We're excited to share a lineup of expert speakers and facilitators:
Noopur Agarwal, MTV
Noopur Agarwal is Vice President of Social Impact for MTV, the world’s premier youth entertainment brand, and MTV’s 24-hour college network, mtvU, which reaches nearly 9 million students across 750 campuses nationwide. In this role, she oversees the strategy and execution of major “pro-social” campaigns to engage and activate America’s youth on the biggest issues impacting their generation. These initiatives include Power of 12, the latest installment of MTV’s Emmy-winning youth voter empowerment campaign, the Peabody Award-winning mtvU mental health campaign, Half of Us; mtvU’s Emmy-nominated fiscal responsibility initiative, Indebted; MTV’s Webby Award-winning A Thin Line, which addresses the emerging issue of digital abuse; mtvU’s Gracie Award-winning Against Our Will campaign on human trafficking and many more. Noopur has represented MTV in a number of industry forums including the Consumer Electronics Show, South by Southwest, Advertising Week and Social Media Week as well as in educational settings like Columbia University and NYU. Recently, she was tapped to host MTV Pioneers, a speaker series where she has interviewed ground-breaking leaders including Black Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, and celebrity chef and food activist, Jamie Oliver. In her role at MTV, Noopur has been recognized with the MTV Innovation Award, a company-wide honor granted to individuals who have demonstrated fresh thinking and a pioneering approach in their work.
Prior to joining MTV, Noopur spent time at Viacom working on Know HIV/AIDS, a public education campaign run in collaboration with CBS Corporation and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Before entering the media industry, she was a consultant at Bain & Company, a global strategy consulting firm, where she helped advise senior management in a variety of industries including healthcare, financial services and consumer products. Noopur received her MBA from Harvard Business School and her BA in Economics from Harvard College.
Sarah Audelo, Alliance for Youth Action
Sarah Audelo is the Executive Director of Alliance for Youth Action – a non-profit, organization that mobilizes young voters and empowers young people to organize. She is responsible for the organization’s political partnerships, polling and research. Audelo is the former policy director at Generation Progress where she led a team that focused on economic justice, higher education, among other important issues facing millennials.
Sayu Bhojwani, New American Leaders
Sayu Bhojwani served as New York City's first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs and is the founder of South Asian Youth Action, a community-based organization in Queens. Since 2010, she has served as Founder and President of The New American Leaders Project, which is based in New York City.
Bhojwani's work to build a more inclusive democracy has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and in the New York Times. She has shared her personal journey in The National and contributes frequently to the The Huffington Post and Medium.
Bhojwani earned a PhD in Politics and Education from Columbia University, where her research focused on immigrant political participation. She is a Visiting Scholar at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University and lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.
David Becker, Center for Election Innovation & Research
David Becker is the Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, leading this cutting-edge non-profit’s work to improve election administration through research, data, and technology. David created CEIR to be the first effort of its kind, with a proven track record of working with election officials and experts from around the country and across the aisle. Through its efforts, CEIR seeks to reverse the historical decline in voter turnout, and give election officials the tools they need to ensure that all eligible voters can vote conveniently in a system with maximum integrity.
Prior to founding CEIR, David was Director of the elections program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, driving reforms in election administration, including using technology to provide voters with information they need to cast a ballot; assessing election performance through better data; and upgrading voter registration systems. As the lead for Pew’s analysis and advocacy on elections issues, David spearheaded development of the innovative Electronic Registration Information Center, or ERIC, which to date has helped a bipartisan group of nearly two dozen states correct almost 4 million out-of-date voter records, and led to these states registering almost a million new eligible voters. David led campaigns in dozens of states, red and blue and everything in between, and directed Pew’s partnerships with state government agencies, and with private sector partners like Google, IBM, Facebook, and others.
Before joining Pew, David served for seven years as a senior trial attorney in the Voting Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where he led numerous investigations into violations of federal voting laws regarding redistricting, minority voting rights, voter intimidation, and vote dilution. During his time at the Justice Department, David worked in dozens of states enforcing federal election laws and observing elections in thousands of precincts, and served as lead trial counsel in many cases, including Georgia v. Ashcroft.
David’s appearances in the media include The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC, and NPR, and he has been published several times, including by the Stanford Social Innovation Review, the University of California, Berkeley, and The Hill.
David received both his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.
Cornell Brooks, Boston University
Reverend Cornell William Brooks, Esq. (STH’87, LAW Hon.’15), former president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), joins both the School of Law and School of Theology faculties as a visiting professor of Social Ethics, Law, and Justice Movements for the 2017–2018 academic year.
Prior to the NAACP, Brooks previously served as executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, was a trial attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, was the 1998 Democratic Nominee for the US House of Representatives for the 10th District of Virginia, was the senior counsel of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and served as the president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
He has authored several published articles and essays, and delivered 11 keynote or commencement addresses at domestic and international universities since 2015, as well as hundreds of speeches. Rev. Brooks also serves as a regular contributor for CNN, providing analysis and commentary on public affairs, civil rights and social ethics. His appearances include The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CNN Newsroom, and New Day.
Brooks earned a Bachelor of Arts with honors in political science from Jackson State University in 1983, and his Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in social ethics and systematic theology from Boston University School of Theology in 1987. As a Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholar while studying at Boston University, he was awarded both the Oxnam-Leibman Fellowship for outstanding scholarship and promoting racial harmony, and the Jefferson Fellowship for outstanding scholarship and excellence in preaching. In 1990, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School, where he served as a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal and member of the Yale Law and Policy Review.
Charlene Carruthers, Black Youth Project
Charlene A. Carruthers is a Black, queer feminist community organizer and writer with over 10 years of experience in racial justice, feminist and youth leadership development movement work. She currently serves as the national director of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), an activist member-led organization of Black 18-35 year olds dedicated to creating justice and freedom for all Black people. First politicized as an 18 year old while studying abroad in South Africa, her passion for developing young leaders to build capacity within marginalized communities has led her to work on immigrant rights, economic justice and civil rights campaigns nationwide. With a focus on intersectional liberation, Charlene’s organizing capacities span across a broad range of topics and she currently serves as a board member of SisterSong, a reproductive justice organization that promotes solidarity among women of color. She is an Arcus Leadership Fellow and Front Line Leadership Academy graduate who has led grassroots and digital strategy campaigns for national organizations including the Center for Community Change, the Women’s Media Center, ColorOfChange.org and National People’s Action, as well as being a member of a historic delegation of young activists in Palestine in 2015 to build solidarity between Black and Palestinian liberation movements.
Awarded the “Movement Builder Award” by the United States Students Association, Charlene is deeply committed to working with young organizers seeking to create a more loving and just world. She has facilitated and developed political trainings for organizations including the NAACP, the Center for Progressive Leadership, Young People For and Wellstone Action. Charlene is the winner of the “New Organizing Institute 2015 Organizer of the Year Award” and has served as a featured speaker at various institutions including Wellesley College, Northwestern University and her alma mater Illinois Wesleyan University, where she earned a B.A. in History & International Studies. Charlene also received a Master of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. Charlene was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago where she currently resides and continues to lead and partake in social justice movements. In her free time, she loves to cook and believes the best way to learn about people is through their food. Charlene’s inspirations include a range of Black women, including Ella Baker, Cathy Cohen, and Barbara Ransby. Her work has been featured on many national outlets including Ebony Magazine, Feministing.com, USA Today and the Washington Post. You can find Charlene on twitter at @CharleneCac.
Doug Chapin, University of Minnesota
Doug Chapin is the director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration. Chapin came to the Humphrey School after 10 years at the Pew Charitable Trusts, where he served as director of election initiatives for the Pew Center on the States. Under his leadership, Pew’s elections team successfully lobbied for enactment of military and overseas voting reform in Congress and state legislatures; enlisted dozens of states and technology partners like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook to provide official voting information online and via mobile technology; and worked with election officials, academics, and technical experts to design and implement efforts to upgrade the nation’s voter registration systems.
Prior to serving at Pew, Chapin was an attorney in private practice specializing in election and ethics law. He served as elections counsel to the Democrats on the U.S. Senate Rules Committee from 1997 to 2000, where he focused on federal election legislation and participated in the review of the disputed 1996 Senate election in Louisiana. He holds a law degree from Georgetown University, a master of public administration degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an AB in politics from Princeton University
Christine Chen, APIAVote
Christine Chen, the founding executive director from 2006-2008 returned to APIAVote in January 2011 to serve as its current Executive Director. During her tenure she had strengthened and expanded APIAVote's partners into 26 states. APIAVote’s research and polling of Asian American voters and their regional trainings and field programs have strengthened the local grassroots programs in reaching and mobilizing Asian American and Pacific Islander voters. Through all these efforts, APIAVote has played a key role in elevating the Asian American and Pacific Islander electorate to an unprecedented national level in recent years.
In addition Chen serves as President of Strategic Alliances USA, a consulting firm specializing in coalition building, institutional development, and partnerships among the corporate sector, government agencies, and the nonprofit and public sector.
Profiled by Newsweek magazine in 2001 as one of 15 women who will shape America’s new century, Chen served from 2001 to 2005 as national executive director of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), one of the leading APIA civil rights organizations in the country. Leading an organization with more than 80 chapters and affiliates across the nation, she worked with OCA’s national board, executive council, chapter representatives, members and funders while managing a staff of 13.
Chen is well-known by activists across the county. Her track record in building coalitions and working at the grassroots and national levels established her as one of the strongest voices in the APIA community. She has more than two decades of experience in organizing and advocating on issues such as immigration, hate crimes, affirmative action, census, racial profiling, voting rights, election reform, and various derogatory and racist media incidents. Her role as a trusted coalition builder has her effectively building relationships with key Congressional offices including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, federal agencies, and the administration.
Throughout the years with Chen's multitasking abilities, Chen also was a member of the executive committee of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. She also served on numerous boards such as the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, Demos Board of Trustees, Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL), Youth Vote, Gates Millennium Scholarship Advisory Council, advisory board for the Progressive Majority Racial Justice Campaign, and the Board of Advisors for the Midwest Asian American Students Union, East Coast Asian American Students Union and the Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association. In 2003, she was a founding member of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and also in 2006, a founding member of Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote.
Chen currently serves on the Kennedy Center Community Advisory Board, Center for Asian American Media, OCA Northern Virginia Chapter, and the advisory boards for the Asian Pacific American Medical Students Association (APAMSA), and CAPAL.
Judd Choate, Division of Elections, Colorado Department of State
Dr. Judd Choate is the state elections director for Colorado. Prior to joining the Colorado Department of State, Judd practiced election law at the Denver firm of Kelly Garnsey Hubbell & Lass. He also served as a law clerk for Colorado Supreme Court Justice Alex J. Martinez and as a summer clerk for Judge Timothy Tymkovich of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
For several years prior to law school, Judd was a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska, where he taught courses on campaigns and elections. Judd is the author of a book and several peer-reviewed articles on political behavior. He is in line to be the 2017 president of the National Association of State Election Directors.
He has a J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School and both a Ph.D. and M.A. in political science from Purdue University. In a previous life, Judd was a scout for the Kansas City Royals.
Archon Fung, Harvard Kennedy School
Daniel Garza, Libre Initiative
Daniel Garza began his in public service career as congressional staff assistant for U.S. congressman Richard "Doc" Hastings and was later elected as councilman for the city of Toppenish, Washington in 1996. In 2001, he was tapped by the George W. Bush Administration to serve as Deputy Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs in the Office of the Secretary at The Department of Interior, and was appointed in 2004 to Associate Director of the Office of Public Liaison in the White House. In 2006 Garza became President of Televisa's HISPANIC PODER Group overseeing editorial, commercial and promotion of publications and shortly thereafter joined Univision to host and co-produce "Agenda Washington," a weekly Spanish-language news talk show covering the issues impacting the U.S. Hispanic community. In 2016 Mr. Garza was appointed to serve on the Board of The Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, an academic non-partisan review that publishes works on politics and policy.
Born in the Central Valley of California, Garza migrated with his family annually from their ancestral hometown of Garza Gonzalez in Nuevo Leon, Mexico- throughout California, Nebraska and Washington State following the crop season as farm workers. His first-hand knowledge of the plight of the immigrant community has earned him a reputation for advocating on behalf of Hispanics for sound public policy recognizing that the current status of our economy requires that this vital community play an essential role in bringing about solutions.
Garza currently serves as President of The LIBRE Initiative and resides in Mission, TX with his wife and three children.
Mark Gearan, Institute of Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
Mark Gearan became the 19th director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government on March 1, 2018. A leading voice at the intersection of education and public service, Mark has held numerous leadership roles in American politics, government, and education.
From 1999-2017, Mark served as the President of Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS), becoming the longest-serving president in HWS history. During his tenure, Mark oversaw an era of unprecedented growth that included doubling the Colleges’ endowment, a capital plan which raised $205 million to support facilities, endowment and annual giving, establishing 168 new endowed scholarships, and the completion of 80 significant capital projects. Following his time at HWS, Mark held an appointment as President-in-residence at HGSE for the 2017-2018 academic year.
In September 1995, President Bill Clinton appointed Mark as the 14th Director of the Peace Corps, after serving in senior positions in the Clinton White House. While Director, Mark oversaw the expansion of the Peace Corps program into South Africa, India, and Haiti as well as the establishment of the Crisis Corps, which would send former Peace Corps volunteers into crisis areas for six months or less to help during emergencies.
President Clinton said of Gearan: “One of the best personnel decisions I have made as President was to appoint Mark Gearan as the Director of the Peace Corps. I believe he has been one of the most successful Directors since President Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961. He has rejuvenated the Peace Corps, and demonstrated a deep commitment to its legacy of service and the women and men who serve as Peace Corps volunteers. He can be proud that the Peace Corps will soon have more volunteers serving overseas than at any time in a generation."
Mark has served in a variety of roles in American politics and government including White House Communications Director, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Vice Presidential Campaign Manager for Clinton/Gore ’92, Executive Director of the Democratic Governor’s Association, Headquarters Press Secretary for Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’s 1988 presidential campaign, Chief of Staff for U.S. Representative Berkley Bedell of Iowa, and a reporter for the Fitchburg, Massachusetts Sentinel and Enterprise.
Mark’s first taste of politics came as an IOP intern in the Washington, DC office of Massachusetts’s Congressman Robert Drinan, S.J.
He is the Vice Chair for National and Public Service of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service; and is a past chair of the Board of Directors of both National Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Mark also sits on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Standing Committee for Public Service.
Born in Gardner, Massachusetts, Mark attended Gardner High School. He earned an A.B. in government cum laude at Harvard University in 1978 and a law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1991. He is the recipient of 13 honorary degrees. Mark is married to Mary Herlihy Gearan and they have two daughters, Madeleine, Harvard ‘15 and Kathleen, HWS ’21.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Tufts University, CIRCLE
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg became the Director of CIRCLE in April 2015, after joining CIRCLE in 2008 as the Lead Researcher and serving as Deputy Director since 2013. Kei directs CIRCLE’s mission and strategies by working with various stakeholders and overseeing CIRCLE’s key research and dissemination efforts. Kei was a key author of CIRCLE reports such as Taking the Lead: How Educators Can Help Close the Gender Leadership Gap (with NEA and AAUW), All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement, Pathways into Leadership: A Study of YouthBuild Graduates (with YouthBuild USA), and Civic Health and Unemployment II: The Case Builds (with NCOC), and has published in various peer-reviewed journals and books. Her curriculum vitae can be found here.
Kei applies her expertise in positive youth development and community psychology to youth civic and political development, and how diverse young people interact with the community and cultural contexts as they learn to participate in civic life. Kei is especially interested in providing people, organizations and communities with research that would help increase civic and political engagement opportunities for diverse and marginalized youth. Kei earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with specialization in Family and Children from Loyola University Chicago.
Before coming to CIRCLE, Kei was involved in a major meta-analysis of social-emotional learning programs for children and adolescents. At the same time, she worked directly with marginalized youth in Chicago, both within a public high school as an evaluator for a drop-out prevention program, and as a clinician working with diverse youth and their families. She also taught at Knox College, in Galesburg, IL, where she participated in the founding of a citizen-led community center while engaging students in community-based learning.
Kei is a proud member of Nonprofit Vote’s Leadership Council. Kei finds working at CIRCLE an extreme privilege and honor, and especially enjoys connecting with, and learning from diverse colleagues who work to narrow civic opportunity gaps.
Kate Kontriris, Consultant, Democracy Fund
Kate Krontiris is an ethnographer, strategist, and facilitator working to understand and transform civic life.
Kate currently serves as the Principal Investigator for the Make the Breast Pump Not Suck project, out of Emerson College and the MIT Media Lab. With her colleagues, she is working to catalyze an inclusive and intersectional movement in breastfeeding innovation.
In the past five years, she has served as a consultant to Google, Facebook, the Democracy Fund, the Knight Foundation, and the Omidyar Network, among others. Kate also served as a consulting user researcher for the U.S. Digital Service within the Executive Office of President Barack Obama. For the 2017-2018 academic year, Kate is an affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, at Harvard University. She is also a Business Associate of the Maendeleo Group, where she works with clients to address complex, contemporary global challenges from an African lens.
Kate is best known for her applied research on how people use technology for civic purposes. Her seminal work focused on what motivates America’s “Interested Bystanders” to get involved with civic life. The study’s publicly available findings have been applied to product development at Google and shared through targeted briefings to foundations, non-profits, and social enterprises across the civic tech ecosystem. Kate is currently facilitating a continuation of this research in Charlotte, N.C, funded by the Knight Foundation and in collaboration with both Google and Facebook.
As a User Researcher for the United States Digital Service, Kate worked with the U.S. Department of State to interview and shadow immigrant visa applicants and facilitators. With technically-focused colleagues, she developed a set of user-focused recommendations to President Barack Obama for improving the process of applying for an immigrant visa to the United States.
As an organizational development strategist, Kate has over 15 years of facilitation, mediation, and conflict resolution experience. She has led organizational development processes with the Corporation for National & Community Service, Artsy, the Omidyar Network, the Pluribus Project, and Etsy, among others. Prior to her graduate education, Kate built a career in problem-solving justice and mediation with the Center for Court Innovation in New York City.
Kate is a graduate of Columbia University, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. She holds a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
She serves on the board of Democracy Works and is a proud alumna of the AmeriCorps National Service Program.
Kate lives with her husband David Sengeh and their daughter in Nairobi, Kenya.
Nellie Gorbea, Secretary of State, Rhode Island
Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made history when she was sworn in on January 6, 2015, becoming the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England. She has rapidly emerged on the national scene as a leader who is taking on some of the toughest issues and getting results, leading the way for other states across the country.
Already in her first term, she has:
- Worked to pass automatic voter registration, making Rhode Island the ninth state in the country to do so, and increased civic engagement by instituting online voter registration;
- Improved the elections system by acquiring new state-of-the-art voting machines making Rhode Island one of the few states in the country to have new voting equipment at all polling places for the fall 2016 elections;
- Ushered in tough legislation to increase government transparency, crack down on violations of lobbying rules and make Rhode Island’s lobbying registration system a model for the nation;
- Launched a new online Business Portal to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state;
- Initiated the development of a new State Archives and Rhode Island History Exhibition Center that will help Rhode Islanders understand and appreciate their state’s great history.
Prior to her election as Secretary of State, Gorbea headed a leading organization working to make housing affordable in Rhode Island, served as Deputy Secretary of State (2002 to 2006) and led the creation of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Gorbea is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She and her husband, Steve D’Hondt, and their three daughters live in North Kingstown.
Trey Grayson, Frost Brown Todd
Trey Grayson is known as a problem solver and collaborative leader who works with his clients to successfully navigate their government, legal, political, public relations, regulatory, and tax challenges. In addition to his work at FBT, Trey is also a principal in the firm’s public affairs affiliate, CivicPoint.
Prior to joining FBT, Trey served as the president & CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce for three years. At the Chamber, he worked closely with hundreds of volunteer members to accomplish Chamber and regional priorities and was a recognized leader in workforce and regional collaboration.
From 2011 to June 2014, he served as the director the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he worked with 19 staff members and more than 400 undergraduate students to administer the IOP's programming. While at Harvard, Trey was known as an expert on the political views of millennials and the role of technology in politics and government. He was also extensively involved on campus and served as a freshman academic adviser and faculty fellow for the men's basketball team.
Prior to his time at Harvard, Trey served as a two-term Secretary of State for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The youngest secretary of state in the country at the time of his election, Trey was recognized as a national leader in government innovation, business services, election modernization, and civic education and served as served as chair of the Republican Association of Secretaries of States and as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, the first Kentuckian to hold either position. Trey was known as an effective advocate for the office in the Kentucky General Assembly with several legislative wins, including the successful effort to modernize Kentucky’s partnership, LLC, and corporate laws, in addition to several election modernization bills.
Trey remains engaged in election modernization with his service on the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration following the 2012 election, and the Commission's subsequent work to implement its recommendations across the country. He also serves as a founding board member of Democracy Works, best known for its innovative voter registration service, TurboVote.
Before entering politics, Trey practiced with the law firms of Greenebaum Doll & McDonald and Keating, Muething & Klekamp in Cincinnati, focusing on estate planning and administration, real estate, tax, and small business representation.
Trey has strong ties to the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati region and is very active in civic and charitable organizations at the local, state, and national levels. He resides in Boone County, Kentucky, with his wife, Nancy, and their daughters, Alex and Kate.
Andrea Hailey, Civic Engagement Fund
Andrea Hailey is the Founder of Civic Engagement Fund.
A recognized philanthropic and political leader, Andrea’s career spans over 40 federal and state campaigns. Her work in media strategy and fundraising garnered Pollie awards in 2008 and 2010, and she raised over a million dollars in under 60 days for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in 2007. A biracial millennial, she began her career in the office of Rep. Patrick Kennedy.
Andrea currently sits on the board of NARAL and serves on the leadership council of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture ambassadors program.
Thomas Hicks, Election Assistance Commission
Thomas Hicks was nominated by President Barack H. Obama and confirmed by unanimous consent of the United States Senate on December 16, 2014 to serve on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
Prior to his appointment with EAC, Commissioner Hicks served as a Senior Elections Counsel and Minority Elections Counsel on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on House Administration, a position he held from 2003 to 2014. In this role Mr. Hicks was responsible for issues relating to campaign finance, election reform, contested elections and oversight of both the Election Assistance Commission and Federal Election Commission. His primary responsibility was advising and providing guidance to the committee members and caucus on election issues. Mr. Hicks has talked with Americans in every state about their voting experiences. In addition, he has worked with state and local election officials across America to address critical election concerns.
Prior to joining the U.S. House of Representatives, Mr. Hicks served as a Senior Lobbyist and Policy Analyst from 2001 to 2003 for Common Cause, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that empowers citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest. Mr. Hicks has enjoyed working with state and local election officials, civil rights organizations and all other stakeholders to improve the voting process.
Mr. Hicks served from 1993 to 2001 in the Clinton Administration as a Special Assistant and Legislative Assistant in the Office of Congressional Relations for the Office of Personnel Management. He served as agency liaison to the United State Congress and the President’s Administration on matters regarding Federal personnel policies and regulations.
Mr. Hicks received his J.D. from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law and his B.A. in Government from Clark University (Worcester, MA). He also studied at the University of London (London, England) and law at the University of Adelaide (Adelaide, Australia).
Sam Hunt, State Senator, Washington State
The 22nd District is the center of the South Sound and includes the cities of Lacey, Olympia, and Tumwater as well as unincorporated northern Thurston County, including Cooper Point, Boston Harbor, Johnson Point and part of the Nisqually Delta. It is the home of The Evergreen State College, Saint Martin’s University, and South Puget Sound Community College, and, of course, the state capitol.
Senator Hunt was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving sixteen years in the House of Representatives. He is chair of the State Government, Tribal Affairs, and Elections Committee and also a member of the Ways and Means, Early Learning and Education, and Rules Committees. In addition, he chairs the Legislative Oral History Advisory Committee and serves on the Education Accountability System Oversight Committee, the Capitol Campus Design Advisory Committee, the Washington-Hyogo Friendship Council and board of the Washington State Historical Society.
After serving in 2017 as Chair of the Council of State Governments West, an organization composed of legislators from the 13 western states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and several Mexican border states, he is the organization’s past chair. During his term as chair, Washington had the honor of hosting the 2017 CSG West Annual Meeting in Tacoma.
A graduate of Washington State University, he was a school teacher in Pasco (where he served as Mayor Pro Tempore) and Montesano. He also worked for the US Senate Appropriations Committee, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Staff Director for the Washington Senate Majority Leader, education advisor to Governor Booth Gardner, and legislative director at the Department of Information Services. He is a former member of the North Thurston Public Schools board of directors.
Sam is a longtime resident of Olympia, and his two children and their families live in Olympia.
Gara LaMarche, Democracy Alliance
Gara LaMarche is President of the Democracy Alliance (DA), providing overall leadership, strategic vision and management capacity for the organization. Prior to joining the Alliance, he served as Senior Fellow at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and previously, as President and CEO of the Atlantic Philanthropies. At Atlantic, he led the foundation’s efforts to embrace a social justice framework for grantmaking, and spearheaded the largest-ever grant made by a foundation for an advocacy campaign – over $25 million to press for comprehensive health care reform in the U.S. Before joining Atlantic in 2007, he served as Vice President and Director of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Foundations (OSF), launching the organization’s pivotal work on challenges to social justice and democracy in the United States. A longtime advocate for human rights at home and abroad, he has held various positions with Human Rights Watch, PEN American Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
LaMarche is a frequent commentator on progressive issues in the news, and is the author of numerous articles on human rights and social justice issues, which have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, The Nation, and American Prospect, among many others. He has taught courses on philanthropy, public policy, and non-profit leadership at NYU’s Wagner School, as well as courses at the New School University and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A Westerly, Rhode Island, native, he is a graduate of Columbia College at Columbia University in New York.
A frequent media commentator on the Latino electorate and immigration issues, Martinez De Castro is a graduate of Occidental College and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a U.S. Vote Foundation board member, a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar, and a Nantucket Project 2015 Catalyst Fellow.
In 2007, she served as manager of the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a multi-sector network of national, state, and local organizations committed to advancing policy solutions on immigration. Prior to UnidosUS, she served as Public Policy Coordinator for the Southwest Voter Research Institute, Assistant Director of the California-Mexico Project at the University of Southern California, Organizer for the Ladies' Garment Workers Union, and Union Representative for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) Local 11.
Victoria McCullough, Tumblr
Victoria McCullough currently leads the Social Impact and Public Policy team at Tumblr focusing on engaging and activating advocacy groups, activists, and other changemakers to tell powerful stories, catalyze engagement with the Tumblr community, and drive measurable impact. In November 2016, Tumblr launched Action on Tumblr, a community dedicated to promoting the voices of the marginalized, giving users a space to connect with each other on the issues that matter to them, and providing them with the tools and resources to move online passion to offline activism.
In early January 2018, Tumblr launched the #WhatWillYouDo campaign asking Tumblr users, artists, and activists to use art and storytelling to demonstrate what they want the history books to say about 2018 and how they plan to act to shape that story.
Prior to Tumblr, Victoria worked for the Obama Administration in the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Congressional Affairs.
Crystal Patterson, Facebook
A graduate of Northwestern University, Crystal is originally from northeast Ohio and currently resides in Washington, DC.
Lisa Pike, Patagonia
Lisa Pike currently oversees the implementation of Patagonia’s international environmental grants program, which gave away more than $6.6 million last year to grassroots environmental organizations worldwide. Additionally, she leads Patagonia’s multi-year campaigns to publicize environmental issues and mobilize customers. Her work is focused on increasing environmental activism for Patagonia employees and customers through close partnership with the film, marketing and media teams.
Before joining Patagonia in 2003, Lisa was the program and membership director for the Environmental Grantmakers Association, which consists of more than 250 member foundations around the world. She has also worked on public lands issues with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and the Sierra Club’s Washington D.C. office.
Lisa has a master’s degree in Environmental Policy from Tufts University. While not chasing her two young children around, she does her best to find time to head to the backcountry to ski, hike and fly fish.
Miles Rapoport, Harvard Kennedy School
Miles Rapoport, a longtime organizer, policy advocate, and elected official, brings to the Ash Center four decades of experience working to strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in the United States. Prior to his appointment to the Ash Center, Rapoport was most recently president of the independent grassroots organization Common Cause. For 13 years, he headed the public policy center Demos.
Rapoport previously served as Connecticut’s Secretary of the State and a state legislator for ten years in Hartford. He has written, spoken, and organized widely on issues of American democracy. He was a member of the Harvard class of 1971.
Rapoport is the first fellow appointed as part of the Ash Center’s new Senior Practice Fellowship in American Democracy, which seeks to deepen the Center’s engagement on fundamental issues of democratic practice. This new fellowship is also intended to expand the connections between scholarship and the field of practice of people and organizations working to defend and improve our public institutions.
Kayla Reed, Electoral Justice Project
Kayla Reed (she/her) is a 27 year old Black, queer, activist and organizer from St. Louis, Missouri. Prior to the killing of Michael Brown Jr in August 2014, Kayla worked as a pharmacy technician. The Ferguson Uprising catapulted Kayla into activism.
As a leading organizer of Ferguson October and other national days of action calling attention to systemic injustice, Kayla often led non-violent direct actions including Occupy SLU and teach-ins around issues of police brutality. She eventually became a field organizer with local black grassroots organization, the Organization for Black Struggle. There she worked on campaigns to redefine public safety from an oppressive policing force to a holistic investment model. She also worked on legislative campaigns resulting in the passing of civilian oversight and the city’s policy on racial equity. Kayla also founded St. Louis Action Council, a millennial Black-led collective working to build political power in the city of St. Louis through civic engagement and strategic political action. The collective has organized public debates with more than 1500 local community members in attendance and worked to elect St. Louis’ first black Circuit Attorney. Their most recent campaign was seeking to elect St. Louis’ first Black woman mayor.
Kayla has been published in the Washington Post and Huffington Post and was recognized as one of CNN's Disruptors and by Delux Magazine in their inaugural Power 100 List. In the fall of 2016, Kayla left her position at OBS to return to school and is currently a sophomore at Washington University studying Sociology and African/African-American Studies.
Chuck Rocha, Solidarity Strategies
Todd Rogers, Harvard Kennedy School
His research generates novel insights about human behavior and harnesses these and existing behavioral science insights to address critical issues of public policy. It is part of the emerging field of behavioral policy, in which the design of policy is tightly linked with behavioral science insights and methods. There are two core features to his research. First, he aska and answers novel questions at the heart of behavioral decision research, judgment and decision making, and social psychology. And second, he uses these insights to generate interventions for improving social welfare using the methods of behavioral science, and implement them at scale.
As an overarching goal, Rogers is committed to ensuring that behavioral policy research is implemented widely and with fidelity. This has led to his co-founding two social enterprises: the Analyst Institute (focused on citizen engagement) and In Class Today (focused on student engagement). Prior to joining the faculty at HKS, he was founding Executive Director of the Analyst Institute, LLC, which uses randomized field experiments and behavioral science insights to understand and improve voter communication program (click here for a story in The New York Times Magazine profiling the work of the Analyst Institute, and the book Victory Lab: the secret science of winning campaigns, which is based on that article). He is a Senior Researcher with the think tank ideas42. Rogers received his Ph.D. jointly from Harvard's department of Psychology and Harvard Business School, and received his B.A. from Williams College where he majored in Religion and Psychology.
Kathryn Sikkink, Harvard Kennedy School
Ian Simmons, Blue Haven Initiative
Ian Simmons is Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative, where he oversees a portfolio focused on investments that generate competitive financial returns and address social and environmental challenges. This portfolio spans asset classes, including private and public equity, fixed income, direct investments, alternative investments and philanthropic programs.
A champion and practitioner of impact investing for two decades, Ian advances Blue Haven's investment, research and policy strategies. He is particularly passionate about pursuing solutions to complex challenges, such as clean energy and affordable housing. Ian also advocates for policies that facilitate long-term investing and promote corporate and political transparency and accountability.
Committed to initiatives and corporations that advance investing and strengthen democracy, Ian is the President of the Foundation for Civic Leadership and Chair of the Youth Engagement Fund. Ian serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, Social Finance, Issue One, Organizing for Action, the National Advisory Board for Public Service at Harvard College, and Karibu Homes, an affordable-housing company in Kenya.
Ian graduated with honors from Harvard College in 2000. He lives in the Boston area with his wife, Blue Haven Co-Founder Liesel Pritzker Simmons, and their daughters.
Steve Simon, Secretary of State, Minnesota
Steve Simon is Minnesota’s 22nd Secretary of State. He was sworn into office on January 5, 2015, and as Minnesota’s chief elections administrator pledged in his inaugural address to “work with anyone, of any political affiliation, from any part of our state” to protect, defend, and strengthen the right to vote in Minnesota.
As Secretary of State, he partners with township, city, and county officials to organize elections on behalf of Minnesota’s nearly four million eligible voters, and to ensure that the election system is fair.
Simon also oversees a wide range of services for Minnesota businesses and administers the “Safe at Home” address confidentiality program for people whose personal safety is at risk, often due to physical abuse or threats.
His goals as Minnesota’s Secretary of State are straightforward: expand access to voting, remove barriers to voting, make business services as streamlined as possible, strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence and, most importantly, be a Secretary of State for all Minnesotans.
Before being elected Minnesota’s Secretary of State, Simon served in the Minnesota House of Representatives for ten years representing the communities of St. Louis Park and Hopkins.
Simon spent much of his time in the state legislature immersed in elections issues, including serving as the chair of the House Elections Committee in 2013 and 2014. He played a lead role in many of the election reforms that Minnesota has embraced over the last several years, including no-excuse absentee voting, online voter registration, and easier access to voting for Minnesotans overseas, including those in the military.
Simon also served as Assistant Attorney General of Minnesota and worked as a lawyer in private practice for several years. He was named a “Rising Star” four different times by Law & Politics magazine and has received many other recognitions for his work on behalf of Minnesotans, including the “Outstanding Legislator Award” from the Minnesota School Board Association and the “Civic Leadership Award” from the Citizens League.
Simon grew up in St. Louis Park and Hopkins. He graduated with a B.A in Political Science from Tufts University in Massachusetts in 1992, and earned a J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996. Simon and his wife Leia live in Hopkins with their two children, Hannah and Noah, and rescue dog, Hugo.
Ashley Spillane, Harvard Kennedy School
Ashley Spillane is a social impact strategist whose expertise bridges the political, technology and entertainment industries. She has over a decade of experience developing and implementing organizational and campaign strategies that drive measurable impact.
As the head of organizations like Rock the Vote, The Atlas Project, and Democratic GAIN, she forged large-scale cause marketing partnerships with companies including iHeartRadio, Microsoft, Verizon, USAToday, Twitter, and Tinder. As a frequent writer, commentator, and speaker, Ashley has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, FOX, Bloomberg, NPR, and Al Jazeera. And she’s been tapped for her thought leadership by a wide-range of publications including the Washington Post, Elite Daily, Rolling Stone, Time, Glamour, Elle and US Weekly. Ashley was named a “Change Agent” by Marie Claire in 2014 and a “Rising Star” by Campaigns + Elections in 2012.
Wendy Underhill, National Council of State Legislatures
Stevie Valles, Chicago Votes
John Della Volpe, Harvard University Institute of Politics
Wendy Weiser, The Brennan Center
Wendy Weiser directs the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a non-partisan think tank and public interest law center that works to revitalize, reform and defend the systems of democracy and justice. Her program focuses on voting rights and elections, money in politics and ethics, redistricting and representation, government dysfunction, rule of law, and fair courts. She founded and directed the program’s Voting Rights and Elections Project, directing litigation, research, and advocacy efforts to enhance political participation and prevent voter disenfranchisement across the country.
She has authored a number of nationally-recognized publications and articles on voting rights and election reform; litigated ground-breaking lawsuits on democracy issues; testified before both houses of Congress and in a variety of state legislatures; and provided policy and legislative drafting assistance to federal and state legislators and administrators across the country.
She is a frequent public speaker and media contributor on democracy issues. She has appeared on CBS News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, ABC News, and NPR, among others; her commentary has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and elsewhere; and she is frequently quoted by The New York Times, the Washington Post, the National Journal, Politico, and other news outlets across the country. She has also served as an Adjunct Professor at NYU School of Law.
Prior to joining the Brennan Center, Ms. Weiser was a senior attorney at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she worked on issues of access to the courts and domestic violence, a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and a law clerk to Judge Eugene H. Nickerson in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She received her J.D. from Yale Law School and her B.A. from Yale College.
Jason Wheeler, Google
Jason Wheeler is the product manager for Civic Information on Google Search. His portfolio includes features designed to help users understand and navigate democratic processes around the world. Jason has an MBA from Harvard University. He earned a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and a master's degree in Biomedical Informatics from Stanford University.