Alumni Network

Emma Petty Addams serves as executive director for Mormon Women for Ethical Government. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in piano performance at Stanford University, she spent time in Boston and Silicon Valley working in contracts negotiation, corporate transactions and capitalization, and investor relations. In addition, she has built and run large piano studios in California, New Jersey, and now Omaha, Nebraska, where she currently resides with her husband and three sons. While seemingly unrelated, these previous career opportunities were excellent preparation for the fast paced yet methodical and collaborative nature of the work at MWEG. Every time an MWEG member writes an Op-ed, speaks out against injustice, or expresses her opinion peacefully on social media, Emma is grateful for the chance to help women contribute their part to the complex multi-voice symphony that is our democracy.

Kenneth Allen - Indianapolis Public School Board

Kenneth “Biznessman” Allen, founder of the Kenneth Allen Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (KAFFE, Inc.) CEO of K.S. Consultants and Managing Editor of Prominent Magazine which he co-owns with Entrepreneurial Icons Farrah Gray and Bill Mays and a member of the Indianapolis Public School Board. More on Kenneth can be found here

 

 

Jeanelle Austin | Racial Agency Initiative

Jeanelle Austin is a seasoned advocate for racial justice and public speaker. After working over 10 years in higher education, in October 2019, she launched Racial Agency Initiative LLC to help individuals and organizations leverage their agency for racial justice within their scope of influence. This work brings her joy. Jeanelle currently resides in Austin, Texas. She enjoys music, traveling, trying new foods, and spending quality time with friends and family.

Lida Azim | America Indivisible

Lida Azim currently serves as a Program Manager for America Indivisible in Washington, D.C. She's originally from the Bay Area, California, where she discovered her passion for giving back to the Muslim and Afghan-American communities. Lida doubled majored at San Jose State University with a B.A. in Political Science and History and furthered her education at American University with an M.A. in International and Intercultural Communication. She hopes to continue to work towards a better space for understanding and acceptance for not only Muslims but those who are perceived to be Muslim.

 Lillian Barkes | Listen to Our Future

Lillian is a 3rd grade teacher in Indianapolis and a co-founder of Listen To Our Future, a grassroots community organization located in Indianapolis, IN. Their mission is to equip and empower youth to make long lasting changes in their communities through education, community empowerment, and social action.
They have established partnerships with various schools and organizations in the community to provide tutoring, chapters, and mentoring. The organization's main objectives are to center youth voices, increase academic achievement, and provide youth a safe place to express themselves and work collaboratively.
 Lillian is a graduate from IUPUI with a degree in Elementary Education, a dual license in reading, and concentration in math and science. She has been involved with youth work for the past six years on the near eastside of Indianapolis and received the Excellence in Summer Service Award. She has carried her passion for helping youth thrive into her professional career as an educator. Lillian is also a member of CERG- Community Engaged Research Group with IUPUI to help develop, support, and sustain community engaged research; community based participatory research; and creative activity at IUPUI.

Bruce Bond | Common Ground Committee

Bruce Bond is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Common Ground Committee, (CGC), a non-profit with a singular focus on bringing light, not heat, to public discourse. By demonstrating how important people of opposing views can find agreement without compromising core values and providing guides and tools that empower people to do the same, CGC aims to inspire and motivate the public and political leaders to find common ground and reduce incivility and polarization for a stronger nation. More information on Bruce can be found here.

Eric Bronner | Show Me Integrity & Veterans for Political Innovations (VPI)

Eric is an attorney, U.S. Navy veteran and, for the past two years, he has been a volunteer leader with Missouri's premier, fiercely cross-partisan democracy reform organization, Show Me Integrity. This ground-level experience in the reform space has led Eric to launch a new, nationwide veterans service organization (a soon-to-be 501(c)(19)), called "Veterans for Political Innovation" (VPI). VPI will be a fiercely cross-partisan veterans community, educating and inspiring veterans to actively engage in the fast-growing, NONpartisan political innovation movement. More information on Eric can be found here.

Matt Byrne | AllSides

Matt is passionate about improving democratic decision making through authentic engagement and civic dialogue. He has a background working with non-partisan public policy think tanks, multi-partisan media projects, and various non-profits in the bridge building movement.  Matt has a B.A. in Political Science from Hamline University and an M.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Minnesota where he researched deliberation design.

 

Kimberly Clinch 

Kimberly grew up in Minnesota, where she got involved in local campaigns from a young age. In college, she became passionate about agricultural issues and the rights of small, independent farmers. She co-founded a student group that worked with campus dining halls to buy more food from small, local farms. While working on these issues, Kimberly saw firsthand how Big Money controls politicians and prevents common-sense policies. In the 2018 midterm elections, Kimberly volunteered for a campaign in Texas that refused money from all PACs and fundraised solely through individual donations. While pursuing these political interests, Kimberly also obtained her BA in math and physics from Northwestern University, contributed to award-winning research with NASA and the National Weather Service, traveled around the world, and worked in finance. She is excited to now be fighting full time for the country she loves!

Azor Cole | American Promise

Azor’s experience as a journalist fostered his skepticism towards concentrated power, and spurred his interest in campaign finance reform. His work has appeared in The Daily Orange, The Syracuse New Times, and Envirogorge. As the State Manager for American Promise, Azor manages the execution of state campaign strategy. He helps craft organizational messaging and builds relationships with legislators, partner organizations and local media figures to amplify grassroots action around state-specific strategic goals. Azor is a Syracuse University graduate.

Elizabeth Crews | Participatory Budgeting Project & Democracy Beyond Elections

Elizabeth Crews leads Democracy Beyond Elections, the Participatory Budgeting Project’s (PBP) national collaborative coalition focused on expanding participatory democracy practices in the United States. While at PBP, Elizabeth facilitated the largest student-led participatory budgeting process in the country as well as the first student-led participatory policy making process. In 2013, she founded and led UnifiEd, a public education advocacy organization in Tennessee focused on improving public education by expanding public participation in the school system through campaigns focused on school integration and more equitable funding. She is the founder of Mockingbird Strategies, where she leveraged over a decade of experience in nonprofit management, political campaigns, advocacy and organizing. For 10 years,she consulted with candidates and elected officials, nonprofits, and foundations on political organizing and progressive advocacy campaigns, and participatory practices and civic engagement strategies in the U.S. SouthLinkedIn Website

Tyler Fisher | Unite America

Tyler brings a diverse background to his jack-of-all-trades role at Unite America. Past experience includes time on campaigns, at think tanks, and leading grassroots organizations. He has degrees in government and economics from George Mason University.

 

 

 

Alison Goldsworthy | The Depolarization Project 

Ali has spent more than 20 years active in politics and campaigning. A former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK she led a team that built a supporter base of millions of consumers, and ran her own public affairs agency. Ali is Vice Chair of the grant giving Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. After attending High School in the UK and Southern Indiana, Ali gained her undergraduate degree from the University of Bath and Charles University in Prague. In 2017 she was a Sloan Fellow at Stanford receiving the $20,000 Francis and Arjay Miller Prize for Social Innovation alongside her Masters. A frequent media pundit, Ali has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman and Financial Times. She has won numerous awards for her work including NGO Campaign of the Year, Integrated Campaign of the Year and been named one of PR Week’s 29 under 29.

Shamichael Hallman |  Reimagining The Civic Commons

Shamichael works for Reimagining The Civic Commons in Memphis, TN to design and create common spaces where the diverse population can come together and shape the future of the city.More information on Shamichael can be found here

 

 

 

Shannon Wheatley Hartman | Interactivity Foundation

I am a publicly engaged scholar and practitioner of deliberative democracy with over ten years of experience working in the field of dialogue and deliberation. I manage multi-year community discussion projects, create discussion materials, organize and facilitate community conversations. As the Director of Education at the Interactivity Foundation, I also shape our pedagogical approach to student-led and student-facilitated classrooms, develop learning materials, and help to lead our communication efforts. I am currently developing a program in Collaborative Discussion which will result in an open-access toolkit and a certification program for participants. My background is in higher education with a focus in critical international relations, postcolonial politics, and political theory. I was a faculty member at ASU and have taught more recently at College Unbound, Haverford College, Kansas State University, and Drexel University. I am currently located outside of Philadelphia but I call many places home ranging from Bardstown, KY to San Luis Potosi, Mexico. I met my husband, Eric, while studying Quichwa in Ecuador. We have 3 young daughters and try to balance home life with helping to create a more just world through connection, communication, and collaboration. 

Ivan Douglas Hicks | First Baptist Church North Indianapolis

Ivan Douglas Hicks currently serves as the Senior Minister of the historic First Baptist Church North Indianapolis. This inner-city social service hub has served the Near Northwest Area of Indianapolis as a place of resource and hope for 135 years. More information on Ivan can be found here

 

 

Drisana Hughes - Civics Unplugged

Drisana Hughes is the Senior Program Manager of Civics Unplugged, a social enterprise and digitally-powered community committed to empowering the leaders of Generation Z to build the future of American democracy. At CU she leads the recruitment, training, and oversight of civics program implementation for over 200 gifted High School students. In addition to CU, she is a Co-Founder of Percapita Group, a diversified financial institution focused on underbanked and underserved communities.Drisana is very passionate about the intersection between the public and private sectors and how leaders in both spaces can work together to create meaningful social impact. She got her BA in Political Science, with a concentration in American Politics, from the University of Pennsylvania.

Zoë Jenkins | Civics Unplugged

Zoë Jenkins is an education equity and justice advocate from Lexington, KY. She is the founder and Executive Producer of Get Schooled podcast with the Student Voice Team, an organization elevating Kentucky students as partners in education research, policymaking, and advocacy. Zoë is an inaugural fellow with Civics Unplugged and now serves as the Chair of the Civics 2030 Steering Committee and works on partnerships with the YMCA, Schmidt Futures and Rhodes Trust. As a part of CU's Civics 2030 Campaign, Zoë founded DICCE, an organization that creates accessible programming and training on diversity, inclusion, anti-racism, and equity for Generation Z. When Zoë is not making a mess in the kitchen baking, you can find her playing the piano, going on a run, or doodling.

Liz Joyner - The Village Square 

Liz Joyner is the Founder & CEO of the Village Square, a nonprofit dedicated to reviving civic connections across divisions inside American communities. Named by retired U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe as one of eight organizations to support if you're concerned about the deepening partisan divide, The Village Square was the recipient of the 2015 Statewide Impact Award from Leadership Florida - recognizing an organization that has created a body of work that can impact Florida as a whole. Liz has a Masters Degree in Social Work, conceptualizing the Village Square after her experience working in politics convinced her that the way we work out our disagreements in today's public square is fundamentally flawed. She was named by USA Today as "extraordinary American who is making our nation a better place," nominated by Leadership Tallahassee as Leader of the Year, named by the Tallahassee Democrat as one of "25 Women You Need to Know" in 2015, by the Girls Scouts as a "Woman of Distinction" and was honored by United Church Women as a Woman of Peace. David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values called Joyner "likely the best organizer working in this area today."

Rev. Gregory E. Kendrick, Jr. | Cory-Glenville Community Center

Rev. Gregory E. Kendrick, Jr. is a native of Chicago, IL and currently lives and is in ministry in the greater Cleveland area. He is a graduate of Denison University with a B.A. in Religion and a graduate of Methodist Theological School in Ohio with a Master of Divinity (M.Div.). He has been a United Methodist pastor for nearly 10 years having previously served congregations in Columbus, OH. Currently he is Interim Pastor of Cory UMC and Pastor of Connections at Church of the Saviour. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Cory-Glenville Community Center. Rev. Kendrick is the father of two children - Caleb, 6, and Charis, 4.

Heidi J. Kim

Heidi J. Kim is an educator and Episcopalian living in Minneapolis, MN. She served as the Staff Officer for Racial Reconciliation for The Episcopal Church for five years, listening and learning with Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout the church. Heidi’s experience in church-wide ministry as well as in higher and secondary education has focused on the stories of the survivors and disrupters of oppression and marginalization, as well as the struggles of well-intentioned people to speak about volatile issues without endangering relationships with family, friends, and community. She holds a deep commitment to working with curious, diligent, and passionate people of faith to maintain stronger and more faithful communities.

Suzanne Lea | Red Dot Foundation Global

Suzanne Goodney Lea currently serves as the Board Director and CEO of the Red Dot Foundation Global. Prior to that she was as a full-time Fellow at the Interactivity Foundation and an Assistant Professor and Chair of Trinity College’s Criminal Justice Program in Washington, D.C. More information on Suzanne can be found here

 

 

Justine Lee | Make America Dinner Again |Living Room Conversations

Justine Lee is the co-creator of Make America Dinner Again, and as head of partnerships, has developed relationships and worked collaboratively with media and organizations to bring civil dialogue to more people. Her appearances at SXSW and on NPR, The Glenn Beck Show, and BBC to discuss and model MADA have led to thousands of dinner sign-ups, interest in all 50 states, and the creation of chapters in 10 cities. In addition to MADA, Lee consults independent podcast teams on their marketing and audience development strategy. Lee is also a writer and audio storyteller herself; she's most interested in reporting stories about marginalized communities and guiding folks on how to design inclusive experiences. Her work has appeared in Fast Company, Core77, Business Insider, Narrative.ly, and KALW. Lee lives and works in NYC. Lee currently serves as the Executive Director for Living Room Conversations. 

Shia Levitt | Internews InterActive/Digital Citizen

Shia Levitt has reported public radio feature stories and breaking news for local, national and international radio outlets including Marketplace, NPR and KQED. Her international reporting has brought her to Asia, Africa and the Middle East to cover labor/economics, health/environment and other topics. Here in the US, Shia has reported on national issues from gun control to wildfires to healthcare. She has also produced for television, including daily segments on campaign finance reform from the 2012 Democratic and Republican National Conventions and live studio productions for Link TV's 2000 election coverage. In addition to her own reporting, Shia has taught radio journalism at Mills College in Oakland, California and at CUNY Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. She has also taught radio to young people for UNICEF in Haiti, for WNYC’s Radio Rookies program in New York, and in the Bay Area for a teen environmental journalism program. Central to her approach is the conviction that quality journalism – and access to information from diverse and varied sources – is essential to the functioning of a democracy. www.shialevitt.com

Meisha Lerato-Robinson | I Am, We Are & Unite

Meisha Lerato Robinson is a soulpreneur committed to generating innovative and impactful changes in organizations and communities. With more than fifteen years of brand management and marketing strategy experience, she transitioned out of her career and into a life of social impact. Meisha Lerato is the Founder and Chief Executive of Hope of I Am, We Are (IAWA), a US and South Africa registered non-profit, dedicated to empowering youth across Africa and her diaspora with the tools to confidently own their futures.  Her experiences mentoring inner-city youth in the United States and working with youth while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Benin and South Africa, inspired her to start IAWA.  She realized youth across the African Diaspora were brimming with potential, but many lacked the support and resources to fulfill their dreams.
She is also a Community Engagement Manager at UNITE, a growing collaborative of Americans from all walks of life, dedicated to addressing universal challenges that can only be solved together. Meisha Lerato aspires to use her work and her walk to help heal the wounds that separate Africans and African Diasporans.  She received a Masters of Business Administration in Marketing from New York University’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Brian Rubin - The Harwood Institute

Brian, currently, serves on the board of the Prince George’s County Social Innovation Fund. With the support of the Fund, Brian organized the ‘Seat at the Table’ initiative, an effort to create circles of relationships and a space to discuss issues that matter most to Prince George’s County residents, including shifting the narrative about Black majority communities and building more equitable civic participation. More information on Brian can be found here.

 

Benjamin Singer | Show Me Integrity & Show Me Integrity Education Fund

Benjamin Singer is the Executive Director of Show Me Integrity and the Show Me Integrity Education Fund, Missouri's cross-partisan movement for a more effective, ethical government of, by, and for the people. His career has been built on working with conservatives, progressives, and independents to fulfill the shared promise of America. In 2018 he served as Communications Director for Clean Missouri, a cross-statewide ballot initiative of sweeping legislative reforms. It passed by a nearly 2-1 margin, with a strong coalition of endorsers across the political spectrum committed to cleaning up gerrymandering, lobbyist gifts, and more, including U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth. In 2016 Benj served MAYDAY.US--led by Lawrence Lessig, Mark McKinnon, and Zephyr Teachout--as National Campaign Director, overseeing cutting-edge digital mobilizations as well as hard-nosed, old-fashioned organizing on the ground across the United States that helped build support in Congress to a record level (at the time) for the Government by the People Act. His work has been featured in TV, radio, and newspaper outlets across the nation. www.ShowMeIntegrity.org

Denesha Snell | American Public Square

Denesha Snell is the Program Manager for American Public Square at Jewell.  
In addition to her professional roles, Denesha takes pride in facilitating  Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) courses in Kansas City. In this role, Denesha works with PLTI fellows to increase their capacity for advocacy, sharpening civic skills, strengthening their impact at home and in their neighborhood, and helping increase their knowledge of public policy to improve child and community outcomes. More information on Denesha can be found here

Dorian Spears - Momentum Nonprofit Partners

Dorian Spears firmly believes that the solutions and brilliance to solve community challenges exist within residents who have been pushed to the margins in communities affected by poverty, institutional racism, and disinvestment. Her professional experience has spanned over 19 years serving the community in various capacities in the nonprofit, government, and economic development sectors. As a community based thought leader, Dorian employs current knowledge and acumen while making a meaningful impact on organizational mission, vision, and values.

Paul Swearengin - Nonpartisan Evangelical

In his career, Paul has served as a sportscaster/talk show host, business owner, health care business developer and is a founder of a church. Paul believes God has more for people than just inviting them to sit together in seats on a Sunday. When true virtues of Christ are in action in a city and region, that city will be a better place for its citizens to live. Paul encourages all followers of Christ to put these beliefs into action for the welfare of their city, state, region and the world

 

Kristen Vonasek | Ballotpedia

Kristen Vonasek is the Director of Communications for Ballotpedia. Kristen joined the organization in 2013 to direct the state executives content project. She now works to promote and share Ballotpedia and its resources and grow their readership.You can find Kristen at home in Madison, or traveling in Malawi, with her husband, two girls, and dog, Uji.

 

Breon Wells - The Daniel Initiative 

Breon Wells is a thought leader, public speaker, strategist, business owner, and faith leader.    Breon is the cohost of Leverage: Politics, Power, & Influence. This podcast provides advocates, activists, and influencers with the strategic insights necessary to reshape political and social realities. He also speaks at conferences on the topics of privilege, public policy formation, criminal justice reform, diversity and inclusion, race relations, faith and politics, and activism. More information on Breon can be found here. Jillian Youngblood - Civic Genius

Jillian Youngblood is the Executive Director for Civic Genius, a non-profit committed to helping people become and remain active citizens who work together across party lines. She formerly served as the E.D for Common Ground Solutions, a non-partisan organization working to increase civic engagement; improve the quality of political discourse; and convene Americans around reforms to depolarize our system. She has more than 15 years of experience in communications, politics, and government, with a focus on democracy reform, public health, education policy. As an aide to Rep. Jerrold Nadler, she was a lead staffer for the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, and worked on issues related to health care, urban planning, and the arts. Previously, she managed New York City’s federal and state legislative portfolios on public health under the Bloomberg administration. She also led communications for an education technology start-up, where she authored a report on predatory higher ed lead generation, contributed to a book on educational entrepreneurship published by Harvard Education Press, and was a frequent speaker on college admissions and learning disabilities.

Maria Yuan | Issue Voter

Maria Yuan is passionate about fixing significant, systemic problems by leveraging creativity and determination to achieve world-changing results and impact. As the Founder of IssueVoter, Maria‘s mission is to enable equity by giving everyone a voice in our representative democracy. More information on Maria can be found here.

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