Our Team

Jonathan F. Zaff, Ph.D.
Jonathan F. Zaff, Ph.D. is executive director of the Center for Promise. He is also a research associate professor in the School of Education at Boston University. His research focuses primarily on understanding how to create the conditions within which all children and youth thrive academically, socially, vocationally, and civically. The results of his work have appeared in numerous peer-reviewed journals and books and presented at local, national, and international conferences. Prior to joining America's Promise, Dr. Zaff was a research associate at Child Trends and founder of the youth voice organization, 18to35 (merged with Mobilize.org). Dr. Zaff received his Ph.D. in lifespan developmental psychology from the University of Georgia.

Marissa Cole
Marissa Cole currently serves as Associate Director for the Center for Promise. Prior to joining the Center, she served as Deputy Chief of Staff for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education. In this capacity, she advised the Secretary on policies including dropout prevention and recovery, interagency collaboration, served as legislative director and helped manage the day-to-day operations of the office. Previously, Cole was Assistant Director of the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy, a non-partisan non-profit education policy think tank in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Cole also formerly served as Legislative and Budget Director for Massachusetts State Senator Ed Augustus. She earned her Ed.M. in Education Policy and Management from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and received her B.A. in Child Development from Tufts University, where her studies focused on positive youth development.

Elizabeth Pufall Jones
Dr. Elizabeth Pufall Jones is a Research Scientist for the Center for Promise, focusing on the Center's qualitative research agenda. Her background is in cultural psychology, in particular the processes and contexts associated with a multi-cultural individual’s navigation and negotiation of the multiple cultural worlds in which they live. Dr. Pufall Jones received her Ph.D. In Child Development from the Eliot Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University.

Shannon Varga
Dr. Shannon Varga is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for Promise. Her research focuses on taking ecological approaches to promote healthy development for youth by optimizing relationships, settings, and curricula to best meet youths needs. She also aims to have a deeper understanding of the complex role race, ethnicity, and culture play in youth development. Dr. Varga earned her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology: Applied Developmental Science from the University of Virginia Curry School of Education.


Craig McClay
J. Craig McClay serves as Advisor for Youth Engagement and Research Associate at the Center for Promise. Craig was born in Baton Rouge before moving to Boston as a teenager in 1988. Shortly after arriving in Boston, Craig began working with young people. For over twenty-five years he has engaged, recruited, trained, organized, supervised, hired, mentored, and supported thousands of young people as they develop into dynamic leaders at home, school and in their communities. As a lifelong student in the art and science of group facilitation, Craig's passion for social justice fuels his drive to create environments that engage people and provide opportunities to share dreams and celebrate diversity, while aligning values with resources and taking concrete steps together to problem solve and discover ways to create pathways for happier and healthier life outcomes for all.

Catalina Tang
Catalina Tang serves as a research associate at Center for Promise. Catalina was born and raised in Colombia to Chinese parents. She earned her bachelor's degree in Sociology and Linguistics at Boston College and her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management at Northeastern University. Her personal experiences as an immigrant young womyn in various out of school time youth programs across the greater Boston area have empowered her to continue creating spaces for social transformation and empowerment for youth of color, particularly with Latinas and Asian American/immigrant youth. She has coordinated various youth programs on leadership, college access, and youth participatory action research through a critical social justice lens. Catalina is also a writer and a visual artist. Her mediums are digital storytelling, acrylic, watercolor, graphite, charcoal, and pastels.

Miriam Rollock
Miriam Rollock serves as Associate for Policy and Operations at the Center for Promise. In this role, she translates the Center’s insights into actionable strategies to affect positive change on issues that impact young people. She also works to strengthen the Center’s operational infrastructure to promote efficiencies and positive performance outcomes. Miriam has a deep background in education policy from academic study and work at state and local education agencies. She also brings entrepreneurial and operational experience from her recent work at a tech startup. Miriam graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in Education Policy and Political Science.

Faculty Research Fellows:

  • Dr. Linda Sprague Martinez, Boston University
  • Dr. Michelle Porche, Boston University

Doctoral Research Assistants:

  • Jingtong Pan, Tufts University
  • Sean Flanagan, Boston University
  • Max Margolius, Boston University

 

 

(Updated April 21, 2017)