Grace Anglin

Research and Evaluation Director, ITVS

Grace Anglin, the Research and Evaluation Director at ITVS, evaluates the impact of documentary films on audiences and communities and uses data to improve ITVS’s support for film artists. As part of this work, she leads the design, fielding, and analysis of film artist and audience surveys. Prior to joining ITVS in early 2020, Grace worked as a Senior Researcher at Mathematica. In that role, she led the mixed-methods evaluations of multiple health and social service programs, including the largest program ever funded to improve primary care services in the United States. Grace fielded surveys and conducted interviews and focus groups with multiple stakeholder groups and employed an array of analytic methods – including inductive and deductive qualitative coding, descriptive analyses, and difference-in-difference regressions–to help government agencies understand how to amplify the impact of their policies. She earned a master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan.

Daniel Ash

Associate Vice President of Community Impact, Chicago Community Trust

Daniel O. Ash is associate vice president of community impact at The Chicago Community Trust. He is responsible for the Building Collective Power (BCP) strategy, which aims to advance equitable, livable and resilient neighborhoods within under-invested Black and Latinx communities. Grant making from the BCP portfolio supports community organizing, local journalism and storytelling, and resident designed and driven campaigns.

Ash previously served as the Trust’s chief marketing officer from 2013 to 2019. In the role, he directed brand strategy and communications, spearheading the development of On the Table, an ongoing civic engagement and dialogue platform design to center and amplify resident voice and create greater civic connectedness across the Chicago region.

Prior to joining the Trust, Ash spent 10 years as vice president at Chicago Public Media, production home of WBEZ/91.5FM (Chicago’s primary NPR station). Ash was responsible for the organization’s two largest revenue categories—corporate sponsorship and individual giving—and led double-digit growth during his tenure. Additionally, he oversaw marketing and strategic partnership. He was a key voice in shaping Chicago Public Media’s overall strategic focus.

Ash earned a M.P.P. from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and a B.A. in Economics from Oberlin College. He also completed a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship at Princeton University.

Johanna Blakley

Managing Director, Norman Lear Center

Johanna Blakley is the managing director at the Norman Lear Center, a nonpartisan research and public policy center that explores the social impact of media and entertainment at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A two-time TED speaker, Johanna performs research on a wide variety of topics, including media impact measurement, cultural diplomacy, misinformation, and politics and entertainment. She is cofounder of the Media Impact Project (MIP), a hub for collecting, developing and sharing approaches for measuring the impact of media. MIP seeks to better understand the role that media plays in changing knowledge, attitudes and behavior among individuals and communities around the world. Recent MIP work includes analyzing depictions of Africa, immigration, race, economic mobility and climate change in US media, and conducting research on the relationship between political ideology and entertainment preferences. The MIP team also provides research and evaluation for two State Department cultural exchange programs focused on TV and Film. Johanna received a PhD in English from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she taught courses on popular culture; at USC, she developed and taught masters courses on transmedia storytelling. Before arriving at the Lear Center, Johanna held a variety of positions within the high-tech industry, including Web producer and digital archivist at Vivendi-Universal Games.

Lolly Bowean

Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation

Lolly Bowean is a program officer on the Creativity and Free Expression team focused on making grants in the US to support journalism and storytelling.

Prior to joining Ford in the winter of 2021, she managed the Media & Storytelling portfolio at the Field Foundation in Chicago.

Lolly has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist and writer contributing to a number of print publications, podcasts and television news programs. Most recently, she worked as a general assignment reporter at the Chicago Tribune for more than 15 years and had a particular focus on urban affairs, youth culture, housing, minority communities and government relations. She wrote primarily about Chicago’s unique African-American community and the development of the Obama Presidential Center.

During her tenure at the Chicago Tribune, she covered the death of Nelson Mandela; how violence was lived and experienced in troubled neighborhoods; and the 2008 election and inauguration of President Barack Obama; The election of Chicago’s first African-American woman mayor, Lori Lightfoot; Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; and the last gathering of the original Tuskegee Airmen.

Before working in Chicago, Bowean covered suburban crime, government and environmental issues for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. She has been published in the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, Lenny Letter, Chicago Magazine and Longreads.

She has served as a contributing instructor for the Poynter Institute and lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

At the Field Foundation, Lolly delivered support to a collective of local news outlets that served Chicago’s overlooked minority communities. During her time, she doubled the size of the portfolio and helped guide the investments of new partners.

She was a 2017 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She is a Studs Terkel Award winner. She holds a Gene Burd Urban Journalism Award and an Anne Keegan Award for excellence in writing about the common man.

Lolly is a graduate of Howard University and attended the University of Maryland.

Mary Elliott

Curator of American Slavery, Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

Mary Elliott is Curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). She co-curated the museum’s “Slavery and Freedom” inaugural exhibition. Mary curated and wrote the special broadsheet section of the award-winning New York Times featured publication entitled “The 1619 Project.” She is also the inaugural curator and content developer for the NMAAHC’s award winning digital humanities feature, the Searchable Museum (www.searchablemuseum.com).

Ms. Elliott is a graduate of Howard University and the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. Prior to her work at the Smithsonian, she helped produce local history exhibits and public programs in the Washington, D.C. area, as she worked with various organizations including the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., National Visionary Leadership Project, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and the Reginald Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History.

Mary served as an elected Council member for the American Historical Association. She also served as an adjunct professor at Binghamton University – State University of New York, where she taught the course entitled African American, Land Ownership and the Law. She publishes and lectures on topics including slavery and freedom, Reconstruction, community engagement, material culture and public history. She’s worked with U.S. representatives on both sides of the aisle in both the House and the Senate. Mary served as an invited speaker at various academic institutions including Brown University and Duke University, as well as universities in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. She has been interviewed by several media outlets and programs — including CBS 60 Minutes, C-SPAN, Slate, BBC, NPR, National Geographic and PBS.

Ms. Elliott has over twenty years of experience in researching and presenting African American History and culture. Her personal research focuses on Antebellum slavery, Reconstruction and African Americans in Indian Territory, with a specific concentration on Black kinship networks, migration and community development.

Felipe Estefan

Vice President, Luminate

Felipe leads Luminate’s efforts in Latin America, managing grants and investments focused on advancing Civic Empowerment, Independent Media, Data & Digital Rights, and Financial Transparency in the region.

Previously, as an Open Government Strategist at the World Bank, Felipe travelled to more than 40 countries around the world, advocating for and advancing efforts to make governments more open and to foster collaboration between state and non-state organisations.

Prior to this, Felipe was a founding member of the Open Contracting Partnership, a Planning Producer at CNN’s Washington bureau and was part of the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations in Switzerland.

Angela Ford

Founder and Executive Director, The Obsidian Collection Archives

Angela Ford is the Founder and Executive Director of The Obsidian Collection Archives, a nonprofit 501c3 organization focused on reclaiming the Black Narrative.  This effort includes getting the images and articles of Black newspapers, photographers, organizations, community and privately-owned archives into the marketplace and on the Internet.  Today’s effective journalism in the Black Diaspora depends heavily on access to accurate history of the past.  For decades, Black history was only recorded by Black legacy newspapers and photojournalists.  Once hidden for generations, OCA is making available images and other information to the public from American archives with the UK and Kenya soon to follow. Obsidian is not only telling the stories but building platforms to help global Black Media tell the stories.  Angela conceptualized the platform WROTE for Black writers and will soon publish the digital outlet, Obsidian Magazine.   

Not only passionate about the Black narrative, Angela cares about the Black community. As a Community Philanthropist, she’s created the program that contributed 500 bicycles in one day, twice.  With 30 years’ experience as an entrepreneur, she has the skills and fortitude to bring this cultural history to the world.  She has a B.S. in Management from Illinois State University and an adult son who speaks 3 languages and has lived in three other countries. 

Sam Gill

President and CEO, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Samsher (Sam) Singh Gill is the third president and CEO of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), a New York-headquartered, national philanthropic organization that supports the performing arts, medical research, the environment and child well-being. He also serves as president of several operating foundations that run under DDCF’s umbrella, including the Duke Farms Foundation, which operates a center for environmental stewardship in Hillsborough, N.J., and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which operates a museum for learning about the global cultures of Islamic art and design in Honolulu as well as a New York-based grants program with a related mission.

Prior to joining DDCF in April 2021, Gill was senior vice president and chief program officer at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, where he oversaw more than $100 million in annual grant making across the foundation’s programs, in addition to managing Knight’s research and assessment portfolio and its grants administration function. Previously, he also served as vice president of Freedman Consulting, LLC.

Gill also served on the board of the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science in Miami and on the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He attended the University of Chicago and the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Frances Haugen

Advocate for Accountability and Transparency in Social Media

Frances Haugen is an advocate for accountability & transparency in social media. Born in Iowa City, Iowa, Frances is the daughter of two professors and grew up attending the Iowa caucuses with her parents, instilling a strong sense of pride in democracy and responsibility for civic participation.

Frances holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College and a MBA from Harvard University. She is a specialist in algorithmic product management, having worked on ranking algorithms at Google, Pinterest, Yelp and Facebook. In 2019, she was recruited to Facebook to be the lead Product Manager on the Civic Misinformation team, which dealt with issues related to democracy and misinformation, and later also worked on counter-espionage.

During her time at Facebook, Frances became increasingly alarmed by the choices the company makes prioritizing their own profits over public safety and putting people’s lives at risk. As a last resort and at great personal risk, Frances made the courageous decision to blow the whistle on Facebook. The initial reporting was done by the Wall Street Journal in what became known as “The Facebook Files”.

Since going public, Frances has testified in front of the US Congress, UK and EU Parliaments, the French Senate and National Assembly, and has engaged with lawmakers internationally on how to best address the negative externalities of social media platforms.

Frances has filed a series of complaints with the US Federal Government relating to Facebook (now named ‘Meta’) claiming that the company has been misleading the public and investors on how it handles issues such as climate change, misinformation, and hate speech, and the impact of its services on the mental health of children and young adults.

Frances fundamentally believes that the problems we are facing today with social media are solvable, and is dedicated to uniting people around the world to bring about change. We can have social media that brings out the best in humanity.

Cristi Hegranes

Chief Executive Officer & Publisher, Global Press

Cristi leads business and development operations at Global Press and serve as the publisher of Global Press Journal, our multi lingual, award-winning publication. She created Global Press’ industry-leading Duty of Care program for local journalists in challenging global markets using a holistic combination of physical, emotional, digital and legal security. And she built the Global Press Wellness Network to support the mental health needs of our local journalists across the world. She is the lead author of the Global Press Style Guide, which exists to promote dignity and precision in international journalism. Her greatest passion is creating world-class employment for badass women across the globe.

Julia Minson, PH.d

Associate Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government

Julia Minson is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of government. She is a decision scientist with research interests in conflict, negotiations and judgment and decision making. Her primary line of research addresses the “psychology of disagreement” – How do people engage with opinions, judgments and decisions that are different from their own?

She explores this theme in the context of group decision making to uncover the psychological biases that prevent managers, consumers, and policy-makers from maximizing the benefits of collaboration. She also studies the conditions that make people willing to listen and be receptive to views and opinions they strongly oppose on political and social topics.

Much of Julia’s research is conducted in collaboration with the graduate and post-doctoral members of MC² – the Minson Conflict and Collaboration Lab.

At the Kennedy School Julia is affiliated with the Taubman Center for State and Local Government and the Center for Public Leadership. Julia teaches courses on negotiations and decision-making as part of the Management, Leadership and Decision Science area, as well as through HKS Executive Education.

Julia is the organizer of the Leadership Influence and Decision Making speaker series, sponsored by the Center for Public Leadership and the Management Leadership and Decision Sciences Area.

Prior to coming to the Kennedy School, Julia served as a Lecturer at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, where she taught Negotiations at both the MBA and the undergraduate levels. She received her PhD in Social Psychology from Stanford University and her BA in Psychology from Harvard University.

Marianna Olinger

Lead Impact Producer, The Territory, Documist (BRA/US) 

Marianna is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and researcher with 20 years of experience in applied research, project design, community education and campaigning on issues related to social justice. She led field campaigns for national coalitions in Brazil, resulting in policy change and approval of legislation; collaborated in the development of advocacy and media campaigns in Brazil and other countries in Latin America, working closely with dozens of civil society organizations, governments, international agencies and social movements. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and an MSc. in Social Policy and Planning from the London School of Economics. She is currently the lead impact producer for The Territory (2022). 

Khadija Patel

Head of Programmes, International Fund for Public Interest Media

Khadija pushes words on street corners. She is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian in South Africa, a co-founder of the youth-driven, award-winning digital news startup, The Daily Vox, and a vice chairperson of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI).

As a journalist she has produced work for Sky News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Quartz, City Press and the Daily Maverick, among others. She is also a research associate at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Witwatersrand). She is passionate about the protection and enhancement of global media as a public good.

Alex Pritz

Director, The Territory

Alex Pritz is a documentary film director and cinematographer focused on human’s relationship with the natural world. Pritz’s directorial debut, THE TERRITORY, premiered in the World Cinema competition at Sundance 2022, winning both an Audience Award and Special Jury Award for Documentary Craft, making it the only film at that year’s festival to win awards from audience and jury alike. Pritz also worked as a cinematographer on the feature documentary “The First Wave” with director Matt Heineman, and as a cinematographer and field producer on Jon Kasbe’s feature documentary “When Lambs Become Lions” (Tribeca 2018). Prior to that, Pritz co-directed, shot and edited the documentary short “My Dear Kyrgyzstan” (Big Sky 2019). He is a co-founder of Documist and has received grants from the Sundance Institute, IDA Enterprise Fund, Catapult Fund and Doc Society.

Pritz holds a Bachelor of Science from McGill University, where he studied Environmental Science and Philosophy. In 2012, he received an inaugural Dalai Lama Fellowship for his work developing film curricula alongside low-income communities in the Philippines and taught participatory film workshops for lawyers and human rights advocates around the world.

Tara Roberts

Storytelling Fellow, National Geographic Society

Tara Roberts is a National Geographic Storytelling Fellow and the host and executive producer of the “Into the Depths” podcast. She spent the last few years following, diving with and telling stories about Black scuba divers as they search for and help document slave shipwrecks around the world. Her goal is to reimagine and reframe the origin story of Africans in the Americas and to tell stories that humanize and bring empathy, nuance and complexity to their human journey.

Tara was a Fellow at MIT’s Open Documentary Lab. She has also worked as an editor for CosmoGirl, Essence, AOL, EBONY and Heart & Soul and edited several books for girls. She founded her own magazine for women ‘too bold for boundaries.’ And she spent an amazing and fulfilling year backpacking around the world to find and tell stories about women social entrepreneurs. This journey led to the creation of a social enterprise that supported and funded the big ideas of those female change agents, a stint running communications for Ashoka and time coaching social entrepreneurs for Red Bull’s Amaphiko Academy.

Rashad Robinson

President, Color Of Change

Rashad Robinson is President of Color Of Change, a leading racial justice organization with more than 7 million members. Rashad designs winning strategies to build power for Black communities: moving prosecutors to reduce mass incarceration and police violence; forcing over 100 corporations to abandon the right-wing policy shop, ALEC; forcing corporations to stop supporting Trump initiatives and white nationalists; winning net neutrality as a civil rights issue; changing representations of race in Hollywood; moving Airbnb, Google and Facebook to implement anti-racist initiatives; forcing Bill O’Reilly off the air. Rashad appears regularly in major news media and as a keynote speaker nationally. He was among the first in a global cohort of Atlantic Fellows for Racial Equity, and previously wrote a monthly column about race, politics and corporate accountability for The Guardian. Previously, Rashad served as Senior Director of Media Programs at GLAAD. Rashad is currently the Co-Chair of the Aspen Commission on Information Disorder and serves on the boards of the Hazen Foundation and Marguerite Casey Foundation.

Erica Lynn Rosenthal, Ph.D.

Director of Research, The Norman Lear Center

Erica Rosenthal is the Director of Research at the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California. She is a firm believer that stories matter. Her passion is for understanding HOW and WHY stories — particularly in media and entertainment — are so effective at challenging preconceptions, moving people to action, and generating lasting culture change. At the Lear Center, she oversees a portfolio of research focused on the content, audiences, and impact of media narratives addressing a wide range of health and social issues, including health equity, economic mobility, reproductive rights, immigration, misinformation, climate change, mental health, democracy, and more. Her work has been funded by federal and state governments, philanthropy, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and media corporations. She has more than 20 years of experience evaluating the impact of programs and initiatives on a variety of health and public interest issues and a PhD in applied social psychology from Claremont Graduate University.

David Rousseau

Vice President and Executive Director of Health Policy Meida and Technology and Publisher, Kaiser Health News

David Rousseau is Vice President and Executive Director of Health Policy Media and Technology and Publisher of Kaiser Health News. He oversees KFF’s health policy media programs, including Kaiser Health News and all journalism programs, and directs the Foundation’s technology and online activities.  Previously, Mr. Rousseau was Director of KFF’s statehealthfacts.org project and was an Associate Director of KFF’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KPMU).  His work at KPMU was focused on Medicaid and CHIP spending, financing and enrollment, as well as Medicaid service delivery issues, including managed care.  He has also managed a range of projects relating to health reform, access to care and health spending. Mr. Rousseau currently serves as the Chair of the Media Impact Funders Board, is a member of the boards of Grantmakers in Health (GIH) and the National Academy of State Health Policy (NASHP), and advises Crisis Text Line on data ethics issues. Mr. Rousseau has been a member of the adjunct faculty of the George Washington University School of Public Health as a Lecturer in the department of Health Policy, and has served on numerous task forces and advisory groups for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Academy of Sciences, and the City of New Orleans (David’s hometown).  His work has appeared in journals including Health Affairs and the Journal of the American Medical Association, where he created and edits the monthly “Visualizing Health Policy” series in partnership with the Journal. He has spoken on health policy and journalism topics at a wide range of conferences and events.  Prior to joining the Foundation, Mr. Rousseau worked as a consultant at The Lewin Group.  Mr. Rousseau received his Masters in Public Health from Yale University’s School of Medicine, and his Bachelor of Arts in political science from Yale College.

Kamau Sadiki

Board member and Lead Instructor, Diving With A Purpose

Kamau Sadiki is the immediate past President of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers
(NABS). He is a lifetime NABS member and served as its Vice President from 2011 to 2017. He is a
member of the Class of 2006 Underwater Adventure Seekers Scuba Diving Club based in Washington,
DC, a founding club of NABS. He is a certified PADI Divemaster.

Kamau is a Board member and Lead Instructor with Diving With A Purpose (DWP), an international
organization committed to resurrecting the stories of slave shipwrecks from the bottom of the sea through underwater archaeology documentation. DWP and Kamau was featured in the cover story of the March 2022 issue of the National Geographic magazine. He is also featured in the NatGeo podcast “Into the Depths,” which explores the work of DWP and the journey of NatGeo Explorer Tara Roberts. DWP is a Global Partners with the Slave Wrecks Project, a research project of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture dedicated to the archaeological documentation of shipwrecks involved in the transoceanic slave trade of the 16th – 19th centuries. and has worked on the search and underwater documentation of the slave shipwreck Guerrero in southern Florida. He participated on the field mission that confirmed the discovery of the slave ship Clotilda in the Mobile River in Alabama, the last slave ship to bring captured Africans into the USA. He was a member of the dive team that documented the slave shipwreck Sâo José Paquete de Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, the first slave ship documented in which captured was aboard during the wrecking event. Artifacts of the Sâo José Paquete de Africa is on exhibition in the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. He has worked on multiple shipwreck sites around Mozambique Island, Mozambique, and shipwrecks in the NOAA Thunder Bay, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuaries and Biscayne National Marine Park off the southern Florida coast and in St. John, United States Virgin Islands. In August 2015, he was a member of the first underwater archaeology field team to document a Tuskegee Airmen P-39 Airacobra airplane that crashed in Lake Huron, one of five that crashed in the lake during WWII training. DWP installed a permanent memorial to the Tuskegee Airmen in Port Huron, Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron in 2021 in memory of the five Tuskegee Airmen who lost their lives in Michigan during WWII.

Kamau Sadiki is a certified NOAA and NABS Foundation Scientific Research Diver and a Blue Card
diver for the National Park Service. He holds a number of PADI specialty certifications including Deep
Diver, Archeology Survey Diver, Wreck Diver, Coral Reef Conservation, Enriched Air Diver, Emergency
Oxygen Provider, among others and is a certified Emergency First Responder. Kamau has logged more
than 1,100 open water scuba dives since 2006. Kamau was awarded the 2016 NABS Diver of the Year
Award. and received the Underwater Adventure Seekers 2016 Founder’s Award, awarded by NABS cofounder and International Diving Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. Albert Jose’ Jones. Kamau completed the Nautical Archeology Society Level I and II Underwater Archaeology courses in 2010.

Kamau is a retired Civil Engineer and is a certified YTT200 Jiivana Yoga Instructor. He is a licensed
general aviation pilot with over 400 hours of flying experience. He also enjoys river kayaking, playing
percussion drums (djembe and congas) and acoustic guitar. Kamau is the proud father of two adult
children, Zaire and Kumasi, and resides in the State of Maryland.

Photo credit: Wayne Lawrence/NatGeo

Ann Searight

Founder and Director, Center for Public Interest Communications of Impact Media, University of Florida; Clinical Professor, Department of Public Relations, University of Florida

Ann Searight is the founder and Director of the Center for Public Interest Communications and a clinical professor in the Department of Public Relations at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

Public Interest Communications uses science-driven strategic communications and storytelling to advance positive social change. Searight developed the first-ever curriculum in public interest communications, connecting practitioners and scholars who are already working in the field, and nurturing and sharing research that can advance this newly emerging academic discipline. She completed a 10-year term as the inaugural Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications in May 2020.

Before coming to the University of Florida in 2010, Searight was a senior communications officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, directing efforts for programs that address social actors like housing, education and mental health that drive health and wellbeing.

As a faculty member, she was named University of Florida Teacher of the Year in 2019 and Junior Faculty International Educator of the Year in 2019.

Her writing has appeared in publications such as Barron’s, the Stanford Social Innovation Review and The Conversation. Her work through the Center includes partnerships with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, the U.S. Department of State, and several agencies who work in this domain. She has worked with several federal and state agencies, the Gates Foundation, the International Labor Organization, and nonprofits and foundations throughout the world.

She regularly trains scientists and other leaders to more effectively convey the importance of their work.

Vanessa Serrao

Executive Producer of Impact Media, National Geographic Society

Vanessa Serrao leads the newly launched Impact Media Lab of the National Geographic Society, an initiative that combines creative excellence with innovative research to drive positive change. She and her team produce world-class film, audio, photography, VR/AR experiences and other media that further the goals of National Geographic’s Explorer-led programs. An award-winning filmmaker, producer and communications strategist, Vanessa specializes in telling stories about science, culture, and the intersection of the two. Her work has helped to raise millions of dollars for wildlife conservation, influenced communities to stop poaching, and made complex scientific topics accessible to a worldwide audience. Vanessa began her career producing on-air and online content for the Discovery networks and has since produced media for numerous networks and non-profit organizations. Vanessa has her B.S. in Entomology with a concentration in Wildlife Conservation, and her MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking.

Val Serrano

Violist, Singer-Songwriter

Valeria Serrano (she/her) was born and raised in Anzoátegui, Venezuela. She began her music studies in El Sistema (2014) learning viola performance under violin/viola teacher and conductor Marianela Utrera. A year later, she joined her corresponding district’s (núcleo) youth orchestra, and then participated in concerts with the Regional Orchestra of Anzoátegui under Maestro Yuri Hung.

In 2017, with no more than two suitcases and a viola, Valeria and her mother decided to take the brave decision to immigrate to the United States. That same year, she enrolled in Francis C. Hammond Middle School, VA where she met the school’s orchestra teacher, Ms. Veronica Jackson.

Ms. Jackson introduced Valeria to the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Youth Fellowship Program, which she joined in 2018 studying under NSO Violist Tsuna Sakamoto.

Valeria has participated in the D.C Youth Orchestra program (2018-2019), the American Youth Philharmonic Orchestras (2019-2021), the College Park Chamber Orchestra (2019), as well as chamber music ensembles from the NSO Youth Fellowship and the 2021 Fortissima Program at the Colburn School. Additionally, she has attended the following summer music camps: NSO Summer Music Institute (2019 & 2020), Sphinx Performance Academy (Curtis 2020 & Juilliard 2021), and the Interlochen Arts Camp Intensive (2021).​

In 2021, Valeria was accepted into the Interlochen Arts Academy (IAA), where she currently studies under Violist Renee Skerik. Valeria’s senior year at IAA has brought incredible opportunities and resources to her life, such as fascinating performances with the Academy’s orchestra, advanced chamber music ensembles, collaboration with students from the Dance and Theater departments, as well as performances with world-renowned artists like Rachel Barton Pine, Billy Childs, Roger Bobo, Carol Jantsch, among others.​

Valeria was recently announced Semi-finalist of the 2022 International Young Artist Concerto Competition, where she performed the Walton Viola Concerto with an arranged orchestra of professional musicians in Chicago, IL, last January. She also won the Runner-Up place at the 2021-2022 Interlochen Arts Academy Concerto Competition. Furthermore, she won the 2022 Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, along with a performance and interview in the 413th show of NPR’s show From The Top.​

Not only is she passionate about her viola playing, but she’s also interested in guitar, piano, cuatro (Venezuela’s traditional instrument), singing, songwriting, and music production. Valeria has written hundreds of songs since she was 9 years old, however, she is working on finding time, resources, and experience to produce and share her music with the world. You may find some of her songs and covers on her Youtube Channel: @Val Serrano.​

Valeria is determined to pursue a degree in viola performance. She will be attending the Heifetz International Music Institute this summer, and after that, she will be returning to Interlochen for a Post-Graduate year.

Matt Sheehan

Managing Director, Center for Public Interest Communication; Senior Lecturer of Journalism;

University of Florida

Matt Sheehan is the managing director of the Center for Public Interest Communications and is a senior lecturer of journalism at the University of Florida. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the science of story, audience engagement, leadership, media product development and integration of emerging technologies in journalistic practices. He is a former assistant news editor at The Washington Post, was COO of a digital media startup in D.C., served in senior administration at University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and led the integration and digital evolution of five newsrooms serving public and commercial radio and television stations in Florida as the inaugural director of UF’s award-winning Innovation News Center.

Ivan Sigal

Executive Director, Global Voices

Ivan is Global Voices’ executive director, since the middle of 2008. Prior to working with GV, he spent 10 years working in media development in the former Soviet Union and Asia, supporting and training journalists and working on media co-productions. He is also a photographer, and has worked and traveled in 80 countries. In 2012, he published White Road, a chronicle of travel in Central Asia. Currently, he is also a Fellow in Digital Studies at the U.S. Library of Congress, and a former fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, where he studied digital storytelling and online communities. His personal website is ivansigal.net, and speaks Russian, manage in German, has forgotten Slovak and Czech, and can make it home in Thai.

Txai Suruí

Executive Producer, The Territory

Txai Suruí is a 24-year-old Indigenous activist from the Amazon. She was born on the frontlines of the rainforest and raised by a family of warriors. Now, Suruí is one of the most prominent voices from the forest in the fight against climate change. She got the world’s attention after a powerful speech for world leaders during COP26’s opening ceremony in Glasgow, U.K.

Angela Tucker

Writer, Director and Emmy-nominated Producer

Angela Tucker, is a writer, director and Emmy nominated producer who works in narrative and documentary formats. Based in New Orleans, her directorial work includes “All Skinfolk, Ain’t Kinfolk”, a documentary short which aired PBS’ Reel South about a mayoral election in New Orleans; “All Styles”, a narrative feature currently available on Amazon; “Black Folk Don’t”, a documentary web series that was featured in Time Magazine’s “10 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life”; and “(A)sexual”, a feature length documentary about people who experience no sexual attraction that streamed on Netflix and Hulu. She is in her ninth year on the PBS strand, “AfroPoP”, now as a Co-Executive Producer and is currently producing “Belly of the Beast” (dir. Erika Cohn) which will broadcast on PBS’ Independent Lens this fall. Her production company, TuckerGurl, is passionate about stories that highlight underrepresented communities in unconventional ways. A Visiting Professor at Tulane University, Tucker was a Sundance Institute Women Filmmakers Initiative Fellow. She received her MFA in Film from Columbia University.

Noland Walker

Content Vice President, ITVS

Noland Walker is Content Vice President at ITVS where he oversees the organization’s talent and project cultivation, develops a portfolio of programs, and provides editorial and production support to a broader slate of ITVS films. He co-programs the award-winning Independent Lens series and was an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker prior to coming to ITVS. 

Rachel White

President, theguardian.org; Executive Vice President of philanthropic and strategic partnerships; Guardian News and Media

Rachel White is president of theguardian.org and executive vice president, philanthropic and strategic partnerships at Guardian News and Media. Working with global editorial teams she develops, funds, and executes editorial projects that drive measurable impact. Prior to joining the Guardian, she served as executive vice president and interim president of the Washington D.C.-based, journalism-centered think tank New America Foundation. Working across media, policy, government, the private sector, and philanthropy, she led the organization in advancing new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States, and launched New America NYC and New America Live. From 1995 to 2005, Rachel worked for the World Wildlife Fund where she launched programs in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Houston, and served as lead on the Living Planet Campaign.

Kaitlin Yarnall

Chief Storytelling Officer, National Geographic Society

As chief storytelling officer at the National Geographic Society, Kaitlin Yarnall is responsible for expanding the organization’s impact through all forms of storytelling. Yarnall oversees a team that creates data visualization, identifies key partnership, grantmaking, and fellowship opportunities, and preserves materials that document the Society’s 130+ year history. Yarnall began her career at the Society in 2005 as a cartographer. She has assumed a variety of management roles including deputy director of National Geographic Labs, executive director at National Geographic magazine, and director of cartography. Yarnall has an M.A. in geography from The George Washington University. She specializes in storytelling, data visualization, information graphics, cartography, and visual narratives.