DR. SARAS CHUNG

Executive Director

Dr. Saras Chung is a system dynamicist and researcher advocating for the whole child at the intersection of poverty and education. In addition to a bachelors in psychology and masters and PhD from Washington University in St. Louis’ Brown School of Social Work, She builds on over 15 years of practice working with children and youth in residential school settings and researching youth development and social and emotional learning initiatives. She is a published researcher, writing and co-authoring peer-reviewed research in journals, such as the American Journal of Community Psychology and the Journal for Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work and is a member of the American Educational Research Association, Society for Social Work Research, and the System Dynamics Society. In addition to her work in education, Saras also teaches masters and doctoral-level courses on system dynamics at Washington University in St. Louis with the Social System Design Lab.

Her expertise with teaching and applying system dynamics to social issues has led to invitations for expert consulting with national and local foundations, tech companies, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and public school districts. Additionally, she has been published in the HuffPost and was recently invited to join the Comprehensive Student Development network led by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Saras has been given numerous awards and scholarships, of note is the Christopher Harris Award for Youth Advocacy from the Missouri House of Representatives and a fellowship through the International Society for Child Indicators, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In her free time, Saras enjoys tackling projects with her two tweens, running, and volunteering on various community advisory committees and her local church.


 

TREVOR HICKS

Program ASSOCIATE

Trevor is currently studying secondary education with a concentration in social science at Harris-Stowe State University. Trevor believes that every child, regardless of their circumstances deserves the right to have an educational experience that allows them to reach their full potential. As a program associate for SkipNV, Trevor provides support for educational initiatives in K-12 and directly to EdHubSTL at Innovation Hall for events and special projects. 

 
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JIM FORST

Senior Advisor
 

Jim Forst is Senior Advisor to SkipNV and an advocate for equity in education.
He believes all parents should have options and every child has the right to a high quality educational opportunity regardless of their economic circumstances. Jim is a life-long St Louisan and has held executive development positions with five universities and two non-profits. Being involved with positive educational transitions and innovations in his home town as well as other cities through his association with SkipNV colleagues and partners is his most rewarding professional experience and a true privilege.

 
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DAVE HILLIARD

ADVISOR

Dave served as President and CEO of WYMAN from 1975 until his retirement in December of 2016.  He led the strategic evolution of a historic summer camp serving children in poverty into a multifaceted national leader in adolescent development, leadership and learning. With partners and operations in 29 states reaching 25,000 youth annually, Wyman has been recognized for its expertise in program design and delivery, outcome research, collective impact management and professional training. In addition to advising SkipNV, Hilliard serves on advisory boards at Washington University’s Clark Fox Policy Institute, St Louis University’s Chaifetz School of Business, The University of Missouri – St. Louis’s Non-Profit Leadership and Management Program as well as on two regional collective impact initiatives: St. Louis Graduates and Ready by 21 St Louis. Dave has a degree in Psychology from St. Louis University, has done graduate level work in business, psychology and counseling and holds and honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Missouri System. 

 
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DR. PETER HOVMAND

ADVISOR

Dr. Peter Hovmand is the founding director of the Social System Design Lab at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, where he uses system dynamics to understand and evaluate community level interventions. He has a background in electrical engineering, mathematics, and philosophy, and received his doctorate in social work and community psychology from Michigan State University. His research focuses on developing and using participatory group model building (GMB) techniques to involve community members in the creation of models to understand the role of social determinants of health, scale-up of health innovations, and the design of community prevention strategies. Application areas include childhood obesity, K-12 education, mental health, domestic violence, child welfare, and household economic security. Other interests include ordinary language philosophy, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology of social science, and feminist theory. He advises students interested in learning and applying system dynamics and systems thinking and teaches “A System Dynamics Approach to Designing Sustainable Social Policies and Programs” and “Group Model Building” courses

 
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ELLEN O’NEILL

MSW, Research and Operations Associate

Ellen uses system design principles paired with her masters in social work to manage research and operations initiatives for SkipNV. Prior to joining SkipNV, Ellen served as the Children’s Savings Account Coordinator for the City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office. During her tenure, Ellen ran the CSA program - College Kids - where she focused on equitable asset development for St. Louis students.

Ellen received her Master of Social Work degree in 2017 from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. During her time at the Brown School, Ellen worked on the Community Development Policy team at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, where she devised and conducted a Community Based System Dynamics study of underserved and unbanked communities. Additionally, Ellen has worked closely with Prosperity Connection, focusing on issues of financial health and well-being for underserved populations.

 
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NISHESH CHALISE

PhD, MSW - Lead System Dynamics Modeler

Nishesh is passionate about applying systems modeling and data analytics to gain insights into complex problems. Grounded in community based practice, he believes that his expertise only adds value when he collaborates with local organizations that are committed to social change. He has several years of experience working in diverse set of issues including childhood obesity (St. Louis, MO), collective action in community gardens (St. Louis, MO), sustainable natural resource management (Andhra Pradesh, India), diffusion of clean cooking technology (Rajasthan, India), food insecurity (Minneapolis), and disparities in educational attainment (Northfield, Carlton College). Currently, he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work at Augsburg University.

 
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RACHEL MATSUMOTO

Research Fellow

Rachel is currently an Educational Systems Research Fellow at SkipNV. She believes every child has the right to an education that allows them to thrive both in the present and later in life. Rachel graduated from Dartmouth College in 2019, where she majored in Psychology and minored in International Studies. During her time at Dartmouth, she conducted research on the influence of media on childhood eating behaviors and worked with a local nonprofit to develop programs for special needs children and adults in the community. In her spare time, she enjoys playing board games and being outdoors. She is looking forward to pursuing a career in using system dynamics to build more equitable social systems.

 
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HAYLEY BUTLER

Educational Policy Fellow

Hayley holds a graduate certificate in Educational Policy and is currently finishing her Master’s of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. As a psychology undergraduate at the University of Michigan, Hayley studied the relationship between school culture and pedagogy to students’ learning motivation and achievement. Having since moved from her home state of Michigan to the Texas-Mexico border, to the suburbs of Philadelphia, and now back to the midwest, she’s seen the broader impact of policy on matters of equity and the student experience in distinctly different regions across the country. She’s currently writing her thesis on state funding formula characteristics and their relationship to school-level factors that influence equity. Ultimately, Hayley’s career goals are founded in a desire to contribute to the improvement of access to quality, developmentally-appropriate education that sees all kids grow into empowered lifelong learners and productive, healthy citizens.

 
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WILLIAM LIEM

Applied Research Intern

William is currently a Master of Social Work student at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, focusing on system dynamics and international development research. His research at SkipNV looks into the intersectional inequities of the St. Louis early childhood education system through a system dynamics lens.

Prior to graduate school, William worked in digital identity research in low- and middle-income countries with a biometrics start-up. He is interested in using system dynamics to analyze the inherent social inequities that get perpetuated in international innovations and technological expansion. 

PAST FELLOWS

 

VALERIE HIRSCHBERG

Education Systems Research and Management Fellow
 

Val is currently an education systems research and management fellow at SkipNV. Her work at SkipNV focuses on researching innovation in K-12 education and the unintended consequences of education innovations. Before joining SkipNV, Val attended Washington University in St. Louis where she earned her Bachelors of Arts in educational studies and cultural anthropology. During her time at Washington University, Val conducted research on discipline patterns in charter schools, worked as a curriculum developer for the university’s sexual violence helpline, and was a science teaching fellow at Breakthrough San Francisco for two years. Val is originally from  Warwick, Bermuda and hopes to continue a career in education applying systems thinking to teaching.

 
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JULIA WINEMILLER

RESEARCH ASSOCIATE

Julia attends Harvard Graduate School of Education and is pursuing a Master's of Education to teach middle school science. She believes education should make young people feel powerful, recognizing them as whole people capable of making change and producing valuable contributions to their communities. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with majors in Education Studies and Psychological & Brain Sciences. During her time at Wash. U., she studied the impact of positive preschool teacher-student relationships on depression in students through adolescence. She also developed curriculum for the university's sexual assault helpline, initiated community partnerships with the music student group Beat Therapy, and interned at Breakthrough San Francisco teaching middle school science. She is interested in using community based system dynamics to create equity in educational systems, and has facilitated multiple group model building workshops with parents, students, administrators, and educators. She is originally from Rochester, MN, and enjoys hiking, playing and teaching piano, and aspires to be a cross country biker.