Our team is committed to improving the efficacy of philanthropy to address key social challenges. This diverse team includes a set of data driven advisors with both technical and strategic expertise.
+ Melissa Stevens, Executive Director
Melissa Stevens is the Executive Director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. The Center for Strategic Philanthropy works to maximize return on philanthropic investment by ensuring that innovation used to address one social issue is translated to another, best practices and metrics guide new and existing giving programs, and resources are invested to optimize outcomes. Previously, Stevens was the deputy executive director of FasterCures, a center of the Milken Institute that is driven by a singular goal – to save lives by speeding up and improving the medical research system. Prior to that, she worked in the health sciences practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, advising commercial and federal clients across the healthcare continuum. Stevens received a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and an M.B.A. from Pennsylvania State University.
+ Cara Altimus, PhD, Associate Director
Dr. Cara Altimus is an associate director at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Utilizing her expertise in neuroscience, Altimus advises individual philanthropists and foundations on the state of research for various disease areas to help them identify opportunities for giving.
Altimus has more than a decade of experience in neuroscience research, including neurological devices, psychiatric illness, learning and memory, as well as sleep and circadian rhythms. Most recently, Altimus worked at the Food and Drug Administration leading the Neural Interfaces Laboratory, which evaluates the safety and effectiveness of electrical stimulation methods in the brain. Beyond her research experience, she serves as the chair for the Trainee Advisory Committee for the Society for Neuroscience and spent a year as an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow developing a neuroscience research portfolio at the Department of Justice. Altimus holds a bachelor’s degree in genetics from the University of Georgia and a doctorate in biology from Johns Hopkins University. She works at the Institute’s Washington office.
+ LaTese Briggs, PhD, Director, Strategy and Programs
Dr. LaTese Briggs is the director of strategy and programs at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Briggs previously served as a pharmaceutical market analyst for Decision Resources, a Boston-based research and consulting firm serving the biopharmaceutical industry. In this capacity, she provided expert analytics on the state of research and clinical development, including research challenges, market drivers, and unmet patient needs in the infectious disease space. She is trained as a biochemist, having completed her doctoral studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and then postdoctoral training at Harvard University/Broad Institute focusing on chemical biology and early drug discovery. She has authored several scientific articles and received a number of honors, including being named a Bill & Melinda Gates Millennium Scholar.
+ Maura Donlan, Director
Maura Donlan is a director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. She has more than 20 years of experience in international development, advocacy, project and campaign management and strategic communications. Most recently, she served as director of marketing and communications at Omidyar Network, where she led all external relations and thought leadership for the financial inclusion, property rights and impact investing initiatives. Prior to that, she was a senior vice president at GMMB, where she worked with globally focused nonprofit and corporate clients to promote inclusive economic growth, sustainable development and global health, with a primary focus on the status of women and girls. She also managed GMMB’s London office. Earlier, Donlan worked on programs designed to promote economic and political development and gender equity at the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Foundation and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She also served as director of communications and policy at Turner Enterprises, where she managed the day-to-day communications and policy needs of philanthropist Ted Turner. Donlan began her career as a policy analyst on Capitol Hill and on several congressional and presidential campaigns. She holds a B.A. in history and French from the College of the Holy Cross, where she graduated with highest honors, and an M.A. in international affairs with a focus on gender and development from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She works in the Institute’s Washington office.
+ Kirstie Keller, PhD, Senior Associate
Kirstie Keller has recently joined the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy as a Senior Associate, with a focus on health and medical philanthropy. Dr. Keller comes to the Institute with over eight years of biomedical research experience in fields ranging from cancer cell metabolism to bacterial pathogenesis. Dr. Keller most recently worked as a consultant at Clarkston Consulting, specializing in life sciences, where she led research and business teams in the design, development, and execution of highly complex, data-driven projects that resulted in successful outcomes in a variety of field settings. Dr. Keller received her Bachelors of Science in biology from Gonzaga University and her doctoral degree in biology from Johns Hopkins University; additionally, she completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Her thesis work focused on the regulation of cancer cell metabolism, and she studied membrane proteases in pathogenic bacteria during her post-doctoral research.
+ Matt Lurie, PhD, Senior Associate
Dr. Matt Lurie is a senior associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, where he uses his experience as a scientist, educator, and policy expert to advise individual philanthropists and foundations on the state of science for biodiversity and conservation to help them identify opportunities for giving.
Dr. Lurie received a B.Sc. in Marine Biology from the University of California at Los Angeles followed by an M.S. and Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Hawaii. As a trained ecologist, he led collaborative research projects focused on plant invasion ecology and conservation in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. He has a passion for science education and has facilitated teacher professional development workshops and co-written the online marine science curriculum Exploring Our Fluid Earth. In 2016, as the Knauss Marine Policy Fellow for the White House National Ocean Council, he helped establish the Nation’s first two ocean plans in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic by strengthening cooperation among Federal, State, and Tribal representatives. Dr. Lurie continues to be interested in initiatives and actions that promote environmental stewardship.
+ Ebony Motley, Program Associate
Ebony Motley is a program associate for the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Previously, she provided administrative support to the philanthropy department at ChildFund International, where she worked with the development team managing stewardship and operations for major donors. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, Motley spent almost four years in the banking industry. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. Motley works in the Institute’s Washington, D.C. office.
+ Ekemini A.U. Riley, PhD, Associate Director
Dr. Ekemini A. U. Riley is an associate director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Prior to joining the Milken Institute, Dr. Riley worked as a science policy and communications analyst at Ripple Effect Communications, Inc. where she worked across several different NIH divisions on high impact projects related to policy and external communications. In addition to policy and communications, Dr. Riley has a passion for STEM workforce development, education and global health. She currently leads the Baltimore Chapter of the Association for Women in Science. She also serves as STEM Education Consultant for Beysix Consulting, LLC., a STEM workforce and education consulting company, and sits on the board for Women United for Economic Empowerment, Inc., an international non-profit organization promoting women's rights and development, capacity building, and health education programs. Dr. Riley holds a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from Johns Hopkins University and a doctorate in molecular medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine.