Research Assistant Professor
Mat Despard’s research focuses on the financial security of low- and moderate-income households, including tax-time savings, workplace financial wellness programs, credit, and financial services, as well as the capacity and performance of non-profit organizations serving these households and communities. In addition to his work with WFSI Despard is also part of the Refund-to-Savings team examining tax-time savings and a range of household financial security topics to better inform policy and practice.
Despard has several years of graduate teaching experience in financial social work, nonprofit management, community practice, and social policy, as well as practice experience with nonprofit organizations serving LMI households. He is also a faculty associate with the Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion at the University of Michigan and is a co-chair of the Policy Task Force of the Financial Capability and Asset Building for All Grand Challenges Initiative.
Ellen Frank-Miller is a Senior Scientist with the Workforce Financial Stability Initiative and an Adjunct Professor in the MPH program at the Brown School. She earned her PhD in social welfare policy and MSW from the University of Chicago and her BA in economics from Emory University. Ellen’s research centers on employer practices and programs that impact the well-being of lower-wage workers. She is currently leading the implementation of Phase 2 of the Employee Financial Wellness Programs study and the Child Care Flexible Spending Accounts study.
Before coming to Washington University in St. Louis, Ellen spent 15 years in human resource consulting with Hewitt, Work/Family Directions, and Ceridian, specializing in work-family programs and policies. She also taught research methods at the University of Chicago and provided coaching and instruction on research methods for nonprofit organizations and foundation grantees.
As a Project Manager on the WFSI team, Geraldine Germain works to find and evaluate solutions for improving the financial stability of U.S. households. Prior to joining the WFSI team, she worked in research and grants administration in nonprofit and academic settings. Her work has broadly focused on the development and evaluation of programs/policies to improve the social and economic well-being of vulnerable populations in the U.S. and abroad.
Geraldine is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum and earned a Master of Social Work from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Sophia supports the WFSI’s research through data analysis and project coordination efforts. She studies existing programs aiming to maximize benefits for low-wage workers using both qualitative and quantitative approaches. In addition to financial stability within the workforce, her research interests include housing stability and neighborhood change.
Sophia earned her MSW in social and economic development with a specialization in research from Washington University’s Brown School. She previously served with AmeriCorps in New York City as a public benefits enrollment specialist.
Doctoral Research Assistant
Yingying Zeng is a social work doctoral student at the Brown School of Social Work and research assistant at the Social Policy Institute. She holds an MSW from Fudan University in China and an MSP from Washington University in St. Louis. From 2015 to 2017, Yingying was actively participating in a refugee IDA program as a practicum student and served as a social service provider for Chinese older immigrants, helping refugees and immigrants with assistance projects.
For her doctoral studies, Yingying focuses on poverty, asset building, and financial wellbeing among immigration population. She is working in the WFSI team on employee financial wellbeing projects.
Graduate Research Assistant
As a research assistant, Jenna supports the WFSI research team by surveying current knowledge surrounding financial resources for LMI populations. She is also available to assist with document editing. Her interests include affordable housing policy, low-income households, and equitable community development. Through her social work education, she has experience working with local housing authorities and community development organizations.
Jenna is a current MSW Candidate concentrating in social and economic development with a specialization in policy. She earned her BSW from Baylor University.
Graduate Research Assistant
Sloane Wolter is pursuing her Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Mental Health. She has a BA in Psychology and Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis. She is interested in the financial security of low and moderate income workers, and the intersection of mental illness and poverty.