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, Director

Dr. Cara Altimus is a director of 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, Senior Director, Strategy and Programs

Dr. LaTese Briggs is the senior director of strategy and programs at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. She has more than 15 years of experience in biomedical research and philanthropy. Briggs leads initiatives focused on maximizing return on philanthropic investment by creatively leveraging innovations used to address one social issue and translating them to others, executing on best practices, and developing key performance indicators. 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.

+ E'Lissa Flores, PhD, Associate

E’Lissa Flores is an associate with the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Prior to working with the Milken Institute, she was at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where she was a National Science Foundation Science Outreach Coordinator and served on the Executive Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Dr. Flores received her Bachelors of Science in biology from Stony Brook University and her doctoral degree in Translational Biomedical Science from University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Through the Translational Biomedical Science Ph.D. program, she has experience with clinical, basic science, and public health research. Dr. Flores’ thesis work investigated the mechanism of how environmental chemicals reprogram human stem cells to become fat cells that then contribute to the obesity epidemic. She works in the Institute’s Washington office.

+ Kirstie Keller, PhD, Senior Associate

Kirstie Keller is a senior associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, 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.

+ Mali Locke, Director

Mali Locke is a director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, where she leads the Center’s design thinking and workforce development in higher education initiative.

Prior to joining the Institute, Locke started and led the development team at CityBridge Education, focusing on large institutional gifts. Previously, she was the director of the Maverick Capital Foundation in NYC, the philanthropic arm of the hedge fund Maverick Capital. Locke started her career in philanthropy at the Robin Hood Foundation where she was a senior program officer on the education team. Locke has a bachelor’s degree in French literature from Yale University and an M.S. in organization change management from the New School University. She works in the Institute’s D.C. office.

+ 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.

+ Hilary McConnaughey, Senior Associate

Hilary McConnaughey is a Senior Associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. She has worked across the sectors to catalyze social change. Most recently, she worked at the biotech startup uBiome where she focused on community partnerships and making its lab tests available to as many populations as possible. Prior to that, she served as a program manager at Arabella Advisors, a philanthropic consulting firm that provides grant making strategy and project incubation for foundations, private companies, and other charitable partners. McConnaughey also worked at Tipping Point Community and engaged in human centered design to pilot social service programs impacting people in poverty and determine whether these concepts can be scaled.

Hilary is particularly interested in the intersection between philanthropy and systems change, especially when it involves cross-sector partnerships. She received her Masters of Public Policy from Brown University and BA with honors from Colgate University.

+ 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.

+ James Randall, MPH, Associate

James Randall is an associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. Before arriving at the Milken Institute, Randall was involved in a number of research projects, including: understanding the gendered wage gap between male and female surgeons, documenting the opioid crisis in Connecticut, and investigating ways to provide more patient-centered medical care through individualized surgical treatment predictions. Outside of research, he served as a Youth Activism Fellow with the Truth Initiative. In this capacity, he provided trainings throughout the country to empower youths to reject tobacco products. Randall holds a BS in biology from the George Washington University and an MPH in epidemiology of microbial diseases from the Yale School of Public Health.

+ Ekemini A.U. Riley, PhD, Director

Dr. Ekemini A. U. Riley is a director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. She uses her scientific expertise to advise individual philanthropists and foundations on the state of research for various disease areas in order to help them identify opportunities and devise strategies for giving. Dr. Riley’s project portfolio has spanned oncology, neurology, internal medicine, and rare disease.

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. With a passion for biomedical workforce development and education, Dr. Riley previously led the Baltimore Chapter of the Association for Women in Science, a national organization advocating for women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She also previously served as a STEM Education Consultant for Beysix Consulting, LLC, a STEM workforce and education consulting company.

Dr. Riley received a B.A. in Natural Sciences from Johns Hopkins University, followed by a Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her doctoral and post-doctoral research focused on molecular cancer biology and protease inhibitory mechanisms.

+ Sokol Shtylla, Director

Sokol Shtylla is a Director of the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy. He has over 15 years of experience working with public, private, and nonprofit organizations both domestically and internationally. Sokol joined the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy from Swanee Hunt Alternatives where he most recently served as the Chief Operating Officer of the two-generation family operating foundation that has dedicated more than $130 million since 1981 to advance social change nationally and globally. Previously, he was Director of Strategy and Operations for Inclusive Security, the foundation’s oldest and largest program that advocates globally for the full inclusion of all stakeholders, and particularly women, in peace and security processes.

Prior to his work in philanthropy, Sokol was a management consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton advising government and non-profit clients on strategy and performance management, organizational assessments and design, customer service, and change management. While at Booz Allen, Sokol led engagements to develop successful business strategies, improve organizational structures and processes, and implement effective performance management systems.

Sokol started his professional career working on foreign policy issues on Capitol Hill, promoting peace and democracy in the Balkans with the National Albanian American Council, and implementing legal reform projects in the Balkans and the Middle East with the American Bar Association. He has also conducted research and analysis for partners and clients of the Albright Stonebridge Group (formerly The Albright Group) and Wise Solutions LLC, two consulting and advisory firms focusing on business growth in emerging markets and corporate social responsibility.

Born and raised in Albania, Sokol received his bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations with high honors from Marlboro College in Vermont. He is also a graduate of Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program, where his studies focused on corporate responsibility and private sector engagement in public policy and international development. Sokol lives in the Petworth neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife and two energetic, curious, and boundary-challenging young sons.

+ Roderick Todd, Senior Associate

Roderick Todd is a senior associate at the Milken Institute Center for Strategic Philanthropy, where he provides programming and event support across a variety of the Center’s initiatives.

Prior to joining the Institute, Roderick supported the Aspen Community Programs team at the Aspen Institute, where he worked with donors and coordinated events on the think tank’s Aspen campus. He also interned for the communications team at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D.C.

Roderick returned to Washington after graduating from Wofford College, a liberal-arts college in South Carolina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and Chinese, and has spent time studying in China, Italy, and the United Kingdom.