Citizen University evolved out of the work of the Guiding Lights Network, founded in 2005. The focus of GLN, including its annual Guiding Lights Weekend conference, was on the art of mentorship. Over the years, that work expanded to encompass the work of community-building and teaching leadership in civic life. So, in 2011 we made the shift to become Citizen University. But there have been two constants throughout this evolution: a cross-sectoral spirit of creativity, and a great core team. That team consists of:
Jená Cane is co-founder of Citizen University. She leads the creative team in producing Citizen University’s annual conference, special projects and Sworn-Again America. Jená is also an actor, teaching artist and emcee.
Ben Phillips is the program manager for Citizen University, and associate producer for Citizen University TV on the Seattle Channel. Ben has worked with the Aspen Institute Citizenship & American Identity Program, in Senator Patty Murray’s Seattle office, and as a campus organizer for Organizing for America. Ben is also an actor and theatre administrator, and has had onstage, producing, and teaching artist roles with many Seattle theatres, including The Horse in Motion, where he is the managing director and co-founder. Ben is a graduate of the University of Washington Honors Program with a degree in Political Science and Drama and a minor in African Studies.
Arista Burwell-Chen is the executive assistant to Eric Liu, manages the Civic Collaboratory, and helps plan and execute other programs like the Citizen University National Conference and Civic Saturday. Before joining the Citizen University team, she was an undergraduate research fellow at the Center for Communications and Civic Engagement at the University of Washington. She graduated from the University of Washington Honors Program with degrees in Political Science, Communications, and English, and brings her passion for critical race theory to her work at Citizen University and around Seattle.
Katherine is currently a senior in the University of Washington Honors Program, majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Studies. Before joining Citizen University she interned at the White House and worked for the Associated Students of the University of Washington, advocating for affordable higher education. She is passionate about civic engagement and civic education and can often be found with a clipboard and voter registration forms.
Laurette Hanna is the conference intern for the Citizen University National Conference 2017. She is a freshman at the University of Washington Seattle campus with intended majors in Political Science and Psychology. She’s been interested in politics since high school and has participated in Junior Statesmen of America and competed in We the People, where her team won second place in the California state competition and went on to nationals. She hopes to go into law school after her graduation.
Bianca Guerrero is a 2016-2017 Citizen University fellow.
Bianca Guerrero is a rising senior at Columbia University. Born in the Bronx, Bianca was raised by her immigrant Dominican family in Yonkers and Washington Heights. She is a New York Truman Scholar, a John W. Kluge Scholar and political science major with a deep interest in education access and success across all stages. This year she plans to launch an op-ed campaign to garner more attention to the issue of holding Columbia’s campus and administrators accountable to the needs of low-income minority students. She is a proud mentor in the Columbia’s Mentoring Initiative’s Latino Family Tree and a former writer for campus’ oldest magazine, Blue and White.
Jacob Miller is a 2016-2017 Citizen University fellow.
Jacob Miller is the Grassroots and Coalition Coordinator at Opportunity Nation. He is a recent graduate of UMass Dartmouth where he majored in political science and English and minored in Leadership and Civic Engagement and Urban Studies. Jacob is a Harry S. Truman Scholar. He has passed state health care legislation, coordinated a capacity building organization SouthCoast Serves, wrote service learning curriculum, opened the university’s first student-run business Jumpin’ Juice, founded the Common Project that focuses on boosting millennial civic engagement, created workforce development programs, started biannual youth civic engagement summits, and has helped register hundreds of people to vote.
Hasher Nisar is a 2016-2017 Citizen University fellow.
Hasher Nisar is majoring in political science and minoring in religion at Middlebury College. His coursework and research allow him to focus on the media representations of religious groups, the integration difficulties facing minorities, and the relationships between Islamic and Western values. He is interested in the civic engagement of Muslim Americans and the challenges they face in pursuing a public service career. He is a Senior Fellow for Humanity in Action and has served as a member of the State Farm Youth Advisory Board and the Pearson Student Advisory Board. He is a Gates Millennium, Horatio Alger, and Nordstrom and Truman Scholar, respectively.
Citizen University is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is a registered Washington State Non-Profit Corporation. Our board is: Eric Liu, Jená Cane, and Diane Douglas, Executive Director of CityClub.