About Us

Citizen University is building a culture of powerful, responsible citizenship across the country. We envision a great civic revival across our nation — our dream is a country in which Americans are steeped in a sense of civic character, educated in the tools of civic power, and are problem-solving contributors in a self-governing community.

 

Eric Liu

Chief Executive Officer

Eric Liu is the co-founder and CEO of Citizen University. He also directs the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship & American Identity Program. He is the author of several books, including The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker; The Gardens of Democracy (co-authored with Nick Hanauer); You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen; and his most recent, Become America: Civic Sermons on Love, Responsibility, and Democracy. Eric served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President’s deputy domestic policy adviser. He has served as a board member of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Washington State Board of Education, and the Seattle Public Library and is a co-founder of the Alliance for Gun Responsibility. A regular contributor to the Atlantic, Eric can be found on Twitter @ericpliu. More on Eric Liu and his books can be found here.

Jená Cane

Chief Creative Officer

Jená Cane co-founded Citizen University and shepherded the creation of key Citizen University programs including Civic Saturday, Civic Seminary, Sworn-Again America and the National Conference. For over twenty-five years Jená created and performed with the Seattle-based company One World Theatre, taking reimagined classics and new plays to communities and festivals around the world. She was the Communications Director for the late, great Seattle International Children’s Festival, and worked for the famed entertainment company ENTROS. Central to every program or gathering she creates or hosts is the desire to bring surprise, delight, joy and hope to those looking for inspiration and common purpose. 

Kayla DeMonte

Managing Director

Kayla DeMonte oversees and directs all programs in Seattle and across the country. 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.

Email: kayla@citizenuniversity.us

Taelore Rhoden

Logistics Manager

Taelore Rhoden has been a member of the Citizen University team since the 2011 National Conference. 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.

Email: taelore@citizenuniversity.us

Taneum Fotheringill

Programs Manager

Taneum Fotheringill manages Civic Saturday in Seattle and nationally, as well as the Civic Seminary program. Prior to joining Citizen University, she studied Public Affairs and Humanities at Seattle University during which time she interned for an M.P. at the U.K. House of Commons, APACEvotes, and Seattle CityClub. In addition to her work at Citizen University, she is a volunteer advisor for a delegation of high school students in YMCA Youth and Government, which is the program which first introduced her to civics.

Email: taneum@citizenuniversity.us

Meaza Yalew

Youth Programs Manager

Meaza Yalew manages the Youth Collaboratory program, the PowerNow Curriculum, and other youth-centered civic initiatives. A transplant to Seattle, she has built her career in cities across the country, and her professional experience spans a variety of areas including youth development, hunger and homelessness advocacy, and community and business development. Meaza is a graduate of Indiana University and a proud AmeriCorps Alum.

Email: meaza@citizenuniversity.us

Emily Naftalin

Interim Executive Assistant & Operations

Emily Naftalin joined the Citizen University team as the Joy of Voting project coordinator back in 2016. After years working in sustainable food and farming in East and West Africa, first as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and then as part of the Agricultural Development team at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, she left her day job to help build a community-owned and -operated restaurant/performance venue in South Seattle. When not at CU, Emily teaches yoga and works part-time as a data scientist.

Email: emily@citizenuniversity.us

Isaiah Back-Gaal

Social Media & Communications Intern

Isaiah Back-Gaal is originally from Brooklyn, New York, Isaiah is a senior at the University of Washington studying Comparative History of Ideas and Germanics. He is interested in historiography, gender politics, and is involved in labor organizing on campus with United Students Against Sweatshops.