Our Team

Youth Empowerment in Action is:

  • Dr. Melinda Bier, Principal Investigator
  • Spring Schmidt, Project Development
  • Laura Harrison, LCSW, Project Coordinator
  • Mark Hallett, Media Production
  • Stephen Sherblom, Ed.D., Associate

About the Team

Melinda Bier, Ph.D, Principal Investigator.

Melinda Bier, PhD will serve as the Project Director and PI of the proposed work. She is currently Associate Director of the Center for Character and Citizenship, as well as a Research Scientist with the Division of Educational Psychology, Research & Evaluation. She has been a consultant to the both the Institute for Educational Sciences and the US Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Her research and publications span the fields of positive youth development, home-school-community partnerships, teacher education and the design and use of multi-media for enhanced teaching and learning. 25% of her time will be dedicated to the Full-Service Community Schools Project. Dr. Bier’s most recent work focuses on the prevalence and influence of media on individual and community health and civic engagement. Dr. Bier currently serves as a principal investigator and/or project director for $3.5 Million in active grants. Dr Bier was recently awarded Missouri’s Youth Tobacco Prevention and Advocacy Media Campaign contract from the Department of Health and Senior Services based on her work as the principal investigator of the Missouri Foundation’s for Health’s Mobilizing Tomorrow’s Leaders for A Smoke Free Missouri youth initiative. She also serves as a co-investigator of Missouri’s Health Literacy Enhancement Center – a state wide multi-institution multi-sector collaboration. Dr, Bier is also the project director for federally funded multi-school evaluations in Buffalo New York, Chattanooga, TN, and a multi-state national evaluation of the Socal and Character Development (SACD) Institute of Educational Sciences research program. She has served as a consultant to US Department of Education, American Academy for the Advancement of Science, NSF, Mathmatica Policy Research, Character Education Partnership, and Caliber Associates on issues related to research and evaluation.

In her previous position with the James S. McDonnell Foundation she reviewed scientific research proposals and investigated ways in which educational institutions and not-for-profits could use technology to more efficiently achieve their goals. As Assistant Director of the Space Coast Center for Excellence she was responsible for the daily operations of the Florida Department of Education's regional professional development and resource center, interpreting, disseminating, and supporting the implementation of both traditional and alternative methods of assessment and evaluation, and coordinating teacher workshops and curriculum development. Her dissertation research won a NSF Dissertation Improvement Award and was highlighted in scholarly publications including Nature and The Scientist as well as in popular media such as USA Today, National Public Radio and local newspapers. Most recently Dr., Bier was a co-author of the USDE evaluation guide publication Mobilizing for Evidence-Based Character Education (2007). Dr. Bier is currently the Principal Investigator for a federal Carol White Physical Fitness Grant and Co-PI of several federal Partnership in Character Education Program grants. All are multi-year grants are in good standing.

Dr. Bier has presented at international conferences and in the peer reviewed literature on the topics of positive youth development, the internalization of prosocial and health values, ethical concerns in research, and the use of new media by underserved populations. Recently her work has appeared in Educational Leadership, The Handbook of Moral Education, and The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Her latest writing effort was commissioned by the Department of Education and entitled Mobilizing for Evidence-Based Character Education (2007). Secretary of Education Spelling recommended it to all USDE grantees in her remarks to the League Town Hall Meeting in New York and is available for download from http://www.ed.gov/programs/charactered/resources.html Bier teaches graduate courses in the diffusion of educational technologies.


Spring Schmidt, Project Development

Ms. Spring Schmidt is a Project Development Specialist for the Center for Character & Citizenship at the University of Missouri, St. Louis. She is a certified project manager with 7 years of experience. She is proficient with a wide variety of project tools, including the PeopleSoft and Microsoft Project budget, grant and project management tools. She has 3 years of educational grant research experience at the University and has been responsible for grant budgeting, billing, reporting and compliance methods for two years. She has a B.A. in Psychology and is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Psychology, Research & Evaluation Methods and is expected to complete her dissertation work in early 2010. Her research interests include youth empowerment and prevention, character education, new media tools for educators and students and preparing students for participatory democratic citizenship.


Laura Harrson, M.P.A., L.C.S.W., Project Director

Laura Harrison MPA, LCSW will serve as FSCS Coordinator dedicating 100% of her time to this project. In her previous role as Executive Vice President at Youth In Need, Laura designed and led focus groups before implementing 32 new programs. This included groups from inner city St Louis (parents and youth), New American families (from 28 different European, African, and Asian Countries), youth ages 10 through 21, detention delinquent youth – both females and males, and rural/suburban parents. Each had a different set of ‘attitudes’ toward the targeted project, concept, or service product, and each had the opportunity to talk freely with other group members. Currently in her role as UMSL Project Development Specialist for the State of Missouri’s youth- led anti-tobacco campaign, she co-designed and implemented working with 20 youth groups against fighting tobacco media. Each of the groups came from very different towns and many were in very rural out state areas. It was her responsibility to not only design and lead these multiple focus groups, but also to assimilate the information and use the outcome data in the design of the project.


Mark Hallett , Media Production

Mark Hallett serves as the head of media production at the Youth Empowerment in Action program. He received his bachelor's degree in 2006 in Mass Communication. He specializes in video production and enjoys working with youth to produce eye-catching productions. Mark has a strong interest in seeing positive change in communities and likes to use media as a catalyst to make change happen. He currently operates the website and heads the productions of the videos for the program.


Stephen Sherblom, Ed.D, Associate

Stephen Sherblom completed his masters at Harvard University in Personality and Social Psychology. His undergraduate work was at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where he earned a dual degree in philosophy and psychology, focusing on ethics and moral development.

Stephen is active in regional, national, and international professional organizations. He is a member of the Board of the Association of Moral Education (AME); he is a member of the Association for Teacher Educators (ATE), and sits on their Commission for Affective Education; and is Vice-President of the Midwest Association for Teachers of Educational Psychology (MATEP). He presents at scholarly conferences including the Association for Educational Research, the Association of Moral Education, the Department of Education’s Safe and Drug-Free Schools Conference; the Character Education Forum, and the Midwest Association for Teachers of Educational Psychology.