strong Start to Finish initiative. She brings experience relating to finance, public policy and administration, as well as the implementation of Colorado law and regulation. Alina is dedicated to the mission of Strong Start to Finish and believes that through informed leadership and sustained commitment, we can better serve our communities and contribute to an educational system that provides equal opportunities for all. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, making memories with her family and spending time outdoors.

Chris Duncombe

Principal

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Chris Duncombe

Principal
Chris focuses on K-12 school finance as a principal at Education Commission of the States. Chris has 10 years of experience working on fiscal policy at the state and local level with a focus on school funding, and his previous research in Virginia informed state policymakers in their design of equity-based school funding. Chris believes in the power of diverse, well-resourced learning environments and the key role school finance plays in setting the stage for student success.

Ben Erwin

Senior Policy Analyst

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Ben Erwin

Senior Policy Analyst
As a senior policy analyst, Ben works on tracking legislation, answering information requests and contributing to other Policy Team projects. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, he taught high school social studies in Kentucky and worked in education policy at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He earned a master's degree in education policy from the University of Colorado Boulder and a bachelor's degree in history and education from Transylvania University. Click here for resources by this author on ecs.org.

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