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CEPL Staff


Donald L. Gordon
Donald L. Gordon has been the Executive Director of the Riley Institute since its inception in 1999. Dr. Gordon is a Professor of Political Science at Furman where he specializes in African and Middle Eastern Politics. Under his direction the Riley Institute has grown to include the Centers for Education Policy and Leadership, Diversity Strategies, and Crucial Issues all designed to address issues critical to  the future of South Carolina. On leave from Furman, he served as a Chief of Staff and Committee Counsel in the US House of Representatives. Dr. Gordon received his M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Florida.
Jacki Martin
Jacki Martin is Deputy Director at the Riley Institute at Furman University, where she assists the Executive Director in developing and funding the spectrum of the Institute’s programs and in supporting the staff who are managing them. Jacki also serves as the leader of the Riley Institute’s Center for Education Policy and Leadership. Her background is primarily in policy and program management around community development issues, with an emphasis on management of large-scale, multi-county, multi-sector outreach initiatives. She has an undergraduate degree in communications from the University of South Carolina.
Brooke Culclasure
Brooke Culclasure is the Center for Education Policy and Leadership's Research Director. Currently, Dr. Culclasure oversees the Center’s Evaluation Capacity Building Initiative and serves as the Principal Investigator of the South Carolina Public School Montessori study, the Overcoming Obstacles Life Skills Program evaluation, and the South Carolina Project-Based Learning evaluation. She also currently serves as a lead evaluator for the United Way of Greenville County's OnTrack Greenville Initiative and served from 2012-2014 as an evaluator for the Florida Race to the Top federal grant. She completed her B.A. at the University of Richmond and earned masters degrees from the University of Virginia and University of South Carolina and her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.
Melanie Armstrong
Melanie Armstrong is the Director and Fundraiser for the Emerging Public Leaders program.  Melanie is a 1994 graduate of Furman with a B.A. in Psychology. She has worked for Furman’s Alumni Association from 2001 – 2013. During that time she focused on projects ranging from Homecoming to alumni events across the country. Prior to Furman, she enjoyed coordinating logistics for the Sundance Film Festival. She has a Master of Science from the University of Utah.  
David Fleming
David J. Fleming, Senior Researcher in the Center of Education Policy and Leadership, is assistant professor in the political science department at Furman University, where he teaches classes in research methodology, American politics and public policy. Dr. Fleming has significant experience in education research and program evaluation. A senior research associate for the School Choice Demonstration Project, he is participating in the official, state-authorized evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) the nation’s oldest and largest urban school voucher program. He is also the project statistician for the Montessori, Overcoming Obstacles and research projects. Dr. Fleming graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Kelly Gregory
Kelly Gregory serves as a Research Specialist in the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. Currently, she assists with data collection and compilation, instrument and report creation, and research logistics for the evaluation of the United Way of Greenville County’s OnTrack Greenville Initiative. Prior to joining the Riley Institute, Kelly taught special education for eight years at both the elementary and secondary level. From 2005 to 2013, she also assisted with several Institute initiatives, including the Emerging Public Leaders program and the Hewlett Foundation research study on public education in South Carolina. Kelly holds a B.A. in Psychology from Furman and an M.A.T. in Special Education from Converse College.
Sally Morris
Sally Morris is a Research Associate in the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. Sally graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Furman University. She is completing her Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she already has received an M.A. in Sociology and a Certificate in Survey Methodology. As Qualtrics Technical Consultant for the H.W. Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, Sally worked extensively with students and faculty to design and implement small and large-scale survey research on a variety of topics. She also has significant experience in qualitative research, particularly in designing and fielding in-depth interviews in a wide range of settings. Sally’s work history includes the following projects: UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Single Fathers Due to Cancer study; the Survey of International and U.S. Nurses out of UNC’s Department of Health Care Environments; and Research Triangle International’s study on food security, with funding from a grant provided by the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA.
Alexandra "Lolly" Smith
Alexandra “Lolly” Smith serves as a Research Specialist in the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. She assists with data collection for the South Carolina Project-Based Learning evaluation, as well as data collection and research logistics for the evaluation of the United Way of Greenville County OnTrack Initiative. She also helps coordinate the evaluation of the College Advising Corps’ South Carolina project, which strives to bring greater access to college for underrepresented populations. Prior to joining the Riley Institute, she taught middle and high school history for seven years. She received her undergraduate degree in Secondary Education and history from Vanderbilt University and her M.A.T. in Curriculum and Instruction from Furman University.
Alexis Sprogis
Alexis Sprogis joined the Riley team in 2008. She is currently a Research Specialist with the Center for Education Policy and Leadership, where she is responsible for assisting with data collection, instrument and report creation, research logistics, and database compilation associated with several research projects, including the South Carolina Public School Montessori study, the Overcoming Obstacles Life Skills Program evaluation and the education model evaluation funded by the Education Oversight Committee. She received a B.A. from Winthrop University in 2006 and is in the process of earning her M.A. at the University of Nebraska (Kearney).
Cathy Stevens
Cathy Stevens is the Program Director for the White-Riley-Peterson Afterschool Policy Fellowship, focused on improving policy in support of afterschool and summer learning across the country. She is also working on the development of a new teacher certification in project-based learning for South Carolina's teachers. Cathy assists in developing the overall strategic direction for the Center for Education Policy and Leadership. From 2005 to 2007, she helped direct the Riley Institute's Hewlett Foundation financed research project on public education, the most comprehensive systematic study of public education ever done in South Carolina. She has a B.A. from Furman and an M.Ed from Clemson University. 
Troy Terry
Troy Terry, Co-Investigator of the Project Based Learning evaluation, received his Ph.D. from Clemson University. As Director of Graduate Studies in Education at Furman, he oversees all phases of the Graduate program and serves as a professor of School Leadership. His past professional experiences include teaching high school English and Drama, and serving as a middle school assistant principal and an elementary principal. Dr. Terry is a literacy and service-learning advocate and has presented at county, state and regional meetings on project-based learning, public school law, integrated literacy programs in the elementary school, creating an exemplary writing school, service learning, curriculum integration, teaming, reading and writing across the curriculum, grant writing, and humanities-based curriculum. Dr. Terry has authored or edited three publications on curriculum integration: ARISE – Integrating Service Learning into the Curriculum 9-12; ARISE: Service Learning at the Middle Level; and REACH: Integrating the Collaborative Humanities and is currently working on a text on project-based learning. His continued research interests include Public School Administration and the Law, Project-Based Learning, and Literacy.
Tracy Waters
Tracy Waters is the Center of Education Policy and Leadership's Assistant Research Director and manages the comprehensive evaluation of OnTrack Greenville, as a part of the Social Innovation Fund grant secured by the United Way of Greenville County. She received her B.A. from Central Michigan University and her Ph.D. from Clemson University and has extensive experience in diverse nonprofits and education research and evaluation. Dr. Waters previously served as Research and Grants Manager for the United Way of Greenville County and has helped plan and implement data collection for several research studies, including an NIH-funded study on rural teen dating violence and a mixed-methods examination of children's neighborhood and civic engagement.



Senior Consultant

Terry Peterson

Terry Peterson develops strategies and partnerships for education reforms and expanded learning opportunities and partnerships across America and in developing countries (e.g., Argentina, Brazil and Mongolia).While holding federal and state executive education positions, Terry helped develop numerous education policies: federal level: 21st Century Community Learning Centers, E-rate, GEAR-UP; and teacher and technology quality grants; state level: early childhood education; teacher recruitment; performance pay programs; innovation funds; accountability systems; and the arts in the basic curriculum. Terry serves on ten different national, state and local education committees and organizations including chairing the National Afterschool Alliance board.


Student Interns

Abigail Emerson
Abigail Emerson is a Political Science major from Simpsonville, South Carolina. She anticipates a career in policy research, and she takes a special interest in education policy. Abigail is involved on campus through the Shucker Leadership Institute, Delta Gamma sorority, College Democrats, and working at the Writing and Media Lab.
Nicole Hyman
Nicole Hyman is a Junior Political Science and Sociology double major, and Poverty Studies minor from Hartsville, South Carolina. She is active with The Riley Institute Advance Team and is a campus chapter officer for Delta Delta Delta Sorority. Some of Nicole's favorite things include: drinking cold-pressed juice, keeping up with current events, and watching Grey's Anatomy.
Mary Lewis
Mary Lewis is a Junior psychology major with a focus in Spanish. She is from Melbourne, Florida. On campus, she is president of the Admission Ambassador Organization and the Campus Chapter Officer for Delta Delta Delta sorority. Some of her favorite things include: Gilmore Girls, golfing, and anything miniature and adorable (i.e. babies and puppies).
Kate Stevens
Kate Stevens is a Junior from Charlotte, North Carolina and is pursuing a double major in Music and Sociology. On campus, she is an active member of the student committee of SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Rape Prevention) and is an officer in Sigma Alpha Iota, the professional women's music fraternity.  As a Volunteer Victim Advocate for the Julie Valentine Center in Greenville, Kate is interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector, relating to support services, research, and analysis. In her free time, Kate enjoys going to concerts, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.
Noah Zimmermann
Noah Zimmermann is a junior Political Science and Philosophy double major with a minor in Poverty Studies, and is from Camden, South Carolina. On campus, he is actively involved in Catholic Campus Ministry, Poverty Awareness Committee, Admission Ambassadors, Riley Institute Advance Team, and the Outdoors Club. In his free time, he loves getting out in nature on hikes with friends and enjoying the outdoors.