Nancy Brune, Ph.D.
Nancy Brune, Ph.D. is the founding Executive Director of the Guinn Center, a statewide policy research center providing data-driven analysis on a broad number of policy issues. She is a Senior Fellow at the UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law and serves on the Law and Leadership Program Advisory Council. In 2016, President Obama appointed Dr. Brune to the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. She is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed journal articles, reports, essays, blogs, and op-ed pieces on topics ranging from economic security, health outcomes, public sector reforms, education, energy security, public security, and natural resource security. Her work has appeared in the IMF Staff Papers, Social Science and Medicine, Foreign Policy Analysis, and Americas Quarterly. Dr. Brune received her Ph.D. from Yale University and her Master of Public Policy and B.A. degrees from Harvard University. She has held research fellowships at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Brune has compiled two original, global databases on financial openness and privatization, which have been used by researchers at the International Monetary Fund, University of California at Berkeley, Harvard Business School, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Prior to joining the Guinn Center, she was a Senior Policy Analyst at Sandia National Laboratories, where she worked on issues of national security, energy security, homeland security, water-energy-security nexus, and technology and policy. In addition, Dr. Brune served as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for A New American Security, a bipartisan national security think tank. Previously, she was the Director of Research and Policy, as well as the Director of the Energy Security Policy Initiative at UNLV’s Institute for Security Studies. Dr. Brune has consulted for the Harvard School of Public Health, JPMorgan Chase, U.S. International Development Corporation, and the World Bank. She has taught at the College of Southern Nevada, Nevada State College, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
The product of a Mexican father and an English mother, Dr. Brune was raised in a household that emphasized public service. Dr. Brune sits on the Institutional Advisory Council of the College of Southern Nevada, where she served as inaugural chair from 2015-2019. She was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to sit on the English Mastery Council and the Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates board of directors, where she chairs the Strategic Planning committee. She is a member of the CCSD School Justice Partnership Committee, the Nevada Children’s Commission, and the Clark County Department of Social Services Citizens Advisory Committee, and has served on GOED’s Knowledge Fund Advisory Council, the Blue Ribbon for Kids Commission, Clark County Committee on Community Priorities, Clark County Citizen Review Board, Clark County School District’s School Comparison Report Committee, and the Advisory Council on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Dr. Brune serves on the boards of Goodwill Industries of Southern Nevada (Secretary), Get Outdoors Nevada, Nevada Humanities, Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada, Jazz Outreach Initiative, and Preserve Nevada. She previously served on the boards of Southern Nevada Public Television (as President), Discovery Children’s Museum, KIDS COUNT Nevada Executive Committee, Create-a-Change-Now, and Got Core Values! She has served as a bilingual CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and as a bilingual mediator with the Neighborhood Justice Center, and on the Yale University Graduate School Alumni Association Executive Committee. Dr. Brune is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Economic Club of Nevada, the Climate and Security Working Group, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Women’s Executive Council, and the Pacific Council on International Policy, and is a Truman National Security Project Fellow. She is a graduate of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Las Vegas (Class of 2010). In 2015, she was named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the Las Vegas Business Press. In 2016, Dr. Brune was selected as a Gard Jameson Fellow. In 2018, she was named one the 15 most influential Hispanics in Nevada by El Concilio Hispano Media Group.
Dr. Brune has lived and/or worked in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and the Philippines. In 2013, she graduated from the Executive Leadership Program Fellow at the National Hispana Leadership Institute. In her spare time, she writes on issues of national security and energy security. Follow on Twitter @NancyBrune
Kenneth J. Retzl, Ph.D.
Director of Education Policy
Kenneth Retzl, Ph.D. is the Director of Education Policy. He comes to the Guinn Center from the Clark County School District (CCSD), where he began as a member of the Research Department and left as the Director of Research, Accountability, and Data Services. While at the District, Dr. Retzl worked alongside the State of Nevada Department of Education and provided suggestions for the current Nevada School Performance Framework. He also collaborated with executive leadership at the district to provide data and analyses of important topics. A sample of these projects included expenditure-to-performance metrics, survey design and development, pay for performance, and an early warning system to identify students who might fall off track to graduation high school prior to beginning their high school career. Dr. Retzl has a passion for ensuring the Nevada educational system fulfills its promise to every student to provide an educational experience that prepares them for the future. Prior to joining the Clark County School District, Dr. Retzl worked for two accounting firms as a Certified Public Accountant in Madison, Wisconsin. During this time, his primary focus was non-profit organizations (including Head Start agencies), community colleges, and local governments (including a number of school districts). He has published several peer-reviewed articles on topics of governance, transparency, and partisan politics. Dr. Retzl was born in Iowa and received his B.A. from Clarke University in Iowa, and his Master of Arts and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Retzl is an adjunct professor at UNLV. Follow him on Twitter @KenRetzl.
Director of Economic Policy
Meredith Levine is the Director of Economic Policy for the Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities. She is responsible for analyzing public policies related to economic development, transportation, and natural resources, as well as fiscal, budgetary, and tax policies. Prior to joining the Guinn Center, Levine worked for the Surveys and Investigations Division of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee and as an analyst for the Congressional Research Service. She has also conducted research for Yale University Department of Economics faculty on a broad range of economic, political, and policy-related questions. Levine majored in Government at Cornell University, receiving her A.B. with distinction in all subjects, and holds each an M.A. and M.Phil. from Yale University, both in Political Science. Currently, she is completing her doctorate in Political Science at Yale. Her dissertation is centered on policy development and large national infrastructure projects over time. Follow her on Twitter @MeredithLVNV.
Director of Data and Analytics
Daniel Liden is Director of Data Analytics at the Guinn Center. In his role, he is responsible for conducting data-driven policy analysis and for supporting ongoing research and data analysis at the Guinn Center. Mr. Liden received his B.A. in the History of Science at the University of Chicago. Following this, he worked for several years for Context Matters, Inc., a data analysis company focused on global pharmaceutical reimbursement policies and data. While working at Context Matters, Mr. Liden wrote extensively about drug pricing and reimbursement practices. He went on to receive an M.S. in Statistics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. His thesis work comprised a simulation-based comparison of statistical tests for heterogeneity of risk difference between patient subgroups in clinical trials. Prior to starting at the Guinn Center, Mr. Liden was a graduate research fellow in the Data Science for the Public Good program at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech. Mr. Liden also worked on a variety of projects for for-profit and nonprofit organizations as a statistics and data science consultant. Follow him on Twitter @danjliden.
Lorena Rodriguez Rios
Communications Specialist & Bilingual Policy Analyst
Lorena Rodriguez Rios joins the Guinn Center as the Communications Specialist and Bilingual Policy Analyst. Ms. Rodriguez Rios has almost a decade of experience working as an operations and production manager in the private sector. She has extensive knowledge of customer service practices, resource optimization, and quality control, and is well-versed in both quantitative and qualitative analysis. Ms. Rodriguez Rios has a B.A. in Industrial Engineering from the Technological Institute in Mexico. She also served as a university-level instructor. Currently, she is pursuing her M.A. in Hispanic Studies at UNLV, where she also serves as an instructor.
Youth Project Coordinator
Alexa Alessi is our Youth Project Coordinator, leading our Civic Voices for Health “Building Blocks” grant which seeks to strengthen youth civic engagement across Nevada. Ms. Alessi graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a B.A. in Criminal Justice. Ms. Alessi worked as a grant program coordinator for the University of Nevada Reno’s Counseling Services division for more than four years doing mental health outreach. As a grant coordinator, Ms. Alessi has planned and hosted community outreach events and is experienced with social media marketing. Ms. Alessi was born and raised in Lake Tahoe, California and enjoys baking pastries in her free time.
Jessica Barr is a Data Analyst and School Improvement Consultant. As a graduate of the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, Ms. Barr earned her teaching credentials and began her career as an elementary school teacher. She went on to earn her Master’s degree in Advanced Teaching and Leadership with her administrative credentials from Sierra Nevada College.
Ms. Barr shifted to an executive role in a charter school system where she served as Data Analyst and Programs Director. Her passion for data-driven decision making led to much success in the eight schools she served, who all achieved 5-star status. Ms. Barr’s dedication to replicating this success in Nevada schools has led her to serving over 50 schools across Nevada today as a Data Analyst and School Improvement Consultant. She specializes in predictive analytics, data visualization, accountability/performance metrics, and staff development.
Ms. Barr’s inherent belief that when educators, students, stakeholders, and policy makers have the right information they can make the right decisions, led her to pursue her Doctorate in Organizational Change and Leadership at the University of Southern California. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate with her research focusing on the correlation between school board governance behaviors and improved student outcomes. Over the past year, Ms. Barr’s research has led her to train with Lone Star Governance founder, AJ Crabill, in hopes of replicating their successful Texas governance training program here in Nevada as the first certified coach for Silver State Governance. In addition to work and school, Barr is a university guest lecturer, national conference presenter, and serves on the board of directors for the Heroes of America Foundation. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, experiencing the culinary scene with her husband, Chef Steve Barr, and spending time with their four children.
Victor Wakefield, Ph.D.
Victor Wakefield is a Senior Vice President, Regional Operations for Teach For America (TFA). Mr. Wakefield began his career in education in 2007 as a language arts teacher at the West Gary Lighthouse Charter School in Gary, Indiana. After seeing the transformational potential of teachers, Mr. Wakefield joined Teach For America’s recruitment team and led efforts to recruit exceptional and diverse leaders to teach in low income schools at Duke University and Princeton University, his alma mater. In 2011 he took his first ever trip to Nevada in order to interview for the Teach For America – Las Vegas Valley Executive Director job and led TFA’s regional efforts in Southern Nevada from Spring 2011 to Summer 2015. Beginning Summer 2015, Mr. Wakefield joined Teach For America’s national team and now has a hand in ensuring that all Teach For America regions foster progress and momentum towards the mission of enlisting, developing, and mobilizing as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.
In the summer of 2015 Mr. Wakefield was appointed to the Nevada State Board of Education by Governor Brian Sandoval to represent District 1 where he served until January 2017. In addition, he represented the State Board of Education on the Senate Bill 474 Task Force to study educator professional development in Nevada and recommend budget and legislation/regulation changes and adopt statewide standards for educator professional development. Mr. Wakefield is a graduate of The Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Institute of Nevada and was Class of 2013 for the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Las Vegas.
Ken Turner, Ph.D.
Dr. Ken Turner has led educational change efforts in the United States and abroad. In the U.S., he provided leadership for an award-winning school, a high-performing district, a reform-minded state system of 800,000 students, and the fifth largest district in the nation. Outside the U.S., he has led, designed, or operated schools in Africa and Asia and has advised non-governmental organizations that span the globe.
In December 2019, Dr. Turner was named Assistant to the Senior Deputy Superintendent for Equity and Engagement in the Denver Public Schools (DPS) where he will serve as a thought partner to the Superintendent and senior district leaders. Dr. Turner was enlisted to help leadership identify strategic opportunities, manage critical objectives, and drive organizational change that is designed to advance the equity mission of DPS.
Previously, Dr. Turner directed the Principal Preparation Project for the University of the State of New York, the largest comprehensive university system in the nation. Funded by the Wallace Foundation and working under the auspices of the Regents Research Fund, the initiative works with districts, universities, and third party providers to establish partnerships that use data, tools, and policies to build local capacity in ways that expand the supply and enhance the quality of school building leaders.
Leslie Strasser Murdock, Ph.D.
Dr. Leslie Strasser Murdock is the owner of the ELM Educational Consulting Firm, a firm dedicated to ensuring that children receive the best possible education for their unique learning styles and needs. Under ELM, Dr. Murdock represents children and families looking to obtain necessary school services and also represents the Clark County Department of Family Services (DFS) where she acts as the Educational Liaison between DFS and the Clark County School District. She is currently an adjunct professor at Nevada State College and at the University of Nevada Las Vegas William S. Boyd School of Law where she teaches education advocacy and law courses. Dr. Murdock obtained a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and a J.D. in Law at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, a Masters of Arts in Learning Disabilities from Columbia University, and a BA in Sociology and Elementary Teaching Certification from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Dr. Murdock serves on several organization’s community advisory boards including the Clark County School District, Women’s Research Institute of Nevada, Anti-Defamation League of Nevada, Jewish Federation of Southern Nevada, and Jewish Community Center. Dr. Murdock was selected as a member of the 2015 Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Las Vegas Class. Before opening her educational consulting practice, she worked for several years at the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada (LACSN) in the Special Education Program and at UNLV’s Kids Court School. While at LACSN, Dr. Murdock helped develop and launch LACSN’s Educational Surrogate Parent Program, which trains volunteers to become parents for educational purposes for children with disabilities in the foster care system. Before moving to Las Vegas, Dr. Murdock was an elementary school teacher and the Director of Education of the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle, Washington. She enjoys running, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family and two young daughters.
Carrie Sampson, Ph.D.
Dr. Carrie Sampson is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her educational leadership, policy, and community organizing research has been published in Teachers College Record, Urban Education, and most recently, in the edited book Law & Educational Inequality: Removing Barriers to Educational Opportunities. Dr. Sampson’s current research project is on the role of school boards in addressing equity-oriented policies in the U.S. Mountain West. Dr. Sampson earned her Ph.D. in Public Affairs from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), where she was also a UNLV Foundation Fellow. She received M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University, a UNLV graduate certificate in Women’s Studies, and a B.S. in Economics from University of Nevada, Reno. Dr. Sampson has also taught courses in education, public administration, women’s studies, and leadership.