Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson is the Rural Program Director for Springboard for the Arts, a community and economic development organizations for artists based in St. Paul and Fergus Falls, Minnesota. In 2011, she launched Springboard’s office in Fergus Falls, which has become a hub of thought and action about arts-based community development and creative placemaking in rural settings. Through her work at Springboard, Michele has launched nationally recognized programs at the intersection of the arts, historic preservation, health and economic development. Her writing and ideas on dismantling stereotypes of rural life have been featured in mnartists.org, the New York Times, the Huffington Post, CBC’s “As it Happens,” and more. Michele is also a pianist and creative writer, and lives in Fergus Falls, MN with her husband, Spencer, and their new son Ash.

Kathy Annette

Dr. Kathleen Annette, president and CEO of Blandin Foundation, leads Blandin Foundation in standing with rural Minnesota communities and leaders as they design and claim ambitious, vibrant futures. 

In her travels throughout her career, Kathy has been witness to the power of local, rural and inclusive leadership on issues most important to communities.  And in her role as Blandin Foundation CEO, Kathy has become part of many partnerships highlighting the possibilities for philanthropy to better serve rural communities and peoples.

A lifelong resident of rural Minnesota, Kathy is enrolled with the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. She earned her medical and undergraduate degrees from the University of Minnesota, the first Minnesota Ojibwe woman to become a physician.

Kathy retired in 2011 from federal service after 26 distinguished years, having served as Acting Deputy Director of Field Operations of Indian Health Service.  She was tapped by Blandin Foundation to take the helm of the state’s largest rural-based private foundation and one of only a handful nationally focused exclusively on strengthening rural communities.

Blandin Foundation was founded in 1941 by Charles K. Blandin.  The Foundation awards grants in rural Minnesota, trains community leaders and engages communities on public policy issues such as the 2020 Census, broadband access and early childhood education.

Saba Ashfaq

Saba Ashfaq grew up in rural West Virginia and now lives in Morgantown with her husband Imam Kip Curnutt and two beautiful and inquisitive toddlers. She has a Masters in Public Health specializing in Social and Behavioral Sciences. She served on the Morgantown, WV Pedestrian Safety Board and has worked extensively with local city council members and school county’s parent committees, the Mayor, Islamic Center of Morgantown and the Greater Morgantown Interfaith Organization. She is also an associate producer and lead participant in 100 Days in Appalachia’s “Muslim in Appalachia” documentary project, helping to forge trust and relationships between Muslims in the community with journalists and other community members. She is a fellow with America Indivisible and has used this opportunity to travel to the Midwest, the South and rural Appalachia to learn about rural Muslims and build solidarity among many diverse communities. She is also an advocate and a voice to create better policies for children and accessibility of care for the deaf and hard of hearing and building inclusion among minorities affected by bigotry and Islamophobia. 

Rev. Jennifer Bailey

Named one of 15 Faith Leaders to Watch by the Center for American Progress, Rev. Jennifer Bailey is an ordained minister, public theologian, and a national leader in multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a Womanist-led organization equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment. Rev. Bailey is Co-Founder of the People’s Supper, a project that aims to repair the breach in our interpersonal relationships across political, ideological, and identity difference over shared meals. Since 2017, the People’s Supper has hosted over 1,400 dinners in 121 communities.

A sought after commentator and public speaker on the intersection of religion and public life, Rev. Bailey has spoken at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit, Makers, TEDxSkoll, and the White House. Rev. Bailey is ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Follow her at @revjenbailey.

Savannah Barrett

Savannah Barrett is the Program Director for Art of the Rural, the Project lead for field-building and program design for the Rural Generation initiative, and co-founder of the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange. She is Lead Advisor for the Bush Foundation Community Creativity Cohort II, and a member of the board of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and the Robert Gard Foundation. She serves on many national and local advisory boards, including The Art of Community: Rural S.C., the EmcArts’ Community Innovation Lab, the National Association of Counties’ Institute on Rural Design, Virginia Tech’s ArtWorks, and the Ford Foundation’s Southern Cultural Scan. She has widely published essays and interviews and presented her work at conferences internationally. She holds a Masters of Arts Management from the University of Oregon, and is an alumnus of the Muhammad Ali Scholars for Peace and Justice at the University of Louisville and from the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. She previously guided community programs for the Center for Community Arts and Cultural Policy, the Louisville Visual Art Association, the Oregon Folklife Network, Paul Paletti Gallery, and Salvo Collective.


Savannah was raised in Grayson Springs, Kentucky, where she co-founded a local arts agency in high school and now stewards seven acres of her homeplace. She is a twelfth-generation Kentuckian and lives in Louisville with her partner, Joe, and their daughter, Sylvia June.

Carol Blackmon

Carol Blackmon is Principal Consultant of CB Enterprises & Associates, Incorporated where she is Senior Consultant and Human Rights Coordinator for Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice where she trains community leaders and their commissions on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She led a delegation of 30 rural black women to the United States Human Rights Network Conference to provide testimony related to Extreme poverty in the United States to the United Nations Special Rapporteur. She was Executive Director of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus Foundation. She was a Program and Executive Coach with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative; Program Manager for the Mid-South African American Philanthropy Program and managed the submission of a rural non-commercial educational radio application to the Federal Communications Commission.

She represents the deep-south as a steering committee member on the National Rural Assembly. Her community engagement includes Board Chair, Mississippi Housing Partnership; founding board member Greater Jackson Community Foundation; and Board of Directors of Rural Education and Leadership Foundation and a board member of the Praxis Project. Her policy reform engagement includes local organizing with rural women on public school education, healthcare expansion, and voter engagement.

In addition, she serves as the Mississippi Coordinator for Black Voters Matter Fund.

Sarah Bobrow-Williams

Sarah Bobrow Williams serves on the Executive Committee of the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBW).  As SRBWI’s Asset and Finance Development Director, she was instrumental in helping women to develop rural worker owned companies and cultural development initiatives and supportive economic policy and research.  Sarah is a business woman, a community planner, an educator and an activist. She is owner of JUSTice Pops LLC, a social enterprise promoting locally grown foods, food security, and food justice. She has a Masters in Community and Regional Planning with a Rural Development Concentration and over 30 years of experience working to create regenerative and culturally rooted, economies, public spaces, worker owned cooperative enterprises and value-added food businesses.  In addition to SRBWI, Sarah serves on the board of the Georgia Cooperative Development Center; Strong Roots of Augusta, GA; Tuskegee University’s Professional Agricultural Workers Conference Advisory Board; 4Walls International; Social Justice Tours; and the Faculty Council of Goddard College where she is a founder of the Masters in Social Innovation and Sustainability degree program.

Amy Brooks

Amy Brooks is the co-Artistic Director of Cardinal Cross Arts Co., a women-led rural-urban ensemble, and the former Program Director and Dramaturg for Appalshop’s Roadside Theater. A West Virginia/New York cultural hybrid who returned to Appalachia just before the 2016 election cycle, Amy investigates the confluence of dramatic narrative (“What is the story we choose to tell onstage?”) and public narrative (“What is the story we are called upon to tell about ourselves, our community, and our future?”) in intercultural rural-urban performance. Amy holds a BFA in acting from West Virginia University and an MFA in dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she co-founded and produced the first two seasons of the UMass New Play Lab. She is the former Humanities Director of the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV, and received the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas (LMDA)’s 2016 Residency Program Grant and 2017 Bly Creative Capacity Grant for her work with Roadside Theater. Amy currently serves as the Executive VP of Conferences for LMDA and is a 2018-19 fellow of the Intercultural Leadership Institute, a year-long intensive training program for artists, culture bearers and other arts professionals co-led by Alternate ROOTS, P’AI Foundation, First Peoples Fund, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures.

Kristen Carpenter

Kristen Carpenter is the Council Tree Professor of Law and Director of the American Indian Law Program at the University of Colorado Law School. Professor Carpenter also serves on the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as its member from North America. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School. 

At Colorado Law, Professor Carpenter teaches and writes in the areas of Property, Cultural Property, American Indian Law, Human Rights, and Indigenous Peoples in International Law. She has published several books and legal treatises on these topics, and her articles appear in leading law reviews. Professor Carpenter has been awarded the Provost’s Award for Faculty Achievement and the Outstanding New Faculty Award. She has served as Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Associate Dean for Research. She was a founding member of the campus-wide Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies at CU-Boulder. In 2016 she was the Oneida Indian Nation Visiting Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. . 

Before entering academia, Carpenter clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and was an associate attorney at Hill & Barlow, P.C., in Boston. She gained experience in Indian law as a clerk for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and at the law firms of Fredericks, Pelcyger, Hester & White and Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller & Munson. Professor Carpenter is an elected member of the American Law Institute and serves on the Federal Bar Association’s Indian Law Section Board. 

Edyael Casaperalta

Edyael is a Fellow at the American Indian Law Program at the University of Colorado Law School in Boulder, where she researches and writes about federal Indian law, international human rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, and telecommunications & technology. She is a budding attorney dedicated to serving indigenous peoples and poor communities in telecommunications and technology law matters. Prior to law school, Edyael was an Internet Rights Fellow at Public Knowledge and a Programs Associate at the Center for Rural Strategies. In both roles, she focused on rural telecommunications issues; promoting broadband deployment to rural, Native, and poor communities; and directed the Rural Broadband Policy Group – a national coalition of rural organizations advocating for access to affordable, reliable, and high-speed broadband. Edyael’s family immigrated to Elsa, Texas from México when she was 12 years old. She attended Occidental College, obtained a Masters in Latin American Studies from Ohio University, and is a graduate of the University of Colorado Law School. She lives in Denver with her sweet angel of a partner, Julia.

Marlene Chavez

Marlene Guerrero Plua is the oldest of six children and was raised by a single mother. She was a migrant farmworker traveling to work in Michigan and West Texas. She is proud to be the first in her family to obtain a college education.

Marlene is the Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid where she serves as a strategic partner developing, implementing and supporting the organization’s engagement and outreach agenda across the organization, which serves 68 counties throughout Texas.

Marlene has volunteered with the CARA ProBono project where she provided legal orientations to women and children incarcerated at the Dilley Detention Center and represented clients at their credible fear interviews.  In 2015, she was the recipient of the Proyecto Azteca Community Advocacy Award.

She studied Spanish Language and Literature at the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and graduated from Kalamazoo College where she received a BA in Anthropology/Sociology with a concentration in Media Studies. She currently resides with her husband and 10 year-old boy in Mercedes, TX. She loves to run, write poetry and drink coffee.

Dana Coester

DanaCoester (@poetabook) is executive editor for the collaborative media outlet 100 Days in Appalachia. Dana also serves as creative director for the West Virginia University Media Innovation Center. She is passionate about community media, women in technology, and privacy and social equity in emerging technology. Dana is currently directing a documentary film on being Muslim in Appalachia, and researching and reporting on white nationalism in the region. Coester earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Rev. Dr. Robin Dease

 Robin leads, coaches and supervises clergy and laity in the Hartsville District of South Carolina. She equips churches through ambiguity helping them through community transitions using people assets and denominational resources to create thriving congregations who serve their communities.

Robin is passionate about serving. She volunteers her time and talent with various organizations include the SC Children’s Trust, the SC Department of Mental Health partnership, the General Board of Church and Society UMC, and the Center for Heirs Property and Preservation.

Robin holds a degree in education from Clafin University, Orangeburg, SC and a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C. Robin believes her leadership mission is creating and illuminating pathways that inspire growth in individuals and the communities they live and serve. 

Leah Douglas

Leah Douglas is a staff writer and associate editor at the Food and Environment Reporting Network. Prior to joining the team, she worked as a reporter and policy analyst with the Open Markets Institute, where she covered economic consolidation and monopolization in the food and agriculture industry. She founded and wrote Food & Power, a first-of-its kind resource on food sector consolidation. Her writing on food, agriculture, and land policy has appeared in the Washington Post, the Nation, the Guardian, the Washington Monthly, the Journal of Food Law and Policy, CNN, Fortune, Time, Slate, Daily Yonder, Civil Eats, and more. Leah has held a variety of jobs in the food system, including working on farms, co-running a CSA, and facilitating the development of rural food buying co-ops.

Amy Dudley

Amy Dudley of Creating Democracy works to advance democracratic movement building in rural and small town communities from her home base in Tennessee.  Amy credits her roots in the Blue Ridge Mountains of SW Virginia and her time at Rural Organizing Project in Oregon as inspiration and sustenance for her belief that rural communities have the heart and smarts to grow beyond these challenging times. Amy’s current theme song is Brandi Carlile’s “Hold Out Your Hand” which she loves to blast at family dance parties with her two children, Cora and Leo, and partner in life and organizing, Chris. 

Wendi Everson

A native of Danville, Wendi serves DRF as a senior program officer focusing on community engagement and leadership development, and manages DRF′s internship program. Strongly committed to the Dan River Region, Everson returned and began her career with the City of Danville Community Development Department supporting government efforts to eliminate housing discrimination, ensure affordable housing and build neighborhood associations/revitalization. Everson also worked as an administrator at Boys & Girls Club of Danville and women′s head basketball coach at Danville Community College. She earned a bachelor′s degree from Temple University, MBA from Averett University, and certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She is a Southeastern Council on Foundation Hull Fellow and serves as a board member of the River District Association and Head Start. 


Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald

Oleta Garrett Fitzgerald has devoted her life to the pursuit of justice and equality for all. As Director of the Children’s Defense Fund’s Southern Regional Office, Oleta has placed special emphasis on education, including early childhood education, children’s healthcare access, and breaking the insidious cradle to prison pipeline pattern, which is all too prevalent in communities of color. Oleta is the Regional Administrator for the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic & Social Justice (SRBWI). SRBWI operates across 77 counties in the Black Belts of Alabama, Southwest Georgia and the Mississippi Delta. She is also the principal for an innovative project, the Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) Initiative, which has operated in more than 12 rural Mississippi school districts. Oleta’s public service career began long before she assumed her position at Children’s Defense Fund. In 1993, Oleta became President Clinton’s appointee as White House Liaison and Executive Assistant to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy; and was a member of USDA’s executive review panel selecting rural Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities. Later, she was named the Department’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs where, among other things, she worked on tribal governmental issues and coordinated the Administration’s long-term recovery of Midwestern states affected by The Great Flood of 1993.


Ms. Fitzgerald received a B.S. in Sociology from Tougaloo College, M.A. in Rural Community Development from Antioch University Midwest and honorary membership to Pi Alpha Alpha, the National Honor Society for Public Affairs & Administration from Mississippi State University. She contributed to the Covenant with Black America introduced by Tavis Smiley, and numerous news stories by the New York Times, Huffington Post, the BBC, National Public Broadcasting, Commercial Appeal and national and local network affiliates as well as other broadcast and print media.

Lyndsey Gilpin

Lyndsey Gilpin the founder and editor-in-chief of Southerly, an independent media organization about ecology, justice, and culture in the American South. Based in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, Lyndsey is a reporter and editor who has covered climate change, energy, environmental justice all over the U.S. Her work has appeared in Harper’s, Vice, The Daily Beast, CityLab, Undark, High Country News, Columbia Journalism Review, FiveThirtyEight, The Washington Post, Hakai, The Atlantic, Grist, Outside, and InsideClimate News. She earned her master’s degree from Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Ruxandra Guidi

Ruxandra Guidi has been telling nonfiction and news stories for almost two decades. Her reporting for public radio, magazines, and various multimedia and multidisciplinary outlets has taken her throughout the United States, the Caribbean, South and Central America, as well as Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region. 

After earning a Master’s degree in journalism from U.C. Berkeley in 2002, she assisted independent producers The Kitchen Sisters; then worked as a reporter, editor, and producer for NPR’s Latino USA, the BBC daily news program, The World, the CPB-funded Fronteras Desk in San Diego-Tijuana, and KPCC Public Radio’s Immigration and Emerging Communities beat in Los Angeles. She’s also worked extensively throughout South America, having been a freelance foreign correspondent based in Bolivia (2007-2009) and in Ecuador (2014-2016). Currently, she is the president of the board ofHomelands Productions, a journalism nonprofit cooperative founded in 1989, and a contributing editor for the nonprofit magazine High Country News. In 2018, she was awarded the Susan Tifft Fellowship for women in documentary and journalism by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Starting in the fall of 2019, she will be teaching full-time at the University of Arizona’s School of Journalism.

Ashley Hanson

Ashley Hanson is the founder of PlaceBase Productions, a theater company that creates original, site-specific musicals celebrating small town life and the founder of the Department of Public Transformation, an artist-led organization that collaborates with local leaders in rural areas to develop creative strategies for community connection and civic participation. She is the Director of the Small Town City Artist in Residence program and The YES! House – a radically welcoming creative community gathering space – in Granite Falls, MN. She was recently named a 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow and a 2019 Bush Fellow for her work with rural communities. She spends most of her time on the road visiting with people in rural places and believes wholeheartedly in the power of play and exclamation points! 


Jasmine Heiss

Jasmine Heiss is the Campaign Director for In Our Backyards, an initiative exploring the shifting geography of mass incarceration, and elevating the surprising truth that America’s highest rates of incarceration in are not in the biggest cities, but in the nation’s hundreds of smaller cities, towns and rural areas. Her work is meant to inform the public dialogue, engage new allies, and advance change in order to end mass incarceration where it begins—in all of our backyards. Jasmine previously served as the deputy director of The Coalition for Public Safety, where she helped lead the nation’s largest bipartisan effort to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, and as Amnesty International USA’s senior campaigner, where she led work on groundbreaking victories, including the passage of the country’s first reparations package for police torture survivors and the release of two of the longest held-prisoners in solitary confinement. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Chicago and a proud alumna of Rockwood Leadership Institute.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson joined the Double Edge Ensemble after two decades of collaboration as an actor, dramaturg, and training leader.  Johnson  is a C0-Artistic Director of Double Edge, and was a co-creator and actor of Keter, the Crowning Song in the 90’s, Relentless in the early 2000’s, and most recently co-created and performed as Leonora in Leonora & Alejandro: La Maga y el Maestro, which premiered in March 2018 at Peak Performances at Montclair State University. She appeared in many Spectacles at Double Edge, most notably as Lucy Stone in We The People, Athena in The Odyssey and as La Senora in Once a Blue Moon, and directed the oral history project in the Ashfield Town Spectacle. She portrays Leonora Carrington in the Double Edge Fall Spectacle Leonora’s World.

Molly Johnston

Molly Johnston is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, screendancer, and co-founder of DanceBARN Collective. Her roots lie in Minnesota, but dance has taken her from the land of 10,000 lakes to Philadelphia, PA (BFA, University of the Arts), Eugene, OR (MFA, University of Oregon) and back to Minnesota where she worked as Zenon Dance Company and School’s school coordinator before moving to rural Minnesota to pursue her passion for creating dance in rural communities. Since making the big move to small town Minnesota, Molly has cohosted the annual DanceBARN Festival and curated many other events, classes, and workshops in the region. Molly resides on Silver Lake in Battle Lake, MN with her husband and son and is excited about continuing the collective effort of creating professionally charged dance rural communities.

Teresa Kittridge

Teresa Kittridge, founder of 100 Rural Women, lives in Marcell Minnesota where she spends her time enjoying Turtle Lake and Chippewa National Forest. Teresa has spent her life  serving rural people across the country, with a career that includes executive level leadership in the private, public and non-profit sectors. 100 Rural Women models her life’s work, by serving women in rural places to better connect and build networks, support civic engagement and encourage leadership. The first twenty years of her career were spent serving as an elected officer of the Minnesota House of Representatives. Following her time in the legislature, she built the Washington D.C. office of RUPRI (Rural Policy Research Institute) and served as Director of National Policy Programs. She has over a decade of experience in leading and building national and international businesses, as an executive for Coughlan Companies and then as founder and president of MNREM (Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace). Kittridge returned to RUPRI in 2014 as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. She is currently building the national non-partisan organization, 100 Rural Women. Teresa is an active civic and community volunteer, has served in public office as school board director and board chair. She holds a M.A. in Organizational Leadership and a B.A. in Business Administration. 

Cariel Klein

Cariel Klein has been a part of Double Edge since before she can remember. After performing as a child in four summer spectacles, she left to pursue a circus career and trained at several elite circus schools, while at the same time receiving her degree in the Political Performance of the Self at the Gallatin School of NYU. After spending time in both the circus and tech industry, Cariel returned to Double Edge, eventually assuming the role of Associate Producer in 2017. She uses her background in circus, dance, and body therapy to choreograph and perform the flying elements of the performances, including designing several of the aerial apparatus. Cariel is most passionate as a producer and co-leader of Art Justice residency and practice throughout Double Edge, as well as representing rural multi-generational work on a national and international scene.

Nevada Littlewolf

A member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Nevada has over 20 years of experience working across sectors of community, government, non-profit and business. She served ten years on the Virginia, MN City Council from 208-2018. Nevada is an experienced leader who works for equitable systemic change. She serves the boards of The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, ClearWay MN and Minnesota Urban Debate League. She has AA Degree Mesabi Range College, BFA University of Minnesota Duluth and is a Graduate Student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Nevada is a 2016 Bush Fellow and has spent her life working on behalf of women, communities of color and indigenous people.

Morgan McManus

My name is Morgan McManus, and I am a sophomore Health Science major at Clemson University. At Clemson, I am heavily involved on campus, but my favorite thing to do is cheer on the tigers in Death Valley on Saturdays! I am originally from Florence, SC where I first got involved with the SC 4-H program. Through this program, I was involved with Leadership, Citizenship, and the Healthy Lifestyles projects. Through 4-H, I was exposed to the importance of giving back to the community and I had many female leaders that shaped me into the person that I am today. Now that I am at Clemson, I am trying to pave the way for those who will come after me through my leadership roles in organizations and continuing to serve in the local community.

Susann Mikkelson

Susann Mikkelson has almost 30 years’ experience in the nonprofit sector and small business development, including experience in nonprofit management and leadership, fundraising, marketing, strategic and business planning and business/organizational development. She is currently a Cooperative Development Specialist for the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Cooperative Development Center, located in New Mexico in order to focus on New Mexico cooperative and economic development efforts in agriculture and the food industry, particularly emphasizing small and socially disadvantaged producers, producer groups and communities; she also works in membership development for RMFU in New Mexico. Mikkelson has worked for the RMFU Center for 14 years, bringing as much of her work as possible with her when she moved ‘home’ 9 years ago to care for her aging parents. She.is a native of New Mexico, the fifth generation raised on the family’s small cattle ranch in Datil, a community in southwest New Mexico which was settled by her ancestors in 1882. Mikkelson holds a bachelor of science in public relations from Northern Arizona University, and a master’s of science in public service/leadership and policy, with an emphasis in rural development from DePaul University.

Madeline Moore

In 2017 Madeline Moore co-founded Rethinking Rural, a national network of rural millennials dedicated to supporting, connecting, and uplifting the next generation of rural leaders. She lives in Chinook, Washington (population 450), with her toddler and husband, 15 minutes from her parents and where she grew up. She is also a private chef at an artist in residency nonprofit, elected to the local hospital board, and a former bakery owner. She is dedicated to creating vibrant rural communities guided and led by the people who love them. 

Diana Oestreich

Diana is no stranger to pain and the reality that our world desperately needs to be remade. As a former Iraq War Army Combat Medic  and a sexual assault nurse examiner, Diana has committed her life to staring pain in the face and choosing to love anyway, to lean in, and to remake the world around her. Speaking across the country for Preemptive Love Coalition a relief organization based in Iraq, she empowers us  to identify our own rural, urban, political or religious divides to cross our own “enemy lines” in order to remake the world and heal all that’s tearing us apart. As a Soldier turned peacemaker she’s appeared on multiple podcasts and blogs, discussing Justice, faith, peacemaking, refugees, activism with kids and how her posture of love shapes  how she parents and shows up for her neighbors. Diana, her partner Jake and their two sons, Bridger and Zelalem live along the shores of Lake Superior on Ojibwe land. They are an Ethiopian-American family woven together through adoption and a shared love for bad jokes and competitive card games.

Emily Pelland

Emily Pelland recently graduated with a M.S. in Journalism from West Virginia University and has a B.S. Journalism from Morgan State University. Pelland is a documentary filmmaker and currently involved in experimental storytelling with an emphasis on socially conscious reporting.

Mary Annette Pember

Mary Annette Pember is an independent journalist focusing on Native American issues. In her writing and photography she has covered subjects including the high rates of sexual assault among Native women, sex trafficking, health, missing and murdered Indigenous women, the impact of historical trauma and the Indian boarding school era on Native communities and environmental challenges on Native lands, federal policy issues as well as cultural and spiritual topics. Her work has appeared in Indian Country Today, ReWire News, The Columbia Journalism Review, Truthout, Yes Magazine, the Guardian, the Washington Post, Colorlines, the Atlantic, the Daily Yonder and others.

Past president and executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, she is the winner of several industry awards and fellowships from The Nation Institute, the Macdowel Northwestern University, the International Center for Journalism, The Associated Press, USC Annenberg, the Carter Center, The University of Maryland. and others.

She is an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Wisconsin Ojibwe tribe and  currently lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family.

Follow her work at www.mapember.com and @mapember

Mimi Pickering

Mimi Pickering is an award-winning filmmaker and director of Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative. Pickering’s documentaries often feature women as principle storytellers, focus on struggles for equity and justice, and explore the efforts of grassroots communities to address issues that frequently reflect global concerns. In 2005, her film The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man was selected by the Librarian of Congress for inclusion in the prestigious National Film Registry. Most recently Pickering and Anne Lewis completed Anne Braden: Southern Patriot, a documentary on the life and legacy of this white Southern woman who became a legendary civil rights leader, journalist, teacher and mentor to three generations of social justice activists.


As CMI Director, Pickering’s work is focused on Making Connections News, a multi-media StoryBank exploring sustainable and just economic options for renewing Appalachia’s economy and creating healthy communities. (www.makingconnectionsnews.org). She is also a team leader for All Access EKY, a collaboration that works in ten Appalachian Kentucky counties to ensure young people have access to the full range of contraceptive methods. We combine storytelling, media making, youth empowerment, and community outreach to advocate for and increase access to all birth control options. 

Khadijah Rashid

Khadijah Rashid is an Independent Film & Television Producer with over 15 years in the Entertainment Industry. She has worked with the likes of Will Smith and Academy Award Winner, Jamie Foxx, as well as, many notable award-winning Writers, Producers, and Directors. Most recently she formed her own production company, Muslimah Movies, to focus on telling the real story of who Muslims truly are. 

She holds a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Motion Picture Producing, as well as, a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Relations. She relocated back to the South to help develop and contribute to the growing media industry. She is a former Film & TV professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, in Atlanta. And now in addition to running Muslimah Movies, she helps the world learn more about Islam through her marketing and social media work with the International Museum of Muslim Cultures which her mother, Okolo, co-founded in her hometown of Jackson, MS.

Okolo Rashid

Okolo Rashid was born in Mississippi, the daughter of sharecroppers, and grew up in America’s turbulent era of overt segregation and racial oppression.  She has, thus, been a life-long advocate of the ideas of the Oneness of G-d and humanity; social and economic justice, and racial harmony.  After graduating from Hinds Junior College (now Hinds Community College) in 1970, among the handful of African Americans who integrated it, and earning degrees in economics and public policy at Tougaloo College and Jackson State University, respectively, Okolo has had a varied career. A community development activist, organizer and historic preservation advocate, working primarily with inner-city communities and grassroots organizations, for much of her life, Okolo is currently Co-founder and President of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC), and directs its recently established Islamic Thought Institute. The Museum is American’s first Muslim Museum, which opened in Jackson, Mississippi, April 2001.  It is the result of Okolo’s vision—that comprises activism and an inclusive world view where human dignity and individual worth are central values.

In January 2004, Okolo and husband, Sababu, traveled to the Republic of Mali, West Africa and was successful in bringing back ancient manuscripts of Timbuktu for the groundbreaking international, one-of-a-kind Legacy of Timbuktu Exhibition, in partnership with the Mamma Haidara Memorial Library of Timbuktu, to Jackson, Mississippi and America.  Okolo and husband are very active in the Metro Jackson Islamic community and interfaith community.  Okolo was featured in 2006 in the book: “The Face Behind the Veil: The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America, by Donna Gekrke-White.  In 2014 her work brought recognition, as she was featured in the book: “Liberating  Minds Liberating Society: Black Women in the Development of American Culture and Society, edited by Lopez D. Matthews, Jr. and Kenvi C. Phillips.

 Living through Mississippi’s turbulent ‘60s, it was during this time that Rashid (and Sababu) embraced Islam and have sought to live out their faith among family, friends, and neighbors, embracing many faith traditions. Okolo (and Sababu) have four children: a son, Ismail, three daughters, Khadijah, Maryam, and Aseelah, ten grand children, and a great-grand son and daughter.

Michelle Rathman

Michelle founded Impact! Communications, Inc., in 1989, a leader in health care strategy and communications. Impact’s focus includes academic, for-profit, Critical Access and Rural Hospitals, clinics, primary and specialty care provider practices, as well as organizations and associations serving the health care sector. Their work across the U.S. includes strengthening hospital identity and brand, engaging community stakeholders and strategic partners, identifying opportunities to decrease outmigration, improving internal culture, communications, and customer service across service lines and practices, as well as providing transformative professional development that inspires positive change.

Kristen Richardson Frick

Kristen R. Richardson Frick serves as Associate Director of the Rural Church program area of The Duke Endowment. She is an ordained clergyperson in the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, and joined the Endowment in June 2012 after serving as a pastor of churches for eleven years. Richardson-Frick holds both a BA and a BS degree from Wofford College, and a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University. In her work with the Endowment, Richardson-Frick focuses on building the capacity of rural congregations to engage their communities in new ways, fostering clergy health and effectiveness, and implementing summer literacy programs in rural Methodist churches. From her experiences as a pastor and a program officer, Kristen believes that rural congregations are uniquely called and positioned to work with community partners to change the world for good. She hopes that her work equips churches to do just that. Richardson-Frick resides in the Charlotte area with her husband John and her sons John Edward (13) and Tyoma (10).

Prairie Rose Seminole

Prairie Rose Seminole is a citizen of the Three Affiliated Tribes of ND, descendent of the Sahnish/Arikara, Northern Cheyenne and Lakota Nations. She served on the Fargo Human Relations Commission in Fargo from 2001 to 2010, serving as Chairperson from ‘07-‘10. She has held faculty appointments with the Tri-College NEW Leadership Institute since 2005 and is a trainer with Wellstone Action and VoteRunLead, national organizations that train candidates, campaign workers and activists. Seminole has lead on campaigns to elect candidates and organized and trained on issues from health care, gender justice and marriage equality. She has been involved with ND state politics since 2006 and leading the ND Native Vote since 2012. Seminole recently concluded a three year term on the Midwest advisory council to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and was the former cultural advisor to Sanford Health One Care initiative. Awards and recognition include being named the White Shield ND, Arikara Woman of the Year in 2013, a ND Center for Technology and Business Leading Lady in 2015, Bush Foundation Native Nation Rebuilder in 2015, and a Salzburg Global Fellow in 2016 and 2017. Currently Prairie Rose Seminole serves as the American Indian Alaska Native Program Director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Serving American Indian, Alaska Native communities around the United States as an educator, and advocate, deconstructing colonial systems of oppression.

Kathy Schwarting

Kathy G. Schwarting, MHA serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Palmetto Care Connections, a non-profit telehealth network for SC that was founded in 2010.  PCC works with existing telemedicine/telehealth providers to promote/expand their services as well as with new up and coming applications.  PCC primarily focuses on improving access to care for rural/underserved populations.  PCC assists providers in vetting the most suitable telehealth technology, conducting a site needs assessment that includes connectivity, installing and configuring the hardware and finally training the staffs to effectively utilize the equipment and software.  Kathy also serves as the Co-Chair of the South Carolina Telehealth Alliance (SCTA) along with the Medical Director for MUSC Health which is responsible for building a statewide open-access telehealth network for SC and allocating funding for telehealth equipment, services and support as directed by the SC General Assembly.  

Kathy has over 24 years of experience in rural health care working with various types of providers to improve the overall health care delivery systems.  She spent more than fifteen years in rural network development working to foster relationships, develop partnerships, recruit health care providers and promote shared services between health care providers in rural communities by developing and coordinating the first not-for-profit rural health network in South Carolina, which served as a model for other states. Kathy has also served in various capacities of leadership and management in the rural hospital setting including Director of Physician Services, Director of Support Services and Director of Operations for Bamberg County Hospital, a 54-bed acute care hospital.  Kathy also established a Hospitalist Program and fully staffed and managed the Emergency Department at Barnwell County Hospital, a 64-bed acute care hospital.

Minor Shaw

Minor Shaw is president of Micco LLC, a private investment company. Her extensive community involvement includes chairing the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport Commission and serving as a board member of Piedmont Natural Gas, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, the Columbia Mutual Funds, the Duke Energy Advisory Board and the United Way of Greenville County. She has been chairman of the Community Foundation of Greenville, the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, the Junior League of Greenville, the Urban League of the Upstate, the YMCA of Greenville, and the South Carolina ETV Endowment. Currently, she serves as chair of The Daniel-Mickel Foundation and Hollingsworth Funds. Mrs. Shaw was inducted into the South Carolina Business Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jaki Shelton Green

Jaki Shelton Green is the first African American and third woman to be appointed as the North Carolina Poet Laureate. When he appointed her in 2018, Governor Copper stated that “Jaki Shelton Green brings a deep appreciation of our state’s diverse communities to her role as an ambassador of North Carolina literature. Jaki’s appointment is a wonderful new chapter in North Carolina’s rich literary history.”

Her collegiate and professional experiences include currently teaching Documentary Poetry at the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies, Visiting Professor for the Carlow University MFA Program, Lenoir-Rhyne University Writer-in-Residence, Duke University Teaching for Equity Fellow, Taller Portobelo Artist Colony in Portobelo Panama, University of Panama, Department of Cultural Resources for Brazil, North Carolina Turkish Association, Alhambra Cultural Center in Marrakech Morocco, NC Symphony,  NC African America Cultural Heritage Commission.

She is the owner of SistaWRITE and co-partner with Dream Yourself Awake and Vertikal Creative Ventures providing writing retreats and travel excursions for women writers in Sedona Arizona, Ocracoke North Carolina, Agadir Morocco, and Tullamore Ireland.

Jaki Shelton Green is the author of eight collections of poetry: Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, breath of the song, published by Carolina Wren Press and Blair Publishers. Her other publications; Feeding the Light, I Want to Undie You are published by Jacar Press. Her poetry has been published in over eighty national and international anthologies and featured in magazines such as Essence and Ms. Magazine.

April Simpson

April Simpson reports on rural issues at Stateline. Before joining Pew, April was associate editor of Current, where she covered public broadcasting and nonprofit media. April was a Fulbright fellow in Botswana and Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fellow with the International Women’s Media Foundation. She has written for the Seattle Times and the Boston Globe, among other publications. April is a graduate of Smith College and the London School of Economics and Political Science.


Hilarie Spangler

A lover of the interdisciplinary, Hilarie Rose Spangler is a musician, theatre artist, visual artist, storyteller and activist interested in the connection between rural, urban and international art practice. A native of Appalachia, but currently working in New York, Hilarie co-launched the “in between: rural- urban, feminist” two woman arts collective, Cardinal Cross. She holds dual degrees in Theatre and Community Arts from Western Kentucky University and is pursuing her graduate degree in Arts and Cultural Management at Pratt Institute. She currently works as the Company Manager for Beth Morrison Projects supporting new and avant-garde opera and music theatre.  Hilarie is actively incorporating her musicianship and her practice as a storyteller to tell, create, and facilitate storytelling workshops. Her core artistic questioning is around how story manifests in different forms and the restorative practice of community-based arts. She has directed, performed, music-directed, produced, taught and stage-managed for theatrical productions in New York, Nashville, Louisville, and surrounding areas. Hilarie also serves as a Quadrant Director on the board of the Kentucky Storytelling Association. Hilarie aspires to continue her work in community art practice to foster a narrative of strength for women and unheard voices. She lives somewhere between Appalachia and NYC with her two fur-babies Gypsy and Jasper.

Jennie Stephens

Jennie L. Stephens has served as Executive Director of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation since its inception in 2005. At the Center, she is responsible for overall strategic planning, revenue generation, financial management, organizational development, staff management, and program operations. She has worked more than 25 years in the nonprofit field in such positions as fiscal director at a community action agency, sponsored programs director at a historically black college, and senior program director at Coastal Community Foundation. She also has several years of experience in consulting as a program reviewer, strategic plan facilitator, and grants writer. Most recently, Jennie had the pleasure of being a speaker at TedXCharleston with a talk titled, “Heirs Discover Money Does Grow on Trees”  and has been selected to be a 2018 BALLE Fellow, a member of 25 brilliant leaders who are building healthy and equitable rural economies across US and Canada.

Jennie received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the College of Charleston, a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Charleston/University of SC and earned a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA.

Jennie’s passion in life is to help people help themselves.

Kelly Sue Waller

Kelly Sue Waller is a Southern Organizer for Showing Up for Racial Justice and it’s Southern Crossroads Organizing Project. Kelly is currently a lead organizer in rural TN building base to win campaigns for economic, social, and racial justice that make a material difference in folks lives.  Prior to this, Kelly joined the movement for economic and racial justice as a member of Worker’s Dignity in Nashville, TN organizing with Latinx and Black folks around justice in the workplace for low wage workers. She grew up poor and working class all around the South, but spent her formative years in Georgia, in both big cities and the small towns across the state. Kelly Sue Waller comes to this work from a grassroots and base building background that says that those most affected by a given situation have the answers and building power with those folks is the way we all get free. Kelly can often be found with her nose buried in fiction books featuring folks fighting the system with an eye to building better worlds. 

E. Michelle Thomas Nimmons

Michelle Thomas Nimmons is the Director of Human Resources and the Comprehensive Health Education Coordinator for Bamberg School District Two located in Denmark, SC. Michelle graduated from Winthrop College in 1980 with a degree in Family/Child Development and Social Work and Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations Human Resource Studies program.

Michelle has made a significant impact on the youth of  Bamberg County as the director of the Bamberg County School/Community Sexual Risk Reduction Project for Teens with the Denmark-Olar Teen Life Center.  In addition to her work at the local level, Michelle spent 11 years working with the SC Campaign as a consultant helping to build the capacity of community and school-based initiatives across the state. Michelle is recognized as a national leader in the conversation about community-based teen pregnancy prevention programs and was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal in July 2006 for her work in teen pregnancy prevention.  She was honored as the first recipient of the Murray L. Vincent Outstanding Prevention Professional Award in 2008.

Michelle is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., a member of the SC Association of School Administrators and serves as the Chairperson for the New Personnel Directors committee, enjoys running half marathons , traveling and reading. Michelle and her family reside in Orangeburg, SC. is a member of Black Girls Run Columbia @ Orangeburg and Trinity United Methodist Church in Orangeburg, SC and has served as a communion steward, finance committee steward, taught children’s Sunday school, served as a volunteer for the United Methodist Church’s Youth Annual Conference and as a member of the Board of High Education and Campus Ministries. 

Malloree Weinheimer

Malloree Weinheimer lives in Port Townsend, Washington, but has developed her love of rural through experiences living in Utah, Virginia, Oregon, Maine, and Alaska. She holds a BS in Forestry and started her own forestry consulting business, Chickadee Forestry, to help carry on the tradition of forestry and show that forestry can be focused on conservation while also supporting rural economies. On the side she helped co-found Rethinking Rural, an organization that has opened her eyes to how much amazing work is happening in rural communities across the nation. She is passionate about rural land management and conservation, about creating jobs in natural resources for women and young people, and finding ways to bring people together to protect our rural landscapes. She also serves on local boards as a forestry adviser and is chair of the Jefferson County Parks and Rec board. In her free time she is generally out exploring Olympic National Park with her husband.