Staff and Research Fellows

  • Laura Berlind
    Laura BerlindExecutive Director

    Laura joined The Sycamore Institute in 2015 as the founding executive director. She provides the Institute’s organizational vision, strategic planning, and day-to-day management. Laura holds a master’s degree in public policy with a focus on business and government from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. Her role at the Institute reflects her longstanding commitment to using data and research to bring together diverse stakeholders and work complex problems.

    Laura brings with her almost fifteen years of nonprofit and government finance experience, most recently serving as the CEO of Renewal House, a holistic residential treatment center for women and their children affected by addiction and poverty. Prior to her role at Renewal House, she worked as a financial analyst at Vanderbilt University and as a vice president in the public finance department at Ambac Financial Group in New York, NY. At Ambac, Laura worked with wide range of government and nonprofit clients to evaluate and execute publically funded capital projects ranging in size up to $800 million.

    Laura maintains a strong connection to her local community through service on nonprofit boards and other volunteer activities. She is currently serving as the chair of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health’s Planning and Policy Council and is an active member of Rotary Club. In 2014, Laura received the Volunteer of the Year award from the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug and Other Addiction Services. She was also recognized as one of the Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 Forty Under 40 award winners and was a member of the 2016-17 class of Leadership Tennessee.

  • Mandy Pellegrin
    Mandy PellegrinPolicy Director

    Mandy joined The Sycamore Institute in 2016 as the Policy Director. She has the lead responsibility for developing the organization’s research plan and conducting and curating research and analysis.

    Mandy holds a master’s degree in public policy with a health policy concentration from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University. Mandy brings with her over a decade of experience in health policy – including as a Presidential Management Fellow at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advising senior HHS leadership under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama on budget policy issues and as the Health Policy Adviser to U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), who served on the Ways and Means Committee during the drafting, consideration, and passage of the Affordable Care Act. She began her career in policy as an intern and then bill clerk in the Tennessee General Assembly.

  • Brian Straessle
    Brian StraessleCommunications Director

    Brian joined The Sycamore Institute in 2017 as Communications Director. He holds the primary responsibility for planning and executing communications and outreach to the media and general public.

    A veteran public policy communicator, Brian has shaped messaging and public relations efforts for U.S. Representatives Tom Price (R-GA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Republican Study Committee, and the American Petroleum Institute. His congressional experience includes active roles in debates over the Affordable Care Act and the federal budget, and he began his career with an internship at The Heritage Foundation. Brian earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, where he studied history, business, and French.

  • Courtnee Melton, PhD
    Courtnee Melton, PhDPolicy Analyst

    Courtnee joined The Sycamore Institute in 2016 as the organization’s policy analyst. She is responsible for conducting analyses of state budget and policy issues impacting the health and well-being of Tennesseans.

    Courtnee holds a doctorate degree in Health Outcomes and Policy Research from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Memphis. Courtnee has experience conducting health outcomes research and managing clinical trials — including carrying out both qualitative and quantitative analysis, discussing research findings with diverse audiences, and publishing peer-reviewed manuscripts.