Magnolia Consulting is a woman-owned, small business with headquarters in central Virginia and a network of consultants throughout the country. Together, our team offers more than 60 years of evaluation experience and represents a broad range of fields including education, human services, and social science.
Dr. Wilkerson founded Magnolia Consulting, LLC in 2002 following a wide-ranging career in education, beginning over 20 years ago. Her drive to cultivate learning and positive change through education (the heart of Magnolia’s mission) first began as a preschool teacher in a private school in Texas during the early 1990s. She experienced first-hand the critical dynamic between teacher, curriculum and student that can create or impede learning from moment to moment. And from that point she stepped outside the classroom to dedicate her career to helping students through research and program evaluation. That drive led her to the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, where she earned a Ph.D. in educational evaluation.
Since 1991, Dr. Wilkerson has worked on national, state, and local evaluation and research studies involving schools at every level, from preschool to higher education. She has constructed quantitative and qualitative research instruments, developed logic models, and designed and managed multi-state randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and case studies across multiple sites. Working in collaboration with clients, classroom teachers, administrators, and students, she has investigated math, science, English language proficiency and reading programs as well as broader systemic reforms. She has particular interest in studies of organizational change, systemic reform, curriculum efficacy, and STEM programs. While serving as a Principal Evaluator for Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) in Colorado, Dr. Wilkerson began her work conducting evaluations of NASA's mission outreach programs – work she continues to enjoy. At Magnolia Consulting, Dr. Wilkerson assembled a team that shares her respect for educators and her determination to provide clients with the tools and knowledge necessary to implement and sustain educational improvements. As part of her dedication to creating a balanced, high-quality life, Dr. Wilkerson enjoys international travel, yoga, triathlons, cooking, gardening, and horseback riding. But she revels most in the simple, precious moments with her two children.
Lisa Shannon’s longstanding interest in education evaluation began in 1998 when she interned for a North Carolina public school system’s study of programs for at-risk youth. She went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology and program design, administration, and evaluation from North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2002, where her research focused on adolescent psychosocial and emotional development. From 2000-2006, Dr. Shannon served on the faculty of NCSU’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, where she led or studied a range of programs serving youth and families, and evaluated systemic improvement efforts within the North Carolina Cooperative Extension System. In 2006, Dr. Shannon joined Magnolia, where she specializes in mixed methods research, advanced data collection and analysis, and dissemination of findings. Her research and evaluation projects have included studies of:
- Child abuse prevention programs
- Print and digital curricula in reading, math, and science
- NASA outreach and educational programs
- School improvement and systemic reform interventions
- Afterschool and community-based programs targeting at-risk youth
- Parent education programs
Carol Haden began her science education career in 1985 as a high school biology teacher on the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She holds a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Northern Arizona University, and is the former evaluation coordinator for the Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University. She has a special interest in supporting exemplary and equitable science education for traditionally underserved populations. As an educational evaluator, Dr. Haden specializes in standards-based best practices in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). She has served as evaluator for STEM education projects sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Arizona Board of Regents, and the Arizona Department of Education, among others. Her evaluations have included studies of:
- NASA education and public outreach programs
- Curriculum materials for engineering undergraduate courses
- Science professional development for elementary teachers
- Recruitment and retention of underrepresented students in the sciences
- Global climate change education programs
- Summer research experiences for undergraduates
Mary Styers’ passion for research was ignited in 2001 when, as a summer intern, she helped scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke map mechanisms of cognitive processing in adults with and without brain injury. She went on to earn her Ph.D. in lifespan development psychology from North Carolina State University in 2009 with work that centered on how children, adolescents and adults interpret everyday negative experiences.
Since then, Dr. Styers has conducted research on the nature of race relationships in communities, researcher-community collaborations, the physiological effects of social cognitive tests, and the ways children and adolescents bounce back from negative events. She has a special interest in research and evaluations examining resiliency, self-efficacy, empowerment and positive coping strategies across all age groups.
Using various research designs and methodologies, Dr. Styers has served as an evaluator on studies sponsored by Pearson, Inc., National Geographic School Publishing, Study Island, NASA, the U.S. Department of Education, and AcademyWomen, among others. Her evaluations have included studies of:
- Math, science and reading curriculums
- Online learning platforms
- School improvement and systemic reform interventions
- NASA education and outreach programs, activities and websites
- eMentoring program platform
Billie-Jo Grant was a four-time All-American discus thrower at the University of Virginia when she felt drawn to the precision and discipline of a career in educational research. By the time she completed her Ph.D. in Educational Research, Statistics, and Evaluation from the University of Virginia in 2011, she had substantial experience in program and policy evaluation, instrument construction, and large dataset management; and she had taught classes on survey design and measurement theory.
Dr. Grant came to Magnolia in 2010 with expertise in the design, administration and analyses of randomized controlled trials and mixed-methods research. She has managed qualitative and quantitative studies of science, reading, and math curricula, and studied educators’ use of data in program implementation. She has served as an evaluator for multiple quasi-experimental and longitudinal efficacy studies funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Pearson, Inc., Renaissance Learning, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Inc., and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
A native of Arroyo Grande, Calif., Dr. Grant currently serves as an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she teaches graduate courses on quantitative methods. She has worked as a volunteer with legal aid groups, providing educational advocacy for low-income children. She continues to compete in amateur athletics, and she enjoys trail riding and gardening.
Her experience in finance and her academic work in psychology brought Candace Rowland to Magnolia in 2010, where she oversees online research participation as well as company financial operations. As the survey manager for Magnolia, Candace develops, publishes, and monitors online participant surveys across multiple studies and projects. She is also responsible for managing online teacher and participant implementation logs and data across all studies. As the finance manager, Candace is responsible for the fiscal monitoring and reporting of project financials as well as company financials. She also provides human resource support to Magnolia staff.
Candace has worked in client services, evaluation practice, office management, and financial/organizational management for more than 30 years. She received her MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University in administrative and organizational social work, and is currently ABD in social policy and evaluation there. She holds a BA in psychology from the University of Virginia.
In her free time Candace loves St. Louis Cardinals baseball, UVA Women’s basketball, needlepoint, and spending time with her husband.
deKoven Pelton brings to Magnolia broad experience with qualitative data collection and analysis, as well as a special interest in the education of girls and women. She began her career as coordinator of fourteen after-school media literacy programs for 7th grade girls in six Charlottesville area middle schools. In 1995 she earned a Ph.D. in educational policy and research from the University of Virginia with a dissertation on seventh grade girls’ experiences in school.
As Magnolia’s program coordinator, Dr. Pelton leads site recruitment for large-scale randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies, coordinates study orientations in schools across the country, and manages study participant contact databases. She also coordinates assessment shipping and scoring and manages data entry across all Magnolia studies.
deKoven enjoys spending special moments with her three children (a girl and twin boys) playing their string instruments and piano with them, taking them on adventures, and engaging in the everyday conversation and laughter. She also loves to travel and appreciates theater and live music with good friends.
Dr. Pelton has been with Magnolia Consulting since 2010.
Elizabeth Peery was first drawn to evaluation studies during her graduate program at the school for International Training, where she designed a monitoring and evaluation plan for ChildVoice International in Uganda. Ms. Peery continued to explore her interest in research and evaluation through her internship with World Vision (WV), a humanitarian aid organization dedicated to community development and poverty alleviation worldwide. There, she helped conduct a unique meta-evaluation that assessed the quality and impact of nearly 100 WV programs.
Ms. Peery joined Magnolia Consulting in 2012. Her work as a Research Assistant with Magnolia involves database development and management, as well as supporting site recruitment, data collection and analysis, report writing, and proposal development.
In her free time, Beth enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and spending time with her Australian Shepherd.
Beverly Bunch had three decades of experience in administration and data entry when she joined Magnolia in 2010. As executive assistant, Beverly prepares study evaluation and orientation materials, and conducts data entry across studies. She also formats and proofreads documents, and helps to coordinate site visits. She brings a wealth of experience from her previous work in Virginia state government. Beverly enjoys dancing, reading, volunteering at a local organization, and sharing fun times with her grandsons.