About Us

A Reputable Research and Development Center



The Capstone Institute is a research, development, and technical assistance center within Howard University. It has a full-time professional staff comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of practitioners to include training, curriculum and evaluation specialists, administrators, and support personnel, as well as researchers, faculty associates, and students. Individually and collectively, our staff has a demonstrated track record of evidenced-based accomplishments in urban and ethnically diverse schools, districts and communities.


The centerpiece of Capstone’s work is the Talent Quest Model™ of comprehensive school reform. The Talent Quest Model™ evolved from a philosophy of schooling called Talent Development, which embraces the idea that all students can learn in a demanding setting, with high academic expectations, if relevant stakeholders are supportive and assume compatible, convergent responsibilities to accomplish this objective.



To research, develop, evaluate, refine and disseminate the Talent Quest school reform model and/or its components in schools and communities with large proportions of students from primarily low-income and/or ethnic minority backgrounds who underachieve academically, and who have school-based social and behavioral challenges.


Dr. A. Wade Boykin is the Executive Director of The Capstone Institute at Howard University. He was formerly the national co-director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR). He is also a Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Psychology at Howard University. Dr. Boykin was also the first HBCU Professor Elected to the National Academy of Education in November 2018.

  • A. Wade Boykin

    B.A., psychology, Hampton University; M.A.
    and Ph.D., experimental psychology, University of Michigan.


We are a team of dedicated professionals


A. Wade Boykin, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Dr. Boykin is the former national co-director of the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed At Risk (CRESPAR). He is also a Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Psychology at Howard University. He spent a year as a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Palo Alto, California.

He was Co-Director of the Task Force on the Relevance of the Social Sciences to the Black Experience, Yale University. Dr. Boykin currently serves on the editorial boards of the Sage Publications Book Series on Race, Ethnicity and Culture and those of several scholarly journals.

In addition, Dr. Boykin served on the President’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel advising the then President and the Secretary of Education with respect to evidence-based mathematics instruction that improves math performance among American students.


Jennifer Lee, Ph.D.

Director of Assessment and Evaluation and Assistant Director

Dr. Lee is an expert on assessment and evaluation, especially culturally responsive evaluations. Dr. Lee has served as a consultant evaluator for various organizations and universities. Dr. Lee’s research interest center primarily around identifying the best evidence based practices that enhance teaching and learning, therefore, providing all children with quality educators and a quality education. Dr. Lee has a very specific interest in identifying new practical uses of Educational Assessments for the 21st century.


Vanessa Thomas

Fiscal Administrator and Office Manager

Ms. Robinson has over 20 years of professional experience in non-profit fiscal management with a total commitment to high quality customer service. Vanessa has extensive experience in office operations, human relations, budget development, contract review, and grant management.

Ms. Robinson’s expertise in these areas is demonstrated by her judicious use of resources—resulting in cost containment. Vanessa’s commitment to excellence has made her an essential team member and contributor to the success and longevity of the Institute.


Leonard Upson

Director of Leadership Development

Leonard Upson is an education consultant for leadership development with more than 40 years of experience as a teacher, coach, and administrator in urban school settings. Mr. Upson brings insights and skills in instructional leadership and organizational change and has received numerous awards for his endeavors including Junior High School Principal of the Year by D.C Public Schools in 1983, Principal of the Year by the District of Columbia Association of Secondary Schools in 1989, and was identified as a Principal of Excellence by the Washington Post in 1997.

His work as a faculty member, for 13 years, at Harvard University’s Principals’ Center spurred his development as a trainer and coach of school leaders.

A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Upson earned a Master’s Degree in Urban Learning at George Washington University. His professional memberships include The School Club of Washington, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

He currently serves as Director for Leadership Development with Capstone Institute at Howard University. Most recently in October 2013 Mr. Upson was certified by the National Association of Elementary School Principals as a Mentor and Coach for elementary and secondary principals.


Ladan Rahnema, Ed.D.

Director of Training

In this capacity she supports schools in the implementation of research-based instructional strategies; turning educational research into practice in K-12 classrooms. Dr. Rahnema began her career in education in 1997 as an elementary education teacher in the Bronx, New York. She has over seven years of teaching experience in urban schools.

Since 2004, Dr. Rahnema has worked in the area of school reform, coaching and training teachers and administrators in behavior management and instructional strategies. Dr. Rahnema earned her doctoral degree in educational leadership from The George Washington University.


Gayle Upson

Training Specialist and Consultant

Gayle is an independent education consultant with 30+ years of teaching and administrative experience in urban and suburban school settings. Ms. Upson brings the insights and skills of instructional leadership and organizational change and extensive experience in managing productive schools. As Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Community Academy Public Charter School in Washington, DC, she gained extensive experience in curriculum design and teacher development.

A native of Philadelphia, Ms. Upson received her B.S. in Elementary Education from Pennsylvania State University. She earned her Master of Science degree at Villanova University where she studied Education Administration. In 1999 Ms. Upson received the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award during her tenure as elementary principal in Alexandria, Virginia. (158)


Adrian Wayne Bruce, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Research Fellow

Adrian is a Post Doctoral Research Fellow here at Capstone Institute. His research interests include academic achievement, cultural preferences, student engagement, cultural instructional contexts, teacher expectations, and self-efficacy.
A few of his duties include providing research support for large grant proposals and technical reports, building and managing multiple statistical databases, and supporting ongoing school improvement initiatives via direct service delivery with various school stakeholders (e.g., students, teachers, parents, administrators), as needed.

Chastity McFarlan, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr. McFarlan’s research, which spans early childhood through young adulthood, focuses on closing the academic achievement gap at all educational levels. Her interests include the cognitive development of young children, effective instructional practices for culturally diverse students, and curriculum development. A native New Yorker, Dr. McFarlan earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. John’s University in New York City and her Master’s and PhD from Howard University.