About Us

Citizen University is a national platform for fostering responsible and empowered citizenship through activation, communication, and education. We believe in the promise of a nation where more people are more literate in civic power – and more steeped in a sense of civic character. We are a recognized leader and innovator in the field of civic engagement, working at the intersection of the public, private, and independent sectors, to democratize the practice of civic power.

Learn more about our programs here.

Want to join the team? Find out about job openings here.

Eric Liu

Eric Liu is the founder and CEO of Citizen University. Read his bio here.

Jená Cane

Jená Cane is the co-founder and Chief Creative Officer of Citizen University. She started Sworn-Again America, a project to revitalize citizenship, and is the host of Civic Saturday — our monthly gathering that is a civic analogue to church. Jená was the Communications Director for the late, great Seattle International Children’s Festival, and worked for the famed Seattle entertainment company ENTROS. Jená is also an actor and teaching artist. In 1989 she co-founded One World Theatre, a Seattle-based touring company that brought new works and reimagined classics to rural communities across Washington state, and to fringe festivals around the world. She has implemented drama programs for numerous public elementary schools. In the summer, Jená volunteers at the Seattle Children’s Playgarden, where she and a group of teens expand the universe of story and performance. 

Ben Phillips

Ben Phillips is the senior 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

Arista Burwell-Chen is the program manager for the Civic Collaboratory, Civic Saturday, and helps plan and execute other programs like the Citizen University National Conference. Before joining the Citizen University team, she was a 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. In her free time, she likes to hangout with API elders on the Chinatown International District Block Walk, get dim sum with #ChineseRejects in the Pacific Rim Solidarity Network (PARISOL), and fight displacement with organizers in the Chinatown International District Coalition aka #HumbowsNotHotels.

Katherine Sims

Katherine is the executive assistant to Eric Liu. She graduated from the University of Washington Honors Program, majoring in Political Science with a minor in International Studies. Her experiences before joining Citizen University include interning at the White House during the Obama Administration. During college she worked for the Associated Students of the University of Washington, advocating for affordable and accessible higher education. She is passionate about civic engagement and education and can often be found with a clipboard and voter registration forms.

Maya Lefelman

Maya Lefelman is the Summer Programming Intern for Citizen University. She is a student at the University of Washington in the Foster School of Business and Honors Program. Maya will be majoring in Business Administration and pursuing a minor in Political Science. Last summer she worked as an intern on the Joe McDermott congressional campaign and then for the Washington State Democratic Organization in their finance department. She hopes to work with NGOs throughout her future career.

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.