Heather Toronjo

Research Associate

Heather is a Research Associate at ACE! where she focuses on corrections workforce professional development, specifically as it relates to improving practical wisdom. Her main project, SUSTAIN, focuses on the use of coaching to improve officer decision-making.


  • B.A. – Anthropology, Texas A&M
  • M.P.P. – George Mason University


Research Interests

  • Desistance
  • Developing reflective practitioners and improving practical wisdom with coaching
  • Organizational learning


Current Projects



What is so fascinating about one research project you are working on at ACE!

Thinking through how to measure constructs is a fascinating aspect of many projects I work on at ACE. How do you measure quality decision-making? A good working relationship? Improvements in people’s lives? Good leadership? Community well being?

How do you think working on ACE! projects will make you a better researcher?

Working on ACE projects affords you a lot of responsibility to help with all aspects of the project from forming the research question, to designing the study, designing instruments used in the study, recruitment efforts, project management, data analysis, and writing up results, among other responsibilities.

If you had to give advise to an agency about evidence-based practices, what would that be.

Meet people where they are. Improving critical thinking and reflective practice should be at the heart of all professional development when doing human service work. Appreciate both the power of evidence and it’s limitations. No outside consultant or training program can come in and change an agency without the agency doing the work of building their own capacity to change.