About Our Staff… Current and Past

Stephen R. MacNamara, J.D.

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. He is currently the Managing Director of the Claude Pepper Center and is a board member and the Secretary to the Claude Pepper Foundation. 

Monica Laughlin

Business Manager

Monica Laughlin joined The Claude Pepper Foundation, Inc. in 1993 and the Claude Pepper Center in 2005. Ms. Laughlin has provided business management support in the areas of project management, financial management, human resource and administrative support.

Jared Brust

Graduate Student Intern

Jared Brust is a graduate student in 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.

Kacey Heekin, J.D.

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.

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.