Rebuilding Civic Culture
Investor, Philanthropist, former presidential candidate
author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Columnist, The New York Times
Meghan Fay Zahniser
Executive Director, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
Director, CIRCLE at Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University
Carmen Twillie Ambar
President, Oberlin College
President, Paul Quinn College
Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University
Executive Director, Reset.tech
Professor and Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
Judy Braus, Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental Education
The 2020 election can be seen as one of the contentious and controversial presidential elections in American history since 1876 — maybe ever. There are threats of violence and the President has not committed to a peaceful transfer of power; however, regardless of the election outcome, America has the urgent task of rejuvenating democracy and has the task of educating and empowering each citizen, regardless of political party, to support the creation of a more competent, fair and transparent democracy. In this episode, higher education and scholars come together to discuss how we rebuild civic culture in America.
Tom Steyer, Investor, Philanthropist, former presidential candidate
Tom Steyer is an American hedge fund manager, philanthropist, environmentalist, activist, and fundraiser. Steyer is the founder and former co-senior-managing-partner of Farallon Capital and the co-founder of Onecalifornia Bank, which became (through merger) Beneficial State Bank, an Oakland-based community development bank. Farallon Capital manages $20 billion in capital for institutions and high-net-worth individuals. The firm’s institutional investors include college endowments and foundations. Steyer served on the board of trustees at Stanford University from 2007 to 2017. Since 1986, he has been a partner and member of the executive committee at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco–based private equity firm.
In 2010, Steyer and his wife signed The Giving Pledge to donate half of their fortune to charity during their lifetime. In 2012, he sold his stake in and retired from Farallon Capital. Switching his focus to politics and the environment, he launched NextGen America, a nonprofit organization that supports progressive positions on climate change, immigration, health care, and education.
Shoshana Zuboff, author, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Shoshana Zuboff is the author of three books, each of which signaled the start of a new epoch in technological society. In the late 1980s her decade-in-the-making In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Powerbecame an instant classic that foresaw how computers would revolutionize the modern workplace. At the dawn of the twenty-first century her influential The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (with James Maxmin), written before the invention of the iPod or Uber, predicted the rise of digitally-mediated products and services tailored to the individual. It warned of the individual and societal risks if companies failed to alter their approach to capitalism. Now her masterwork, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, synthesizes years of research and thinking in order to reveal a world in which technology users are neither customers, employees, nor products. Instead they are the raw material for new procedures of manufacturing and sales that define an entirely new economic order: a surveillance economy. She is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School and a former Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.
Kevin Roose, Columnist, The New York Times
Kevin Roose is an award-winning technology columnist for The New York Times. His column, “The Shift,” examines the intersection of tech, business, and culture. He is the New York Times bestselling author of three books, Futureproof, Young Money, and The Unlikely Disciple.
He is the host of “Rabbit Hole,” a New York Times-produced narrative audio series about what the internet is doing to us, and a regular guest on “The Daily,” as well as other leading TV and radio shows. He writes and speaks regularly on many topics, including automation and A.I., social media, disinformation and cybersecurity, and digital wellness.
Before joining The Times, he was a writer at New York magazine, and a host and executive producer of “Real Future,” a documentary TV series about technology and innovation.
He lives in the Bay Area.
Meghan Fay Zahniser, Executive Director, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE)
Meghan Fay Zahniser has been with AASHE for nine years and previously held the positions of Director of Programs and STARS Program Manager. Prior to AASHE, Meghan worked as Sustainability Specialist at NELSON, where she provided sustainability expertise and consulting services to various clients. She also spent over five years working at the U.S. Green Building Council where, as Manager of Community, she developed and managed a local chapter network for building industry professionals and helped create the Emerging Green Builders program that integrates students and young professionals into the green building movement. Meghan also worked as Environmental Educator for the University at Buffalo Green Office, organizing campus and community education focused on energy conservation, green building, and sustainable living. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences, with concentrations in environmental studies and health & human services, from the University at Buffalo, a master’s degree in Organization Management and Development from Fielding Graduate Institute and a certificate in massage therapy from the Potomac Massage Training Institute.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Director, CIRCLE at Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University
As Director, Kei leads all of CIRCLE’s research activities while charting a vision of how that research can inform policy and practice to strengthen youth civic engagement. Kei is particularly interested in providing various organizations and communities with research that would help increase civic and political engagement among ethnic minority and immigrant populations. Kei earned her doctorate degree in 2008 from Loyola University Chicago in Clinical Psychology and has extensive experience in working with youth of diverse backgrounds both as a researcher and a practitioner. Throughout her graduate career, she focused her research on positive youth development, including civic engagement. Prior to joining CIRCLE, Kei taught as Visiting Instructor of Psychology at Knox College, where she became involved as an active collaborator for the Center in Galesburg, a community-based citizen organization. In collaboration with the Center in Galesburg, Kei designed a course in Community Psychology in which she taught college students about various types of engagement and actively involved them in the local community.
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President, Oberlin College
Carmen Twillie Ambar is the 15th president of Oberlin College and the first African American leader in its 184-year history. She was appointed to the post in May 2017 after serving for nine years as president of Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Early on at Oberlin, President Ambar emphasized engaging Oberlin’s distinctive liberal arts education with the wider world. Early initiatives have included enhancing winter term, promoting internships and study abroad, building career communities, and creating hands-on opportunities for students. To ensure Oberlin’s future as a leading liberal arts college and conservatory, President Ambar and the Board of Trustees began a full-spectrum examination of the institution. Rooted in Oberlin’s values and led by some of the wisest and most committed faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and students, the process aims to offer long-term strategies for reallocation and growth.
Notable achievements in President Ambar’s first year included a six-year high in student enrollment and the launch of Connect Cleveland, in which all 839 first-year students traveled to Cleveland for a day of service, experiential learning, and connecting with alumni. Working to strengthen ties between the college and the city of Oberlin, President Ambar promoted orientation programs that gave first-year students an in-depth introduction to the city, encouraged them to shop locally, and offered advice about being a good neighbor.
At Cedar Crest College, President Ambar’s leadership substantially strengthened and reshaped the college. Her successes included multiple years of multimillion-dollar budget surpluses, a 35 percent growth in assets that allowed for significant investments in the campus without borrowing, and a 92 percent growth in the endowment. She presided over the launch of 18 new academic programs and an enrollment growth in six of her last seven years of leadership. President Ambar also led initiatives to expand access to high-impact practices for all students, including the Sophomore Expedition, campus vibrancy initiatives, a robust First Year Experience, the Four-Year Guarantee, and living learning communities. Student body diversity at Cedar Crest increased from 16 percent in 2008 to 37 percent in 2016, with the highest increases in Latino and African American populations.
Prior to Cedar Crest, President Ambar had a successful tenure as vice president and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers University, where she was the youngest dean in the university’s history. Before Rutgers, she was assistant dean of graduate education at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. As an attorney, she worked in the New York City Law Department as an assistant corporation counsel.
President Ambar is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the mother of 11-year-old triplets: Gabrielle, Luke, and Daniel.
Michael Sorrell, President, Paul Quinn College
Dr. Michael J. Sorrell is the longest-serving President in the 148-year history of Paul Quinn College. During his 13 years of leadership, Paul Quinn has become a national movement for its efforts to remake higher education in order to serve the needs of under-resourced students and communities.
Included among Paul Quinn’s numerous accomplishments during President Sorrell’s tenure are the following: winning the HBCU of the Year, the HBCU Student Government Association of the Year, and the HBCU Business Program of the Year awards; achieving recognition as a member of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll; creating the New Urban College Model; demolishing 15 abandoned campus buildings; partnering with PepsiCo to transform the football field into the WE over Me Farm; achieving full-accreditation from the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS); creating the College’s first faculty-led study abroad program; and rewriting all institutional fundraising records.
President Sorrell is one of the most decorated college presidents in America. He has been named Higher Education’s President of the Year by Education Dive; one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine; is the only three-time recipient of the HBCU Male President of the Year Award (2018, 2016 and 2012); and Time Magazine listed him as one of the “31 People Changing the South.” Washington Monthly Magazine identified him as one of America’s 10 Most Innovative College Presidents and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and PUSH/Excel honored him with its Education Leadership Award. Michael is the recipient of both the Dallas Bar Association’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Justice Award and the City of Dallas’ Father of the Year Award. In addition to being a member of the “Root 100” (a list of the top 100 emerging leaders in America) by the Root Online Magazine, Michael has received: the Distinguished Alumni Award from Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, and St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Illinois; the A. Kenneth Pye Award for Excellence in Education from Duke University’s School of Law Alumni Association; the Social Innovator Award from Babson College; the Vision Award, Center for Social Entrepreneurship, Middlebury College; Luminary Award from SMU; and the TRACS Leadership Award. The Dallas Historical Society honored Michael for Excellence in Educational Administration. He is a past recipient of the Dallas Urban League’s Torch for Community Leadership and both the President’s and C.B. Bunkley Awards from J.L. Turner for his outstanding contributions to the Dallas legal community. Michael also has an honorary degree from Austin College.
Michael received his J.D. and M.A. in Public Policy from Duke University and his Ed.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (where his dissertation defense was awarded “with Distinction”). While in law school, he was one of the founding members of the Journal of Gender Law & Policy and served as the Vice President of the Duke Bar Association. Michael was a recipient of a Sloan Foundation Graduate Fellowship, which funded his studies at both Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government (as a graduate fellow) and Duke University. He graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Government, served as Secretary-Treasurer of his senior class, was a two-time captain of the men’s varsity basketball team, and graduated as the school’s fifth all-time leading scorer.
Among the entities that President Sorrell serves as a trustee or director for are Duke University’s School of Law, the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, JP Morgan Chase’s Advancing Black Pathways, Amegy Bank, the Hockaday School, the Dallas Advisory Board of Teach for America, the Dallas Foundation, and EarthX.
Michael is a member of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.
President Sorrell is married to the former Natalie Jenkins. Natalie is an alumna of Spelman College and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. They have two wonderful children, Michael Augustus and Sage Louise-Sinclair.
Patrick Kenney, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Arizona State University
Patrick J. Kenney is the dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a Foundation Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University. Kenney came to ASU in 1986 and received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate from the University of Iowa. Professor Kenney has authored and co-authored articles in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, the Journal of Politics and several other journals. He has co-authored three books with Kim Fridkin, “The Spectacle of U.S. Senate Campaigns” (Princeton Press, 1999), “No-Holds Barred: Negativity in U.S. Senate Campaigns” (Prentice Hall, 2004), “The Changing Face of Representation” (University of Michigan Press, 2014) and “Taking Aim at Attack Advertising” (Oxford University Press, 2019). He has received funding from the National Science Foundation.
Ben Scott, Executive Director, Reset.tech
Ben is Executive Director at Reset, an initiative run by Luminate in partnership with The Sandler Foundation focussed on tackling digital threats to democracy, where he is responsible for strategic direction, overseeing the coordination of policy, technology and civic engagement work, and providing expert counsel on policy development and advocacy. Ben is also policy and advocacy advisor at Luminate.
Prior to joining Luminate, Ben co-led the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV) in Berlin, where he helped to develop it into a leading tech policy voice in German politics. He also was a senior adviser to New America in Washington DC, where he helped design the Public Interest Technology Initiative. During the 2016 presidential campaign in the US, Ben led the technology policy advisory group for the Clinton campaign.
Previously, Ben was Policy Adviser for Innovation at the US Department of State, where he helped steward the 21st Century Statecraft agenda, with a focus on technology policy, social media, and development. Before this, Ben led the Washington office of Free Press, a public interest organisation expanding affordable access to an open internet and fostering more public service journalism.
Danielle Allen, Professor and Director, Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University
Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, is a political theorist who has published broadly in democratic theory, political sociology, and the history of political thought. Widely known for her work on justice and citizenship in both ancient Athens and modern America, Allen is the author of The World of Prometheus: The Politics of Punishing in Democratic Athens (2000), Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown vs. the Board of Education (2004), Why Plato Wrote (2010), Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality (2014), Education and Equality (2016), and Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. (2017). She is the co-editor of the award-winning Education, Justice, and Democracy (2013, with Rob Reich) and From Voice to Influence: Understanding Citizenship in the Digital Age (2015, with Jennifer Light). She is a former Chair of the Mellon Foundation Board, past Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.
Allen is also the principal investigator for the Democratic Knowledge Project, a distributed research and action lab at Harvard University. The Democratic Knowledge Project seeks to identify, strengthen, and disseminate the bodies of knowledge, skills, and capacities that democratic citizens need in order to succeed at operating their democracy. The lab currently has three projects underway: the Declaration Resources Project, the Humanities and Liberal Arts Assessment Project (HULA), and the Youth and Participatory Politics Action and Reflection Frame.
Judy Braus, Executive Director, North American Association for Environmental Education
Judy Braus brings to her role as NAAEE Executive Director a wealth of experience in the environmental education profession, with a focus on conservation education, diversity and inclusion, and using the power of education to help create healthier communities that empower local communities, stakeholders, and individuals to help restore and protect the environment. She comes to NAAEE from the National Audubon Society, where she was the Senior Vice President of Education and Centers, overseeing an extensive nationwide network of nature centers and educators. Prior to that, she led the education programs at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the U.S. Peace Corps, and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
Braus also has extensive experience with NAAEE, having served in a number of capacities in the past two decades, including past president, conference chair, head of the elementary and secondary commission, and editor of a number of NAAEE monographs. “I’m thrilled to have this opportunity lead an organization that promotes the power of environmental education at a time when it is so needed and in so much demand.”
Her notable achievements include the creation and implementation of TogetherGreen—a $20-million alliance between Audubon and Toyota to build leadership, engage more people in conservation, and promote diversity and inclusion in conservation. As the Director of TogetherGreen for five years, she worked with Audubon and Toyota to create a program that has engaged hundreds of thousands of people nationwide through a national fellowship program, a grants program, and a community-based volunteering initiative. At Audubon, she also spearheaded the development of a planning guide called “The Tools of Engagement: A Toolkit for Engaging People in Conservation,” in collaboration with the U.S. EPA-funded Environmental Education and Training Partnership (EETAP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Braus also developed and implemented well-known and widely used curricular and educational materials while at WWF and NWF: “Windows on the Wild” at WWF, and “NatureScope” at NWF. While at Peace Corps, Braus co-authored “Environmental Education in the Schools: Creating a Program that Works,” which is used in dozens of countries around the world.
Additionally, Braus is a proven fundraiser, working with foundations, corporations, government, and individual donors to raise more than $35 million for education and conservation. She is committed to strong partnerships and has negotiated and implemented lasting relationships with organizations including Toyota Motor North America, REI, National Geographic, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Eastman Kodak, and Aardman Animations, among others.