The purpose of the Mercyhurst Civic Institute:

  • Enhance and facilitate citizen participation in decision-making.

  • Provide high-quality, objective information to assist local decision-making.

  • Convene community forums that encourage reasoned reflection and free and open discussion of regional issues.

  • Educate the Erie community and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania about various issues through Institute reports and publications.

  • Foster human networks that enhance communication, link resources, strengthen community participation and build social capital.

  • Promote research, learning, teaching and service opportunities for the Mercyhurst community.

Our team

Amy Johnson

Research Analyst

Received her Bachelor's in psychology from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College before pursuing a master's in Library Science from the State University New York at Buffalo. Amy, as the most recent team member, joined the Civic Institute in 2018 after working with libraries for a decade before shifting to research analysis of parenting programs designed with the unique stressors of military families in mind. Her current projects include program evaluation of many after school youth programs and assisting with criminal justice and housing authority projects.

Carla Kuebler






Received her Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Carla joined the Civic Institute after working in both the financial and manufacturing sectors. Her primary focus is supporting data analysis and evaluation. As administrative support, she is the contact person at the Institute and also maintains our website.

Jacqueline Spry


Action Plan Coordinator

Received a Bachelor's in urban studies from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's degree in urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Design. Before joining the Civic Institute to lead UnifiedErie's prevention efforts, Jacqueline worked as a planner and project manager in the public, private and non-profit sectors of planning; including housing and community development, master planning, and neighborhood revitalization plans. She has led community outreach efforts, managed interdisciplinary teams, and engaged a multitutde of stakeholders to foster a collaborative decision-making process. Jacqueline is an Erie native, enjoys spending time with her husband and three girls, running outdoors , and finding new and interesting places to explore!

Amy Eisert


Amy C. Eisert, Director, received her Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green State University and her Master’s of Administration of Justice from Mercyhurst University. Amy has prior experience in the areas of juvenile and family services and programming. Amy is the key contact for Communities That Care in Erie County and served as the primary evaluator for the School Resource Officer Evaluation for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. She is the primary facilitator for the Erie County Policy and Planning Council for Children and Families. Her areas of expertise include juvenile delinquency, young female offenders, incorrigibility, mental health, community assessment, and research-based programming.

George Fickenworth

Assistant Director

George Fickenworth, Assistant Director, received his Master’s of Business Administration degree from Gannon University after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Speech Communications from Edinboro University. George joined the Civic Institute after serving much of his previous employment in the fields of development and marketing for local not-for-profits, specializing in fundraising activities, grant writing and donor/member cultivation. He also worked as a project manager for a local firm. At the Civic Institute, his main focus of work is within the criminal justice and court systems, specializing in program evaluations with drug and mental health treatment courts and activities with criminal justice advisory boards.

Kristen Burillo

Senior Evaluation Analyst

Received her Bachelor's degree in psychology and neuroscience from Allegheny College and then went on to earn her master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Dayton. Prior to joining the Civic Institute, Kristen worked as a mental health therapist with adolescents. Many of her projects focus on programs and initiatives that support youth and families. She also writes the Civic Column newsletter, which summarizes key issues and highlights data to share with the community.

Laura Lewis

Research Fellow

Dr. Lewis joined the social work faculty at Mercyhurst University in 1998 and currently serves as Chair of the Sociology/Social Work Department. Her practice experience includes administering an organization that provides services to single parents, working with survivors of domestic abuse, individual and group counseling, and advocacy work to address hunger. She also served as Program Director for the Institute of Politics at the University of Pittsburgh where she organized forums for civic leaders to come together to discuss social policy issues. Her research efforts have largely focused on poverty, and she helped spearhead a community movement to address poverty in Erie County.  She teaches social work macro practice, social welfare policy, human behavior and the social environment and contemporary social problems.

John Villa

Director of the Neighborhood Resource Organization (NRO)

Retired United States Navy Cryptologist. Qualified as NRA Chief Range Safety Officer and Pistol instructor also as Physical Fitness and Defensive Tactics instructor for Municipal Police Academy and ACT 235. John is the Director of the Neighborhood Resource Organization (NRO) that provides resources, support and technical assistance to neighborhood watch groups in Erie County. Neighborhood Watch Coordinator for last 22 years.



(Phone) 814-824-2286

(Fax) 814-824-2182


Our mailing address is:

501 East 38th Street

Erie, PA 16546

Our physical address is:

511 East 34th Street

Erie, PA 16504