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
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 data visualization. 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 works across the institute on multi-systems research, data analysis, policy work, and evaluation. As the co-lead of the Place Matters project, Jillian works on a variety of initiatives focused on creating opportunities for system-involved youth and families in their communities.
Sarah Goan, MPP
Senior Research Associate and Data Innovation Project Director
Sarah directs the Data Innovation Project (DIP), an initiative focused on building the evaluation and data capacity of Maine’s mission-driven institutions, and co-leads 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.
Policy Analyst & Program Coordinator
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 Program Coordinator with the Opportunity Scholars initiative, the Youth Leadership Advisory Team, and the Young People’s Caucus. Outside of work, Swathi loves to hike, tell and hear stories, lounge with her cats, and sing.
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 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. 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.
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 projects with the Place Matters, Youth and Community Engagement, and Data Innovation Project teams. 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.
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, such as Opportunity Scholars and the Young People’s Caucus.
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.
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.