Who We Are
Place Matters Partners
Meet the Team
The Place Matters project is housed at the Justice Policy Program within the Catherine E. Cutler Institute at the Muskie School of Public Service, which is located 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.
Erica King, MSW
Senior Policy Associate, Adjunct Professor, Place Matters Project Director
Erica King, MSW, has over twenty years of experience as a policy and program developer, coach, and facilitator. In addition to her work at USM, 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.
Jillian Foley, MPPM
Jillian has over a decade of research, evaluation, and strategic planning experience in market research, education, and social policy fields. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Mara Sanchez, MPPM
A former news and documentary producer, Mara completed her master’s degree in Policy, Planning and Management from the University of Southern Maine (USM) in 2017. 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.