Meet Our Experts

Midwest Evaluation has assembled a team of senior-level social scientists. Collectively, this team has over 100 years of experience in community psychology, public administration, economic development, program management, and adult education with a focus on research, program evaluation, policy analysis, and technical assistance. The Midwest Evaluation team is prepared to help its partner non-profit organizations successfully compete for federal funding by utilizing its full complement of employees, consultants, and strategic relationships to implement projects of any scale.

Matthew Shepherd, Ph.D.

President + CEO

With more than 20 years of experience, Dr. Shepherd has a tremendous impact on the organizations that Midwest Evaluation partners with and on the problem areas in which it works. Having overseen and provided technical assistance to more than 500 evaluation projects for programs within the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and Foundations, Dr. Shepherd is a nationally recognized expert in program evaluation. Dr. Shepherd also provides consultation on evidenced-based practices, healthy relationship and fatherhood programming, and public health infrastructure. Some of Dr. Shepherd’s accomplishments include:

  • Interviewed as an expert for regional newspapers, radio, and television
  • Provided expert testimony before Kansas State Legislature Committees and crafted bills and testimony submitted to the U.S. Senate
  • Prepared reports used as handouts by the Obama Administration
  • Created a community/systems level framework for employing low-income, low-skilled individuals that was used to allocate $750 million dollars in federal funding
  • Helped partners win more than $50 million dollars in federal grant funding
  • Conducted Random Control Trial (RCT) evaluations for federally funded program evaluations

Theodore Jurkiewicz, Ph.D.

Senior Evaluation Consultant

Along with Dr. Shepherd, Dr. Jurkiewicz has extensive experience evaluating Healthy Relationship and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) programs funded through the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance. Dr. Jurkiewicz has spent more than 12 years evaluating these programs as both the owner of his own evaluation firm and as a Senior Consultant with Midwest Evaluation.

Prior to joining Midwest Evaluation, Dr. Jurkiewicz worked with practitioners from human service organizations for over 20 years providing them with training and technical assistance as well as other evaluation services, which focused on assessing and improving programmatic efforts for children, youth, and their families, especially in impoverished areas.

Dr. Jurkiewicz’ areas of specialization include but are not limited to: early childhood education, educational technology interventions, healthy marriage and responsible fatherhood, neighborhood racial change and segregation, prisoner reentry programs, and youth development. Dr. Jurkiewicz leads the evaluation and analysis efforts of HMRF programs for Midwest Evaluation.

Chahnna Johnson, M.S.

Senior Consultant

Chahnna Johnson completed her Master of Science degree in Sociology from the University of Cincinnati as well as a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from The Ohio State University. She is currently a consultant for Midwest Evaluation providing much needed expertise in strategic management and program evaluation. Prior to working with MER, CJ worked as a contract consultant for many organizations, including the City of Cincinnati Health Department OEI.

Lizzie Friedman, M.P.H

Director of Research Services

Lizzie earned her Master of Public Health in Administration from the Northwest Ohio Consortium for Public Health, and she holds a B.S. in Biology from Bowling Green State University. She is a Senior Evaluation Consultant at MER, where she oversees evaluation projects for MER clients and manages company publication efforts. Lizzie has extensive expertise in facilitative leadership and group training, data analysis, continuous quality improvement, strategic planning, systems development, and client relationship management, and a talent for organizing and maximizing people. Her prior employment experiences included providing strategic direction and coaching for data managers at Head Start programs across the country and educating health care community benefit professionals on community assessment and program planning.

Penny Tinsman, M.A.

Director of Partnership Development

Ms. Tinsman has more than 25 years’ experience providing training and technical assistance and program evaluation services to a variety of Federal clients. Ms. Tinsman has extensive experience in meeting preparation/coordination, continuous quality improvement, training and technical assistance, and both qualitative and quantitative analysis. She is skilled in project management, fiscal controls, processes and considerations that permit evaluation of program components, assessment of project activities, and development of evaluation frameworks to assess future progress.


She has conducted and coordinated research, events, and trainings in the fields of workforce development, family strengthening, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), supportive services, substance abuse treatment and prevention, victim services, and mental health.

Liz Harvey, M.S.

Senior Consultant

Liz Harvey, M.S. is a Senior Evaluation Consultant for Midwest Evaluation and Research (MER). Liz brings to MER over 11 years of experience managing and implementing research and evaluation projects for universities, non-profits, and health organizations. With a background in Child, Adolescent, and Family Development research, she has helped numerous publicly funded youth and family programs establish efficient data collection and reporting systems to satisfy funding requirements, inform continuous quality improvement processes, and to showcase positive impact. As a result of her work, Liz has helped numerous programs expand its funding, including expansion of programs into geographically rural areas where such services have been historically scarce. She believes in the power of robust outcomes data to help support the funding for such important work, which in turn has an immense and direct impact on the community. Therefore, she is very excited to apply her skills and expertise to Midwest Evaluation and Research. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, going to the beach, and spending time with her adorable terrier mix, Ellie.

McKenna LeClear, M.A.

Senior Consultant

McKenna earned her master's degree in sociology from the University of Notre Dame and her bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Tulsa. As a Senior Consultant, she oversees a number of Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood evaluation projects. She is skilled in project management, data analysis, and report writing. Prior to joining MER, McKenna worked as a Senior Research Associate with the Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin evaluating child welfare programs and analyzing the impact of state-level maternal and child health policies.

Michelle Brown, M.S.


Michelle Brown earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial/Organizational psychology from Emporia State University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pittsburg State University. While working toward her master’s degree, Michelle created and evaluated a standardized training program for a student-based assessment center which was accomplished completely virtually.  As a Junior Consultant, Michelle serves as the project lead for community foundation and grant evaluation projects.  She facilitates the data collection and survey tracking process for research assistants. In addition, she completes Institutional Review Board (IRB) reports and requirements, and helps with publication and report writing and survey creation.

Robert H. Merth, M.S.


Robert holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology, and is currently working on his PhD in Educational Psychology studying in the Research, Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics track at the University of Kansas. During his time at Midwest Evaluation and Research, Robert has worked on a variety of projects spanning across multiple areas of research and practice that include: family strengthening, parenting, fatherhood, reentry, child support, teen sexual risk avoidance/education, and organizational culture. Robert is specialized in quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods research designs, data analysis, report writing, and technical assistance consultations. In addition to the research areas listed previously, Robert’s other research areas include: interpersonal and inter-group attributions of moral behavior, sociocultural and structural influences on moral judgement, social reintegration, and the relationships between moral behaviors, emotions, and self-views.

Jennifer Leveille, M.P.H.

Data Manager

Jennifer earned her Master of Public Health with a concentration in Environmental Health from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, preceded by a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from The University of North Texas. Jennifer joined the Midwest Evaluation team as a Data Manager, bringing her skills in data analysis, program management, and client relations. Before joining MER, Jennifer worked as a Senior Research Assistant at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and is also currently providing evidence-based COVID-19 policy guidance for the Texas Policy Lab at Rice University.


Think you or someone you know would make a great addition to our team? Send us a message. We'd love to hear from you.


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