Staff Bios

Joyce Klein is Director of the Aspen Institute microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination (FIELD). She has more than 20 years of experience in studying and supporting microenterprise and entrepreneurial development programs in the United States. Ms. Klein’s work has included co-authoring, with Elaine Edgcomb, Opening Opportunities, Building Ownership: Fulfilling the Promise of Microenterprise in the U.S. (2005), an examination of the state of the U.S. microenterprise industry after its first 20 years; managing the Welfare-to-Work Learning Evaluation, a five-year effort to evaluate 10 demonstration programs funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to provide microenterprise services to TANF recipients; and providing assistance to the MicroTest project.  Other FIELD publications authored or co-authored include The Practice of Microenterprise in the U.S.: Strategies, Costs and Effectiveness; Entering the Relationship: Finding and Assessing Microenterprise Training Clients; and Microenterprise as a Welfare to Work Strategy: Two-Year Findings.  Ms. Klein also has provided assistance to the CDFI Fund and CFED (Corporation for Enterprise Development). She holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in Economics from Boston College. 

Elaine Edgcomb is the Strategic Advisor of the Aspen Institute microenterprise Fund for Innovation, Effectiveness, Learning and Dissemination (FIELD). She co-authored, with Joyce Klein, Opening Opportunities, Building Ownership: Fulfilling the Promise of Microenterprise in the U.S. (2005), an examination of the state of the U.S. microenterprise industry after its first 20 years.  She has also authored or co-authored numerous other publications for FIELD, including Scaling up Microenterprise Services, The Informal Economy: Latino Enterprises at the Margins and The Informal Economy: Making It In Rural America, and Improving Microenterprise Training and Technical Assistance.  Ms. Edgcomb is also the author and editor of works on evaluation practice, institutional development, financial analysis, and on microenterprise strategies implemented both internationally and in the United States. Previously, she served as the founding Executive Director of the Small Enterprise Education and Promotion (SEEP) Network, an association of more than 50 U.S. and Canadian nonprofit organizations that support small business and microenterprise development in the developing world. As a consultant to the Aspen Institute's Self-Employment Learning Project, she had principal responsibility for guiding the project's case study research on organizational strategies and issues in U.S. microenterprise. Ms. Edgcomb’s international experience includes work with Catholic Relief Services, where she directed the planning and evaluation of socioeconomic development and relief programs in 13 countries in Central America and the Caribbean. With more than 25 years in international development, she has experience in monitoring and evaluating microenterprise programs, training management staff, and in developing practitioner-oriented materials to support program implementation. She serves or has served on the Board of Directors of the SEEP Network, Pro Mujer International and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.  Ms. Edgcomb holds a Master's Degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in History and Spanish from Seton Hall University.

Tamra Thetford is a Program Manager at the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program where she heads FIELD’s MicroTest program.  MicroTest is a national program performance measurement and client outcomes tracking project for the microenterprise industry.  With MicroTest, she oversees primary data collection and compilation, provides written data analyses and feedback on data use to MicroTest members, and designs and delivers trainings related to program performance and client outcomes.  Additionally with FIELD, Ms. Thetford has conducted primary research and presented findings on the links between microenterprise and the informal economy. Ms. Thetford has coordinated a project funded by the Ms. Foundation’s Collaborative Fund for Women’s Economic Development to both assess the performance of microenterprise agencies and social businesses, and monitor client-level outcomes.  Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, she was a Managing Associate for a consulting firm focused on international microenterprise and microfinance.  She holds a B.A. in International Studies from American University.

Laura Fischer is a Research Associate with the Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program where she currently manages projects related to microenterprise development for FIELD's MicroTest program. Laura oversees all data collection, provides written data analyses and feedback to MicroTest members and designs and delivers trainings related to program performance and client outcomes. Prior to joining the Aspen Institute, Laura served as a program coordinator at the National League of Cities’ Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. There she designed technical assistance projects and provided strategic advice to city governments on a wide range of anti-poverty and asset-building strategies. Laura holds a B.S. in Social Work and an M.A. in Public Policy, both from the University of Missouri.

Luz Gomez is a Consultant with the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. She has over ten years of experience in the U.S. microenterprise field. She is author or co-author of several studies related to scale in the microenterprise field including Dollars for Dreams: Scaling Microlending in the United States, and A Newly Crowded Marketplace: How For-Profit Lenders are Serving Microentrepreneurs. Most recently, she worked with microlender ACCION USA as Senior Director of Marketing, where she identified new partnership opportunities and conducted market and product research. In 2003, she launched ACCION USA's Miami program, leading it to become the state's largest microlender. She holds an M.A. in Political Science from Columbia University and a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.

Ilgar Alisultanov is a consultant with the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program. He has worked both in the consulting and university environments and has many years of experience in data analysis, statistical research, evaluation and teaching. While at Aspen, he has provided primary data analysis and research assistance for a number of projects including: MicroTest; the CDP data collection initiative; the Welfare to Work Learning Evaluation; the Sectoral Employment Development Learning Project; CDFI; and the Courses to Employment demonstration. Dr. Alisultanov has a Master’s Degree in Economics from Vanderbilt University and a Ph.D. in Economics from American University.

Maureen Conway is the director of the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP). Her previous experience includes consulting work on issues of social exclusion and community development practice for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and work for the U.S. Peace Corps, where she advised on the design, management, and monitoring and evaluation of the organization’s economic development programs in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union. Ms. Conway is the author of numerous publications on industry-specific workforce development, including case studies, policy briefs and research reports. She also has presented findings from her research at various national and regional conferences. Ms. Conway holds an M.B.A. from Columbia University, a Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, and a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Holy Cross College.

Colleen Cunningham is Director of Grants Management and Publications for the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program.  She is responsible for publications and presentation materials design, production and dissemination. She also oversees the Program’s financial system controls and standards and manages financial activity on a day-to-day basis.  Ms. Cunningham holds a B.A. in Art History from Syracuse University.

Jackie Orwick is the Director of Information Systems for the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program.  Ms. Orwick manages all aspects of the format, usage and administration of EOP’s program Web sites.  She coordinates program bulk e-mail communications and tracks Web-page traffic. She has also designed and conducted trainings on data collection tools.  Ms. Orwick holds a B.A. in Management Studies from the University of Maryland. She also is the technical advisor to EOP regarding all aspects of computer and Web-related issues, recommendations for upgrades and troubleshooting.

Sinin Young is the Grants Management Associate for the Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program (EOP). She is responsible for accounts payable, timesheet data entry and data management, and assists with grant reporting. In addition, she provides support for project data analysis and creation of PowerPoint presentations. Ms. Young has a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Maryland.