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.

Kayla DeMonte

Kayla DeMonte is a senior program manager at Citizen University where she manages Civic Saturday programs in Seattle and nationally, as well as the Civic Seminary program. Previously, she worked on community programs and partnerships at the Seattle Metro Chamber of Commerce and managed sponsorships for Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival at One Reel. Kayla remains involved in the arts & events community through volunteer and freelance work with Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, The Vera Project, and numerous festivals and events around the city and country. She is happiest when working on programs where community, celebration, and action collide.

Arista Burwell-Chen

Arista Burwell-Chen is the program manager for the Civic Collaboratory and  CitizenFEST, 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 in the Obama White House, as well as at both local and national non-profits and political campaigns. 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 can often be found with a clipboard and voter registration forms in hand.

Taelore Rhoden

Taelore Rhoden is the logistics manager at Citizen University. She has been a member of the Citizen University National Conference planning team since 2011. In addition to her work at Citizen University, Taelore wears a variety of hats at Hack Nation, Ethnic Business Coalition, Jubilee Event Engineers, Hella Black Hella Seattle and Nagomi Tea House. Taelore is a graduate of Pepperdine University with a degree in Journalism and Intercultural Communications.

Grace Stephenson

Grace Stephenson is the Civic Engagement Program Intern for Citizen University. She is currently a student at the University of Washington at the Jackson School of International Studies. She is majoring in International Relations, with a focus on Development, and minoring in Global Health. She is involved with nonprofits in her hometown of Ventura County, CA such as the Ventura County Women’s Forum and Human Rights Watch. Additionally, in Seattle, she is working with It’s On Us, the campaign to stop sexual assault on campus. In the future, Grace hopes to continue working in diplomacy, health policy, and social justice work.

Lexis Ivers

Lexi is a 2018 Citizen University Fellow. She is a fourth-year student at American University, where she studies law and policy.  She is dedicated to supporting foster youth. As the founder and director of Junior Youth Action DC, Lexi works to help her students confront significant barriers outside of the classroom. By providing each child with a family of committed volunteers and community resources, Lexi has had the privilege of witnessing the academic advancement and personal growth of the program’s participants. She plans to pursue a career in child welfare law, which will allow her to advocate for children when foster care systems fail.

Grace May

Grace is a 2018 Citizen University Fellow. She currently serves as a Truman-Albright Fellow at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Office of Policy and Strategy. As an analyst with the Family Immigration & Victim Protection Division, her work focuses on protections for vulnerable immigrant populations. She is also an Associate Board Member at the Latin American Youth Center. Grace first came to Washington, D.C. as a student at Georgetown University, majoring in Government. She plans to earn a public policy degree with a focus on understanding immigrant integration and education equity as a catalyst for social change, particularly in rural communities and the American South.

Rory Taylor

Rory is a 2018 Citizen University Fellow. He is a current senior at Pomona College in Claremont, California. A 2017 Harry S. Truman and Morris K. Udall Scholar, he is the founder of the Claremont College IndigeNATION Scholars and the current director of the Indigenous Peer Mentoring Program. He has appeared as a guest on programs including Native America Calling, The Stream on Al-Jazeera English, and First Person Radio. He is an enrolled member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Citizen University is recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization (EIN: 46-4270721) and is a registered Washington State Non-Profit Corporation. Our board is: Eric Liu, Jená Cane, and Diane Douglas, Executive Director of CityClub.