About Levitan Center
The Sar Levitan Center, the Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for Policy Studies, is a training, research and advocacy group dedicated to improving the lives of at-risk young populations by improving policies, practices and programs.
We accomplish our mission by working to build the capacity of organizations throughout the country who serve at risk individuals by engaging leaders in relevant fields, persuading key players to focus on important issues and analyzing the challenges to determine where and how to target efforts.
In 1995, Marion W. Pines established the Sar Levitan Center at the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies to commemorate and continue the work of Sar A. Levitan, one of the nation’s foremost analysts of public policy to serve the disadvantaged and unemployed.
Levitan, a public policy expert who combined keen analysis with passionate advocacy for underprivileged populations, died in May 1994 after 44 years of selfless public service to the nation. He served on the staffs of Senators Eugene McCarthy and Paul Douglas. For four decades, he advocated, evaluated, criticized or praised (wherever and whenever deserved) every significant policy related to employment, education, training or poverty.
Levitan left the bulk of his life savings to the National Council on Employment Policy (NCEP), a nonprofit group of economic and public policy experts he helped organize. Pines, vice-chair of NCEP and a senior fellow at Hopkins, and the NCEP board decided to use part of Levitan’s bequest to create the Sar Levitan Center at The Johns Hopkins University Institute of Policy Studies.
Too often, you hear “nothing works” for at-risk youth or ex-offenders or other challenged groups struggling to achieve a reasonable degree of self-sufficiency. We disagree. We have learned through decades of research, program development experience, and direct conversations with program participants- what works! As a result we have developed our own principles for success, emphasizing fostering meaningful relationships, developing needed competencies, creating direct connections with employer networks and developing opportunities for learning about work by working.
Our goal is to help policymakers and practitioners in the fields of workforce development education, social services and justice build systems that work together, overcoming issues of turf and tradition by focusing on the common goal- improving the life trajectory of at risk populations.
Marion Pines, Director
Marion Pines has spent over 30 years as a practitioner and leader in the human resource investment field. As the head of both Baltimore’s Workforce Development System and Housing Commission, she developed world-class programs, many of which are recognized as models for urban areas. These include developing a model public service jobs program for 3,000 of Baltimore's unemployed, serving as project director of Maryland's Tomorrow, a dropout prevention strategy serving 7,000 students in 75 high schools throughout the state, serving as project director for the national demonstration Youth Incentive Entitlement program which guaranteed jobs to youth who stayed in school or returned to school, and creating the first family development center in a public housing development at Lafayette Square.
Irene Hechler, Senior Staff
Irene Hechler is a senior staff member of the Levitan Center focusing on capacity building of youth work practitioners and youth councils. With over 25 years of experience in the fields of education and employment training, Irene has developed and managed a variety of grant and youth service delivery programs – both at the state and local levels. Previously, with the Maryland State Department of Education, Irene engaged in education policy research and development, legislative work, strategic planning, program capacity building, professional development design and delivery, continuous quality improvement initiatives, and leadership/coordination for state programs in dropout prevention and student support.
Michael Ford, Ed.D., Senior Program Coordinator
Faculty, Institute for Policy Studies at Johns Hopkins University
A number of the principal research scientists at the Institute for Policy Studies collaborate with the Levitan Center staff on policy research and evaluation. They include David M. Altschuler, Ph.D., Burt S. Barnow, Ph.D., and Demetra S. Nightingale, Ph.D. Altschuler directs a national demonstration initiative on intensive juvenile aftercare for the U.S. Justice Department. Barnow is working with 13 state welfare agencies to help them develop strategies for improving the employment retention and advancement of their welfare recipients and an evaluation of the national welfare to work program. Nightingale worked for over twenty-five years at the Urban Institute, most recently as a principal research associate and program director in the Labor and Social Policy Center, before joining Johns Hopkins.
Jim Callahan, Consultant
Jim Callahan collaborates frequently with the Levitan Center to help local organizations plan and implement effective programs. Before he became president of Callahan Consultants, Jim served as the Executive Director of Maryland’s Work Force Investment Board (WIB) for over 12 years. The Board was responsible for workforce investment policy development for the State. Prior to working for the Board, he was an assistant secretary for the state's Employment and Training Agency, responsible for all workforce investment programs. Jim currently consults for a number of organizations, such as the USDOL and Baltimore City, providing advice on how to use performance data to improve program operation. He is a nationally recognized expert on development and use of MIS (Management Information Systems). He has authored several youth program technical assistance publications for the USDOL.
Keith Massey, MSW., Consultant
The public and legislators often say "nothing works" with difficult populations. Frustrated by this unfounded cynicism, the Levitan Center collaborated with policy experts to review research studies, gather practitioners’ experiences and survey people about programs.
Many programs do work. We found these eight principles fundamental to their success.
Principles that Work