ROBERT FORD finished a 30-year career with the Peace Corps and the U.S. Department of State in April 2014 and now is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, where he writes and speaks about Syria, Iraq and North Africa. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Syria 2011-2014, receiving wide recognition for his work defending Syrians' human rights in the face of the Bashar Asad regime's repression. He received the annual Profile in Courage award in 2012 from the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston for his human rights work and a Presidential Honor award in 2012 for his stewardship of the American Embassy in Damascus during a crisis period. Ford was the U.S. Ambassador in Algeria 2006-2008, boosting bilateral cooperation in education and the rule of law.
Ford also served five years in Iraq helping the Iraqis establish their permanent government through three rounds of elections and preparation of a new constitution. He received from Secretary of State John Kerry in March 2014 the Distinguished Service award, the State Department's highest award.
Ford has appeared on CNN, PBS, MSNBC, Fox, NPR, the BBC, Arabic networks speaking in Arabic as well as in numerous print media, including The New York Times. Ford has taught at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and is a devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles.*
*From the Yale Jackson Institute
Michael H. Posner is the Jerome Kohlberg Professor of Ethics and Finance and a Professor of Business and Society at NYU's Stern School of Business, where he is working to launch the first-ever center on business and human rights at a business school. Prior to joining NYU Stern, Posner served from 2009 to 2013 in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department. From 1978 to 2009, he led Human Rights First, a New York-based human rights advocacy organization.
Posner is recognized as a leader and expert in advancing a rights-based approach to national security, challenging the practice of torture, combating discrimination, and refugee protection. He is a frequent public commentator on these issues, and has testified dozens of times before the U.S. Congress. As Assistant Secretary, Posner traveled extensively, representing the U.S. Government to foreign officials and representatives of civil society in countries of strategic importance to the United States, including China, Russia, Egypt, Burma, Bahrain, Nigeria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, among many others.
Before joining Human Rights First, Posner was a lawyer with Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal in Chicago. He lectured at Yale Law School from 1981 to 1984, and again in 2009, when he taught with former Dean Harold Koh. He was a visiting lecturer at Columbia University Law School from 1984 to 2008. A member of the California Bar and the Illinois Bar, he received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall) in 1975, and a B.A. with distinction and honors in History from the University of Michigan in 1972.
**Adapted from NYU Stern:
ZOË CHANCE studies persuasion and decision making, working passionately to understand how people can lead happier healthier, more fulfilling lives. At Yale Ms. Chance teaches Mastering Influence and Persuasion, advises Center for Customer Insights consulting and research teams, and collaborates with Google and Optum Health.*
*From Yale School of Management
JOSH THOMPSON is the Executive Director for New Leaders' East Region. He is also a candidate for public office in New York City. Before coming to New Leaders, Josh played a critical role, as Director of Education and Youth Policy in Bridgeport, CT, in changing the landscape of Bridgeport's future, alongside Mayor Bil Finch, Superintendent Paul Vallas, and Connecticut's Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. In this time period, Bridgeport saw a $13 million education budget deficit eradicated and planned for for a five-year institutionalized balanced budget. Additionally, new textbooks were received by all students for the first time since the mid-1990s; high school choices expanded from three options to eight; new models of education and operators took over the lowest-performing schools; expanded early childhood and after-school programs were implemented; and over $500 million was put toward new school construction.
GIA FORAKIS is recognized as a professional freelance Theater Director, with well regarded credits as a playwright, performer, producer, educator, painter and Creative Life Practice coach. She is the Founder & Master Teacher of One-Thought-One-Action (OTOA)™, and the Artistic Director of GIA FORAKIS & COMPANY (GF&CO) a company dedicated to the development and application of OTOA as a tool for experimentation and education through art, ritual, and performance and as a Creative Life Practice.
She holds an MFA from Yale School of Drama in Directing and a BFA from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Conservatory Acting Program. Since receiving her Masters Degree in 2004, her primary focus has been in the development and application of OTOA, and as a professional freelance Theater Director. She is a member of SDC (Stage Directors and Choreographers Society).
She has had the great good fortune to direct plays across the United states, and to lead OTOA workshops across the country and around the globe. Gia has been nominated for the prestigious Zelda Fichandler Award, and the New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Theater Direction,. She has received a Mary Jean Parson's Award (for directing studies) and a Paulette Goddard Award (for acting).www.GiaForakis.com
BRAD JENKINS is an American producer. He is the managing director and executive producer of Funny or Die DC. Jenkins is the former associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
In addition to creating content, under Jenkins’ direction, Funny Or Die DC provides consulting services on talent outreach, writing and branding strategies for a range of clients.
For the last four years, Jenkins served as President Obama’s liaison and director of engagement to the creative and advocacy communities, bringing together creative executives, advocacy leaders and celebrities. He was also involved in the Emmy-award winning “Between Two Ferns” episode, in which Zach Galifianakis interviewed President Obama about the Affordable Care Act.
Jenkins worked on President Obama's 2008 presidential campaign as the deputy director of special projects, directing the intersection of youth media and grassroots engagement.
**Adapted from the Washington Post: