Dr. MaryBeth Talbot is a new project manager at Public Policy Associates with extensive experience designing and managing research projects and program evaluations. Trained as an experimental psychologist, she has expertise in quantitative analytical methods and conducts mixed-methods research that delivers deep insights for our clients. She has a deep commitment to equity, which she applies in all her research.

Tell us about your education.

I have a doctoral degree from Loyola University of Chicago in applied social psychology. I was always interested in applied research positions, rather than more traditional theoretical research positions. Prior to PPA, I worked in several different universities in centers that specialize in practical applied research and evaluation. My undergraduate degree was in philosophy, where I honed my critical thinking skills, and it definitely influenced my understanding and approach to research methods, in particular. Throughout my education, I have pursued things that I felt could better the world.

How did you get interested in public policy?

My first interest was in criminal justice, primarily racial inequities in the criminal justice system. That came from being an observer of the world and seeing a great deal of inequality and discrimination. My interests and expertise have expanded throughout my education and career.

What other public policy areas interest you.

I have an eclectic set of interests, which was one of the things that appealed to me about PPA. I have a strong background in education policy, particularly STEM education. I am also interested in, and have experience with, criminal justice and public health policy-areas. My dissertation was on stigma related to HIV and the impact of the first disclosure experience and internalized stigma on health outcomes.

What are your key skill set areas?

I see myself first and foremost as a methodologist. I love thinking about ways to design studies. Having a background in experimental psychology has prepared me to design rigorous studies, evaluate the strengths (and weaknesses) of research designs, and identify possible alternative explanations for research and evaluation findings. I am primarily a quantitative researcher and have expertise in a variety of statistical techniques. To a lesser degree, I think I bring some content expertise in the area of STEM education. I have a pretty good background, particularly as it relates to science and the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in K-12 education.

What are you working on at PPA?

I am managing an early childhood project, the evaluation of Michigan’s reimagined Great Start to Quality rating system. Right now, we are doing quite a bit of primary data collection. I am also doing a smaller evaluation of a dual-credit program at Piedmont Virginia Community College, aimed at preparing high school and community college students for technical workforce positions. I have just started a “Covid Classes” project looking at the reasons students didn’t enroll in college during or after the pandemic.

What is it like working at a virtual company like PPA?

It is not entirely different from what I had been doing. During the pandemic, everybody was working pretty much remote, and then, when things did open up, a lot of people just didn’t return or returned at a lower rate. I do like the flexibility that PPA brings. And I think PPA does a really good job of trying to get people to know one another in our team meetings. I did make it to Lansing in December for the PPA holiday party. It was nice to meet people in person.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m really into doing hot yoga. I do that several days a week. It has been a stress reliever, and now it’s an integral part of my life. I have a French Bulldog, Quincy, and I spend a lot of time with him, and we are working on training. I also love sports and right now I spend a fair amount of time watching college basketball. As a native Iowan, I am a Hawkeye fan.