Darren Spielman, Ph.D.

Executive Director


Darren Spielman has twenty years of leadership experience in the nonprofit and education sectors, where he has worked to improve the lives and life chances of our region’s most vulnerable residents. He has served as president and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund, vice president of workforce development at Philadelphia Youth Network, executive director of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia, and director of adolescent outreach and research at Congreso de Latinos Unidos.  As a principal with Rodriguez-Lavergne Consulting, Darren has consulted for prominent research, advocacy, social service, and education organizations in the continental United States and Puerto Rico.

He sits on the board of directors of Breakthrough of Greater Philadelphia and has served as vice president and secretary of the board of trustees of The Philadelphia School and as treasurer of the board of directors of Public Citizens for Children and Youth.

Darren holds a BA in psychology and sociology from Wesleyan University and a PhD in psychology (social and personality) from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Sarah Allred, Ph.D.

Faculty Director


Dr. Sarah Allred is Associate Professor in Psychology at Rutgers University – Camden, and came to the University in 2009 after three years of postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Allred earned her Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington. She also holds a BS in Applied Physics with minors in mathematics and philosophy from Brigham Young University in Utah. For her primary research on the relationship between visual perception and memory, Dr. Allred received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award. Dr. Allred teaches courses on research methods, experimental psychology, and perception and evolutionary psychology; she is a past recipient of both the Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and the Presidential Teaching Award.

As Faculty Director of the Walter Rand Institute, Dr. Allred marshals the academic and intellectual resources of the university to help fulfill Rutgers’ foundational obligation to civic and community engagement. To do this, she fosters partnerships between academic researchers, WRI staff, and community stakeholders. Dr. Allred enjoys delving into complex data sets and working with staff to extract from the data content that will be meaningful for South Jersey.


Tracy A. Swan, MPA, MCJ

Senior Project Administrator

Ms. Swan has worked at the Walter Rand Institute since 2004. She manages a diverse portfolio of projects at WRI. Her program evaluations include a newly established peer recovery center, mental health services for a local school district, a county-wide at-risk youth case management effort, a local police department, and a statewide parole employment placement program. Her needs assessment involves determining legal needs for medical patients. Her conferences include a recently held forum on public health coalitions in South Jersey and two separate educational and employment opportunities forums for at-risk and court-involved youth.

Ms. Swan’s largest project is the NJ Attorney General’s funded juvenile delinquency prevention effort in Cumberland County, where she and her team provide assistance to over 100 county stakeholders in developing and implementing delinquency prevention and positive youth development strategies. Ms. Swan recently secured a similar contract for Burlington County, which will officially kickoff in January 2016.

Ms. Swan is the Chair of Board for the local United Way of Cumberland County; a Board member of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Public Policy Committee; and member of UWGPSNJ’s Leadership Council. She received her BA in Psychology from Oberlin College, holds a master’s in Public Administration and a master’s in Criminal Justice from Rutgers–Camden.  Ms. Swan also serves as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Undergraduate Department of Rutgers University.

Kristin Curtis, MA

Senior Project Coordinator

Kristin Curtis obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University- Camden Campus and Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University-Camden.

In 2008, Ms. Curtis served as the Walter Rand Institute’s Graduate Assistant. She was then promoted to Research Project Assistant in 2009, where she led data analyst on the PRI-RESPECT, PRI-CORP, and Municipal Prevention Projects at the Walter Rand Institute.  Ms. Curtis is the Project Manager of the South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative Evaluation and she is also working on the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Healthy Living Initiative Evaluation.

Ms. Curtis has presented findings on residence restrictions for sexual offenders with Drs. Michelle Meloy and Susan Miller at the American Society of Criminology and published an article in the American Journal of Criminal Justice. Her research interests include offender re-entry, juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders, sex crimes, and victim’s issues.

Paul Smith, MPA

Research Project Coordinator

Paul Smith holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University- Camden, and is a graduate of the MPA program (December 2009) at Rutgers University–Camden. He was hired as a Research Project Assistant at WRI in April 2010. Prior to being hired as a full- time staff, Paul served as a Student Project Assistant and Graduate Fellow at WRI.

Mr. Smith has worked on numerous projects including Regional Planning and Growth Fit, Affordable Housing in South Jersey, an analysis of Camden’s Special Services District, Municipal Planning & Prevention, Operation CeaseFire and PRI-CORP.

In his current role as Research Project Coordinator, Paul is primarily working on WRI’s Strengthening Family Initiatives project.

Dennis Pelaez-Robles

Research Project Assistant

Dennis Pelaez-Robles graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Currently, he is leading the research and evaluation of the Cumberland County Collaboratives as part of the South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative funded by the Pascale Sykes Foundation.  Mr. Pelaez-Robles plans to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration. 

Douglas Zacher

Data Analyst

Douglas serves as a data analyst at the Walter Rand Institute. 

Douglas serves as a data analyst at the Walter Rand Institute. He conducts statistical analysis on critical projects for the Institute, including the Pascale Sykes Foundation’s Strengthening Families Initiative.

Douglas received his B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University. As a student his research focused on executive functioning, learning, memory, and genetics in humans. He is currently a Part-Time Lecturer of Psychology for Rutgers University. Douglas plans to pursue a PhD in Psychology.

Karen Cruz-Rosado

Project Coordinator

Karen Rosado obtained her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University–Camden in 2007. Mrs. Rosado has worked on various projects and initiatives since October 2011.  She was the lead coordinator on the North Camden Civic Engagement Project in which she engaged community stakeholders on projects such as community greening.  She was the lead researcher for Cumberland County as part of the Pascale Sykes’s South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative, a project which examines the impact of social service organization collaboration on child well-being, financial stability of families, and relationships between children and their caregivers. 

She is currently a lead on the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition. The Coalition is a cross sectorial approach to developing strategies for decreasing juvenile delinquency and is part of the Municipal Prevention Planning Initiative that is funded by New Jersey’s State Attorney’s Office.  Mrs. Rosado’s policy interests include social service delivery, juvenile delinquency, community development and engagement, and secondary education achievement.

Jessica Nolan

Research Project Assistant

Jessica McConnell graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 2013 and an MA in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University–Camden in 2016. As a Student Project Assistant at WRI, Ms. McConnell worked with the United Way of Salem County and the Pascale Sykes South Jersey Families Initiative, the latter of which she continues to work on now as a full-time Research Project Coordinator.

Kurt Schmenger

Project Coordinator

Kurt Schmenger graduated with a BA in Psychology from Lehigh University and MA in Experimental Psychology from Appalachian State University. He has been an English teacher in Madrid, Spain, and a Health Outreach Worker for Hispanic Farm Workers. Mr. Schmenger is currently working with the Strengthening Family Initiatives. He enjoys speaking Spanish and playing golf.

Madeliene Alger

Research Project Assistant

Madeliene Alger serves as a Research Project Assistant for the Pascale Sykes Foundation’s Strengthening Families Initiative in South Jersey. Madeliene assists in the evaluation of interagency collaboration initiatives on supporting family strengthening efforts in southern New Jersey counties. 

Madeliene received her B.A. and M.A. in Psychology from Rutgers University – Camden in 2016 and 2017, respectively. She has presented research at several professional conferences, including the Association for Psychological Science and Society for Personality and Social Psychology, and recently co-authored an article in a special issue of Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology. Her research interests in social psychology include implicit biases, prejudice, and stereotypes.

Monica Rears

Administrative Coordinator

Monica Rears received her bachelor’s degree in Economics with a concentration in Accounting from Rutgers University–New Brunswick.  She handles grant budgets and reconciliations as well as the Walter Rand Institute’s events and website.  She comes from a diverse accounting background where she handled Payroll, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and General Ledger operations.

Arleen Buchanan

Administrative Assistant

Arleen recently relocated to South Jersey after spending most of her life in the northern part of the state.  A Douglass graduate she is happy to continue her work in the nonprofit world here in Camden serving as administrative assistant at WRI.