Advisory Board

Marie Wilson, Chair of Advisory Board – New York, NY

whitehouseproject-marieonstage3An advocate of women’s leadership for more than 40 years, Marie Wilson was president of the Ms. Foundation for Women for 22 years, creator of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work ® Day and author of Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World (Viking 2004). In 1998, Wilson founded The White House Project in order to build a richly diverse, genuinely representative democracy. During its tenure, The White House Project was a pioneer in advancing women’s leadership in every sphere—political and social, cultural and economic. Under Wilson’s stewardship, innovative research and programming initiatives have been hallmarks including groundbreaking research such as “Benchmarking Women’s Leadership”, the launch of, a database with over 330 women experts, two national leadership summits, and “Vote, Run, Lead,” a training program that has given more than 15,000 women the tools they need to run for office. An innovator and change-maker, Wilson’s ultimate goal is to transform American culture so that the number of women leaders in all sectors achieves a critical mass. Wilson has been profiled in The New York Times “Public Lives” column, and has appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN, National Public Radio and other national programs.

Jimmie Briggs, Advisory Board Member – New York, NY

JimmieBriggsOver the past two decades, Jimmie Briggs has earned a reputation as one of the most respected human rights advocates in the field of journalism. Through extensive travels to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the St. Louis, Missouri-native and graduate of Morehouse College has produced seminal reporting on the lives of war-affected youth and children soldiers, as well as survivors of sexual violence. A National Magazine Award finalist and recipient of honors from the Open Society Institute, National Association of Black Journalists and the Carter Center for Mental Health Journalism, his book on child soldiers and war-affected children Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War won him accolades in 2005, and took readers into the personal journeys of war-affected youth. Further, Briggs has served as an adjunct professor of investigative journalism at the New School for Social Research, and was a George A. Miller Visiting Professor in the Department of African and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois: Champaign-Urbana. His upcoming book The Wars Women Fight: Dispatches from A Father to His Daughter, narratively examines violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and the United States. Most recently, Jimmie Briggs conceived of and founded the Man Up Campaign, a global initiative for mobilizing young people to stop violence against women and girls through the arts, sports and technology. It formally launched during a Young Leaders Summit at the University of Johannesburg during 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, bringing youth together from 25 countries throughout the world, many from Sub-Saharan Africa. For his work with Man Up Campaign and the issue of violence against women, Briggs was selected as the winner of the 2010 GQ Magazine “Better Men Better World” Search, as well as one of Women’s eNews’ 21 Leaders for the 21st Century. Man Up is a global campaign to activate youth to stop violence against women and girls. Harnessing the universal power of music, sport and technology, Man Up provides innovative training, resources and support to young women and men and the organizations with whom they collaborate. The Man Up Campaign formally launched during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, bringing together a diverse group of up to +100 women and men (ages 18 to 30 years) from 25 countries. Occurring at the University of Johannesburg, this international forum was the first of its kind to develop capacity and technical expertise among young people of both genders, who are committed to stopping violence against women and girls.

Keya Dannenbaum, Advisory Board Member - Greater New York City Area

KeyaDannenbaumKeya Dannenbaum is the founder and CEO at Versa, an award-wining company on a mission to keep the press strong and the public informed and engaged. Her passion for public affairs and undying pursuit of meaningful work has taken her on a far-ranging journey, through myriad disciplines and around the world. She has studied and worked in public and international affairs as an undergraduate at Stanford and a doctoral candidate at Princeton; internationally as a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia and a Melman Fellow in India; nationally in the 2008 Presidential election; and locally as campaign manager for the Mayor of New Haven, CT. Along the way she also picked up some computer science (C), a bit of statistics (R), (formerly) fluent Spanish and half a Wharton MBA, which she left to found Versa. She speaks widely on startups, entrepreneurship, women in business and politics, and the role of meaning in work. Follow her on Twitter @keyajay and on her Tumblog at

Marci Harris, J.D., LL.M, Advisory Board Member – Redwood City, CA

Marci Harris in front of capitalMarci Harris, J.D., LL.M, is the co-founder and CEO of POPVOX -- a neutral, nonpartisan civic engagement platform that combines legislative data with individuals’ personal stories in a format optimized for the U.S. Congress. The concept for POPVOX arose from her experience as counsel to the Health Subcommittee Chairman for the House Ways and Means Committee throughout the legislative process for U.S. healthcare system reform. Marci began public service work as Tornado Recovery Coordinator for Jackson, Tenn., working with private and public organizations and state, local and federal agencies to marshal resources and rebuild. Harris was recognized as a "Tech Titan" by Washingtonian magazine, one of "Ten Women to Watch in Legal Tech" by the ABA Journal, a member of the 2013 "FastCase 50," and named a #13 of the "Top 100 Most Creative People in Business" by Fast Company magazine in 2012. She received a 2012 Tribeca Film Festival award for Disruptive Innovation, presented by Harvard professor and author Dr. Clayton Christensen. She is a mentor at the Code for America Accelerator in San Francisco and "The CO" accelerator in Jackson, TN. Marci has served on the Board of Directors for LaunchTN since 2012, and chairs the Entrepreneurship subcommittee. Marci lives in Redwood City, California, and maintains close ties with both the DC and Tennessee startup communities, where POPVOX team members are based.

Thad Hellman, Board Advisory Member - Minneapolis, MN

ThadThad Hellman is the Director of State and Local Government Affairs at Target in Minneapolis, MN, where he leads a team of fifteen government affairs professionals responsible for strategically engaging on public policy issues at state capitols and city governments across the country. His team manages relationships with hundreds of elected officials, trade associations, internal business partners, and industry peers, and analyzes an extensive range of policy issues with potential impact to the business.

Thad graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Olaf College, an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, and was a 2010-11 Policy Fellow with the Center for Study of Politics and Government at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. With almost 15 years at Target, he has held a variety of roles related to financial analysis and performance management and joined the Target State and Local Government Affairs team in 2011 after leading a team in Store Operations responsible for financial forecasting, planning, and analysis for 1,800 stores nationwide. Before joining Target, Thad worked at both an internet start-up company and as an IT auditor at Ernst & Young, LLP. Thad also serves on the Board of Directors for the Citizens League, the Inver Hills Community College Foundation and is an active alumni of the Humphrey Policy Fellows. He and his wife Jennifer live in Inver Grove Heights, MN.

Deb Fitzpatrick, Advisory Board Member - Minneapolis, MN


Debra Fitzpatrick directs the Center on Women and Public Policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota. She leads a partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota examining the status of women and girls in Minnesota and leads research and outreach efforts in the areas of women and electoral politics, gender and judging, and women-centered non-profits. As part of this work she conducts successful bi-partisan programming work with women legislators and local elected women. She also led a research project examining the path to office and success rates of male and female Minnesota legislative candidates (between 1998-2008) and partnered with non-profits to collect in-depth, original data from over 200 men and women potential and current candidates and program participants. In prior positions, she led a partnership with the National Governors Association (NGA), working with Governor led teams on K-12 education reform and advance policy changes in several states. As a Committee Administrator with the Minnesota Senate, she conducted policy research and managed legislative agendas.

Heidi Sieck, Advisory Board Member - New York City

Headshot_HeidiSieckHeidi Sieck brings 25 years of experience at the intersection of technology and politics, devoting her life to implementing innovations that help women elevate in political leadership. She is the founding Chief Operating Officer of, a new social platform for politics, connecting candidates, political organizations and voters from national to local level. was designed with the first-time woman leader in mind, based on her experience leading women's advocacy in San Francisco politics and as a graduate of Emerge California and Harvard Square to Oval Office campaign training programs. Heidi led Mayor Gavin Newsom’s award winning 311 Customer Service Center project, a $20 million construction, technology and transformational government service establishing the foundation of the open government movement. She has worked on five presidential campaigns, including the 2012 campaign in Ohio, and countless state and local races from Nebraska to New York City. She served as President of the nonpartisan San Francisco Women's Political Committee, the largest women's organization in the City. She also co-founded the San Francisco Women’s Policy Summit and created the San Francisco Women's Collaborative. A sought after speaker across the political spectrum, Heidi is currently leading a project to build a civic technology community center in New York City. Heidi holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Nebraska and a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School where she was awarded the prestigious Holly Taylor Sargent Award for Advancement of Women in Leadership.

Rina Shah Bharara, Advisory Board Member - Washington, DC

RinaRina Shah Bharara is a strategic consultant, media commentator, & millennial entrepreneur based in Washington, DC. Prior to launching Rilax Strategies – a government and public affairs firm - Rina spent four years on Capitol Hill serving as a senior staffer to Rep. Scott Garrett (NJ-5) and Rep. Jeff B. Miller (FL-1). Her professional background also includes time as a field reporter for a local CBS news station in her native West Virginia, and continues to include regular spots as a contributor and political commentator on PBS, FOX News, Huffington Post Live and One America News.

Since completing studies at the George Washington University and Cornell's Johnson School of Management, Rina has managed numerous policy campaigns and advised on a wide array of political races – ranging from local school board races to a U.S. Presidential campaign. Her expertise includes building winning strategies for candidates and political campaigns as well as coordinating public affairs efforts for Fortune 500 companies - with a special focus on millennials and the Asian marketplace.

Over the past few years, Rina has been prominently featured in publications such as The Washington Post, Marie Claire magazine, and Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany's largest national daily newspaper - for her work. She currently serves as Spokeswoman for NextGen GOP, a 2015 Founder of RightNOW Women PAC, Co-Chair of Concord 51's DC Chapter, and as an inaugural member of the U.S. House of Representatives Republican Conference's Indian American Advisory Council.

Jeff Johnson, Advisory Board Member - Washington, DC

Jeff JohnsonJeff Johnson is a Washington, DC based award-winning journalist, social activist and political commentator. From his celebrated conversations with marquee world figures in the political, business and entertainment arenas to his grass-roots trench work to inspire the next generation of leaders; investigative journalist, political correspondent, and activist, Jeff continues to be a trailblazing social entrepreneur and authentic voice for change. Johnson has spent the last decade merging the worlds of politics and popular culture including his work as Senior Advisor for Media and Youth Outreach for People for the American Way, National Director of the Youth & College division of the NAACP, and an appointment by Russell Simmons as the Vice President of the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN). The only American reporter to receive an exclusive post-inauguration interview with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state and Liberia’s first elected female president. Johnson is also one of only two news correspondents to receive an exclusive interview with Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir, who has not granted interviews with American media outlets for thirteen years. Recently, he won a 2008 NABJ Salute to Excellence Award for BET’s “Life & Death in Darfur, Jeff Johnson Reports” series, a source of information quoted in Newsweek, Upscale, LA Times, National Journal and Boston Globe. He regularly contributes commentary and analysis about issues related to race, politics, popular culture and socioeconomics for news broadcasts and publications such as MSNBC’s Dayside and Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN Headline News, CNN International, Larry King Live, Fox News Channel, Huffington Post,, The,, Upscale, J’Adore, N’Digo, Monarch magazine and more. Johnson is one of 30 young leaders, joining together from Europe and America and selected by the British Council to be apart of its Transatlantic 2020 team to begin a new cross-border dialogue to reinvigorate traditional alliances and mend transatlantic rifts. Since August 2008, Johnson has served as managing editor and chief correspondent for The Truth with Jeff Johnson, a hard-hitting, talk show that delivers a varied and vibrant view of the news, while examining issues to engage BET viewers in front of a live studio audience. Recognized for his socio-political influence and media adeptness, Jeff has earned a reputation as the “conscience voice” of BET Networks for his positive force among youth and young adults. Johnson’s commitment to fostering broad-based communication about issues related to race, politics, popular culture and socioeconomics on a national and international level have led to hundreds of speaking requests, as he travels the nation addressing large crowds speaking truth to power Johnson consistently challenges audiences to weigh innovative solutions to resolve historic and systemic social imbalances and inequalities. September 2009, Jeff will release his first book Everything I’m Not Made Me Everything I Am (Smiley Books/Hay House). He is also CEO of Jeff’s Nation, LLC.

Jensine Larsen, Advisory Board Member - Portland, OR

JensineLarsenJensine (Yen-See Nah) Larsen, an award-winning social media entrepreneur and international journalist is the founder of World Pulse. Today World Pulse's digital communication network is linking tens of thousands of women from more than 190 countries, including those who are speaking out using Internet cafes and cell phones from rural areas and conflict zones -impacting more than 2 million lives. With her finger on the pulse of women's voices globally, Jensine speaks around the world, appearing in media and on stages from NPR to TED. In his best selling book, “Half the Sky” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recommends joining World Pulse as one of the top 4 things you can do in 10 minutes to support women globally.

Jane Swift, Advisory Board Member - Massachusetts

JaneSwiftFormerly the Governor of Massachusetts from 2001 to 2003, after having served as Lieutenant Governor as well as a Massachusetts State Senator, Jane has shown a continued commitment to excellence in public education as both an elected official and in the private sector. As a three-term state senator, Jane assisted in crafting the landmark Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, which introduced accountability, high standards, and innovation into Massachusetts’s public schools. As governor, she implemented many of these reforms, which proved so successful that the U.S. Department of Education declared it a national model for other states.

Jane became CEO of Middlebury Interactive Languages in August 2011. Prior to coming to Middlebury Interactive Languages, Jane served as the Senior Vice President of Government Solutions and Strategy for ConnectEDU, a private education technology company that helps students successfully make college and career transitions; while there she led efforts to secure statewide contracts in Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii.

Ms. Swift holds a B.A. in American Studies from Trinity College and has received six honorary doctorates and numerous awards. She is currently a Distinguished Lecturer in Leadership Studies at Williams College, a teaching position she has held for three years.

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