CSPO People


Mary Ellen O’Connell

Executive Director, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine


Mary Ellen O’Connell is the executive director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (National Academies). She previously served as DBASSE deputy executive director, with primary responsibility for internal management and operational oversight. O’Connell has also served as the acting director of the DBASSE Board on Environmental Change and Society, where she developed and oversaw projects on the social cost of carbon and characterizing risk in the context of climate change. As deputy director of the DBASSE Board on Behavioral, Cognitive, and Sensory Sciences and Board on Human-Systems Integration, she oversaw projects ranging from pilot fatigue to human factors in home health care to intelligence analysis. O’Connell began her tenure at the National Academies as a senior program officer primarily with the Board on Children, Youth and Families, where she led studies on topics such as prevention of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders; ethical considerations for research; strategies for reducing underage drinking; measuring children’s health; and international education programs. Before joining the National Academies, O’Connell developed a variety of policy and program initiatives for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services, focused primarily on the evaluation and coordination of homelessness programs, and developing state-level indicator systems. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, she co-led an initiative to develop homeless management information systems and a national conference focused on research to practice. As the Director of Field Services for the Massachusetts Department of Public Welfare, she managed statewide homeless services, including developing a program to provide substance abuse services for homeless women and their children. Early in her career, she was selected as an Atlantic Fellow in Public Policy, based at York University in the United Kingdom. O’Connell received a B.A. in psychology with distinction from Cornell University and a Master in the Management of Human Services from the Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

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