Advisors Council

Advisors Council


In June 2013, VECF launched leadership strategies for research, evaluation and policy to provide service to communities across Virginia in analyzing data, guiding research and evaluation, and discerning policy implications for the state's system of school readiness services for young children. The work is guided by VECF's Advisors Council, comprised of policy, research, and evaluation experts, as well as by the practical findings from the network of Smart Beginnings initiatives. This distinguished group of experts includes:

Kevin W. Allison, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University

Kevin W. Allison serves as Associate Vice President for Strategy and Development with the Office of the President at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He previously held positions as Senior Executive Director for Strategy and Administration in the Office of the President, interim vice president for Inclusive Excellence, associate dean for community activities in the College of Humanities and Sciences and as Director of Applied and Outreach Scholarship in VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. Dr. Allison served on senior leadership teams for the VCU Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention, and the Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, one of the CDC’s National Academic Centers for Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention. Dr. Allison received his Ph.D. in clinical-community psychology from DePaul University, his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame, and completed his clinical internship at Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC. Dr. Allison joined VCU in 1996 and is professor of psychology, with a joint appointment in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. His research, scholarship and teaching focus on the role of culture and context in adolescent development, and the design and evaluation of school and community-based interventions to support healthy developmental trajectories for urban youth. Dr. Allison is recipient of VCU’s 2005 Reese-Melton Presidential Award for Multicultural Enrichment and was a 2016-17 American Council of Education Fellow. He is co-author with Dr. Faye Belgrave of African American Psychology: From Africa to America, now in its fourth edition. Prior to joining VCU, Dr. Allison was a faculty member in the department of psychology at Penn State University. Earlier in his career, Dr. Allison served as the Clinical Director of City Lights, a school for troubled and troubling youth in Washington, D.C.

Rhian E. Allvin, Chief Executive Officer of NAEYC

Rhian Evans Allvin serves as Chief Executive Officer of NAEYC. She is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization as well as overseeing the daily operations. With more than 70,000 members and 300 Affiliate components across the United States, NAEYC serves as the leading voice on behalf of young children and early childhood educators. Before joining NAEYC, Evans Allvin was a guiding force in Arizona’s early childhood movement for more than 15 years. In 2006 she co-wrote the citizen’s ballot initiative that created First Things First (FTF) which set aside Arizona’s tobacco tax monies for children birth to five and created a state agency whose purpose is to ensure all Arizona children start kindergarten prepared to be successful in school and in life. During her tenure the organization led and participated in a variety of Arizona statewide early childhood systems-building efforts, including panels that adopted the Arizona Model Early Childhood System Framework, the development of First Things First’s 10 School Readiness Indicators, the FTF National Research and Evaluation Advisory Panel, and the development and rollout of Quality First, Arizona’s quality improvement and rating system. Rhian holds a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University and a master’s degree in business administration from Arizona State University.

Peter A. Blake, State Council of Higher Education for VA
peter-a-blakePeter A. Blake joined SCHEV as Interim Executive Director on April 1, 2011, a position that was made permanent in January 2012. A former Virginia Secretary of Education, Mr. Blake previously worked at SCHEV as an Associate Director overseeing higher education analyses in the areas of faculty and staff compensation, higher education funding policies, academic libraries, distance learning and instructional technology, and student financial aid. He left SCHEV in 1999 to serve as the Legislative Fiscal Analyst for the Virginia General Assembly’s House Appropriations Committee. Before returning to SCHEV, Mr. Blake served as the Vice Chancellor of Workforce Development Services for the Virginia Community College System, where he led policy and budget development for state and federal workforce programs. Mr. Blake was the Deputy Secretary of Education from 2002 to 2005, and he served as the Secretary of Education under former Virginia Governor Mark Warner. In addition to his professional experience, Mr. Blake has served on various advisory committees, including the boards of the Virginia Commonwealth University Alumni Association, the Richmond Public Library, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Mr. Blake completed the Virginia Executive Institute and LEAD Virginia programs, as well as the Associates program through the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. He has a B.A. in History and an M.S. in Communications Management from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Gerry Cobb, Pritzker Children's Initiative

Gerry Cobb is the director of the Pritzker Children's Initiative at the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, overseeing the foundation's investments in early childhood development. Before joining the foundation, she served as state services director for the BUILD Initiative and was the primary liaison to states in supporting their efforts to build comprehensive early childhood systems.

Previously, she worked for 13 years for North Carolina's Smart Start Initiative. Prior to her move into the early childhood realm, she was executive director of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, a program officer for the Asia Foundation, and a legislative assistant to a member of Congress.

Michael Friedlander, Ph.D., Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute

Michael Friedlander, Ph.D., joined the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute as its founding Executive Director in June of 2010. In 2016 he was appointed as the Virginia Tech Vice President for Health Sciences and Technology.

Before joining Virginia Tech, Dr. Friedlander served as the Wilhelmina Robertson Professor of Neuroscience, the Chair of the Department of Neuroscience and the Director of Neuroscience Initiatives at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Prior to that, he was the founding Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and the inaugural holder of the Evelyn McKnight Professorship in learning, memory and aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. He carries out research on processes that underlie learning and visual processing in the brain in health, during development and after traumatic brain injury as well as for training the nation’s biomedical workforce. Dr. Friedlander is the founding President of the Association of Medical School Neuroscience Department Chairs. He has served as Chair of the Council of Academic Societies of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) representing over 100 scientific and medical associations, on the Howard Hughes Medical Institute-AAMC task force on the Scientific Foundations of Future Physicians, and currently serves on the AAMC National Research Advisory Panel as well as being an elected AAMC Distinguished Service Member. Dr. Friedlander was Chair of the Association of Intellectual Disabilities Research Centers and President of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.

He is a recipient of an Alfred Sloan Foundation Fellowship, an NIH Fogarty Senior International Fellowship and the American College of Physicians’ William Menninger Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Science of Mental Health and the University of Illinois Distinguished Alumnus award in Molecular and Integrative Physiology. He has held visiting Professorships at Oxford, the Australian National University and the University of Paris.

The Honorable David C. Gompert, RAND Corporation

david-c-gompertThe Honorable David C. Gompert is a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the U. S. Naval Academy and Senior Fellow at
the RAND Corporation. Mr. Gompert was Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence from 2009 to 2010. In
2010, he served as Acting Director of National Intelligence, in which capacity he was the President’s chief intelligence
advisor. Prior to that, he was a Senior Fellow at the RAND Corporation (2004-09) and was the Senior Advisor for
National Security and Defense, Coalition Provisional Authority, Iraq (2003-04). Mr. Gompert has been on the faculties
of the RAND Pardee Graduate School, the U. S. Naval Academy, the National Defense University, and Virginia
Commonwealth University. He was president of RAND Europe (2000-03) and vice president of RAND and director of
the National Defense Research Institute (1993-2000). From 1990 to 1993, Mr. Gompert served as Special Assistant to
President George H. W. Bush and Senior Director for Europe and Eurasia on the National Security Council staff. He has
held a number of positions at the State Department over numerous administrations, including Deputy to the Under
Secretary for Political Affairs (1982-83), Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs (1981-82), Deputy Director of
the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (1977-81), and Special Assistant to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (1973-75).
Mr. Gompert worked in the private sector from 1983-1990. At Unisys (1989-90), he was President of the Systems
Management Group and Vice President for Strategic Planning and Corporate Development. At AT&T (1983-89), he was
Vice President, Civil Sales and Programs, and Director of International Market Planning. Mr. Gompert is a director of
Bristow Group, Inc., a director of STG Group, Inc., a member of the Advisory Board of the U.S. Naval Academy Center
for Cyber Security Studies, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He served for many years on the board
of Hopkins House in Northern Virginia. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from the U. S. Naval
Academy and a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.

Rolf Grafwallner, Council of Chief State School Officers

Rolf Grafwallner is Program Director for Early Childhood Initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in Washington, D.C. where he works with states to improve learning opportunities and outcomes for young children. Prior to joining the Council, Dr. Grafwallner worked on early childhood policy and school reform as an Assistant State Superintendent at the Maryland State Department of Education. He has been a teacher, program director and administrator prior to joining the Department. He will support CEELO with expertise on large scale early childhood assessments, governance, finance, and organizational leadership, as well as early education systems building.

Dr. Robert D. Holsworth, Ph.D., DecideSmart
Bob Holsworth is a Managing Principal of DecideSmart. Prior to joining the firm, he was the Founding Director of the Center for Public Policy and the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. He also served as Dean and Interim Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences. Holsworth has occupied key positions in a number of major governmental initiatives. He was the Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Efficiency and Effectiveness in Virginia State Government from 2002-2004, a comprehensive analysis of the business practices of Virginia state government that became the foundation of an extensive governmental reform package. He has been the Director of the Virginia Executive Institute, the leading professional development program for state executives in the Commonwealth. He was Co-Staff Director of the Commission on the Future of Virginia’s Urban Areas, a gubernatorial commission that examined how Virginia’s urban areas could become flourishing parts of regional economies. Holsworth also has considerable experience designing, leading and managing complex survey research studies, regional data initiatives and countywide civic engagement projects.
Dr. Colleen A. Kraft, M.D., Cincinnati Children's Hospital

colleen-a-kraftColleen A. Kraft, MD, serves as Medical Director, Health Network at Cincinnati Children's. Her specialties include pediatric primary care innovation; home visiting in the medical home; and global neonatal mortality. Formerly, she was a
pediatric program director at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and senior medical officer for MajestaCare,
a Medicaid managed care organization in Virginia. Kraft is the co-author of the book Managing Chronic Health Conditions in Child Care and Schools.  She has been actively involved in pediatric engagement in school and child care
for children with special health care needs. She has served on the Early Brain and Childhood Development workgroup,
the Council on Community Pediatrics Executive Committee, and the National Medical Home Project Advisory
Committee at the American Academy of Pediatrics. She is a content expert for Text4Baby and serves on the National
Head Start Advisory Committee.

Christopher D. Lloyd, McGuireWoods Consulting

Chris Lloyd leads the McGuireWoods Consulting infrastructure and economic development team where he specializes in site selection and economic development incentives negotiations. Since 1998, Chris has worked on dozens of high profile, corporate expansions and relocations across the country. Chris has also worked closely with clients on numerous public-private partnership projects for transportation and other infrastructure, and played a leading role in the development and passage of Virginia's public-private partnership laws, which have since become model legislation for use in other states.

Prior to joining McGuireWoods Consulting, Chris served for nearly five years in the Office of the Secretary of Commerce and Trade under Virginia Governors Allen and Wilder. In this position, he was responsible for legislative, budgetary, and regulatory coordination and development within that Secretariat which managed the state's economic development programs.

Chris graduated from the College of William & Mary in 1993. He lives in Richmond with his wife, Megan, and children, Ryan and Meredith. 

Helene Stebbins, M.P.P., Alliance for Early Success
helene-stebbinsHelene Stebbins is Senior Policy Director for the Alliance for Early Success and President of HMS Policy Research. She provides strategic oversight to the Alliance for the knowledge development grants, with a focus on making the research more accessible to policymakers. In 2003 she launched HMS Policy Research, specializing in the coordination of the health, education, and care of children from birth through age five. In addition to the Alliance for Early Success, her clients include dozens of state and national organizations working to improve state policies for vulnerable young children. From 1996-2002 Helene worked in the Center for Best Practices at the National Governors Association. As the program director for children and youth policy, she served as a resource to governors and their senior advisors on child and family policy issues. By tracking state initiatives and best practices, Helene worked to promote the exchange of good ideas among policymakers to improve state policies. In 1994, Helene was a Presidential Management Intern for the Food Stamp Program in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She earned a Masters of Public Policy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and graduated cum laude from Carleton College in Minnesota.

Chewning Fellows

Thanks to the generosity of Board Member Emeritus, Thomas N. Chewning, VECF has in-house capacity for data analysis and policy development by retaining research and evaluation experts who facilitate the work of the Advisors Council, oversee and implement VECF's research and evaluation agenda, and manage data systems strategies.

Derek Chapman, Ph.D.

Since 2013, Derek Chapman, PhD has provided data, research, and evaluation expertise to the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. Dr. Chapman is the Associate Director for Research at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Center on Society and Health, where he leads a number of projects looking at the health implications of social factors such as education, income, neighborhood and community environmental conditions. He has been a faculty member in the VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Division of Epidemiology since 2004. His research interests include maternal and child health epidemiology and the intersection of biologic and social factors on child health and development. In addition to authoring scientific publications and presentations on these topics, Dr. Chapman has 14 years of experience working in state health departments conducting applied public health research to inform programs and policy. From 2004-2013 he served as the State Maternal and Child Health Epidemiologist at the Virginia Department of Health, where he led maternal and child health surveillance efforts. This included creating and analyzing linked datasets that identify individual and community-level factors that contribute throughout the life course to health inequities in birth and developmental outcomes. The results of these analyses were primarily used to inform maternal and child health programs and policy. Dr. Chapman has a PhD in Psychology (Applied Developmental track) from the University of Miami.


Kelly Myles, Ph.D.

Kelly earned her Bachelor of the Arts degree in English at the University of Virginia. After several years in corporate marketing, Kelly taught at a privately-funded preschool in Richmond, Virginia, that served children from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. Inspired by her experience at the preschool, Kelly went on to earn a Master in Social Work degree and PhD in Public Policy at Virginia Commonwealth University, focusing her graduate research on child welfare and disability policy. After receiving her PhD, Kelly provided legislative representation to the U.S. Congress for children’s organizations, such as Prevent Child Abuse America and the national Association of University Centers on Disabilities, helping them advance their public policy agendas, conduct outcome and economic analyses, and draft white papers, Congressional committee testimony and legislation language. She also co-chaired a national child abuse & disabilities task force that helped draft language for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act when it was up for reauthorization in 2000. Currently based in Charlottesville, Virginia, Kelly operates her own consulting firm, conducting data tracking, analysis and visualization, program development and evaluation, and research for early childhood organizations. Kelly has a particular passion for supporting state and local efforts to integrate data latitudinally and longitudinally to improve child outcomes.

John Morgan, Ph.D.

John Morgan is a child psychologist and public policy professional who now conducts independent policy research on issues impacting young children. His most recent work has focused on education issues and especially early education. Previously he enjoyed a long public service career managing community mental health and substance use programs for Chesterfield County’s behavioral health department. He pioneered prevention initiatives in the community behavioral health field and had a leadership role in state and local efforts promoting prevention approaches. Several years ago he left his position as Deputy Director to begin a second career at Voices for Virginia’s Children, first as a policy analyst and then for five-plus years as Executive Director. His tenure was marked by steps to strengthen Voices’ influence, including improvements to the Kids Count Data Center, creation of the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, leadership of reform efforts in the child welfare system, and leadership of coalitions that helped expand funding for VPI and child care assistance. 

John has a doctorate in Child Clinical Psychology from Penn State. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and recipient of the Distinguished Practice Award from its community psychology division. His prevention work was honored with the McNeill Award for Innovative Practice   from the National Council of Community Mental Health Centers.