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Michelle L. M. Ernst

Pronouns: She/Her

Senior Research Scientist
A longtime member of Slover Linett’s arts and culture research team, Michelle is a developmental psychologist.

A developmental psychologist by training, Michelle uses quantitative and qualitative research methods to help arts and culture organizations connect with diverse communities and create more meaningful experiences. Michelle’s work focuses on understanding audience behavior, perceptions, values, and motivations for participating, and on illuminating the individual- and community-level impacts of engagement. 

Michelle was a senior researcher and quantitative lead at Slover Linett when that practice joined NORC in 2023. Her research and evaluation studies have generated critical insights for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, CalArts, MIT, The Morgan Library & Museum, Rubin Museum of Art, Washington National Opera, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cleveland Play House, SFJAZZ, Folk Alliance International, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts, among other cultural nonprofits. Michelle is an expert on data collection methods in arts, culture, and community settings, and her work includes consulting and training for cultural organizations on community and participant sampling, survey design, and statistical analysis. 

Michelle’s current role at NORC is actually a return to the organization: From 2001–2009 she was a survey director and senior research scientist at NORC working on child development studies and focusing on strategies to reach vulnerable or difficult-to-locate youth populations. At both NORC and the Chapin Hall research center at the University of Chicago, Michelle led data collection efforts with children and caregivers, including new immigrants to the U.S., families in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, and youth in out-of-home care. She was also the Co-Principal Investigator for the National Runaway and Homeless Youth Study, examining the needs of adolescents experiencing homelessness in Chicago and Los Angeles. Michelle is passionate about bringing both methodological rigor and social services context to help arts and culture organizations make a difference in their communities.



Loyola University Chicago


Loyola University Chicago


University of Missouri, Columbia