Morgan Crossman, PhD’15: One of Vermont’s Rising Stars

June 27, 2023

Morgan Crossman, PhD'15
Illustration by Tal Friedlander

When Morgan Crossman, PhD’15, was named a member of Vermont’s Rising Stars Class of 2022, she knew she had Heller to thank. VermontBiz chose 40 winners under the age of 40 to serve as examples of professional excellence and community service. When asked about her most inspiring mentor after receiving the award, Crossman instantly thought of her dissertation chair, Marji Erickson Warfield, PhD’91. 

“Her approach to mentorship was all about kindness, collaborative brainstorming, problem-solving, and empowerment. She showed me the importance of being true to myself and working hard for my dreams,” notes Crossman. Being named one of Vermont’s Rising Stars gave her a chance to reflect on the importance of her relationship with Warfield, and how she has used it as inspiration when giving back to her community and mentoring others. 

Crossman is the executive director of Building Bright Futures, Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council, a quasi-governmental nonprofit with a mission to improve the well-being of children and families in Vermont by using evidence to inform policy and bringing voices together to discuss critical challenges and solve problems. This public-private partnership compiles and uses high-quality evidence to address barriers that the state faces when trying to provide children and their families access to high-quality, equitable, and accessible services. This is achieved through collaboration between members of the Vermont governor’s administration, the Vermont legislature, caregivers of children under age 8, private partners, and early childhood experts from across the state. 

As a PhD student, Crossman concentrated in Children, Youth and Families with a special focus on disability policy. “It’s not just about the content that I learned, but also about the mentorship and life skills I gained,” she says. “Strong mentorship and a collegial, team-based approach to problem-solving really helped me build the skills I needed for my current role.”

Crossman explains that during her time at Heller, she learned how to use evidence and data to inform policy. She currently serves as the primary advisor to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and the state legislature on the well-being of children under age 8 and their families and knows firsthand the power of data: how to use it, its limitations, and that data doesn’t always have to be quantitative. When making decisions about children and families, qualitative data and anecdotes are also essential. Success stories from around the state show how Building Bright Futures is positively impacting Vermont’s families.

“Heller was really powerful in giving me the skills in qualitative and quantitative data analysis, but also in instilling this idea of how we can use data to inform policy and decision making,” she says.