Cathy Burack

Visiting Research Scholar

Cathy  Burack's photo


Office: Heller-Brown Building 372
Phone: 781-736-3762
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Higher Education Policy & Management; Faculty Roles and Rewards; Civic Engagement, Service-Learning; Evaluation; College Access; Diversity and Inclusion; STEM


  • Harvard University
  • University of Rochester

Cathy Burack

Visiting Research Scholar


Cathy Burack is a Senior Fellow for Higher Education at the Center for Youth and Communities (CYC) in the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. She is also a Brandeis University Ombuds.
For the past twenty-five years Cathy has focused on ways faculty, students and administrators can work together to fulfill the civic missions of their colleges and universities. This focus has been on two interrelated areas: access to higher education, especially by students who are among the first in their families to attend; and the ways in which colleges and universities engage with their communities. Her work has taken several forms including facilitating Think Tanks for senior campus administrators, co-coordinating and facilitating national meetings focused on the civic mission of research universities, directing various funded projects that support student, faculty and community representatives working together on a change initiative, and extensive work with faculty from a wide variety of institutions.
Through her work at CYC Cathy works with colleges, universities, and community organizations to use evaluation to both “prove” and “improve” their programs. Her research and capacity-building efforts attend to both outcomes and systemic change. To that end Cathy has conducted evaluations of campus-based change initiatives including conducting a national evaluation of institutional support for civic engagement, developing measures of student success, helping to set up a national data collection system, and conducting multi-site evaluations on campus-wide change initiatives. Examples of some of Cathy's projects include helping Girls Who Code increase their evaluation capacity, the evaluation of Campus Compact's Connect to Complete (C2C) initiative, a pilot peer-support program at nine community colleges, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the GreenLight Fund’s Social Innovation Fund initiative evaluation, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's Community College Transfer Initiative, an initiative designed to enable low- and moderate-income, academically able, community college students to transfer to selective colleges and universities, and of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation’s Project Compass, a program focused on the retention of underserved students. She is currently working with her colleague Alan Melchior on a longitudinal evaluation of FIRST, a national after school robotics program.

Cathy holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Rochester, and a Doctorate in Administration, Planning and Social Policy from Harvard University. Cathy's work is under-girded by her core beliefs in the power of reflective practice, collaboration, importance of creating learning organizations, capacity building, and development of communities and the individuals who inhabit them.


  • Melchior A., Burack, C., Hoover, M., Haque, Z.. FIRST Longitudinal Study: Findings at 48 Month Follow-up (Year 5 Report). Waltham, MA Center for Youth and Communities, Brandeis University: 2018.
  • Melchior, Alan, Burack, Cathy, Hoover, M., Marcus, J. FIRST Longitudinal Student: Participant Characteristics, Program Experience and Impacts at Follow-up. Year 3 Report. Waltham, MA Center for Youth and Communities, Brandeis University: 2016.
  • Berger, S., Burack, C., Lanspery, S., Duffy, D.. Meaningful Connections: Service-Learning, Peer Advocacy and Student Success.. Boston, MA: Campus Compact, 2015.
  • Burack, Cathy, ed. Handbook of engaged scholarship: Contemporary Landscapes, Future Directions. East Lansing Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 2010.
  • Cress, C., Burack, C., Giles Jr., D. et al. "A Promising Connection: Increasing College Access and Success through Civic Engagement." Campus Compact (2010): <>.
  • Fitzgerald, H. E., Burack, C., & Seifer, S. (Eds), ed. Handbook of engaged scholarship: Contemporary Landscapes, Future Directions.. First ed. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2010.
  • Burack, Cathy/ Hollander, Elizabeth. How Young People Develop Long-Lasting Habits of Civic Engagement: A Conversation on Building a Research Agenda. Proc. of How Young People Develop Long-Lasting Habits of Civic Engagement: A Conversation on Building a Research Agenda. Spencer Foundation, Chicago, IL:, 2009.