We work at the intersection of compassion and action, bringing diverse perspectives and experiences to the mission of transforming STEM for all youth. Our values include purposeful passion, collaboration, inclusion, empowerment, flexibility, problem-solving, respect, and growth and learning.
Senior Research Scientist (she/her)
Brenda believes in the potential of research to transform practice and works to make research accessible to a broad audience of educators and other professionals invested in equity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Brenda has served as Co-Principal Investigator for multiple NSF-funded projects focused on equity in STEM and is the co-author of the publication, SciGirls Strategies: How to Engage Girls in STEM. Brenda received a PhD in Educational Psychology from UC-Santa Barbara and now lives in Portland, OR, with her husband and two daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors on foot, bike, and skis.
Assistant Director of Programs (she/her)
Tara brings over 10 years of experience in museum and STEM education to her role as Assistant Director of Programs, where she leads a wide range of national STEM initiatives. She is Co-Principal Investigator of the NSF-funded Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Science and Literacy, where she leads the development of the train-the-trainer network.
Tara is passionate about growing and supporting STEM projects that strive to broaden participation of traditionally underrepresented audiences in STEM. Prior to joining the NGCP team, she led professional development and outreach efforts for The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA.
Tara has a degree in Anthropology from Barnard College, Columbia University. She currently lives in Philly with her husband Shawn.
Senior Network Manager (she/her)
Emily Early brings experience in project management, communications, and partnership development to her role at NGCP. She previously worked for The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, PA, as a program manager for professional development, outreach, and national programs. She has also worked for a variety of arts and cultural organizations across Pennsylvania as a program coordinator and educator, and in audience development.
Emily is passionate about creating sustainable projects and systems that address accessibility and meaningful engagement in STEM for traditionally underrepresented audiences. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Performance from Lycoming College and a Master of Science in Arts Administration from Drexel University's Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.
After living in Pennsylvania for over eight years, Emily recently relocated to her hometown of Houston, Texas. She enjoys cuddling with her corgi, watching basketball (go Rockets!), and spending time with her large family.
Digital Operations Specialist (she/her)
Maggie has worked in informal STEM education in a variety of roles, including museum educator, program development specialist, and summer camp coordinator. Maggie has a Bachelor of Science in Geology. Her passions include science communication, shrinking the STEM gender gap, and dinosaurs. Maggie has lived all over the US and currently calls Colorado home.
Director of Digital (she/her)
Jolene leads digital content and services for NGCP. She oversees staff and products that support NGCP’s mission, brand, and messaging through key distribution points, including the organization’s websites, blogs, and social media channels. She also works with partner organizations to leverage data and content synergies.
During her career, Jolene has written for and produced several STEM and children's publications and websites, working with PBS, the National Science Foundation, American Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, National Geographic, and Twin Cities Public Television. She’s also worked as an editor and online producer for Discovery Communications and on Assignment Discovery, which was awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Series.
Helping girls see and meet diverse, inspiring women in STEM is what Jolene loves most about her work with NGCP. She wants all girls to be able to envision the many STEM career paths open to them, not be limited to the immediate role models in their lives. Jolene lives in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Senior Project Manager (she/her)
Katarina (Kata) brings experience in report writing, gender analysis, and project coordination to her role as a Senior Project Manager at NGCP. Previously, Kata worked as an analyst for the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, conducting research and gender analysis to support the organization’s advocacy of the UN Security Council. She also worked at the local level as a Research and Policy Analyst for the Milwaukee County Government, coordinating the policy development process, through research, writing, and collaboration with elected officials and community leaders, on a variety of social and economic rights issues.
Kata is passionate about women’s rights and feminist approaches to research and programming. Kata holds a BA in Human Rights Studies and Political Science from the University of Dayton and an MA in International Affairs from The New School. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She enjoys hiking with her poodle and traveling as often as possible.
Chief Executive Officer and Founder (she/her)
Karen A. Peterson has over 25 years of experience in education as a classroom teacher, university instructor, teacher educator, program administrator, and researcher. NGCP seeks to maximize access to shared resources for public and private sector organizations interested in expanding girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The overarching goal of NGCP is to use the leverage of a network or collaboration of individual girl-serving STEM programs to create the tipping point for gender equity in STEM. Currently, 33 Collaboratives, serving 41 states, facilitate collaboration between 42,500 organizations who serve 20.2 million girls and 10 million boys.
Peterson is also Co-Principal Investigator for Leap into Science: Cultivating a National Network for Informal Science and Literacy, STEM Integration into Digital Forensics Science Learning, SciGirls Code: A National Connected Learning Model to Integrate STEM Learning with Middle School Girls, and Code: SciGirls! Media to Engage Girls in Computing Pathways. All of these projects are funded by the National Science Foundation and address gender, racial, and socioeconomic underrepresentation in STEM fields. Many of them access NGCP’s national network and dissemination tools to distribute, scale-up, and/or replicate project outcomes. These projects have leveraged Karen’s expertise in STEM equity project development, effective national scale-up strategies, dissemination, and capacity building.
Peterson serves on local and national boards that develop and administer programs designed to increase underrepresented students’ interests in STEM. She has served on the Board of Directors for True Child, an independent think tank that translates research and knowledge on the impact of gender stereotypes into a range of effective interventions, policies, and other resources for the organizations and policy makers. Peterson has published in The Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering and CBE Life Sciences Education, a journal published by the American Society for Cell Biology.She co-authored evaluation reports and promising practices reports in informal information technology education for girls for the National Center for Women & Information Technology. In 2013, Peterson was profiled in STEMConnector’s™ 100 Women Leaders in STEM publication. A graduate of the University of Washington, Bothell campus, her Master’s thesis focused on gendered attitudes towards computer use in education.
STEM Program Specialist (she/her)
Kelly manages the Youth Advisory Board. She received her MA from Arizona State University, in evolutionary anthropology, and has a strong background in scientific research, specifically in comparative and developmental psychology. She has conducted numerous studies at various social cognition labs (including at the Max Planck Institute, Yale University, and Arizona State University), working with a range of nonhuman primate species (mainly chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys) and children. She has even presented her research at Phoenix Comicon dressed as Zelda's Link!
Kelly is passionate about promoting equity in STEM and has worked at the Children's Creativity Museum, the San Francisco Zoo, and STEMful. In her free time, she enjoys aerial dancing, going to concerts, and hiking.
Senior Manager, Social Media Strategy (she/her)
Raisa brings experience in Community Engagement, Digital Marketing, and Science Communication to NGCP. Raisa's past experiences include social media strategy, community outreach, digital engagement, and brand management, working in both the nonprofit and private sectors.
Raisa is passionate about creating welcoming experiences personally and digitally for all and aspiring to contribute to a more hopeful future by creating content for deeper connections with each other and our world. Supporting and increasing gender equity in STEM education and career is a personal and professional mission.
Raisa enjoys exploring the outdoors; connecting with nature, sports, and dogs; and listening to audiobooks and podcasts.
Director of Operations (she/her)
A native to Seattle, Kathy Thomas is the Director of Operations, supporting a wide range of projects and promoting a culture of high performance and continuous improvement that values learning and a commitment to quality. Prior to joining the National Girls Collaborative, she worked for 10 years in project management for a software company in the financial industry.
Kathy's passion to make a positive impact and participate in a more equitable and thriving workforce prompted her to search for a position in the nonprofit sector. This led her to NGCP. When asked what excites her most about her work, she replied, “I enjoy working with smart people on a shared mission to do good things and make a difference in this world. Also, there is never a dull moment. You can start the day wearing one hat and by lunch you may have swapped that hat three or four times. The NGCP way is all about continuous learning and high-quality work, which keeps things fresh and allows me to flex my creative muscles.”
Kathy is a hi-fi enthusiast and in her spare time enjoys replicating recipes from America's Test Kitchen, Maker/DIY/upcycling projects, live music, and pursuing the perfect cup of coffee.