Share Follow YouTube LinkedIn Instagram Tumblr



Our down-to-earth and responsive team collaborates with clients to measure results and provide user-friendly recommendations so you can take action to grow your social impact.

Need help with a program evaluation? Need data to enhance your grant applications? IMPACT can help. Find out more about the research services we offer.

Amy Rynell, Senior Director of Research & Policy

Amy Rynell

Amy has worked for Heartland Alliance since 1997 and currently oversees Heartland Alliance’s Research & Policy Division which is comprised of the Social IMPACT Research Center, Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Economic Opportunity, and the Heartland Alliance Policy and Advocacy Team. She provides external and internal policy and thought leadership, strategic direction and planning, financial management, and oversight of the projects throughout the division. With the Social IMPACT Research Center, best known for its reports on poverty, Amy guides dynamic research and analysis on today’s most pressing social issues.  In her role with Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives, Amy supports policy change, research, and field building to advance and strengthen employment programs and policies that address chronic unemployment. Finally through the Policy and Advocacy Team, Amy supports the creation of state policies designed to end poverty.

With over 20 years’ experience in the nonprofit human services sector, Amy has devoted her career to  ending  poverty, homelessness and chronic unemployment and as such has developed unique expertise in these areas. Amy has in-depth knowledge of poverty and homelessness through providing direct services within a homeless system in a range of interventions, through leading the creation of plans to end homelessness, through leadership positions within the Chicago Continuum of Care and coordinating the Regional Roundtable on Homelessness, and through documenting and evaluating best practices in addressing poverty and homelessness, including having overseen the most comprehensive study of homelessness in northeastern Illinois. In addition, Amy has been involved in multiple studies of unemployed adults with multiple employment barriers, helped advise on the design and roll-out of large scale employment initiatives, and served on the boards of workforce development organizations.

Amy has the honor of holding external leadership positions including being appointed to the State of Illinois Hunger Commission and Human Services Commission, serving on the national technical working group for USDHHS’s Subsidized and Transitional Jobs Demonstration, being a leader within the National Responsible Fatherhood Roundtable, a member of the Chicago Foundation for Women Academic Advisory Council, and a member of the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness Employment Task Group.   She is a frequent presenter at National Alliance to End Homelessness conferences, and the Welfare Research & Evaluation conferences, among others. Amy is also an adjunct professor at the University of Chicago.

Amy received her BA from University of Notre Dame and her AM from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Amy Terpstra, Director of Research

Amy Terpstra

Amy Terpstra is the Director of Research at Heartland Alliance's Social IMPACT Research Center. Amy is a social worker turned researcher who is passionate about the role research and data play in creating social change. Through leading IMPACT's research and evaluation services, Amy helps social programs and policies to be more effective at reducing poverty and hardship. 

Amy has led studies with a diverse group of organizations, including funders such as The Chicago Community Trust and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, nonprofits such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Donors Forum, and government entities, including the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. For the past 10 years, she has researched and co-authored Heartland Alliance's hallmark publication, the annual Report on Illinois Poverty. Amy has been featured by CLTV's Politics Tonight, NPR, Illinois Radio Network, The Chicago Tribune, Illinois Issues, Univision, and many other media outlets discussing research insights and strategies for addressing poverty. Amy puts her expertise to use teaching research for the behavioral sciences at Trinity Christian College. 

Amy has a Master’s in Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She loves to travel—favorite destination to date: Istanbul—and is an avid runner, with five marathons under her belt and counting. 

Katie Buitrago, Senior Research Associate

Katie Buitrago is a Senior Research Associate at Heartland Alliance’s Social IMPACT Research Center. Katie’s projects include an evaluation of a major initiative to develop and implement an integrated data system for Chicago region workforce providers. She believes that rigorous and actionable research, coupled with effective advocacy, can make public policy more effective at lifting people out of poverty.

Prior to joining IMPACT, Katie conducted communications, legislative and regulatory advocacy, and research at Woodstock Institute to advance economic security for low-wealth people and people of color. She authored a report analyzing whether students at for-profit colleges were more likely to take out student loans than students at public and nonprofit colleges and used the findings to inform advocacy to reform the student debt system. Katie has been invited to speak on public policy issues with dozens of audiences, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Senator Dick Durbin, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, and the Consumer Federation of America.She has appeared in media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Chicago Tribune, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, ABC-7, and Chicago Public Radio.

Katie received her Master of Public Policy from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. She enjoys traveling (from New Orleans to New Zealand and beyond), hiking through natural and urban environments, reading voraciously, cooking, and knitting.

Lindy Carrow, Research Associate - Evaluation Specialist

Lindy Carrow

Lindy Carrow, Research Associate - Evaluation Specialist

Lindy’s work at IMPACT focuses on equipping leaders in the human services field to prevent and end poverty through research and data-informed decision making. Lindy’s passion for research that informs change stems from her experience working with vulnerable populations in Chicago and seeing the injustices and challenges they face. 

Through her work with organizations such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Night Ministry, and Heartland Human Cares Services, Lindy has helped programs to measure their outcomes and, ultimately, to better serve participants and increase their impact. Lindy ‘s work also influences policy; her recommendations for the Robert R. McCormick Foundation on service needs of new veterans in Illinois has helped inform program funding and  the state of Illinois’ five year mental health service strategic plan. Her research on economic racial inequality informed the Illinois Asset Building Group’s policy agenda to support credit building initiatives in order to close the racial wealth gap. 

When she’s not engrossed in a spreadsheet, Lindy can be found skating with the Chicago Outfit Roller Derby league, where in the 2014 season, she won the team’s ‘Dynamic Duo’ award with teammate and Heartland colleague, Kim Drew, or Kim Mortal. Lindy received her MSW from Jane Addams College of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Suniya Farooqui, Data Analyst

Suniya Farooqui

Suniya is a Data Analyst with IMPACT. She is passionate about program evaluation and human rights; and believes policy wonks can save the world, or at least increase efficiency and improve people’s standard of living. 

Prior to joining IMPACT, Suniya assisted Woodstock Institute in analyzing the effect of the housing market, banking regulation trends, and limited access to financial markets on low-income communities and minority groups. Suniya honed her quantitative skills by working in rural Pakistan for the Rural Support Programmes Network’s Monitoring, Evaluation, and Research Team. She worked on a gender-focused Institutional Assessment of the Pakistan Domestic Biogas Program and conducted a cost-benefit analysis of a community-based solid waste management project in Marri, Sargodha. Suniya also spent time at the International Rescue Committee and Neighborhood Legal Services’ Workers’ Rights and Domestic Abuse Self-Help Clinics, where she helped refugees resettle in America, workers collect unpaid wages and file for unemployment insurance, and victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse obtain emergency restraining orders. 

Suniya has a MPP from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. She enjoys baking, traveling with her husband, watching Korean dramas, reading Agatha Christie novels, and laughing with her one-year-old daughter. 

Clem Taylor, Research Assistant

Clem is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to this, he received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology where he studied various elements of human culture and adaptation historically, temporally, and spatially. His interests also include spatial and transportation planning concerns within the Chicago area and cities along the East Coast. Other interests include travel and science fiction; Clem has written the first novel of a sci-fi trilogy which he hopes to publish someday, and in the future, would like to complete his series from his favorite travel locale and possible new home: the New England seacoast.

Jean Lam, Program Coordinator

Jean Lam

Jean Lam is the Administrative Coordinator for Heartland Alliance's Research and Policy Division. Jean provides specialized clerical support and administrative assistance to the three teams that make up Heartland Alliance's Research and Policy Division. Jean enables the staff to achieve their goals of greater social change and make a difference. 

Jean's educational background is in programming, along with her past experiences in information services support and database management, has given her the technical skills and knowledge to deepen her role on the team.

Jean's interests include reading biographical literature, cooking, taking online courses, and watching Chicago Bulls games. She supports the nearby school youth group and she volunteers in local community housing assistance services.