Sharon Belton

In May 2017, Sharon was appointed Senior Public Policy Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) and subsequently became Director of WIPPS Research Partners. In this role, Sharon collaborates with WIPPS staff and UW faculty on projects that provide organizations with research-based analysis, strategic planning, and research design expertise. To date, her projects for WIPPS have encompassed a wide range of public policy areas including health policy, health services, and public health; mental health; education; economic development; and criminal justice.

In 2019 and 2020, she was the lead investigator on the Voices of Wisconsin Students Project, a collaborative effort of WIPPS, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The Voices project was one of the nation’s first efforts to gather insights, information, and feedback directly from students about their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team conducted 23 virtual focus groups with 160 Wisconsin youth in grades 6 through 12 to gather feedback on: (1) the nature and intensity of challenges and concerns they are experiencing in the environment of the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) coping mechanisms; and (3) feedback on how they strengthened their resilience during a period of heightened stress, anxiety, and isolation. Funding for this project was provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services via grant funds from the Overdose Data to Action (OD2A) cooperative agreement #6NU17CE925003-02-02 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sharon has expertise in applying social science research methods to a wide range of public policy areas, including survey and case study research methods; database design, data collection, and analysis (qualitative and quantitative); measurement, evaluation, and outcomes research; and project management.

Prior to joining WIPPS, Sharon was a Senior Public Policy Analyst for over 20 years at the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was a member of WCRI’s CompScope™ multistate benchmarking team, with responsibility for Minnesota and Wisconsin. She has conducted empirical analyses of workers’ compensation public policy issues and served as a project manager on studies focused on the determinants of return to work after injury; area variations in medical practice patterns; patient outcomes assessment; multistate benchmarking; and program evaluation.

From 2001 to 2004, Sharon was Executive Director of the Wausau Health Foundation. She also served as Co-Deputy Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s “Workers’ Compensation Health Initiative” at the University of Massachusetts Center for Health Policy and Research.

Sharon has a Ph.D. in public policy analysis/political science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a B.A. in international relations and French from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Skills and Capabilities

  • Database design, data collection, and analysis (qualitative and quantitative)
  • Survey and focus group research methods
  • Case study research methods
  • Measurement, evaluation, and outcomes research
  • Project planning and management
  • Interpretation and communication of complex research methods for non-technical audiences

Domains of knowledge

  • Public policy and policy-making
  • American state politics and policy
  • Workers’ compensation and occupational health policy
  • Health services research (access, costs, and quality of health care)
  • Benchmarking, multi-unit comparisons, and case mix adjustment

Sharon Belton
Senior Policy Fellow