Jamal Brown

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Jamal Brown is a seasoned communications and policy strategist with a history of successful public affairs practices at the White House, in the non-profit and private sectors, and in politics.

In his six years at the White House, Jamal served most notably as the Press Secretary for the Office of Management and Budget. In this role, he represented the Administration as a spokesperson on federal budget, cybersecurity, digital technology, procurement, federal privacy and financial management policies. He also developed strategy for President Obama's FY 2013 - 2017 federal budgets and helped craft and implement the Administration's crisis management strategy for the largest-ever cybersecurity incident targeting the federal government.  Additionally, Jamal developed communication campaigns for major White House initiatives, including for the launch of the U.S. Digital Service, the President’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, and inaugural White House Open Data Innovation Summit. He also managed the President’s annual SAVE Award program, a national initiative aimed at streamlining government programs and protecting taxpayer dollars.

Prior to the White House, Jamal worked at GLBTQ Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and served on the board of directors of MassEquality. In 2008, OUT Magazine named Jamal one of the 100 most influential LGBTQ Americans of that year. Jamal is from northern California and graduated from Dartmouth College, majoring in both Government and Women's & Gender Studies.

Marie Harf

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Marie Harf is a Democratic national security policy and communications strategist who has held a variety of senior roles in government and politics since arriving in Washington over a decade ago. She currently serves as a Fox News contributor offering national security and political analysis across FNC and FOX Business Network’s daytime and primetime programming. She was a key member of Secretary John Kerry’s team at the State Department, serving as his Senior Advisor for Strategic Communications and as the Department’s Deputy Spokesperson. During the 2012 presidential election, Marie oversaw all national security and foreign policy issues on President Barack Obama’s campaign. 

Marie began her career at the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst on Middle East leadership issues and later served as its Media Spokesperson. She received a Master's degree in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors in Political Science with concentrations in Jewish Studies and Russian and Eastern European Studies from Indiana University, where she currently serves on the Dean’s Council of the School for Global and International Studies.

Lucas Fleischer

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Lucas Fleischer most recently served as Creative Director at 270 Strategies where he led web, design, and brand work for scores of clients, including Planned Parenthood, Google, and countless progressive organizations you have and have not heard of. Before joining the team at 270, Lucas served as Digital Director of the Democratic National Committee, where he led a team of email strategists, social media experts, developers, and designers supporting President Obama and Democrats nationwide.

Lucas first joined the Obama campaign as a volunteer during the California primaries in 2007 before becoming the campaign’s Ohio Director of New Media. In 2009, Lucas joined the Organizing for America team at the DNC as Creative Director where he led the overhaul of the Democrats’ brand as well as the creative work during the fight for health reform and the 2010 midterms. Lucas graduated from Brown University and is a proud DC native.  Learn more at www.LucasFleischer.com

Paul Monteiro

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Appointed by President Obama in 2016 as the Acting Director of the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations Services (CRS), Paul Monteiro most recently spearheaded efforts to strengthen relationships between local communities and law enforcement, and mediate community conflict rooted in race, religion, disability, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, color, or national origin

Paul previously served as director of AmeriCorps VISTA at the Corporation for National and Community Service and led the effort to mark its 50th anniversary.  From 2009 to 2013, he was an advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement and led outreach to faith-based organizations, Arab-American communities, and anti-poverty groups.  In that position, he played an active role in several Administration initiatives including the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, the Affordable Care Act, and several efforts under the “Ladders of Opportunity” agenda to protect the middle class. Paul also helped launch the President’s Responsible Fatherhood & Healthy Families initiative that later became “My Brother’s Keeper,”  and served as coordinator for the White House Mentorship Program for young men attending local area high schools.

While at the White House, Paul also served as an ex officio member of the National Counter Terrorism Center’s Heritage Council.  In 2013, he was awarded a citation from the National Security Council for his work on a range of international Administration priorities including the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, refugee resettlement and other humanitarian interventions, and countering violent extremism.   

Paul is a member of the Board of Governors of Wesley Theological Seminary and also teaches a course on the First Amendment at the University of Maryland, College Park.  He received a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and his J.D. from Howard University School of Law.

Hannah Hankins

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Hannah Hankins served for more than five years in the Obama White House Communications Department, most recently as the Communications Director and Senior Policy Advisor for the Domestic Policy Council.  In this role, she planned high-profile Administration announcements to achieve strategic communications priorities and managed crisis response on issues including education, labor, public health and criminal justice.  This included spearheading communications for the Council of Women and Girl's United State of Women; the White House Worker Voice Summit; and the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging.  Previously, she traveled around the world with the President on Air Force One, facilitating media coverage opportunities and managing relations between the White House and the national press corps.  Prior to the White House, Hannah worked for Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  

Hannah is from rural western Minnesota and graduated from American University in Washington, DC, with a degree in public communications.

Elias Alcantara


Elias Alcantara previously served as White House Senior Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs as President Obama's liaison to hundreds of local officials, including mayors, council members and county executives, across the country. During his tenure at the White House, Elias advised and focused on strategic engagement for a number of policy issues including criminal justice reform, the My Brother's Keeper initiative, immigration reform, veterans homelessness, advanced manufacturing and workforce development.

Before serving in the White House, he served as a U.S. Fellow for the Organization of American States and resided in Santiago, Chile for two years. While in Chile, he completed coursework for a Master of Arts in International Studies at the Universidad de Chile's Institute of International Studies. Elias is a graduate of Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and is originally from the Bronx, New York where he currently resides.

Elias continues to stay engaged and is currently advising organizations on a number of issues he worked on at the White House including urban affairs, criminal justice reform, policing and youth development with a focus on boys and young men of color. 

Laura Miller

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Laura is Vice President at Civic Advisors. She is an experienced digital strategist and storyteller previously leading social media in the Obama White House's Office of Digital Strategy. In the past year she successfully led digital campaigns including March for Our Lives, the United State of Women Summit, and When We All Vote. She also advised and led social media for the launch and tour of Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming.  Previously, she worked on in the U.S. Senate as a senior communications advisor and also at the Department of Labor under Secretary Tom Perez, where she built and led a digital communications team to promote critical workplace issues including paid leave, equal pay, and the future of work. Before that, she worked as a digital programs manager helping to lead key fundraising projects for the 2012 Obama for America reelection campaign in both Chicago and Denver.

She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and hails from Woodstock, Illinois.

Tushar Sheth


Tushar Sheth brings an expertise in education and labor policy issues to the Network having served as Vice President Biden's Deputy Director of Policy from 2015-2017. Previously, Tushar worked at the Department of Education for three years as a Senior Advisor in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, where he utilized his experience as a Manager of Strategy at Single Stop USA and form the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Jorge Neri

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Jorge Neri is a member of the Democratic National Committee’s new Unity Reform Commission.  Jorge has worked for the White House under the Obama Administration, on political campaigns, and organizing for immigrant rights. He began his career in Chicago and then moved to Washington, DC to work on the national level – including at the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the Center for Community Change (CCC), and Alliance for Citizenship (A4C).  Jorge worked on President Obama’s successful reelection campaign, serving as the Southern Regional Field Director before being deployed to run the field program in Nevada, a battleground state.  Jorge later went on to serve as the Associate Director for Latino and Immigrant Outreach for the White House. Most recently, he worked on Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the State Director for Nevada (a state won by Secretary Clinton in the primary and general election).  Currently, Jorge is consulting for a variety of political campaigns and advocacy organizations. 

David Heifetz

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David Heifetz is currently the Chief Communications Officer at New Politics, a bipartisan organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting service veterans to run for office. At New Politics, he serves as a public voice for the organization, advises servant leader candidates on message development and policy, and is responsible for devising, managing, and executing communications strategy and outreach across the organization. 

Prior to working at New Politics, David served in the Obama White House as a speechwriter and policy advisor, where he wrote primarily for Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, oversaw messaging for the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and advised on engagement strategy around labor and national security issues.

David has also served as the speechwriter to Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, press secretary and speechwriter to the late New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, and speechwriter and personal aide to Alan Khazei during his 2011 Senate campaign in Massachusetts.

David was born and raised in the Boston area and graduated from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, where he studied International Relations and Political Economy. 

Leah Katz-Hernandez


Leah Katz-Hernandez is a leading expert on disability and diversity issues, public communication strategy, and civil rights.

Currently serving as Manager of Special Projects at Gallaudet University President’s Office, Leah is arguably best known as the celebrated ROTUS, Receptionist of the United States, for President Obama. The first ever deaf person to hold the position, Leah was appointed to the West Wing after serving in First Lady Michelle Obama’s communications office and for the Obama campaign during the 2012 election cycle. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Leah’s groundbreaking grassroots digital communications resulted in an award-winning blog and international attention. Throughout her career at the White House, in the non-profit sector, political campaigns, and on Capitol Hill, Leah has consistently used her specialty knowledge to urge equal access for the deaf, disability and Latina communities.

With more than a decade’s worth of experience to share, Leah is a dynamic contributor to the U.S. Speaker Program vis the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs. In 2017, Leah joined as a Board Member to the American Association of People with Disabilities and as an advisor with the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Advisory Committee.

Leah earned her MA in Strategic Communication from American University and a BA in Government from Gallaudet University. In addition to being bilingual in written English and American Sign Language, Leah enjoys learning new sign languages and is conversant in Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM) as well as International Sign (IS). Learn more at www.LeahKH.com

Noland Chambliss

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Noland Chambliss is a strategist, coach and communications consultant focused on guiding high impact leaders and organizations through transformational change.  As a coach and consultant, Noland has worked with executives at Fortune 50 companies, high growth startups, global media figures and political leaders. He specializes in organizational identity development and executive profile development, as well as guiding organizations through major shifts in strategy, moments of innovation, and moments of crisis. 

Noland works with several consulting groups including SYPartners and Civic Advisors. He also serves on the board of Van Jones' social justice accelerator The Dream Corps. Noland has previously served as the Director of External Affairs at Change.org, Chief of Staff to Van Jones, and a Deputy Field Director on the 2008 Obama campaign.  He grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and currently lives in San Francisco. He loves bourbon and live music.

Gabi Chojkier


Gabriela (Gabi) Chojkier is a senior communications executive with nearly 20 years of private, public, and non-profit sector experience. She leads global teams across diverse industries in public affairs, external relations, social impact, public policy, stakeholder engagement, and government affairs.

Gabi served as a White House senior media director and spokesperson under President Obama. In this role, she led all communications with Hispanic audiences in the United States and Latin America.

Prior to the White House, Gabi held senior positions with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Open Society Foundations, the World Bank, Ruder Finn, and the U.S. Congress.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Tufts University and a Master of Arts in Communications from the Johns Hopkins University.


Adam Garber

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Adam Garber worked as Director for Video and Special Projects in the White House Office of Digital Strategy for President Barack Obama. For over seven years, Adam worked to help build and evolve the way that the Administration communicated with the public, and bring the White House to new audiences and platforms around the world. Adam also founded and ran the first ever White House Student Film Festival, which ran annually for the final three years of the Obama Administration. 

Prior to his work at the White House, Adam worked as a producer, director and editor for programs broadcast on networks including Discovery Channel, The Science Channel and PBS. 

Alissa Ko

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Alissa Ko has built a career that spans high-level national community organizing, fundraising, coalition building, and successful legislative campaigns. She has advised organizations and campaigns on all levels from constituency outreach to coalition work to building political programs. Alissa most recently served as the Senior Associate Director at the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Public Affairs primarily working with Attorneys General, state legislators and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In her role as Senior Associate Director, Alissa built a program that engaged state legislators from all 50 states to amplify and highlight President Obama's domestic policies. 

Alissa previously served as the Deputy Director at Ready for Hillary, a groundbreaking national organization with more than 3 million supporters and over 100,000 donors that raised over $12 million. At Ready for Hillary, she oversaw the day-to-day operations and managed the field, constituency, data, and digital departments.  Alissa also worked on the 2012 Obama for America campaign as the National Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Director, where she helped increase the AAPI vote by 11 percent. Alissa was recently named a Rising Star by Campaigns and Elections and was included in the American Association of Political Consultants and National Association of Asian Pacifics in Politics and Public Affairs’ 40 under 40 list. Alissa currently lives in Washington D.C., and when she isn’t chatting about politics you can find her eating and trying different types of food.

Sri Gainedi

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Sri Gainedi was the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama and the Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.  In that role, Sri was responsible for communicating the East Wing's priorities and schedule throughout the White House.  Previously, Sri worked at the U.S. Department of State on anti-trafficking efforts in the Trafficking in Persons office. Prior to that, she worked in the Chief of Staff’s office at the Department of Commerce.

Sri is a 2013 graduate of University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Kalisha Dessources


Kalisha Dessources is currently the Director of the National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives—a collaborative effort made by eight independent women’s foundations across the country to leverage resources in order to address key structural barriers faced by low-income women and girls, and women and girls of color. Prior to this role, Kalisha served in the Obama White House, most recently as the Policy Advisor to President Obama’s White House Council on Women and Girls. In that role, Kalisha was responsible for directing the Obama Administration’s work to advance equity for women and girls of color. Prior to her time at the White House, Kalisha served as a Teach for America corps member, teaching secondary math and science in Philadelphia. A proud Haitian-American from New York, Kalisha received her Bachelors of Science in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University, and her Masters from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. This fall, she will begin a PhD in Sociology at Yale University. Her research will focus on urban poverty, racial inequality, and inequity in the education and criminal justice systems.

Kelsey Donohue

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Kelsey Donohue served as Assistant Press Secretary for First Lady Michelle Obama focusing primarily on media relations and digital strategy. During her time at the White House, Kelsey supported the strategic communications for the First Lady’s official portfolio, including her four main policy initiatives; Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher, and Let Girls Learn. While in the East Wing, Kelsey coordinated segments for local and national media outlets and profiles in publications such as the New York Times and The Verge. In addition to day-to-day media relations, Kelsey was the lead content creator for the First Lady’s digital platforms and oversaw strategic partnerships with influencers and new media outlets such as NowThis, ATTN, TheSkimm, and Tastemade. In addition, Kelsey supported the First Lady’s international outreach, developing strategic engagement for her travel overseas to Argentina, Cambodia, Cuba, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Kingdom.

With a passion for education policy and women’s issues, Kelsey’s career in Washington, DC has included communication and digital strategy roles at the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of State, and EMILY’s List. Kelsey is a native New Yorker and is currently splitting her time between the East Coast and El Paso, Texas, where her family is stationed at Fort Bliss.

Tony Rediger


Tony Rediger served for over six years at the United States Department of Energy, where he was focused on implementing President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy.  He most recently as the Senior Advisor for Strategic Planning and Director of Scheduling and Advance.  At the Department, Rediger was responsible for coordinating the strategy, development, and messaging of the Secretary of Energy’s events and travel.  In this role Rediger planned over 250 events, trips, and summits throughout the United States and around the world.

Prior to joining DOE, Rediger worked in six states on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.  He has also spent time working at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte, NC.

Rediger received an MBA from the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School and a BA from the University of Iowa.

Alex Sopko


Previously, Alex worked with local and state elected leaders from across the country as Policy Advisor and Special Assistant to the Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Jerry Abramson.  Alex also worked in the Office of White House Counsel and Office of Public Engagement.  Before arriving at the White House, she worked in communications at the United States Olympic Committee, St. Paul's School in London, and as a sports reporter at The Washington Times.  

Originally from Bethesda, MD, Alex is a proud Harvard graduate. 

Mike Amato


Michael Amato is a communications consultant to non-profits and advocacy organizations and has more than a decade of strategic, political, and crisis communications experience from his time serving in senior positions in both Congress and the Obama Administration.

As Director of Communications for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Mike led the agency’s internal and external communications, including crisis and rapid response strategies following one of the largest data breaches in U.S. Government history. He also served as a senior advisor to the OPM director.

Prior to OPM, Mike served on the House Armed Services Committee where he was the Communications Director for the minority and chief spokesman for the Committee’s Ranking Member. In that role, he coordinated messaging and developed and implemented communications strategies on national security and foreign policy matters. Mike also coordinated messaging around the Select Committee on Benghazi. Prior to this role, Mike served as Communications Director for Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA).

Before his time on Capitol Hill, Mike was the Assistant Press Secretary for Philadelphia Mayor John Street.  Mike is from Philadelphia and graduated from Temple University.

Marisa Renee Lee


Marisa Renee Lee is a cross-sector leader dedicated to engaging the private sector to help solve public problems. In 2017, Marisa launched a private social impact firm to enable her to work with a variety of institutions on organizational design and development, public-private partnership strategies, change management, and stakeholder engagement.  She most recently served as the Managing Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (MBK Alliance), a nonprofit born out of President Obama's call to action to address the barriers to success that boys and young men of color (BYMOC) disproportionately face along the life path.

Through her work with MBK Alliance, Marisa continues to lead a collaborative, cross-sectoral movement that unite business, philanthropy, nonprofit, and community leaders, to increase pathways of opportunity for BYMOC. In 2016, she was recognized in the Chronicle of Philanthropy 40 Under 40 as a “Rabble Rouser for Obama” for her work.  She has been a featured speaker at several forums including SXSW and has written op-eds on race, opportunity, and economic mobility for CNN, Philanthropy News Digest, News One, and more.

Previously, Marisa served in the White House Domestic Policy Council as a Senior Policy Advisor for Urban Affairs and Economic Mobility where she directed all engagement efforts for the President’s Ladders of Opportunity and Promise Zones initiatives. She also served as Deputy Director of Private Sector Engagement at the White House where she oversaw public-private partnerships and relationships with the business community, and as an appointee at the U.S. Small Business Administration. At SBA, Marisa combined her passion for service with her finance and small business background to coordinate minority business engagement activities, including the Urban Economic Forums co-hosted by the White House and SBA, and formulate and implement policies to promote entrepreneurship in underserved communities.

Marisa began her career at Brown Brothers Harriman as an Associated in the Commodities banking group. In 2007, while working at Brown Brothers, Marisa founded The Pink Agenda, a breast cancer non-profit, in honor of her mother Lisa. Almost a decade later, The Pink Agenda is now a national organization of young professionals committed to raising money for breast cancer research and direct care service programs in partnership with The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Marisa is a graduate of Harvard and an avid Green Bay Packers fan.  

Matt Nosanchuk


Matt Nosanchuk is an experienced attorney who held multiple senior roles in the Obama Administration from 2009-17. He served at the White House as President Obama’s liaison to the American Jewish Community and on the National Security Council staff. Matt also worked at the Department of State in the Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security in the Office of General Counsel, and the Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division.

As an Obama Administration appointee, Matt worked on a wide range of domestic and international issues at the intersection of policy, politics, law, strategic communications, oversight, and public engagement. Highlights of his service include his work at DOJ and DHS to advance LGBT civil rights, including marriage equality, which earned him the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award and the American Bar Association’s inaugural Stonewall Award. Highlights also include his role at the White House and State working to secure support for the Iran nuclear agreement, one of President Obama’s signature foreign policy accomplishments.

Previously, Matt worked at the Justice Department during President Bill Clinton’s second term, in the Senate as Counsel to Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), in the House of Representatives as Counsel to Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) on the House Judiciary Committee, as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, at the ACLU of Illinois as a Skadden Fellow and on numerous political campaigns, including the 2008 Obama campaign. Matt also taught as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center.

Throughout his career, Matt has had extensive media experience, including op-eds published in numerous national news outlets. His work has also appeared in essay collections and scholarly journals. Matt is originally from the Detroit area and attended college and law school at Stanford where he was a Truman Scholar. He has a son, Seth, who is a sophomore at Stanford.

Matthew Saniie

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Matthew Saniie joins the Network with over ten years of experience using data and analytics to guide progressive causes. Matthew’s background includes advising political campaigns, working with non-profits, supporting government agencies, and consulting for Fortune 500 companies. His data expertise is extensive, covering electoral, healthcare, activism and engagement, forecasting, modeling, systems designing, and randomized controlled testing. His career highlights include developing and overseeing the analytics and data program at Enroll America to reduce the overall uninsured rate; reelecting Barack Obama by operating as the Battlegrounds States Analyst for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Michigan, and New Hampshire; and modernizing the DNC data program as a Regional Data Manager. In this last role, Matthew focused on understanding the origin of DNC data.  Along with his data expertise, Matthew brings a background in political organizing, training, and staff management.

Zaki Barzinji


Zaki Barzinji is a public affairs advisor with a decade of experience in political campaigns, public service, and tech innovation at the state and federal level. Most recently, he was appointed by President Obama to serve as Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement and the White House liaison to Muslim-Americans, Arab-Americans, Sikh-Americans and other minority faiths where he worked to amplify voices and narratives seldom represented at the highest levels of government.

Prior to joining the Obama White House, Zaki served as Governor Terry McAuliffe's Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, where he represented Virginia to the federal government, Congress, foreign governments, and other states. In that role, he also served as the Governor's primary representative to the National Governors Association on cybersecurity, telecommunications, immigration, and transportation policy. Before representing Governor McAuliffe in DC, Zaki served as his advisor in Richmond on technology policy, where he launched Virginia's first open data portal, managed state agency hackathons, and helped steer pro-innovation state legislation.

Previously, Zaki worked on a variety of state, local, and policy campaigns, and served as the Executive Director of the Southern Business Council, a trade organization representing minority-owned technology and healthcare small-businesses based in Virginia. In this role, he helped shape public policy advocacy for member CEOs on a variety of issues including immigration reform and affordable healthcare. In recognition of his service to the Commonwealth and on behalf of small businesses, Governor McAuliffe appointed Zaki to the Virginia Small Business Commission in 2017.

Zaki is a graduate of Virginia Tech, and is an avid writer, science-fiction enthusiast, and Jedi apprentice. He met his wife Michelle in Cairo on the night President Obama was first elected, and met his daughter Zoon in 2017.

Melanie Fonder Kaye

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Melanie Fonder Kaye is the Founder and CEO of MFK Strategies, LLC, which provides communications and advocacy strategy, media relations, social media strategy, writing and event management services. Current and former clients include Friends of the Children; A Better Balance; 1 Million for Work Flexibility; CURA Strategies; Cancer Support Community; Georgetown University's Baker Center on Leadership & Governance; Save the Children Action Network; American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s One Degree Project with Stand Up To Cancer; and MSNBC’s “Know Your Value.”

Previously, Melanie served three years as Director of Communications for Dr. Jill Biden where she developed and oversaw the office’s communications strategy, with specific focus on: Joining Forces, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden’s initiative to encourage all Americans to support service members, veterans and military families efforts; helping to raise the profile of community colleges as an innovative, affordable pathway to success; elevating and honoring the role of teachers; and women’s health issues, particularly breast cancer.

Prior to her time at the White House, Melanie served as Vice President at GMMB where she developed and implemented integrated communications campaigns that included message development, paid and earned media, writing, media training, and media event support. Melanie also served as press secretary to former Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, both in the state office and for his successful reelection campaign. A former reporter for The Hill newspaper, WisPolitics.com, and The Green Bay News-Chronicle, Melanie has contributed to The Washington Post’s “On Parenting” section, Working Mother, and has written for Cosmopolitan.com and Capitol File, among other outlets.

Melanie is from the great state of Wisconsin, graduated from St. Norbert College, and lives in Maryland, with her husband and three children: Eleanor, Finley, and Cooper.

Kelly Jo Smart


Kelly Jo Smart is a photographer and visual storyteller. Her most recent role was Photo Editor for NPR's Science Desk. Prior to NPR, Kelly Jo worked as an Associate Digital Producer in the White House Office of Digital Strategy for President Barack Obama. Before joining the Office of Digital Strategy team, she interned for the White House Photo Office.

Kelly Jo is a Syracuse, NY native and graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology with a degree in Photojournalism.

Josh Burstein

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Josh Burstein advises on creative for The Democrats, and served with Tom Perez in the Obama Administration as Director of Digital Strategy for the Department of Labor. 

Josh has hosted and directed full TV pilots, produced national TV commercials, and led hundreds of online videos from concept to completion. He was Digital Video Director for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and part of Tom Steyer’s initial team at NextGen Climate. 

Josh has three presidential campaign cycles of experience producing digital content in the field. Before joining the Obama campaign, Josh was Director of Business Development for the Government of Israel and @CharlieSheen’s social media guy at the height of his mania... Josh is likely the only thing Israel, Barack Obama and Charlie Sheen have in common. 

Ezra Billinkoff


Ezra is the Founder & Principal of Left Hand Strategies. He has spent more than a decade collaborating with organizations to build successful campaigns.

He has worked alongside the Human Rights Campaign, American Jewish Committee, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, American Jewish World Service, USA for UNHCR, and the Clinton Foundation among many others. He most recently served as the Director of Digital Campaigns at Everytown for Gun Safety.

And yes, he is a life-long leftie. You can learn more about Ezra at lefthandstrategies.com

Kristin Jones


Kristin Jones spent seven and a half years working alongside former First Lady Michelle Obama as special assistant and director of special projects. Over the course of her tenure at the White House, her projects and responsibilities ranged from planning international travel and domestic events in service of the First Lady's priorities and cultural vision, to developing creative content and campaigns for Michelle Obama's signature initiatives: Let's Move!; Joining Forces; Reach Higher; and Let Girls Learn. In this capacity, she has developed an expertise in identifying how the intersections of branding, policy, and creative strategy can be used as a means to create cultural shifts in society. 

Ms. Jones is an alumna of the University of California, Berkeley where she graduated as valedictorian and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and a Bachelor of Arts in African American Studies. She received her Masters in Education from Loyola Marymount University while teaching high school English in South Los Angeles as a member of Teach for America.

Andrew Amore


Andrew Amore specializes in stakeholder engagement and grassroots communications. He provides a suite of services related to the design and execution of comprehensive public affairs campaigns for clients that have included education technology companies, education nonprofit organizations, and most recently Michelle Obama's When We All Vote voter registration campaign. 

Andrew has spent his career at the intersection of education, politics, and stakeholder outreach leading local and national campaigns around educational equity issues both at The Opportunity Institute, a nonprofit he helped establish, and the Center for American Progress. Mr. Amore served as an advisor to Secretary Arne Duncan after receiving a presidential appointment to the U. S. Department of Education in 2009. At the Department he served as the liaison to the national teachers’ unions--the nation’s largest union with 3.2 million members—and built systems to bring stakeholders into federal and state policy-making and implementation processes.

He gained formidable organizing experience in 2008, after working as a field organizer in Colorado on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. He began his career as a high school social studies teacher in New York City. He served as a teacher for four years before joining the presidential campaign. He received a B.A. in secondary education from The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York, and an M.A. in political science from Columbia University in New York City.

Will Jenkins

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Will Jenkins has more than a decade of communications and policy experience at the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, the House and Senate, and international nonprofit organizations. Over the years, he has also worked with many film, TV, and other media makers on stories that impact public policy and social issues.

During his time in the federal government, Will worked on a wide range of issues, including criminal justice reform, drug policy, mental health, immigration, healthcare, national security, the environment and education. At the White House, he helped plan interviews and events with President Obama and senior officials and oversaw high profile events and policy announcements. These included a successful year-long campaign for $1 billion in new treatment funding for the opioid epidemic. As a legislative aide in Congress, Will guided from introduction to enactment the first legislation to protect American military members from the health effects of toxic burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been called this generation's Agent Orange.

In the field of creative media, Will has trained or advised hundreds of filmmakers and other media makers on politics and social impact through the Sundance Institute, the South by Southwest Festival, the Tribeca Film Institute, Warner Bros., and other organizations. He was Policy Director for the Impact Film Festival at the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, where he coordinated screening discussions with politicians, filmmakers, celebrities and reporters. In 2013, he developed the American Film Institute's first Political Bootcamp for Filmmakers. At the Center for Media and Social Impact, he co-authored a series of studies on creative media and political advocacy. He has also written and produced media on social and political issues.

Will founded the Democratic Communicators Network, which has organized training and mentoring for hundreds of political staffers for more than a decade. He created the White House Public Affairs Leadership Workshop, a five-month leadership development program for political appointees from federal agencies. Drawing on his federal experience, he co-authored an article on media campaigns in The Public Sector Innovation Journal. He serves as a board member of Working Films, an advisor to the New Left Accelerator and a co-chair of the NEXUS Working Group for Film, Media and Story.

Thomas Kelley

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“TK” creates award-winning media content for a broad range of advocacy organizations, companies, and campaigns in the US and around the world. The results speak for themselves with positive press coverage, motivated audiences, and numerous client success stories.

Thomas was the first-ever Digital Director at Kivvit, a Top-20 Public Affairs firm. At Kivvit, he built the digital media practice from the ground up and led all creative digital services and content creation efforts. A veteran of the 2008 Barack Obama Presidential campaign, he also served for five years as Senior Presidential Videographer in President Obama’s White House Office of Digital Strategy. There, he helped advance the Administration’s goals of making government more open and accessible while achieving tangible policy results on behalf of the American people.

Born and raised in New England, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Emerson College. Thomas is also an adjunct professor in the School of Media & Public Affairs at The George Washington University. His work has been recognized with multiple Pollie Awards and a Reed Award. Learn more at thomasjameskelley.com

Jason Kuruvilla

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Jason Kuruvilla is a seasoned public relations professional with experience in government and nonprofit advocacy. He is a Senior Communications Associate for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, where he leads their outreach efforts for the clean energy and automotive fuel efficiency advocacy programs.

Previously, he served as Press Secretary for the Economics and Statistics Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he managed media relations for the Assistant Secretary and the Department's Chief Data Officer. In that role, he helped promote the Department's efforts to harness the vast economic, environmental and other scientific data collected across the Department to support innovation in the public and private sector. Prior to that, Jason served as a Special Assistant and Press Officer at the U.S. Department of Labor where he helped promote the Department’s job training and unemployment insurance programs and the release of the economically significant monthly jobs report. 

Jason graduated from Binghamton University in New York in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Carrianna, and 2-year old son, and is looking forward to the arrival of his baby girl in July.

Shelly Marc

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Shelly is the founder of The Ambition Group (TAG).  Previously, Shelly served as a Policy Advisor for the Office of Public Engagement for President Barack Obama. Shelly helped lead efforts concerning criminal justice reform and issues related to the African-American community. Prior to her role with the Administration, Shelly worked as an aid for Senator Gillibrand of New York.  Shelly has a B.A. in Political Science and Criminology from the University of South Florida and is a native of Kissimmee, Florida.

TAG is a strategy, policy, and community engagement firm committed to empowering America’s next generation of leaders to be social change agents. There is an apparent need to ignite younger constituencies by embracing their ideas and building strong partnerships that will transform the world. TAG provides high-quality solutions for government agencies, corporations, non-profits, and education institutions that foster open lines of communication and engagement to millennials. TAG trains millennial influencers to build brands and skills that create social change and sustainable communities. 

Kevin Samy

 Kevin served in communications, speechwriting, and policy roles throughout the Obama Administration, including at the White House, the U.S. Department of Energy, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Pentagon. He holds a graduate degree from Yale in Cean Energy Policy and International Affairs. He's also spent time in tech and entertainment, including, having supported leaders of top global video game companies through growth and acquisition. Kevin is a 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient in Law and Policy, and has been a c-suite consultant to various tech and fortune 50 companies.