Center for Youth and Communities

Susan P. Curnan

Florence G. Heller Chair, Associate Professor of the Practice; Executive Director, Center for Youth and Communities; Co-Founder, Heller Global Collaborative

Susan P. Curnan speaking at Eleanor Roosevelt's 127th Birthday Party

Susan P. Curnan holds the inaugural Florence G. Heller Chair as Associate Professor of the Practice at the Heller School, Brandeis University. This endowed chair was established in 2019 in recognition of her distinguished career as a practitioner-scholar undertaking evaluation research and capacity building efforts to improve education, workforce, and civic engagement opportunities for young people in the U.S. and abroad.

At the University, Prof. Curnan is founding chair of the Social Impact MBA and MPP concentrations in child, youth and family policy, teaches graduate courses in positive youth development, evaluation, program and system design and civic society, and recently completed an unprecedented four-year term as President of the Brandeis University Faculty Senate.

Curnan joined the faculty in 1983 and co-founded the Center for Youth and Communities, one of the nation’s premier evaluation-research and capacity building firms dedicated to improving youth livelihoods, economic opportunities and well-being. As Executive Director, she leads a team of Senior Fellows and Scientists conducting applied research and capacity building supported by nearly $100M in grants and contracts since its founding. 

In 2020, Curnan co-founded the Heller Global Collaborative, combining the capabilities of the Center with those of the Institute for Global Health and Development, the MA Program in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence, and the Center for Global Development and Sustainability.

Currently, Prof. Curnan is the Principal Investigator (PI) for a youth livelihoods initiative in Ethiopia, partnering with Save the Children, USAID, Ministry of Science and Higher Education, and several Ethiopian Universities. In the United States, she has served as PI on hundreds of nationwide initiatives sponsored by USDOL, foundations, NGOs, school districts, and state and local government. Most recently, and throughout her career, she has led national youth development, summer jobs and education reform initiatives linking work and learning in secondary and post-secondary institutions.

Over the past 10 years, she has overseen and grown the Center’s endowed program in civic engagement, the Eli J. & Phyllis N. Segal Citizen Leadership Program, with more than 100 Fellows around the world.

A graduate of Stony Brook University and Yale University with expertise in ecological systems theory and design, Professor Curnan has authored hundreds of “user-friendly” reports and tool kits translating scholarly research into practical guidance for managers, policymakers, practitioners and students.

An internationally recognized thought leader and social impact advisor for the National Academy of Sciences, USAID, USDOL, UNESCO, White House Domestic Policy Council and others, Curnan believes “Enough is Known for Action,” and provides leadership and science to help advance social justice and close the disparity gaps in education, economic opportunities and global well-being.

Prior to, and overlapping with, Brandeis, Curnan held management and policy positions in the private sector, government, and nonprofit organizations in rural and urban America. In philanthropy, she served as Program Director and Trustee for one of four foundations labeled “the Freedom Funders” because of their early and sustained support for the Voter Education Project and other civil rights efforts for racial equity and justice.


Susan P. Curnan,
Executive Assistant, Lanni Isenberg,, (781) 736-4835