ADL and Aspen Institute Announce Two Civil Society Fellowship Classes in Response to the Heightened Need for Civil Discourse in a Divided America

November 16, 2020

Two new classes include 49 Fellows, selected from approximately 200 nominees from across the country

Contact: Jake Hyman, ADL

Philip Javellana, Aspen Institute


New York and Washington, DC, November 16, 2020–ADL (Anti-Defamation League) and the Aspen Institute today announced the Class of 2020 and 2021 of the Civil Society Fellowship: A Partnership of ADL and the Aspen Institute. This Fellowship, part of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, aims to prepare and engage the next generation of community and civic leaders, activists and problem-solvers from across the political spectrum.

The Civil Society Fellowship, launched in 2019, is tripling its capacity after seeing significant interest in the program, and a heightened need to bring our nation’s future leaders together from across the ideological spectrum to hone their leadership skills and build relationships. As we witnessed in the Presidential election, the country is seeing unprecedented division across political and ideological lines and civil discourse is needed now more than ever to bring our future leaders together to generate the broad-based solutions that our country needs.

The two new classes include 49 Fellows, selected from a pool of approximately 200 nominees from across the country. The Fellows reflect a diverse mosaic representing a broad geographical, political and ideological swath of the United States. The new Fellows include conservatives and liberals and include mayors, chiefs of police, professors and educators, entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, journalists, lawyers, poets, athletes and activists. All are proven leaders who have reached an inflection point in their lives where they are ready to apply their talent and skills to build a more civil society. Civil society requires the participation and mutual understanding of all, regardless of political affiliation. The Fellowship is intended to ground Fellows, all between the ages of 25 and 45, with a foundation to work toward a more civil society and discourse. They join 20 inaugural Fellows in the Civil Society Fellowship and the 3,000+ Fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Civil Society Fellows will spend five weeks over the course of three years in structured retreat in the U.S. and abroad – exploring their leadership, core values and visions for a more free, just and equitable society, as well as their desired legacies. Seminars created in text-based dialogue and experiential engagement will take place virtually until in-person seminars can safely resume. Each Fellow will launch a leadership venture tackling a societal problem of their choosing that will stretch them and make a positive impact on their communities, their country and the world.

In the first year of the Civil Society Fellowship, our inaugural Civil Society Fellows were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging in the effort to protect and support their communities. Joseph Kunkel, Executive Director, SNC Design Lab, MASS Design Group, architect and a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, developed affordable housing solutions to fight COVID-19 within Indian Country. Blair Milo, Secretary of Career Connections and Talent, State of Indiana, assisted with supply chain management to rapidly acquire desperately needed personal protective equipment for the state. Shawn Barney, Managing Director of real estate development firm CLB Porter, launched a series of virtual lunches with New Orleans public and private sector leaders to discuss a post-COVID #hardreset informed by lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina’s uneven recovery. Lauren McCann, Vice President, Stand Together, helped launch a content series that galvanized celebrities and philanthropists to support #givetogethernow, a COVID relief fund that raised over $100M that was funneled directly to over 200,000 families. These are just a few examples of how Fellows have led, and continue to lead, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the aftermath of the Presidential election, the Civil Society Fellows are hosting a Town Hall on Friday, November 20th at 12pm EST to engage in a national conversation about the state of the United States. Civil Society Fellows will serve as hosts of a series of short conversations ​with key community members and elected leaders from Appalachia to California; from the Southwest to Michigan; from Florida to New York. These discussions will engage Americans from across the political spectrum asking questions such as: “What is your dream for America?” “What is a good society?” and “What does America mean to you?” Registration for the Town Hall is free and open to the public.

“In this moment of crisis, we’ve seen that cooperation can be the difference between chaos and order, fear and calm,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “We are proud to meet the challenge of this particularly divisive era by engaging twice the number of Fellows as last year, bringing people together across political, ideological and geographical divides to work toward developing innovative strategies and solutions to our country’s most serious problems.”

“Today, our nation confronts incredible challenges that can only be overcome through collaboration and unity.  At the same time, our nation is more divided than ever, which is clearly visible in our political landscape,” said Marc Rowan, philanthropist, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and the Fellowship’s lead benefactor.  “We believe that the next generation of leaders is our best hope for progress. The Civil Society Fellowship will provide the opportunity for Fellows from diverse backgrounds to come together, share insights, engage respectfully, and ultimately drive our nation’s path forward.”

“The Aspen Institute, along with ADL, is honored to welcome our 49 new Fellows, each of whom has demonstrated the capacity and potential to drive impact and unite our country,” said Dan Porterfield, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “This Fellowship cultivates the next generation of purpose-driven, values-based leaders—exactly what America needs right now.”

“2020 has blown away old norms, and given the urgent conditions in our country, we were inspired to increase our commitment to a healthy civil society by announcing two classes of stellar Civil Society Fellows,” said Nike Irvin, Managing Director of the Civil Society Fellowship. “We are answering the heightened need for values-based leadership at this history-making time in our country and society.”

“The leadership journey of a social entrepreneur can have periods of great challenge and tumultuous change,” said Civil Society Fellowship Advisory Committee member Shamina Singh, President of the Center for Inclusive Growth and Executive Vice President of Sustainability at Mastercard. “As a Henry Crown Fellow, I’m delighted that ADL and Aspen collaboratively support emerging leaders from across the political, geographical, gender, and racial spectrum. At this period of intense reckoning and brinksmanship, we need to be supporting more and more inclusive and civil discourse.”   


The Civil Society Fellowship Class of 2020 is: 

Samar Ali, Founding President & CEO, Millions of Conversations, Nashville, TN

Caleb Cage, COVID-19 Response Director, Office of the Governor, State of Nevada Reno, NV

Tyler Deaton, President, Allegiance Strategies, Middleburg, VA

Rudy Espinoza, Executive Director, Inclusive Action for the City, Los Angeles, CA

Yordanos Eyoel, Partner, New Profit, Malden, MA

Amir Farokhi, Councilmember, City of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA

Amber Fogarty, President, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, Austin, TX

Joy Friedman, Director of Organizing, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Los Angeles, CA

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Chief Executive Officer, Valens Global, Raleigh, NC

Mia Garza McCord, President, Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute, Austin, TX

Darius Graham, Program Director, Baltimore, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Baltimore, MD

Brittany Hughes, U.S. Legislative and Regulatory Supervising Associate, Ernst & Young, Washington, DC

Dhani Jones, NFL Player (Retired)/Social Entrepreneur, Bloomfield Township, MI

Vu Le, Founder,, Seattle, WA

Jolene Loetscher, Owner, Mud Mile Communications, Sioux Falls, SD

Julie McCarthy, Co-Director, Economic Justice Program, Open Society Foundations, Brooklyn, NY

Aeryn Palmer, Legal Director, Wikimedia Foundation, San Francisco, CA

Patrick Robinson, Deputy Chief of Police, Sarasota Police Department, Sarasota, FL

Sadia Sindhu, Executive Director, Center for Effective Government, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL

William Snowden, New Orleans Director, Vera Institute of Justice, New Orleans, LA

Rebekah Staples, President and Founder, Free State Strategies, LLC, Jackson, MS

Michael Tubbs, Mayor, City of Stockton, Stockton, CA

Edgar Villanueva, Founder and Principal, Decolonizing Wealth Project, Brooklyn, NY

Gloria Walton, President & CEO, The Solutions Project, Los Angeles, CA

James Woodall, State President, Georgia NAACP, Atlanta, GA


The Civil Society Fellowship Class of 2021 is:

Jasmine Banks, Executive Director, UnKoch My Campus, Fayetteville, AR

Reginald Dwayne Betts, Director, Million Book Project, New Haven, CT

Rabia Chaudry, Attorney/Author/Advocate, Undisclosed, LLC, Washington, DC

Percilla Frizzell, Founder, Sacred Generations, Yokuts Territory

Sarah Haacke Byrd, Executive Director, Women Moving Millions, New York, NY

Theon Hill, Associate Professor of Communication, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Evanna Hu, Co-Founder/CEO, Omelas, Inc., Washington, DC

Melissa Hyatt, Chief of Police, Baltimore County Police Department, Towson, MD

Saif Ishoof, Vice President for Engagement, Florida International University, Miami, FL

Jason Jenkins, SVP, Communications and Community Affairs, Miami Dolphins, Miami Gardens, FL

Lucas Johnson, Executive Director, Civil Conversations & Social Healing, The On Being Project, Minneapolis, MN

Kody Kinsley, Deputy Secretary, Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services, Raleigh, NC

Jorge A. Lima, VP Immigration, Stand Together, Washington, DC

George McGraw, CEO, DigDeep Right to Water Project, Los Angeles, CA

Shaka Mitchell, Tennessee State Director, American Federation for Children, Nashville, TN

Andrew Pappas, General Counsel, Arizona House of Representatives, Phoenix, AZ

Ellen Ray, Chief Strategy and Solutions Officer, Chicago Cares, Chicago, IL

Lillian Singh, Vice President of Programs & Racial Wealth Equity, Prosperity Now, Washington, DC

Kelsey Skaggs, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Climate Defense Project, Berkeley, CA

Aarti Tandon, CEO, Citizen Eight LLC, New York, NY

Batya Ungar-Sargon, Opinion Editor, The Forward, Brooklyn, NY

Tony Vargas, Nebraska State Senator, Nebraska State Legislature, Omaha, NE

Martin Vitorino, Deputy Executive Director, InsightLA, Los Angeles, CA

Lt. Col. Jerad Warren, Joint Staff, U.S. Air Force, Fairfax Station, VA

Photos and bios for the new Fellows are available here.

An Executive Committee is charged with oversight of the program; an Advisory Committee of national leaders representing diverse perspectives helped in sourcing nominees for the cohort. The combined approach of both committees ensures the non-partisan nature of the Fellowship in keeping with the Aspen Institute’s tradition of values-based leadership development.

The Fellowship welcomes interest for future nominations at We anticipate naming our next class in late 2021 / early 2022.   

About the Civil Society Fellowship

The Civil Society Fellowship is a leadership development program preparing the next generation of community and civic leaders, activists and problem solvers from across the political spectrum. The Fellowship provides participants the opportunity to engage in experiential learning and text-based dialogue, build trust among a diverse cohort of leaders based on shared insights and mutual respect, and put ideas into action through a required leadership venture. The Fellowship is a partnership of ADL and the Aspen Institute. The Fellowship is now accepting nominations for future Fellows at

About ADL

ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of antisemitism occur. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate. More at

About the Aspen Institute

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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