Job Quality Fellowship – Class of 2017-18

The Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Program is delighted to announce the new Job Quality Fellowship. This fellowship will bring together innovators from differing lines of work who are engaged in work that expands the availability of better quality jobs in our economy. Learn more about the first cohort of the Job Quality Fellowship below.

2017-18 Job Quality Fellows

Emylene Aspilla
Director of Social Responsibility & Community Sustainability
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) @flySFO
San Francisco, CA

As the San Francisco International Airport’s (SFO) Director of Social Responsibility and Community Sustainability, Emylene Aspilla is responsible for developing and implementing programs and services that promote the social and economic well-being of the Airport’s communities. In addition to the Airport’s various economic, workforce, and community development programs, Emylene oversees the Quality Standards Program (QSP), an industry-leading initiative that establishes training, equipment, and compensation and benefits standards for airlines and service providers whose employees perform services impacting safety and security at SFO. Prior to joining the SFO team, Emylene was the Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Office of Economic and Workforce Development at the City and County of San Francisco, where she led policy and planning efforts and implemented special projects. Emylene gained significant experience managing education, workforce and community development programs, building and implementing public/private partnerships, and working with diverse constituents and stakeholders across multiple systems including the public sector, private sector, K-12 education system, and post-secondary institutions through her employment at San Francisco community-based organizations Jewish Vocational Service, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation, and Episcopal Community Services.

Betsy Biemann
Coastal Enterprises Inc. @CEIMaine
Brunswick, ME

Betsy serves as Chief Executive Officer of CEI, overseeing the organization’s strategy development, financial health and external relations. Before joining CEI, Betsy led the Growing Maine’s Food Industry, Growing Maine, a project of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University and advised businesses, nonprofit organizations and social enterprises in Maine and nationally. From 2005-2012, she was President of the Maine Technology Institute, investing in Maine companies and initiatives seeking to grow high-potential sectors of Maine’s economy. Prior to her move to Maine, Betsy served as Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation, where she managed a portfolio of grants and investments aiming to increase employment in low-income communities. She joined Rockefeller in 1996 after working in international development, principally in Africa. Betsy earned her B.A. from Harvard University and her M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University.

Laphonza Butler @LaphonzaB
SEIU 2015 @SEIU2015
Los Angeles, CA

Laphonza Butler is the President of SEIU Local 2015 – a union uniting the voices of more than 325,000 nursing home and home-care workers throughout California. SEIU Local 2015 is the largest union in California and the largest long-term care local in the country, achieving historic victories – including the passage of the nation’s first $15 statewide minimum wage to improve the lives of over 6 million Californians, for which Butler’s leadership was honored by President Obama.

Previously, Butler served for seven years as President of SEIU United Long Term Care Workers (ULTCW), and also as SEIU’s Property Services Division Director in which she was responsible for the strategic direction of the more than 250,000 janitors, security officers, window cleaners, and food service workers across the country. Butler also currently serves as an SEIU International Vice President and President of the SEIU California State Council. Additionally, she Chairs the University of California African-American Advisory Council, serves as a Board Member for the National Children’s Defense Fund and the Bay Area Economic Council Institute, is a fellow for the MIT Community Innovators Lab, and formerly was Director for the Board of Governors of the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Reserve System.

Amanda Cage
Chief Program Officer
Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership @ChiCookWORKS
Chicago, IL

Amanda Cage is the Chief Program Officer at the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership (The Partnership) where she oversees programs and initiatives for the country’s second largest workforce system, including responsibility for $60 million dollars of public and private funding and a network of over 50 agencies. Previously, she served as the organization’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Policy where she used labor market information to set the strategic direction for the region’s workforce system and promoted innovative practices within the field. Prior to The Partnership, Amanda served as Director of Human Capital Strategy for the Chicago Workforce Investment Council where she led a city-wide effort to coordinate human capital initiatives designed to increase Chicago’s competitiveness in an information-based global economy. This effort resulted in the creation of Complete the Degree Chicago, an organization dedicated to helping adults return to college and attain a degree. For five years, Amanda served as Program Officer at the McCormick Foundation, leading their workforce development portfolio and was the 2004 J. Ira & Nicki Harris Foundation Fellow at the Chicago Community Trust. Amanda started her career as a labor organizer working for Jobs with Justice and the Service Employees International Union and was a Trade Union Program Fellow at Harvard Law School. She earned Bachelor’s Degree from Oberlin College and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Harris School at the University of Chicago.

Mary Jo Cook @mjocook
President & CEO
Pacific Community Ventures @PCVtweets
San Francisco, CA

Mary Jo Cook is a mission-driven leader passionate about using business as a force for good. She currently leads Pacific Community Ventures (PCV), a nonprofit social enterprise and Community Development Financial Institution with a 20-year track record of engaging small businesses, investors and policymakers to build an economy that works for everyone. She believes that amidst widening income and wealth inequality, the decline of jobs that afford workers dignity, financial security and economic mobility is one of the biggest societal challenges of our time. Under her leadership, PCV has launched a national initiative, engaging multiple stakeholders on new ways for creating jobs that are good for workers, good for businesses, and good for communities.

Prior to joining PCV, Mary Jo served as Chief Impact Officer at FairTradeUSA, leading the organization in engaging businesses, consumers, farmers and workers to improve livelihoods for hard working families. As Vice President at the CloroxCompany, she held senior management roles in Innovation, Sustainability, Strategy and Marketing, creating new approaches for embedding innovation and sustainability into everyday business practices.

Mary Jo is Board Chair for Ganaz, a start-up connecting farmers who need good workers with workers who need good jobs and serves on the advisory board of SustainableBrands.

Jose Corona @jcorona44
Director of Equity & Strategic Partnerships
Office of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf @LibbySchaaf
Oakland, CA

Jose is the Director of Equity and Strategic Partnerships under Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. In this role, Jose serves as senior advisor to the Mayor, with the responsibility of creating, coordinating, and facilitating public/private/ philanthropic partnerships that foster equitable opportunities and benefits for the people of Oakland.

Prior to joining the Mayor’s Office, Jose served as Chief Executive Officer of Inner City Advisors (ICA) from 2004 to 2015. He led ICA to becoming a nationally recognized, award-winning organization for its work on scaling small businesses and entrepreneurs as a way to create Good Jobs, especially for people with highest need. In the ten years with ICA, he oversaw a portfolio of companies that created over 5,000 jobs, creating over $150 million in wealth for local residents and collectively generating over $200 million in revenue. He also created a platform for hundreds of professionals to participate by contributing over $25 million of total pro bono investments into the ICA mission. His innovative thinking led ICA to launch Fund Good Jobs (now merged with ICA) – an investment fund focused on using capital to influence the creation and retention of quality jobs.

Jose has built a reputation as a visionary leader, strong manager, innovator and relationship-builder who builds mindful and creative organizational cultures that yield high impact and results. Jose is passionate about promoting a fundamental change in the way communities and all its residents benefit from economic development efforts. He is a leader that has convened public, private and community people and resources to solve many community and business problems.

Jose serves on the Board of several organizations including ICA/Fund Good Jobs, BALLE and YMCA of The East Bay. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from UC Davis, and Entrepreneur Management Development Certification from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Christine Curella
Director, Business Initiatives and Job Quality
Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development @NYCMayorsOffice
New York, NY

Christine Curella is the Director of Business Initiatives and Job Quality at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development. She is responsible for aligning local programs and policies to increase economic development and workforce investments, build business capacity, and connect New Yorkers to economic opportunity. Christine directs Best for NYC, the first municipally-led impact partnership with B Lab, which has supported nearly 1,500 diverse New York City businesses—employing more than 65,000 workers—in making strategic investments in their workforce, community, and the environment. Previously, Christine led economic inclusion projects at the New York City Economic Development Corporation, coordinated strategic planning for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama Administration, and consulted for the World Bank Inspection Panel. Christine has advised on community development initiatives in the Bronx, Baltimore, and New Orleans and is a member of the Action Corps to advise civic leaders at Christine holds a bachelor’s degree from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, of the City University of New York, where she was awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship. Christine received her Masters in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jess Kutch @jess_kutch
Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director @teamcoworker
Asheville, NC

Jess Kutch is the co-founder of, a platform for people to advance solutions in the workplace. Since its founding in 2013, has catalyzed the growth of global, independent employee networks advancing wins like paid parental leave benefits at Netflix, scheduling reform at Starbucks, and wage increases for workers at a Southern restaurant chain. In 2015, hosted the first-ever digital townhall at the White House on the future of worker voice with President Obama.

A digital innovator, Jess has 15 years’ experience working at the intersection of technology and social change. Prior to launching, Jess lead a team at in raising the company’s profile around the world and inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to launch and lead their own efforts on the platform. Jess also spent five years at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where she pioneered digital strategies for the labor movement. Jess is an Echoing Green Global Fellow and J.M. Kaplan Innovation Prize winner. She’s a graduate of Bennington College and currently lives in North Carolina with her partner, Rebecca, and their young son.

J.D. LaRock @JDLaRock
President and CEO
Commonwealth Corporation @CommCorp_MA
Boston, MA

Dr. J.D. LaRock is President and CEO of the Commonwealth Corporation, Massachusetts’ public-private corporation dedicated to workforce development, youth development, and economic development. A $55 million organization with employees across the state, Commonwealth Corporation works to advance Massachusetts’ economic leadership through signature partnerships with employers, employees, educational institutions, and community-based organizations. J.D. is also a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and Chair of the Board of Trustees at North Shore Community College.

Previously, J.D. was a member of Northeastern University’s senior leadership team, an education policymaker at the federal and state levels, and a senior manager at the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. As senior education advisor to the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, he helped lead the 2008 reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act and the 2007 passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which provided $20 billion in financial aid to U.S. college students. As education policy director for the Governor of Massachusetts, J.D. helped author the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, a landmark K-12 education reform law, as well as Massachusetts’ successful application to President Obama’s “Race to the Top” competition, which secured $250 million for the state.

A scholar of education policy, higher education, and the future of work, J.D. is a faculty member in Northeastern’ University’s Doctor of Law and Policy program. He is the co-editor of Special Education for a New Century (Harvard Education Press, 2005) and editor of the OECD publication Education at a Glance (2012). He holds three degrees from Harvard, including a doctorate in education administration, policy, and social planning, and a law degree from Georgetown.

Sean Daniel Murphy @seangoodjobs
Chief Executive Officer
ICA Fund Good Jobs @ICAFundGoodJobs
Oakland, CA

Sean Daniel Murphy is leading the charge for positive disruption in small business support by focusing on access to capital and good job creation for those who need it most. Sean’s personal philosophy is to “bet on people who build people.” Under his leadership, ICA Fund Good Jobs is out to prove that when we bet on good job creators with support and capital, they in turn bet on people in their community, creating a world in which everyone has a good job.

Sean joined the ICA Fund Good Jobs team as a volunteer in 2006, joined the management team in 2009, and established the investment fund as a separate 501(c)3 in 2013. He assumed the role of CEO in 2016, overseeing the recombination of Inner City Advisors (ICA) and Fund Good Jobs into a single legal entity with a unified board and staff team. Under Sean’s leadership, ICA Fund Good Jobs has deployed more than $2M to five businesses, and directly unlocked nearly $15M of additional growth capital for seed portfolio companies. In 2016, these companies employed more than 160 people and increased their annual revenues by 37% year over year. In the same year, Back to the Roots closed a $10M Series A round.

Fund Good Jobs was a recipient of the 2015 Innovation Ecosystem Award while Sean and his work have been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Policy Link, NPR, PBS, Shelterforce, The Toronto Star and the East Bay Express.

Sean earned his bachelor’s degree in sociology and minor in education from University of California Los Angeles, and has also completed the entrepreneurship curriculum at Stanford University. Prior to his work with ICA Fund Good Jobs, Sean was a lead consultant for The MattMar Group, a global consulting firm, where he worked on financing transactions and operation planning for start-ups in Canada, Europe, Africa and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sean served as a member of President Obama’s White House Business Council, a group of business advisors that helped shape small business policy and promoted economic prosperity and job creation in urban areas. In 2014, Sean became an American Express NGEN Fellow and a Cordes Foundation Fellow. Today, Sean serves on the boards of Back to the Roots and The Workers Lab, sits on the ICA Fund Good Jobs Investment Committee.

Jenny Riggenbach @JennyRiggenbach
Director of Workforce
Incourage @incouragecf
Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Jenny Riggenbach is the Director of Workforce for Incourage – a Wisconsin organization that is nationally recognized as an innovative place-based philanthropy working to realizing a simple, yet bold vision of a community that works well for all.

Early in her career, Jenny spent 11 years as a child and youth work practitioner. She translated her experience and pride in skilled low-wage jobs to workforce research, advocacy and program leadership. Over the past 15 years, Jenny has worked to bridge gaps between businesses, workers, public systems, and philanthropy to create opportunities for Wisconsin communities. She was instrumental in developing Incourage’s Workforce Strategy and partnership with the National Fund for Workforce Solutions. These efforts are advancing good job strategies that generate a competitive advantage for employers and opportunities for workers. Jenny earned a bachelor’s degree in Community Engagement and Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She serves on the Workforce Matters Steering Committee and a local economic development board. Jenny engages with creative networks committed to furthering strong and vibrant Wisconsin communities that are welcoming to all. Jenny and her husband Michael Zell balance the joy of raising three boys with their love for their community and passion for their work.

Liddy Romero
Managing Director
WorkLab Innovations @WorkLife_CO
Denver, CO

Liddy Romero is Managing Director and a Founding Member of WorkLab Innovations. She founded the Colorado-based organization, WorkLife Partnership, deploying the “Sustainable Workforce Model,” in 2009. Building on her education, as well as her small business and nonprofit experience, Liddy helps lead the national efforts to make this model accessible and effective throughout the U.S.

In the past seven years, Liddy has been a catalyst for change in the ways employers invest in their workforces to impact the bottom line and improve employee engagement and worker economic opportunities.

She has 14 years of experience working with government entities, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors. Liddy serves as an executive member of the Colorado Workforce Development Council, was an Aspen Institute Sector Skills Academy Marano Fellow, and currently sits on the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s Community Development Advisory Council.

Liddy received an ROI Certification from the ROI Institute in May 2017. Liddy holds a double Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Psychology from the University of Notre Dame. She lives in Centennial, Colorado, with her spouse and three children.

Anjali Sakaria
Senior Community Development Analyst
Federal Reserve Bank of Boston @BostonFed
Boston, MA

Anjali Sakaria serves as a Senior Community Development Analyst in the Regional and Community Outreach department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, a department focused on promoting the economic security of low-wage workers in the New England region. Anjali is currently working to develop a new initiative in the department focused on increasing the quality of jobs for low wage workers. Prior to joining the Boston Fed in 2017, Anjali was the policy director and counsel for the Massachusetts Senate Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. In this capacity, she worked on legislation relating to the minimum wage, unemployment insurance benefits, domestic workers’ rights, earned sick time, worker safety, wage theft, pay equity, non-compete clauses, and paid family and medical leave. Anjali was recently recognized as a Top Women of Law honoree by Lawyers Weekly for her work in the Massachusetts legislature. Earlier in her career, Anjali represented Fortune 500 companies and small businesses in complex commercial litigation and defended individuals in criminal proceedings. Anjali received a law degree from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University.

Palak Shah @palaknshah
Social Innovations Director
National Domestic Workers Alliance @domesticworkers
New York, NY

Palak Shah is the Social Innovations Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and the Founding Director of Fair Care Labs, the innovation arm of the domestic worker movement. Palak leads NDWA’s national strategy on raising market norms and standards, partnering with the private sector, and building scalable and sustainable business ventures. NDWA is the nation’s leading organization working for the power, respect, and fair labor standards for the 2.5 million nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers in the U.S.

Lara Shock
Senior Director, Associate Experience
Walmart @Walmart
Bentonville, AR

Lara supports the development and implementation of initiatives that are designed to empower Walmart’s hourly associates through flexibility, stability and choice in their schedules. This work is part of Walmart’s $2.7B commitment to enhancing the associate experience in stores, where our people truly make a difference.

She joined Walmart in 2005 as an hourly associate, and is proud that her career serves as an example of the company’s advancement opportunity. Her background reflects a passion for economic mobility and associate opportunity, and includes leadership roles within Talent Development, HR Strategy, and Small Format Operations.

Lara resides in Bentonville, Arkansas with her husband Josh and 14-year-old twin boys, Beau and Brett. In her free time, she enjoys riding her bike along the trails in Northwest Arkansas, traveling, and wandering around vinyl and antique shops.

Walt Tobin @Tobinwa
Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College @OCtechEdu
Orangeburg, SC

Dr. Walt Tobin has served as the President of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College since June of 2011. He was educated in the public schools of Richland County in South Carolina. He graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in math teaching and subsequently attained the M.Ed. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of South Carolina in Education Administration. He completed post-doctoral study at the Harvard Institute for Educational Management.

Prior to accepting the presidency, he served as interim president/chief executive officer at Denmark Technical College and vice president for academic affairs/chief academic officer at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. His previous work experiences included math instructor, assistant principal, principal and middle school director in public schools throughout the state of South Carolina. He is an active member of his community, and has served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations. Currently, he is involved in the following organizations: South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce (Chair), Orangeburg County Development Commission, the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, the Liberty Fellowship (AGLN) and the St Matthews Rotary.

He is married to Kim Kim Foster-Tobin and they are the parents of twins, Jack and Bishop.