Consultants

Julie Anbender
President of Ward Circle Strategies

Julie Anbender, president of Ward Circle Strategies, is a senior adviser to CW. She brings more than 20 years of experience building national and global campaigns that combine thought leadership and visibility building for national nonprofit organizations, Fortune 50 companies, and startups. She helps clients increase awareness, garner national media recognition, and develop strong donor bases. She spent her early career in media and public affairs, directing press operations and serving as spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Florida Governor's office, and a national political party. She led a variety of coalition efforts for industry groups and nonprofit advocates. Julie spent six years at the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, where she focused on articulating the unique value of public media and the trusted PBS brand, particularly in education. During a crisis, Julie was recruited to serve as PBS President Pat Mitchell’s Chief of Staff. Julie then spent nearly five years as the lead of the public affairs practice at The Glover Park Group. 

Karen DeWitt
Senior Writer

Karen DeWitt has a distinguished career as a print journalist and television producer, advocate, and political campaign advisor. She's covered the White House, national politics, education, and social policy issues for The New York Times; was a columnist, foreign affairs and White House correspondent for USA Today before joining that newspaper’s management as an assistant managing editor. She switched to television as a senior producer for ABC’s Nightline, where she wrote and produced the award-winning, Found Voices, which was based on newly digitized interviews from 1930s and 40s with formerly enslaved African Americans.  She handled crisis communications for the DC Water company during its 2004 lead contamination crisis, then returned to newspapers  as Washington editor for the Examiner newspaper.  She left to be communications director for several non-profits and local political campaigns. An early social media adopter, she has several blogs, but contributes mostly to a food blog called “I don’t speak cuisine” at peacecorpsworldwide.org.  

Mark Toner
Senior Writer

Mark Toner, senior writer, specializes in K-12 and education policy issues, teaching, technology, and local improvement efforts. Toner has served as editor and manager of publications for the 3.2 million-member National Education Association and as senior editor of Teacher Magazine, which was nominated for a National Magazine Award for general excellence during his tenure. As a consultant, he serves as the editorial lead for two associations and manages case development for a federal grant documenting effective practices in urban school districts and charter schools. Toner has been involved with Internet publishing since 1995, when he singlehandedly launched an association magazine’s website and helped develop the strategy guiding the organization’s broader Web presence. He has since created a wide range of online features and media packages, introduced the first blogs at two organizations, and played key roles in site redesigns at three associations. Toner has also researched and developed white papers on Internet strategy for traditional publishers through his work at the Newspaper Association of America. His personal online projects have been featured in The Washington Post and Washingtonian magazine. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the College of William & Mary.

Michael Usdan
Senior Policy Advisor

Michael Usdan served as President of the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) from 1981 through 2001. As of July 1, 2001, he became a Senior Fellow at the organization. Before joining IEL, Mr. Usdan was Connecticut's Commissioner of Higher Education from 1978 through 1981. From 1974 through 1978, Mr. Usdan was President of the Merrill-Palmer Institute in Detroit. Mr. Usdan received his masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University, having previously completed his undergraduate studies at Brown University. He worked on the staff of the late Dr. James B. Conant in the latter's famous studies of American education and has taught at Columbia University, City University of New York, Northwestern, and Fordham Universities, and in schools in New York City and White Plains. He also served as a member and president of the school board in the city of New Rochelle, NY, from 1969 to 1974.

Mr. Usdan has written many articles and books on education. Several themes dominate his writing: problems relating to urban education, the relationship of government and politics to education, and the growing interest in developing closer relationships between elementary, secondary, and higher education. He has been a consultant to local and state boards of education and educational organizations throughout the country. Currently, among other affiliations, he is a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Phi Delta Kappan magazine and a consultant to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Hunt Institute, and the Council of Chief State School Officers. He also serves as a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the George Washington University.

Emily Wagner
Senior Associate at Ward Circle Strategies

Emily Wagner, senior associate at Ward Circle Strategies, conducts media outreach and manages social media and dissemination efforts for CommunicationWorks . She has led regional media outreach on numerous CW projects, including Achieving the Dream’s OER Community College Initiative, National University’s Sanford Harmony Program, The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s release of its next-generation assessment study and America’s Best and Worst Cities for School Choice, and other projects.   Emily received her M.B.A. from Mercy College in New York, where she also worked as an advisor supporting the success of first-generation undergraduate students. Emily received her B.A. in International Studies from American University in 2013. As an undergrad, she served as a peer mentor to students in the School of International Service and represented AU at the 2013 National Conference on Undergraduate Research, where she presented original research on ending harmful traditional practices in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, she interned at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute.