Who We Are


Place Matters Partners


Meet the Team

The Place Matters project is housed at the Justice Policy Program within the Catherine Cutler Institute at the University of Southern Maine and is supported by a collective of funders. The Place Matters team includes a mix of researchers, policy advisors, data visualization experts, program facilitators, and directly impacted young people who collaborate to develop capacity and pilot results-focused, data-informed solutions to social and justice policy issues in Maine.

Place Matters staff work collaboratively using mixed methods and participatory processes that integrate the best available data with local voices. The project has released a series of reports that aims to translate data, knowledge, and best practices into sustainable solutions that are responsive to locally identified assets. 

Jillian Foley, MPPM

Policy Associate II & Place Matters Project Director

Jillian has over a decade of research, evaluation, and strategic planning experience in market research, education, and social policy. Her expertise includes survey research and evaluation, data management, and strategic planning. She is trained in intercultural communication and has content knowledge in social policy & justice, public systems, international education, and culturally responsive practices. Jillian has a history of helping nonprofits better utilize data to make decisions about long-term, sustainable solutions. She is passionate about social justice and using data to make informed policy and practice changes. Jillian collaborates across the institute on multi-systems research, data analysis, policy work, evaluation, and program development. As the Project Director of Place Matters, Jillian leads a variety of initiatives focused on creating opportunities for system-involved youth and families in their communities. In her free time, Jillian is usually chasing after kids, gardening, reading, and spending time in the sun.

Jillian Foley

Sarah Goan, MPP

Senior Research Associate and Managing Director of CYF/JPP

Sarah directs the Children Youth and Family/Justice Policy Program areas, and the Data Innovation Project (DIP), an initiative focused on building the evaluation and data capacity of Maine’s mission-driven institutions. She provides leadership, consulting, and strategic planning to the Place Matters project. Sarah has over twenty years of experience in conducting evaluation and applied research related to programs that enhance child and family well-being, with particular expertise in youth substance abuse prevention, mental health, positive youth development, and trauma-informed systems of care. She has provided facilitation and technical assistance to a number of organizations on developing logic models, identifying program metrics, developing continuous quality improvement processes, and conducting organizational assessments.

Swathi Sivasubramanian

Policy Analyst II & Program Manager, YPC

Swathi’s background as a middle school science teacher has been the foundation of her deep commitment to supporting public-serving systems in creating genuine belonging and empowerment for all young people. Swathi supports young people in growing their leadership and advocacy skills and in building partnerships with adult allies to create pathways for young people to directly inform the systems meant to serve them. Currently, Swathi works as a the program manager for the Young People’s Caucus, designs curriculum and programs, and leads community engagement for other initiatives at the Institute. Outside of work, Swathi loves to hike, tell and hear stories, lounge with her cats, and sing.

Swathi photo

Becky Wurwarg

Graphic Design + Communications Strategist

Becky Wurwarg is a graphic designer who works across multiple teams at the Catherine Cutler Institute including the Data Innovation Project, the Justice Policy Program, the Youth and Community Engagement Team, and the Disability and Aging Program. Becky combines training in data communication with expertise in foundational design principles and current design trends to create informative and engaging visual representations. She enjoys working closely with colleagues to develop a creative vision for sharing their data, research, and stories in clear and digestible ways. In her spare time, she can be found cooking a big dinner or lending a hand at her husband’s local culinary knife shop.

Emma Schwartz

Research Analyst II

Emma brings diverse experience, from market research to business operations, to the Justice Policy Program. She supports a number of evaluation projects and programs with the Place Matters and Data Innovation Project teams, using data to drive sustainable, community-informed solutions. She also acts as the co-facilitator on the Region 3 Regional Care Team and is a core member of the statewide design team. A lifelong Mainer, she is committed to addressing statewide, systemic barriers to justice and ensuring a better future for young people, regardless of their background. Emma received her B.A. in World Literatures and Jewish Studies from Smith College in 2021. After work, you can find her running the Back Cove, playing ultimate frisbee, or attempting the New York Times crossword.

Emma Schwartz
Swathi photo

Madison Burke

Research Analyst I

Madison graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts in Forensic Psychology. Her past research experience includes a number of projects examining topics such as affordable housing, equitable access to healthcare and childcare, and the impact of prison environments in the U.S. on the wellbeing of formerly incarcerated individuals. Madison returned home after graduation, and has since worked at a variety of labs, schools and non-profits before joining the Catherine Cutler Institute where she works on a variety of research, evaluation, and community engagement projects with the Place Matters, Data Innovation Project, and Justice Policy teams. She also supports the Young People’s Caucus as a program coordiantor and facilitator of our youth programs. Madison is passionate about bringing positive, tangible change to youth and families across Maine through advocacy, early intervention and education. When not working, Madison enjoys exploring nature, foraging, writing, arts and crafts, and cuddling with her pets.

Timothy Atkinson

Research Analyst I

Tim comes to the Catherine Cutler Institute from a background in technology startups and clean energy technology, where he served as a software engineer and an engineering leader. He previously served on the Portland Board of Public Education from 2017-2020, which encouraged him to further pursue his interests in policy and collective impact. He is currently a graduate student at the USM’s Muskie School of Public Service, where he is pursuing his Master’s in Policy, Planning. And Management. Tim now leverages his background  with technology development, data analysis, organizational leadership, and continuous improvement from nearly two decades working in the private sector, combined with his public service experience and graduate education in his role at Catherine Cutler. As a member of the Place Matters and Data Innovation Project teams he supports research, evaluation, and community engagement initiatives to help public and nonprofit partners increase their impact in Maine’s communities. When he’s not working with data and policy, Tim enjoys reading, swimming, playing guitar and volunteering at his children’s schools and with unhoused Maine residents

Swathi photo

Sarah Louden

Project Assistant II

Sarah has worked at the Catherine Cutler Institute in various roles since 2021. She now works on the Place Matters team where she provides administrative, financial, and project support to Youth and Community Engagement (YCE) and Justice Policy Program projects. During the last decade, Sarah has worked in many spaces within the public service sector, including multiple years teaching ELL/ESL students within the K-12 school system. She enjoys collaborating with young people from a diverse array of backgrounds & cultures, who continue to inspire and to challenge her, and who constantly promote change and compassion all around them. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys the company of humans and cats alike; cooking and baking; and appreciating both beautiful urban and rural spaces in Maine. She can frequently be found volunteering her time on civic engagement and electoral campaigns in her community, where she believes in building people power for both the present moment and for the future.


Erica King, MSW

Erica King, MSW, is a Senior Manager at the Center for Effective Public Policy and founding member of the Place Matters project. Erica continues to work as a consultant to the Place Matters team to lend her twenty years of experience as a policy and program developer, coach, and facilitator. In addition to her work in Maine, Erica enjoys a national reputation as a consultant helping correctional organizations implement evidence-based practices and become more gender informed in their work. Erica brings hard knowledge into her relational work with people to inform how data can drive meaningful conversations and intentional decisions to improve the health, well-being, and vitality of communities.

Jill Ward, JD

Jill Ward, is Director of the Center for Youth Policy and Law at Maine Law and a founding collaborator on several Place Matters projects. She has co-authored and peer-reviewed reports, developed resources, and helped co-design the Regional Care Teams initiative for which she continues to serve as the co-facilitator in Region 1. In her role at the Center, Jill works with clinic students, faculty, and system stakeholders to advance policies and practices to reduce harm and to increase positive outcomes for current and former system-involved Maine youth. A nationally-recognized expert on youth justice issues, she has extensive experience on federal juvenile justice law, national best practices, and policy change, and is actively involved in efforts to reduce inappropriate detention and confinement, increase fairness in the justice system, and develop a sustainable continuum of community-based care for all Maine youth.

Ahmen Cabral, MSW

Ahmen is a Senior Research Associate who provides leadership for the Youth and Community Engagement (YCE) team at the Catherine Cutler Institute. Since 2005, Ahmen has worked with the YCE team and initiatives focused on youth development, mentoring, facilitation, and promoting practice and policy change in the child welfare system. Ahmen is committed to providing skills and opportunities for young people to share their experiences to promote systems change. She is continually inspired and energized by youth leaders, community partners, and system leaders who demonstrate a solid commitment to supporting all young people successfully achieve their aspirations. Ahmen collaborates with the Place Matters team on a number of youth serving initiatives and serves as a co-facilitator for the Region 2 Regional Care Teams.

Shannon Saxby, LMSW

Shannon is a member of the Youth and Community Engagement team at the Catherine Cutler Institute where she  oversees the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT), a statewide program committed to improving the short and long-term outcomes for youth in foster care. Hearing the experiences of young people, and what youth in care are currently facing motivates Shannon to think creatively with stakeholders to create sustainable changes and reforms to Maine’s Child Welfare system. Shannon is continually awed and inspired by the courage of young people who use their voice and their personal experiences in foster care to promote positive change not only for themselves but for future generations of youth in care. In addition to YLAT, Shannon lends her experience of working with young people to help support the Place Matters team on a number of youth-serving initiatives.

Mara Sanchez, MPPM

Mara Sanchez, MPPM is a PhD student at the University of Southern Maine and founding member of the Place Matters project.  Mara is primarily focused on youth justice issues and is a Results-Based Facilitation Practitioner who is passionate about helping nonprofit and government partners achieve success through evaluation, creative problem solving, and data literacy. Mara continues to work as a consultant with Place Matters to support justice impacted youth.

Get In Touch

For general project questions or potential partnership opportunities, please send us an email!