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.
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 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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.