Ford Public Voices Fellowship


We are pleased to announce the 2015 cohort of The OpEd Project's Ford Public Voices Fellowship. The 21 new Fellows are senior leaders working across social justice sectors, including women's rights, economic justice, racial justice, LGBTQ, organizing, labor rights, HIV/AIDS, sexual reproductive health and rights, and immigrant rightsThe 2015 fellows come from across the United States, and were selected based on exceptional knowledge and expertise, as well as on the impact they have had in the US and globally.   

Funded by the Ford Foundation’s Women’s Human Rights Initiative, this fellowship is part of a broader multi-year, multi-institution partnership launched by The OpEd Project to dramatically increase the public impact of of our nation's top and most diverse thinkers, and to change the demographics of voice across the globe. In addition to The Ford Foundation, which launched its inaugural Public Voices Fellowship in 2014, Fellowships have also launched at more than a dozen leading foundations and universities, including Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia and Northwestern (among others), allowing for knowledge sharing and innovation across cohorts, fields and institutions.  Fellows completing the one-year Ford Fellowship will join a prestigious network of fellowship alumni and alumnae, making this one of the most powerful networks for public impact in the nation. 

Additional information about the Public Voices Fellowship initiative is 
here.  See the 2014 Ford Public Voices Fellows here. 

To request an interview, please contact: Alex Rapson at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or + 646-664-4299.


Radhika Balakrishnan

Radhika Balakrishnan, Faculty Director, Center for Women's Global Leadership, and Professor, Women's and Gender Studies Rutgers University, has a Ph.D. in Economics from Rutgers University. Previously, she was Professor of Economics and International Studies at Marymount Manhattan College. She has worked at the Ford Foundation in the Asia Regional Program. She is currently on the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights and was on the board of the International Association for Feminist Economics and was the Chair of the Board of the US Human Rights Network. She is the co-editor with Diane Elson of Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Account (Zed Books, 2011). She is the author of Why MES with Human Rights: Integrating Macro Economic Strategies with Human Rights (Marymount Manhattan College, 2005). She edited The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy (Kumarian Press, 2001), co-edited Good Sex: Feminist Perspectives from the World's Religions, with Patricia Jung and Mary Hunt (Rutgers University Press, 2000), and also authored numerous articles that have appeared in books and journals. Balakrishnan's work focuses on gender and development, gender and the global economy, human rights and economic and social rights. Her research and advocacy work has sought to change the lens through which macroeconomic policy is interpreted and critiqued by applying international human rights norms to assess macroeconomic policy.


Marc Bayard Marc Bayard is an Associate Fellow and the director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Black Worker Initiative. He was the founding Executive Director of the Worker Institute at Cornell University. He is a leading expert on racial equity and organizing strategies with extensive experience in building partnerships between labor, faith groups, and civil rights communities. A frequent speaker and social commentator for a number of institutions and organizations, Bayard's dedication to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide is grounded in his first-hand work and experiences in nearly 50 countries. From 2003 to 2011 he was the Africa Regional Program Director for the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, AFL-CIO, and was recently a fellow with the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University. Marc holds master’s degrees from Cornell University and Georgetown University and is a highly regarded scholar of labor politics. He is the author of the forthcoming biography Standing Together in Service: William Lucy, Civil Rights and the American Labor Movement (University of Illinois Press).


Shifra Bronznick Shifra Bronznick is the President of Advancing Women Professionals, an initiative that has been cited annually by the Slingshot philanthropic guide as one of leading catalysts in the field. The leadership strategist to the White House Project for a decade, she is a consultant who specializes in advancing social change and women’s leadership. Her long term action research project at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. “Visioning Justice,” resulted in the establishment of the Jewish social justice roundtable, an ongoing collaboration of all the key organizations in the field. Co-author with Didi Goldenhar and Marty Linsky of “Leveling the Playing Field,” she has been a senior fellow at NYU Wagner’s Research Center for Leadership in Action where she teaches strategic leadership to Executive Masters in Public Administration students. Previously, Shifra was the Executive Vice President of Swig, Weiler & Arnow Mgt. Company, a major commercial real estate firm in New York City. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Linda Goler Blount is the president and Chief Executive Officer of the Black Women’s Health Imperative, a nationwide organization devoted solely to advancing the health and wellness of America's 20 million Black women and girls. As president and CEO, Linda oversees the strategic direction for the Imperative and leads the organization forward in its mission to achieve health equity, reproductive and social justice for Black women across the lifespan.  Before joining the Imperative, Linda served as the vice president of Programmatic Impact for the United Way of Greater Atlanta, where she lead a team focused on achieving transformations in health, income, education and housing stability. She was also the first-ever national vice president of Health Disparities at the American Cancer Society and provided strategic vision and leadership to the Society and its 12 geographic divisions for nationwide health equity policy and social determinants initiatives.


Charmaine Davis, 9to5 Georgia State Director leads all chapter organizing, issue campaigns and membership-building activities for 9to5 Atlanta. Charmaine organized 9to5 members to lead the effort to "Ban the Box" on city of Atlanta job applications in 2011. Ban the Box refers to a nationwide campaign to end employment discrimination against people with arrest or conviction histories. As the Chair of the Georgia Job/ Family Collaborative she is working to pass The Family Care Act through Georgia’s State legislature. She also works to organize and advocate on behalf of workers and unemployed workers as a Executive Committee member of Atlanta Jobs with Justice. Davis began her organizing career as a political organizer for Project Vote. The first campaign Davis worked on was the Minimum Wage campaign in Ohio. She recruited, trained and managed a staff of over 100 field canvassers who collected over 250,000 petition signatures from registered Ohio voters who supported raising the state minimum wage. She was able to get the initiative on the ballot and mobilize Ohio voters to vote in favor of it. Her work helped the community raise the minimum wage in Ohio from $5.15 to $6.85, a huge victory for low-wage workers in Ohio. In 2007 Project Vote named Davis Political Organizer of the Year for her work organizing young adults against predatory policing in Flint and Detroit Michigan. As the Georgia Director of 9to5 Davis is working to build a movement for economic justice by engaging directly affected women to improve their working conditions.


Barbara Gault, Ph.D., is Vice President and Executive Director of the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), a non-profit, non-partisan think tank that conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. Gault has published research across a wide range of topics, including poverty, workforce development, paid sick days, and improving access to quality child care and postsecondary education for low-income women. She leads IWPR's Student Parent Success Initiative, which seeks to improve college access and success for low-income parents. She has testified in Congress and spoken at venues around the country on issues affecting low-income families, and has appeared and been quoted in a range of print, radio and television media outlets, including CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Nature, and others. She received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and her B.A. from the University of Michigan. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Coalition on Human Needs, and is a Research Professor of Women's Studies at the George Washington University.


Carrie Gleason directs the Fair Workweek Initiative, a collaboration anchored by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), that brings together grassroots organizations across the country to achieve an equitable workweek for today’s workforce through policy change, advocacy and strategic campaigns. She provides analysis of part-time employment, scheduling trends and the retail sector for policymakers and media outlets, which have included NPR, the New York Times, the Washington Post and Harper’s Magazine. Carrie co-founded the Retail Action Project (RAP), which serves as an industry voice for New York City retail workers. As RAP’s Executive Director from 2010-2014, Gleason oversaw the organization’s base-building and strategic campaigns, research and direct services. RAP emerged from a community-labor partnership with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU/UFCW) that helped thousands of retail workers in lower Manhattan successfully fight wage theft and discrimination, winning back millions in unpaid wages. Gleason has worked in the labor movement since 2002, leading several winning unionization campaigns for the RWDSU and UNITE-HERE. Gleason was a 2009-2010 Charles H. Revson Fellow at Columbia University, and is a graduate of Cornell University. She lives in Brooklyn with her partner and son.


Fatima Goss Graves is Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women's Law Center, where she works to promote the rights of women and girls at school and in the workplace. Goss Graves advocates and litigates core legal and policy issues relating to at-risk girls in school, including those that impact pregnant and parenting students, students in a hostile school climate and students participating in athletics. She further works to advance equal pay for equal work, expand opportunities for women in nontraditional fields, and ensure the development of fundamental legal principles of equal opportunity. She uses a number of advocacy strategies in her work on these issues ranging from public education and legislative advocacy to litigation, including briefs in the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an appellate and trial litigator at Mayer Brown LLP. She began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Goss Graves is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale Law School.


Kris Hayashi is the Executive Director at the Transgender Law Center.  The Transgender Law Center works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or expression. Hayashi has been active in social, racial and economic justice organizing for over 20 years.  Kris served as the Executive Director/Co-Director of the Audre Lorde Project, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color organizing center based in New York City for ten years.  Previously he served as a Trainer/Organizer at Western States Center in Portland, Oregon and as Executive Director of Youth United for Community Action a youth organizing group in California, led by young people of color organizing for social and environmental justice.



Yamani Hernandez is the Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.  NNAF mobilizes its base of nearly 100 member abortion funds to eliminate economic barriers to abortion for low-income women, women of color, girls, and transgender and gender non-conforming people across the United States.  Previously, she served as Executive Director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, a statewide organization that partners youth and adults to educate, organize, and advocate within school, family, and health-care systems to support the sexual health, rights, and identities of youth. She holds a  B.S. from Cornell University and an M.Arch from University of Washington. Hernandez lives in Chicago where she co-parents her 14 and 9 year old children.



Leila Hessini, born in Algeria, is a global feminist leader and activist with over twenty years of advocacy, organizing and grant-making experience defending and promoting women’s human rights.  Over the past two decades, she has worked in partnership with feminist and women’s networks, community-based organizations, government officials and UN representatives across five continents. Her global experience is informed by extensive residency in Egypt, Morocco, France, and the United States. Hessini currently serves as Ipas’s Director of Community Access. In that capacity she oversees movement-building and advocacy efforts to strengthen women’s sexual and reproductive rights by building women’s and communities’ rights, agency and power in over 20 countries.  She manages a global grants and capacity-building program designed to support sexual, reproductive and gender justice and uphold international human rights law and accountability. Hessini also co-leads Ipas’s stigma and discrimination work. She co-authored a stigma conceptual framwork and participatory action research guide, has authored several peer-reviewed articles and blogs and is a founding member of inroads – the International Network to Reduce Abortion Discrimination and Stigma.


Kate Kendell leads the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. NCLR’s legal, policy, and legislative victories set important precedents that improve the lives of all LGBT people and their families across the country. Projects and Legal Issue Areas Include: Asylum & Immigration; Elders; Employment; Family & Relationships; Federal Legislation & Policy; State Legislation & Policy; Hate Crimes; Healthcare; Housing; Low Income & Poverty; Prisons; Rural Communities; Sports; Transgender Law; and Youth. In 1996 Kendell was named as NCLR’s Executive Director. In that capacity, she is responsible for all aspects of agency operation, including coordination of all litigation and litigation strategy, and development of strategy. Kendell acts as the primary spokesperson on behalf of NCLR to the media. She has appeared in hundreds of media outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Good Morning America, CNN and dozens of on-line blogs.  Kendell is also a visible and vibrant social media voice.


Elizabeth Kristen is the Director of the Gender Equity & LGBT Rights Program and a senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (Legal Aid). Over the past 12 years, she has worked tirelessly to secure justice for victims of discrimination who otherwise would not have legal representation. Kristen attended Berkeley School of Law, graduating in 2001.  Upon graduation, she served as a law clerk for Judge Browning on the Ninth Circuit. Kristen began her public interest career as a Skadden Fellow at Legal Aid in 2002. In 2012, she was selected as a Harvard Law Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow.  In 2015, she received a “California Lawyer of the Year” award from California Lawyer magazine.




Anita Nayar has worked nationally and internationally on issues including women’s human rights, ecological justice, economic globalization and development. She is currently Director of Regions Refocus 2015, which fosters regional and feminist solidarities to advance progressive policies through dialogue between civil society, governments and sub-regional alliances. Prior to this Nayar served as Chief of the United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service and on the Executive Committee of the leading South-based feminist network, Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN). In her twenties, as Associate Director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Nayar coordinated the 5000 strong Women’s Caucus in six major UN Conferences of the 1990s and their follow-up processes, bringing a gender perspective to bear on inter-governmental negotiations and agreements. Her doctoral research explores the social and ecological consequences of the commercialization of indigenous medicine in South India.


Carol Robles-Román is President and CEO of Legal Momentum – The Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, a leading women’s civil rights advocacy organization in the United States. Legal Momentum is in the courtroom, on campus, and in the work place advocating for protection and change. Its mission is to ensure the economic security and freedom from violence for all women and girls. A lifelong New Yorker, Robles-Roman's background includes leadership positions in government, economic development, and civil rights enforcement. She has deep expertise and background in addressing key issues in creating and maintaining social change for women, particularly women of color. She has a solid record of building strong, collaborative teams, and initiating public-private partnerships and public service campaigns. Robles-Roman is the former Deputy Mayor for Legal Affairs and Counsel to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the first woman to serve as Counsel to a New York City Mayor.  As Deputy Mayor she redefined how the City proactively responds to domestic violence with the establishment of four state-of-the-art Family Justice Centers, with dedicated prosecutors, civil attorneys, law enforcement, and service providers, all under one roof.  She also led the City’s team to develop a first-time multimedia public awareness initiative:  Let’s Call an End to Human Trafficking. Robles-Roman also spearheaded the creation of the Latin Media and Entertainment Commission to position New York City as the capital of Latin media and entertainment, and to recruit and grow Latin media productions and businesses. She is an experienced board member for large nonprofit entities, including Trustee of the City University of New York, a $6.8 billion, 24-campus, five-borough complex, the largest and most diverse urban public university system in the country. Robles-Roman is on the Executive Committee and Chairs the Committee on Student Affairs and Special Programs. She has recently been nominated by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as a trustee of the State University of New York, and the National Association of Women Lawyers.


Elizabeth Scharpf is the Chief Instigating Officer at Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), a social venture recognized by Harvard Business School, the NYTimes’ Nick Kristof, and Bill Clinton for shaking up the status quo in the international development industry by using business solutions (rather than the charity/donation-only approach) to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. SHE’s first initiative is SHE28 which addresses girls' and women's lack of access to affordable menstrual pads in Africa, Asia, and South America causing them to miss school and/or work. SHE is currently helping women roll out a franchise model in Rwanda manufacturing and distributing affordable, eco-friendly menstrual pads by sourcing local, inexpensive raw materials (e.g., banana fibers) and leveraging existing female networks. Prior to SHE, Scharpf was starting up other ventures or advising businesses on growth strategies around the world at Cambridge Pharma Consultancy, the Clinton Foundation, and the World Bank. Scharpf has an MBA and MPA-International Development from Harvard and a BA from the University of Notre Dame. Despite all the academic acronyms, she thinks her best education has come from talking with those sitting next to her on buses around the world.


Cidra M. Sebastien is the Associate Executive Director at The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a non-profit organization providing holistic and comprehensive programs for Black and Latina/o youth, ages 8-22. A staff member since 2001, she manages the Rites of Passage program for young women and the Liberation Program for youth activists, and co-facilitated International Study Programs in Ghana, South Africa, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. She graduated from Hampton University with her BA in English Arts and is completing her Masters at NYU’s Gallatin School, focusing on the connections between education, social justice and the arts. Sebastien was a co-awardee of the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award. She then participated in an eighteen-month cooperative inquiry documented in the report, “Taking Back the Work: A Cooperative Inquiry into the Work of Leaders of Color in Movement-Building Organizations”. This resulted in her participation in the 2008 Centre for Action Research in Professional Practice/CARPP Conference in the UK and the 2009 World Social Forum in Brazil as a presenter discussing issues of leadership and race in the US. Sebastien enjoys running, traveling, writing, music, and engaging people in dialogue about creating a more just world.


Katie Onachila Spker

Spiker is the Federal Policy Analyst at the National Skills Coalition. Her work for NSC includes providing in-depth analysis of proposed and existing federal workforce, postsecondary education, and human service policies with the goal to expand access to training and good jobs for all workers. Prior to joining NSC, Katie was Associate Director of the National Center for Women’s Employment Equity, where she managed the Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment (OWNE) Initiative and the NAIL IT TAACCCT grant. Katie assisted in the development and implementation of the Initiative including the design and provision of on-site and virtual technical assistance and the creation of case studies and policy briefs related to nontraditional occupations and occupational segregation. Before joining WOW, Katie consulted with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the National Women’s Law Center. She also served as policy counsel for Workplace Flexibility 2010 and the National Partnership for Women and Families as a Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellow. She received her B.A. from the University of Miami and J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.



Aimée Thorne-Thomsen is the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Advocates for Youth, which champions policies and programs to help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive and sexual health. In that capacity, she oversees and coordinates the development, implementation, and evaluation of Advocates’ strategic partnerships with youth activists and colleague organizations, particularly those in social justice movements.  Prior to joining the staff at Advocates, she served as the Interim Executive Director for the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and the Executive Director of the Pro-Choice Public Education Project (PEP).  She sits on the Board of Directors for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and RH Reality Check.  In addition to her work across social justice movements, Thorne-Thomsen is an advocate in the cancer community and serves as a Leader for the LIVESTRONG Foundation.  She has spoken around the country at venues including Netroots Nation, Center for American Progress, and Facing Race, and her writing and blogs have appeared on Daily Kos, Feministing, Feministe, and RH Reality Check among others. Thorne-Thomsen earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University and a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College, City University of New York.



Opal Tometi is a Black feminist writer, communications strategist and cultural organizer. She is a co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, the historic political project and leader-full network was launched in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin in order to explicitly combat implicit bias and anti-black racism and to protect and affirm the beauty and dignity of all Black lives. Tometi is currently at the helm of the country’s leading Black organization for immigrant rights, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a national organization that educates and advocates to further immigrant rights and racial justice together with African-American, Afro-Latino, African and Caribbean immigrant communities. As the executive director at BAJI, Tometi collaborates with staff and communities in Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York, Oakland, Washington, DC and communities throughout the Southern states. The organization’s most recent campaign helped win family reunification visas for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake. Tometi has been active in social movements for over a decade. She has been published in the Oxford Dictionary of African Biographies and in November 2014 was named a "New Civil Rights Leader" by ESSENCE Magazine for her cutting edge movement building work which bridges immigrant and human rights work to the current and ever-growing Black liberation movement. She was a lead architect of the Black-Brown Coalition of Arizona and was involved in grassroots organizing against SB 1070 with the Alto Arizona campaign. As a result she was the 2012 recipient of the ‘Unsung Hero for Justice’ Award by the African American Legislative and Leadership Conference of Arizona. Opal is a former case manager for survivors of domestic violence and still provides community education on the issue. Ms. Tometi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and a Masters of Arts degree in Communication and Advocacy.  The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, she grew up in Phoenix, Arizona where she is a board member of the Puente Movement. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York where she loves riding her single speed bike and collecting African art.



Dorothy Q. Thomas is an independent scholar and feminist human rights activist. From September 2013-May 2014 she served as the Interim President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the largest women’s fund in the United States. Prior to Ms., Thomas held the post of senior program strategist at the U.S. Human Rights Fund, a donor collaborative she co-founded in 2005. From 2009-2011 she held a research fellowship at the University of London and in 2008 was awarded a visiting fellowship at the London School of Economics' Centre for the Study of Human Rights. Thomas was the founding director of the Human Rights Watch Women’s Rights Division, and served in that position from 1990-1998. She is a1998 MacArthur fellow, a 1995 Bunting Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and, in 1998, received the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from President and Mrs. Clinton. She writes and lectures frequently on human rights, feminism and and progressive politics and is a member of the board of the Lambent Foundation for Art and Social Justice and the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary. Thomas graduated with an M.A. from Georgetown University in 1981, which awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1995.