Heather Hanna PhD

Heather Hanna PhD


  • Faculty


  • Associate Research Professor
  • PI, Systems Change Lab



  • PhD, Public Policy and Administration, Mississippi State University
  • M.S., Sociology, Mississippi State University

Dr. Hanna is an Associate Research Professor and Research Fellow for the Social Science Research Center (SSRC), where she directs the Systems Change Lab (SCL). During her time at the SSRC, Dr. Hanna has written, administered, and collaborated on grant projects addressing public policy and system change at the intersection of early childhood health and education. Currently, she serves as Principal Investigator of a Mississippi Department of Human Services-funded project to collect and analyze child care market rates to inform Child Care Payment Program subsidies. This project also funds the maintenance of a set of interactive, early childhood resource maps as a part of the Division of Early Childhood Care and Development Consumer Education platform. Dr. Hanna also serves as Principal Investigator for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation-funded Mississippi Child Care Quality Support System project, on which she partnered with key early childhood organizations across the state to gather child care provider recommendations for a new quality improvement system. She continues to facilitate meetings on this topic among early childhood stakeholders as a part of the Mississippi Preschool Development Grant Birth-Five. Recently, Dr. Hanna served as Co-Principal Investigator on a Health Resources & Services Administration-funded project that was a joint project of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the SSRC at Mississippi State University. The 5-year, $17.5M Mississippi Thrive project (www.mississippithrive.com) was designed to examine and strengthen the developmental health system for young children in Mississippi, ranging from developmental health promotion, to screening, referral, and treatment. Previously, Dr. Hanna served as Co-Director for Mississippi KIDS COUNT, an Annie E. Casey-funded program that provides policy-relevant data and original research about the health, education, and overall well-being of Mississippi’s children. In this role, she partnered with the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi to conduct education, outreach, and research on census participation in the state and served on the governor’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee as the Education Subcommittee Chairperson. Dr. Hanna also worked with the Family and Children’s Research Unit (FCRU) at the SSRC, focusing on policy and systems change related to education and health services for Mississippi’s children and families. FCRU project were funded by the National Institutes of Health, Center for Mississippi Health Policy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, among others. Dr. Hanna earned a PhD in public policy and administration and a MS in sociology from Mississippi State University (MSU). She received her undergraduate training in psychology at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Hanna's work is supported in part by MAFES.