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

Senior Consultant

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.

Aaron Larson, M.B.A

Director of Operations

Aaron Larson graduated from Emporia State University with both a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Information Systems. He acts as the Director of Operations for Midwest Evaluation, performing administrative and Human Resource duties, as well as facilitating the business practices of the organization. He plays a crucial role in the Information Systems of MER, maintaining our website, socials, and project databases.

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.

Junior Consultant

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.

Alex Hajek-Jones

Research Assistant

Alex is from Plattsmouth, NE and came to Emporia to pursue a degree from Emporia State University.  He completed his B.S. in Interdisciplinary Studies with emphases in Biology and Mathematics.  His position at Midwest Evaluation is to provide ongoing support for various projects.  He serves at MER as a research assistant.




Dodie Doudna

Administrative Assistant

Dodie joins Midwest Evaluation as an Administrative Assistant. She brings over 15 years of administrative experience in office management and Human Resources.  She brings valuable skills to this position from her time working for non-profits in the social service field.  Her position with Midwest Evaluation is to provide general administrative support to employees, projects, and clients.


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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