John Martinez and Leigh Parise Assume New Leadership Roles for MDRC

MDRC is pleased to announce that John Martinez has been named its first Vice President of Evidence to Practice and that Leigh Parise is now Director of Program Development.

In his new role, Martinez will work with colleagues to expand MDRC’s capacity-building with education and social service organizations, helping them use data and evidence to improve their practice at a large scale. With its mission to build and apply evidence to improve the lives of people living with low incomes, MDRC has long worked with organizations and systems to design, test, and effectively implement new avenues of opportunity.

Martinez’s background has prepared him well to step into this new role, having spent his career translating evidence to practice and collaborating with service providers, public agencies, funders, and many other organizations. He joined MDRC in 1997 and has served as deputy director of MDRC’s Youth Development, Criminal Justice, and Employment policy area, where he focused predominantly on projects targeting young people, particularly those with disabilities and those in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. His most recent role at MDRC has been as vice president in charge of program development activities, grants management, and funder relations. He is the former chair of the board of directors of the National Youth Employment Coalition and a past president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

Before joining MDRC, Martinez conducted research in a substance abuse treatment center and in a community health center with patients with schizophrenia. He began his career as a food stamp eligibility worker. Martinez holds a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Virginia.

Parise has been serving as deputy director of program development, where she has focused on incubating education and workforce projects and work on research methods. Since joining MDRC in 2011, Parise has been a lead researcher on several MDRC research projects, including large-scale randomized controlled trials, quasi-experimental studies, and descriptive studies. She is also the host of Evidence First, MDRC’s podcast.

Parise received her PhD in human development and social policy from Northwestern University and a master’s in teaching from Pace University. Parise began her career as an elementary school teacher and she is also the cofounder of Classroom Champions, a nonprofit organization that empowers children to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally through the mentorship and mindset of world-class athletes.

“I am thrilled to work with these two talented professionals in their new capacities to advance MDRC’s mission,” said MDRC President Virginia Knox. “They each bring terrific gifts of collaboration, a passion for making a difference, and a deep understanding of how to leverage evidence to create more equitable structures and outcomes for Americans who have been excluded from opportunity.”