Professional Biography

Dr. Zapf has worked for more than two decades to improve educational outcomes for youth, organizations, and communities through her leadership roles in education, non-profit, and government sectors. She has trained thousands of educators, businesses, and industry leaders on designing, building, scaling, and evaluating education projects, programs, services, and products. Dr. Zapf has worked with higher education leaders on improving learning outcomes, run an education nonprofit, and conducted K-12 policy research as well as large- and small-scale educational evaluations. She helps drive Penn GSE's work in education innovation as a member of Catalyst @ Penn GSE. Dr. Zapf also designed and teaches a unique, interdisciplinary course Evaluation for Innovation, which combines design thinking, lean startup methodology, and developmental evaluation.

Before joining the Penn GSE, Dr. Zapf was Director of Strategy and Evaluation for the College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University. In an organization of 4,500 students, faculty, and staff, Dr. Zapf worked with senior leaders to improve learning outcomes, operational efficiency, and talent pipelines. She previously served as Chief Operating Officer for the Intergenerational Center, a nationally recognized nonprofit that provides educational services to more than 15,000 Philadelphia residents and technical assistance to communities throughout the United States. Earlier in her career, Dr. Zapf worked for more than a decade with federal evaluation providers to train national service leaders and practitioners on evaluating impact. In an earlier role at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Zapf managed the rollout of a national education policy reform initiative.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Dr. Zapf’s background is in participatory, developmental, and impact evaluation; qualitative and lean methods; and adaptive and user-experience design. Her research interests include academic innovation, social and education entrepreneurship, impact measurement and research.

Projects & Presentations

  • Judge, Milken-Penn GSE Education Business Plan Competitions (2018, 2017)
  • Shortlist-Stage Judge, Reimagine Education Global Awards (2017, 2016)
  • Mentor, World Series of [Youth] Entrepreneurship (2017)
  • Reviewer, E3 Power Centers, Philadelphia Youth Network (2016)
Select Presentations
  • Center for School Study Councils, Superintendent Professional Development Workshop: Innovation Mindset (February 2018, February 2017)
  • EduCon 2018 Workshop: Entrepreneurial Mindset in Education (January 2018)
  • Reimagine Education Panel Moderator: Women, Leadership & Entrepreneurial Learning Solutions (December 2017)
  • AEA National Conference Presentation: Evaluation for Innovation: A Developmental Approach to Course Design (November 2017)
  • EDSi Edtech Investment Panel: Bringing Research to Practice (November 2017)
  • Penn Innovation Conference Pre-Session: Entrepreneurial Mindset in the Social Sector (October 2017)
  • Le Rosey School, Geneva Switzerland, Teacher Professional Development Retreat: Curriculum Innovation & Evaluation (March 2017)
  • Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Professional Development Workshop: Teacherpreneurs and Entrepreneurial Mindset (March 2017)
  • Education Design Studio Workshop: Beta Testing for Ed Tech Entrepreneurs (September 2016); Using Logic Models to Measure Social and Economic Impact (October 2015)
  • Teach for America Regional Conference Workshop: Education Innovation for Teachers (April 2016)
  • School Leadership Master’s Program Virtual Session, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education: Principals as Entrepreneurs (June 2017; June 2016)
  • School Redesign Initiative, Philadelphia School District Workshop Series: Design Thinking for School Leadership Teams (February 2015); Using Prototyping and MVPs for School Redesign (May 2015)
Courses and Credentials
  • Evaluation for Education Innovation Class (Penn GSE, 2015-2018)
  • Entrepreneurial Mindset Profile (EMP trainer)
  • Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative (ELI Ice House facilitator)


Ph.D. (Educational Evaluation and Research) University of Virginia, 1996

M.S.Ed. (Educational Administration and Policy) Stanford University, 1993

B.A. (Sociology) Wesleyan University, 1989

Areas of Expertise

Entrepreneurship in Education

Evaluation for Innovation

Adaptive Rapid-Cycle Research Design

Non-Profit Management

University-Community Partnerships

Recent Publications

Kurshan, B., Mitts, L., & Zapf, J. (2015, August 21). Many Paths but a Single Goal: Making Novel Impacts in the Education Space.

Leiderman, S., Furco, A., Zapf, J., & Gross, M. (2003). Building Partnerships with College Campuses: Community Partnerships. A publication of the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education Engaging Campuses and Communities Grant Program.