Center for Public Policy Priorities
Meet Our Staff
Ann Beeson, Executive Director (@AnnBeesonCPPP)
A renowned social justice lawyer, former philanthropy executive, and frequent public speaker and writer, Ann Beeson joined the Center in 2013. She was previously the Executive Director of U.S. Programs at the Open Society Foundations, where she promoted human rights, justice, and accountability nationwide. Beeson was the national Associate Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked from 1995-2007. She argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court, litigated numerous cases around the country, and launched groundbreaking programs to stop the erosion of civil liberties in the name of national security and to protect free speech and privacy on the Internet. Beeson has been recognized as one of the nation’s top lawyers by American Lawyer Magazine and the National Law Journal. A proud Texan, Beeson has embraced a wide range of innovative strategies to advance social change. Before joining the Center, she launched a new non-profit to involve the creative sector in social change. In 2012-13, she was a Senior Fellow and Lecturer at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas, where she co-produced a public media series to inspire more people to get engaged in their communities. She grew up in Dallas, Texas, and received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas. Beeson obtained her law degree from Emory University School of Law, and served as law clerk to the Honorable Barefoot Sanders, then chief judge of the Northern District of Texas.

Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director, Health and Wellness Program Director (@adunkCPPP)
Anne Dunkelberg joined the center in 1994. She is one of the state's leading experts in policy and budget issues relating to health care access. In 2007, she was named Consumer Advocate of the Year by Families USA in Washington, D.C. Before coming to the center, she served as Program Director for Acute Care in the Texas Medicaid Director's Office and spent six years with the Texas Research League, where she authored numerous reports on Texas health and human services issues and tracked state health and human services budget issues. She earned dual degrees from The University of Texas at Austin—a Bachelor of Arts (Plan II), magna cum laude, in 1979 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs in 1988.

Frances Deviney, Ph.D., Associate Director, Research and Planning Program Director (@FrancesDeviney)
As an Associate Director, Dr. Frances Deviney coordinates the Organizational Development work at the Center and oversees many of the Center’s data-based advocacy projects, including the Texas KIDS COUNT project and the Better Texas Family Budgets tool. Before coming to the Center in 2005, she conducted education research at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and was Legislative Director for a Texas State Representative. She earned her BA in Psychology from Vanderbilt University and Doctorate in Developmental Psychology from The University of Utah.
Communications and Outreach
Oliver Bernstein, Communications Director (@oliveroliver)
Oliver Bernstein joined the Center in 2014. A fluent Spanish speaker who has lived and worked along the Texas-Mexico border and nationally, Bernstein brings more than nine years of communications experience to the Center. He most recently directed a grassroots communications strategy for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which aims to replace coal with clean energy. Bernstein also directed the Sierra Club’s national diversity media program from 2006 to 2009, serving as a bilingual on-the-record spokesman and developing Hispanic media outreach plans. As a former board member and board president of American Gateways, which works to ensure that immigrants and refugees have equal access to justice in Texas, Bernstein led a successful re-branding effort and spearheaded plans for their first annual benefit gala.

Gina ChavezCommunications Associate (@ginachavez)
Gina Chavez joined the Center in 2010. She works on all publications, marketing and social media for the center. She was the Communications Coordinator at Texas Pharmacy Association for six years before leaving the country to volunteer for eight months in El Salvador. Chavez is also a native Austinite and an award-winning musician. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism with a concentration in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin.

Lisa Benjamin Goodgame, Communications Associate

Lisa Benjamin Goodgame joined the Center in 2014. She’s a fifth generation Texan, with roots in Houston and Galveston. Goodgame brings broad experience to the communications team, with a specialty in digital media. She began her career in non-profits at the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, the world’s largest archive of Holocaust survivor and witness testimonies, where she was responsible for outreach in the academic community. Since moving to Austin, Goodgame has worked with several non-profits, including the Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federation of Greater Austin, where she served as the organizational spokesperson. From 2011 to 2013 she worked for the U.S. Department of State as the press officer and social media director at the American embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where she grew the embassy’s online reach over 1000% in two years. A proficient Russian speaker, Goodgame holds a B.A. in Russian from Trinity University in San Antonio and M.A degrees from the University of Southern California.

Communications intern:

Deirdre Anderson, CFRE, Development Director (@Lild1968)
Deirdre Anderson joined the Center as Development Director in 2012 and oversees development activities for the organization,including the annual Legacy Luncheon fundraising event. Beginning her career in fundraising in 1998, she has worked for both local and statewide organizations serving low-income families, individuals with disabilities, at-risk youth and those providing health care services, most recently Planned Parenthood in Austin. She is past president of the Greater Austin Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and received her professional fundraising certification, CFRE, in 2010.  She was honored in 2011 as Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year at the Annual Philanthropy Day Awards Luncheon. Anderson is also a member of Leadership Austin's Class of 2012. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.
Economic Opportunity
Garrett Groves, Economic Opportunity Program Director (@garrettgroves)
As Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Groves leads a team of policy analysts that strive to increase educational attainment and ensure economic prosperity for all Texans. Before joining the Center in 2014, Groves served as a Senior Policy Analyst at the National Governors Association where he worked with state and local entities on workforce, post-secondary education and economic development policy. He has served governors, senior policy advisors and local leaders on several initiatives designed to bolster talent development pipelines and align educational institutions, training programs and community-based organizations with employer needs and state economic development strategies. Preceding his work at the NGA Center, Groves oversaw the rigorous evaluation of education and training programs in the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Labor, including random assignment evaluations of the YouthBuild program, Community-Based Job Training Grants and the ARRA High Growth and Emerging Industries grantees. He also served at various levels of Colorado state government, including the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly, and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. He received his master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver.

Laura Rosen, Policy Analyst and OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator
Laura Rosen joined the Center for Public Policy Priorities in 2010. She is a policy analyst and the coordinator of OpportunityTexas, a joint initiative of RAISE Texas and CPPP to expand household savings in Texas. Laura completed her Master of Public Policy from the University of Michigan in 2010 and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. Before returning to graduate school, Laura worked as a relationship manager at Wells Fargo and was a Fulbright Scholar in Peru, where she researched microfinance.  Laura also serves on the Texas Financial Education Endowment’s Grant Advisory Committee.

Chandra Kring VillanuevaPolicy Analyst (@ChandraKus)
Chandra Kring Villanueva joined the Center in 2010 as a fellow through the Center on Budget and Policies Priorities’ State Fiscal Analysis Initiative. She focuses on state pensions and public education finance and policy. She also serves on the Customer Satisfaction Advisory Board for Capital Metro and is an advisory board member for the Center on Children and Families at the Columbia University School of Nursing. Villanueva was the manager of Advocacy and Public Policy with the Women’s Prison Association in New York City. Prior to graduate school, she served as a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center in Arizona and Washington, D.C. Villanueva earned a Master of Public Administration from the New York University Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service in 2007, and a Bachelor of Arts from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington in 2003

Economic Opportunity intern:
  • Abby Pfeiffer, University of Texas, LBJ School of Public Affairs

Finance and Administration
Valerie L. DavidsonManager of Administration
Valerie L. Davidson joined the Center in 2002. She is responsible for accounts payable, payroll, and other business. Before coming to the center, Davidson was an administrator in the Office of the District Judges of Travis County. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Southwest Texas State University in 1997.
Invest In Texas
Eva DeLuna Castro, Investing In Texas Program Director (@DeLunaEva)
Eva DeLuna Castro joined the Center in 1998 and focuses on state budget issues. Before coming to the Center, she was an Analyst for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, researching various policy issues related to state revenue and spending. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Literature, cum laude, from Harvard University in 1988 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.

Dick Lavine, Senior Fiscal Analyst


Dick Lavine focuses on state and local revenue issues. Before coming to the Center in 1994, he was a Senior Researcher at the House Research Organization of the Texas House of Representatives for ten years. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Travis Central Appraisal District, and a member of the Executive Board of AFSCME Texas Retirees, the statewide union local of retired public employees. The Equity Center named him the 2011 Champion for Equity for his work to reform our tax system to ensure it can adequately support public education and other public services. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1969, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence, cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania in 1975.

Brakeyshia Samms, State Policy Fellow (@BrakeyshiaSamms)
Brakeyshia Samms joined the Center in 2014 as a State Policy Fellow through the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Priorities Partnership. She focuses on analyzing the impact that Texas budget and tax policies have on low and moderate-income communities. As an undergraduate student, she spent a semester in Washington, DC, as a Bill Archer Fellow through the University of Texas System. She earned a Master of Public Policy from George Mason University in May 2014, and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and History from the University of Texas at Tyler in May 2012.
Health and Wellness
Anne Dunkelberg, Associate Director, Health and Wellness Program Director - (see Executive)

Rachel Cooper, Senior Policy Analyst
Rachel joined the center in 2012 with a focus on food and nutrition programs as well as obesity. Before joining the center, she worked for the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) where she was in charge of research and data analysis and authored reports such as the School Breakfast Scorecard, Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation, and State of the States. Cooper also worked for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), in their New York office, where she focused on helping families gain access to programs that provide work supports, such as tax credits, Medicaid, SCHIP, and food stamps. Cooper received her Masters in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst
Stacey Pogue joined the center in 2008. She focuses on health policy issues. Before coming to the center, she did health policy and research work with the Medicaid and CHIP Division of the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Insurance. In 2010 and 2011, she was selected to serve as a funded Consumer Representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Pogue earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography, summa cum laude, from Texas A&M University in 1997 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin in 2005.

Katharine Ligon, Policy Analyst (@KatharineLigon)
Katharine Ligon has been the Mental Health Policy Analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) in Austin since 2012. Her work focuses on the continuity of mental health care and on peer support for individuals with a lived experience of mental illness, including incarcerated Texans. She previously focused on mental health policy with Mental Health America in Houston. Ligon earned a Master of Social Work with a concentration in Advocacy, Leadership, and Administration from the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston in 2010, and a Bachelor of Psychology in 2003.

Melissa McChesney, Outreach Coordinator (@mel_mcchesney)
Melissa McChesney joined the Center in 2015 with a focus on outreach and enrollment related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Prior to joining the center she worked as a Senior Policy Analyst for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in the Office of Social Services on the team that implemented eligibility changes to the Medicaid and CHIP programs required by the ACA. McChesney earned a Master of Science in Social Work with a concentration in Community, Administration, and Leadership from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas in 2009. During her graduate program she also completed the Portfolio Program in Nonprofit Studies with the RGK Center for Philanthropy & Community Service.

Health and Wellness interns:
Research and Planning
Frances Deviney, Ph.D., Associate Director, Research and Planning Program Director - (see Executive) 

Mia Ibarra, Policy and Planning Analyst (@ThatMiaIbarra)
Mia Ibarra joined the Center in 2012 as an Outreach Associate and coordinator of Texas Forward, a state-wide revenue coalition. She now focuses on stakeholder engagement and outreach and strategic planning. Before relocating to Austin, Ibarra managed the nationally-competitive Udall Scholarship program at The Udall Foundation and conducted legislative research and voter education programs as the Tucson Office Director for Project Vote Smart. She holds a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts in political economy from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

Jennifer Lee, Research Associate (@jjesunlee)
Jennifer Lee joined the Center in 2013. Before coming to the Center, she was an Education Pioneers Fellow with TNTP and Houston ISD. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in History from Wellesley College in 2007 and a Master of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin in 2013. Before returning to graduate school, Lee was the Associate Editor at the educational publisher Eye On Education.

Research & Planning interns:
  • Bo La Sohn, University of Texas, Educational Policy and Planning, Ph.D. program
  • Imelda McClendon, University of Texas, LBJ School of Public Affairs

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