My Mathematica: Martha Bleeker
Editor’s Note: At Mathematica, we’re committed to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work and among our staff. As part of that commitment, we’re sharing a series of staff profiles adapted from interviews that underscore how Mathematica values, appreciates, and thrives through our diversity of experience.
I’m a proud Midwesterner, having grown up in Kansas in the 80s and 90s. I realized I was gay around age 12 or 13 and came out to my parents and best friend when I was 16. I started to come out to other friends and family members over the next several years, and still come out in some shape or form almost every day. The internal struggle I had accepting who I was and then telling other people was a tough experience for me during adolescence, and it defined the person I am today. Luckily, most of my close friends and immediate family were supportive, which was remarkable for Kansas in the 90s.
As an undergraduate student, I was a psychology major at Emporia State University in Kansas. My struggles accepting myself and coming out as a teenager led me to explore becoming a mental health professional for adolescents. But during college, I also realized that I really liked the research aspect of psychology, which led me to get my Ph.D. in human development and family studies, with a focus on education and student achievement, at Penn State. I grew up in a family of educators and have always been interested in finding ways to make schools better. At Mathematica, I’ve been able to take my interests and concentrate my work not just on education, but on a variety of programs that address the well-being of children and adolescents.
In addition to research, I supervise survey research associates in the Princeton and Cambridge offices. This rewarding role gives me a chance to support my colleagues as they think about their professional development and develop their own interests. I love helping others think through challenges and figure out ways to bring their own unique set of skills to the table. Outside of work, I volunteer as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line, which gives me the opportunity to support people who are struggling with all sorts of issues, including teens coming out to their families.
I’ve been with my wife, Kristin, for 12 years. We were finally able to get married in May 2015. Kristin copyedits and writes for Out in Jersey magazine, which opened the door for us to appear on the cover when we got married. Feeling comfortable sharing a wedding announcement with your co-workers is something that a lot of people take for granted. I’m glad to see that more and more people are able to bring their whole selves to work, and I’m proud of the way Mathematica encourages everyone to bring their lived experiences to the job. Connecting with colleagues in this way makes for a better workplace and improves the quality of our work.
Martha Bleeker is a senior survey researcher in Princeton. She joined Mathematica in July 2005 and has worked on many evaluations of educational interventions, including college and career readiness interventions, obesity prevention programs, teacher mentoring programs, and programs that aim to improve social-emotional outcomes and decrease problem behaviors such as bullying.