About Our Staff… Current and Past

Dr. Dawn C. Carr


Dr. Dawn C. Carr is an Associate Professor of Sociology, whose mission as a scholar has focused on understanding factors that bolster older adults’ ability to remain healthy, active, and engaged as long as possible. Before joining Florida State University in 2016, she was a researcher at the Stanford Center on Longevity, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute on Aging at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a researcher at Scripps Gerontology Center.

Stephen R. MacNamara

Former Managing Director

Professor Stephen R. MacNamara is a former Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Florida State University (FSU) and served for three years as the Associate Dean of the FSU College of Law.  He succeeded Governor Lawton Chiles as the Executive Director of the LeRoy Collins Center for Public Policy at FSU. In addition, he served as Executive Director of the Claude Pepper Center from 2006 to 2008. MacNamara is the only person in Florida history to serve as Chief of Staff to Florida’s House Speaker, the Florida Senate President, and the Governor of the State of Florida.

Monica Laughlin

Business Manager

Monica Laughlin has been on the campus of Florida State University following the endowment of the Claude Pepper Center in the 1990’s. Prior to that time she served on staff with the foundation that endowed the Center at FSU and assisted in its transition to the university. She has served as Business Manager of the Pepper Center since 2005 providing support in the areas of project management, financial management, human resources and other activities and initiatives of the Center. In 2022 she assumed serving as the Business Manager of DeVoe L. Moore Center to provide the same means of support to the Center.

Jared Brust

Information Assistant and Writer

  Jared Brust is a graduate of the FSU Masters of Applied American Politics and Policy program. He is currently researching Florida’s influx of elderly prisoners and developing solutions to solve the predicament with the expansion of early release methods, simultaneously curbing government spending. Mr. Brust also went to FSU as an undergraduate where he graduated Summa Cum Laude, and he was the former Vice-Chair of the Student Leadership Council of the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy. He cites his favorite book as Ulysses or War and Peace. After graduation, Mr. Brust seeks to start his career in governmental affairs or public policy.

Larry Polivka, Ph.D.

Former Executive Director

Executive Director of the Claude Pepper Center and Scholar- in- Residence with the Claude Pepper Foundation. His primary research centers on critical aging issues including long-term care, affordable health care, and economic security for America’s elderly population.

Lori Gonzalez, Ph.D.

Former Research Faculty III

Dr. Gonzalez’s research includes uncovering alternatives to traditional nursing home care including the Green House Project and the Program of the All Inclusive Care for the Elderly.

Former Research Associate

Kacey Heekin, J.D. interned at the Claude Pepper Center. Her research focused on mental health policy. She graduated Sum Cum Laude from Florida State University’s College of Law in 2019.  She’s currently an Associate at Nelson Mullins where she focuses her practice on mergers and acquisitions, securities law, and health law.

LuMarie Polivka-West

Former Research Volunteer

LuMarie Polvika-West joined the Florida State University Claude Pepper Center in October 2015 as a Sr. Research Associate (volunteer) after retiring from 23 years with the Florida Health Care Association.

Lisa Rill, Ph.D.

Former Researcher

Dr. Lisa Rill received her Ph.D. in Sociology at Florida State University with a specialization in health and aging. Her research includes quality of life in long-term care, aging in place, labor force issues, staff training requirements, pain management, person-directed care, nutrition, nursing home risk scores, Medicare/Medicaid, aging prisoners, and trends among older voters.

Glenn Mitchell, Ph.D.

Former Director of the Data Center

Dr. Glenn Mitchell is the former director of the Claude Pepper Data Center.  Currently, he is faculty at FSU’s College of Medicine where he specializes in research and statistical methodology, health services research, and program evaluation.  

Aras Aziz

Former Media Specialist

Mr. Aziz has a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Florida State University and over ten years of experience working with Non-Governmental Organizations and foreign governments. He currently works for FSU’s Sponsored Research.

Alex Smith

Former Filmmaker

Alex Smith produced content for the Claude Pepper Center for 6 years. Using his experience in film-making, Alex adapted research conducted at the Claude Pepper Center into short documentary pieces to disseminate the most important topics to the public.