Meet our experienced team.

Ryan C. Hankins, Ph.D., Executive Director
Ryan came to PARCA in October 2015. He is active in local and statewide nonprofit work and serves on numerous boards and committees, including the Executive Team of the Alabama Committee for Grade-Level Reading, the Alabama Counts! 2020 Census Committee, and the advisory boards for the Masters of Public Administration at Auburn University and both the Masters of Social Work and Department of Human Development and Family Science at Samford University. He has previously served on the board of the Alabama Association of Nonprofits, the Birmingham—Jefferson Food Policy Council, the Medicaid Citizens’ Advisory Board, the Bold Goals Workforce Development Council, the Kiwanis Club of Birmingham, and is past president of the Alabama Association of Free Clinics. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management Executive Education program, the Nonprofit Executive Leadership Institute, Leadership Birmingham, Leadership Alabama, and a Birmingham Business Journal Top 40 Under 40 Honoree. Hankins holds a B.A. in religion and English literature, a Master of Divinity, and a Ph.D. in public policy. He has completed additional studies at the University of Alabama, Birmingham and Oxford University.

Marci Edwards Smith, MPA, PMP, Director of Operations
Marci is responsible for the coordination and management of PARCA’s projects and communications, as well as financial administration and event planning for the organization. She holds a Master of Public Administration and a B.A. in political science, both from the University of Alabama. She received her Project Management Professional certification in 2021.

Joe Adams, Ph.D., Research Coordinator
Joe has 30 years of experience in government research, analysis, and planning, including eight years in state government, as a senior legislative research analyst with the Comptroller of the Treasury’s Offices of Research and Educational Accountability in Tennessee, as a budget and performance analyst for the Texas Legislature with the Legislative Budget Board, and as the first director of planning for the Texas Workforce Commission. Before working in government, he was the research director for Political Research Inc., and a visiting assistant professor at Auburn University. He holds a B.A. from Texas A&M University (political science and history), and a Ph.D. (political science) from Vanderbilt University.

Rachel Cochran, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate
Rachel has more than twenty years of experience in the fields of social science research, measurement and assessment, and educational evaluation, working for diverse organizations such as the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, and Houghton-Mifflin’s Riverside Publishing. Formerly the Assistant Director of the Center for Educational Accountability at UAB, she has served as Co-PI for several large-scale, multi-year educational research and reform efforts funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the National Institutes of Health, and the Institute for Education Sciences. She holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and English from Birmingham-Southern College, a Master’s Degree in Gifted Education from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Thomas Spencer, Senior Research Associate
Tom came to PARCA after nearly two decades in journalism, most recently with The Birmingham News. He has a diversified background, researching and writing on a wide variety of topics including the environment, education, economics, governmental and community affairs, politics and civil rights. His work has earned top national, regional and state awards. A Birmingham native, Tom is a graduate of the University of Virginia.

Sarah Dayhood, Executive Assistant
Sarah joined PARCA in January of 2024 as an Executive Assistant. She assists with administrative operations and project management. Sarah comes from a Human Resources background and holds a B.S. in Business Administration from Auburn University.

Affiliated Researchers

Kenesha Reynolds-Fraser, Ph.D.
Dr. Reynolds conducts economic research and coordinates data management and database design. She previously served as Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, where her primary focus was production and marketing of traditional and new agricultural products, agri-tourism, economic development and enterprise analysis. She held leadership roles in several public and academic organizations in New Jersey. Kenesha holds a B.S. degree from Northern Caribbean University, a Master’s Degree in economics from Tuskegee University, a Master of Business Administration from Samford University, and a Ph.D. in applied economics from Auburn University.

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