CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Contact Staff

Main Office Information

Fax: 617-627-3401

For questions or requests email CIRCLE Youth Coordinator & Researcher Abby Kiesa (

Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
Lincoln Filene Hall
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155


(click for staff biography and contact information)

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director of CIRCLE
Abby Kiesa, Youth Coordinator & Researcher
Kathy O.Connor, Administrative Coordinator
Felicia M. Sullivan, Senior Researcher

Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research at Tisch College
Nancy Thomas, Director of CIRCLE’s Initiative for the Study of Higher Education and Public Life

Staff Biographies

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Ph.D.
Director of CIRCLE
Phone: (617) 627-2529

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg became the Director of CIRCLE in April 2015, after joining CIRCLE in 2008 as the Lead Researcher and serving as Deputy Director since 2013.  Kei directs CIRCLE’s mission and strategies by working with various stakeholders and overseeing CIRCLE’s key research and dissemination efforts.  Kei was a key author of CIRCLE reports such as Taking the Lead: How Educators Can Help Close the Gender Leadership Gap (with NEA and AAUW), All Together Now:  Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement, Pathways into Leadership: A Study of YouthBuild Graduates (with YouthBuild USA), and Civic Health and Unemployment II: The Case Builds (with NCOC), and has published in various peer-reviewed journals and books.  Her curriculum vitae can be found here.

Kei applies her expertise in positive youth development and community psychology to youth civic and political development, and how diverse young people interact with the community and cultural contexts as they learn to participate in civic life.  Kei is especially interested in providing people, organizations and communities with research that would help increase civic and political engagement opportunities for diverse and marginalized youth. Kei earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with specialization in Family and Children from Loyola University Chicago.

Before coming to CIRCLE, Kei was involved in a major meta-analysis of social-emotional learning programs for children and adolescents.  At the same time, she worked directly with marginalized youth in Chicago, both within a public high school as an evaluator for a drop-out prevention program, and as a clinician working with diverse youth and their families.  She also taught at Knox College, in Galesburg, IL, where she participated in the founding of a citizen-led community center while engaging students in community-based learning.

Kei is a proud member of Nonprofit Vote’s Leadership Council.  Kei finds working at CIRCLE an extreme privilege and honor, and especially enjoys connecting with, and learning from diverse colleagues who work to narrow civic opportunity gaps.

Abby Kiesa, M.A.
Youth Coordinator & Researcher at CIRCLE

Abby joined CIRCLE in 2005 and is based in the DC area. As Youth Coordinator & Researcher at CIRCLE, Abby serves as liaison to practitioner organizations across the country to maintain a conversation between research and practice. She also provides leadership for CIRCLE’s election strategies as well as communications, and works on other research and evaluation projects, including two major national studies: Millennials Talk Politics: A Study of College Student Political Engagement and “That’s Not Democracy”: How Out-of-School Youth Participate in Civic Life and What Stands in Their Way. In addition to CIRCLE’s youth engagement work, Abby also engages in research related to Tisch College’s civic renewal efforts.

She is versed in the wide range of youth civic and political engagement efforts and practice, as well as topics such as youth political engagement, and the democratic work of higher education. She is particularly interested in topics such as the infrastructure that supports civic life and democracy, as well as the relationship between inequality and impact as related to democratic participation.  Abby holds an M.A. from the University of Maryland.

Previous to her work at CIRCLE, Abby organized students across the country through Campus Compact as part of a national campaign to increase youth involvement in public life. Her writing on youth political engagement has been featured in several publications and she co-edited the book Raise Your Voice: A Student Guide to Making Positive Social Change.

Abby serves on the board of the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement and on the steering committee of the American Democracy Project (an initiative of AASCU).

Kathy O’Connor
Administrative Coordinator
Phone:  617-627-4710

Kathy O’Connor joined CIRCLE in August of 2010. As the Administrative Coordinator she handles the organization and processing of daily events and various projects. She provides support to staff, processes financial paperwork, arranges travel and helps in the preparation of events throughout the year. Kathy’s background includes Administrative duties in various companies. She was active in volunteering with the youth in her community and before joining CIRCLE she was employed by and involved in her local YMCA’s afterschool program.

Felicia M. Sullivan, Ph.D.
Senior Researcher at CIRCLE


Felicia Sullivan joined CIRCLE as Senior Researcher in the summer of 2012. Felicia works on a range of projects in CIRCLE’s diverse portfolio.  Her CIRCLE Working Paper “New and Alternative Assessments, Digital Badges, and Civics:  An Overview of Emerging Themes and Promising Directions” and a recent fact sheet, “A National Survey of Civics and U.S. Government Teachers” (with S. Godsay) are example of the types of projects Felicia has worked on. She is also responsible for bringing to lifeCIRCLE’s data maps and provided leadership for the All Together Now:  Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagementreport’s open online seminar. In addition to CIRCLE’s youth engagement work, Felicia also engages in research related Tisch College’s civic renewal efforts.
Felicia is particularly versed in out-of-school time civic and political learning environments, the tools and processes associated with technology-enabled learning, institutional and organizational design as it relates to civic engagement, as well as uses of media, arts, technology, and culture for civic action. Felicia has a doctorate in public policy from the University of Massachusetts Boston and holds Master degrees in media studies and public policy.  Her chapter on cultivating leaders in out-of-school time programs for the edited volume, New Directions for Student Leadership, is pending publication by Wiley.

Prior to CIRCLE, Felicia worked for nearly 20 years in a range of community-based settings as a media advocate, educator, consultant and researcher supporting diverse individuals in multi-ethnic urban settings. She is adjunct faculty at University of Massachusetts Boston, teaching graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Public and Community Service, the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Liberal Arts. Her home and personal work in the civic sector is centered in Lowell, MA.

Peter Levine
Associate Dean for Research, Tisch College
Phone: (617) 627-2302
Website (with blog and publications):

Peter Levine is the Associate Dean for Research and Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship & Public Affairs in Tisch College. He was the founding deputy director (2001-6) and then the second director (2006-15) of CIRCLE and remains involved both as a researcher and as the dean who oversees CIRCLE. He is the author of We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America (Oxford University Press, 2013) and six previous books.  A philosopher who worked for 15 years in the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, he contributes normative and policy analysis. He has served on the boards or steering committees of nonprofits related to CIRCLE’s mission, such as the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, AmericaSpeaks, the Street Law Inc., the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, Discovering Justice, the Kettering Foundation, the American Bar Association Committee’s for Public Education, the Paul J. Aicher Foundation, and the Deliberative Democracy Consortium.

Nancy Thomas
Director, CIRCLE’s Initiative for the Study of Higher Education and Public Life

Nancy Thomas directs CIRCLE’s Initiative for the Study of Higher Education and Public Life and Campus Counts, a national study of college student voting rates and patterns. She joins CIRCLE after five years as director of the Democracy Imperative, a national network of academics and civic leaders working to strengthen democracy in and through higher education. She is also a senior associate with Everyday Democracy and serves on boards for the American Commonwealth Partnership, the Campaign for Stronger Democracy, and others. Her interests are in deliberative democracy in public life, student civic learning and political engagement, and free speech, civil discourse and academic freedom on campus. She has published many chapters and articles on educating for democracy. She holds a doctorate in administration, planning, and social policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a JD from Case Western Reserve University.