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

Chahnna Johnson, M.S.

Director of Human Resources + 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, with a focus in Human Resources, from The Ohio State University. Ms. Johnson brings over 10 years of corporate experience to the Human Resources Director position. Ms. Johnson is experienced in program evaluation, continuous quality improvement, strategic decision-making, organizational process improvement, performance measurement data collection, and analysis. Over the past three years, she has managed the evaluation for 10 programs focused on teen pregnancy prevention and sexual risk avoidance, funded by various Health and Human Services offices and departments. 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 completed 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 the Director of Research Services at MER, serving as a member of the executive strategy team and overseeing MER’s approach to project staffing, internal organizational leadership, and process development to support client needs. 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 healthcare 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.

Lila Balla, M.A.

Director of Analytics

Lila is a Biostatistician and Health Economist who has worked in health research in both the public and private sectors for more than 15 years. She holds a Master’s in Applied Economics from Binghamton University and a Master’s in Biostatistics from Saint Louis University.  As a trained researcher her work focuses on modeling and forecasting trends in health care data as well as formulating outcomes in evaluation studies. Having extensive experience in statistics and health economics, she has taught in several accredited universities and colleges in the past decade. Her work has spanned several disciplines and has been published in multiple prestigious journals.


McKenna LeClear, M.A.

HMRF Team Lead

McKenna is a Senior Research Consultant who brings expertise in research design, program evaluation, data analysis, report writing, and project management. As the Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) Team Lead, she oversees the organization’s 12 HMRF evaluation projects. She earned her Master’s in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame and her Bachelor’s in Sociology from the University of Tulsa. Prior to joining MER, McKenna conducted program evaluation and public policy research at the University of Texas at Austin.

Dodie Doudna

Tracking Manager

Dodie joins Midwest Evaluation as a Tracking Manager. 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 oversee the tracking and implementation of all of the HMRF (Healthy Marriage Responsible Fatherhood) projects' 12-month follow-up surveys.

Michelle Brown, M.S.

Positive Youth Development Lead + Consultant

Michelle Jackson 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. She has been with the company since 2017. As a Consultant, Michelle serves as the project lead for community foundation and grant evaluation projects and is the evaluator for MER’s non-profit organization, the Social Innovation Laboratory. In her role as the Positive Youth Development line of business lead, Michelle oversees projects involving youth in the fields of sexual risk avoidance education (SRAE), teen pregnancy prevention (TPP), and personal responsibility education program (PREP). In addition, Michelle completes all Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements and reports for all of MER and SIL’s research projects. She has experience with survey creation, data collection, one-on-one and focus group interviews, continuous quality improvement (CQI), participant tracking, project registration, report writing, data analysis, and grant writing. In 2019, Michelle was selected as a Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood (HMRF) Emerging Scholar by the Office of Policy, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE).

Kathryn Karageorge, Ph.D.

Senior Consultant

Dr. Karageorge brings over 20 years of experience in research and evaluation design and implementation, report writing and dissemination of findings, quality assurance, training and technical assistance, and workforce development. Dr. Karageorge has extensive experience as a project and task lead on multiple federal, state, and local training and technical assistance, mixed-methods, and evaluation capacity-building projects. In addition to her work in social science research and evaluation, Dr. Karageorge has taught or assisted in teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in research methods, psychological principles, abnormal psychology, counseling techniques, and group counseling. She has more than five years of experience in mental health assessment and treatment and has worked as a counselor in multiple settings, including hospitals, public schools, community mental health centers, and university counseling centers. Dr. Karageorge has her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.


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.