Program Evaluation and Research

The primary goal of the Program Evaluation and Research Team is to engage collaboratively with program leaders and faculty to design and implement comprehensive studies that explore the success and impacts of educational programs. The team also works to build essential feedback loops, data systems, and strategic plans for the many programs across the IEI that it serves, in order to advance a culture of continuous improvement across the Institute. The majority of the team’s effort is focused on providing evaluation and research support for all of the programs associated with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Policy on ACE-Affiliated Research, Professional Publications, and Scholarly Activities

The Alliance for Catholic Education supports research, publication and projects for the advancement of educational knowledge and welcomes the opportunity to collaborate on research that makes significant contributions to the growing field of Catholic Education. Official ACE support of research activities may come in one or a combination of forms, including: 1) direct collaboration on the study or project team, 2) sharing program data collected for evaluation purposes; or 3) facilitating access to ACE-affiliated programs, participants, schools, or students.

All research-related requests received by ACE must be reviewed by the Program Evaluation and Research team of the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame. The IEI Program Evaluation and Research Team is responsible for providing access to ACE participants and negotiating access to ACE schools for the purposes of scientific research, professional publications, and informal or popular publications and activities. To ensure fairness and equity in the review of research proposals, the policies outlined below apply to all internal and external research, publications and activities that focus on ACE participants and staff, ACE documents, and ACE practices.

View the Policy   


Submit a Request


IEI Fellows Seed Grant Program

The Institute for Educational Initiatives Seed Grant Program is an internal funding opportunity that seeks
to encourage short-term projects, research studies, and/or scholarly endeavors that accomplish the
following two goals:

  • To advance the mission of the IEI, which strives to improve the education of all youth, particularly the disadvantaged, and
  • To yield scholarly, intellectual, and/or educational products that have significant potential for catalyzing, informing and shaping future work that continues to support the mission of the IEI.

IEI Seed Grants are an excellent opportunity to launch a new line of inquiry, explore the possibility of a
new programmatic direction, or engage in a focused effort to create scholarly products that can have a
meaningful, positive impact on education.

View the Request for Proposals

Submit a Proposal

Meet the Team

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Gina Navoa Svarovsky, PhD | Director


The IEI Program Evaluation and Research team is led by Dr. Gina Navoa Svarovsky, who has nearly two decades conducting research and evaluation on several NSF-funded projects and outreach efforts focused on STEM education. She has led multiple large-scale evaluations of public impact and learning around STEM learning as part of the National Informal STEM Education Network, conducts research on integrated STEM teaching and learning in formal classrooms and out-of school learning contexts, and also leads strategic planning and logic model development sessions with program leaders. Dr. Svarovsky earned her PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.



Monica Kowalski, PhD | Associate Director


Monica Kowalski is an Associate Director of Program Evaluation and Research for the Institute for Educational Initiatives at the University of Notre Dame, where she is also a member of the Faculty of supervision and instruction for the ACE Teaching Fellows Program. Monica has served as a national consultant and evaluator for various programs and projects, specializing in mixed methods approaches including surveys and interviews. She holds a bachelors and masters from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in Educational Policy and Leadership from The Ohio State University. 



Julie Dallavis, PhD | Associate Director


Julie Dallavis is Faculty in the Institute of Educational Initiatives (IEI) and is an Associate Director for the IEI Program Evaluation and Research Team. She also teaches in the Education, Schooling, and Society Minor (ESS) and serves as a Faculty Liaison for the ND Program in Interdisciplinary Educational Research (ND PIER). She earned an undergraduate degree in the Program of Liberal Studies, a Master of Education degree, and both master’s and doctoral degrees in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. Her research focuses on school organization and culture, school sector differences, and school choice policies using mixed methods, including quantitative survey and student test score analysis, qualitative interviews and focus groups, and content analysis using topic modeling.  



Steve Ponisciak, PhD | Research Associate


Steve Ponisciak is a Research Associate for the IEI Program Evaluation and Research Team. A statistician by training, his research includes work on student growth models, teacher observation data, and Rasch analysis. In addition to his research, he has provided technical assistance to districts, and facilitated technical and professional development trainings on growth modeling and teacher evaluation systems for teachers and administrators. Steve received a Ph.D. in Statistics from Duke University and a B.S in Math from the University of Notre Dame.


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Ryan Woodbury, MA | Research and Data Analyst


Ryan Woodbury works as the Research and Data Analyst for the Program Evaluation and Research Team for the Institute for Educational Initiatives. His primary responsibility includes managing the life cycle of data among the many programs within the IEI. His focus is on creating and maintaining systems that streamline the processes of data collection, management, and reporting, including data visualization. During his time in IEI, he has created a network of data dashboards for programs to monitor their performance and make strategic decisions. Prior to joining IEI, he assisted in the evaluations of character development programs in K-12 schools.


Ryan holds a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a B.A. in Psychology with a Statistics minor from Brigham Young University.